This is the English-language version of an article I published this week with Newsweek Japan on ‘Choi-gate.’
This pre-dates the impeachment vote of yesterday, but the basic point still holds: the Korean public just gave the world a lesson in what democracy looks like. In the 8+ years I have lived here, this is its finest hour. Koreans should be proud of themselves for peaceful protests in the millions on behalf of clean and transparent government. It’s all the more impressive given that the US is about to install an authoritarian game-show host as president. Who ever thought the Koreans would teach the Americans what democracy is all about?
Yesterday, I told Bloomberg that corruption is now, very obviously, the most important domestic politics issue in Korea. Yes, it is still trumped by North Korea, but it is now painfully, painfully obvious that Korea needs much cleaner government. In fact, corruption is so bad, I am surprised that there is no Donald Trump figure entering Korean politics. Yet again, the Koreans prove themselves more democratically mature than Americans.
So yes, Korea’s political class is a corrupt, self-serving mess, but its public is not and that is vastly more important. For all their flim-flam about Dokdo, the curative powers of kimchi, the made-up anthropology of a ‘glorious 5000-year history,’ and all the rest, when it came to the big thing – clean, robust democracy – they got it right in a big way. Props to the Koreans.
The essay follows the jump.
Next year is the thirtieth anniversary of South Korean democratization. Yet that democracy is now facing its greatest constitutional crisis. President Park Geun Hye is involved in a sprawling, frequently bizarre influence-peddling scandal involving long-time confidante and obvious swindler Choi Soon Sil. Park will almost certainly be driver from office because of it. The investigation has revealed disturbing allegations of corruption and nepotism at the same time that the South Korean parliament, the National Assembly, has passed an extremely strict anti-graft law in yet another effort to beat back seemingly entrenched corruption. Korean politicians and public figures have described themselves embarrassed at the seemingly endless parade of corruption scandals and Park’s epic miscalculation in permitting Choi such influence in her administration. The North Koreans, predictably, are gloating; ‘Choi-gate’ apparently proves the superiority of their ‘system.’
The South Korean Public Embraces Democracy
But there is a clear upside to this story, one that suggests that Korean democracy is deeply rooted and maturing despite the public circus of the last month. The Korean public has responded with a massive outpouring of peaceful resistance to the shenanigans of its leaders. Corruption may stalk the Korean political establishment, even the president, but the public has made very clear it will not accept that. In the weeks since the Choi scandal broke, millions of Koreans have protested peacefully. On November 26, estimates suggest two million people demonstrated, a staggering 4% of the entire national population. Even overseas Koreans protested in Europe and the United States.
Numbers of that scale are astonishing in modern democracies. 4% of the Japanese population would be 5 million people on the streets; 4% of the United States would be 13 million people. Japan and the US have never seen demonstrations of that size. That suggests a strong, genuine commitment to Korean democracy and clean government, a popular desire to participate that is often lost in the elitism that normally characterizes Korean politics.
These protests have happened five weeks in a row, another astonishing feat. Mobilizing millions of people for more than a month requires a deep well of public support for democracy. Further, the protests have been entirely peaceful. There have been no reports of assaults, robberies, and so on. The kind of social anarchy we saw during Arab Spring protests of similar scale did not occur. The protestors even cleaned up their trash, signaling a commitment to their society even as they rejected its leadership.
All this is hugely inspiring, even as the constitutional drama reveals the weakness of the Korean political class and the need for reform of South Korea’s institutions. In the eight years I have lived in South Korea, this is its finest hour. South Korea often enmeshes itself in controversies western observers find bizarre: the debate over THAAD missile defense here is dominated by (Chinese) misinformation; accusations about nascent Japanese ‘re-militarization’ are unhinged; the Korean media is deeply vested in a wildly exaggerated nationalist story of Korean pop-culture ‘conquering the world.’ But when things really mattered, the Korean public came through, demonstrating a deep commitment to core modern democratic values – peaceful protest, civic participation, and clean government. If there was ever a moment to see the large difference between North and South Korea in stark relief, this was it. Indeed at time, when the West has voted for Brexit and Donald Trump, and the National Front is running strongly in France, South Korea is illustrating to the world how an engaged, responsible democratic public behaves. Who ever would have imagined the South Koreans would be teaching the Americans about democracy?
The Public Rejects Park
The next steps in the crisis are likely either Park’s resignation or an impeachment vote. As the scandal has unfolded over the last two months, Park has stood her ground. She has insisted that she committed no crime. She conceded that she gave too much space and consideration to her friend but insists that this was not illegal. The Korean public has, by a large margin, rejected this interpretation. Park’s approval rating has crashed to an historic low of 4%. I am unaware of any chief executive in a modern democracy who returned such low numbers. Not even Richard Nixon in the depths of Watergate was so unpopular. For this reason, most observers think she will be forced out one way or another.
Park cuts a somewhat tragicomic figure here. Unlike most politicians felled by scandals of politics, money, sex, war, and so on, Park has bizarrely discredited herself on behalf of an obvious con artist who exploited her for decades. It may indeed be true that she technically committed no crime, but the sheer extent and weirdness of the scandal has been damning. Choi seems to have had influence over a vast expanse of presidential decisions, from the mundane, such as the presidential wardrobe, to the serious, such as the president’s speeches and staffing choices. Choi may have even impacted Park’s tougher line on North Korea, in that Choi apparently predicted North Korea’s imminent collapse and edited some of Park’s speeches on the subject.
And the scamming and nepotism have been both egregious and astonishingly petty. Despite all the wealth accrued through her graft, Choi seems to have embezzled much of the funding for the president’s wardrobe while clothing Park in cheap outfits (which the Korean fashion press picked up on years ago). Choi exploited her presidential connections to shake down large corporations for ‘donations.’ She used those connections to bully a university into accepting her daughter as a student and even alter her daughters’ scoring in an equestrian competition. Choi’s personal trainer (!) even got in on the act, getting appointed a staffer in the Blue House, the Korean executive residence.
Park may indeed be correct that she herself violated no law, but the whole thing is so preposterous and bizarre that she has been thoroughly discredited and her presidency all but ended even if she somehow retains the office itself. The public has concluded that Park was conned by an obvious grifter and charlatan, and there is widespread amazement that Park, who otherwise seemed like a canny, intelligent politician, was taken in by such an obvious fraud. That Choi has no obvious qualifications for the wide influence she wielded makes Park look all the more like an easy mark in a con scheme. Choi is not a lawyer, economist, policy expert, and so on. Her ‘qualification’ seems to be that her shamanistic cult-leader father convinced Park that he could communicate with Park’s deceased mother (yes, really). This would be laughable, were it not so politically consequential.
What if Park Stays in Office?
The upshot is that even if Park is technically innocent, the public has concluded that she has been a shadow president while Choi was the real power behind the throne. In the protests, the most damning image has been of Choi looming above Park, pulling strings attached to Park’s limbs as if she were a puppet.
Park may constitutionally survive. At the time of this writing, an impeachment vote looks likely to occur on December 9. The opposition bloc needs twenty-eight government party members to vote for impeachment to overcome the required two-thirds impeachment threshold (200 out of 300 members of the National Assembly). Park floated a bizarre, not-quite resignation proposal on November 29 in which she suggested that she would accept whatever fate the National Assembly deemed fit for her presidency, including a shortening of her term. This does not follow the constitutional process, in which impeachment or resignation leads to an acting president followed by a new election within sixty days. It is widely suspected that her curious non-resignation offer was a last ditch attempt to muddy the waters. It might convince some of her party’s wavering parliamentarians to vote against impeachment because she would imminent resign. This is dangerous territory: constitutional ‘reform’ hastily tossed about by a president desperate to slip out of impeachment.
Even if the National Assembly votes to remove her, South Korea’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, must also vote in a two-thirds majority (six out nine justices) to remove her. Two of those justices’ terms end in the next six months, which would almost certainly provoke a sharp fight over the appointment of pro- or anti-Park judges. The Court also might not wish to proceed until the final report of the Choi-gate special prosecutor is completed, which may take months. Yet another layer of confusion is that the government party’s position is now that Park should remain in office until April, so that it can find a viable candidate to run in the snap election which would follow her resignation.
All of this political confusion raises the importance of constitutional reform. The Korean public has spoken clearly. Indeed, they have carried the mantle of democracy in the last few months as the formal system has devolved into chaos. The Korean political class has flailed, while millions of Koreans have peacefully demonstrated for clean government and transparency. It is time the Republic of Korea had institutions to match its electorate’s democratic intensity.
The most obvious reform needed is major crackdown on corruption. This has become the bane of Korean politics. When family and friends ‘cash out’ their connections, as happens far too often here, Korea looks like a banana republic. A great irony of Park’s presidency is that she explicitly claimed it would cleaner than usual because she was unmarried and alienated from her family. Instead, this seems to have made her so lonely that a quack was able to befriend her.
The new anti-graft law should help, but the real problem is the Korean developmentalist state. So long as the Korean government insists on ‘guiding’ the economy, state officials and businessmen will regularly interact regarding money. This obviously opens huge, regular opportunities for graft. In Choi’s case, if Korea’s largest companies were not so dependent on presidential goodwill, Choi would never have been able to blackmail them with her friendship with Park.
The other big reform, which would make this crisis much simpler to resolve, is the creation of a vice president. South Korea is a hybrid, ‘semi-presidential’ system. That is, it has both a president and prime minister. Constitutionally, the PM becomes the acting president should the president die or otherwise exit the office. There is then to be a new election within sixty days for a new president for a full five-year term. As the Choi crisis is demonstrating, this is an unnecessarily complex transfer of power process.
The PM is a weak, poorly defined office in Korea. He often acts as a ‘fall guy’ for the president when scandal hits, and he does not have the clear mandate to take over the presidency a vice-president has. That the PM can be fired easily by the president makes the office even more unstable. The current PM was actually fired by Park but retained as acting PM, because the president and parliament could not agree on a successor. The 60-day snap election of a full term presidency raises the stakes even more. South Korea’s conservatives are trying now to forestall Park’s resignation so that they do not lose the presidency for the next five years. It would far easier to simply impeach Park if there a waiting vice-president who would only finish her term. There would be no incentive to fight for an ideal timing of her resignation. The existence of meaningful vice presidential office made Richard Nixon’s resignation over Watergate much easier. His vice president assumed the office; the country moved on; and the next election was held normally on schedule.
Park Should Probably Resign
Park’s desire to hang on is understandable. Her resignation will destroy her reputation in Korean history. Given that her father’s presidency was in fact in a dictatorship, her fall from grace will impact the family legacy too. More immediately, Park may face criminal charges after resignation and go to prison. As president, she is immune. Perhaps she imagines that if she can just hang on a few more months, the cold weather will drive the protestors from the streets, and then the upcoming election will convince everyone to just let her ride out the rest of her term.
This is risky. She is discredited. She is widely understood now as a naif controlled by a con artist. The protests to date have been peaceful, but the potential for unrest is obvious. If she survives impeachment by some gimmicky parliamentary maneuver or the replacement of high justices, public opinion will worsen. The protests could expand, and the government would be paralyzed. Were that to occur for months on end, it would be unprecedented for a modern democracy. Park’s term formally ends in late February 2018. That opens the possibility of 15 months of protest and paralysis if she fights to the end. The protests so far have been a remarkable display of civic responsibility, but the longer they grind on, the more they will attract troublemakers and radicals. Disorder over the course of a 15-month political stalemate is an obvious possibility. Korea has not seen protests of this scope since the street contests of democratization. Defying the will of 96% of the population, with millions on the street for months on end, is a frightening prospect.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Looking for something fun to do this winter in South Korea? Well, this winter festival is definitely something that you don’t want to miss out on!
The 10th annual Pyeongchang Trout Festival is a famous winter festival in South Korea that takes place in the town of Jinbu-myeon in the Pyeongchang-gun district, which is about 2.5 hours away from Seoul. Visitors can enjoy ice fishing as well as many other fun winter activities! Pyeongchang is an alpine county that is a haven for winter sports as it receives an abundance of snowfall every year. Here, you can enjoy ice fishing as well as many other fun winter activities like sledding, bobsleigh riding, ice skating and more! The main attraction at the festival is ice fishing, where you can attempt to catch fresh trout from a hole drilled into the ice. You can choose between open-ice fishing (pictured above) or tent fishing (these tend to sell out very quickly).
A fishing rod can be purchased which differs in price depending on the type of artificial bait attached on the line.
Be prepared to sit idly by the hole as you bob your rod up and down, waiting for a trout to bite onto the bait. Bring your own foldable chair or purchase one on-site for comfort!
*Ice fishing is only available depending on the ice conditions. If it is not cold enough, it may not be available as the ice will be too thin, causing it to break easily. If you’re feeling super brave, why not try your hand at fishing for trout with your bare hands? Brrrr… aren’t you shivering just thinking about it? You, along with many other brave souls, will enter a large pool full of trout in just a t-shirt and shorts and attempt to catch grab as many of them with your bare hands.
The best part? You get to feast on what you’ve caught afterward! Choose to enjoy your fish processed raw as sashimi or get it grilled the traditional way over firewood by chefs on standby. Don’t worry if you don’t catch any fish as you can buy them!
If you’re looking for something else to enjoy besides ice fishing, look no further as there’s plenty of recreational activities to do! Choose from snow tubing, ice skating, snow rafting, ice cycling, sledding, spinning rail cars or an ATV (four-wheel motorcycle)! There are even rides like bumper cars and disco pang pang, which is a circular ride that spins around and bounces up and down, accompanied by entertaining comments from the announcer controlling it. Ice sculptures are also scattered around the area for you to take photos with. This festival is something you must check out this winter season as it’s fun for people of all ages. This Shuttle Bus Package offers round-trip transportation for convenience and you’ll also be able to enjoy ice fishing and the activities! Make sure you also check out Yongpyong Ski Resort which is located nearby! With 28 slopes, it’s great for skiers of all levels and features Asia’s longest gondola course spanning 7.4 km!
Alpensia Ski Resort is another great choice with 6 slopes, top-notch leisure facilities and 5-star accommodation. You can enjoy both the ice fishing festivaland skiing at the resorts with our packages! Browse more of our awesome winter tours and ski packages on Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop and plan your trip with us this winter 2016-17!
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This is the English-language version of an article I published with Newsweek Japan last week.
Is anyone else, among readers living in Korea, amazed at how the coverage of this is now essentially non-stop? If you turn on any of the cable news stations here now, it’s Park Geun Hye all day all the time.
My big concern is that she stays on, perhaps surviving an impeachment vote or somehow or other lurching on into the spring next year, while facing regular demonstrations. How much longer will those protests say so peaceful? To date, they have been remarkably non-violent. But civil unrest is not hard to imagine if a hugely unpopular president stays in office for months and months with an approval rating around 4%. Even Park seemed to realize this when she gave that kinda-sorta resignation speech last Wednesday.
And the answer to the post title question is yes, in case you haven’t figure that out yet. Let’s just hope the Norks don’t pull some hijink while the ROKG is frozen like this. God forbid we have some executive-vs-legislative battle over who leads the response.
My previous writing on this scandal is here.
The full essay follows the jump.
he scandal around South Korean president Park Geun Hye and her disgraced confidante is spinning out of control. Park is unlikely to step down, and the barriers to impeachment in South Korea are high, so she is likely to hang grimly onto her office. But her obstinance in the face of massive social resistance is paralyzing government in Seoul. Should she stay for the remaining fifteen months of her term, South Korea may well become ungovernable. It will be unclear who will wield legitimate authority when the president is so widely loathed, and if the street protests and opposition resistance continue, as is expected. The constant threat of North Korean provocation means a long period of stasis presents a strategic risk as well.
The Choi Soon Sil Scandal
The president’s close associate, Choi Soon Sil, has been a family friend for decades. Choi’s father apparently convinced an impressionable young Park that he could commune with her dead mother. When Choi the father died, it appears that his daughter, Soon Sil, stepped into his emerging role as spiritual advisor to Park. The influence of the Chois over Park has been widely likened to Rasputin’s influence over the last czar of Russia. Park herself has not disclosed the details of the relationship, but we do know now that she granted Choi extraordinarily wide reach within her administration, even though Choi had no relevant training or experience in politics. Choi then traded on this influence to amass wealth and favors for herself.
So bizarre is this and so wide was Choi’s reach, that the scandal has provoked the largest, most sustained street demonstrations in Korea since the democratization protests of the 1980s. More than one million South Koreans protested on Saturday November 12, a staggering 2% of the entire national population on the streets at one time. Choi apparently influenced areas as wide-ranging as the presidential wardrobe, presidential staffing choices, and North Korea policy. All this was conducted in secret, which much bureaucratic infighting as some staff sought to limit Choi’s power. Apparently the president even took action against those staffers, replacing them with others who would not challenge Choi. When all this broke, local media portrayed Park as a string puppet; the international press picked-up this interpretation as well. Park’s approval rating crashed to below 5%. The opposition parties abjured all cooperation with the administration, while Park’s party wants her to exit the party and govern as an independent. Should the National Assembly choose to impeach Park, much would defend on how these former party supporters would vote.
What if Park Stays?
Park almost certainly will not resign. She has not responded to the protests, and she has opened her administration to an independent prosecutor to placate public opinion. An old associate of her father’s (he was also president), Kim Jong Pil, said in a widely covered interview that she is too stubborn to step aside. Impeachment is possible, but the opposition must muster a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly (200 out of 300 MPs), on top of which the Korean high court, the Constitutional Court must also concur with a two-thirds majority (six of nine justices). This latter requirement blocked the impeachment of a previous president in 2004.
But with public opinion so strongly against her, plus the opposition parties and some of Park’s own party members, the real question is, can she govern if she stays? The National Assembly will almost certainly reject any meaningful cooperation on legislation. Street protests, endless media coverage, and rolling investigations that seems to uncover more with each passing week, will distract the administration so much, that little presidential or staff time will remain for the affairs of state. As American president Richard Nixon sought to fight off the Watergate investigation, it consumed so much of the White House staff’s time, that the administration was effectively paralyzed. One could easily foresee the same thing happening here.
Park has suggested conceding power over domestic policy to the prime minister. But the opposition, sensing blood in the water and keen to win next year’s presidential election, has dragged its feet on this. This would also probably generate major policy confusion, as the Korean prime minister’s role to date has been to be a president-in-waiting, like the American vice president, rather than to guide policy. It is easy to predict that this newly empowered PM would clash with the sitting president creating gridlock, as is frequently the case in countries with both a powerful president and PM. There is no Korean precedent or constitutional direction for such a prime ministership. This would be uncharted waters.
This Will End
The good news is that South Korea is scheduled to have a presidential election on December 20, 2017, with the inauguration on February 25, 2018. That at least puts a time limit on the chaos. A scandal of this magnitude, the greatest in South Korean democratic history, could have been disastrous in Park’s early years. But fifteen months is still a long time for a democratic government to be effectively paralyzed like this. Except for Watergate, I am hard-pressed to think of any other modern democracy frozen in crisis for such a long time.
If Park stays, her administration will nonetheless be neutered. She will be a care-taker, riding out the reminder of her term. The parliament will give her nothing. A technocratic PM may be able to make small decisions, but were any major issues or crises to arise, it is simply unclear who would rule. This would be a dangerous time for any democracy. Rabble rousers and troublemakers might arise. Civil unrest is even possible if Park insists on her full presidential privileges in the face of a nearly united rejection of her presidency. And of course, always lurking in the background is North Korea, ever-ready to take advantage of trouble and disarray in the South.
The greatest risk, should South Korea descend into ungovernable stasis next year, is indecisiveness in the face of a North Korean provocation. North Korea is notorious for its efforts to intervene and disrupt South Korean life. Many analysts believe North Korea times its provocations, such as missile launches, to influence South Korean political decisions and elections. Even were Park’s popularity very high, North Korean action next year around events such as US-South Korean military drills is entirely predictable.
The international fallout could expand beyond North Korean opportunism should the crisis grind on. To date, the major states in Korea’s foreign relations have remained quiet. All have their own scandals too, and even in her troubles, Park Geun Hye compares favorably to the tyrants of the Chinese Communist Party or irresponsible populist Donald Trump. Nonetheless three problems will arise in the coming months as serious foreign policy decisions can no longer be put off:
First, can Park’s administration convincingly negotiate the trade deals which are the life-blood of Korea’s export economy? A Central American Free Trade Agreement with a bloc of small Latin American states is nearing completion. In normal circumstances, this would be non-controversial, but now it is unclear if the opposition will ratify the deal. To schedule a vote on the deal and support it would signal business as usual, a return to normalcy with Park submitting legislation to the assembly, and MPs voting on it as required. Yet the assembly’s majority has declared her unfit for office. To work with her would undercut that position and ‘normalize’ her continuation in office.
Second, can Park push the South Korean public toward unpopular foreign agreements such as intelligence sharing with Japan on North Korea, or American THAAD missile defense in the region? Traditionally, presidents (or prime ministers) in democracies can use the ‘bully pulpit’ to persuade and cajole the public to endorse policies which otherwise might be controversial. Park has done so in the past regarding outreach to China on North Korea, and THAAD. But public support for THAAD is fragile, and for intelligence sharing it is low (around 30%). A functional Park administration could move those public numbers by launching a concerted national campaign of persuasion and discussion in the media, parliament, and presidential addresses. That is all but impossible now, because the scandal is becoming all-consuming and her approval rating is historically low. Intelligence sharing with Japan will likely fail this year, as it did four years ago, and the left is unlikely to give up on THAAD now that the president is in so much trouble. THAAD is scheduled for deployment next year; the scandal opens renewed opportunities to fight it.
Finally, as Park shows herself unable to deliver the Korean public support for important foreign policy decisions, foreign leaders will increasingly ignore her. If Shinzo Abe, for example, figures her approval rating is so poor that she cannot deliver intelligence sharing, why even try to pursue it now? Why not simply wait for her successor? As Park flails on foreign policy issues such as THAAD, simply due to scandal gridlock, foreign leaders will treat her as a lame-duck and forestall Korean deals until spring 2018.
Hence the obvious strategic vulnerability of ongoing chaos at the highest levels in Seoul. This is a gift to North Korea, precisely the sort of episode it uses to tell its people that South Korea is corrupt and decadent, precisely the sort of disruption it could worsen with even more disruption. Indeed, I would not be at all surprised if, somewhere in Pyongyang’s backrooms, there was not active discussion of how to take advantage of this mess. Were North Korea to lash out, who could authoritatively shape the South Korean response? Can Park, if she is facing months of street and parliamentary obstruction? Would the left, which has traditionally been somewhat sympathetic to North Korea, support a president whom it demands should be impeached? The potential for trouble is extraordinary.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
I have had a bunch of coffee shops sitting in my email cache for a while and thought I would just clear them out. As always, if I end up going to one of these places in the future, I will expand on their comments. If it’s good enough, I will create a separate post. For now, bask in the mass of coffee options in the Jeonpo/Seomyeon area of Busan, South Korea!135. 1 Liter Coffee (Seomyeon): Remember in a previous post when I posted about “The Liter” coffee shop? You would be forgiven if you were thinking, “Coffee Man, why are you posting about that same place a second time?” Oh, but I am not, grasshopper. This is “1 Liter Coffee.” Ignore that the fonts, color scheme and theme (a shot of espresso and huge-ass cups filled with hot water to give the impression you’re getting a seriously big-ass coffee) are exactly the same, and you might be able to tell them apart. This is not the first time this has happened in Korea, and it’s likely not the last. I did get a cup of coffee here (aforementioned “big-ass” size), with an extra shot of espresso (for 500 won more, still not bad price at all) and it was fine. Unnecessarily large, but fine.136. Bricks Coffee (Seomyeon): A very cute coffee shop in a bustling section of downtown Seomyeon. A friend of mine regularly hosts Thursday night board game nights here.137. Ethiopia (Seomyeon): On the main road that separates Seomyeon with adjacent Jeonpo, the owner of this indie coffee shop at one time came out to my table to give us samples of a cold brew of his. A Korean friend was able to tell us that he was asking us to let the coffee settle on the back of our tongues before we swallowed, and this was a coffee to be enjoyed instead of chugged. Nice place, decent coffee.138. Coffee Salon (Jeonpo): The word “salon” appears to be used improperly on a number of coffee shops. Or, I just never knew it could be used in this way. Anyway, I went here once and their ordering system has you ringing a bell (a freakin’ bell!) and the coffee man comes to your table to take your order. Unnecessarily posh for any of us.139. Corcovado (Jeonpo): Located near the too-post Coffee Salon. This place was fine. But, in the Korean coffee game, “just fine” means, “I’ll never be back.”140. Cafe Drink B (Jeonpo): On a second floor near numbers 138 and 139. When I first moved to this area earlier this year, I thought this place was closed as it was, indeed, closed all the time. In the past several months, it has been open normal business hours. Never been inside, though.141. Cafe J. Mi (Jeonpo): In Korea, 재미 (jae-mi) means to be fun, to be enjoyable. So–and I cannot confirm this–it appears this cafe is playing up on the Korean words for “to be fun.” Maybe? The interior looks cold and far less fun than I’d care to experience, however.142. Speedjobs with cafe (Seomyeon): The name of this place just makes me giggle.143. Dundas (Jeonpo Cafe Street area): Oh, Korean coffee shop, why? Why didn’t you use spellchecker before you had the sign maker note your “spetialty”? Have yet to visit.144. Hafencity (Jeonpo Cafe Street area): “a Cup a day, a Book a month, a Journey a year.” Wise words that may or may not have been lifted from the Internet. This cafe and the remaining two following it are in a section of the popular “Jeonpo Cafe Street” area that still are industrial-majority (you can see as much in the window’s reflection). The whole area at some point was various welders, craftsman, repairman and the like, which have been over the past several years or so shut down and been replaced by restaurants, coffee shops and so on. I was enjoying an early Sunday morning ride when I stumbled upon these, on side roads one would have likely not assumed a coffee shop would exist. They do, because this is Korea. And Korea likes coffee.145. The Bridge Coffee Lab (Jeonpo Cafe Street area): Sounds like super secret experiments are taking place within.146. K’Cafe 835 (Jeonpo Cafe Street area): Peakaboo, I see you!
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.
Thisis the English-language version of an article I just published with Newsweek Japan on Trump’s victory. I know there have been a million of these sorts of diagnostic analyses since he won, so this will be my only one. I will get back to East Asia politics next week.
I guess what worries me the most is how Trump toyed with proto-fascist themes, even if he himself doesn’t believe any of it. As I write in the main essay below: “He flirted heavily with race nationalism, illiberalism (attacking the media; winking to the alt-right), anti-democracy (refusal to recognize defeat; insisting the election system is ‘rigged’), and a cult of personality. That is awfully close to a fascist package.” Trump has now demonstrated that there is a constituency for hard-right strong man politics in the US. He ran as an openly misogynistic, racist, cultish candidate, and millions of Americans just didn’t care and voted for him anyway. This is the most important, and terrifying, revelation of the last 18 months.
No, I am not in hysterics that America is about to collapse. We’ve survived a lot worse in 230 years. I am pretty sure we can survive the Trump administration. He and his family will be epically corrupt, but that won’t bring down the Constitution. There is far too much hyperventilating on the left right now.
But if Trump, or more likely Steven Bannon, can put his stamp on the GOP, the American political landscape will change forever. The Reaganite GOP is disappearing, and in its place will rise a National Front-like nationalist-populist party if Bannon has his way. The US has never seen a blood-and-soil European rightist party. We may look back on Trump as a right-wing turning point even greater than the Goldwater or Reagan presidential campaigns.
The full essay follows the jump.
Donald Trump’s victory is the greatest US presidential upset since Harry Truman won re-election in 1948 against similar predictions. This victory has acted as a lightning strike illuminating the American political landscape to issues traditional media and elites have missed. Here are five initial take-aways:
1. The dramatic outcome does not actually well reflect public opinion.
Trump won because of the unique American quirk of the Electoral College. He lost the popular vote by 1-2%, and the Republicans lost the popular vote in Senate too by an even larger margin. 49% of eligible Americans did not vote. Trump won only half of the rest, around 25% of all voters. The GOP has legally won power, but if it pushes the radical Ryan agenda, that will not reflect the preferences of many Americans.
Given that the same thing happened in 2000, it is probably time to abolish the Electoral College for a straight-up national vote. Were this election a national referendum, as in most democracies, we would be talking today about how poorly Clinton mobilized the Obama coalition, not the possible mainstreaming of Trumpian alt-right politics.
2. There is a potential for proto-fascist politics in the United States.
Trump is not Hitler, but he is closer to Mussolini than many want to admit. He flirted heavily with race nationalism, illiberalism, anti-democracy, and a cult of personality. That is awfully close to a fascist package. Trump traded on white racial paranoia as no major US political figure has ever done. He helped legitimize the alt-right by bringing Steve Bannon onto his campaign, appearing on Alex Jones’ TV show, re-tweeting white rightists, and so on. He promised to imprison his opponent, crack down on journalists, sue his critics, bring back torture, and so on.
Next, he questioned democratic procedure by reserving the right to reject the election outcome, insisting the process was ‘rigged,’ flirting with extra-parliamentary interference (Putin, Assange, rogue FBI agents), and even suggesting at one point that the election be cancelled and the presidency simply given to him. Finally, his campaign took on cultish characteristics, with Trump accurately asserting that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose votes. No matter what he said, his voters stood by him; he referred to his campaign as a ‘movement’ (another semi-fascist reference); Ann Coulter’s hagiography was entitled In Trump We Trust.
3. Racial ‘political correctness’ has broken out of universities to become a national issue.
Trump got tremendous mileage out of the cultural contempt between social liberals clustered in America’s cities and campuses, and rural nationalists who are clearly unnerved by the left-wing identity politics of race. One obvious way to read Trump’s victory is the mobilization of white identity politics on the right after 40 years of such ethnic politicking on the left in the US, especially at universities. Multiculturalism has long been ‘asymmetric’ in the United States, limited to non-whites, with ‘white pride’ understood as racism. Trump has now breached that wall. Balkan-style ethnic-bloc competition is emerging in the United States.
4. Trade continues to be woefully misunderstood.
Trump capitalized on the decline of manufacturing employment in the US and the perception that trade deals hurt American workers. American politicians continue to find it easier to argue for a bean-counting, zero-sum approach to trade, in which factory jobs in developing countries are a gain at America’s expense. These jobs can be ‘brought back’ through mercantilism.
This, and Trump’s entire trade message, is grossly inaccurate of course. Trade is almost always positive sum; most US manufacturing jobs were eliminated by technology in the same way bank tellers were eliminated by ATMs, or rotary phone makers were eliminated by cell phones. Jobs outsourced by trade cannot realistically be identified one-by-one (the research expense would be gargantuan) and brought back. Most have long since diffused into the global supply chain. Next, manufacturing is actually quite productive in the US. It floats between 10 and 20% of output. Its percentage of working class employment though has collapsed, because those plants are heavily automated now and require engineers and degreed employees. Non-college, high-paying working class jobs are not just not coming back, they are gone forever.
5. The white working class is easily conned.
Trump misled, if not lied, to the many disgruntled downscale whites who voted for him. The Mexican wall will be enormously expensive, hugely controversial, and may not even work. The Muslim ban has already been dropped from his website. No amount of alt-right white nationalism can now prevent the slippage of whites into demographic sub-majority status around mid-century.
Tariffs will not bring back jobs. They will only drive up prices for imports, a burden which will fall most heavily on the poor who benefit most from cheap prices brought on by competition from trade. If Trump’s white working class is the ‘Walmart demographic,’ Trumpism will double the prices of all those cheap Asian imports like blu-ray players, baby-clothes and so on. Middle class voters have the income to absorb these price hikes; Trump’s downscale voters do not.
Trump will almost certainly not abandon his class. He will support the massive Ryan tax cut for the wealthy which will worsen the inequality that fires Trumpism, not reduce it. He will likely support welfare state reductions (Medicaid most obviously) which help downscale voters like his own. He will roll back the post-Great Recession financial regulation (Dodd-Frank, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the rule requiring financial advisors to follow their clients’ best interest) which protects people like Trump voters from the predatory practices that cost so many of them their homes in the Great Recession. Indeed, Trump already made clear what he thought of working class Americans by stiffing them for years as contractors on his worksites or scamming them at Trump University.
My big concern going forward is that the social cleavages Trump starkly revealed and widened, start to overlap into a Red and Blue America that neither understand nor empathize with each other: white, non-college, rural, nationalist, religious vs. diverse, college, urban, cosmopolitan, secular. That looks like Northern Ireland, where multiple cleavages broke the same way, exacerbating everything and raising the prospect of unrest. The future is bluer than Trump’s victory suggests, but in the near-term, we are frighteningly divided.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Daiso is a shopper’s paradise. You’ll find stores all over in Korea in areas like Hongdae, Myeongdong, Sinsa-dong and Coex Mall. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the store, it sells items for your home, bathroom, crafts, pets, makeup, hair…you name it!
Though it is originally a Japanese chain, Daiso Korea is no longer part of Daiso Japan due to political reasons and sells products completely different from them.
The prices range from 1,000 to 5,000 KRW so it’s the best place to stock up on necessities you may (or may not) need! I always find myself walking out with a lot more than I originally planned to buy because everything’s so inexpensive!
Today’s post is going to focus on their beauty products since that’s what I have a passion for! If you’re a fellow addict like me, these items are an absolute must in your collection!1. Blending Puff: 2,000 KRW
This product was swept off the shelves the minute it was stocked when it first came out. It’s known in Korea as the “poop sponge” and went viral for its ability to provide a flawless makeup application with a glowy, dewy finish.
Simply wet the sponge until it’s completely saturated and squeeze out the excess water, which will double its size. Then bounce it along the skin with your foundation, blush or bb cream for an airbrushed finish. No more cakey or thick makeup!
You can even buy this adorable holder to store your sponge for 1,000 KRW.2. Professional Powder Brush: 3,000 KRW
You may be skeptical since it’s so cheap, but this brush proves that you don’t need to shell out big bucks for high-quality brushes!
A lot of cheap brushes from drugstores or dollar stores that I’ve tried in the past have been super scratchy and shed like crazy, but this professional powder brush is amazing!
The bristles are insanely soft and it doesn’t shed no matter how many times I wash it. The best part is that I can easily buy another one even if I lose it since it’s so affordable!3. Pore Cleansing Brush: 5,000 KRW
If you struggle with large pores, blackheads or dry skin, this item is a must-add to your skincare routine.
Pore cleansing brushes deeply cleanse the pores, helping to reduce the appearance of them and remove dead skin and blackheads that can easily still remain in the skin even after cleansing.
Though many stores sell them, Daiso’s one is much cheaper but of the same, if not better quality!4. Shampoo Brush: 1,000 KRW
I’ve been using a shampoo brush for over 2 years now and let me tell you, it really makes a huge difference!
This bad boy helps detangle my bleached and damaged hair, soothes the scalp, evenly distributes the shampoo and helps improve overall hair health!
Simply massage the scalp in circular motions after lathering the hair to stimulate microcirculation, which is essential for healthy hair. If you have an itchy scalp, this will help with that!5. Brush Cleaning Pad: 3,200 KRW
If you love makeup, you’ll know how much of a chore cleaning your brushes may be. It’s got to be done, though, and this tool makes the task easier and more fun! All you need to do is add water and cleaner (shampoo or facial cleanser does the trick) and swirl the brushes on the pad to remove all the makeup residue on them! Voila, squeaky clean brushes! You can even slide it onto your finger like a ring for comfort.6. Mascara Guard: 1,200 KRW
Say goodbye to messy mascara smudges and clumpy lashes with this innovative mascara guard! This nifty tool isolates your lashline, protecting your freshly applied eye makeup from smudges and allowing you to grab onto every single lash as you apply mascara. It has shields for both the top and bottom lashes as well as a comb to get rid of any clumps for the perfect finish.7. Manicure Holder Ring: 3,900 KRW
This is a ring made out of silicon that holds your bottle of nail polish securely so you can comfortably do your nails! It also helps to prevent instances where you accidently knock over your bottle of nail polish, making a mess everywhere. No worries even if you turn it upside down either as it won’t fall out!8. Metal Eyelash Tweezer: 1,700 KRW
Eyelashes can make your eyes look bigger and more inviting, but unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with long, luxurious lashes.
Applying them can be a difficult task especially for beginners, but this tool will make it a little easier. The center is curved for an easy grip, and all you have to do is grab the lashes by the center and line them up on your lashline. Then use the tip of the tweezers to gently press and secure them in place!9. Silicon Face Mask: 2,000 KRW
At first glance, it may just look like a regular sheet mask. Well, prepare to be amazed because it’s much more than that.
With regular sheet masks, they tend to just sit on top of the skin which means it’s hard to move around a lot since the mask would come off.
This mask is one that you wear on top of your sheet mask to hold it in place so you can actively do other things as you wait instead of just sitting or lying around. It even has loops to put around your ears so you can even jump around and your mask won’t fall off!10. Ponytail Hair Pack: 1,000 KRW
If you’ve got dry and damaged hair that’s in desperate need of some tender loving care, stock up on this product!
We all know that moisture is the key to maintaining smooth, glossy locks and hair treatments are the best for helping with that.
This hair treatment is different to other ones in that you don’t need to wash it out afterward, making it perfect to use on the go or right before you leave the house!
Simply wrap your hair in a ponytail and put it into the pack which resembles a pouch, leave it in for 15 to 30 minutes and you will notice your hair is smooth and soft. Every day will be a good hair day!
Don’t forget to stop by Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop for more fun and informative posts like this one!
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This post is a local re-post of an article I wrote for The Diplomat earlier this month on the the Korean presidential scandal.
Honestly, the whole thing is so bizarre that I am at a loss for words. And the more information comes out, the weird it becomes. The only analogy I can think of for the extraordinary influence Choi Soon-Sil had over Park Geun Hye is Rasputin. I know that seems pretty extreme, but the more you read about it, the more that’s what it sounds like. Choi may have influenced areas as wide as Park’s North Korea policy and her wardrobe. There are even rumors that Choi’s gigilo was on the gravy train too. Yes, really; it’s that weird.
Anyway, Park’s presidency is now over, even if she manages to hang onto the office. She will get nothing ever again from the legislature. She will retain some authority of foreign and defense policy, but even that will be hemmed in. If she does anything controversial, she’ll be hammered for it. So good thing THAAD went through before this all exploded.
Can’t say I have a lot of sympathy for PGH. She ruled as an aloof aristocrat, and she treated the Korean media terribly. I think that’s why there is so little sympathy out there. If she had remembered she was a democratic president instead of a monarch, she might have had a reservoir of public good will to draw on. Alas, a lot Koreans think this is her come-uppance.
My full treatment of the scandal comes after the jump.
Park Geun Hye, the president of South Korea, has lately been engulfed by a scandal that may bring down her administration. Choi Soon Sil, a long-time friend and mentor of the president, allegedly used her relationship with Park to extort money from South Korea’s largest corporations (chaebol). Corruption scandals, abuse of power, kickbacks, embezzlement, and so on, are, unfortunately, established problems in South Korea, as they are in many democracies. ‘Choi-gate,’ as it has inevitably become named, attracts so much attention, however, because of the sheer oddity of Choi’s relationship to the president.
A Korean Rasputin?
Choi’s relationship with Park goes back to the 1970s, when Choi’s father befriended Park’s family in the wake of Park’s mother’s assassination. Choi the elder claimed he could speak to Park’s mother’s spirit, and he seems to have lead some kind of shamanistic cult leader. It is unclear how much Park was taken in by all this, but a US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks noted long-standing rumors that the Choi family had ‘complete control over Park’s body and soul.’ The Chois’ influence on Park has repeatedly been likened to Rasputin’s influence over Russian Czar Nicholas II. Choi the younger was given all sorts of curious access to the Blue House (the South Korean equivalent of the White House) including oversight of the presidential wardrobe, staffing decisions (having Choi’s personal trainer hired, e.g.), and editorial input on Park’s speeches.
It is unclear at the moment if that relationship involved criminal activity. Park Geun Hye, like any politician, is entitled to personal friendships, and democratic office-holders have long sought the counsel of old friends who do not necessarily have rich topical expertise but whom are nonetheless deeply trusted. On assuming the American presidency, Harry Truman is rumored to have said ‘I need some Missouri around me,’ by which he meant long-time friends from his home state whom he trusted more than the experts around him from the Roosevelt administration. Nevertheless, the sheer oddness, utter lack of credentials, and wide influence Choi had is bizarre and disturbing; as one AFP journalist put it: “Why so much fury over Choi in Korea? Imagine if your head of state had a Gypsy palm reader as a key aide and let her handle cabinet formation/policy.”
Korean Presidential Scandals
Park’s defenders note that South Korean presidents regularly get in trouble for corruption and cronyism. Indeed, this is true. Every South Korean president since democratization has been investigated after he left office; some have gone to jail, and one even killed himself over the allegations. More generally, South Korea’s Transparency International score for corruption is a mediocre 56 out of 100 possible points. Corruption is so widespread that South Korea recently enacted an extremely tough anti-graft law. It is also true that Korean presidents routinely suffer crashing approval ratings.
In this sense Park is in good (bad) company. Just over the previous three presidencies:
Lee Myung Bak (POTROK, 2008-13) got entangled in a corruption scandal involving his family and political associates, mostly involving bribery. Lee, like Park, was forced to make a public apology. Lee was also questioned regarding stock manipulation, and his signature Four Rivers project was dogged by allegations that it was far too elaborate and olympian to reasonably succeed and really about kickbacks to cronies in the construction industry.
Roh Moo Hyun (POTROK, 2003-2008) was also pulled into a family corruption scandal involving bribery. He too felt compelled to apologize and committed suicide over the issue.
Kim Dae Jung (POTROK, 1998-2003), we now know, effectively bribed Kim Jong Il to participate in the ‘Sunshine’ process with a cash payment of $500 million. He too got sucked into a family bribery scandal.
What makes Park’s trouble unique in this otherwise depressing history of pay-to-play is the oddity of her scandal. This is not a typical or ‘understandable’ scandal. Scandals over money, political power, sex, or helping friends and family are comprehensible, if still deplorable, because we all suffer from those weaknesses. What sets Park’s troubles apart is that she went to such great lengths to help someone whom most of us would immediately have tagged as a grifter and a charlatan. When Richard Nixon paid off Howard Hunt during Watergate, both were sharp characters looking for a serious pay-off over a major issue. It was illegal but deadly serious.
By contrast, Park looks like a dilettante. What she ever saw in an obvious con-artist like Choi; what serious benefit Park ever got from the relationship; and why she allowed Choi to manipulate her so easily for so long baffles the entire country. Park comes out of this looking, not like a nixonian schemer, but a lightweight mark conned by a snake oil salesman. How does one ascend to the presidency of a major country while simultaneously being a marionette to some weirdo Rasputin character? South Koreans strike me as more mystified and unnerved, rather than dismayed, at their president. As one K-blogger put it, what is so strange is how utterly irrational Park’s downfall is compared to other Korean presidents’ ‘normal’ corruption.
The Future of Corruption in Korea
Park Geun Hye’s case is so bizarre that I doubt it will have lasting impact on the corruption debate here. Her presidency is probably fatally wounded, but Choi-gate does not touch on the sources of more normal corruption in Korea:
– A deeply rooted gift-giving culture: The giving of gifts is an important social bonding mechanism in Korea, which, when transferred to professional environments, can appear like bribery. Successive governments have struggled with this; it would be a shame if the healthy instinct of communitarian generosity inherent in gift-giving were criminalized. Nevertheless, the government is now taking a hardline with the new anti-graft law.
– A large, intrusive state: The South Korean developmentalist state is very active in the economy. It routinely directs resources toward favored sectors and companies (‘picking winners’), opening ample space for business and political elites to interact regarding money. The opportunities for graft are as obvious as they are extensive. These are the sorts of relationships that have repeatedly done in Korean political and chaebol elites. Until the state steps back from the economy, such scandals will continue.
The good news however is that corruption in South Korea is often uncovered and subject to scrutiny. Prosecutors pursue it, and the public gets incensed. All this sunlight should eventually improve the situation as future grifters and cheaters must reckon with the likelihood that they will be caught and punished. South Korea, for all its corruption, is not like Russia or many other states far down on the Transparency International index. Corruption is routinely revealed, and even top officials are punished for it. Cleaning out the dirt may ugly, but it is happening. It is not swept under the rug, as in so many other places.
As for Park, my own sense is that this is a friendship run badly amok. Park’s parents were both assassinated; she is estranged from her siblings; she never married; and she has few personal friends and a distant demeanor. It sounds a lot like she was lonely and lost sight of proper boundaries. Choi’s influence was likely inappropriate and unethical, but it is not obviously criminal. Barring some bombshell revelation, I doubt Park Geun Hye will step down.
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University
Greetings, travelers! I’m a member of Trazy Crew, back with a review, this time about my experience on my fall foliage trip to Naejangsan National Park!
Since South Korea is well known for the beautiful fall colors, I wanted to venture out. So last week, I signed up for our own tour package which was the ‘Korea Fall Foliage Small Group Tour‘.What/Where is Naejangsan National Park?
In case this is your first time hearing about the park, Naejangsan is a famous mountain located in Jeolla-do Province, which is not too far from Jeong-eup City.
It’s one of the best destinations for viewing a gorgeous color palette of autumn leaves (mainly maple leaves) and breathing in the fresh air in South Korea. Plus, there are also waterfalls and temples to explore.
Naejang means ‘many secrets’, implying that there are many beautiful things to discover in the park. Though fall is definitely the park’s peak season, it’s also gorgeous during the spring when azaleas and cherry blossoms bloom, summer when the mountain turns greener and in winter when the rock cliffs are blanketed in snow.The Best Way to Get to Naejangsan National Park
By Train: You can take the KTX from Yongsan Station to get to Jeong-eup Station, then take a local bus to get there. This method can be quite confusing for first-time travelers and the train ticket price may be a little bit expensive as it costs around 40,000 KRW (around 39 USD). And fall is a high season in Korea, which means the train tickets may run out real fast.
By car: It takes around 4 hours from Seoul, but during weekends or peak season, it may take even more. Also, during the peak season, access to the mountain can become quite difficult, especially if you arrive late. The parking lots fill up before noon and the roads get packed. It’s best to arrive early in the morning and leisurely explore.For those who merely need a transport and do not want to go through the hassle, signing up for a tour package can be a great option as it provides a round-trip transportation and an admission fee.
Trazy’s fall foliage tour package also provides a round-trip transportation, which was a van along with a friendly tour staff member who spoke English. The admission fee is also included. I was picked up at Hongik University Station at 6:00am, but departure locations also include Myeongdong Station and Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station.
*Note that for a larger group of people, a bus may be used instead of a van. On the day of the tour, my tour group consisted of 6 people including myself.
By any means, if you would like to get there by yourself, click here for directions!
There was one rest stop halfway where we could use the bathroom and buy some food. We arrived at the park at around 10:30am ready to explore!The Top 4 Hiking Trails We Recommend!
In Naejangsan National Park, there is a total of 10 hiking courses in the park. But here are the top 4 hiking trails and courses you should try.
1. Seoraebong Course – The most visited course that starts from the Hiking Information Center and passes through Seoraebong Peak (624m) and Bulchulbong Peak (622m) before ending at the Information Center again. It’s not too challenging, but there is a steep steel staircase that can be a little tiring to climb. 2. Nature Observation Course – Also an easy one composed of mainly gravel roads and dirt that’s great for families, children or the elderly. The entire course can be completed in about an hour and 20 minutes. 3. Baekyangsa Walking Trail – For those who want more of a challenge and really want to get in some exercise, these two trails are recommended. This trail contains several steep slopes and has lots of steps.
We took one of the easier courses that involved barely any steep inclines or difficulty. From the parking lot, we took a free shuttle bus to the ticket area, which took less than 5 mins. By walking, it would take around 15~20 mins.There the tour staff member bought us tickets for the second shuttle to the entrance of the National Park. All courses start and finish from this entrance where the ticket booths are.
The bus fee is part of the tour so we didn’t need to pay but it is normally 1,000 KRW. The first shuttle was big, but this one was smaller and more cramped but it didn’t matter since the journey was short. We passed lots of hikers and tourists despite it only being 11am. On the way, you can find this sign in the picture below. If you are the left was the cable car, which people could ride at an additional cost. 0.5 km to the right was Naejangsa Temple, which was where we were headed and further ahead was Byeongnyeonam Temple.The walk to the temple takes around 5 minutes, and is so enthralling and beautiful that you’ll be stopping for photos constantly! There were also many restaurants and vendors selling vegetables, herbs, teas, kimchi, meat, makgeolli (rice-based alcohol) and acorn jelly as well as various trinkets.3 Attractions You Should Not Miss!1. Naejangsa Temple
After a leisurely 5 minute walk from the entrance of the park, we arrived at Naejangsa Temple.The temples had people praying inside them and outside pretty much every spot was a photo zone. The trees and floor were coated with leaves and there was a pond with statues spurting out water.Korean temples also have wells called ‘Yaksuto.’ These wells pour out water that is fresh and drinkable, which you can do with the plastic cups provided. The highlight was hands down a singing performance by one of the monks. He was singing a pop song with a voice that you would expect to hear from someone like Pavarotti or Bocelli. He was amazing.Recommended photo spots:
*Illjumun Gate: It is symbolic because it is the entrance to the Buddhist temple and is apparently good for taking group photos. *The lanterns: These were located in front of the temple. I LOVE the colors and found that they made the perfect background for a photo as they swayed gently in the wind. *The pagoda: It houses the purported remains of the Buddha and makes for the perfect photo with the backdrop of the foliage and blue sky.
*Resting area: This area was where a lot of people were sitting down to take a rest. There were stairs leading up to the top where many photos were being taken too. The photographer would stand there and point their camera down so that the foliage would be captured with the subject in the middle.2. Uhwajeong Pavilion
The leisurely downhill walk from the temple back to the parking lot was about an hour and 40 minutes down a long path called ‘Five Colors Danpoong (Korean for autumn leaves) Path’.
As we walked down, we saw Uhwajeong Pavilion.
The name is derived from the legend that the pavilion once grew wings and ascended into the heavens. Various flowers, trees and foliage surrounding the pavilion created a view that looked almost fake. The water was also so clear that I could see fish swimming!
The one that stands today was built this year to replace the original one (pictured above) erected in 1965, which was criticized for failing to harmonize with its surroundings.Recommended photo spots:
*Stone path: I noticed many people taking photos on the stone path leading to the pavilion. They would stand in a line and pop their heads out in alternative directions while flailing their arms, which made for a cute photo.
*From a distance: I also found that taking a photo from further away made the pavilion look like something out of a postcard. This was thanks to the foliage and trees appearing in the surroundings as well as the ray of sunlight!3. Sinsun Waterfall
Located further down from where Uhwajeong Pavilion is, Sinsun Waterfall is a historical river bank where Japanese and Korean soldiers fought. Since the river is old, natural stones were stacked in efforts to reconstruct it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to see the water flowing out on the day of the tour, but when it does, it just looks amazing!Recommended Photo Spot:
*Sinsun Waterfall and Uhwajeong Pavilion: Because Uhwajeong Pavilion is visible behind the waterfall, it makes for the perfect photo as you can see it in its miniature form in the background behind the cascading waterfall!Trazy’s Survival Tips – Know Before You Go!
*Wear comfortable shoes! I wore a pair of combat boots that were relatively comfortable, but sneakers would be better. Wear hiking shoes if you plan on trekking along the more challenging courses.*Skip the cable car or be prepared to waste a good two or three hours waiting. It’s much better to explore the paths by walking in that time.
*Stick to bibimbap if you’re not into foods that have strong seasonings or taste. The tour staff told us one of the tourists ordered a bean paste soup, but it turned out to have such a strong taste that was like ‘cheonggukjang’, a fermented soybean paste that has a pungent scent).
*Avoid weekends. If you head to the park on a Friday, there may be an increased amount of traffic when you head back in the evening. This is normal, though.Review on ‘Korea Fall Foliage Small Group Tour’
Overall, I had a really great time at the park. I was dreading it at first since I am by no means an outdoorsy person, but it wasn’t bad at all! The trail was nice and easy to walk along and the weather was amazing. I captured so many amazing photos and got some exercise too.
I do kind of wish that I had visited earlier since the foliage is in full bloom during early November. Plus it had rained heavily the day before, making lots of leaves fall to the ground.
So, if you are thinking of joining the tour next year, check the weather forecast regularly and book your trip during the month of October.
At any rate, the Fall Foliage Small Group Tour was excellent since I was driven to and from the park by the tour staff. Since the tour is not guided, we were also free to explore the area on our own and be back at the parking lot at a designated time.
For those of you who have never been to Naejangsan National Park or other national parks across South Korea during fall, check out Trazy’s fall foliage tournext year and book in advance if you want to save your seats during the peak season!
Found this post helpful? Don’t forget to check out Trazy.com, Korea’s #1 Travel Shop for more fun and exciting things to do in South Korea.
a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world.
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually.
While things have gotten a bit quiet on the the EdTechTalk site, Teachers Teaching Teachers continues to have great conversations Wednesday nights at 9pm EST (global times). Below is a playlist of recent episodes.
Tune in at: http://edtechtalk.com/ttt
Educational Technology and Education Conferences
for January to June 2017, Edition #36
Prepared by Clayton R. Wright, crwr77 at gmail.com, November 12, 2016
The 36th edition of the conference list covers selected events that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration. Only listings until May 2017 are complete as dates, locations, or Internet addresses (URLs) were not available for a number of events held from June 2017 onward. In order to protect the privacy of individuals, only URLs are used in the listing as this enables readers of the list to obtain event information without submitting their e-mail addresses to anyone. A significant challenge during the assembly of this list is incomplete or conflicting information on websites and the lack of a link between conference websites from one year to the next.