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KOTESOL National Conference at Sangji University, Wonju

Koreabridge - Tue, 2016-05-24 15:17
  KOTESOL National ConferenceDate:  May 28, 2016 (Saturday)Venue:  Sangji University, WonjuParticipants: 200+ teachers, 40 presenters, 10 overseas visitors for 38 presentations and workshops Hundreds of Korea’s English teachers and scholars will meet in Wonju (Gangwon-do) May 28th for the annual KOTESOL National Conference, held this year at Sangji University. Our ProvincesA teachers’ conference with practical applications, useful experiences, and fresh ideas for teachers of English. The theme of KOTESOL’s 2016 National Conference is “Our Provinces.” According to Conference Chair Michael Free (Gangneung-Wonju National University), provinces is more than just the geography, but includes “the many domains of ELT, such as motivation and assessment, as well as interdisciplinary fields such as the use of art, film, and music, and new concerns, such as an increased awareness of the importance of social justice in education.” KOTESOL’s Wonju conference features 8 hours of presentations, including a plenary session by emerging scholar Theron Muller, and more than 35 other teacher-led sessions. This conference, unlike many in Korea, recognizes the reality that not all Korean students are the same, nor are their teachers or classroom settings. It’s not just “one-size fits all.”As plenary speaker Theron Muller (University of Toyama, Japan) explains, “the act of teaching is deeply personal and also context dependent. One example of this is that almost every time I ask students questions about their interests regarding the direction a class should go in, there is almost never a clear consensus. Given a choice between three equally viable options, I’ll often get pretty even splits in student interest and preference across the three. It’s the same with teaching methods. One thing works in one classroom, but not in another. I think it comes down to the teacher and the particular students in the classroom with them, along with the curriculum and institutional cultures in which that classroom is situated.” Muller evidences this history through his own teaching experience. “About five years ago, I moved from teaching part-time at a number of different private language schools, in addition to adjunct work at colleges and universities, to working full time as an associate professor at the University of Toyama. I often joke that when I was in Nagano, I taught farmers, and they would give me fresh fruit and vegetables as gifts, but now that I teach university students, my typical student gift is power drinks. That said, I approach my current classes no differently from how I approached my classes when I was teaching in Nagano; I view them as places for both me and my students to learn, and I see part of my responsibility as a teacher to think about how to explore the boundaries of what it’s possible for me to teach and for my students to learn given the particular environments we’re working in and perspectives we’re coming from.” Free notes that the “Our” in the title is a powerful statement as well. “The inclusive Our relates to KOTESOL’s motto of “Teachers helping Teachers,” the profession of ELT in general, and of course, our being situated in Korea. It speaks to the building of communities of practice that are so vital to the success of our work.” KOTESOL’s own communities of practice are also known as SIGs (special interest groups), many of which are also meeting at the conference. KOTESOL President Lindsay Herron (Gwangju National University of Education) points out that a new SIG is being kicked off at the national conference: the Social Justice SIG, “which embraces diversity and seeks to empower the powerless, with an aim of promoting inclusion, equity, critical inquiry, and positive social change.” Recent surveys of teachers in Korea indicate that the traditional conferencing model doesn’t suit many teachers, and KOTESOL is addressing these concerns. Michael Free notes that “Teachers have indicated they want more time to discuss what they hear, they want to share with others on the day, they don’t want hours of lectures. Our conference timetable reflects this, with longer breaks, shorter and longer sessions to fit individual preferences, and more socialization. In the same way, we mix some research sessions alongside highly-practical workshops – there’s really something for everyone.” Korea TESOL is perhaps best known as a multicultural teachers’ society, this aspect is enshrined in the group’s constitution and obvious in all aspects of the society’s activities. Nearly one-third of all members are Korean. An interview with Plenary Speaker Theron Muller is available on the website at https://koreatesol.org/nc2016Interview The KOTESOL National Conference rotates across the peninsula, each spring in a different location. The annual KOTESOL International Conference is held each year in Seoul. More than 1200 teachers are expected to attend the autumn international conference this Fall. Korea TESOL (KOTESOL, Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 대한영어교육학회) was founded in 1992, and is the official Korean affiliate of both TESOL International (USA) and IATEFL (United Kingdom) as well as a partner in the Pan Asian Consortium of Language Teaching Associations. KOTESOL has more than 600 teacher-members: 30% are Korean teachers of English and 70% are expatriate teachers in Korea. There are 10 local chapters across the Republic of Korea, from Seoul to Jeju, including Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Gangwon, and Busan. KOTESOL’s overseas members are located in more than 20 countries, from Japan and China to the Philippines and Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Pakistan, Qatar, and more, encompassing roughly 10% of the membership. KOTESOL website:  http://koreatesol.org Learn more about the conference at http://koreatesol.org/nc2016 
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36 Years Later, Foreign Journalists Discuss Covering The 1980 Gwangju Uprising

Koreabridge - Tue, 2016-05-24 07:57
36 Years Later, Foreign Journalists Discuss Covering The 1980 Gwangju

Three foreign journalists who covered the 1980 Gwangju Uprising recently gathered in South Korea to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the event & also spoke at an open forum at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club to discuss both their recent activities in Gwangju & memories of covering the story. Alastair Gale of the Wall Street Journal hosted the event where Bradley Martin of the Baltimore Sun, Donald Kirk of The Observer, & Norman Thorpe of the Asian Wall Street Journal discussed how they traveled from Seoul to Gwangju 36 years ago to report the story to the world.


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 Interview answers, both in written & audio form, have been edited for length & clarity.








The post 36 Years Later, Foreign Journalists Discuss Covering The 1980 Gwangju Uprising appeared first on Korea FM.

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Owl cafes are undoubtedly a trend, but I still dig it

Koreabridge - Tue, 2016-05-24 00:30
Owl cafes are undoubtedly a trend, but I still dig it



Owl cafes are undoubtably a trend, but I still dig it. I like being able to see these really beautiful creatures up close. It costs 1,500¥ an hour which includes one drink (with an extra 200¥ for alcohol). First, you must go in person to book a time slot. Time slots start on the dot at the hour and last for one hour. Each time slot can accommodate up to 20 people, and they do book up quickly. 

The rules are pretty simple; no flash photography and be careful that you only stroke owls gently with the back of your hand. Also, you can’t touch all owls. 

There is a rotation of owls in the cafe. Many are resting or sleeping in their cages, and customers are not allowed to touch them. I assume this ensures that the owls are not too stressed out.

The owl cafe staff is really excited to talk to you about the birds and they’ll even place them on your arm, shoulder, or head. All the birds have a rope attached to them and you are to hold on to that rope at all times when the bird is on you. Sometimes they get the urge to fly and holding that rope is more strenuous than I thought it’d be. A had one owl that really wanted to attack my dangling earrings and shirt strap, so maybe be cautious of how what you wear.

This is the second time I’ve done this, as I went to an owl cafe when I was in Tokyo. I can’t safely say animal cafes are cruelty-free or a good idea, but overall it’s a really fun experience and I feel good about how the owls are treated. However, of course I worry about any animal in captivity since its not in their best interest compared to living in the wild. I’m not sure if these owls could be wild again, and they’re obviously well-cared for now. 

Directions: The cafe is located near Canal City at Nakatsukawabata. To get there, you have to get out at Nakatsukawabata (中津川端) station, take the exit towards Canal City and walk down the Kawabata Shopping Arcade. All the way down, just before you see the escalator to Canal City, you will see the shop. It’s next to a tea shop, which is next to Hana Hostel.

Address: 博多区上川端町4-211, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka, Japan

Hours: Tuesday - Friday 12:00 - 8:00pm, Weekends and holidays: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm. 



About the girl

Hi, I'm Stacy. I am from Portland, Oregon, USA, and am currently living and teaching ESL in Busan, South Korea. Busy getting into lots of adventures, challenging myself, and loving people. Something more than an ethereal will-o-wisp.

Thank you so much for visiting and reading.

Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, LastfmFlickr, and FacebookAsk me anything


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Dear Korea #143: Feeding Homesickness

Koreabridge - Mon, 2016-05-23 15:01
Dear Korea #143: Feeding Homesickness


In case you missed the news last week, I will be selling the first Dear Korea book in Seoul this weekend! Come on down to the High Street Market in Itaewon and have lunch with me!

While this week’s comic may feel like it was sponsored, it totally wasn’t. In all honesty, I tend to spend way too much money while trying to get a taste of home. Never in my life did I think I’d ever be dropping fat stacks on Cheetos that haven’t been covered in sugar.

I’m all for embracing Korean cuisine and everything it has to offer, but when I miss home, there’s very little that can fill that void other than buying a bunch of things that feel familiar.

Hmm. Maybe I do have a problem.

Jen Lee's Dear Korea

This is Jen Lee. She likes to draw.
She also likes green tea.

Got any questions, comments, or maybe even some delicious cookies you want to send through the internet? Feel free to contact us at dearkoreacomic at gmail dot com.

You can also leave comments on the comic’s Facebook Page!


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Entrevista en la radio "Intégrate"

Puentes al Mundo - Sat, 2016-05-21 22:38

52:29 minutes (24.03 MB)

Entrevista en la radio "Intégrate" .Profesor: José Antonio Serrano.

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Featured Events: Weekend of May 20~22 and Beyond

Koreabridge - Fri, 2016-05-20 03:04
Featured Events: Weekend of May 20~22 and Beyond


There's a lot going on this weekend and next. Some of the highlights...
See our event calendar for a complete listing and to post your own

===BUSAN===Art Busan 2016 (International Art Fair) at BexcoRepeats every day until Mon May 23 2016 .Fri, 05/20/2016 - 12:00 2016 The 11th Busan Global Gathering FestivalSat, 05/21/2016 - 10:00 2016 BGV English Flea Market at Busan Global VillageSat, 05/21/2016 - 11:00 Dalmaji Art MarketRepeats every week every Sunday and every Saturday until Sun Dec 25 2016 .Sat, 05/21/2016 - 14:00 Saturday International Meetup near PNUSat, 05/21/2016 - 17:00 Clam Pub Grand Opening!Repeats every day until Sun May 22 2016 .Sat, 05/21/2016 - 19:30 Busan Pride Film Festival 2 @ Gwangan HQSat, 05/21/2016 - 20:00  Red Bottle Acoustic Nights 어쿠스틱 나이츠Sat, 05/21/2016 - 22:00 English Worship Sevice @ Podowon Church in YulliRepeats every week every Sunday until Sat Dec 31 2016 .Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:00 New Philadelphia Church English ServiceRepeats every week until Sat Dec 31 2016 .Sun, 05/22/2016 - 14:00 Learning Survival Korean language group in PNURepeats every week until Sat Dec 31 2016 .Sun, 05/22/2016 - 17:00  Busan Youth Folk Arts Festival at Suyeong Historical ParkRepeats every day until Fri May 27 2016 .Thu, 05/26/2016 - 10:00  The 5th Arab Film Festival at Busan Cinema CenterThu, 05/26/2016 - 18:00 MokTalk - Language Exchange on Thursdays-Repeats every week until Sat Dec 31 2016 except Tue Oct 21 2014.Thu, 05/26/2016 - 19:00 2016 Busan Port FestivalFri, 05/27/2016 - 11:00Haeundae Sand FestivalFri, 05/27/2016 - 12:00 Shakespeare in Busan: The Taming of the ShrewSat, 05/28/2016 - 14:00 New Zealand Wine Festival at Park Hyatt BusanSat, 05/28/2016 - 18:30 Robscenity Final Show at Vinyl UndergroundSat, 05/28/2016 - 21:30  The Queen´s Banquet at Haeundae Grand HotelRepeats every week every Wednesday and every Thursday and every Friday and every Saturday and on the first Sunday until Fri Nov 18 2016 .Fri, 05/20/2016 - 11:30 HangLoose Busan Party Events @Blue Monkey KSURepeats every day every Friday and every Saturday until Wed Jun 01 2016 .Fri, 05/20/2016 - 22:00 Zumba Step at Marine Dance StudioRepeats every week until Mon Jun 27 2016 except Sat Jun 04 2016.Mon, 05/23/2016 - 11:00 


Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival(UMTF)Repeats every day until Sun May 22 2016 .Fri, 05/20/2016 - 12:00 Language exchange meet up in Dongtan, Byeongjeom, Suwon, Osan etcRepeats every week until Sat Dec 31 2016 .Fri, 05/20/2016 - 14:00 Uijeongbu Music Theatre Festival(UMTF)Sat, 05/21/2016 - 12:00  ===SEOUL===

Paragliding in Boryeong

Repeats every week until Sun Dec 18 2016 .Sat, 05/21/2016 - 07:30 Women's Ball Hockey NationalsSat, 06/04/2016 - 14:00 ===GWANGJU===5.18 Gwangju Uprising: 36th Anniversary Historical Trip to GwangjuSun, 05/22/2016 - 09:00===GIMHAE===Volunteer Dog WalkingRepeats every week until Fri Dec 30 2016 .Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:00 ===OTHER===KOTESOL National Conference at Sangji University, WonjuSat, 05/28/2016 - 08:00 Ball Hockey Nationals!!Sat, 06/04/2016 - 08:00


Haeundae Sand Festival

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The Huge, Strange Coalition Opposed to an Obama Apology at Hiroshima

Koreabridge - Thu, 2016-05-19 16:09
The Huge, Strange Coalition Opposed to an Obama Apology at Hiroshima

A G-7 meeting will take place on May 26-27 at Ise, Japan. This has prompted some discussion about whether or not President Obama will and/or should apologize for the August 6, 1945 bomb-drop. I figure he won’t for the reasons sketched in this essay: basically no one wants him to. The coalition opposed to an apology is huge. The below essay is a repost of my May essay for the Lowy Institute.

I did not engage the issue much of whether Obama should apologize, which also part of the reason why he won’t. It is not really clear that the bomb-drop was a war-crime deserving of an apology. That is different than pointing out that the bomb-drop may not have actually ended the war as American mythology insists it does. It probably did not actually convince the Japanese to quit. It was the Soviet entry into the war that finally pushed the cabinet to give in. But that does not mean that the bombing was unjustified, because US policy-makers obviously did not know that at the time. So be sure to distinguish between 1) did the bomb cause Japan to give up? (probably not; it was Stalin); 2) was the bomb drop immoral? (probably not, as the war was still going on and there was good reason to believe a shock weapon like this this might finally convince the junta to give up).

There are two good movie versions of all this too: Japan’s Longest Day (which is scarcely known in the West), and Hiroshima. My full Lowy essay follows the jump.

Later this month, President Obama will attend the 42nd Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Ise, Japan, about half-way between Tokyo and Hiroshima. Following John Kerry’s visit to Hiroshima in early April, the first ever by a sitting US Secretary of State, many speculate that Obama will do the same and could in fact apologize for the atomic bomb drop of August 1945. Kerry apparently found his Hiroshima visit harrowing, and it fits with Obama’s less blustery approach to US foreign policy that he would consider an expression of remorse, perhaps akin to his address to the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009. But if the politics of that speech were contested, this would be worst, as almost no one wants it:

US Conservatives

It is a populist article of faith in the United States that the bomb-drop was necessary; I do not remember this even being controversial in any textbook I read until my senior year of college. Veterans groups and public opinion were powerful enough to shut down a major exhibit on the fiftieth anniversary of the bomb drop in 1995, and no serious public figure I can think of talks about this. Hiroshima is even less controversial than Dresden.

So it is not hard at all to imagine the huge backlash Obama would face at home from Republicans, neoconservatives, talk radio, Fox News, veterans groups, and so on. That this is an election year only worsens the calculus. Donald Trump has fractured the Republican party, but if there is one thing all Republicans agree on, it is that Obama is ‘weak.’ A favorite conservative critique is that Obama apologizes for the US, and a Hiroshima apology would be easily spun as another stop on Obama’s ‘apology tour.’ Were Obama to do this, it would be an election season gift to the struggling GOP, and Hillary Clinton would find herself answering questions on this for weeks. Honestly, this alone is probably enough to derail any Obama effort.

China and the Koreas

Similarly, it takes little imagination to see how badly this would provoke China and the two Koreas. Memories of the Pacific War run deep, and resistance to Japan in that conflict are central legitimizing narratives in all three countries. The communist parties of both China and North Korea were tested in the crucible of that conflict, and the nationalist credibility both earned from having fought the Japanese justified their post-war take-overs. Even today, both continue to use Japan as a villain for nationalist and state-building purposes, with their constant insistence that Japan must remain disarmed and that any military build-up on its part is a precursor to renewed Japanese imperialism. The standard World War II narrative suits these two just fine; indeed, it is still quite alive today for them both.

An apology to Japan by the major contributor to its defeat would throw the moral economy of North Korean and Chinese post-colonial anti-Japanism into doubt. Not only would it suggest that anti-Japanese forces in the war did awful things too, a US apology would explicitly recognize how far Japan has come from the Axis imperialist of the 1940s to today’s liberal, human rights respecting, global governance cooperating democracy. China and North Korea are none of those things of course. It suits neither Pyongyang nor Beijing to see Japan rehabilitated; ghost of the 40s are preferred as politically useful strawmen.

Worse, the anti-Japanese struggle narratives of the North Korean and Chinese communist parties are highly exaggerated. Kim Il Sung and Mao Zedong did far less to defeat the Japanese in their countries than, respectively, Chiang Kai Shek and the Red Army of the Soviet Union. Mao and Kim were quite content to free-ride on these forces, which of course can never be admitted. So any major re-examination of the war’s end, which such an apology would provoke, is unwanted.

Given that South Korea is a democracy, one might have expected a different course, but there too, Japan-as-villain is deeply politically inscribed. The issue of who collaborated with Japan during the colonial period is hugely divisive and continues to roil the country seventy years later, as does the fate of the comfort women. South Korean analysts too tend to see Japanese re-armament as a pre-cursor to imperialism, and there is deep resistance to seeing Japan as rehabilitated or deserving of apologies for wartime events. That Japan cannot quite seem to admit to itself that it started a truly awful conflict only hardens the resistance to apologies to the erstwhile colonialist and imperialist.

Japanese conservatives (yes, really)

One might imagine the nationalist community in Japan to most seek such an apology, but as Jake Adelstein notes, there is little interest there too. A US apology would have domestic ramifications Americans are likely unaware of, but for the Japanese conservatives trying to make Japan a more ‘normal’ partner of the US, the apology would only help the domestic left’s effort to hold onto Japan’s unique pacifist, semi-isolationist foreign policy.

Specifically, an Obama apology would revive discussion about the conflict from which the Japanese pacifist position draws its political and moral strength. Japanese conservatives want to look forward to tension with China or North Korea to justify a more robust military, not look back to a time when the Japanese military rampaged around the region. And an apology by the war’s victor only strengthens pacifist arguments on the futility of the use of force: even in WWII, the ‘good war,’ the good guys acted badly, suggesting that the use of state violence always leads to immorality.

This, curiously enough, aligns with America’s long-time interest that Japan carry a greater burden in the alliance and generally do more, leading to the bizarre outcome that an American president doing this to show America’s maturity would be acting against US interests.

Reconciliation vs Zero-Sum Politics

Obama’s impulse to apologize is morally laudable. This student of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela sees that reconciliation and trust-building are achieved in part through the mutual recognition of error and inappropriate violence. Obama, unlike so many Americans, seems willing to recognize that even the US has done some pretty awful stuff (if he wants an even greater challenge, consider how the US should reckon with the fate of the Native Americans). There is in fact a pretty good case that the bomb drop was unnecessary.

But humility is rare in international politics, intellectually dominated as it is by nationalism, grievance-pandering, prestige-seeking, and demands for recognition. While US and Japanese elites may embrace this post-modern, post-national ethos, that does not apply in modernist, nationalist East Asia where an apology will be read as just another turn in enduring regional competition.

Filed under: China, Japan, Korea (North), Korea (South), Lowy Institute, Media, Nuclear Weapons, World War II

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


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Should South Korea Say Goodbye To Its “Korean Age” System?

Koreabridge - Thu, 2016-05-19 15:20
Should South Korea Say Goodbye To Its “Korean Age” System?

How old are you? Depending on which country you’re in, the answer might be different, & while South Korean civil law has counted age from a person’s date of birth since 1962, the continuing presence of the system commonly referred to as “Korean age” often leads to confusion, & many are now asking if the system should go away entirely. Korea FM‘s Chance Dorland spoke with Korean Studies professors Ingyu Oh & Michael Hurt to learn how “Korean age” is calculated & the arguments being made to keep, or remove, the system.

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 Interview answers, both in written & audio form, have been edited for length & clarity.









The post Should South Korea Say Goodbye To Its “Korean Age” System? appeared first on Korea FM.

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Vance Stevens and Nellie Deutsch present Giving Voice to Teachers in Connected Networks - live from TESOL Baltimore

Webheadsinaction.org - Thu, 2016-05-19 08:23
Thu April 7, 2016 - 2000 UTC / GMT What was this about? 


Nellie Deutsch and Vance Stevens will demonstrate the processes involved in connecting and allowing teachers from around the world to share their educational beliefs and expertise through webinars. The demonstration will focus on how the projects interconnect. The on-site participants will learn to engage in online conversations with teachers at a distance.


Find our slides here, and at the QR code link at left



Vance will be webcasting in Google+ Hangout on Air (streamed / recorded at video embed above)


YouTube link: https://youtu.be/F83Svw3nPGI


Nellie will be webcasting on WizIQ live



Find more information at


Find more information on this and other events of this nature at http://tinyurl.com/learning2gether

Find the larger context of this post here



While watching, you can interact with participants in the HoA in the real-time chat below


How this works at show time

If space is available (up to 10 people) you can join us in the HoA directly at its live link

The live link was posted here at show time

You can watch the stream at the embed above, and also chat with us live in real time if you wish

  • Join the conversation and catch the stream on the Google+ event page: 
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2016 The 11th Busan Global Gathering Festival

Koreabridge - Thu, 2016-05-19 07:28




About the event, The biggest annual multi-cultural festival in the city is going to be held for an 11th time on May 21st at Busan Citizens park. Come and Enjoy World Cultural performances, World Arts & Crafts and Foods, and Flea Markets from many different countries.

     ★ Outline

  •  Date & Time  : May 21st saturaday, 10:00-17:00
  • Venue : Busan Citizens Park
  • Size : Approximately 100 exhibitors representing 30 countries
  • Visitors : Approximately 30,000 people
  • Host : Busan Metropolitan City, Busan Foundation for International Cooperation, Busan Immigration Office 

   ★ Program

  • Opening Parade
  • World Arts & Crafts and Foods, World Cutural Performances
  • Global Flea Markets
  • Overseas Sister Cities and Domestic Performances
  • Traditional Culture Experience



poster1.jpg poster2.jpg
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Gamseong Butcher’s and Yangjae Flower Market

Koreabridge - Thu, 2016-05-19 05:14
Gamseong Butcher’s and Yangjae Flower Market

Last week, my friend and I tried to eat steak. Well, we did eat steak, in fact. But it somehow still felt like a failure. I’d invited her around my way for dry aged meat and then couldn’t find the note I’d scribbled down about the restaurant I was thinking of. At the last minute, I did a quick Naver search and came up with the Butcher’s Cut on the main drag between Itaewon and Hannam.

It wouldn’t have felt like a failure had we paid 30,000 won for the steak instead of 50,000, or if their description of the steak as dry aged hadn’t been grandiose at best and flat out fraud at worst.

At any rate, it left me hankering for a properly dry aged hunk of meat, so yesterday I hauled myself down to Yangjae to see a man about a steak.

Someday I’m going to get up the nerve to take photos in public properly, I promise. As it was, I was nose to nose with the butchers in the tiny shop and only managed to snap a few sneaky frames from the side. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask them if it would be alright to take some photos, as we spent a good while just chatting about the meat while they gently fished for compliments and I eagerly supplied them.

They have some incredible sounding specials throughout the week, including wine and gochujang (fermented red chili pepper paste) marinated pork and wine and soy sauce marinated pork on Mondays, coconut donkas (breaded pork cutlets) on Tuesdays and tomato stew on Saturdays (the last one is new since the last time I’d been there), but I somehow seem to always end up there on a Wednesday.

I go for the 40-day dry aged T- and L-bone steak.

This bad boy comes in at 458 grams and cost only 40,000 won. I got two. Part of the reason the steaks are so cheap is because Gamseong specializes in lean meat and uses grades 2 and 3 beef. The owner of the shop prefers a lower fat content for dry aging. (They do offer higher grade pork, however.) He says he knows some people will avoid the shop because of the lower grade meat, but that he’s just decided to go ahead and do things his way anyway. I personally don’t put loads of stock into the grading system. Grass-fed beef, for example, is lower in fat and often lacks the marbling needed to get the highest ratings. That doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Gamseong is far from the only specialty, upscale butcher in Seoul — there seem to be new ones popping up every month, but Gamseong are my guys. If you ask (or often even if you don’t), they will happily tell you exactly how each cut should be cooked, for how long (and I mean, in great detail) and suggest a recipe or marinade that goes well with that particular cut. They even wrap my meat with an ice pack to see it makes it home safely after the hour-long bus journey.

Since this post is kind of brief and light on photos, and since I automatically associate Gamseong Butcher’s with the Yangjae Flower Market, I thought I’d tack on a few photos from yesterday’s visit. The market is only 15 minutes by foot from the butcher, so I always hit both in one go. The guys at Gamseong must think I’m a lunatic because I always show up hauling an armload of cut flowers and plants, but I’d rather haul my flowers across town in the heat of the day than do it the other way around and risk any harm coming to my meat.

The flower market is one of my favorite places, more for the rows of greenhouses that harbor endless floor-to-ceiling rows of live plants than the basement full of beautiful cut flowers, actually.  A stroll through the densely packed stalls stuffed full of cacti, orchids, hanging air plants and jungle trees with the sunlight streaming in from above is an absolute sensory overload, in the best way possible.

This morning, B casually mentioned the possibility of buying some land in his mother’s hometown down south, “for the future,” and I told him not to tempt me. For now, an early afternoon walk through the flower market and along the stream that runs through Yangjae Citzens’ Forest right beside it will just have to do.

Gamseong Butcher’s
서울시 서초구 양재동 언남길 255-6
255-6 Eunnam-gil, Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul

Monday-Saturday 9:30am-9pm
Closed Sundays

Yangjae Flower Market
서울시 서초구 양재동 232
232 Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul

Fresh Flower Wholesale Market
Monday-Saturday 12am-1pm
Closed Sundays

Fresh Flower Stalls
Monday-Saturday 1am-3pm
Closed Sundays

Live Plant Vendors
Monday-Sunday 7am-7pm
(The two buildings alternate closing every other Sunday, but there will always be something open.)

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Follow the River North

Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.

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Mugwort Magic and Korean Twisted Donuts

Koreabridge - Wed, 2016-05-18 03:08
Mugwort Magic and Korean Twisted Donuts

Mugwort is a magical plant. The Romans used to stick it in their shoes to protect them from exhaustion on long journeys by foot, and in medieval Europe, it was used to ward off evil spirits — in Germany, it is sometimes called St. John’s plant, because it is believed that John the Baptist wore a girdle made of mugwort to protect him on his voyage into the wilderness. It had its practical uses, as well. It was a common ingredient in many beverages, including beer in place of hops.

It is still used in East Asia (including Korea) to ward off a variety of illnesses that can be summed up as general malaise. It is rolled into a stick that is burned (like sage by new-agers in the West), placed on acupuncture needles or ground into a fine fluff and burned on the skin of the sufferer. It is also used to make a variety of soups and rice cakes — most of the green rice cakes you buy here have either been flavored with mugwort or spinach.

But like all good magic, it has its dangerous side. Too much mugwort can be poisonous.

Folk medicine has its questionable aspects, but I tend to believe that there may be something to it when a particular ingredient has been lauded for its healing properties in both the East and the West for centuries, if not millennia. It’s still a bit early for fully grown mugwort, which is harvested mid-summer, but the young plants have been appearing in the markets here since April. It’s sold in huge bundles, which I can never manage to get through all in one go, so after using what I needed, I was still left with a giant pile. I thought about rice cakes, but me and rice flour are still not getting along so well, so I decided to make Korean kkwabaegi (twist) donuts instead.

There was a little street stand that sold these donuts on my walk home from school in my old neighborhood in Incheon. The smell of frying dough wafted down the length of the street, and by the time you got to the stand, you were helpless. You can also make these donuts with rice flour, which I think makes them nicer, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I opted for a wheat flour version instead.

Mugwort has a strong, biting flavor, a rough, abrasive texture and extremely potent aromatic qualities. I wanted to give the donuts a little of the first, none of the second and a lot of the third, so I ground the mugwort up in my food processor and infused the milk with it.

Kneading dough is one of my favorite things to do, but I broke a sweat while kneading yesterday for the first time this year. It’s unfortunate that the conditions that make dough rise the best are the same ones that make pulling it together less pleasant.

But if the yeast is happy, I guess I’m happy. And the yeast has been very happy in my kitchen lately. My sourdough starter bubbled up out of its jar earlier this week, and the rise you see above happened in less than an hour.

In fact, the dough was rising so quickly that I had to rush to get through the shaping and get them into the hot oil. By the time I got the last donut rolled and twisted, the first one has begun to over-rise and untwist.

Big, fat donuts, golden-brown and crispy on the outside and light green and spongy on the inside. The flavor was just barely there, but when I tore one open fresh out of the oil to be sure they were cooking through, the smell of mugwort wafted up and filled the area of the kitchen around the stove instantly.

I was only sorry B wasn’t home to try them while they were still hot, but he was happy enough with the baker’s dozen that greeted him when he got home.

PrintMugwort Twist Donuts

Yield: 12 donuts

Mugwort flavored donuts, twisted and fried, just like the ones sold at street stalls and in bakeries all over Korea.


  • 1 3/4 cups finely chopped mugwort
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, for topping.


  1. Finely chop the mugwort, or run it through the food processor until it is releasing its liquid. Heat the milk in a saucepan over low medium heat and stir in the mugwort. Reduce the heat to low and stir the milk continuously for about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. When the milk is still warm but cool enough that you can put your finger in it for 30 seconds without feeling any discomfort, strain out the mugwort and dissolve first the sugar and then the yeast into it. Let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes until it is frothy on top and nearly room temperature. Add the butter and then the egg, mixing as you go.
  3. Combine the salt and flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the milk and yeast mixture and mix with your hands until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Lightly grease the dough with olive oil and put it in a covered bowl to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about an hour).
  4. When the dough has risen, dump it out onto a lightly floured surface, flour your hands and divide the dough into 12 balls. One by one, roll the balls through your hands until the dough is long and thin (a little over than a foot long). Pinch both ends of the dough together and hold it in the air while using your other hand to twist it around four times, starting from the pinched end. Set the donuts on a floured surface and allow the donuts to rise until they've nearly doubled in size again (about 20-30 minutes).
  5. While the dough is rising, fill a large wok or deep frying pan with at least 3 inches of cooking oil. Heat the oil on high until it sizzles and pops when a drop of water is added. Put the topping sugar into a large, shallow bowl. Cover a large plate with paper towels to absorb the oil from the donuts when they come out of the pan. Carefully place the donuts into the oil one at a time, making sure not to overcrowd the pan (I was only able to do two at a time without them touching). When the donuts have turned dark golden-brown on one side (about 2-3 minutes), turn them over and let them fry until they are well browned on the other. Remove the donuts to the paper towel and let them rest for a couple of minutes before tossing them in the sugar. The donuts are best eaten hot but will keep for three to four days.

The post Mugwort Magic and Korean Twisted Donuts appeared first on Follow the River North.

Follow the River North

Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.

Books & Stuff    Cafés & Shops     Korean Food & Ingredients      Personal     Recipes       Restaurants & Bars

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Best Summer Korean Food in Korea

Koreabridge - Sun, 2016-05-15 03:37
Best Summer Korean Food in Korea

It’s that time of year again! The days are getting longer (and hotter!), which means you have more time to stay awake and take advantage of the extra sunlight. My personal recommendation is to use the extra time to chow down on some delicious Korean summertime cuisine, because there will be no shortage of it in the months to come.

Whether you’re in the mood for a chilled, savory entrée or a refreshing frozen dessert, there’s something for everybody. Read on for some of our favorite summer Korean food and enjoy snacking the season away!


Summer Korean Food #1: Samgyetang

Photo credit: http://koreanbapsang.com

Samgyetang is a dish that features a whole chicken (yes, you read that correctly) marinated in hot broth and stuffed with various nuts, vegetables, and herbs. Although it seems counterintuitive to start a list of summer Korean dishes with a hot and heavy meal like samgyetang, Korean diners enjoy this savory dish to offset the effects that heavy sweating have on the body. It’s no secret that hot summers mean a ton of sweat, and the process of sweating depletes the body of electrolytes that keep us feeling alert and ready to tackle the day. That’s where samgyetang comes in! The next time you’ve had a long, hot day, treat yourself to a bowl of samgyetang to reset your internal thermostat and start feeling like yourself again.


Summer Korean Food #2: Mulhui (물회)

Photo credit: http://zenkimchi.com

What’s better than sashimi, you ask? A chilled soup full of spicy sashimi! The recipe will vary from restaurant to restaurant because all different types of seafood can be used to give this dish flavor, but it’ll always be cold, a delight for your tastebuds, and perfect for a scorching summer day. If you’re a fan of spice and seafood, order a bowl of mulhui and get some relief from the summer heat!

 Summer Korean Food #3: Patbingsu (팥빙수)

Photo credit: http://www.maangchi.com

Looking for something on the sweeter side? Try a bowl of patbingsu! Patbingsu, a dish consisting of shaved ice topped with berries, sweet red beans, and ice cream, is one of the most popular ways to cool down during the hot Korean summer.

Patbingsu is on most Korean menus, and you’ll see a bunch of interesting variations featuring different flavors like mango and coffee. Give patbingsu a try the next time your sweet tooth is acting up, and be sure to let us know what your favorite variation is in the comments below!


Summer Korean Food #4: Naengmyeon (냉면)

Photo credit: http://koreanoodles.com

Naengmyeon literally translates to “cold noodles,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like! This popular summer Korean food is made of thin, long noodles made from buckwheat and vegetables like potato and sweet potato. Naengmyeon is served with a zesty stock, and sliced cucumber, pear, and radish are often added for additional flavor and crunch. Don’t let the chilled part fool you — the broth is made from chilled beef or chicken stock, so it’s a hearty dish that will fill you up. The next time you’re out for a fun summertime lunch with friends, give naengmyeon and see why it’s such a classic!


Summer Korean Food #5: Jjolmyeon (쫄면)

Photo credit: http://blogsigan.wordpress.com

If you’re a fan of spice, look no further! Jjolmyeon is light, spicy dish that consists of chilled noodles, an optional hardboiled egg, and julienned vegetables like carrot and cucumber. This dish is perfect as a light summertime snack, as it’s much lighter than naengmyeon due to the absence of a thick meat broth. The noodles in this dish are notorious for being chewy and a bit tricky to eat, so be sure to cut them before enjoying this spicy snack or you’ll be in for a surprise!


Summer Korean Food #6: DalkKalguksu (닭칼국수)

Photo credit: http://www.maangchi.com

DalkKalguksu is a classic Korean take on chicken noodle soup. Similar to samgyetang, dalkkalguksu features chicken that has been seasoned to perfection in a hot, savory broth, served with hearty noodles. Most variations of dalkkalguksu feature zucchini and green onions tossed with vinegar, brightening up the dish and making it a summertime favorite.

Although dalkkalguksu isn’t a chilled dish, it’s popular for the same reason that samgyetang is popular: dalkkalguksu is meant to help relieve the negative effects of sweating and summer fatigue. Order this crowd pleaser after your next day in the sun and you’ll see why Korean diners say this dish helps them survive the summer!


Summer Korean Food #7: Jangeo Gui (장어구이)

Photo credit: http://www.eatinkorea.com

If you’re an adventurous eater, jangeo gui is the dish for you! Jangeo gui, or grilled eel, is a popular summertime snack rich in vitamins and minerals that will keep your body in tip top condition this summer. Although the idea of eating eel is a little intimidating, the flavor is intensely delicious and can’t be found elsewhere! Put your fears aside and try some jangeo gui the next time your friends are grilling it up for dinner this summer. You won’t regret it!


Summer Korean Food #8: Korean Ice Cream (아이스크림)

Photo credit: http://vegginginchungju.blogspot.com

We’ve been saving the best for last! Korean ice cream is both similar and different to the ice cream in Western countries. It’s found in convenience stores and grocery stores alike, so you should have no problem locating some frozen tasty treats this summer. However, some types of Korean ice cream are like nothing you’ve ever seen before! Take Samanco, for example – Samanco is a fish-shaped waffle treat with vanilla ice cream and red bean paste sandwiched in the middle (yes, you read that right). Step outside of your comfort zone and give some of the more unique Korean ice cream desserts a try! They’re super inexpensive at most shops, so your ice cream adventure won’t break the bank.


Hopefully you feel more prepared for the scorching months ahead of us after reading this list! Be sure to try all of these delicious dishes before they become a bit harder to find as we get into the fall and winter months. Did we forget your favorite summer Korean food? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  


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Educational Technology and Education Conferencesf or June to December 2016, Edition #35

EdTechTalk - Fri, 2016-05-13 01:09


Educational Technology and Education Conferences for June to December 2016, Edition #35

Prepared by Clayton R. Wright, crwr77 at gmail.com, May 11, 2016

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Chaebol 101: An Introduction to South Korea’s Corporate Oligarchy (The Korea File)

Koreabridge - Thu, 2016-05-12 13:08
Chaebol 101: An Introduction to South Korea’s Corporate Oligarchy


Download mp3

University of Michigan PhD Candidate Michael Prentice interned for a year at a Seoul-area corporation, conducting semi-covert academic research on the unique corporate culture of South Korea. 

Here, he discusses the semantics, politics and evolution of the word ‘Chaebol’, the origins of post-Korean War corporate and economic development in the country as well as society’s fascination and obsession with the behaviour and excesses of its ruling oligarchy. 

This is the first of a 3-part conversation.

Music on this episode is from김연숙 ‘s 1987 single ‘그날’.

Photo: New Samsung HQ in San Jose, CA
Credit: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2015/09/25/take-a-tour-of-the-new-samsung.html

   The Korea File

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Korean Alcohol: 7 Drinks You Need to Try!

Koreabridge - Thu, 2016-05-12 06:43
Korean Alcohol: 7 Drinks You Need to Try!

When you think of Korea, what do you think of? K-Pop, kimchi, and Korean barbeque? What about alcohol? Korea is home to a wide variety of interesting (and delicious!) alcoholic concoctions that make enjoying a night out drinking with friends anything but boring.

Put down the beer, and read on for a list of must-try Korean alcoholic beverages that you should incorporate into your next evening out! Bottoms up!


Korean Alcohol #1: Soju

Photo credit: http://obsev.com

It doesn’t get more Korean than soju, a quintessential Korean alcohol. That being said, Koreans aren’t the only ones who love soju – believe it or not, it’s the most widely consumed type of alcohol in the world!

Soju pairs well with a wide variety of popular Korean dishes, so it is considered by many to be a staple for a great, well-rounded dinner. However, be careful before you pour your third or fourth glass – soju is commonly 19-25% alcohol, so it is a much higher proof than beer and wine. Don’t let that scare you away, though! The distinct, sharp taste of soju is popular for a reason. Stop and pick up a bottle before your next dinner party and you’ll see what all the buzz is about!


Korean Alcohol #2: Bokbunja

Time for a quick wine lesson! As I’m sure you’re aware, wine is made from grapes, and the different flavors in different types of wine come from manipulating the fermenting process to enhance different properties of the grapes’ flavor. So, what would happen if a fruit like blackberries was used instead of grapes? A delicious beverage called bokbunja is what happens!

That being said, the similarities between bokbunja and wine stops there. Bokbunja has a much higher alcohol content than a standard glass of red or white wine – a glass of bokbunja averages 15-19% alcohol, and a glass of wine averages between 9-16%. Due to the high acidity of the blackberries, bokbunja is a delight to drink with lightly seasoned seafood dishes.

Bokbunja also has a less-known property that makes it a huge hit – it’s been linked to a rise in testosterone in men, making it a delicious aphrodisiac. Pick up a bottle of this tart Korean alcohol the next time you’re cooking fish, crab, or octopus for your date and you’ll be in for a treat!


Korean Alcohol #3: Maeshilju

Image source: http://petitworldcitizen.wordpress.com

Are you a fan of sweet dessert wines? If so, maeshilju is the drink for you! Maeshilju is a super sweet Korean alcohol made from green plums fermented with a sweetener, like light brown sugar or honey. The alcohol percentage of this drink is sitting at a decent 14%, which means you’ll be able to enjoy a few glasses without falling over or running into walls.

Maeshilju doesn’t pair particularly well with dinner because its sweetness can be overpowering, but a glass after a meal makes for a fantastic dessert. Break out some maeshilju the next time you’re hosting a dinner party and would like to bring the dining experience to a well-rounded finish for your friends or family. They won’t be disappointed!


Korean Alcohol #4: Makgeolli

Photo credit: http://rubyclicks.blogspot.com

Makgeolli is the original Korean alcohol – it’s much older than the other alcohols listed on this list, but it’s still a favorite in Korean bars and restaurants for good reason!

Makgeolli is a think, sweet rice wine that is sweet and tangy with a touch of carbonation to pull the drink together. In recent years, makgeolli has started becoming popular with the younger crowd when paired with a fruit cocktail to make it slightly sweeter. There are a ton of different types of makgeolli available for purchase – some renditions add additional flavors, while some renditions pride themselves on using pure, organic ingredients for an all-around smooth and unbeatable taste (at a slightly higher price). Shop around and find the makgeolli that you prefer, and take part in a tradition almost as old as Korea itself!


Korean Alcohol #5: Dongdongju

Photo credit: http://www.tripadvisor.com

Dongdongju is a less-popular (but still delicious!) variation of makgeolli. Makgeolli is made from rice, and as a result is thick and can be full of sediment if it’s unfiltered. Dongdongju is its unfiltered cousin – your standard glass of dongdongju will have rice particles in the bottom of the glass, adding an interesting texture to an already interesting drink. Aside from the difference in thickness and texture as a result of the filtering, dongdongju has a very similar flavor profile to makgeolli, so if you’re a fan of makgeolli give dongdongju a try!


Korean Alcohol #6: Sansachun

Photo credit: http://www.twitter.com

Sansachun has been considered a “medicinal alcohol” for over 400 years – supposedly, sansachun is the drink to pour when you’re stressed or anxious, as it’s supposed to calm the nerves and soothe the body. Sign me up!

Brewed from hawthorn berries, sansachun is slightly sour and is said to enhance appetite if it’s consumed prior to eating, which makes it a popular pre-dinner drink. Use sansachun to unwind the next time you’ve had a long day, and let us know what you think in the comments below!


Korean Alcohol #7: Cheongju

Cheongju is literally “clear liquor” in Korean, and true to its name, it’s a clear Korean rice wine. Think of it as a very mild, slightly sweet soju. The difference in taste comes from being fermented at least twice (rather than once), and the difference in the fermentation process produces a mild, sweet beverage that appeals to many drinkers who find the taste of soju too intense or unpalatable. If you gave soju a shot and you didn’t know what all the fuss was about, try cheongju for a dialed back drinking experience that you’ll be sure to enjoy!


Getting to know the food and drink of a particular culture can be intimidating if you don’t have a point of reference. Hopefully this list helps you navigate the Korean drinking scene and have some fun! Do you have a favorite Korean liquor that wasn’t on this list? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!


Main Photo: Graham Hills

Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn

Korean lessons   *  Korean Phrases    *    Korean Vocabulary *   Learn Korean   *    Learn Korean alphabet   *   Learn Korean fast   *  Motivation    *   Study Korean  


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The Korean Right Got Crushed Last Month – Why?

Koreabridge - Sun, 2016-05-08 07:54
The Korean Right Got Crushed Last Month – Why?

The following post is the original English language version of a story I wrote for Newsweek Japan (relevant issue to the left) a few weeks ago on the South Korean.

The results of last month’s South Korean National Assembly went sharply against my prediction that the left would get routed. It serves me right for actually making a clear claim; next time I’ll stick to banalities to elide accountability. And I suppose I can take solace in that just about everyone was surprised at how well the Left did, including the left itself.

My logic in the prediction piece was straight out of political science: Duverger’s law predicts that partisan fragmentation – the fracturing of the Korean left’s votes across 3 parties – would throw lot of plurality seats, which are 82% of the National Assembly, to the right. This clearly did not happen. In fact, the new center-left People’s Party drew from the conservative New Frontier party instead of the traditional left-wing Democratic party. This is a huge surprise, and should be a huge red flag that Park Geun-Hye is not a popular president. Indeed, an early lame-ducking of her administration may be the most important outcome of the election.

The full essay follows the jump.



South Korea’s Saenuri Party (새누리 – ‘New Frontier’) was delivered a crushing defeat in the country’s legislative elections this past Wednesday, losing 30 seats and its majority in the legislature. It is the first time that the ruling government party of Korea has lost an election in sixteen years. The main opposition party, the Minjoo Party of Korea (더민주 – ‘Together Democratic Party’) now has a plurality of seats at 123 to Saenuri’s 122. Anh Cheol-Soo, former Minjoo presidential candidate and parliamentarian, defected late last year and led his newly-created Gookmin Party (국민 – ‘People’s Party’) to a better-than-expected 38 seats. The Jeongi Party (정의 – ‘Justice Party’) and independents snapped up the rest, winning 6 and 11 seats respectively. President Park Geun-Hye will have to navigate a hung parliament for the remaining 20 months of her presidency.

An Unexpected Defeat

The results caught many off guard. The left has long been plagued by infighting and factionalism, and frequently unable to mount effective opposition to Park’s agenda. Anh’s high-profile departure from Minjoo late last year led many to conclude that the left-leaning voters would split between Minjoo and Gookmin, generating unexpected victories for the Saenuri. Many expected Saenuri to win seats where a combined left-wing vote would have defeated the right. Analysts widely expected left-wing factionalism to ‘throw’ 10-20 seats to the right.

Further, virtually every poll had Saenuri leading the opposition by double digits. Within her own party, Park’s approval ratings are an impressive 78%. Further, South Korea’s aging demographics favor the right: 40.9% of eligible Korean voters are in the forties and fifties, the vast majority of whom are faithful Saenuri voters. They put a higher emphasis on national security and foreign policy than younger voters, and national security is more salient than ever on the peninsula following repeated provocations by the North this year, including a fourth nuclear test in January and multiple missile launches.

So What Happened?

The 300-person South Korean National Assembly is a unicameral mix of both single-member, first-past-the-post (FPP) seats and proportional representation (PR) seats. The FPP seats are the 246 geographic districts in which the candidate with the most votes wins. However, Korean voters cast a second ballot as well, for the party of their choice, to allocate the remaining 46 seats. Those seats are distributed among the parties proportional to their percentages on the second ballot. Japan has a similar dual-voting system, but a two-house parliament, while South Korea has only one.

Anh Cheol-soo’s Gookmin Party sought to take advantage of the small but tempting share of PR seats, and this strategy seems to have paid off. Several polls predicted Gookmin winning less than 25 seat, made up mostly of second-ballot selections poached from the main opposition Minjoo. But Gookmin dramatically exceeded expectations by sweeping nearly all the FPP seats in Korea’s southwest, a traditional Minjoo stronghold that supported Minjoo by a staggering 9-1 margin in the most recent presidential election. Anh’s start-up party fared well in the PR seats too, with many Korean voters selecting the party after voting for a Saeruni or Minjoo candidate on the first ballot.



Vote Totals – Korea Legislative Elections 2016



+ / – 2012













Anh’s success, and Saeruni’s defeat, were buoyed by a high turnout of young voters: a 4.4% and 7.7% increase among voters in their twenties and thirties, respectively. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high of 12.5%, more than double the overall national rate. Those fortunate enough to have jobs struggle with low wages and high household debt, which topped $1 trillion at the end of the 2015, nearly the highest in the world. The International Monetary Fund recently downgraded Korea’s growth forecast to 2.7%, below the global average and far below what Korea experienced during its rapid industrialization in the second half of last century. Exports remain sluggish amid a Chinese cool-off, with staple industries like petrochemicals and shipbuilding hit the hardest. All this appeared to drive younger voters to Ahn’s centrist alternative.

On the political front, Saenuri has publicly suffered from the government’s highly controversial deal with Japan regarding the comfort women. Park demanded the issue be resolved by the close of 2015, and many Koreans feel she got a poor deal. The negotiations occurred in secret, which upset many activists. And the final deal required that Korea would no longer pursue this issue in international fora, further upsetting those NGO and civil society groups. Intense anxiety over the Japanese colonial period is deeply woven into the fabric of South Korean national identity, and it is likely the deal helped ignite an anti-Park backlash at the polls.

Ramifications, Domestic and Foreign

At home, Korea now faces gridlock. The combined left (Minjoo + Gookmin + Justice + assorted independent candidates) controls a quite unexpected 57% of the seats of the National Assembly. That is a huge majority, especially if these parties can work in concert. They easily have the muscle to block President Park’s initiatives and launch their own. Park in turn could veto any left-leaning legislation, and the National Assembly would then need a 2/3 majority to override her veto. Saenuri still has enough votes in the Assembly to prevent veto-overrides. In short, Korea is now entering a period of ‘divided government,’ in which the legislature and executive are controlled by different parties, neither of whom can overcome institutional checks and balances to govern coherently. This political stasis will generate little new legislation and accelerate Park’s natural slide into a lame-duck. South Korea’s next presidential election is in late 2017. Normally Korean presidents diminish in the months beforehand, but Park now faces 20 months of immobility.

Abroad, the left in Korea has traditionally been more friendly toward North Korea and tougher on Japan and the United States. But the executive runs foreign policy in Korea, and in general Asian democracies tolerate far less legislative intervention in foreign policy-making than Western democracies, especially the US. Radical swings are therefore unlikely. But there are two areas where foreign-domestic intersection will give the left-bloc leverage:

The Comfort Women Deal


Last year’s deal was negotiated solely by the right and in secret. So the acid test of its acceptance is whether the South Korean left will seek to undue it now that it is back in power for the first time in years. At the moment, opponents of the deal can, fairly or not, reject it as elite, backroom arrangement foisted on an unsympathetic public by a pro-Japanese conservative right-wing. But now that the left is politically relevant again, it has the opportunity to return to the deal, seek to alter its terms, reject the constraint to no longer speak internationally against Japan on the comfort women, and so on. If this happens, the old status quo of recent years’ acrimony could easily return. But if the left ignores the issue, that would tacitly give bipartisan approval to the deal. The deal would then graduate from being that of one party or one president to a national consensus broadly unchallenged by the main voices in Korean politics. That would be a huge step if it occurs, and this is the primary issue in Japan-Korea relations to watch in the next twelve months.

Missile Defense


As I argued in this space in the April 12 issue, geopolitical tension in Northeast Asia is increasingly becoming ‘missilized.’ Drones, rockets, and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly becoming as important as aircraft carriers or destroyers. North Korea’s nuclear program particularly captures this evolution. Defending against these UAVs will require missile defense in both Japan and South Korea. In Japan, this is less controversial, but in South Korea, the left has fought the emplacement of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Now they have an unexpected opportunity to block it, by refusing to pay or allocate locations for it. Should the left not raise the issue, that would signal, as it would regarding the comfort women deal, bipartisan support for missile defense that has hitherto been lacking.

Conversely, should the left seek to re-negotiate the comfort women deal, roll back the emerging consensus on missile defense, or seek to engage North Korea as ‘partner’ (as it did in the past), major domestic political strife would ensue and international questions about Korean treaty commitments would arise.

Until recently, the South Korean left suffered electorally for its perceived friendliness toward North Korea. Minjoo leader Moon Jae-In, for example, did not admit until 2015 that North Korea sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in 2010. Much as western liberal and socialist parties struggled with how to approach the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Korea’s left has never quite been comfortable defining North Korea as an enemy. The ensuing perception that the left was weak on national security cost it repeatedly at the polls, particularly as North Korea’s spiraling nuclear and missile programs have made it ever clearer that North Korea is not a partner for peace. Recently however, the South Korea left has sounded tougher on the North, admitted that its nuclear program is a great threat, and hinted that THAAD may be necessary. These concessions improved its electability and opened the path for it to campaign on domestic issues against President Park, where its real strength lies. It did not win last week on foreign policy, and it would be foolish to throw away this unexpected victory on a policy course it could not implement easily anyway.

The left would face similar damage to its restored political credibility if it re-opens the comfort women deal. The deal is not popular, and for several years, ambitious Korean politicians may be tempted to attack it for political gain. But like it or not, the deal was signed by a democratically elected South Korean president. This gives the arrangement a legitimacy that the 1965 Japan-Korea normalization deal does not have, because that treaty was signed by South Korea dictator Park Chung-Hee (the current president’s father). To pull out now would cast obvious doubt on Korea’s ability to stick to other high-stakes diplomatic deals, raising all sorts of credibility issues in future negotiations of whatever kind. This point is often mentioned in the Korea media commentary as well. Korean op-ed pages broadly thought the deal was too generous to Japan, but most of them have noted that Korea must now stick to its word. There was a great deal of global attention when the deal was finally struck. Many partners of both Japan and Korea, especially the United States, were visibly relieved the issue was finally resolved. The left may find political gain in re-opening it, and desperate left-wing presidential candidates may be tempted to use it next year, but the diplomatic consequences would be high.

The South Korean left is now in the widely unanticipated position of blocking executive actions in a country with a strong tradition of executive-driven politics. This is atypical for Korea and Asian democracies generally. The left’s factionalization has brought it down in the past. Now it has the surprising opportunity to turn a protest vote into a governing mandate.

Filed under: Domestic Politics, Elections, Korea (South), Media, Newsweek

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


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Buddha’s Birthday in Korea

Koreabridge - Sat, 2016-05-07 11:10
Buddha’s Birthday in Korea

Ready for some spring celebration?

May is known in Korea as the month of holidays as it contains Children’s Day, Parent’s Day, Teacher’s Day, and Buddha’s birthday. However, out of these, only Children’s Day and Buddha’s birthday are national holidays, or ‘red days’ as they are known.

Today, we’ll tell you all about Buddha’s birthday!

When is Buddha’s Birthday in Korea

Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on different days depending on the country that celebrates it. Buddha’s birthday in Korea falls on the eighth day of the fourth Lunar month. This means that the actual date of the holiday changes from year to year. In 2016 it falls on May 14th (which, to the disappointment of workers across the country, happens to be a Saturday), in 2017 it falls on May 3rd, and in 2018 it falls on May 22nd.

The Korean word for Buddha’s birthday is 석가 탄신일 (seokga tanshinil), although it is sometimes also known as 부처님 오신 날 (bucheonim oshin nal) which translates roughly as ‘the day when Buddha came’.

Buddhism in Korea

Buddhism is, along with Christianity, one of the two main religions of South Korea. As a result, there are temples all around the country where you can visit to learn more about the religion. It is also possible to do ‘temple stays’ where you can stay overnight at the temple and try to follow the routine of the monks who live there. Be warned though, these monks are early risers. If you like sleeping-in late then a ‘temple stay’ may not be for you!

Buddhism arrived in Korea in the fourth century and quickly spread. However, during the Joseon dynasty it was heavily suppressed, with the Joseon dynasty favoring Confucianism over Buddhism.

The word for Buddhism is 불교 (bulgyo) in Korean. Buddhists in Korea can visit temples and buy incense (향 [hyang]) which they can burn while meditating. It is also possible to pay monks to pray for you. Some people pay monks to pay for a set period of time for the health of their loved ones, or for their loved ones to do well on important exams such as the university entrance examination. This test is known as 수능 (suneung) in Korean.

Buddhist Temples in Korea

The most well-known Buddhist temples in Korea include 불국사 (bulguksa) in Gyeongju, which is one of the most impressive temples in Korea; and 해인사 (haeinsa) in Hapcheon, home to the Triptaka Koreana printing blocks. Both of these temples are in Gyeongsang province in the south-east of the country.

In Seoul there are two main temples: 봉은사 (bongeunsa), which is located near COEX in Gangnam; and 조계사 (jogyesa), which is in Insadong in central Seoul. Even if you are not religious, a visit to one of these temples can help relax you and relieve your stress. It is hard not to be impressed by the calmness inside the temples compared to the hustle and bustle of the city just a short distance away.

If you are in Busan, then just a short bus ride from Haeundae is the 해동 용궁사 (haedong yonggungsa) temple. It is built on some small cliffs by the sea, giving it a spectacular location and views that are well worth the visit.

Events for Buddha’s Birthday

Most of the events for Buddha’s birthday in Korea happen in the week running up to Buddha’s birthday, rather than on the day itself.

The main event is the lotus lantern festival. In the weeks running up to Buddha’s birthday, paper lanterns will start appearing all over Seoul. At this time, it is possible to see lanterns around Cheongyecheon stream, Insadong, and Jogyesa temple in central Seoul.

The highlight of the lotus lantern festival is a lantern parade through central Seoul. This parade usually takes place on the weekend before Buddha’s birthday, and in 2016 will take place on May 7th. The participants in the parade first head to Dongguk University, which is one of the main Buddhist universities in Korea. They watch dance performances and ceremonies in the afternoon before beginning the lantern parade.

The Lantern Parade in Seoul

The parade starts at Dongguk University, and works its way along Jongro, the main street of central Seoul, before finishing at Jogyesa temple. It takes place in the early evening, but people start gathering along Jongro in the late afternoon in order to get a good view of the parade.

People wishing to view the parade should use the subway to arrive as Jongno gets closed to traffic in order to allow the parade to pass along it. Taking a subway to either Jonggak, Jongno 3-ga, or Jongno 5-ga subway stations will allow you to be on the parade route upon exiting the station. If you arrive early then there are plenty of things to do around Jonggak subway station, but Jongno 5-ga may be less crowded and thus better suited for any latecomers hoping to get a good view.

The parade usually starts at seven in the evening and goes on until around nine-thirty. The parade’s participants range from solemn looking monks to excitable university students, and the number of participants is in the thousands, making it seem as if the parade is never ending. As well as individuals carrying lanterns, there are also some larger set piece parade floats, with large illuminated paper drums, fish, flowers, and even fire breathing dragons! For visitors to Seoul in early May, the lantern parade is something that you have got to see.

The day after the lantern parade, there are a few other activities and cultural performances that take place on the streets around Insadong. If you are around the area at that time then these could also be of interest.

Although Korea has lots of festivals, the Lantern festival, located in central Seoul is very accessible. The lanterns also make for great photos, and will most likely be a completely new experience for visitors from outside of East Asia.

Buddha’s Birthday in Korea Wrap-Up

Buddhism, while only practiced by a few people, is still a major part of life in Korea. Why not use Buddha’s birthday in Korea as an excuse to learn more about this religion?

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Foreigners & Drugs In South Korea: Do Media Entities Correctly Portray The Facts?

Koreabridge - Sat, 2016-05-07 07:08
Foreigners & Drugs In South Korea: Do Media Entities Correctly Portray

The arrest of a Canadian working for a university in Daegu on charges of growing marijuana in his apartment has once again ignited a discussion over how foreigners & drugs are depicted by South Korean media entities, & a blog post written by prominent expat researcher & Gusts of Popular Feeling writer Matt VanVolkenburg has drawn increased attention to the issue. Korea FM spoke with VanVolkenburg & Korean studies professor, NY Times contributor & Korea Expose managing editor Se-Woong Koo about how the recent case, & previous incidents, have been portrayed in the ROK.


Interview answers, both in written & audio form, have been edited for length & clarity.








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