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>>>Best South Korea Selection – Sept 2003

clock03-11-2010, 08:32 PM
Yorum: #1
>>>Best South Korea Selection – Sept 2003

Welcome to the photos from my September 2003 visit to South Korea, my first overseas trip since moving to Japan and the first outing with my Sony Cybershot camera (you’ll have to excuse the odd bit of dodgy composition and soft focus here and there.) If you like these photos then you can check out my Best Seoul Selection and Best North Korea Selection , which has photos from the north side of the 38th Parallel at Panmunjom.

I’ve divided these photos into four sections: Out And About In Seoul, Panmunjom and the DMZ, Traditional Korea and Extras. Enjoy.

Out And About In Seoul

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Seoul at sunset taken from Seoul Tower (apparently one of the top five tallest towers in the world)

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Seoul Tower, as seen from time capsule area of Namsan Park. Like in Japan, conformity is drilled from an early age, as you can see from the mandatory uniforms worn by these kindergarten kids.

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Seoul’s 61,000-capacity World Cup Stadium, where the 2002 tournament’s opening ceremony was held. I was only 16 months too late, although I was lucky enough to be able to check out the Yokohama stadium (the outside only though) on World Cup Final Day.

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The MLB63 Building, Korea’s tallest skyscraper, which is located in the Yeouido island business district.

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The South Korean flag in front of Yeouido island skyscrapers.

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People enjoying a game of changgi (like chess or Japanese shoji), a pastime you see being enjoyed in parks throughout South Korea in warm weather.

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Me eating boshintan (dog soup). The bewildered look on my face is more to do with the state of the restaurant (extremely skanky) rather than the idea of eating ‘man’s best friend’ (OK taste but admittedly pretty skanky meat). Any restaurant where you find three of the proprietor’s hairs in one meal is just wrong!

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Gravestones and tombs on sale in front of the twin Samsung towers on Yeouido island.

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“Go on, you know you’ll need one.” A gravestone salesman giving the elderly the hard sell.

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The War Memorial Museum, which provides a detailed account of Korean military history. It’s interesting to note the absence of any reference to World War II (of course due to the fact that the country was occupied by the Japanese until the end of the war) and that, as key allies of the US, South Korean soldiers fought the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War.

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The Korean peninsula’s military past (and indeed present) is well documented at the War Memorial.

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Statue outside the War Memorial Museum. I can’t remember well, but I suspect it’s some kind of commentary on reunification.

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Magpie outside the War Memorial Museum.

Panmunjom and the DMZ

Here are the pictures from my DMZ tour with the USO (United Services Organization), which provides entertainment for US military personnel and their families. It’s the only full tour of the south side of the DMZ and is highly recommended, although ironically you actually get more propaganda and hostility towards the enemy on this tour than you do on the tour the North Koreans run for tourists on the other side of the border.

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All aboard! After signing a declaration that my family wouldn’t sue the US military if I should step on a landmine or get caught in the crossfire of an impromptu gun battle with North Korean border guards, and after pinning on a sky blue UN badge that identified me as being unfair game to pick off with a sniper rifle should any trouble arise, it was time to board the UN bus and head off to ‘the frontline’

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The House of Peace with Gijeong-dong (Propaganda Village) and the world’s tallest flagpole in the background.

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Amongst the few surviving icons of the Cold War are these sky blue huts where negotiations between the two Koreas sporadically continue to this day.

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People have remarked that in this picture it looks like I’m standing next to a wax model but I assure you this guy’s real. In order to (supposedly) intimidate the North Korean border guards, South Korean border guards stand motionless in this Taekwondo pose, wearing mirror shades to avoid eye contact.

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Another shot of the negotiation huts.

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North Korean watchtower. The American soldier giving the tour made out that we were likely to be shot if we made sudden movements, but I discovered this (and a lot of other stuff on the USO DMZ tour) to be untrue when I visited North Korea in 2004. I guess they have to hype up the hostile atmosphere though, since almost everyone on the tour was US military-related and therefore needed to be reassured about the need for American military presence there.

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The main building on the North Korean side.

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Billed as ‘the world’s most dangerous golf course’, this green is surrounded by landmines (as is much of the DMZ)

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This flagpole is billed as the world’s tallest.

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The ‘Bridge Of No Return’, where POWs (such as the crew of the USS Pueblo) have been exchanged in the past. Our guide was happy to list all the ‘Commies’ who defected to the South across the bridge, though no mention was made of all the South Koreans and Americans who defected the other way and I didn’t like to ask, being as I was in the non-American minority.

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Check out all that erosion. As with so much of North Korea’s landscape, trees have been hacked down for fuel causing irreparable damage to the land.

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Comedy monument pose outside the 4th tunnel of aggression, one of several tunnels constructed under the DMZ by North Korea to invade its southern neighbour (though obviously these were discovered and the plans were foiled)

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When I went to the DMZ there were huge propaganda speaker banks on both sides of the border (the North’s focusing on its military capability and the South’s focusing on its wealth), as well as neon signs displaying messages encouraging opposition soldiers to defect; I believe the two nations later signed an agreement to cease this kind of propaganda.

Traditional Korea

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Traditional house in Namsan Hanok Village at the base of Mount Namsan. Note the chimney for ondol, the indigenous Korean heating system for buildings. As in the case of this house, ondol used to consist of fires lit in an area below the floor but these days is more like a giant radiator, resembling the Western idea of central heating only with hot water pipes heating the floor.

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Namsan Hanok Village consists of old buildings relocated from other areas of Seoul and is a great location for film and TV crews who don’t want to trek a couple of hours south to Hanguk Minsok Chon (the Korean Folk Village)

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Urns for the fermenting of kimchi, Koreas national dish.

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House at Hanguk Minsok Chon with maize drying outside. As with the DMZ tour, I went to the Korean Folk Village with the USO and it was another good tour.

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A lot of old Korean houses are elevated, with half the space under the floor walled off for the ondol furnace while the other half of the house has an open space under the floor (as you see here) to allow cool air to circulate under the floor and cool rooms down during the humid summer. Note also the ‘bamboo wife’ hanging from the wall; apparently until the C20th Korean men and women slept on separate futons (really?) and to remain cool during the night men used bamboo wives to allow air to circulate under the covers. Maybe they should have just removed the covers, but I suppose the ‘bamboo wife’ is a practical idea too (though not as much fun as the Japanese ‘Dutch wife’)

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Outdoor cooking facilities with rice silo and kimchi urns.

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Another old house, with maize and wood supply for ondol.

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The Korean equivalent of totem poles. I can understand the individual Chinese characters but I don’t know exactly what they mean together. Does anyone know?

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An old pharmacy with remedies hanging outside. This shot gives you a good idea how thick the thatched roofing is.

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Old house with gourds growing on the roof.

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Rustic house with logs for ondol.

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Traditional kitchen set-up.

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Temple at Hanguk Minsok Chon.

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Elaborate corner of the temple’s roof.

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A drum and a fish in the temple annex.

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Traditional costumes and dance.

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As with totem poles, masks appear to have played a significant part in traditional Korean culture and they make great souvenirs so appear in abundance at all major tourist spots.


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My accommodation of choice in Seoul, the Hilltop Motel in Itaewon. It’s not exactly the Hilton but I like it.

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My companions for the week.

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Mmmm, Whoppers… To a burger connoisseur deprived of Burger King in Japan (apparently the handful that opened in Tokyo were bought out by South Korean company Lotteria), Itaewon was a good place to set up camp for the week.
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