Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jinju, 진주

Jinju, 진주 is in South Gyeongsang Province. It's a 4-hour bus ride from Seoul (please see attached link for the bus schedule). My friend invited me to go with him to Jinju where his family lives.
The first (1592) and second (1593) Sieges happened in Jinju, 진주 by Japanese forces during the Imjin War. Also, the Republic of Korea Air Force Education and Training Command is located in the western part of the Jinju, 진주 city. There are cultural-historical tourist attractions in Jinju such as Jinju Castle 촉석루 chokseongnu, the Jinju National Museum, and the Nam-gang Prehistoric Site Museum.
Jinju, 진주 is known for its festivals taken from it wonderful historical importance in Korea. Among these are the Jinju Namgang Lantern Festival which is held in October for approximately ten days. This nationally designated cultural tourism festival, found only in Jinju, features a spectacle of lanterns floating on the Nam River to commemorate the patriotic spirit of the 70,000 militia corps and government troops who died for their country defending Jinju from the Japanese forces during the Imjin War (1592-1598). I was not able to wintness the said festival but I was able to see how the city prepared for it. As early as July, you can already see huge lanterns floating on the river. It was beautiful how much more during the festival.
Other major festivals include: the Nongae Festival, which commemorates and celebrates the sacrifice of the beautiful and patriotic gisaeng (professional Korean entertainer) Nongae's suicide-assassination of a Japanese general. We went to the place where the scene happened. I heard the story before coming to Korea but I wasn't so sure about the information. Going to Jinju, 진주 was a perfect choice. Other festivals are the Korean Drama Festival, the Gaecheon Arts Festival and the Jinju National Bullfighting Contest which are also known all over Korea.
Important links:

After School 애프터스쿨

After School, 애프터스쿨 is managed by Pledis Entertainment. The company that is said to have the prettiest and sexiest stars in Korea. Take Son Dambi for example. And this time they never failed to live this image. For me, Yui/UEE is the prettiest in After School. She's even prettier in person. Only that she was a bit different before plastic surgery.
Here's some information from wikipedia: After School, 애프터스쿨, had their public debut in 2008 and eventually made a "proper" debut on 17 January 2009 with the first single, "Ah!". Later that year, UEE joined the group, and After School released a second single, "Diva". In the fall of 2009, Soyoung left the group citing health concerns, which led to the addition of two members—Raina and Nana. The group then released Neo Ddaemunae 너 때문에", (Because of You), which became their first chart-topping single.
Nana is my friend Earvin's favorite ^^ Earvin knows a lot about them more than I do but since I like them I'm writting this entry. ^^; I already saw them many times. The first time was in a camp. They sang Diva and Ah. I didn't know the group but I already know their songs since it was being played all-over Korea. haha. Meaning, wherever you go you will hear their songs.

Shrine Visit: Jongmyo Shrine 종묘

Jongmyo is a Shrine located near Jongno 3-ga station, exit 3. I think the shrine symbolizes a culture that was highly sophisticated during the ancient Korea. I went there with my friend 오정형 who was also amazed to see the shrine for the first time ^^ Jongmyo is a royal ancestral shrine of the Joseon dynasty where the spirit tablets of its kings and queens are enshrined. Memorials are still observe in respect to the time-old confucian tradition. As you can see right from the main gate, a path/road was built. It is said that the spirits of the kings (and queens probably, I'm not sure) walk here during the ancestral rites. The construction of the shrine began in the 12th month of 1394 and was completed on the ninth month of the next year. Jeongjeon (Main Hall) has 19 rooms enshrining a total of 49 tablets for kings commanding greater respect and their queens. On the other hand, the annex, Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Everlasting Peace) has 16 rooms housing 34 tablets. The shrine being designated as a Historic Monument No. 125, offers a very peaceful environment to people who visit the shrine. After that we went to Ewha De to eat chimtak 찜닭 which is the Korean version of adobo.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Special Topic: Chirstmas Eve in 2 Koreas

Christmas Eve in South Korea is totally different from the Christmas that I know in the Philippines. ^^; Christmas Eve in the Philippines is usually celebrated by attending the "Rooster's Mass" or Misa del Gallo, this is among the Catholics. As we know Philippines is predominantly Catholic. This is celebrated hours before the clock ticks 12 A.M. signifying the arrival of Christmas Day. Usually, we go to church then hold a feast called Noche Buena. This is some sort of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter whether you are poor or as rich as Bill Gates, all Filipinos try to find a way to commemorate this event for Jesus Christ. After all it's CHRISTmas.
In South Korea, just like Japan, Christmas Eve is like Valentines Day. Couples go out for a date. Hotels, motels, restaurants, movie theaters are all fully-booked. Probably the best businesses during the night ^^; lol I remember when I was in Japan, there was a traffic jam outside a motel because it was like the only motel with available rooms in the Anyway, couples greet Merry Christmas. It must be noted that just like Valentines day, singles also try to go out and enjoy as a group of singles. Or some just stay in the house and feel the same so-called loneliness felt by singles on Feb.14th. kkk
North Korea has its own way of celebrating the Christmas eve. According to Daily NK, it is the birthday of one of North Korea's three so-called national heroes, Kim Jong Il's mother Kim Jong Suk. So this day is one of the biggest national holidays in NK. Another important information revealed is that the North Koreans did not know anything about Christmas until the 1990s. It was only through movies that they became gradually aware of the existence of the holiday.

My Christmas in Korea

I spent my Christmas in Suwon 수원 with my friend Hyeong-suk 형석 and his family. I arrived in Suwon 수원 around lunch time. It took an hour and 3o minutes by subway. The Suwon 수원 station is like the center of Suwon. The station is connected to big mall which literally offers all the needed facilities for leisurely activities like shopping, movie, restaurants, cafes and more. We went to eat lunch. According to him the place is famous for its dishes. We initially planned to go to Hwaseong Fortress but the weather was not so good so we just went to 목욕탕. This was our second 목욕탕. The place was good and as expected there were many father and kids. I heard Christmas day is like a bonding for fathers and their sons same with the moms and their daughters. After sauna we went to his house. We bought some bread in Paris Baguette so I received calendars with 2PM and Kim Tae Hee as the cover. ^^ It took us another 30 minutes to his house but it was worth it. The house was unbeliavably good ^^; Her mom prepared dinner for and desserts, so my Christmas was basically spent more on eating lol. After eating we headed to a video rental shop. We rented Chau, which is a Korean film that was supposed to be scary but turned out to be a comedy. lol ^^; I'm glad I spent my Christmas with my family here in Korea. ^^

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Seoul Delights: Snowboard Big Air World Cup

Last December 11th (Fri.) to 13th (Sun.), Seoul hosted the Snowboard Big Air World Cup, after it was selected to host the said event at the International Ski Federation (FIS)'s general meeting on Oct 25 in Zurich, Swizerland. Seoul built a jump ramp 34 meters high and 100 meters in length in Gwanghwamun Plaza, which is in the heart of Seoul's historic and business center. The event became more impressive due to the location where it was accessible to anyone. As expected it was flooded with audience from all walks of life and people from different countries.It is said that Korea through Pyeonchang in Kangwon is bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, so the event would produce a bigger chance of winning the bid. In a news in, a Seoul City official said, “Given how the season's Big Air events have until now been held in major European cities like London, Stockholm and Barcelona, you can see how much higher Seoul's prestige as an international city has grown. We plan to turn the event into a national celebration rather than just a Seoul City World Cup event.
Suggestions: Since the event attracted audience, it would be better if the main roads were closed in the evening. The organizers could have provided alternative roads for the vehicles.

Girls' Generation SNSD 소녀시대

If there's someone who could tell a detailed information about Girls' Generation SNSD 소녀시대, that would be my friend Chris ^^. Ask anything about So Nyeo Shi Dae , he knows it. lol The first time I saw SNSD was in a Super Junior concert but no cameras were allowed at that time. Then, unexpectedly, I saw them at the 12th International Girls Scouts Camp in Incheon. Since I was in front of the stage I was able to take good pictures and videos. They're so cute ^^ My favorite is Taeyon, who happens to be the leader of the group. Then Sunny who's quite strong despite her extremely cute appearance. I saw her once in a TV special where she almost won in a 씨름 (Korean wrestling). hehe. She ended 1st runner-up despite her petite size ^^ Tiffany and Yuri are emcees in MBC program called 음악중심. Yoona on the other hand may be the most popular as she was voted to be the most beautiful member of the group. Jessica is very popular nowadays because of her performance in Legally Blonde, which is a musical. Hyoyeon, Sooyoung and Seohyun are my least favorite but it doesn't mean I don't like them. hihi. They're still my favorites^^
I saw them many times in other occassions like 2009 Incheon Korean Music Wave Festival, Dream Concert, Asian Songfest and some university festivals. Everytime I see them I always feel like they're so close to me ^^ I get all the updates of the group through Chris ^^ so if you happen to be interested just tell me and I will ask Chris if I could give his facebook address to you ^^

Mokpo 목포

The location of Mokpo 목포 in southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula made the place mainly a port city. I remember watching a Korean movie back in the Philippines wherein Mokpo was presented as underdeveloped and not so civilized place compared to Korea's main cities. However, when we got there it was not the case. We visited the National Research Institute of Marine Culture. The museum was high-tech and was really huge. It is said that the institute was established to show underwater cultural heritage from the Korean waters and maritime culture including nautical traditions and Korean traditional boats etc.

Gangjin 강진

Gangjin 강진 is known for the production of traditional Korean celadon. Celadon is a type of ceramics denoting both a type of glaze and a ware of a specific color originally invented in ancient China, primarily in Zhejiang Province. Gangjin 강진 is also the birthplace of Korean poet Yeongrang Kim Yun-sik, famous for his work in the 1930s and 1940s in the Jeolla dialect.
Our group had a one-night camp in a mountain resort in Gangjin. It was really cool since the scenic view of the sunrise was awesome.
We visited Gangjin Celadon Museum, which is a special museum for safeguarding, research, and exhibiting the celadon cultural heritage of Goryeo dynasty. It highlights the importance and value of Gangjin kiln site, which is the home of Korean celadon.

Important sites:
About Gangjin: