July- August 2017
comic con Comic Con Seoul is here!
Koncept of hip-hop
Perfoming music with pride
Celebrating Pride through music
The next Korean cafe fad?
Korea's Crackdown on International Schools The future of international schools in Korea
july 2017 44
Jay's Hairdressing in Itaewon Searching for a new western hairstylist? We've got you covered.
Koreaâ€™s Crackdown on International Schools Will international schools disappear from Korea?
MVP plastic clinic A new you, one frozen spot at a time
How to...Leave Korea Beating reverse culture shock after the big move home
Key People Meet Grooveâ€™s editorial team and a few of our talented contributors
What's on Festivals, concerts, happy hours, networking and events for every day of the month
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival Gonzo journalist, Zev Blumenfeld, finds himself surrounded by drones, monster fish, and the gritty underbelly of humanity's circus.
The Ongoing Fight Against Korean Abortion Laws The knotty problem of abortion in Korea
Being different and challenging authority A conversation with the President of the Korea Council of Overseas Schools
Diggers, Drivers, and Doppelgangers Diggers, drivers, and doppelgangers
cover story 48
The artistry of cosplay Foreign and Korean cosplayers gear up for Comic Con Seoul
Comics and cosplay and Hollywood stars, Oh my! International pop culture convention hits Seoul for the first time
july 2017 art
Fully Booked: The Printed Book Renaissance Hits Seoul From children's books to art theory, discover our selection of Seoul's best places to browse, enjoy, and buy books.
The Koncept of hip-hop U.S. rapper making a splash in Korean hip-hop scene
Perfoming music with pride Spotlighting singers in the LGBTQIA+ community
Finding your new fixation at +84 Authentic Vietnamese food on your doorstep
Southwestern Barbecue Migrates East Three places where you can get a taste of Texas
Dinner Down Under: Caravan A blend of cultures, flavours, and ingredients in Hapjeong
Cereal Bars Introducing the Western breakfast staple to Korean cafe culture
The Seagull Has Landed Again Busan's local craft beer company continues to grow
Donâ€™t Break the Bank for the Beach The ins and outs when visiting Eurwangni Beach
12 key people
started her journey into music reporting whilst slaving away as a copyeditor for an English-language news media outlet in Seoul way back in 2009. Now she is the music editor of Groove, and still slaving away as a copy-editor for a different English-language news outlet, though will soon leave the land of office jobs behind. If she’s not at the computer writing music articles, she’s out catching a live show in Hongdae, getting a glass of wine (or beer) with friends, filming music interviews for a YouTube channel, daydreaming about her next project or playing with the world’s most adorable pup, Morgan.
Gil Coombe is primarily a university instructor. An editor of The English Connection. A part-time writer and copy-editor for Groove. A full-time procrastinator. A New Plymouth, New Zealand native. A movie enthusiast. A regular overeater. A reluctant gym-goer. An occasional cyclist. A constant hiker. A Hong Sang-soo doubter. A list maker. All of these things describe him, but do they truly describe him? Yes, they do.
Justin Howard is a photographer who has called Korea his home for about 6 years now. Nightscapes, food, and travel photography are his main areas of interest and he hopes to go professional within a couple of years. When he is not taking pictures he can be found planning his next adventure abroad or in the gym.
Christopher Saint Germain served as a Photojournalist for the Washington National Guard and is a full time photographer here in Korea. He has lived in Korea for more than 13 years. His other passions besides photography are his family, travel and music. He is a Past Master for Lodge Harry S Truman in Pyeongtaek Korea and the Bass Player in the Bluetooth Blues Band. You can find him on Instagram @DaVinciPhoto or @ChristopherSaintGermain and on Facebook under the same name. His favorite photographic style is Travel Portraiture, and he is always in search of new and interesting people and places to add to his collection.
Zev D. Blumenfeld was somewhere between the Northern Michigan backwoods and the beaches of Southern California when the floor of reality suddenly dropped out from under his feet. "At that ugly moment, I knew the only thing left to do was to toss my fucking belongings into a storage locker and get as far away as possible," he recounts. "So I rode the aftershocks to Seoul." It's been weeks or years since the whole incident--nobody, including Blumenfeld, really knows for sure. He writes and edits on a freelance basis for the demonic spirits of the entertainment industry and saintly, non-native English speakers. Blumenfeld occasionally updates "(The) Circus," a (not) blog located somewhere in the far reaches of the giant cyber slick known as the Internet. "(The) Circus" was last spotted at: itsthecircus.com.
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EDITORIAL GIL COOMBE ROB SHELLEY EMMA KALKA HEATHER ALLMAN BARBARA BIERBRAUER ZEV D. BLUMENFELD HADRIEN DIEZ CHRISTOPHER ST. GERMAIN
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ART & DESIGN A-GRID WORK firstname.lastname@example.org
WRITERS & CONTRIBUTORS Steve Smith, Jordan Redmond, Monica Williams, Neil Kirby, Kate Hickey, Robert Evans, Soo Choi, Michael O'Dwyer, Giro, Luman, Hannah Gweun, Pauly Peroni, John Dunphy, Andrew Bencivenga, Justin Howard, Bryan Watkins and Kim Rahyun
Special thanks to CJ E&M, Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival, Jarazum International Jazz Festival, HanCinema, ReedPop, COSIS, HanCinema, Caravan, +84, About Jins, All that Meat, Grillerz, The Cereal and WYCN
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To contribute to Groove Korea, email email@example.com or the appropriate editor. To have Groove Korea delivered to your home or business, email firstname.lastname@example.org To contribute to groovekorea, promote an event or share your opinions, please email email@example.com or the appropriate editor. The articles are the sole property of GROOVE KOREA No reproduction is permitted without the express written consent of GROOVE KOREA The opinions expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. Â© All rights reserved Groove Korea Magazine 2006
18 what's on july 2017
Jisan Valley Rock Music & Arts Festival concert
when July 28 â€“ 30 where Jisan Resort, Ichon Gyeonggi-do who Gorillaz, Sigur Ros, Major Lazer, Lorde, Gallant, Asgeir, Lukas Graham, Goldroom, DIPLO and 80+ artists
when July 8 | where Muv Hall in Mapo-gu, Seoul
when August 15 | where Gocheok Skydome, Seoul
when August 14 | where YES24 Live Hall in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul
20 what's on july 2017 Incheon Pentaport Rock Festival concert
when August 11 â€“ 13 where Pentaport Park, Incheon Gyeonggi-do who Justice, Bastille, 5 Seconds of Summer, You me at six, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa and only the best Korean rock bands
Boryeong Mud Festival
when July 21 â€“ 30 | where Daecheon Beach area
Boryeong Mud Festival attracts the largest number of international visitors. During the festival period, tourists flock to the area to experience the benefits of Boryeong's mud while having a blast. Fully immersed in both the mud and the festivalâ€™s great atmosphere, visitors enjoy mud wrestling, mud sliding and even swimming in the giant mud bath. Visitors feeling particularly energetic can try the marine mud-training course, whilse those looking for something more relaxing can chill in the mud massage zone. In the evening, music and fireworks continue to have the party going at the beach.
22 what's on
when Until August 15 where SeMA, Seoul Museum of Art
SeMA presents the exhibition Highlights, featuring works from the Collection of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris. The exhibition provides the Korean audience with an opportunity to discover world-renowned works from this Collection. As the title indicates, Highlights not only refers to the most representative artworks from the Collection of the Fondation Cartier that are on display, but also implies our wish to share the heightened, shining value of art, which represents various crucial subjects that we need to pay attention to through visual and verbal languages.
Rethinking Craft: Between studio craft and contemporary art Rethinking Craft: Between studio craft and contemporary art Exhibition
when Until September 3 | where SeMA Nam-Seoul Museum of Art
The exhibition aims to illuminate unnoticed artworks and areas within SeMA’s collection. As its first attempt, the museum is focusing on its contemporary craft collections. Rethinking Craft: Between studio craft and contemporary art consists of works from contemporary craft artists who have developed their art practices through formal experiments as well as explorations of materials and techniques. The artists are unique in their engagement with unconstrained art practices based on traditional concepts of craft and artistic expansion across different genres of art.
GanaArt Collection Anthology Exhibition
where SeMA Seosomun
The ‘GanaArt Collection’ consists of 200 works of Korean realism donated by Lee Ho-Jae, the CEO of GanaArt in 2011. The total of 200 donated works are composed of 120 paintings, 10 traditional Korean paintings, 7 prints, and 23 sculptures. The works were created by 46 artists who are members of the groups, such as ‘Hyunsil and Bal-un’, ‘Gwangju Liberal Artists Association’, ‘Dureong’, and ‘Im Sul Nyeon.’ With a large body of historical Minjung artwork that reflects the zeitgeist of the 1980s, the collection provides a comprehensive overview of hyperrealist and expressionist works of Korean art from the 1960s to 1990s.
Muju Firefly Festival
when August 26 – September 3 where Hanpungnu-ro, Muju-gun, Jeollabuk-do
The festival’s highlight after 8:00 pm when the fireflies begin to light up the night sky.
Bonghwa Eun-Uh (Sweet Fish) Festival Festival
when July 29 – August 5 where Bonghwa-eup, Bonghwa-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do
The festival, held in Bonghwa-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, offers numerous programs including sweet smelt fishing, underwater race and quiz show. The sweet smelt fishing, the festival’s highlight, is held two times a day during the week, and three times on Saturdays.
24 what's on
Karim Rashid ‘Design Your Self’ Exhibition
when Until October 7 where Seoul Arts Center
The exhibition is a special retrospective of Karim Rashid who is referred to as one of the most influential and prolific designers in our contemporary time. The exhibition showcases Karim`s unique original objects, furniture and Karim’s signature designs, which made Karim Rashid a king of the industrial design along with colourful graphic art works imbued with the spirit of the Digital Age dominating the entire space. It also features several of Karim’s original sketches from his studio in New York, which is the genesis of his design world as well as large-scale art installations and media art realised in collaboration with the local artists and companies in Korea therefore, in total more than 400 pieces will be displayed. This exhibition, which is the largest of its kind so far introduced in Korea dissects the art and design world of a pluralist and cultural shaper Karim Rashid into 8 zones arranged in order to tell the accessible and comprehensible narrative for everyone to engage and enjoy. This exhibition would also perform as a guide to our lives ahead of the unpredictable future with his core philosophy that emphasises on being in the present, not the past and embracing the digital age and letting go of the analogue.
VOGUE like a painting
when Until October 7 | where Seoul Arts Center
This exhibition showcases Vogue Magazine archives to present the work of photographer, Annie Leibovitz, Paolo Roversi, Albert Watson, Tim Walker, Peter Lindbergh and many more.
LIFE ‘To See Life; To see the World’ Exhibition
when Until October 8 | where Seoul Arts Center
The exhibition showcases 100+ photos from LIFE magazine carrying history of mankind.
26 sponsor Story by Soo Choi Photos by Christopher Saint Germain
Jay's Hairdressing in Itaewon Looking for the perfect Western hair stylist? Look no further
or a country that is well-known for affordable and stylish haircuts, Westerners in Korea tend to get the short end of the stick. For Asians, Korea is a mecca of beauty products and cheap hair treatments. Westerners, however, must navigate through dozens of Korean salons that speak little to no English and that don't have much experience working with foreign hair before they can find one that can accommodate their needs (or at the very least, not completely mess up their hair). The stylists themselves are also often mystified and unsure of how to handle the new and different styles they are asked to do. However, the best part of the job for Jay, the owner and hair stylist at Jay's Hairdressing in central Itaewon, is getting to try something new each day. "Korea is getting better, but it's still too trendy. Everywhere you see, it's bangs, bangs, bangs, no layers. Same color. Same cut. It's all the same style... I get too tired of doing the same thing." He gravitated toward styling for foreigners because he loved trying new styles
and working with the different hair textures. Open six days a week, his salon attracts mostly foreign customers. He enjoys being able to cater to each person, and can often tell what someone will want or need upon walking in the door. "First, I notice the shoes. Then, their purse and clothes, hair, and face shape." From there, he determines what kind of style would be perfect for the customer, based on their lifestyle and how they carry themselves. Whether that is a "point" style, a trim, or highlights -- a few of the many excellent services offered at the salon -- he strives to make every style easy to manage and look natural, something many stylists struggle to do with blonde/ red/curly hair in Korea. "Curly hair can be [especially] very difficult," he chuckles. "You need to calculate the layers and how much you cut carefully or you may cut too much; a lot of people make this mistake." With his extensive experience with cutting and coloring all textures and types of foreign hair, Jayâ€™s salon welcomes anyone. On the salon's Facebook page, you can find albums upon albums of snapshots, from highlights to cuts
to styles, and many likes or comments complimenting the work. Well-known in the expat community and conveniently located in the foreigner hub of Seoul, Jay offers a high-quality service for everyone that walks through his doors. Clients can rest assured knowing that they are getting the treatment they need with minimal damage and quality products. Jay uses L'OrĂŠal and Wella, two familiar and well-respected brands abroad. He also does hair treatments for damaged hair when doing colorings, choosing from a large supply of hair treatments and restoring masks based on each person's needs. Ranging from heavy-duty moisture therapy masks to light serums, he picks the best one for each hair type. "For finer hair, we use something lighter. It will take longer but won't be too heavy for the hair. For thicker or more damaged hair, like hair that has been bleached a lot, we use something that will restore the hair a lot quickly." He proves to care about not only providing the best color and cuts, but the clients' hair health, too.
Jay, upon graduating from working in the Korean army, went on to study at Vidal Sassoon's hair academy in the UK and became an assistant at a salon, before coming back home to Korea. Here, he joined a Western-oriented salon in the Hongdae area. He noticed that, while the salon had many foreign customers, the stylist would rarely speak to them, making them feel less welcome. "He used to only talk to Korean clients," Jay explained. â€œHe couldn't speak very good English. So imagine if you sit for three hours to dye your hair, and nobody talks to you the whole time. You wouldn't want to come back..." It sounds like an awkward experience indeed. He wanted to change that when he opened up his own place. He wanted to connect with his clients and for everyone to feel welcome and comfortable. So today, those that frequent Jay's Hairdressing are kept entertained with his witty jokes and genuine questions. Thanks to his time in the UK, he speaks fluent English and enjoys conversing with his clients while sitting for hours in the chair. They are treated like old friends as they undergo their hair transformations.
Well-known in the expat community and conveniently located in the foreigner hub of Seoul, Jay offers a high-quality service for everyone that walks through his doors. Though his salon is now well-respected, the journey to the top wasn't easy. Though Jay had always been interested in hair and hair styling, when he first began working, he realized how difficult it was to be a hair stylist in Korea. He considered changing jobs multiple times as he struggled to find his footing and get used to the amount of work. "It was really hard," he admitted. "It's very tricky to be a hair stylist in Korea. In England, they have different people for [each thing]- colorists, cut, hair stylists. But in Korea, you have to do everything yourself. So it was very difficult." But eventually, he grew accustomed to the work
and fast-paced style, and grew to enjoy (and become efficient at) doing everything himself in the salon. Now, he successfully runs a large place with just one assistant, Jinny, to help him. Jay's Hairdressing, occupying a large area on the second floor, is often filled with customers, but Jay and Jinny are currently the only ones juggling everything. Wanting only to provide the best service for his clients, Jay finds himself having trouble finding the right employees and stylists. "Not many people can do Western hair and speak English very well. And I want to respect my customers and hire only people that can do their hair correctly." The small staff, however, does not seem to be an issue, according to the reviews that rave about the establishment across social media. In fact, the cozy experience seems to appeal to many regulars. Five-star reviews flood their Facebook page and Google business listing, where people talk about his friendliness, techniques, and precision cutting skills -- which is exactly what seems to set him apart from other salons. "I can do those fast 20-minute or 7-minute haircuts. I've worked in a Korean salon before. But that's just not my style. My haircuts take longer because I think of it like I am carefully drawing people's hair into place. I think hair cutting is almost like painting. I want to be precise." Using very small scissors, he prides himself on his carefully sculpted work. To him, each cut is like working on a piece of art. Though it may
take longer than 20 minutes, the amount of time and effort he puts into each person definitely shines through in the end. "My goal is to provide great equal treatment for every hair type in Korea." Tel 070-4227-6158 add 2nd fl., Itaewonro 206, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
28 sponsor Story by Kate Hickey Photos by Robert Evans
MVP Plastic Surgery
Your one-stop shop for a new you
he number of memes related to the emotional and physical pain of aging hit a fever pitch with the majority of my online community turning 30 this year. When I scroll through my newsfeed I’m constantly overwhelmed. The self-critique “looking tired today” has become an everyday utterance. Men tend to look more distinguished as they age. I find, as a woman, I’m aging less gracefully. I remember looking in the mirror a month before my 28th birthday and wondering if I was imagining the deep creases next to my eyes. How was it possible to go to sleep looking and feeling perfectly fine, and then wake up with full-blown crow’s feet? I considered the risk and rewards of botox
and a year later took the plunge. Since then, I’ve had one more round of minimal botox, as well as lip fillers to mend a childhood wasp sting. If there’s anywhere in the world to undergo a plastic or cosmetic surgery procedure, Sinsa is the place. When Psy asks, “Hey - where’d you get that body from?” the answer’s obvious. Nips and tucks abound in Gangnam, arguably the beauty capital of the world. On Nonhyeon-ro in Sinsa-dong, plastic surgery clinics are stacked one on top of the other all along the boulevard. One that stands out is MVP Plastic Surgery. With its giant orange bunny perched on a window ledge and a sign beckoning “Hello, honey!”
it didn’t immediately strike me as the massive, sophisticated clinic I found inside. When I entered the clinic, I was impressed by the clean and basic look as well as the English-speaking attendant who greeted me and asked that I go upstairs to meet my consultant. The 2nd floor was bright and glamorous with plenty of plush couches, tables, and chairs. As it was around noon on a Saturday, the waiting area was almost entirely full. Glamorous men and women in their mid twenties up to halmoni status meandered around the lobby. I wondered how many were actors or idols. Ellen Choi greeted me warmly, immediately telling me how beautiful I was and offering me refreshments while we chatted. Her English is flawless as she went to high school and college in Vancouver, Canada. She was so excited to tell me all about the CLATUU 360. Having heard about “Cool Sculpting,” a similar but enormously expensive procedure, I was pretty excited. CLATUU fat freezing procedures vary in price. MVP provides 2 patches at a rate of KRW 200,000 plus tax and 10 patches for KRW 500,000. In the United States, Cool Sculpting rates start at USD 750 for one small patch. I was definitely intrigued! CLATUU 360 is a 360-degree surround cooling technology. This means that it’s a non-invasive procedure designed to reduce fat in a concentrated area. The treatment time is only 30 minutes and a layer of subcutaneous tissue is cooled down to -9 C. Cooling energy applied at this temperature induces something called “apoptosis,” which is basically natural cell death within the innermost layer of skin in that particular area, without affecting the epidermis or surrounding tissues. Results can be seen immediately and up to 90 days after the procedure. It’s important to note this is a spot treatment rather than a weight loss procedure. Results will, of course, vary from person to person. Diet and exercise are important components of this service. It’s recommended to walk or ride an exercise bike for 30 minutes or more within 24-48 hours of the procedure. There are two different types of applicators. A flat type can treat all parts of the body. The winged applicator targets your stomach fat, back, and flanks. I’ve been disappointed with my sad-face lower abdomen since my appendix was removed through laparoscopic emergency surgery. My belly was blown up like a balloon and I was told not to work out for 6-8 weeks. Now, no matter how hard I work out or how much I watch what I eat, the FUPA remains. I had resolved myself to carrying around my pouch forever since the idea of liposuction terrifies me. Why not give this
technology a shot? I was instructed to change into a pajama-style uniform to prepare for my procedure. Even though the cool-sculpting would be on the lower-half of my body, I was asked to take off my make-up, tie my hair back, and gargle with mouthwash. After a brief consultation with a board-certified surgeon, we went up to the 3rd floor to the operating room. I passed a variety of recovery rooms designed for different surgeries. There were a couple of more dimly-lit, spa-like rooms with a relaxed atmosphere for facials and other treatments.
When I entered the clinic, I was impressed by the clean and basic look as well as the English-speaking attendant who greeted me I wasn’t nervous until I lay down on the operating table. I had been warned that the procedure wasn’t painful for most people, but that the suction could be pretty bizarre. They placed two large, wet patches on my lower abdomen followed by the wing-type applicator on each side. I uncontrollably laughed out loud as it sucked up my stomach. My nervousness was gone. The sensation was like that of a firm massage chair. I experienced some discomfort due to the pressure of the applicators more than the freezing process. After about 10 minutes the cells were numb, anyway. I fell asleep somewhere around the 20 minute mark. After 30 minutes the team was back in to remove the applicators and immediately massage the area where I had become a human popsicle. My skin was cold and hard to the touch. That was probably the scariest part. I was covered up with blankets after they were finished massaging, and I got to rest for a bit. After that I was up and on my way out of the clinic, with several procedures booked for two weeks later. While not always within the Western comfort zone, it seems to be the Korean way to get in and get everything done in one go. I’ve got my CLATUU 360, an Intense-Pulsating Laser Facial, and some sort of nightmare-inducing, out of this world glowy, hydrating needle procedure on the books. I’ll be sedated for the whole
she-bang, but (thankfully) not under general anaesthesia. Ms. Choi made me feel important and welcomed back as her personal guest and priority. She has followed up with me twice in the three days since my procedure. Since having the CLATUU 360 fat freezing procedure, I can honestly say I’ve seen and felt a difference in the treated area. In the first few days, my hips in particular felt sore to the touch. The area feels as though it’s lightly bruised. My clothing fits flatter. My frowny belly button may have a new attitude. I can’t wait to see how my body changes over the next 3-4 months with CLATUU 360 and MVP Plastic Surgery. * There are risks associated with any cosmetic surgery procedure. Make sure to discuss these risks with a board-certified plastic surgeon before booking your surgery or treatment. Tel 02-3442-6669/6668 add 819 Nonhyeonro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to… Leave Korea
Here’s some insight into the reality of readjusting to life back home
Story by Heather Allman Photos by Heather Allman
hether you’ve lived in Korea for a year or a decade, it’s never easy to leave, emotionally or physically. There are a lot of different elements to consider, and numerous sources on the internet tend to focus on the things that you (might) need to consider doing in order to exit the country as painlessly as possible. Canceling your phone contract and bank account, collecting your pension (if your country allows you to), and devouring as much kimchi and soju as humanly possible, are all very important things to consider. Not as many people, however, focus on the reality of readjusting to life back home. Repatriation, the term that’s been coined for describing expats returning to their countries of origin, is not always as straightforward as outsiders may think. Here’s a few tips on how to exit the country, but more importantly, how to become prepared for what’s waiting on the other side. These are just words of advice; you don’t have to listen to me. But I left Korea almost two months ago, and I’ve been working on settling in ever since.
Ship it, ship it real good Remember how difficult it was to move your entire life in one or two suitcases? Somehow now, it seems like those pieces of luggage have gotten even smaller. Whether or not you’re one for buying souvenirs, there’s always going to be something new you want to take home. That extremely stylish jacket you picked up in Sinsa (신사), the yukata (浴衣) from Japan, or a childsized hanbok (한복) for your new niece or nephew, fees for excess luggage can be extremely pricey, and shipping boxes by plane doesn’t come cheap, either. Luckily, Korea Post has a very cheap alternative for shipping goods back home. Stop in the post office, and first look for the green shipping form with air and surface options. When sending boxes to America, you can use any size (호) from 1 to 5, for England, Australia, and New Zealand, sizes range from 1 to 6. The boxes themselves cost anywhere between KRW 500 and 1,900. Choose the surface option when shipping, which can hold up to 20 kg (roughly 40 pounds), and will cost about KRW 50,000. Your belongings will make it home in about 2 months, so send them early, do a little traveling, and your boxes should arrive at about the same time as you do. Cut yourself some slack Leaving the life that you’ve known for quite some time is never an easy process, and believe it or not, reverse culture shock does
exist. You may start to miss the ease of not paying rent (or whatever benefits your life in Korea offered you), the relationships with your students and other expats, how cheap a night out on samgyeopsal (삼겹 살) and soju (소주) can be, or the ease of traveling around Asia. One of the most shocking things to get used to upon my return was the loss of the “white noise” (a term used by my friends who had left Korea and came back) that was around me. Suddenly upon landing in the airport, I could understand the woman next to me talking about her cat, or the teenager in front of me complaining about his feet. And I quickly realized, I just didn’t care. While I did take the time to learn how to read and speak some Korean, the beauty of being surrounded by the Korean language instantaneously turned to that of the sounds of English I thought I had for so long missed.
Whether you came to Korea to teach, for a different career, or to take some time off to travel, international experience is considered much more of an advantage on a resume (or CV) than many people believe. So how can you make your assimilation less complicated for yourself? Most importantly, give yourself a break. Don’t be afraid to use a little bit of your savings to travel, whether in your home country, or to some places you haven’t had a chance to visit yet. Life in Korea has it’s ups and downs, but it’s undeniable that once integrated into the life and culture, calling the Korean peninsula home isn’t an imposition. In my case, and in many of my friend’s cases, our one way ticket out of the country didn’t have to be used to go home. Take some time to relax, think about the future, and reflect on the past. Living
abroad may be rewarding, but moving home isn’t an immediate vacation. Oh, and don’t forget—now everyone at home can understand you, too. Find Korea at home Depending on where you’re from, the ease of finding Korean influences around you will vary. With internationalism only continuing to advance more and more each day, Korean markets and restaurants continue to appear in even the smallest of cities. Attempting to find a market to recreate your favorite Korean dish (to the best of your ability), or teaching your family how to eat Korean BBQ—the right way—are great ways to share your experiences and the culture you became a part of. Food is such a vital part of Korean culture, and sharing the food you’ve come to know and love can only be considered a nod of respect to the country itself. You’d be surprised by the brands and products local Asian markets might carry. Whether it’s Ottogi Jin Ramen (오뚜기 진라면), Lotte’s Choco Pies (롯데 초 코 파이), gochujang (고추장), or freshly made gimbap (김밥), you’d be surprised what you will find thousands of miles away (even just south of Tampa, Florida). Use your experience to your advantage Whether you came to Korea to teach, you moved for a different career, or you simply took some time off to travel, international experience is considered much more of an advantage on a resume (or CV) than many people believe. It’s important to think of ways to spin what you did every day in order to open up doors in every field of expertise. Teaching ESL is viewed as a very strong form of training in the eyes of managerial staff. Experience living and interacting in other cultures shows resilience and an interest in diversity. Think outside of the box, and look for companies around you that may have ties to Korea. You never know when your knowledge and understanding could earn you a free trip back. Say 나중에 보자 (see you later), not 안녕히 계세요 (goodbye) Living in Korea, regardless of the amount of time you spend, creates a beautiful relationship out of an experience. Your life becomes a normality, and one day, for whatever reason, you decide that it’s time to make a change. Make sure that you don’t think of your departure as a permanent one. Use the tools around you to keep in touch with your friends, students, and staff. And if you ever decide to return, put these steps in reverse, and Korea will be waiting for you.
Get started as soon as possible You’re going to have to clean out your habitance. It’s inevitable. Whether your place is provided or you rent on your own, something in there is going to have to go. And more than likely, that’s going to be a few somethings. You may have accumulated personal items that you realize could actually make you a little bit of cash to add to your savings. The most important piece of advice I received—and luckily listened to—before leaving Korea was to start throwing stuff away ASAP! That storage container shoved in the back of your closet or those kitchen supplies in the bottom of your cupboards may take you a lot more time and effort to get rid of than you think. Did you buy an oven? Sell it. Have clothes to donate? Help out Good Will. But for your own “good will,” do it soon. Selling your belongings can be beneficial to your pockets, but you don’t want to spend your final days in Korea running around getting KRW 5000 for your Brita filter and KRW 10,000 for your bedside lamp. The money will add up in the end, just try not to wait until the end to earn it.
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival Searching for the Trout Spirit
Story by Zev D. Blumenfeld Illustrations by Anders Nienstaedt
omehow I hadn’t noticed it—and by the time I finally did, it was too late. “There’s a twenty-foot fㅗcking monster-fish through that fog!” I shouted. The group of foreigners we had met on the bus stared at me, unmoved and unimpressed. Bundled in winter gear, we had trekked from the one-roomed, intercity bus terminal, up the icy sidewalks, and onto a bridge. A pair of mutant black cats sauntered by, eyes dilated, high on something unseen. I think I felt it, something in the air—something ominous. “Wait! You, feline, cat animal, fㅗckers! There’s a monster-fish through that fog!” But they hadn’t understood. “What is it with Korea and these mutants? Everywhere we go, it’s a vegetable or makeup or some shㅗt,” said my oafish advisor, Binx. He was referring to the mutants we had seen at festivals in the months prior. “Blame it on the steroids of industrialism, man,” I said. “Steroids of industrialism.” “That’s right! These cat bastards are an invasive species—the byproduct of an entertainment addiction run rampant. They didn’t exist before the conglomerates steamrolled this pristine nation. Those pussycats there—they’re walking advertisements, hobbyhorses of the industry roaches running this country.” Binx stepped closer. He squinted, jabbing a finger at my chest. “Look, don’t start spouting off like you did with those princess broads at the Kimchi Festival. We’re here to find the Spirit and that’s it, not give a Ted Talk about hipster garbage.” “Righty-o, man. Righty-o,” I responded. He was right, of course; no use getting pulled into the hydra of issues that plagued our modern-day circus—they would only serve as a bottomless time suck and another reason why we’d stand out in the crowd. Besides, we were here on an important assignment—an expedition of sorts with the sole purpose of reconnecting to a deeply rooted mysticism—the Spirit of the Trout. It had been less than half an hour since our arrival in the snowy mountain town of Hwacheon. The town lay two hours north of Seoul by bus and a short ten-kilometer march south of a Kim Jong-un invasion. It was a risky situation, coming up here with limited Korean language and a foreign gait the locals could spot from a mile away. But reward goes to the bold and daring, and fearless travelers we were, man! Plus, the white American male was highly revered among
I presumed), and a pole. Foreign tourists were treated to a discount and entry to a special “tourist only” fishing zone for 5,000 KRW. “We’re going to go explore around,” Michael from our bus group said. (Michael had just finished a two-week long backpacking trek in the Himalayas and still wore
There would be no reconnection of man and wild. Instead, this would be a game of sport featuring bloodthirsty potato people, participating in what amounted to a giant clawgrab game. The Spirit of the Trout had disappeared—it had vanished long ago.
the matted beard to prove it.) We, too, had higher priorities than staring into a hole all day. Near the equipment booth stood a wider shack where elderly patrons congregated excitedly. We wandered in. The crackling of oil and the smell of fried food overwhelmed the room. Folding tables stood against the walls. Yellow signs hung above with food handwritten in Korean. Ajummas (older women) stood in aprons—bandanas hiding their bobbed hair. Two women laughed over a story as they dripped jeon (pancake) batter onto their skillets. Ajusshis (older men) tipped back shots of soju and cups of beer. We ordered the kimchi cheon and found a place next to a pair of tipplers standing in the middle of the shack. They eyed us as we ate, not in any malicious way, but in an act of camaraderie, as if we had suddenly joined some sort of highly selective club. From what I had experienced, many Koreans were quite pleased when foreigners attempted to indulge their culture—even something as trivial as eating Korean food was met with local praise and enthusiasm. At times it even felt like having a personal cheering section. Just then, a voice boomed from outside. The ajusshis picked up their fish bags and scuttled out. We followed. An emcee yelled into his microphone from a nearby stage. We watched as his assistant, a beautiful woman in a white and blue Hite Beer cheerleading outfit, pulled back a sheet from atop a folding table, unveiling a stack of merchandise. If there was one thing you could depend on in this world, it was the combination of alcoholic beverages, scantily clad females, and cheap prizes. Though it struck me as odd that in a country as conservative as Korea, this sight would happen at what was otherwise a family event. Not that we were moralistic or anything -- far from it in fact -- but a good set of ethics was called for from time to time. “That’s what I like to see—beer and boobs,” Binx slurred. “For fㅗck’s sake, man. Have some decency.” Members from the crowd formed a line leading up the stairs and onto the stage. One by one they approached the emcee for a game of Kai, Bai, Bo—the Korean version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. I had seen Koreans of all ages settle disputes with this game.There were five levels of prizes. One audience member, a girl who could barely see over the piles on the tables, managed to beat the emcee in four out of five rounds. She walked away with her arms full of promotional items.
many. In fact, it seemed that, in every advertisement for this very festival, the smiling face of a waygookin beamed back at you—because if foreigners endorsed your event, then by god, it was of the divine. We had no choice but to head into the fog. So we did, bumbling down the side of the hill to the river. But when we reached the riverbank, the magnitude of what lay before us set in. The scene was far from the mystical journey of reconnection I had imagined. No—this was anything but. In front of us lay an entertainment madhouse. Dozens of visitors sitting on square, wooden boards that had been outfitted with enormous skating blades sped across the ice, narrowly avoiding collisions with one another. People were flying overhead, ziplining alongside buzzing drones. Human-sized hamster balls rolled around in one corner, and hundreds of holes had been burrowed into the ice below. In fact, it was a miracle the ice hadn’t buckled.“It looks like Swiss cheese out there,” Binx commented above the K-Pop music. (Of course there was K-Pop music.) How would we ever find the Spirit in this mess? Did it even exist inside this madhouse? “Doesn’t look safe,” I muttered. “But we’re in too deep—there’s no going back now.” Our group headed south down the path, walking parallel to a chain-link fence that separated the ice from a stretch of white booths. Couples and families stood on the ice, looking over their respective fishing holes. “Damn flies. They’re everywhere,” Binx grunted, slapping at the air. “Flies? It’s the dead of winter, you imbecile.” I responded. As my advisor continued swatting the air, I looked across the ice. These visitors were armed with flyswatters. What kind of fㅗcking circus was this? A man wearing a green trucker’s hat came through an opening in the fence. In one hand, he carried a flyswatter, the other clutched a plastic bag with three, half-dead, flopping trout. “Excuse me, good sir!” I exclaimed eagerly. He looked up, eyes wide, face full of horror at this sudden ambush. “No English!” he shouted back. He was quick, but not forceful enough to defend my volley. “Where does one procure such a flyswatter?” I asked.He paused and then pointed, “Chogio.” Sure enough, behind us stood a white, makeshift booth. A sign displayed the 8,000 KRW cost of the flyswatter package, which came complete with fishing line, bait (flies
When the line of contestants finally dwindled, the tables were removed, and two more women in identical Hite Beer dresses appeared onstage. They screamed into their microphones. The leader, slightly taller than the other two, raised her fist. Behind them, the mega-screen lit up on it, a beer cap sizzled open and golden beer rushed into a glass. The leader shouted, the crowd cheered, and the group burst into song. They were well rehearsed, physically perfect—robotic. “This isn’t good,” I remember saying. “They’re going to scare off the Spirit.” “You’re right. We’ve gotta get ‘em off the stage,” Binx said starting toward the stairs. “Wait! Don’t do it, you bastard!” But it was too late. He had reached the first step when a security guard cut in. The two stood locked in a stare-down. I slinked over, “What’s the trouble here?” Neither broke eye contact. Maybe they couldn’t understand me over the K-Pop. I leaned in. “Can you hear me?!” Again—nothing. “My friend, here, he’s a concerned citizen! We don’t mean any trouble,” I yelled. The security guy pointed towards the bridge and, in crystal clear English, said, “Go.” So we went, wandering back up the path, passing a clown couple performing a skit, ice soccer games, and hundreds of fishing couples and families. Where had the Spirit gone? And then I saw it. Tucked behind the bridge—across from an ice sculpture—dozens of visitors huddled around a pool. We made our way to the front of the crowd, where a fishing hole had been cut in the ice. It was large but shallow. It’s water no higher than my knees. The fog had cleared and now the sun beat down in a near blinding radiance. I remember seeing a door to one of the nearby shacks swing open and a man in an orange shirt and black shorts emerge in the doorframe. After a moment, he stepped out, followed by a long line of people dressed in the same uniform. They were all barefoot. This was it! The Spirit was upon us. They walked toward the hole in what seemed like more of a march—the thump of the K-Pop drums in the distance. And from the fishing hole, the announcer roared into his microphone, unleashing a sound
that I could only describe as the battle cry of a wild banshee escaping from a deep trench that stretched hundreds of years back into the past. The orange shirts and the spectators echoed the call. They now stood around waiting for the moment when they’d be given permission to leave their civilized selves behind. It was then that I looked down into the hole. At the bottom, where I expected to see sand and rock, lay only black rubber. This fishing hole hadn’t been cut into the ice at all, but placed on top. It had been planted! And where were the trout? I looked up. Two men in black waders, tipped a plastic garbage bin into the rink and out poured the trout. We’d been duped! This was all an artificial concoction I hadn’t been prepared for. Suddenly, I felt out of place. There would be no reconnection of man and wild. Instead, this would be a game of sport featuring bloodthirsty potato people participating in what amounted to a giant claw-grab game. The Spirit of the Trout had disappeared—it had vanished long ago. The announcer yelled again. The orange shirts shot into the pool, hands out, racing, shouting, climbing over each other in a ferocious, testosterone-fueled rage. Was this it? Was this the spirit we had come to see? A yellowed-haired man made the first catch. Photographers and press hurried over to him as he stuck the fish into his mouth. Its tail was still flipping about when he bit down on the head and they flashed the shot. Blood dripped down the gills and the crowd cheered. He held the fish over
his head in triumph. Once again man had conquered beast in a rigged fight. After five minutes, the announcer alerted the orange shirts that the rampage was over and that they ought to return to their inhibited selves. We walked along the riverbank to the area where the fish were being cooked. An assembly line had formed. Successful gamers dumped out their bags, sending the half-dead trout flopping into a laundry basket where they waited before being plucked up by the hands of the butcher and brought behind a partition that hid the massacre. It was mechanical from start to finish. The butcher sliced the fish, passed it to a woman who wrapped it in aluminum and shoved it into a rusted steel oven. The oven had individual compartments like a morgue with numbers chalked in white above each door. The Spirit of the Trout had disappeared—or maybe this had never been about the trout in the first place. In reality, the Ice Festival had become a carnival duck game worth an annual 50 million dollars. Korea had pulled itself from the rubble fifty years earlier by considering the bottom line as the top priority. This sentiment rang true in Hwacheon—the city was simply catering to what the people had become. Night arrived as we walked back to the bus station. We ambled below the wire scaffolding where trout-shaped lanterns hung. All different colors, the fish swayed slightly in the night, their curved bodies frozen in time. What we had come to celebrate had vanished.
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The Ongoing Fight Against Korean Abortion Laws "Her body, her choice?" Not here.
Story by Soo Choi
regnancy. A word that most usually has a happy connotation, typically embraced by expectant couples and their friends and family. The word evokes images of frilly blue and pink, baby showers, and the tiny face of a beautiful newborn child. We so often forget about the minority that must face the dark side of the word, too. Maybe it's because that minority, making up about 25% of the reported pregnancies worldwide, often chooses to stay silent. But in Korea, it's not a mere choice to remain silent, it's a must -- unless they wish to face criminal charges. "I thought that I might have to do
She made what she felt were two of the most dreadful decisions of her life: choosing to get an abortion, and having to contact her (ex-) Korean boyfriend to make it possible... it alone, and possibly even go to Japan for the surgery, since I knew that it was illegal and expensive in Korea.â€? Katie, one of 340,000 women in 2005, had been seeking an abortion for her unplanned pregnancy. As an American university student studying in Korea at the time, she had nobody to turn to for help. She made what she felt were two of the most dreadful decisions of her life: choosing to get an
abortion, and having to contact her (ex-) Korean boyfriend to make it possible, who took her to a hospital where no English was spoken despite her plea to take her to a hospital where she could communicate. And as she predicted, it was not a smooth experience. "I woke up in a dark room, got even more scared, and kept asking for my ex. I had to beg for the man that I hated, who'd brought me to a hospital that lacked people who could explain anything to me, despite my objections... [The entire time,] I was scared and didn't know what was going on." It sounds like a horror story. Yet it was, and still is, a common reality for 29.8% of pregnant women in Korea in 2005. Many argue that the actual rates are even higher, as most cases go unreported due to the fear of prosecution, leaving experts guessing. More recent data is lacking, for the same reasons. So why are these women so afraid of terminating their pregnancy? In 1953, abortion was outlawed in Korea. In 1973, the law was modified to exempt women with hereditary diseases, or in cases of rape or incest, before 24 weeks. Still, it stated that anyone caught inducing miscarriage, or medical professionals caught performing the surgery would be threatened with penalties in the form of large fines or imprisonment. Yet for many years following the implementation of these laws, the government shielded their eyes from the "secret" abortion world. However, in 2016, the government decided to set even stricter laws and more severe penalties. But the protests and outcries from women and doctors all throughout the country were loud and clear; women deserve a right to choose, and access to safe abortions. Despite the impending new laws and abortion being a socially taboo subject, Korea has one of the world's highest abortion rates and declining birth rates each
year. Many often request under-the-table abortions, and some doctors even "hint" at abortion as an option for unmarried expectants. As one mother-to-be said, "I'm currently expecting my first child... It was interesting to be asked if I would 'birth the baby'- I was given the 'code' for the option to abort, as I wasn't married yet..." It seems that, no matter how much or how little the government tries to enforce it, the law has little influence on women's and doctors' final decisions. The most alarming thing, however, is that everyone seems to come out the other side with a vastly different experience; each abortion story varies greatly from the last. Many have horror stories to tell, while the lucky ones endured very minimal pain (either mental or physical). This is the scariest part of all: because clinics and hospitals will still perform them confidentially for a hefty price, it's accessible, but because it is unregulated, itâ€™s risky. But to the women that make the difficult decision, it feels like the only option available. And as if the whole idea of an abortion wasn't stressful enough, many even report facing racism and sexism, and feel that they are offered little to no comfort. Emily*, an expat that fell pregnant as a result of rape, says that the doctor demanded she obtain "permission" from the father before he would agree to perform the procedure. "I had to get a written statement from the man who drugged and raped me. It was humiliating, to say the least." Though it seems like there is little hope for a painless experience, many women mention one small positive takeaway from the bleak experience: female nurses often offered comfort and commiseration, being able to sympathize with the patient. If nothing else, the law seems to be bringing women together through protests, sympathetic gestures, and in forming resources.
Recently, with talk of similar regulations and laws coming to the US, as well as the dismantling of Planned Pregnancy on the horizon, it has re-sparked conversation among the expat community and women in Korea. Women are protesting, sharing their stories, and providing each other with support, despite what appears will still be a bleak future for many.
Anyone caught inducing miscarriage, or medical professionals caught performing the surgery are threatened with penalties in the form of large fines or imprisonment. So if for whatever reason, a woman decides she cannot or does not want to bear a child in a country that limits her choices to only two (one of which is potentially unsafe, the other being an anti-choice, and either one bound to change her life forever), what does she do? As everyone hangs ponders this disheartening question, the warning from this strictly pro-life country is clear: whether abortions are outlawed or not, many women will still seek the surgery. Once the choice is made, it is then a matter of the lack of safety, the high prices, and the prospect of emotional trauma. There needs to be change- and it's not going to be the minds of thousands of women.
38 special report
Korea’s Crackdown on International Schools
Making sense of the latest E-2 visa busts
Story by Barbara Bierbrauer
he end of the school year is exciting for all teachers – testing, grading, evaluating, preparing year-end parties, and planning for summer vacation. But on Monday, April 10th, Kirstin Hendricks was in the middle of the hustle and bustle with her thirdgrade class at the Canada British Columbia International School in Seoul (CBIS) when she was suddenly called out of her classroom. She walked downstairs not knowing the nightmare she had already stepped into. “There were four men dressed in black from immigration,” she recalls. “They had paperwork on me and our principal, and they said, “You need to come with us, right now...You're being arrested.” Soon after, thirteen of Hendricks´ colleagues shared the same fate. CBIS was operating under a “hagwon” (cram school) license while claiming to be an international school. Institutions licensed as hagwons cannot employ teachers–only “language instructors” who get an E-2 visa. Only teachers at licensed international and foreign schools are issued an E-7 visa, which allows them to work as P.E., Science, Literature or Math teachers. Hendricks and her colleagues were given 30 days to leave – banned from their classrooms and separated from their students. “All of us basically disappeared mid-school day,” another teacher, Robert Flower, stated. International schools under control After Immigration had raided CBIS, other Canadian, American and British schools across Korea became controlled. Westminster Canadian Academy in Gwacheon City, BIS Canada in Seongnam, CMIS in Songdo, Gangnam International School in Seoul, SIS Canada in Sokcho, BC Colegate
in Seoul, and more all around Korea were affected. Every teacher from BIS holding an E-2 visa has received departure orders, Trevor Goodwin, a principal at BIS Canada and British Columbia Ministry of Education liaison, confirmed to Thetyee.ca. Principals from other schools were reluctant to make comments, “I am not at liberty to comment on any of your questions,“ the principal of one Canadian school replied. His colleague from an American school confirmed that her staff was affected, but asked not to be named. To understand the problem these schools faced, it is the best to look at the different types of schools currently operating in Korea. The names the schools bear do not indicate their legal status – an international school can be a foreign school, and a foreign school an international: 1. Foreign School – Those such as Deutsche Schule Seoul have a foreign curriculum, own the premises, and accept students who lived overseas for the last three years, or with one parent in possession of a foreign passport. These schools are designed to primarily meet the needs of foreign/ expat students. A certain number of their students have to be foreign nationals. Their teachers are eligible for the E-7 visa. Yearly tuition varies – the DSS for 2017/2018 is 21,262,500 KRW. 2. International Schools – The most distinguishing feature of these schools is that they accept Korean nationals (although strictly limited), and applicant schools need a “parent” school overseas. Those such as the Chadwick International School follow a foreign curriculum, and their teachers are eligible for the E-7 visa. Tuition varies, but can be up to 37,000,000 KRW.
3. Hagwon Schools – such as Canada British Columbia International School, accept Korean nationals, have a foreign curriculum, don't have a “parent” school overseas, and usually don't own the premises. They are licensed as language institutes, thus not approved for other subjects as PE, Math, Science, etc. Tuition is much less than that of International Schools, usually around 20,000,000 KRW. Teachers are not eligible for the E-7 visa. Their affordability and lack of limitation for Korean nationals may explain the popularity of the hagwon schools compared to international and foreign schools. But what makes (mostly Korean) parents send their children to hagwon schools, knowing about their lack of a license and potential legal problems? The answer can be found by looking at the current educational landscape in Korea. Education in numbers Korean students are academically excellent, regularly claiming top ranks in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) PISA comparisons. In its development, the school system has gone through a tremendous evolution. In 1945, after the Japanese occupation, 65% of Koreans attended primary institutions, 20% secondary, and 2% - post-secondary. In 2007, around 100% were enrolled in primary institutions, and 70% in post-secondary. As the land lacks natural resources and agriculturally available soil, the focus has been placed on a knowledge and information-based economy, making education the core issue of the society. But the spotlight on the performance of students overshadows a variety of (seemingly) minor points that, in the end, are supporting the hagwon
educational system. According to the OECD, public schools in Korea have the worst class sizes at the lower secondary level with 32 students per class. Korea is ranked 31st in interest in math and 38th in academic motivation. Korea was also the lowest ranked regarding students’ sense of school belonging. With volunteer-activity-time, Korea (1 min.) is far behind the US (8 min.) or Germany (11 min.). Civic participation in the community (0.7%) is far lower than the US (19.6%) or Norway (22.7%). As the World Education Forum took place in Songdo, a group of students protested outside of a conference hall. “We are not given any opportunity to ask questions. If we don´t understand something, we are expected to go to the [cram schools] where we will take the school program over again. No one who gets good grades on the tests is relying solely on school and homework. We spend the rest of the days in [cram schools], trying to keep up with the school program.“ The cram schools are attended by 75% students, compared to just 13% of their Finnish counterparts. According to the OECD, Finnish high-school students spend seven hours a day learning, while Koreans spend thirteen hours to reach the same amount of knowledge. Korean children spend 220 days in school each year, while kids in the U.S. spend only 180. According to the PISA study on “effectiveness,” Korea ranks 24th out of 30 developed countries. With the highest graduation percentage among all nations, Korea is number one in the world with 98% of Koreans aged 25-34 having graduated from junior college, university or graduate school. But while the quantity of education is impressive, it is the quality that lacks. Only Seoul National University comes close to being one of world’s top universities (with a ranking of 72). The Times
Higher Education Ranking puts only eleven Korean institutions in the Top 500. Italy, for example, has 38 in the Top 500. Just 10 of 550 high-school graduates win places in the SKY Universities; thus the absolute majority of high-school graduates are offered an education that is far below the best.
We are not given any opportunity to ask questions. If we don´t understand something, we are expected to go to the [cram schools] where we will take the school program over again. No one who gets good grades on the tests is relying solely on school and homework.
Educational spendings The current average net-adjusted disposable income per capita is $19,372 per year, which is significantly less than the OECD average of $29,016. But while earning less, Koreans pay significantly more for the education of their children. Around 37.2% of funding comes from the private sector-the highest percentage among OECD countries--more than double of the OECD average. Finland, Korea’s competitor in the
OECD ranks, covers 97% of educational expenses. Thus the cost burden is shifted to the families. Korean parents with schoolage children spend approximately 25% of their income on education, compared to less than 1% for Finnish parents. The burden for lower income families has become unbearable, the Yonhap News Agency reported in March. The report states that, “Monthly spending on private education averaged 256,000 KRW ($224) per child in 2016, up 4.8 percent from a year earlier.“ It has reached an all-time high. Realizing the importance of education, Korean parents find themselves trapped in the rat race. To prepare the children for the universities, some cram schools offer a program that is three years ahead of the school curriculum, thus securing a head start. The cram school industry has shown a growth rate of 20.5% between 2005 and 2009, hence inviting even more entrepreneurs to open new English, Math or Science after-school institutions. Families are forced to spend more and more to compete for very few places at elite universities, which are offering the best employment perspectives to their graduates. Korean private schools are contributing to the tension according to data collected by Seoul National University and presented by The Korea Times. Between 2006 to 2016, the percentage of first-year students from private schools increased from 18.3% to 44.6%; while that of the students from public schools fell from 77.7% to 46.1% over the same period. This report makes it clear that private school graduates are topping public school graduates. In research by Kim Sunwoong and Lee Ju Ho from the University of Chicago, the authors discovered that “despite the substantial government expenditures on the formal education system and strong policies that try to reduce private tutoring activities, household spending on private tutoring
40 special report
has been increasing very rapidly. The prevalence of private tutoring is a market response to the government's rigid and uniform education policy. The desire to enter elite universities in a very hierarchical higher school system has created an enormous demand for supplementary private tutoring.” In 2010, a survey of 624 households showed that among the main reasons expressed by students for using supplementary education were the governments failed educational policies and dissatisfaction with schools. Educational refugees “After my older brother fell ill from the stress of being a student in South Korea, my mother decided to move me from our home in Seoul to Vancouver for high school to spare me the intense pressure to succeed,” Koo Se-woong, co-founder of Korea Exposé, wrote in his essay for the New York Times. “She did not want me to suffer like my brother, who had a chest pain that doctors could not diagnose and an allergy so severe he needed to have shots at home. I was fortunate that my mother recognized the problem and had the means to take me abroad.“ The struggle of getting to the high-quality education turns high-school graduates into educational refugees with 126,000 students studying abroad in 2011-2012. A “goose family” is a known phenomenon, with (mostly) mothers moving to foreign countries to educate their children in western systems – around 200,000 such families live in the U.S. or New Zealand. Those lacking funds to educate the children abroad (or not willing to) are opting for international or hagwon schools. “Already [public] elementary school is too stressful,” Mrs. Kim, married to a mid-size business owner and a mother of two sons who went to a raided Canadian school, tells. “No games, only learning. First graders go to cram school and spend 1.5 hours daily, improving their English.” Mrs. Kim and her husband decided that a hagwon school, Manitoba-certified CMIS, operating in the “gray zone” is a better option. “It will save time for my kids. They learn, and it is in English.” Why didn't she send her children to the officially licensed international school? “It is too expensive, and they don't accept everyone. Korean parents without foreign passports are advised to make a donation--about 500 million KRW to get accepted.” “Big organizations, like the Green Climate Fund, the UNO, or companies like Sam-
sung, can cover their expat employees’ tuition at the International School,” Mr. Busaid, a self-employed car dealer from Egypt, explains. “No one will give me a free English education for my children just because I am a foreigner and pay my taxes.” Busaid sent his son to the hagwon school until the school was raided. Mr. and Mrs. Winzer sent their kids to the same school as Mr. Busaid and Mrs. Kim. They did not consider that there may be any irregularities. Their son entered the junior kindergarten, and their daughter was a first-year student.
The struggle to get a highquality education turns high-school graduates into educational refugees with 126,000 students studying abroad tin 2011-2012. “We heard some rumors about licensing,“ Mr. Winzer said. “But our kids were in love with teachers, the curriculum was convincing, and we saw all the certificates issued by the Ministry of Education of Manitoba, Canada. I played soccer with some of the teachers weekly and have a very positive opinion about them as (people). What could (go) wrong?“ Then, around three weeks after the CBIS-disaster, the school was raided by the immigration. Fourteen teachers, among them the classroom teacher of Mr. Winzer's and Mr. Busaid's children, were issued departure orders and banned from entering Korea for one year. Four other teachers received fines based on their time working illegally. They joined the colleagues from other Canadian, American and British schools. The future One of the core pledges of Moon Jae-in's election campaign was the reformation of the education system. The educational reform plans to provide a fair opportunity for all, reduce household spending on private education, and reinforce public education. With currently appointed Kim Sang-gon as Minister of Education, the new govern-
ment has a strong opposer of the neoliberal education policy of Lee Myung-bak, who looked to diversify the educational landscape and opened more specialized, autonomous, and international educational institutions. While it is not clear how far the new policies are going to affect the comparatively small number of foreign, international, and hagwon schools, the Ministry of Education of British Columbia, Canada first issued a statement stating that, “The Ministry recommends interested teachers not accept employment at B.C. Offshore Schools in South Korea,” and that the existing schools have been put on probation. Later adding that “The Ministry of Education is unable to renew certification of B.C. Offshore schools in Korea while it affirms government approval to operate with Korean government officials”. Groove Korea reached out to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education to question whether or not any plan has been set up for the children affected by the CBIS crackdown. A representative stated that no plans had been discussed. The Ministry of Justice has explained the situation as follows: “We launched a crackdown (investigation) on the educational institutions following requests for investigation into English conversation instructors from relevant offices of education regarding their violation of the Immigration Act and civil complaints from the parents...E-2 visa holders are only allowed to teach foreign languages. If a foreigner wishes to work as a regular teacher in a primary or secondary school, he or she shall receive an E-7 (Special Occupation) visa.“ The hagwon schools, affected by visa crackdowns, are now hiring F visa holders (residents, permanent residents, and those married to Korean citizens), who will replace the deported and banned E-2 visa holders in the upcoming school year. The children from the CBIS wrote a petition, mentioning that, “It feels like our memories...are being destroyed and ruined. None of the teachers deserve to be treated this way.“ It seems like the voices of those who are affected the most are currently heard the least.
Dr. Soleiman Dias--President of The Korea Council of Overseas Schools--discusses the challenges international and foreign schools face in Korea
he Korea Council of Overseas Schools (KORCOS) is a non-profit, non-political, and non-sectarian organization of educators from overseas schools, the only one that connects international and foreign schools in Korea. Founded back in 1973, it serves as a trusted partner and supporter for schools all across Korea. Groove Korea spoke with Dr. Soleiman Dias, President of KORCOS, about the crackdown on international schools and governmental policies. Dr. Dias, thank you very much for finding time to shed some light on the current developments that affect international schools. I am happy to answer your questions as much as I can. Most people are unfamiliar with KORCOS and the work we are doing. We have been active for more than three decades and are very active, being the only professional association for international educators in Korea. We tried to get some answers from different authorities; we have contacted the Offices of Education and Immigration Offices... Good luck with that. Most of those agencies do not want to talk about the challenges foreign teachers face in Korea--this is a very delicate issue. And one of the main problems is the rotation within governmental offices--whoever you talk to right now may not be in the same office in a few months. It is common to see an entirely new group of employees in a public office every year, which makes the discussions discontinuous as the new officials may not be familiar with the issue, and regulations change all the time. We have been dealing with this problem for many years, and it has always been quite challenging.
Being different and challenging authority
42 special report Interview conducted by Barbara Bierbrauer
You have been an educator for 22 years, 16 of those in Korea. You have experienced the establishment of one of the most prominent international schools in the country (Chadwick International), you have precious experience and background â€“ have you ever sensed how international schools are being controlled...by the government? Of course. It has happened before, in different ways and levels. There are few elements important to this discussions that we must be clear about. The international school option creates certain problems for the government. We offer a different type of education, which is more progressive, aims for creativity, provides more options, such as outdoor education and alternative curricula, programs that [Korean public schools] do not or cannot provide. The regular traditional type of education is perhaps what [the government] would like to preserve, including rote learning, memorization, teacher-centered pedagogy, etc. This alternative, forward-looking kind of curricula looks too progressive, too different to the eyes of policymakers in the country. We hear Korean politicians say that the international schools are giving advantages to the wealthy. We hear middle-class and lower-income families bearing a grudge against private education. Is this true? It is true that international schools in Korea typically serve the most affluent families, but not necessarily. Many families sacrifice to send their children to those institutions and most of them make that decision very early--even when the mother gets pregnant. For many years, it was--and still is somewhat--common to see many children who were born in the U.S. so that they would have the option to get enrolled at international schools and even skip the military service. In fact, the number of Korean students with dual citizenship is quite high in international schools. Therefore, the government has established some tough regulations. For instance, in Seoul, most international schools can only enroll 30% of their student population holding Korean pass-
ports. In other districts, the number of Korean students can go up to 40%. And the government is very strict about those numbers--one extra Korean student may jeopardize the schoolâ€™s license. The government is trying to regulate the ratio of Korean to foreign students because they don't want to open the market, as some other countries have already done, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, or even China is currently changing [the regulations]. Thus the anger is understandable. Those who can afford it, have an easy-peasy life--no military service, no sitting in overcrowded classes--the best education with much less effort? That's the perception. I believe that the majority of the population, including the government, does not have a very positive outlook on international schools. Foreign schools are perceived as part of the elite of Korean society. For Koreans who do not have a foreign passport, it is extremely difficult to enter an international school. But for those who hold one, they are eligible to apply, and most likely can get accepted if (they) match with each schoolâ€™s standards.
We offer a different type of education, which is more progressive, aims for creativity, provides more options, such as outdoor education and alternative curricula, programs that [Korean public schools] do not or cannot provide. But what exactly are the schools that we are talking about? There is no clear official distinction between international or foreign schools, it is still quite confusing. The government has not set yet a very straightforward
definition of what the differences are between those two concepts, there is not a standardized national set of guidelines for international or foreign institutions. And when some regulations are set, they tend to change quite constantly. Schools must follow the Metropolitan Office of Education of where the province or city where they are located, and each one may vary in what enrollment regulations are concerned. Every school may get a different type of license, with the [local] government making a decision based on their perception and understanding of what program the institution offers. More recently, schools have been opened based on their connections with established partner schools overseas--that's the case for the NLCS in Jeju, Chadwick International, Dwight, Dulwich just to name few. If partnerships were not formed, the government would provide a language institute license, instead, to those schools. In some cases, the government demands that the building must be owned by the school, and this is an extremely challenging task for new institutions entering the market. There is a special regulation for the newly opened Free Economic Zones, such as in Jeju and Incheon. In those areas, the government allows and facilitates the opening of new schools, including providing space and/or building their facilities. The biggest challenge we, as international schools, face at this moment is enrollment. There is no new influx of foreign families moving to Korea capable of affording international schools. There has been a growing lack of foreign students applying to international schools, which is required by law in order for the school to maintain its license. But, as we all know, Korea is not a major destination for foreign families. Due to the lack of demand, some schools had to close or merge. Although there is still a very high demand from Korean students, the number of foreign students is not enough to sustain the ratio. Every year, we hear there is a school [on] the verge of shutting down due to the lack of foreign students. So it is extremely difficult to open and run a school, that is different from the majority. And if you manage to open one you have to fear for its existence and have the uncertainty about every new regulation coming out? As I mentioned, the Korean government, and I believe the society as a whole, has not properly valued the contributions that
President Moon wants to incorporate private schools into the public sector, not questioning the problems of public school, and their curriculum. His government is promising to shut down, not open (new schools). Is this the right way? What worries me is that I have not seen anything that particularly deals...the importance of globalization or multiculturalism in the public school system. Now the multicultural families, that are usually formed by migrant workers, should be part of the process, integrated into the system, and instigate a better appreciation for their
culture. I wish the new administration (will) expedite the implementation of a new curriculum in which global issues are highlighted--that’s our hope as an organization as well.
The lack of communication, understanding-the unwelcoming relationship between the government and the foreign schools are common problems faced by all of us. I think what Korea needs is to look at other countries that have looked at international education more seriously, and even opened schools within the public system in which the language of instruction was English and the curriculum was international, especially for those families who could not afford the expensive private foreign schools. I think this could help to attract more foreign professionals to work in Korea. Public schools in Korea are of high quality with highly trained teachers. The problem resides mostly in the curriculum, the traditional teaching methods, the size of classes in most cases, etc. KORCOS is the only organization for international educators in Korea, uniting the professionals from all across the country, who struggle with similar issues and have the best ideas on what and how can things be improved. How has your experience contributed to governmental politics, how deep are you involved in (the) decision making progress? There is no real link with the government. We have never been involved in any of those discussions--as if we do not exist. In fact, we have never been contacted by any officials, and most of the information we have about schools, if they’re not our members, [concerning the regulations for schools] come from the news, or from our friends, and colleagues. We do not have access to what happens within the govern-
ment or the various Offices of Education. We have not been able to voice our concerns through the official channels. I believe one the main reasons international educators do not have a voice in the government is, of course, the language [barrier]. Second, I believe there is a difference (in the) the academic/intellectual discourses. Lastly, we present a new alternative, and being different goes against the norm, which challenges authority. There is only one way to change it, in my opinion. We all need to talk--it has to be “us” and “them” sitting down together around the table and having a conversation, in which, we are all part of the decision-making process. Unfortunately, I have been in Korea for almost two decades, and I have not seen that happening at any level yet. The lack of communication, understanding, the unwelcoming relationship between the government and the foreign schools are common problems faced by all of us. We could contribute much more to the country in which we live. Imagine, how many people have already graduated from our schools, and how many of them have returned to Korea after studying overseas to help their country to grow further. It is our job, as international educators, to provide a different perspective, a new input, and share our cultures, while learning from Koreans their values and traditions. We, foreigners, are guests--part of the system here. We are here to give not just to demand and receive. We must constantly ask how we can help to facilitate a more peaceful coexistence of different groups of people. But one can only help if a chance is given. Let us talk as equal players; perhaps we can come up with a solution. The lack of dialogue is hurtful, unproductive. Thank you very much for your time, Dr. Dias.
international schools can give to the country. In fact, this new administration is trying to close some of the few prestigious Korean autonomous schools that, have for many years, offered an alternative international track to their students. Those are very good Korean-managed schools, which have some options of international curriculum in English for the students who would like to pursue higher education overseas. More recently, we have seen the crackdown on teachers holding E-2 visas--this is a very, very serious issue. Some principals and heads of schools have been arrested, teachers have been deported, and it is gaining complexity by the day. Teachers should not be the ones to be punished; it was certainly not their fault. Most of them were devoted to Korea, professional educators with strong links to the country. What would have happened if the government would really be willing to support international education in the country? They would have created a process for allowing teachers to change their working visas, helped them along the way, and give a few months for them to sort things out. This has been a traumatic and devastating situation for many teachers involved. This most recent crackdown shows that international schools may pose a threat to the norm, we may create problems, we are perhaps asking too many questions. We feel that the government (might) not necessarily want those questions to be asked. International schools are trying to offer an alternative, something new, a different program, diversity, and that may cause disruption. International education has a very important role in attracting people from all over the world to, together, build up a more peaceful world, to teach about other cultures in a safe environment, and to learn as a group about other systems of beliefs. International schools function as a vast global laboratory of learning.
Diggers, Drivers, and Doppelgangers Korean Movie Preview: July
Story by Gil Coombe Photos courtesy of HanCinema
ummer! Itâ€™s that time of year when Koreans like to head to the cinema to escape the heat and the humidity and the rain--and when the studios like to send out genre titles (particularly horror) to keep the huddled masses entertained. And there is certainly room for improvement in terms of enticing more people into theaters because the Korean film industry is still waiting on its big breakout hit for 2017. Last year, the blockbuster success was Train to Busan ($81 million), the year before that Veteran ($92 million), and the year before that the massive Roaring Currents ($118 million). So far this year, Confiden-
tial Assignment still sits at the top of the domestic rankings with $58 million (and having recently seen it, I have no idea why - it is terminally bland), and surprisingly no big-budget American films have taken off, with a number just breaking $20 million and not much more ( The Fate of the Furious, The Mummy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pirates 5). Maybe remake/sequel fatigue has set in on the peninsula? The upcoming Spider-Man movie will put that theory to the test...Or maybe itâ€™s that nothing has really been good enough to get the public nattering about it in coffee shops or over after-work drinks. In terms of domestic releases, July and August offer
two big films that may well get people to sit up and take notice by combining popular lead actors with compelling stories ripped from recent Korean history, and a third movie that hopes to provide genre thrills. Film fans - remember to check The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) website regularly for updates on English subtitled screenings of Korean films occurring in Seoul. (www.koreanfilm.or.kr/jsp/schedule/subtitMovie. jsp) support the independent cinemas around Seoul KU Cinematrap (www.kucinetrap.kr) Seoul Art Cinema (www.cinematheque.seoul.kr), CGV Arthouse (www.cgv.co.kr/arthouse) Emu Artspace (emuartspace.com)
Another high profile film released in the next month dives into historical unrest, this time a little closer to home. A Taxi Driver is based on a true story centered around the Gwangju Uprising of May 18-27, 1980, in which troops fired upon students protesting the authoritarian Chun Doo-hwan government, sparking citizens to fight back and consequently leading to hundreds of deaths. The Gwangju Uprising is no stranger to Korean cinema, having been dramatized in movies such as May 18 and Peppermint Candy. However, this time
around, the massacre is witnessed from an outsider’s perspective, with Thomas Kretschmann (Avengers: Age of Ultron, King Kong, Downfall) playing a German reporter named Peter (based on real-life reporter Jürgen Hinzpeter) covering the political unrest and finding himself caught up in the fighting. Alongside him is taxi driver Manseop (national institution Song Kang-ho, playing a version of real-life taxi driver Kim Sa-bok), who has brought Peter down from Seoul and who finds himself confronting the ugly reality of his own country. The trailer is cut in a very typical Korean fashion: starting out like a gentle comedy with overly broad acting and situations, before giving way to reality checks and teary melodrama (see also: Anarchist from Colony). Thus, it is difficult to get a read on how effective it will be since it looks like a hundred films before it. Of course, Song Kang-ho is the ace in the hole here, reuniting with director Jang Hun after The Secret Reunion. Hun has made a number of solid films, most of which have lacked that little bit of personality (kind of the opposite of Ryoo in that respect), so maybe this will be the one that breaks him through into the realm of top-notch Korean helmers. There is added interest in the presence of Kretschmann, as it is still relatively uncommon for a name overseas actor to appear in a fully Korean production (think Liam Neeson in Operation Chromite or Isabelle Huppert in In Another Country) and it will be intriguing to see how well he is integrated into such a historically important tale.
The Mayor, The Client), whose daughter disappears. Three years later, still anguished at her loss, Hee-yeon finds another young girl lost in the forest and decides to take her in. It is not long before this visitor starts to act strangely, mimicking the couple’s daughter. The fact that it has been on the shelf for a while (it finished filming at the end of
2015) is not reassuring, but director Huh Jung is following up his razor-sharp genre thriller Hide and Seek from 2013, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this delivers in terms of tension, even if it doesn’t seem to be aiming for anything too ambitious, unlike say The Wailing or Train to Busan. Still, sometimes smaller just might well be better.
A Taxi Driver
RELEASE DATE August, 2017 DIRECTED BY Jang Hun STARRING Song Kang-ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Yu Hae-jin, Ryoo Joon-yeol DISTRIBUTED BY Showbox
RELEASE DATE August, 2017 DIRECTED BY Huh Jung STARRING Yum Jung-ah, Park Hyuk-kwon, Shin Rin-ah, Heo Jin DISTRIBUTED BY Next Entertainment World
Think of the Jangsanbum as kind of like the Korean bigfoot, but more malevolent: tiger-like in appearance, covered in long white hair, and believed to roam around the forest on Jangsan Mountain. It is known to mimic human voices or cries in order to entice children close enough to become its next meal. Such a creepy urban legend seems to be ready-made for your requisite Korean summer horror, and finally someone decided to make it so. The Mimic tells the story of Hee-yeon, played by the underappreciated Yum Jung-ah (A Tale of Two Sisters, Cart), and husband Min-ho (Park Hyuk-kwon;
46 film The Battleship Island looks big and bold and brutal, with the trailer unleashing some compelling imagery and what looks to be muscular performances from the three leads.
when July 20 | who Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy
The Battleship Island RELEASE DATE July 26, 2017 DIRECTED BY Ryoo Seung-wan STARRING Hwang Jeong-min, So Ji-sub, Song Joon-ki, Lee Jung-hyun, Yoon Kyung-ho DISTRIBUTED BY CJ Entertainment
It’s 1945, and Japan is still waging war across Asia. As part of their war efforts, the Japanese have established a forced labor camp containing Korean and Chinese civilians and prisoners of war to mine for coal on Battleship Island (better known as Hashima Island, located off the south-western coast of Japan). As may be expected, conditions are dire, with accidents, exhaustion, and a lack of food all contributing to numerous deaths. Eventually the inhabitants decide to fight back. In the midst of this, Lee Kang-ok (Hwang Jeong-min, simply everywhere, and for good reason) fights desperately to protect his daughter (Kim Soo-Ahn, returning to daughter-in-peril duties after Train to Busan), while Choi Chil-sung (So Ji-sub, best known from TV) gets to put his fighting abilities to good use and Park Moo-young (Song Joongi, surprisingly only now returning to the big screen five years after A Werewolf Boy made a dent at the box office) looks to rescue a fellow member of his independence movement. One of Korea’s few genuine auteurs, director Ryoo Seung-wan has never cracked the international festival circuit because his interests have always stayed resolutely pulpy and disreputable. And his movies are not always that good, even when they find an audience – the insanely popular Veteran was to this author a lumpy mess, with a finale that is both straight-up silly and anticlimactic. But this looks big and bold and brutal, with the trailer unleashing some compelling imagery and what looks to be muscular performances from the three leads. According to KOBIZ, it is the third most expensive Korean movie of 2017 with a budget of $22.25 million, and it looks like most of it has made it to the screen. There is little doubt that Ryoo can choreograph action with the best of them; as long as he is supported by a solid screenplay that nails the landing (not a Ryoo strong suit), there is no reason not to believe this won’t be a massive hit, and perhaps even something very good.
Song to Song
when July 26 | who Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender
Despicable Me 3
when In July | who Mandy Moore and Claire Holt
War for the Planet of the Apes
when In August | who Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson and Amiah Miller
The Hitman's Bodyguard
when In August | who Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek
The artistry of cosplay 48 cover story
Korean and foreign cosplayers gear up for Comic Con Seoul
Story by Emma Kalka Photo by Michael Oâ€™ Dwyer, COSIS, Giro, Lumen
Professional Cosplay Korea has several professional cosplay groups that promote themselves on Naver and Facebook. Their work varies. Sometimes it’s attending events for certain companies while dressed in costume, or posing for photoshoots. Other times it’s manning a booth at a convention or event. Some groups specialize in specific looks – ranging from video game characters and large, armored costumes, to animation characters. Often the work depends on what the client asks for. Usually these groups will also compete both locally and abroad in various cosplay competitions, such as, the World Cosplay Festival here in Seoul, or the World Cosplay Summit in Japan. CSL – Costume Stage Laboratory – is one such group. It was started in 2010, back when cosplay was not viewed too positively, according to one of its members, Park Jeong-hoon. At the time, people who were part of other smaller cosplay groups came together to start a new group that would hopefully change that image. Fellow member, Christy Bell Goh, believes Korean culture has contributed to the cause of cosplay’s negative image, and may even be the reason some people still don’t understand it. Though, both she and Jeong-hoon agree, progress has been made. “Cosplay is a Japanese hobby to a lot of Koreans. (And) Korea has this stigma against Japanese culture,” she said. “So, cosplay is Japanese culture--that’s why a lot of people don’t take to cosplay in Korea.” Goh said that sometimes when they post photos on their Naver page – which goes out to normal people who don’t understand cosplay – they do sometimes get nasty comments and criticism. “It’s quite painful,” she said. “We hope that people could be more friendly.” The rest of the group added that they hope, through their efforts, more people will broaden their understanding of what cosplay is and that it’s more than just a
Japanese hobby. “Cosplay is a lighthearted hobby for people to watch. You are happy and you see people you like and pass it on,” she said. “We’re just having fun with the character and doing it correctly, so we have brought out the life in it.” Negative attention or not, the group hasn’t let it stop them. CSL has had members represent Korea at the World Cosplay Summit (WCS) more than five times and has been invited to compete as the Korean national team and perform at the Asia Cosplay Meet three times. Goh has been among the representatives, twice. The world of professional cosplay is not easy, so many of the members are either freelancers or they hold other jobs while working with CSL. However, that doesn’t detract from the level of professionalism that they bring to their work. Goh says they are constantly working to build up their skills.
We actually put a lot of effort into our cosplay and our photoshoots. If you look at our photoshoots, they’re not like white background and pose. They tell a story. - Christy Bell Goh, CSL member
“We actually put a lot of effort into our cosplay and our photoshoots. If you look at our photoshoots, they’re not like white background and pose. They tell a story,” she said. “We actually put a lot of thought into the whole photoshoot process. We should have this kind of pose. And we should have a storyline. And then we do post-processing. So a lot of effort and concentration is put into it. So it’s quite hurtful when people say its rubbish and ‘You guys should stop cosplaying.’” When the group started, Goh said they did a lot of League of Legends (LoL) cosplays – mostly because the members love the game so much. They did it so much so, that as CSL built a name for itself, it became known for its LoL cosplays. Even now, they still mostly focus on game characters,
o the outsider, cosplay could seem like a frivolous or odd hobby. People dressing up as their favorite game, comic or anime character. Going to conventions or doing incredible photoshoots. But for many cosplayers, foreign and Korean alike, it’s more than just that. It’s a community. It’s an art. And for the lucky few, it’s a job. But whatever it is to the individual cosplayer, it’s something that brings them joy and allows them to test their skills in makeup, prop making, costume design, photography and at times, even acting.
50 cover story though when it comes to paid gigs, it’s up to the client. Another group called COSIS consists of both professionals and hobbyists, which started in 2015. Executive of the group, Song Kyung-hwan, manages the models, but said among their 10 members, they have those that only model, those who only work on design, and those who do both. Also, some members do mostly paid events while some just participate for fun. “Nowadays, it’s (cosplay’s) pretty popular. Celebrities are getting into it. Three to four years ago, it wasn’t so popular. Because these politicians and entertainers, these notable people, are doing it, it became popular,” he said. While they do cosplay for events and TV shows, they also take part in competitions and have members who are invited to be guest panelists or judges at conventions overseas a few times a year. Member Gong Kyung-min has been cosplaying since 1999. He goes to conventions for professional purposes once
or twice a year. He also attends two to three competitions a year, and has been a panelist or judge at 10 overseas conventions. Their cosplay of Winston – a giant armored gorilla from the game Overwatch – won them a trip to Blizzcon, put on by Blizzard Games, in California. According to Kyung-min, it was one of his most memorable cosplays to date, especially since he was the one wearing it and had on stilts. “It (the costume) was really difficult to make and there are a lot of stories behind it. We got short notice and were supposed to do two characters, but we spent most of our time on the main one – the gorilla. It’s massive,” he said. Winston is not the only massive costume the group has made. Kyung-hwan said some of the more difficult cosplays can take the group two to three months to complete with multiple people working on it, while the easier ones can be finished in as quickly as week. Last year alone, COSIS put together 30 large costumes.
There’s something special about cosplay where, by extension of the character you’re going as, you can portray inward qualities outwardly... If those traits align with qualities you find within yourself, it’s a great medium for expressing yourself. - Chris Harris, cosplayer
52 cover story
Comic Con is one of the biggest conventions in America, so we’re not going to lack in anything. We’re going to put our hearts into it. - Gong Kyung-min, COSIS member
Foreign Cosplayers Cosplay is not just limited to the Korean professional groups. Over the years as more foreigners have moved to Korea, a burgeoning foreign cosplay community has started up, with a few groups on Facebook starting, including the Bundang and Seoul Cosplay Club. Some cosplayers, like Dalila Fontanella, brought their love for cosplay with them. She’s been cosplaying for about seven or eight years, starting in her home country of Italy and continuing here in Korea. She said she got into cosplay through her sister and started attending conventions first. “I met a lot of people, so I really enjoyed every convention. Of course it was hard making my own dress alone, but sometimes it was good to hear from other cosplayers how they make their cosplay,” she said. For her, the joy of cosplay is the experience. “Getting in character is more difficult than making its dresses. So I like the moment when I have to ‘lose’ my personality as cosplay makes me happy,” she said. For American Elizabeth Recharte, it was the love of a character that got her into cosplay.
“I adore Batman the Animated Series and dressing up for Halloween. I am from California and when I went to Comic Con for my first time it was like meeting the love child of my favorite things,” she said. Elizabeth started cosplaying as the classic version of Harley Quinn after Batman: Arkham Asylum was released in 2009. She said the character is by far her favorite. “She is absolute madness. The manic laughter, her deadly flirtations, her temper. I’ve always enjoyed acrobatics and it’s so fun to carry around the ridiculous props,” she added. For others, Korea is where they finally get to fulfill their cosplay dreams. Chris Harris, from the U.S., said he hasn’t participated in any cosplay events yet – back home there weren’t many opportunities as most conventions were too far away or too expensive for him to make the trip – but it’s something he’s always wanted to do and he is currently working on his first to wear at the upcoming Comic Con Seoul. “I either found myself too busy or was unsure of whether or not I should give it a try. I finally got tired of psyching myself out and just pushed myself to just do it,” he said. “There’s something special about cosplay where, by extension of the character you’re going as, you can portray inward qualities outwardly. Perhaps a character is heroic and selfless, maybe brash and reckless or even a pervy ecchi overlord. If those traits align with qualities you find within yourself, it’s a great medium for expressing yourself,” he said. Korean Conventions Currently there are about five large conventions that take place in Korea that cosplayers usually attend including, Comic World, PICOF and Bucheon International Comic Festival, as well as World Cosplay Festival, a major cosplay competition. While they happen quite frequently, according to the members of CSL, the conventions come with a lot of regulations on cosplay. Goh said G Star, a major game convention, won’t even allow cosplay anymore unless you are a paid model working at a booth. Others limit the size of props and what you can wear. “Like, you can’t be over 2 meters tall. Your props can’t be over a certain size. Then you cannot have wings. You cannot wear your lens or wig outside the event if it looks ‘abnormal’ and has a striking color,” she said. “Right outside the event you must be a totally normal human.” Other members added that cosplayers can’t show too much skin and if they want to do a more revealing outfit, they must wear a skinsuit. Some, like Comic World,
Kyung-min and Kyung-hwan are two of the members who work with COSIS full-time.“In order to do it in a more professional way, we quit our jobs to focus on this,” Kyung-min said. “I was a graphic designer and a planner at a game company.” He continued, saying that the group’s members all come from various professional backgrounds – some are officer workers while others are students or freelancers. And while they do many small events throughout the year, Kyung-min said it’s the competitions that they really enjoy. “We are really excited to have fun when it comes to competitions, when we represent Korea and get invited,” he said.
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have even banned cosplays from certain shows, such as Attack on Titan, as there were too many incidents of fights breaking out after people bumped into each other and damaged props or costumes. “Basically because Comic World, whenever an incident happens, they started adding regulations,” Jeong-hoon said. Goh added that even events geared specifically for cosplay have a ton of regulations. “There are rules against how heavy your prop is. Like the total shouldn’t be more than 40 kg. So if you want to do massive stuff, you have to make sure they are really light,” she said. “There’s a lot of regulations for the WCF as well. So that also limits the competition scale.” She added that because of these limitations, it has restricted the variety of outfits that people can see at conventions. Dalila commented that Korean conventions are smaller than what she is used to in Italy, though she loves all the cosplayers. “Everything is different from Italy. Location, cosplayers, cosplay races,” she said. Comic Con Seoul But perhaps the most anticipated convention this year is the first-ever convention by ReedPop in South Korea – Comic Con Seoul. CSL said as they currently have a lot of competition projects, they won’t be participating officially in the convention. Though some members may go in street clothes. “With the work that we’ve got, we are still working on that, so for Comic Con, we don’t have any plans,” member Jeong-hoon said, though he added that as this is the first Comic Con here, hopefully the organizers won’t have as many regulations as other Korean conventions. COSIS is planning to compete in the convention’s cosplay contest – Championships of Cosplay – building something even bigger than Winston from Overwatch. “Comic Con is one of the biggest conventions in America, so we’re not going to lack in anything. We’re going to put our hearts into it,” Kyung-min said. “I really want to show off. Because this is an American convention, we’re trying to convey a theme. So we’re planning to make a large robot. “Since I’m not joining Comic Con as a panelist or a judge, but as a cosplayer, if I get some good feedback, it’ll be great. It’s pretty tiring though. Because the costumes are actually pretty large and heavy and you can’t really see well,” he said. Dalila said she intends to go to Comic Con Seoul as Lili from Tekken, which her sister is currently making. “It (Comic Con) could be a great opportunity for all Korean cosplayers,” she added.
56 cover story People from all over the world travel to these, so it’s a great opportunity to meet others and connect. -chris harris, cosplayer
Comic Con Seoul will be the first convention for American Chris Harris. He said he is looking forward to seeing many different outfits as well as meeting others and seeing what they think of his cosplay. “Being able to present something you’re passionate about to the world and have honest, positive feedback feels great. I’d love to meet others who enjoy the same shows and manga I do and in the future be able to attend cons together as a group,” he said. He added that he thinks it’s great to have a large, international brand convention coming to Seoul. Outside Comic Con Seoul, he said he is hoping to attend a Final Fantasy event that takes place in Las Vegas, Frankfurt and Tokyo and is coming to Seoul in October.
“People from all over the world travel to these, so it’s a great opportunity to meet others and connect. Even though there may be a language barrier with so many people from all over the world, I feel like just as music and art are universal languages, cosplay is as well,” he said. Elizabeth Recharte said at first, everyone may be thinking Comic Con Seoul will be small, but once Korea starts something they “go full force and grow rapidly.” She says she is going in the spirit that the same drive will happen with Comic Con Seoul. “I am all for it. Korea is one of the most fun, trendy and affordable places I’ve traveled in. I want my friends around the globe eager to come visit me. An awesome international convention is a great hook,” she said.
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Comics and cosplay and Hollywood stars, Oh my!
Story by Emma Kalka Photo by ReedPop
Convention plans to bring Comic Con experience to Seoul
iehard fans of just about any aspect of popular culture are no doubt familiar with the large conventions that take place all over the world – specifically the mother of all conventions: San Diego Comic Con. They bring in top stars from movies and TV shows to do panels and often release never-before-seen trailers and sneak peeks. Cosplayers fill the halls, often posing for photos. Not to mention, they often have exhibition halls filled with guest artists and swag from all manner of brands, such as Warner Bros. and Marvel. Fans in South Korea can now rejoice, as event company ReedPop is bringing a similar experience to Seoul. Over the past
10 years, ReedPop has launched events all over the world, starting with Comic Con New York in 2006, and continuing through to the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. It currently runs 30 such events. This is the company’s first foray into South Korea with its Comic Con brand. ReedPop CEO Lance Fenstermen said in a recent interview with Korean media that the goal of Comic Con Seoul is to tailor the experience specifically to the fans’ wants and needs. It’s something he said they do with all their events. “All Comic Cons, such as those held in New York, Seattle, Shanghai and India, are based on local fans, so they have their own characteristics. Comic Con, which is
held all over the world, is composed of high quality and premium content, and we’re proud to have a mindset that prioritizes fans,” he said. He added that he feels the Korean fandom has a great love for pop culture. “I don’t doubt that they will give ReedPop a lot of guidance on how to go and which events to plan. We will listen to the fans and strive to meet them.” He said that overall, Comic Con is a pop culture festival – a showcase for all pop culture including, video games, comic books, animation, toys and movies – where many fans can gather and hang out together. Already the convention is off to
This will be Yeun’s first official fan meeting in South Korea, though he did attend a surprise fan meeting on the U.S. television channel, Fox, six years ago. Another Hollywood guest, along with two other big-name guests, are set to attend the convention. Though as of publication, they had not yet been publicly announced.
All Comic Cons such as those held in New York, Seattle, Shanghai and India, are based on local fans, so they have their own characteristics. Comic Con, which is held all over the world, is composed of high quality and premium content, and we’re proud to have a mindset that prioritizes fans. - Lance Fenstermen, ReedPop CEO
a strong start – announcing a list of guests that includes Walking Dead star Steve Yeun. The actor grabbed the attention of local fans last year when he accompanied comedian Conan O’Brien on a trip to South Korea that resulted in both of them appearing in the music video for Park Jin-yong’s single Fire, as well as, filming a special segment that ran on O’Brien’s show Conan. Since then, he’s also appeared in Shin Yeon-sik’s Like a French Film, and attended Cannes Film Festival to promote Bong Joonho’s latest endeavor Okja. In the Netflix film, Yeun plays an animal rights activist, who acts as an interpreter between the group and Miji–the little girl who befriends Okja, a genetically enhanced super-pig.
Aside from that, Comic Con Seoul will host panels with C.B. Cebulski, Vice President of Marvel in China; world-class cosplay duo Narga and Aoki; Tony Nicholson, a cosplayer and TV personality from Beijing; costume designer Cho Sang-gyeong, who’s worked on Old Boy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Handmaiden; and Shin Jong-min from EGA. Along with the panels, Comic Con Seoul also features an artist alley, entertainment stage and a cosplay competition – Korea Championships of Cosplay. The competition is open to anyone attending Comic Con Seoul, though all costumes must be hand-made – no store bought costumes allowed. It is a skills-based competition with prizes in several categories including armor, larger than life, FX and needlework. The winners receive a plethora of prizes including entry into the Crown Championships of Cosplay at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo 2018 along with VIP tickets to the event, cash prizes and free
tickets to Comic Con Seoul 2018. For a full list of rules and to apply for the competition visit the Comic Con Seoul website. The inaugural event is set to take place on Aug. 4-6 at COEX in southern Seoul. A number of exhibitors have already signed on to host booths, such as Dreamworks, Warner Brothers Pictures, King Kong Studio and SAMGanimation, with more set to be announced. There are a number of ticket packages available. One-day tickets are 20,000 KRW for Friday and 27,000 KRW for Saturday and Sunday. Geek Passes (2-day) are 40,000 KRW and Super Geek Passes (3-day) are 50,000 KRW. Special Star Passes are also available for 300,000 KRW. The pass includes a one-on-one meet and greet with the two Hollywood stars set to attend, as well as early entry into the venue and frontrow seats to all stage sessions. Tickets are available for purchase in Korean and English through the Comic Con Seoul website. What Comic Con Seoul experience will be like is yet to be seen. As Fenstermen says, every convention ReedPop organizes is different. It will differ from other Comic Cons, but may also differ from local events that are already put on each year in the country. “Every Comic Con follows the characteristics of the city and the locals, so the content is different depending on where it is held. Because it is an event based on fans, we also hope that all Comic Con content will be different and distinct,” he said. “ReedPop is always open to fans so please visit Reedpop.com and write your opinions. We will organize our events in the direction fans want, and we will always try to meet the needs of our fans.”
60 art Story by Hadrien Diez Photos courtesy of The bookstores
Fully Booked : The Printed Book Renaissance Hits Seoul From children's books to art theory, discover our selection of Seoul's best places to browse, enjoy, and buy books
he title said it all. “Metamorphosis” was the theme of the Seoul International Book Fair, held mid-June at the COEX in Gangnam. The choice acknowledged the current state of flux in the book market, driven as it is by two seemingly opposing trends: the long anticipated but yet to happen digital takeover and a recent revival in printed books. The Fair was careful to make its neutral position visible. On one side of its giant hall, it had set up a huge, often empty, “e-Book Experience Zone,” where visitors could check the performance of various tablets while incidentally perusing works of literature. Opposite, a no-less-big (and much more crowded) exhibition space hosted displays for a crop of Seoul's hottest independent bookstores.
Good old paper books could still have a rosy future it seems, provided that they offer more than their electronic version When it comes to books, it is becoming clear that readers are not ready to embrace full-on digitization. True, the ubiquitousness of digital media allows for easier, on-the-go reading but statistics show that, after significant initial growth, the market for electronic books is plateauing. Good old paper books could still have a rosy future it seems, provided that they offer more than their electronic version. Many publishers focus on releasing heavily designed, beautifully crafted books that provide a rich sensory experience to the reader. Offering different, complementary experiences, the two formats will probably coexist for the foreseeable future. Excitingly, Seoul is currently experiencing a revival of independent, niche bookstores. At the border between art galleries, community spaces, and commercial endeavors, they often propose a whole range of programming and activities that go well beyond just selling books. Here is a (totally subjective) selection of the best local bookstores and publishers for English-speaking audiences found at the Fair. Top Tip If you read Korean, be sure to get the free map of Seoul's bookshops published by the Seoul Library and available there (the library is located behind City Hall). It has also published a comprehensive guide of Seoul's bookstores, but it is in Korean only (KRW 8000).
The Book Society
The Book Society is an independent store which focuses on books about art, architecture, and artistic theory. The Society holds a significant program of talks, screenings, and seminars and often curates exhibitions around the book as an art form. Rummaging through their stacked shelves in trendy Changseong-dong is the most exciting part of the experience.
Add 22 Jahamun-ro 10-gil, Changseong-dong | tel 070-8621-5676 | Website www.thebooksociety.org
Paperian designs classy notebooks, photo albums, and other scrapbooks. Although there is probably an app for that, fans of cinema can relate their impressions of films in a dedicated “Movie Book,” while diet freaks will love adding up the calories of each meal and snack they ingest in the crazy “Body Book.” With pages made out of French paper and covers in Dutch fabric, Paperian's products have a luxurious feeling that just makes you want to switch back to the pen. They do not have an independent store, but major chains such as Kyobo, Poom, and the like sell their products.
62 art The Deer Book Shop is a lovely book boutique set in the back alleys of Hongdae. They stock a classy, refined selection of graphic novels, illustrated books, children's books and other printed items to “experience” – to caress, to unfold, to see through, to write on – rather than simply read. They sometimes organize small exhibitions of illustrators and sell limited editions of various printed works.
The Deer Book Shop
Add 33 Donggyo Ro 46-gil, Mapo-Gu Email firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook www.facebook.com/deerbookshop
B Platform presents itself as an “art book lounge” and hosts amazing events that explore the crafted dimension of books, such as their bookbinding workshops. They offer various beautiful books on the arts but it is their selection of books for children that stands out – they stock books in English, French, and even Dutch. The store is a stone's throw away from the Hapjeong Station.
Add Hapjeong-Dong 372-7, Mapo-Gu tel 070-4001-8388 Facebook www.facebook.com/BPLATFORM
website www.talktomeinkorean.com Facebook www.facebook.com/longtailbooks/
Irasun is a photographer's paradise. The shop specializes in high-quality – and, often, limited edition – photography books. You will find books by household names there, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Martin Parr but also a number of less exposed artists to discover. Irasun has recently moved to Changseong-dong and you can easily combine a visit with The Book Society.
Add 7-13, Tongui-dong, Jongno-Gu Tel 010 5420 0908 | Website www.irasun.co.kr
Design Book: this bookstore-cum-coffee-shop near Hongik University is a must-know address for graphic artists, magazine illustrators, and other font aficionados. The store focuses on book & web design, typography, and illustration for which it imports beautiful, coffee table books published by major Western publishing houses. A great pick on their list is “Fully Booked,” which hilariously explains that “the internet is not dead yet.” In case you are not convinced already, the book explains how the current book printing renaissance is there to last!
Add 463-20 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu Tel 02-333-0342 Website www.designbook.co.kr
Long Tail Books is a publisher of witty, playful exercise and conversational books to learn Korean. Their products are available at major chain bookstores or at their online store (see below for details). If you are into learning Korean on your own, you might also want to consider the curriculum on their website.
Long Tail Books
64 music Story by Emma Kalka Photos by Steve Smith
The Koncept of hip-hop
major is V h it w , signs m u lb a w e leases n e r r e p p a R
he rapper Koncept has a lot going on. Last month, he released a full-length album in both Asia and the United States, titled 14 Hours Ahead. At the time of print, he had dropped two music videos from the current album, has a third and fourth on the way, and is shooting an additional two. As if this wasn’t big enough news, he recently signed with the Korean hip-hop label, Vismajor Company (VMC), along with hip-hop duo Part Time Cooks. All of this has come relatively unexpected. Originally, Koncept came to Seoul in December 2016 with the intention of only performing a two-week tour.
support--hope does exist. Beyond the album and distribution deal with Sony, Koncept has recently signed to Vismajor. He and Part Time Cooks are the first non-Korean foreign artists to sign with a Korean hip-hop label. Koncept said VMC artists are some of his favorite artists in Korea and respects the work they do. He is happy to join the VMC family. “It’s pretty crazy. I’ve had a lot of people telling me that it’s changing history, which I think is amazing and I’m super proud to be a part of that. Like I said, I love it here in Korea and the energy and the vibe of the land, the people, the artists,” he said. Though he admitted that he’s noticed some people questioning the move, mostly because it’s never been done before. He and VMC are determined to make sure they help these people understand. After a whirlwind seven months, what could possibly be next for the artist? Plenty. Koncept is set to release more music videos with 14 Hours Ahead. Plus, he’ll be touring in Thailand and working with Thaitanium, a legendary hip-hop group there. He met with Red Bull Asia and plans to go record at their studio in Japan. He also has another album that is complete and ready for release. “My next plan really is to continue to build the brand all through Asia…I’m continuously recording new music, so I just want to continue progressing and getting music out to the world,” he states. “There’s nothing like inspiring people. That’s my goal.”
I go through different phases of what songs are my favorites. I very much make music from what I’m feeling and from my emotions and from my heart.
However, it was at one of those shows where the rapper was approached by a representative from Sony Music Asia and asked to come in for a meeting. This led to a distribution deal that would spread his music throughout the Asian music market. “That is ultimately what made me stay,” he said. “Just having the record come out like that and building my brand here--and just seeing the energy and the growth…I saw the potential…” According to Koncept, the album’s name symbolizes different things. It represents the 14-hour time difference between Seoul and his home in New York City. But beyond that, 14 Hours Ahead stands for striving to be better and outdoing oneself every time. It’s about visualizing future goals and achieving them. “And ultimately knowing what you’re capable of and not letting anybody make you feel less than that--manifesting your dreams and your life,” Koncept continues. Koncept confesses that he didn’t realize until after he had finished the 13-track album that he should have included 14 songs to match the title. However, he stated that it felt right with 13 songs, so he didn’t stress. He had already recorded many tracks before arriving in Seoul. But upon reaching the deal with Sony, Koncept revisited some of his recordings and added the finishing touches before the mastering process began. All of the music videos and visuals were shot in Thailand or Seoul – except for one video completed before he arrived. “I’m just a very visual person in general. I like films and movies and just all art,” he said, adding that he went to school for graphic design. He did a lot of the design for 14 Hours Ahead, with the help of Rob Taylor and Sasha Amesiu. “I don’t know how many music videos I’m gonna do for it, but basically I want to shoot a lot of music videos.” One standout song on the album is “Hug Somebody.” While the tone may be somber, the message is one of hope. “I made that song because I feel people need to know that people care about them and that a lot of people are going through a lot of different things, and it’s not just them that feel that pain,” he said. “I go through different phases of what songs are my favorites. I very much make music from what I’m feeling and from my emotions and from my heart,” he said. Koncept reflects about growing up in New York and noticing the ill-effects that drugs and stress have on the youth. Often kids feel like they don’t have someone to help them--or even someone to talk to. He wants his listeners to know that there is
Performing music with pride Three LGBT+ musicians, singers talk music and life
Story by Emma Kalka Photos by Christopher St. Germain, Hannah Gweun, Pauly Peroni
hile Pride Month is traditionally held around the world in June, in Seoul it falls on July 15 this year. In a country where mainstream society generally does not accept the LGBTQIA+ community, events like this have become more important over the years to give the community and its members a spotlight to talk about issues that affect them. Just as the many members of the community have varying experiences, so too do the musicians and singers who count themselves as LGBTQIA+. Each has unique experiences that affect their music and drive their motivation to perform.However, their one common ground is that they love music. The following are three such people. Music that is genuine “Everything that I have done in my life has led me to where I am today,” said singer Marshall Bang who performs under the name MRSHLL, one Sunday afternoon over ice cream. And he certainly has done a lot that has led him to where he is today. Signed with a label in South Korea that not only allows him to make the music he wants, but also to debut in the Korean music industry as an openly gay man. “They’ve been nothing but supportive of me and letting me have the freedom to be myself and not have to hide,” he said. “A lot of musicians in Korea, they [LGBTQIA+] do have to hide.” He’s been a dancer, a hair stylist, and a radio writer. He worked with Invisible Children, spending 10 weeks at a time on the
road with three other people going across America’s South, which he calls “a formative experience.” He added that the people he met were some of the greatest people he’s met in his life so far and have contributed to how he sees the world.
They’ve been nothing but supportive of me and letting me have the freedom to be myself and not have to hide. a lot of musicians in Korea, they [LGBTQIA+] do have to hide. - MRSHLL, singer
He’s even overcome an illness that threatened his voice and left him unable to sing, forcing him to redirect his life – something he called a real “WTF” moment, as music was all he had planned to do at the time. He came to Seoul from New York City almost five years after making a literally overnight decision to accept an offer to join a Korean audition show. He admitted that at the time, he didn’t even know if he could sing, but hearing that his father wanted him to go to Korea, pushed him to at least try. And then a miracle happened. “On the show, as I was singing, my voice got better and better. It hurt less to sing as the show progressed,” he said. So what was supposed to be a two-week stint on the TV program ended up being four months of shooting. As soon as the show ended, Bang said he ended up staying longer. From there, he said he lived the freelancer life – doing various jobs that included working on an oldies radio show – through which he dove headfirst into the music of the 70s which comes through in a lot of the music he currently makes. It was hard. And sometimes lonely. He recalled one New
Year’s Eve that he spent alone with a bottle of moonshine and powdered mashed potatoes leftover from Thanksgiving. “I actually wrote a song about it – it’s called ‘Moonshine,’” he said with a laugh. “That’ll hopefully be out in the fall.” But it is exactly experiences like this, in life, that shape his music – as well as his experiences of being a gay man. He said that while his life may differ from others, everybody has something in common that might bring them together. He added that part of that is showing Korea – a society he says that isn’t supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community – that he is just as human as everyone else with issues, insecurities, strengths and weaknesses. “I want to love. I want to be able to hang out with friends and explore the world and experience life just as much as you. Just because I like a certain type of person doesn’t make me a social pariah.” He believes that the tapestry of life is so intricate and interwoven that you can’t just talk about one thing, which is why there are so many different kinds of artists and music. “I want to spread love and positivity. But also not shy away from things like pain and hurt and anger. These are all real emotions that people feel, and I want to put that into my music. Because that’s the beauty of life,” he said. “I just want to be a genuine artist and make real music that connects to people at the end of the day.” Currently Bang has two singles out on a compilation album, from his label Feel Ghood Music, called Feelghood. His EP is set to drop before the end of summer. Music that resonates For singer Pauly Peroni, it’s not necessarily the style of music that catches his fancy, it’s how it resonates with him and how it resonates with the audience when he performs. “I love performing in general. Not because I like the attention, because I want the audience to get off,” he said. “That’s what’s gratifying to me. When the audience enjoys it and I can tell viscerally that the audience is reacting positively.” This is why he said he often performs soul and R&B, though he confesses that he’ll
perform anything that has soul or spirit. “There are certain songs that have a spirit to them – that have a soul to them – regardless of genre. And it’s really those songs that sort of transcend genre and pique my spiritual and emotional interest that I like to perform,” he said. He said that because he does perform a lot of soul, R&B and sometimes gospel, he has to recognize that it is music rooted in black culture. “Although it has been instrumental in my life and although it resonates with me, I have to recognize that there are so many people who came before me, who originated it and perfected it so that if it weren’t for them, I’d be a clown.” Hailing from just outside Boston, Peroni has been in Seoul for a little over a year, but he said he can’t think of a time when he didn’t love music. He’s been singing since he was a kid, though he stopped for a bit when puberty hit. He picked it up again in high school, saying that was when he and others realized he could sing well. From there, he
joined an all-male group in university and sang in his university’s gospel choir. He confessed that, after graduating, he was a “bundle of anxiety and depression.” He was dealing with the end of a complicated relationship that he had yet to heal from. It was this state that led him to start practicing Buddhism and ultimately come to Korea in February 2016. “I needed to get as far away as possible in order to see and experience new things. But also in order to try to live as independently and individualistically as I could,” he said. In moving to Seoul, he was able to not only find many opportunities to further his singing, but also to become stronger in his queer identity. He came out when he was 21, but admits that for anyone who identifies as queer, coming out is not a one-time thing. It is a process that never ends. “While the response was overall very positive, I still felt like I couldn’t really truly embrace that side of myself. Coming here and being so active in the queer community
has really been constructive,” he said. Peroni calls the Seoul LBGTQIA+ community small but vibrant, and tries to attend as many events as he can, especially drag performances. He said it takes such bravery and courage to perform in drag, adding that the Seoul queens are some of the most hard-working and artistic people he knows. “I try to support them when I can, because they are the bravest among us, I think.” He said in the future, after some encouragement from friends who are drag queens, he hopes to try singing and performing at a drag show. He did drag for the first time last Halloween and thinks it would be “awesome” to join the show. Outside that, Peroni performs often at Lyrically Minded –a community of artists that has shows once a month – and it’s through this event that he’s been able to broaden into other singing opportunities. He’s performed at The Link and Hidden Cellar. He admits that he sees it as a problem that he doesn’t play an instru-
ment, though one that he can overcome. “Whether I have an accompanist, whatever the music in the background is, it doesn’t really matter. Because I think that I find that I can connect emotionally with the audience no matter what.” Music that entertains Being able to read a crowd and play music that they like has always been the center of performing for Pounamu. It’s why she mostly plays pop music. The New Zealand native said it’s something instilled in her from her Maori culture. “Maori people, as a rule, we have garage parties. And so, you have to learn how to play guitar if you’re Maori. You just have to,” she said matter-of-factly over a beer in Itaewon. The crates come out and someone puts a board down to make a table. Some bring crates of beer and someone else brings a guitar. “And the Maoris of whatever age just sing songs that we love. Like old Beatles stuff… that’s how I got into playing music.” She said her mother made her learn guitar. When Pounamu then mentioned she wanted to learn classical guitar, her mother vetoed the idea, saying no one would have a good time if she were playing classical music. “You’ve got to learn what the people want. And that’s more important than anything else. Even if you don’t like that song, you should know how to play what people want,” she quoted her mother as saying, before plainly admitting that’s the only reason she ever plays Justin Beiber. She professes she can play anything when she gets on stage, even songs that people want to hear and sing along with, but may not come out and say it. She counts Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Mariah Carey as part of her repertoire. But there is one song she plays that everyone claims to hate, though ends up loving as soon as she hits the chorus. “So, I’ll ask the audience, ‘Do you want to hear ‘Let it Go?’ And they’ll just be like, ‘Oh, come on!’ And then I’ll start singing the verse and they’ll just be all negative. And then as soon as you get up to the chorus, everybody in the bar is singing it. And they all got their arms up and they’re swinging like this,” she said. “And it’s just like, you guys should be ashamed of yourselves.” Pounamu performs at various open mics, which is how she got her start in music in Korea back in 2011 or 2012. She performed at an open mic in Gangnam and then was promptly asked by the bar owner if she would host it, since she got along with people there. She is currently hosting the open mic at Dillingers and is a regular at Bedrock’s open mic on Wednesdays.
There are certain songs that have a spirit to them, that have a soul to them, regardless of genre. And it’s really those songs that sort of transcend genre and pique my spiritual and emotional interest that I like to perform. - Pauly Peroni, singer
Beyond that, she does professional gigs at weddings and events for the New Zealand Embassy. “Because they know I’m going to do pop and I’m going to read the crowd and do what they want to sing along to,” she said. Occasionally, she says she will perform original works, but usually only if it’s requested or she sees the crowd is getting
rowdy and in need of calming down. One particular crowd favorite is a ditty called, ‘Your Son,’ about an ex-girlfriend’s particularly horrible 6-year-old son. “It’s a lovely song, though. People sing along,” she said, smiling. However, Pounamu confessed that most of the songs she writes end up staying in her notebook for years and years, though she will test them out at open mics to see if the crowd reacts well from time to time. “There’s been a couple times when I’ve done, like, four or five originals that I’ll perform at an open mic. And that’s because people seem to like them. They stop to listen or they’ll sway along or sing along,” she said. And while she doesn’t play in bands, she said she is currently the rock band teacher at a school, something she confesses she always wanted on her resume. She is teaching a group of high school boys who have formed a band. “It’s a very School of Rock story. They’re very, very shy and reserved when they play. So I’m trying to teach them image,” she said.
Finding your new fixation at +84 Bun cha deserves a chance at being a favorite for the pho obsessed
Story by Neil Kirby Photos by Justin Howard
he first time I tried pho, my eyes started to well up. Those accustomed to a battery of dishes in Korea with gochujang as the dominant flavor might think I was teary-eyed because the food was too spicy. Those familiar with pho know it’s not. I was about to cry because the food was just that pleasurable, a culinary elixir with flavor profiles that elicited taste buds I didn’t know existed. And get this—I was in an airport. In Ho Chi Minh. Usually when you want to cry in the airport, it’s during a moment of misery in the middle of your McMeal. Yes, Vietnamese food is just that good. So when I heard about the wonders of Hanoian bun cha, another dish loaded with flavors made powerful by the bowl’s subtlety and balance, I came hungry. The chefs at +84, a popular Hanoi-style restaurant that has recently expanded to Itaewon, didn’t disappoint. The mighty bun cha is both common and revered, the perceptions of this deceptively simple dish not unlike its seemingly
The mighty bun cha is both common and revered, the perceptions of this deceptively simple dish not unlike its seemingly disparate flavors that in actuality match so well you may wonder why all foods don’t have that magical balance. disparate flavors that in actuality match so well you may wonder why all foods don’t have that magical balance. The broth is ambrosial and tangy, not at all as sour as some
would say. Yet the minced pork shoulder and strips of pork belly pop with aggressive juices that seem to blast your serotonin levels and bring out your inner carnivore. That a dish could be so mellow and savory at the same time speaks to its wonders and the talents of countless mothers who honed it over generations. You close your eyes when you eat this, disregard the other senses, focus on the flavors and ask yourself a few key questions. Can food do this? What right does it have to make me forget what I was just worrying about? But that’s the authentic bun cha we’re talking about, authenticity being easy to claim but harder to achieve, as anyone who has had Korean-style pho—kalguksu with bean sprouts thrown in—can attest. The co-owners of +84 said they were firm about producing flavors as authentic as possible, while acknowledging this could mean losing a few repeat customers who preferred a Korean-style version of Hanoian food. Henry Park, one of the co-owners, along with Hieu Nguyen Trung and Tu le
Tuan, said that despite “some tension trying to be authentic versus satisfying the Korean palate,” the co-owners were benefitting from an increased interest in Koreans traveling to Vietnam and returning having experienced the food there. “So many Koreans come to Vietnam and have authentic food there,” le Tuan said. “They come back and want that.” All three of the co-owners have impressive backgrounds. For Park, it was a career in finance and studying in culinary school on the side that brought him here. Nguyen Trung, from Hanoi, holds a master’s degree in information technology, while his cousin, le Tuan, is earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Yet it’s le Tuan’s wife, Hoang Cam Van, who has a stake in the business and uses her mother’s recipe to achieve the authentic flavors. +84, named for the country code for dialing Vietnam, opened in Insadong in spring of 2016, and after gaining popularity through visits by no less than three Korean TV shows, added a second location only a year later. You may not be surprised to
learn the co-owners settled on Vietnamese Street for the new location. (For the uninformed, the street was so-named not because of an abundance of Vietnamese restaurants—there aren’t—but because of a friendly and reciprocal relationship with Quy Nhon in Vietnam, which named a street there after Yongsan. The street runs parallel with Itaewon’s main road.) So forget pho for a minute. After all, I spent my week in southern Vietnam inhaling the stuff without even bothering to learn about bun cha—a rookie mistake, I’m told. (Pho, Park informed me, is considered a breakfast food.) If you need your pho fix, you can of course get it here, in addition to crispy spring rolls and a zesty banh mi. But consider the bun cha, which is worthy of the growing popularity and culinary obsession that pho brings out in even the least passionate eaters. Don’t take it from me. Le Tuan’s mother-in-law visited the Insadong branch, coming all the way from Hanoi. If she left satisfied, surely you can too. Add 56 Bogwang-ro 59-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Southwestern Barbecue Migrates East 72 food&drink
Two Places Where You Can Get a Taste of Texas
Story by Monica Williams Photos by Bryan Watkins, Kim Rahyun, Justin Howard
exceptional flavors of the U.S. south and southwest. Most of Seoul’s pit masters have kept American barbecue American. There are a few Korean touches: platters for sharing, an important element in Korean dining culture, and sides like fried rice or honey butter fries. In Korea, many local restaurants open and shut often, but here are two restaurants that demonstrate that meat cooked slowly, Texas style, has some staying power.
hen most people think of Korean barbecue, garlic, galbi and gridirons come to mind, especially given there’s a gogi-jip, or Korean barbecue restaurant, on almost every block in Seoul. But recently, American-style barbecue--pulled pork, spare ribs, and brisket— has changed the game in the restaurant scene. A new crop of pit masters is slowly rising to take their place among the stalwarts in Seoul, infusing the Far East with the
74 food&drink All That Meat
add Hanam, Starfield Hanam mall, third floor
A mall food court is an unlikely place for an exceptional meal but you can find some tasty offerings at All That Meat, one of the restaurants in the EATOPIA food court at Starfield Hanam. You can’t go wrong with carbs in a mall that’s the size of 10 soccer fields. On the barbecue menu, there’s sausage, spicy chicken, neck bone, pork belly, and pork rib, served as an array of combos that range from 11,900 to 32,900 KRW. Go for the half-rack of juicy barbecue spare ribs, served with a choice of French fries and mashed potatoes. The homemade apple barbecue sauce is pretty sweet so skip the honey butter fries in favor of the plain ones as the sugary combination may be overwhelming. In a nod to Korea, the chef, a graduate of New York University, also offers a best-selling steak rice bowl (12,900 KRW) a bulgogi and cheese rice bowl (10,900 KRW), and barbecue selections with extra spice. There’s a lot to satisfy the little ones, including corn dogs with fries (6,000 KRW) and chicken fingers (8,900 KRW).
add Seoul, Jongno-gu, 71, Inseo-dong, B106
Most Koreans still don’t know what American barbecue is, says Korean native Donggwon Kim, which is why he opened a cozy American-style barbecue restaurant instead of a traditional Korean one. Frankly, he didn’t want anybody meddling in his kitchen or logging a bunch of complaints. “I wanted to concentrate on the food without any pressure,” said Kim, who spent two years in California, where he fell in love with pulled pork at a barbecue joint and was a quick study. “I got close to the pit master. He taught me a lot.” All of the slow-cooked meat at About Jins is outstanding and is evident of his love for ’cue, from the pulled pork (15,900 KRW for a sandwich with cole slaw and fries) to the homemade glazed bacon (12,000 KRW) to the spare ribs (35,000 KRW). The standout, however, is the tender and flavorful brisket (18,900 KRW), which could hold its own against any in the Lone Star state, where beef is king. You’d be wise to top it or any of the meat with Kim’s homemade onion or zesty garlic sauces and savor the smoke and salt cure.
In the beginning, brisket was a tough sell, as the unfamiliar dark ends from the heavy carmelization were a turnoff for Korean diners. “Is this burnt?” they would ask, which is why About Jins includes a brisket primer on the menu. Side dishes include the Southern favorites (minus the greasiness) of cole slaw, potato salad, fries, onion rings, and macaroni and cheese. The baked beans are brimming with brisket, and veggie lovers
will be satisfied with the avocado salad (14,900 won). Kim knows his barbecue and takes his time with it. Last summer, he and his wife, Hyunjin Lim, who’s often the restaurant server, drove from California to New York in 15 days, with stops in Texas, Tennessee, Kansas, and other barbecue hot spots in between, often eating at five restaurants a day. “After that, we knew that our barbecue is really good,” Lim said. “We were so proud.”
Dinner Down Under : Caravan A blend of cultures, flavours, and ingredients in Hapjeong.
Story by Kate Carter Hickey Photos by Da Vinci Photos (Chris)
he popular Australian concept of a cafe-restaurant was completely foreign to me when I first stepped into Caravan Seoul (which opened in February 2017). The idea is to combine a restaurant with high quality dishes with the relaxed, social vibe of a cafe. Caravan in Hapjeong has done just that, creating a laid-back atmosphere that stands in stark contrast to all its high quality ingredients and design elements. Flack Studios, famous for their use of colour, designed the space. The curves of the wall, the leather finish on marble, and the aged glass are all custom made to create a warm and welcoming environment. There is comfy leather seating and lots of mixed textures. The chairs are custom-made in Australia and the banquettes are haneul Korean leather. Everything about the restaurant is custom designed, much like the food. The marriage of Western elements with Eastern precision is much like the restaurateurs. Chef Adam Kane is from Australia and Jessica (his wife) was born in Korea. When we visited, Chef Adam shared so many stories of his dining experiences (from rural areas to Michelin-starred). He is clearly interested in all elements of the food prep as well as the guest experience. The menu at Caravan is diverse, a nod to the multiculturalism of Australia. Adam and Jessica have tied together international influences without jumping on the fusion train. It’s important to Adam to be original and authentic. “You don’t have to serve pickles with pasta.” They look for the best quality ingredients and present them in accessible fine dining. “People work really long hours in Korea. At Caravan, you can have fine dining in a casual atmosphere. Australia is a casual way of living.” In Korean restaurants you can yell and have a good time. Western spots tend to be more serious for Koreans on a date or doing business. The goal is to have a relaxed breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert and just be able to slow down. When getting serious about opening a restaurant, Chef Adam went to every fish and fruit market and even found his own coffee supplier. Namusairo coffee roasters, his secret weapon, is the first independent coffee roaster in Korea. There are tons of different elements in the taste. We tried the flat white and enjoyed that it wasn’t as acidic as most Korean coffee. Actually, it was very smooth. At Caravan, they bake all their own products daily including sourdough bread. Parallel with the Korean history of fermentation, most of the older
generation are really embracing the sourdough. From 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. professional bakers make everything fresh. Anything that isn’t sold is donated to a service for Korean-born deported adoptees. They come in every morning to pick up unsold bread. We were able to taste a number of menu items, but hardly made a dent in Caravan’s huge and ever-changing menu. The star of the show was the meatballs we tasted from the tagliatelle. The meatballs are made of organic Jeju pork and grassfed organic beef from Australia parmigiano reggiano cheese, 45% fat cream basil, mint, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and sourdough breadcrumbs in fresh and bright tomato sauce. They were were soft and eagerly fell apart. The salt and pepper squid (12,000 KRW) with black garlic aioli came in at a close second. Lightly breaded and with a bold garlic flavour, the calamari wasn’t fishy at all. It had great texture - no rubber here. Even if you're not a seafood lover, you’ll be coming back for this umami dish perfectly balanced with fresh lemon juice. The spring risotto (15,000 KRW) with baby carrot, asparagus, peas, and basil could be seen by Koreans as an Italian bibimbap. Chef Adam gets his Arborio
We were able to taste a number of menu items, but hardly made a dent in Caravan’s huge and everchanging menu. risotto rice from the United States. The risotto was more al dente than I’m used to, with the idea to respect the authenticity of the dish. I could have gone for a little more salt and pepper, but with all the cheese, I was a very happy camper. Had the other dishes not been so incredible, the curry fried noodles (18,000 KRW) would have hit the spot. They were tossed in a modest amount of curry with a hint of cilantro. This dish took me back to Thailand as the noodles weren’t smothered in sauce (Korean style). The delicate beef was sliced very thin. I would have enjoyed bigger pieces of beef, but no complaints here. I always judge a brunch restaurant on its Eggs Benedict (17,000 KRW). The most memorable part of the dish was the thick, salty, melt-in-your-mouth ham. I could have done with a little more spinach and
a little less time toasting the bread as the sourdough was a bit tough to cut. Even though we were bursting at the seams, Adam insisted we try his pavlova. Developed for Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina visiting New Zealand, it’s Australia’s most famous dessert. Caravan’s pavlova has a light, crackable exterior, but a dense and chewy interior. While the flavour was the same, they had a totally different mouth texture experience. It was topped with a mountain of strawberry. We sampled the chocolate valrhona cake as well. The cake was massive, dense, and moist. So if you are interested in a unique Korean dining experience with tons of food to choose from, head on down to Caravan. While weekends tend to be pretty crazy for brunch (which goes until 3 p.m.), dinner is a lot quieter. For international cuisine, a laid-back vibe, great tunes, and Chef Adam’s stories, it’s hard to go wrong. Add Shop 1125, B1, Mecenatpolis, 45 Yanghwa-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul TEL +82 2 324 2272 HOURS 9:00am – 10:30pm, 7 days a week RECOMMENDED MENU Check out the salt & pepper squid (12,000 KRW) WEBSITE www.caravanseoul.co.kr facebook facebook.com/hellocaravanseoul/ INSTAGRAM @caravanseoul TWITTER @noodlepalace
C e r e al Ba r s Introducing the Western breakfast staple to Korean cafe culture
heerios, Koko Krunch and Lucky Charms are no longer breakfast throwbacks scarfed down during Saturday morning cartoon marathons. These childhood stalwarts are some of the new entrees on Seoulâ€™s restaurant scene and theyâ€™re offered all day and even at night. The first generation of cereal cafes in Seoul opened late last year, offering a menu of sweet treats centered around imported boxed cereals from Europe, Australia, and the United States. In the last few months, Seoul breakfast/ dessert cafes have inspired new spots in Busan, Gimhae, and Sejong, attracting a generation of diners keen on both Instagram and nostalgia.
Story by Monica Williams Photos by Justin Howard
79 What’s Your Cereal Number? add 384-11, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul | tel 010-3744-1792 | Hours 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
If you find a cereal bowl combination that works for you, you can jot down your individualized "cereal number" (get it?) on the provided holographic sticker and use it to order next time.
Park Sung-bin discovered cereal later in life but it’s his mission, he says, to introduce it to Koreans who may not be familiar with it as a way to start the day. It’s one of the reasons he opened the What’s Your Cereal Number? (often shortened to WYCN) cafe in Hongdae in September. “‘We need to stop thinking that rice is the only real source of energy for Koreans,” a poster that hangs in the café reads. His ready-to-eat cereals can be a good source of energy as many of the selections tend to be on the healthier side. The menu at WYCN is full of “diet and health” choices like Special K, Crunchy Oat Granola, muesli and quick and creamy porridge. But, thankfully, chocolate cereals are included, with Swiss Choco Bits being the crowd favorite. Childhood favorite Lucky Charms also makes an appearance on the menu but others like Cookie Crisp and Sugar Smacks are only in boxes that are part of the café’s decor. If you want to eat them,
you’re out of luck. WYCN is long on style but short on seating. The store’s neon signage outside attracts a steady stream of curious onlookers and the bright-white interior will likely have you pulling out your smartphone for some Instagram shots as soon as you enter. But with just six seats, you might face a full house. Arrive too late and the popular items may be sold out. Ordering here, designed for repeat visits, is done via a checklist. Customers tick off their choice of two cereals, cup sizes, liquids, and finally up to four toppings from a list that include marshmallows, bananas, and Oreos for 6,500 won (It’s 500 won cheaper for takeout.). If you find a cereal bowl combination that works for you, you can jot down your individualized "cereal number" (get it?) on the provided holographic sticker. Hold on to this cereal number to be guaranteed your self-designed energy fix on your return.
80 food&drink The Cereal
Yongsan-gu, Seoul | tel 010Add 7, Hoenamu-ro 26-gil, to 10 p.m. (closed Mondays) n Noo 2336 -0325 | Hours
When Ham Hee-soo was 5 and living in Germany, he ate cereal every morning for breakfast. Those childhood memories and the success of the well-known Cereal Killer café in London led him to open The Cereal cafe in Seoul late last year. His 12-table Yongsan café is sweeter than you could ever have imagined. The global cereals up for grabs include Honey O’s from Post, Koko Krunch from Nestle and Woolworths’ Froot Rings, a favorite among the young, female Instagrammers who document their visits. Like similar spots in Seoul, this cute cafe has a diverse lineup of cereals, toppings and milk, suitable for breakfast, brunch, or dessert. Customers can mix four of the “healthy,” sweet, or chocolate cereals. Bowls, which range from 6,000 to 8,000 won, include a dairy product (whole or lowfat milk or yogurt) and two toppings from a cavity-inducing list that includes Haribo gummy bears, chocolate-covered almonds, and marshmallows. Cereal-based drinks and smoothies (6,000 won) are also an option. Ham says Westerners favor the
Oreo O’s, a cereal that’s been discontinued everywhere except Korea, and the Western-style midday brunch (9,500 won) that includes a waffle, sausage, bacon, egg, cheese, and a small bowl of cereal. Without Mom there to stop them, chocoholics go for the rush from the signature Choco Bowl, designed with four chocolate cereals, M&Ms, and wafer sticks. It’s topped with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, syrup and sprinkles, and Ham shows you how to best tackle the monster for maximum enjoyment and minimal sogginess. For the more conservative or health-conscious visitor, there are fresh fruit bowls and yogurt instead of milk. If there is a shortcoming at The Cereal, it’s the lack of soy or almond milk. Because cereal isn’t a big part of breakfast in Korea, the café is busiest around lunch and before dinner, when people stop in to enjoy a bowl over a round of board games. This summer, most customers are cooling off with the ice flakes, Ham’s creatively designed cereal-based dessert that conjures images of bingsu.
The Seagull Has Landed Again Busan's Galmegi Brewing Company opened its fifth location in April in the Pusan National University area.
Story by John Dunphy Photos by Andrew Bencivenga
almegi Brewing Company continues to grow. With its spring opening in the Pusan National University downtown area, this Busan original—named after the Korean word for seagull, the official bird of Busan—has now landed in five locations throughout Korea's second-largest city. Galmegi's other Busan locations are in Nampo, Seomyeon, Haeundae, and Gwangan, home to their brewery. Andrew Bencivenga, owner of the PNU location, which opened April 20, says setting up shop in the popular college hotspot was an easy decision. “It's a great location with lots of exposure, lots of foot traffic,” says the New York native. “Being next to the university puts us in a great center of activity and it's a great opportunity to reach a lot of people.” While Galmegi locations are franchised, Bencivenga, who has lived in Korea 10 years, points out he is presently the only franchisee who is also an original partner in Busan's first craft beer company. The first Galmegi location opened in June 2013, with their brewery debuting nearby the following year. Although every location shares certain aesthetic similarities, Galmegi franchisees are free to add their personal stamps to their babies. For Bencivenga, that means food, including handmade sausages and other location-exclusive items like the “Garden Bunny,” a pizza for vegetarians, and the “Angry Bird,” a pizza with fried chicken topping. Still, while Bencivenga professes a passion for the food part of his project, Galmegi's PNU location, like the others, is all about the beer. Over the company's four-year life, Galmegi has been building an impressive lineup of choices, including seasonals like the addictive Seoulless Ginger, made with fresh ginger and honey; and a deceptively easy-drinking Triple IPA, coming in at a punchy 10
percent alcohol by volume. This one was released to celebrate Galmegi's third year of brewing and, according to Bencivenga, is the first triple-hopped Imperial Pale Ale brewed in Korea. Year-round choices include Campfire Amber, a 5 percent brew that is malty, nutty, dark caramel-colored, and highly drinkable; the Galmegi IPA, a mildly-bitter, extremely pleasant smelling, and reliably consistent 6.5 percent; and Espresso Vanilla Stout, brewed with locally-roasted coffee that imparts an ambience to the drink that makes this one very easy to become a favorite.
We are just going to continue to get the best imports to fill the bottle fridge and the freshest Galmegi beers on tap. Like other Galmegi locations, their PNU haunt also offers guest choices, both on tap as well as in bottles and cans. To that end, Bencivenga says he is working hard to ensure there are plenty of approachable options for what is still a relatively young craft beer market. “We're trying to be price-sensitive and beginner friendly,” he says. But, there will always be something “sexy for the beer geeks,” the owner adds. Looking ahead, Bencivenga says he wants to continue to add and enhance the food options at his location, including introducing a series of featured menu items like roasted chicken or barbecued ribs, expand the pub's liquor selections, as well as hold various events like tastings,
beer and food pairing sessions, and a pub crawl for the hopping PNU area. As for the beer, “we are just going to continue to get the best imports to fill the bottle fridge and the freshest Galmegi beers on tap,” he says. “We love our location and feel that its central position in PNU lends well to a jumping-off point for a great night out. We want to be a comfortable bar that people across all walks of life can come enjoy.” ADD Busandae hakyo 58, Busan HOURS MON-THURS 5pm-12am, FRI 5pm-2am, SAT 4pm-2am, CLOSED SUNDAY TEL 010-7393-6116 WEBSITE galmegibrewing.com FACEBOOK @GalmegiBrewingPNU
So, your curiosity about Galmegi Brewing Company beers is now piqued. But, Busan is hours away. What is a libation-loving suds swiller in Seoul to do? Fortunately, if you're in the Sinchon University area, you're in luck. Since 2014, Neighborhood Galmegi Brewery Taphouse, as its name suggests, has been a source in Seoul (in fact, Seoul's sole source) for all things Galmegi Brewing Company. If any Galmegi location currently has it, Neighborhood has it, too. “We always stock all of Galmegi's beers,” says Stafford Granger, Neighborhood's owner. Granger says he and his partners wanted to open a craft beer bar several years ago and were looking for up-and-coming breweries in Korea to hitch their wagons to. Galmegi had recently opened their Busan brewery and it was love at first sip. “We went to visit them and tried their beer and loved it,” he says. Today, in addition to every Galmegi libation—including familiar favorites like their Moonrise Pale Ale, Lighthouse Blonde, Yuja Gose, and Espresso Vanilla Stout—Neighborhood's 20 taps feature several guest imports from such popular breweries as Primator, Smuttynose, Knee Deep, North Coast, and Heretic. The folks at Neighborhood are also co-owners of The Ranch Brewing Company, which has recently opened in Daejeon. “So, we will be the first bar in Seoul to feature their beers as guest taps as well, alongside our Galmegi line up,” Granger says. ADD Seodaemungu Changchundong 53-24, Seoul HOURS 5pm-1am TEL 02-3144-0860 FACEBOOK @NeighborhoodSinchon
Neighborhood Provides Busan Beers for Seoul
Don’t Break the Bank for the Beach
Story by Neil Kirby Photos by Justin Howard
Try cheap travels in Eurwangni, a day trip from Seoul
et’s get one ugly fact out of the way first. Despite the spectacular offerings of Seoul and its surrounding areas, salaries are stagnant for some people and prices seem to be sneaking slightly higher each year. Yet there are a few things that remain as free as Jesus tissues: the sun and the sand, and cool, clean water. All of these can be found at Eurwangni Beach. Did I say clean? Don’t be too picky. Aside from a few spent fireworks, there’s not much trash or pollution—you’ll still be able to have children if you take a dip, don’t worry. And there wasn’t much sun when I was there, either. But by the time you read this, the rainy season will be over and you’ll likely be able to make the most of Eurwangni Beach, which is about an hour from western Seoul on Yeongjongdo. (If you’ve never heard of Yeongjongdo, you may have been on it without realizing—that’s the
island where Incheon International Airport is located. Eurwangni’s on the other side.) If you live in Seoul you can get there and back in a day—and leave without wallowing in remorse after realizing how much you’ve spent. “It’s not as far to go” compared to other beaches, Paul Headley, of Seoul, said. “It’s convenient.” Headley and Brian Davis, also of Seoul, were sipping beers on the beach, not at all bothered by the sprinkling rain and chilly weather—perhaps one of the few occasions where the local habit of wearing long sleeves at the beach made sense. “It’s not ideal,” Davis said. “It’s fine. Not spectacular.” The main point? “It’s the nearest to Seoul.” Another visitor said she thought the beach was better than Haeundae in Busan. “It’s a great location,” Maddie Touré, of Seoul, said. She thought Eurwangni had good, soft sand—but quickly added that
she liked Sokcho better. Here’s what you should do if you’re short on cash or saving up. Once you arrive, rent an umbrella, throw down a towel, or a tent on the sand. (The Yellow Sea rises to high tide here at about 3 p.m., and starts to recede a few hours later, making mid-afternoon a great time to get here.) Order some fried chicken from one of the banners on the beach, which have the phone numbers of a few delivery restaurants listed—and which keep the beach from being littered with menus. If you’re lucky, some restaurants will dispatch a few workers to walk around with crispy chicken already made and ready to hand over, so bring cash. Alternatively, you can stock up at one of several convenience stores and bring your food over to your spot on the sand. The quaint charm of the no-name mart with the three-legged cat was a personal favorite. If you plan on spending the night,
DIRECTIONS Take the subway to Incheon Airport. Go up to the third floor, where the check-in counters are, but don’t hop on a plane. Go out gate seven and take bus 302 or 306. The Eurwangni stop, about ten minutes from the airport, is marked by an arched sign to your left indicating the road to the beach.
If you live in Seoul you can get there and back in a day—and leave without wallowing in remorse after realizing how much you’ve spent.
beachfront hotels like The Prince will run you about 130,000 KRW for a Saturday night. The rooms have a strict two person limit, as my wife and I discovered after being scolded by the owner for visiting our friends’ room. Directly behind The Prince is a hotel shaped like a cruise ship. This is known as The Ray. It will run you 110,000 to 180,000 KRW, the higher prices are if you want your balcony outfitted like the bow of a boat. There are higher end accommodations, like the Golden Sky Resort. Their prices start from 132,000 KRW. That’s business speak for don’t expect to pay 132,000 KRW; it’s going to be more. The best thing to do if you’re traveling on the cheap? Pretend you’re a guest by casually chatting with a friend as you walk in the resort—don’t look around; that’ll give you away. Use their pristine bathrooms, located near the elevators, and take a picture on the roof. Go back to your blanket on the beach having had a taste of the high life. Farther back is the Mountain Motel, which was given its name despite being located on a slight slope a stone’s throw from the beach. The co-owner, a woman who said she was 90, declined to be interviewed because she was “too old.” When asked how she kept her apparent vitality despite her age, she answered, “the country wind.” Price at this joint? Just 40,000 KRW. Second floor rooms have a little terrace, too. No questions, no hassle. And don’t throw away your hardearned won on the clam restaurants unless you’re a connoisseur. You’re looking at around 120,000 KRW for a simple seafood set at these places, with getting your tongue and lips scalded thrown in for service. Avoid these unless you love the stuff. Yes, it’s true, Busan can still be done on the cheap, but if you’re going there from Seoul you’ll have to spend the night. That’s optional with Eurwangni. And really, how different are beaches, anyway? Most offer the same experience free of charge: gazing out at an expansive sea and marveling at its vastness, wondering about the unique set of circumstances that brought you here and what your next adventure will be. The people at Eurwangni seem to know how to make the best of things. One young couple sitting on the sand in the rain, no blanket, no umbrella, just a can of Pringles, a beer and a promise. A father and son chasing seagulls. Young people flirting, singing. Dozens of shirtless beachgoers swimming in the break despite the spitting rain, the country wind.
HOTELS & RESORTS
EMERGENCY MEDICAL CENTERS
FAMILY & KIDS
American Embassy (02) 397-4114 • 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Novotel Ambassador Gangnam (02) 567-1101 • 603 Yeoksam 1-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Seoul Samsung Hospital 1599-3114 • 50 Irwon-dong, Gangnamgu, Seoul
Canadian Embassy (02) 3783-6000 • (613) 996-8885 (Emergency Operations Center) Jeongdonggil (Jeong-dong) 21, Jung-gu, Seoul
Grand Hilton Seoul (02) 3216-5656 • 353 Yeonhui-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Asan Medical Center 1688-7575 • 88 Olympic-ro 43-gil, Songpa-gu, Seoul
Somerset Palace Seoul (02) 6730-8888 • 85 Susong-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Keimyung University Dongsan Medical Center (053) 250-7167 (7177 / 7187) • 56 Dalseong-ro, Jung-gu, Daegu
British Embassy (02) 3210-5500 • Sejong-daero 19-gil 24, Jung-gu, Seoul Australian Embassy (02) 2003-0100 • 19th fl, Kyobo bldg., 1 Jongno 1-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul Philippine Embassy (02) 796-7387~9 • 5-1 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Spanish Embassy (02) 794-3581 • 726-52 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul French Embassy (02) 3149-4300 • 30 Hap-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
HOTELS & RESORTS Banyan Tree Club & Spa Seoul (02) 2250-8080 • San 5-5, Jangchungdong 2-ga Jung-gu, Seoul
Park Hyatt Seoul (02) 2016-1244 • 606 Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul Lotte Hotel Busan (051) 810-1000 • 772 Gaya-daero, Busanjin-gu, Busan Park Hyatt Busan (051) 990-1244 • 51, Marine City 1-ro, Haeundae-gu, Busan 612-824, Korea
Airlines Korean Air 1588-2001 Asiana Airlines 1588-8000 Lufthansa (02) 2019-0180 Garuda Indonesia (02) 773-2092 • garuda-indonesia.co.kr
EMERGENCY MEDICAL CENTERS
Jeju Air 1599-1500
Gangnam St-Mary’s Hospital 1588-1511 • 222 Banpo-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul
T’way Air 1688-8686
Yonsei Severance Hospital (Sinchon) (02) 2227-7777 • 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
British Airways (02) 774-5511
Seoul National University Hospital 1339 • 28-2 Yeongeon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Delta Airlines (02) 754-1921
Jin Air 1600-6200
Yongsan Intl. School (02) 797-5104 • San 10-213 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Seoul Intl. School (031) 750-1200 • 388-14 Bokjeong-dong, Sujeong-gu, Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do Branksome Hall Asia (02) 6456-8405 • Daejung-eup, Seogipo-si, Jeju Island Daegu Intl. School (053) 980-2100 • 1555 Bongmu-dong, Dong-gu, Daegu \
Dulwich College Seoul Dulwich College Seoul offers an exemplary British-style international education (including IGCSE and IBDP) for over 600 expatriate students aged 2 to 18 from over 40 different countries. 6 Sinbanpo-ro 15-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul, Korea. www.dulwich-seoul.kr email@example.com 02-3015-8500
Cathay Pacific Airways (02) 311-2700
Emirates Airlines (02) 2022-8400
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FAMILY & KIDS Eton House Prep (02) 749-8011 • 68-3 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul A unique British-style Prep School for children of all nationalities from 2-13 years of age. A broad, challenging and innovative curriculum preparing pupils for senior school and life beyond. / www.etonhouseprep.com AMUSEMENT PARKS Everland Resort (031) 320-5000 • 310 Jeondae-ri, Pogokeup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do Lotte World (02) 411-2000 0 • 240 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul Pororo Park (D-Cube city) 1661-6340 • 360-51 Sindorim-dong, Guro-gu, Seoul Children’s Grand Park (zoo) (02) 450-9311 • 216 Neungdong-ro, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul Seoul Zoo (02) 500-7338 • 159-1 Makgye-dong, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do BOOKSTORES What the Book? (02) 797-2342 • 176-2, Itaewon 1-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul • whatthebook.com Located in Itaewon, this English bookstore has new books, used books and children’s books. Kim & Johnson 1566-0549 • B2 fl-1317-20 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
HEALTH Animal hospitals Chunghwa Animal Hospital / Korea Animal Transport (02) 792-7602 • 21-1 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul / www.cwhospital.com
MUSEUM & GALLERIES National Museum of Korea (02) 2077-9000 • 168-6 Yongsandong 6-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul The NMK offers educational programs on Korean history and culture in English and Korean. National Palace Museum of Korea (02) 3701-7500 • 12 Hyoja-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul This museum has a program called Experiencing Royal Culture designed for English teachers to help learn about Joseon royal culture. Seodaemun Museum of Natural History (02) 330-8899 • 141-52 Yeonhui-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul Don’t know where to take your kids on weekends? This museum exhibits a snapshot of the world and animals. National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (02) 2188-6000 • 313 Gwangmyeong-ro, Gwacheon-si, Gyeonggi-do Leeum Samsung Museum of Art (02) 2014-6901• 747-18 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year and Chuseok holidays.
Kumho Museum (02) 720-5114 ORIENTAL MEDICINE • 78 Sagan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Lee Moon Won Korean Medicine Clinic 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed on Mondays. (02) 511-1079 • 3rd fl., Lee&You bldg. 69-5 Gallery Hyundai Chungdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul (02) 734-6111~3 Specializes in hair loss and scalp problems • 22 Sagan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul and offers comprehensive treatments and The first specialized art gallery in Korea and services including aesthetic and hair care accommodates contemporary art. products. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed on Mondays, New Soseng Clinic Year’s Day, Lunar New Year and Chuseok holidays. (02) 2253-8051 • 368-90 Sindang 3-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul Plateau (02) 1577-7595 FITNESS • 50 Taepyung-ro 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul Exxl Fitness 10 a.m.-6 p. m. Closed on Mondays. Gangnam Finance Center, 737 Yeoksamdong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul • www.exxl.co.kr National Museum of Modern and
Hair & Joy Trained at Toni & Guy and Vidal Sassoon Academy in UK Color, Perm, Magic Straight, Treatment and more English Spoken For more info, call Johnny Tel 02.363.4253 Mobile 010.5586.0243 3rd fl. 168-3 Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu
UROLOGY & OB Sewum Urology (02) 3482-8575 • 10th fl., Dongil bldg., 429 Gangnam-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul Tower Urology (02) 2277-6699 • 5th fl. 119 Jongno 3-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul
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Qunohair Gangnam / Apgujeong Branch Tel 02.549.0335 10-6, Dosan-daero 45-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul www.qunohair.com
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DENTAL CLINIC Boston Dental Clinic General dentistry / Periodontics / Orthodontics (02) 3482-0028 • 92-12 5F, Banpo 4-dong (Seorae French Village), Seocho-gu, Seoul
Contemporary Art, Seoul (MMCA SEOUL) (02) 3701-9500 • 30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Daegu Art Museum (053) 790-3000 • 374 Samdeok-dong, Suseong-gu, Daegu Art space for local culture presenting Daegu’s contemporary fine arts and internationally renowned artists.
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COMIC CON Seoul, Kconcept of hip-hop, Music with Pride; Celebrating Pride through Music, Korea's crackdown on international schools, Western...
Published on Jul 18, 2017
COMIC CON Seoul, Kconcept of hip-hop, Music with Pride; Celebrating Pride through Music, Korea's crackdown on international schools, Western...