July 27, 2013
By Maggie Deagon and Daniel Kim
On July 18th at six in the morning, our group braved the Seoul drizzle with sunnier visions on our minds. Busan was the destination that thrilled us—a southeastern city known for the friendliness of its people and beauty of its beaches. Little did we know of our coastal adventure’s true magnitude.
We boarded KTX (Korea Train eXpress) to most efficiently arrive at our destination. KTX is famous for its role in Korea’s time revolution. In a word, “balli-balli” sums up the importance Koreans place on efficiency. The faster things can be done, the better! Thus, the creation of KTX helped minimize travel time between Korea’s coasts, increasing productivity. Although the trip is shorter to the southeastern coast than it would be via other methods, our group still had plenty opportunity to catch up on the rest we lacked the previous night.
July 15, 2013
By Yuni Choi, Ari Lyon, and Melina Sutton
We started off the day by hopping on a bus that took us from the Ewha campus to Yongin to visit a Korean folk village. The village is a recreation of what a traditional village looks like and the employees even dressed in hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing. As soon as we stepped into the village, we got our first taste of traditional Korea. Our tour guide showed us replicas of an herb store, the women’s quarters of a house, and stores that sold traditional household goods and crafts. They were even selling traditional goods such as wedding ducks and masks. Our TA Lucy bought a handmade shoe horn! The folk village had an area for people to play tuho, a game where one throws a stick into a canister. But our attention was easily diverted to the performance area where “Farmer’s Music and Dance” was going on. In this traditional dance, men wear hats with long ribbons on them and dance to the beat of drums. After that ended, there was another performance of a woman doing acrobatics on a tightrope. She started off by just walking across the rope and I thought that was the whole performance, but then she started bouncing and sitting on the rope while making her way across! Needless to say, the folk village was a favorite for many. While we have visited many places that display contemporary Korea, this let us experience traditional Korea.
July 11, 2013
By Shawn Rhoads, Hye Young Jung, and Jaemyeong Lee
Coming to Korea, most of us only ever heard the song “Gangnam Style” without really knowing what the Gangnam Style actually is. Perhaps a few of us learned in our pop culture classes that the song was in fact more than just a catchy beat and dance craze, that it was actually social commentary on Korea’s recent excessive attraction to designer brands and superficiality. However, there’s nothing like an actual visit to the district itself to experience for ourselves that unless you’re ready to spend your entire week’s allowance on a single article of clothing, there’s not much to Gangnam. Nevertheless, we had many cherished memories in the underground shops in the subway station.
Despite having been in Seoul for a week, our first hanshik (traditional Korean meal) didn’t come until Friday, and there couldn’t have been a better place for it than San-dul-hae near Olympic Park. For less than $15 a person, we were able to enjoy all of the banchan (side dishes) and bap (rice) that are included in all traditional Korean meals. The ssal (uncooked grain) was cooked in a stone pot unlike other modern rice cookers, so the bap was particularly unique from all the other bap we had eaten. When Korea had a royal family, only the king had the privilege of enjoying this type of dish.
Korean eating culture is very different from that of the West. There is no main dish and everyone shares from the same set of side dishes. We thought it was interesting that there was everything – fish, meat, vegetables, grains. While there are many different mannerisms that come with Korean dining – such as using chopsticks, receiving with two hands, and eating on the maru (floor) – there are many similarities that Westerners practice when eating meals with their families. Similarly to Korea, everyone helps themselves to the different dishes at the table and they are fed until they are full. However, when dining out, each person usually orders their own meals which differs from the communal ways of Korea.
July 9, 2013
By Abigail Becker and Hyunji Lee
We went to Seoul N Tower for the first part of our trip on Wednesday. Although it was supposed to rain, the day was amazingly clear, which made a perfect condition for viewing Seoul from the top of Namsan, where the tower is located. Just like the other trips we went on, we got in taxis in several groups and left for the entrance of the tower. After all of us arrived, we took a bus to the mid point and walked up the rest of the way. After having lunch at a food court below the tower, we dropped by Cold Stone and grabbed some yummy ice cream. Each of us looked happy with sweet dessert in our hands. We looked around the plaza, where there were hundreds of millions of love-lockers hanging on trees and handrails. We also enjoyed the view of Seoul from the plaza, though an even better view was waiting for us at the top of the tower.
After ice-cream time, we finally boarded an elevator to go up to the tower. There, we could see whole of Seoul from every angle. We found the Blue House, Kyeongbok Palace, Yeoido in the middle of Han River, Sangam World Cup Stadium, Myeongdong, Itaewon, Hannam-dong, and so on. It was a great opportunity to see Seoul’s landscape thoroughly. We also had time to write and send postcards at the top of the tower, which would be an unforgettable memory for USC students. If there was a sad thing, it was that we could not find our school, Ewha, which is located on the other side of mountains.
July 8, 2013
by Lauren White and Kayla Foster
We made it safely to Korea and after a nice weekend of rest we started our first tour of Seoul on Monday. The theme for the day was “Old Seoul.” Therefore our first stop was Gyeongbok Palace.
As an avid Korean drama watcher, I felt as if I had just walked on the set to one of my favorite historical dramas. I was amazed by the beautiful detail, as well as the amount of space. I was imagining a smaller version since it was located off of a busy street in what seemed like the middle of the city. We were guided to several rooms that were in the palace that gave us a general feel of how life was in the Joseon Dynasty, but it was the ingenious architecture of hanok, traditional Korean homes, that truly stood out to me. I was surprised by the advanced technology, as well as the way nature was intertwined with architecture. There are three gates that one must pass through to go into the palace acting as a thick layer of security. The first layer of security includes a large open space that is ideal for holding large gatherings, as well as making public announcements.
August 3, 2012
by Tia Uchiyama
It seems my peers have chosen to write about our adventures in Seoul in a rather serious manner. And for that reason, I hope you won’t mind that I’ve chosen to speak more casually and frankly about my experiences in Seoul.
I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about Korea before coming to study in Seoul. But I also don’t feel like I experienced much culture shock. Maybe it’s because I’m familiar with Eastern culture through my studies at USC, or maybe it’s just because I adapt well (ha-ha). When I looked over our schedule before departure, I had no conception of where these places were or what they entailed. I knew a little Korean from my friends, but not nearly enough to get around. I felt nervous about being able to communicate and navigate an unfamiliar city.
I was surprised to find so many non-Korean restaurants around the Hongdae and Shinchon area. I’m not sure why I was surprised, necessarily…
I had ridden a subway before, so the act itself didn’t bother me. But because I didn’t know anything about the geography of Seoul, I was gripped rather hard by my fear of disorientation. I checked, double-checked, even triple-checked the maps before boarding; my eyes nervously flickering between the moving map and my USC friends. Though after I made my first trip to Myeongdong solo, I started to feel more confident riding the subway.
If there were one thing I had to pick out from Seoul as my number one, it would have to be the public transportation. It’s very affordable—to the extent of being considered “cheap,” often only around 1,000-won, or maybe 1,200-won for a trip across the city. To give you an idea of how ridiculously inexpensive this is: it costs $2.50 in Hawaii to ride the bus one-way. Taxis are also much cheaper here, and infinitely more abundant. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an empty taxi driving around in Hawaii (save for the more tourist areas), whereas you could probably catch a taxi anywhere in Seoul. The 50,000-won travel allowance we were given so graciously by our sponsors was more than enough to go wherever we wanted, whenever.
August 2, 2012
- by Anna Pazderski
The first thing that triggered my interest in South Korea was its dance scene. While Korea is known for its Hallyu stars who dance to their songs, I have also heard praise for its break-dancing scene and hip hop world. So, when I came to Korea, one of the first things I wanted to do was somehow take part in this side of Korea.
I took classes for two weeks at a studio called EZ Dance, right next to Ewha University. I will remember my experience there for the rest of my life. It was unlike any other. The whole process was unique from the start, from my friend helping by being a translator to entering the studio and needing to put on slippers.
July 30, 2012
By Jennie Lee
Last week, we went to the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Compared to the National Museum of Korea, which we visited our first week, the tour we received this time was very short and incomplete. We only viewed some works in the photography collection, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The exhibition was on Images of Silence and its four themes were: desolate landscapes, space of absence, absence of communication, and death—eternal silence. As we went through the gallery, the more dark and eerie the subjects of the photographs became. In a way, these photographs of silence seemed to be a reminder of how Korea has constantly been silenced during the past century of colonization, intervention, and dictatorial rule.
To start off this week, our last week in Korea, we visited the N Seoul Tower. Used as a communication and observation tower, it is located at Namsan, or South Mountain, in Seoul. It is commonly know as the Namsan Tower or simply Seoul Tower. When we arrived, I was surprised to see a banner over the entrance saying that the Tower was voted the #1 tourist attraction in Seoul. It led me wonder why it was and made me anticipate the tour even more.
We took an elevator up to the observation deck. Instead of focusing on the view of the Seoul landscape outside the windows lining the walls, I could not help but be distracted by the gift shop flagrantly in the middle of the deck. Next to it there was a postcard station to write postcards and send them in a mailbox. On another floor there was a cosmetics shop, and on the ground floor, there was another gift shop, which even sold K-pop goods.
July 10, 2012
By Anna Pazderski
We spent the first week in Korea visiting Kyongbok Palace, Insadong, Seodaemun Prison and the National Museum of Korea. In the bustling and ever-changing, modern Seoul, there is a feeling of time being frozen in these historic places. These places are an interesting contrast to the modern buildings of Seoul.
Kyongbok Palace was surprisingly large, and today there are around 30 buildings in existence. However, in the past, there were around 500 (WOA!). Stepping into the palace compounds, there is an interesting juxtaposition between the palace and the surrounding city area. After an exciting taxi ride, the palace grounds were quiet, and felt empty because they were so large. I was constantly looking up to see the roofs of the palace buildings. The guide explained to us the significance of the type of roof and color, the similarities and differences between Korean, Chinese, and Japanese traditional roofs. We were also shown the Queen’s and King’s separate quarters. During the day males and females were not supposed to enter each other’s quarters. The palace grounds also used to house the Government General Building, the seat of the Japanese colonial government. In class, we discussed the act of colonial mimicry and gender as a “performance.” We applied these ideas to a film about the Japanese colonial era named “Modern Boy.” However, it is interesting to wonder about the actions of the males and females in ancient times. Being segregated most of the day, what of their actions in their gender roles were a “performance”?
By Isobel Brown
Urban modernity. That was my initial impression of the city of Seoul subsequent to leaving Incheon Airport in South Korea. Countless skyscrapers and contemporary buildings loomed over the city, with glittering neon lights serving as stark yet lovely contrasts to the raven dark night sky. The traffic on the roads was overwhelming, with cars packed tightly next to each other like pieces of sardines. The streets our bus whizzed by were vibrant and bustling, adorned with assorted vendors and restaurants selling a variety of exotic cuisines. During the entire journey to Ewha University, where our group will be staying at for the next month, I kept my eyes resolutely glued to the scenes outside my window, anticipating what sight might appear next. The city seemed so energetic and full of life that I wondered if I would be able to explore all it has to offer in the span of four weeks.
However, although at first glance Seoul seemed to be an epitome of modernity and innovation, certain prominent historical locations continue to be crucial landmarks within the city. For instance, Kyongbokgung, one of the largest royal palaces built during the Choson era, is representative of the traditional architectural style utilized during its time. It was truly quite intriguing to observe the juxtaposition between the traditional Choson architecture of the palace and the various modern skyscrapers and office buildings surrounding it. It almost felt as if the palace still belongs in the Choson period, while its surroundings continue to shift and alter with time. There were also other local sites, such as Buddhist temples and shrines, which stood out amongst all the other contemporary buildings. However, I felt as if they add another layer of depth and intrigue to the city of Seoul. It demonstrates how, despite its modernity and technological advances, the city still perceives certain traditional values to be incredibly important.