The Korean National Anthem

I mean, technically speaking, national anthems are just music. And usually, the melodies aren’t that complicated either, though occasionally they can have the random high note (like in the American national anthem). And yet, they can bring tears and stir so much emotion in a person.

I never really reacted to the American national anthem, but the Korean and Canadian ones have a special place in my heart, and it’s only been recently. Whenever I hear the Canadian anthem start up, it makes me feel happy inside (wow that’s a really professional way of explaining it, Ashley…). But when I hear the Korean anthem, I almost always start to cry. Continue reading “The Korean National Anthem”

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McDonald’s in Korea?

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//This was a post I did for my Korean Civilization class~ After this post, I won’t use past material for this tab, to force myself to learn and reflect on what I learned.//

When we think of McDonalds, we would usually imagine a clown figure or perhaps the famous Big Mac hamburger. We usually wouldn’t associate the golden arches with imperialism or intrusion, but to Korea when McDonalds was introduced, this is how it was interpreted.

America had its age of imperialism but now it has advanced to a new, and perhaps more long lasting form of cultural and soft power imperialism. Even the people who started McDonalds in Korea didn’t realize the weight of their actions. For Koreans, a Big Mac was more than just a burger: it was an opposition to the Korean character. Continue reading “McDonald’s in Korea?”

My Newest Obsession: My Heritage

I suppose it started from Kpop?- Now before people start wagging their fingers at me, let me rewind and try to explain.

I didn’t always have the most amiable thoughts towards Korea. Because of some bad friendships and experiences, at one point I decided to simplify my heritage by saying that all Koreans were cliquish, not wanting to be my friend, and too hard to understand. With this oversimplification, I went on with my life only crossing over to my Korean side to eat its delicious food. Continue reading “My Newest Obsession: My Heritage”

Until Then!-

For now, I’m at Iowa City, studying in a majority Caucasian school in an American environment. But two years from now I’m hoping (actually, it’d be more accurate to say really really REALLY) wanting to study abroad in Korea.

Sometimes as I go through my day, I try to imagine what it’d be like to look around and see Koreans everywhere. How will it be to hear Korean more than English? How will it be to address teachers in Korean? Or even just the aspect of living in Korea for a semester or a year, how will that go? Like groceries or eating at restaurants or going to church?

(realization:…this sounds almost exactly like my post before I went to Korea this past summer, haha~)

I guess I’ll have to wait and see at this point. But it’s not like I don’t have enough things to do until then, cause you know, college is still happening in the meantime X).

Korean Squatting Toilets!

Nice Japanese squat toilet courtesy OutHouseRag

I really had to go. We’d been walking around for hours in the Damyang bamboo forest in Korea and all the water I drank to stay hydrated wanted out from my body. So when I saw the international sign for restrooms, I didn’t hesitate. There wasn’t much of a line, so I was able to go straight into the restroom only to find something that didn’t match my definition of a toilet.

It was a white contraption similar to a urinal, except attached to the ground instead of a wall. I stood in front of it, completely stunned and at a loss of words. My need to use the restroom was quickly replaced by confusion followed by horror as I realized that this mechanism was the toilet. I experienced several aspects of culture shock while I visited Korea, but my experience with the Korean squatting toilet made the most impact on me.

Out of the many things in Korea, why would a toilet make the biggest imprint in my mind? It was because I didn’t know how to use it. I had heard that in the older days, Koreans had to squat to use the restroom. But that was centuries ago! I thought that the days of squatting toilets were from a bygone era, but instead they were modernized and everywhere in Korea. Not to say that there weren’t typical Western toilets, but sometimes the Korean squatting toilets were the only options available.

It was interesting to see that the squatting toilet that was peculiar to me was a part of the native Koreans’ lives. For example, in a subway station, there were both the options of the squatting toilet and the seated one and no one hesitated to use the squatting option if the latter wasn’t available. Even girls in fancy clothing used the squatting toilets. I, on the other hand, completely avoided the squatting toilets because I didn’t know how to use them and found them to be primal and slightly repulsive.

As I continued to encounter the unique Korean toilets, I realized that if I had grown up in Korea, the squatting toilet wouldn’t have been a bizarre concept to me. I have no right to quickly brush off the oddity of the Korean toilets because I didn’t understand them. What seems bizarre to me is someone else’s daily occurrence. Instead of quickly judging the technology that I didn’t understand, it would be better for me to adapt to it without any stubborn preconceived notions.

From here, almost two months after I came back from my vacation in Korea, I wish that I had the bravery to try to use or at least understand the squatting toilets. Instead, I fled the scene every time and stubbornly waited to find a Western seated toilet. That mindset won’t get me anywhere, especially if I want to travel the world. Every country has some piece of technology or culture that is hard to understand. It’s not my role to judge someone else’s culture, but to embrace it.

The Reality of Korea

The world across the computer screen always seemed perfect. The bustling city and bright lights, the cozy cramped restaurants, the high school students in their adorable uniforms.

And we would visit this fantasy world this summer? It seemed unreal when Mom confirmed that we were going to Korea. Last time we went to Korea was nine years ago and I only remembered the public bath house (shudder), Chris popping out my teddy bear’s eye, and going to the market with Grandma. But this time would be different simply because I was older. Continue reading “The Reality of Korea”

FYI: Korea

Now that I’m back from Korea, there are some things that I wish that someone would have told me before I went. So here’s a list of things for your information about Korea! And if I get to travel more, I’ll try to make an FYI for each country/place I visit~

1) You run into the bathroom. You’ve been holding it for too long and as soon as you saw the international sign for bathroom, you didn’t hesitate to sprint towards that direction. But to your alarm, when you burst into a stall…THERE’S NO TOILET PAPER. DDDDD:

Korea is so stupid how can this be in such a highly connected and electronically world that they don’t have toilet paper what is life why did I even bother coming here awelifjaw;leifja-

CALM DOWN KIDDO. Continue reading “FYI: Korea”

EATYOURKIMCHI STUDIO AHHHHH!!!

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One of the things I absolutely HAD to do when I came to Korea was see the Eatyourkimchi (EYK) studio. Eatyourkimchi is compromised of two awesomely awesomesauce people, Simon and Martina, and they make videos about all things Korean from the music to weird things they find to food to random facts. I love their videos because they’re quirky and entertaining and they discuss things about Korea in an honest way, without trying to sugarcoat anything. Continue reading “EATYOURKIMCHI STUDIO AHHHHH!!!”

Wandering Seoul~

As I said in a previous post, I was getting tired of viewing Korea from the tourist point of view, so on Thursday, July 17, I got my chance to wander the streets of Seoul with my Korean friend~

We started off by going to a 떡복기 restaurant. As soon as we stepped into the restaurant, I was pleased; it was exactly what I wanted, a tiny little restaurant with 임모s (waitresses) running from table to table with bubbling pots of 떡복기. (note: 떡복기 is soft rice cake chunks in chill sauce.)

Since it was a restaurant that specialized in 떡복기, there were no 반찬 (side dishes) . The order sheet asked what we wanted in our 떡복기. We chose to have seafood, cheese, ramyun, and another topping whose name I forget in our order. It looked like this when it came out:

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(Gosh, just looking at it makes me hungry again…)

It was AMAZING. And it was a LOT too…I thought that the meal would end with the 떡복기 since it was so much, but then my friend asked for fried rice, which came with the meal. Which, also, was really yummy.

In other words, I ate a lot, but was very satisfied by the end of the meal :3

Then we wandered around the area. We walked through streets and passed by little boutiques and cafes and stopped for some papingsu, a Korean dessert:

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After that treat, we went to Insadong, a huge tourist area with lots of Korean merchandise. They had lots of delicate Korean design bookmarks and fans and other items perfect to bring home for friends. And of course, they had a sticker photo booth with hanboks, the Korean traditional dress. Which, we obviously did.

As it started to get dark, we went to 청계천, a stream running through Seoul, to see a laser show. And along the way, there were some pretty amazing buskers too, so that was a major bonus~

Needless to say, my craving to see Korea from a new perspective was satisfied by the end of the day :).

Night Shopping; 동대문

“Trust me, Ashley, you’ll understand what pretty clothes are once you go to Korea,” my mom would say with a sly smile. Then she would proceed to describe the night market and all the lovely clothes on sale. But I always brushed her off; come on, how much of a difference can there be?

…A LOT.

The style is slightly different and the material is lighter, made to suit the intense Korean summers. Things are generally more modest and my goodness, everything was just so cute!-

Ahem. But beyond the clothes themselves, check out the actual market!-

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I don’t know if the pictures make it clear enough, but it was cramped, bright, and overwhelming. And trust me, it was super easy to get lost.

The way it worked in this particular market was that there were stalls and usually the person who ran the stalls contributed to the making of the clothes one way or another. Also, all the clothes were made in Korea (a fact that the people stressed a lot…). It was all independent little stores and made things more cozy. And the prices were great, too. Sometimes the owners would even lower the price for you, just because.

One thing that really threw me off, though, was that there is no dressing room.

Yeah, I know. My first thought was ‘Great, I’m never going to be able to buy anything here…’ (since, well, Koreans are generally very small and slim and I’m not exactly like that…) BUT WAIT! THERE’S HOPE! Introducing the ‘free size!’ Which, in other words, is like a medium or sometimes a large. Thankfully, the majority of clothes were free size.

And since the market had individual stalls, it wasn’t like a mall where there are different sizes for the same item of clothing. Everything is custom made with only one size. And from what I saw, the sizes range from non stretchy (which pretty much means you’re stuck with whatever size, usually tiny, the item is) to free size.

Another note: all the owners call the women 언니!!! which is the equivalent of saying ‘older sister’. It’s kind of startling seeing a person who is clearly older than you use the term for ‘older sister’ but it makes sense, in a way. It makes you feel a bit closer and not as intimidated.

And now the hours of the market. HOLY COW. Okay, so my mom and I got there at about 11-ish and stayed until 1:30. But the market runs until 5 am. FIVE A.M. WHAT. That’s crazy!- But the thing is, even as we were leaving the market, there were still lots of people. And even the restaurants and food stalls near the market were still up and running. Wow, talk about a nightlife!-

Okay, I think that my brain is about to retire for the night soon. It’s almost 3 am over here, after all. Good night! Or rather, good afternoon for my friends in North America~ 🙂