Today, I heard a very interesting story from one of the Korean ladies I work with.
I was asking her about the sentiments of the South Koreans with the American military being a strong presence in her country. While I was expecting some sort of negative backlash, she was stating that most people feel safer with our presence here knowing that the North Korean’s are a lurking and unpredictable neighbor. With that she shared an example.
Apparently, a few months prior, there used to be demonstrations every Wed in front of the main gate at Kunsan AB. Well at one point, Ms. Kim asked one of the protesters what they were protesting for. The member replied that they were paid $100 to do so.
By who you may ask?
By a North Korean spy it was later found out. He was caught just a few months prior, right at the moment the protests stopped. And there have been none at Kunsan since.
In addition to the fountain of youth, you will encounter four figures at the entrance of every Buddhist temple in Korea. These challengers stand before at the entrance into the halls of the holy temple.
Meant to represent the challenges of live that you will encounter prior to nirvana, these figures hold a sword, a palace, and a snake – all representing different challenges. The final figure plays a tune for you as you have survived the three encounters and make it into the entrance of the temple and therefore nirvana.
Fun fact of the day: there are over 200 types of kimchi – a pickled snack/ h’orderve that can be anything from a spicy pickled turnip to the most well known version, spicy cabbage. It is the foundation and most essential element of every basic meal in Korea. Breakfast, lunch and dinner: all have at least 5 different types of Kimchi.
Korea often gets tagged with an unpleasant name because of this essential dish. The assumption is that Korea smells terrible due to the cabbage being buried under ground to ferment. In actuality, I have seen none of this – only large clay pots filled with delectable kimchi sitting outside of houses, stores and even in the middle of Seoul.
Yes, one of the MOST basic and essential elements to Korean culture is food. Pictured above is just a sampling of the delectable offerings you will get for free with every meal. Enjoy!
And I found it in Korea (and I would guess at most Buddhist temples).There are a few things that you will find at every temple, and one of them is a well full of communal spring drinking water.
Locals believe that if you take a sip from this life giving water you will add one year onto your lifespan. More a metaphor in the modern age for the importance of drinking water, locals still take a sip every time they visit the temple, just in case.
By far one of the top things to do in Korea on a Fri night, Sat afternoon or even Sunday morning is karaoke.
Koreans LOVE karaoke. Not because they are particularly good at it, well I am not even sure why they love it, but they do. And if you see the state- of-the-art rooms that karaoke is conducted in, you may begin to understand.
Korean karaoke is not in a massive room full of strangers, it is set up in your own personalized VIP room full of pitchers of beer, Soju & coke. With chandlers on the ceiling and red velvet couches, you feel a little better belting out cheesy tunes with a group of your friends – And belt out tunes we did. From Korean pop tunes to some beetles, our terrible voices screamed the best of the era full of laughs and dancing.
Surely a must stop if living or visiting, Korean karaoke leaves little to be scared of when the room is filled with your friends plus pitches of beer.
In Italy its a coin toss into a fountain. In America its a penny down a wishing well. In South Korea – it is a rock.
Within the confines of the array of temples scattered around the country, you will find a series of stacked rocks all containing the hopes and dreams of the people of South Korea.
Stacked one atop the other, this cultural trait is just one of the folk similarities found while gallivanting around Gyeongju, a historical city home to the Silla empire.
While a common trait of South Korea (just like any wishing well in the states), this particular city holds history and a great deal of meaning to the people of the ROK.
A little known cultural fact (for those who have not been to Korea) – it is polite to always use two hands when handing or receiving anything from a credit card to a drink.
Why you may ask?It is funny how customs translate cultures.
The traditional garment worn, 한복 or Hanbok, had long sleeves that would dip into the table’s food if one did not hold their sleeve.
So naturally, it was polite to hold your sleeve so it did not drop into the contents of the table.
Even as the robes disappeared and South Korea has become one of the most modern countries in the world, Koreans still use two hands to pass items at the table or receive a glass of beer.
So do yourself a favor next time you travel to the far east and use two hands.
South Korea itself is an extremely honest, friendly and polite country. Save for some areas of Seoul, there is no need for bouncers outside clubs, a present police force or single living. Taxi drivers are honest about their fare and tipping is considered rude. It is with this backdrop of a fairly safe, conservative nation that shuns divorce, gays and bright clothing, that something wondrously unique takes place yearly off the shores of Daecheon Beach: the Boryeong Mud Festival.
Squashed into a bus with standing room only, young Korean locals, military folk and English teachers travel to the beaches of Daecheon to see what the fuss about mud is all about. Travelers soon learn that not only are there health benefits involved, but pure carnival antics.
Conducted primarily for the purpose of marketing the health benefits of the local mud, the festival offers everything from mud massages to mud wrestling. Set up in tents along the shoreline, massage tables and mud products over a quick relief from the American youth holding bottles of Soju (liquor tasting similar to rubbing alcohol). Next to these items line tents full of five main options: fried corndogs, fried fish, Hite beer (the local favorite), Makgeolli (a yoghurty, fermented rice wine) or Soju. Enclosed around this crowd of tents and muddy people are a series blown-up arenas that can only be described as a mudpark.
Participants have the opportunity to get splashed with a bucket of mud in the ‘jail’ enclosure, slip n’ slide down an inflatable shoot, and race their friends through a course designed to make you take a face plant. Shoes are left at the entrance with little thought and friends are easily made through mud bucket throwing or mud hugs. To clean off this life-giving mud, the beach is an option, but so is the 30 meter pool full of sprinklers and other muddy customers.
As this was my first weekend in the country…there was no way I was going to miss out on all the fun.
If you are also intrigued about mud, here is the official site: http://www.mudfestival.or.kr/english/festival/festival1.php