plumgirl: (music-of-the-heart)
[personal profile] plumgirl
I am apparently jetlagged and allergic to the United States.

I took a quick twelve day trip through Korea -- half of it devoted to seeing relatives who I have not seen in person in twenty years -- and half of it doing a very quick tour through the East part of Korea (Mt. Seoraksan, Ulsan, Daegu, Kyongju Province, Pusan) and Cheju-do Island.

It's hard to describe everything right now. First, it's important to understand that Korea is my homeland country -- it is where my parents emigrated from. It has shaped a lot of what I like, my values, and how I view the world and how I view art.

At the moment, I'm still processing a lot of things, but I have to say that regrettably Koreans have not done its country justice when it comes to telling the rest of the world what they have. Korea is not well-marketed to the outside world, and I wish many of you could go , but to understand it fully means knowing more Korean or having an excellent translator/guide with you to explain many things. Korea is a land that is more Buddhist than Confucian (although modern Korea culture has a strong Confucian bent), and more recently Christian. You will see all elements at play in the culture, but you will see more Buddhist elements in the history.

Being a complete frazzled person, I forgot my camera battery recharger in Seoul and had to use the iPhone for half of my pictures on this tour. So far, many will be unpresentable or will need significant cleaning up in terms of picture values before I can upload them on my Photoshop gallery. I am frusrated because I wanted to do a better job of capturing the beauty I saw. I wanted to show you all how lovely Korea was this visit, with the yellow fields of flowers blooming, the cherry blossoms falling gently to the ground, and pheasants running amuck.

That is how proud and moved I was by what I saw. I wish only that others can see Korea as I did in the near future. I'll post an update when I get my Photoshop gallery up and running. Until then, you can view some pictures at


on 2010-05-02 08:02 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
The pictures are absolutely beautiful, and just looking at them, I wish I could go to Korea. Looking forward to seeing more!

on 2010-05-08 03:44 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Ah - posted up another link ( with a lot more pics :).

on 2010-05-24 02:02 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm going to head over to the photoshop link to enjoy more photos.

What an amazing trip!!!

"At the moment, I'm still processing a lot of things, but I have to say that regrettably Koreans have not done its country justice when it comes to telling the rest of the world what they have. Korea is not well-marketed to the outside world, and I wish many of you could go , but to understand it fully means knowing more Korean or having an excellent translator/guide with you to explain many things."

Maybe the reason why Korea hasn't promoted herself more is because she doesn't want to become a "tourist" country. Since Korea has a well educated population and a strong tech industry sharing with the world may mean more undesirable elements will enter the country and culture. Imagine what would happen to those beautiful cliffs if sloppy hikers go there in large numbers. I feel strongly that tourism has ruined Thailand and the country is just a worst clone of Italy where the economy is *way* too dependent on foreign $$$. Bangkok has neighborhoods made up entirely of foreign college students who behave as if they are on spring break even in old temples.

Oh and I've found many Thai glossy magazines profiling Korea as the new 'go to' country for Thai students if they want to study abroad as well.

on 2010-05-27 11:28 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I think there are some possible explanations -- one is that Koreans themselves have not traveled extensively throughout the country. Until recently I would say that it has not been easy to do so because people lack time and sometimes just the knowledge of where to go. Aside from the time, which I think is the biggest factor, is that I don't think good guides and materials exist for folks to self-tour.

We had six people in our first tour group that were not American-Koreans but from various parts of Korea. We were curious about why they joined and one factor was that folsk had heard that our tourgroup catered to Koreans abroad who wanted to discover culture and history. They said that it is hard to know where to go as well, and that is probably one obstacle for general tourism within Korea. Then there's an issue with tour "style" that turns off many people from package tours within Korea. For one thing, KOrean tours catering to Koreans love food and good places to sleep (and we were in some 4-5 star locales), but they are noisy social affairs where people sing and have games on buses. This probably turns off a lot of potential tourists like those in our group from even bothering.

Maybe we were just really lucky to have a good guide as well who really knew a lot about Buddhism and history. I was kind of surprised by how knowledgeable he was ... obviously people respected him a lot by tour end. THey were calling him "teacher" because he really was able to impart a lot of knowledge.

Anyways -- as to the tech vs tourism thing, Korea has tried to reinvigorate their tourism campaign but only overseas. Within country though they have this cute program where they create mascots or "Brands" for their towns/provinces. I think they're trying to improve tourism, but there still is a lot more that needs to be done. I found that the audio guides in the museum in Seoul were really not up to speed. My audio thing just didn't work right and was awkward/heavy. Clearly they don't quite have the hang of things yet.

As for Korea becoming an "it" destination for students, NHK World did a program recnetly that gave good examples as to why. Korea is actively trying to improve its international profile by giving international students serious stipends. Grad students are being offered housing, family support (income), and full tuition to come and study in Korea. Korea is aggressively pushing English so that there is a standard means of communication. My little niece/nephew are learning English at the age of 3 and 5. Amazing.

Japan, in the meantime, forces foreign nationals to astandard of Japanese that is impossible to hit (i.e., native level). This and other obstacles in getting jobs in Japan have caused people to look more at Korea and Vietnam.

I'm not surprised therefore that people want to go to Korea to study. However, that rarely translates to traveling. As I said, tourism infrastructure needs to improve. There are very few English based operations for Korea (unlike Japan) so things need to improve in that regard if Korea ever wants to become a tourism powerhouse and seriously attract Olympic bids.

BTW - Korea has a bid in for the winter olmpics (Pyongchang) and that entire area is not English-ready. They have new roads, gorgeous hotels, and wonderful ski places, but I found that they need to catch up a bit. Most "Western-targeted" hotels still do not have staff who speak other languages well. It was very interesting...

on 2010-05-02 08:02 pm (UTC)
ext_51796: (travel_vacation)
Posted by [identity profile]
How cool! Looking forward to seeing more of your pics! The only things I know about Korea are through watching K-drama sometimes. It does look pretty there.

on 2010-05-08 03:46 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
yeah - I have to admit that I had really no concept of modern Korea ecxept through TV, so you're not far off at all! I heard that a lot of foreign tourism is now driven by the videos, so Korea does its best attempt to capitalize on that and you'll hear guides often mention spots that are featured on dramas or take you to those spots.

on 2010-05-02 08:43 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm really jealous! Korea is so beautiful~ I'm actually hoping that I can save up to study abroad at Yonsei next summer.

I have to say I agree with you though. Not a lot of people really know what Korea has to offer. Actually, I didn't even know a whole lot about Korean culture at all (outside of pop culture) before going to college and joining my poongmul-pae. People are missing out D:

on 2010-05-08 03:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Wow - that would be very cool to study abroad. Are you eligible for any of the scholarship programs? I've heard/seen of many students coming from other countries on scholarship, but the U.S. may not be one of those partners due to there being so many folks in the U.S. from Korea...

I really like modern Korea, but the culture was a bit weird. There are some things that kind of shocked me (not evident from dramas and pop culture) that I might write up although I have a feeling it might be perceived as somewhat negative.

on 2010-05-04 09:14 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
great to hear from you again :D

glad you've been out enjoying the world. and sharing it with us! thanks for the fantastic pictures!! :)

re: trip to Korea: gah. more things to starve myself for ;)

on 2010-05-08 03:51 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
She lives! Korea is great, but you also probably should try to cram in other things too. It'll be there still if you decide to go elsewhere first ;)

Looks like you had a lot of stuff going on (catching up on LJ still now that I'm really back home for a while)... how are you doing?

on 2010-05-05 02:08 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I was hoping you hadn't forgot about LJ! I missed your insightful and reflective blogs. :)

It sounds absolutely beautiful; I can identify with the feeling you have because it is the same way I feel about Germany. :)

on 2010-05-08 03:50 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I plan to update some more I hope. I just have had such a busy time the past few months and really when I feel kind of stressed or bored, I don't write much due to the lack of inspiration. I'm hoping to try to adjust my schedule to do more traveling and getting "out" more...

So you are from Germany initially? I would love to see/hear more about it. My auntie lived there for a few years to study music. They loved it!

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