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Expat essentials  
Expat essentials: A simple guide to South Korea life for new arrivals
Are you moving to South Korea? If so, then this guide is all you need to prepare yourself. Here we list the most important things to keep in mind before you set off.
Choosing a place to live
One of the key issues you will have to take into account if you work in any major Korean city is traffic. Every large road in Korea is jam packed, bumper to bumper, pretty much non-stop leading up to business hours. If you want to avoid 2 hours trapped in your car at the beginning or end of every working day, then find an apartment close to your place of business. Though this might cost you a little extra, the effect on your quality of life is well worth it.
You should not expect to find a house in Korea for anything other than top dollar. The vast majority of accommodation is apartment-based, though you can find very nice, fairly spacious flats without burning your budget. Condos are also available, which are somewhere between an apartment and a house, for a little extra.
How to get around
As we've mentioned already, traffic makes driving in big cities a trek, so reliance on public transport is a general fact of life. The subways are cheap and the one in Seoul is very large and very reliable. It can take a long time to get from one place to another, but this is something you will have to get used to regardless of how you travel. We would recommend leaving the bus system alone until you have settled in properly and know your way around (which might take a while!). The bus routes are very complicated and figuring out which bus goes where and when is not so easy unless you are familiar with the entire city. Taxis are very, very cheap, though finding a driver who speaks English is not likely.
Socialising
The South Koreans are very sociable people and love nightlife, food and getting out. There are, however, a few subtle rules to drinking and eating in Korean company that are worth knowing before you hit the bars and restaurants. Hierarchy is important: the older you are, the more important you are at the table. The eldest person in the party always begins eating first, so don't dig in as soon as the food is placed under your nose. When Koreans offer a drink, they mean it. It is very impolite to refuse when your host goes to fill up your glass. Also, if you are out with business friends, talking about work is the biggest faux pas you can make. When Koreans are drinking, the last thing they want to do is chat about business. When the bill comes if the senior member of the party offers to pay do not counter-offer or suggest splitting it. If it is your turn to pay, tipping is, generally, not done and no waiter will expect a tip.
Biggest movies of all time   
South Korea is home to a vibrant cinema scene, filled with brilliantly creative home-grown directors, actors and cinematographers. Korean films have a tendency to mix emotions, tones and genres in a way uncommon to western audiences. The mood of a movie can often switch from comedy to tragedy in the space of a scene. Yet, due to the superbly crafted story-telling and artistic, poetic photography, these shifts in mood only add the magic of South Korean cinema.
To investigate the phenomenon of South Korea's love affair with the silver screen further, let's take a look at the biggest grossing movies in the nation's history.
1. The Admiral (Roaring Currents), Released: 2014, Admissions: 17,607,820.
The biggest film in the history of South Korean cinema was released in 2014 – Kim Man Min's extraordinary The Admiral. This telling of the true story behind the legendary Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597, during which 12 Korean ships managed to fight off more than 330 invading Japanese ships, struck a nerve with audiences in a way few could have predicted. On its very first day of release it grossed around $4.8 million, with 682,882 admissions. Though it has only received a limited release in English speaking territories, it has still managed to find an international audience, grossing a very respectable $2.5 million in the US and $135.9 million international overall. That makes The Admiral a true phenomenon.
2. The Host, Released: 2006, Admission: 13,019,740
Before The Admiral, there was The Host, a very different take on military activity in South Korea. Ostensibly a monster movie, director Bong Joon Ho's tale of a gigantic sea mutant's attack on Seoul is actually a crisp critique of the government's collusion with the American military during the latter's ‘War on Terror.' Upon release it quickly set a new box office record, selling 10 million tickets in three weeks, and finding its way to scores of top ten lists for the year from critics all over the world. It also cemented the reputation of its director, who had impressed global audiences with his chilling debut Memories of Murder three years previously, as one of cinema's most intelligent and maverick voices. Inevitably, awards were many for The Host, including Best Film at the Asian Film Awards and Best Film at the Blue Dragon Awards.
3. The Thieves, Released: 2012, Admissions: 12,983,330
Choi Dong-hoon's serpentine crime comedy was always going to be a winner. As well as being helmed by one of the country's leading directors, it boasted an all-star ensemble cast, bringing together many of Korea's most popular actors. The ever-twisting plot revolves around the heist of a previous diamond necklace from a fortress-like casino in Macau. As the story unfolds, involving double and triple crosses aplenty, the action is always kept at the highest pitch, while all the stars enjoy their over-the-top comedy performances. The audiences enjoyed it just as much, with over 12.9 million tickets sold and plethora of prizes at the Blue Dragon Awards, the Buil Awards, the Grand Bell Awards and the Korean Association of Film Critics' Awards.
South Korea’s Wackiest Events   

Whether you feel like slathering someone in mud, jumping off a cliff or dancing the night away, there are opportunities galore to get your freak on in South Korea.
Are you ready for a mud-fight? Then head to the Boryeong Mud Festival. Launched when the city of Boryeong became reputed for its natural mud-based cosmetics - particularly facial masks - the festival is a fun, let's admit it, wacky outdoor activity at the time revelers benefit from the effects of a spa session. During the festival, numerous swimsuit-clad tourists get involved in a slippery Korean wrestling match or sloppy mudslides.
Or are you looking to get dazzled? There's a festival for everyone in Korea and one of the most beautiful ones is Seoul Lantern festival. During the festival, hundreds of lanterns with unique design and story are lir on Cheonggyecheon Stream.
Film lovers can't miss Puchon International Film Festival, the second largest cinema event in South Korea which has grown into a hot regional festival for cult favorites.
For those who are passionate about film but can't live without music, they don't have to go far. There's a random festival that unites these two elements: Jecheon International Music Film Festival. Located by Cheongpung Lake, a seasonal getaway hot spot, the event is not only about musical films but also about bungee humping over the lake. There are also live concerts taking place all over the venue, raging from stage performances by major K-Pop stars to street traditional Korean percussion gigs. The lineup is varied and it includes Bollywood musical films, documentaries about African drummers or famous rockers, among others.
They say that Korea turns anything into a festival, so they even celebrate the snow season and this is the case: Taebaek's mountain range covered in white snow may be one of the most stunning landscapes in the country and to celebrate the snowfall, Taebaek hosts a snow festival every winter for 10 days.
The event opens with musical performances and there's a snow sculpting contest for university art students. If you attend, you'll have the chance to take part in a national climbing contest, a snowman contest and Okung sled riding. The place will look like a winter wonderland with giant sculptures adorning the designated area. There will also be driving and sledding courses, including a course for dog sled rides.
Another festival that has to do more with fortune is Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival on Jeju Island. The event is meant to burn away misfortune and attract luck. A prayer ritual for a good harvest opens the festival and throughout the day, there are folk performances, a tug-of-war for “Great Unity”, a “lighting of the sacred fire”, a “moon house” building competition, a volcanic eruption show, a stone lifting demonstration (deumdol-deulgi), congratulatory performances from international exchange cities, fireworks and a laser show. Even if you don't get good luck from attending this festival, a good time is guaranteed.

K-Pop superstar builds a G-Dragon hotel  

K-pop boy band Big Bang leader G-Dragon has financed a new pension hotel -”pensions” are small boutique hotels in the Korean countryside - and has given it to his family to operate. The new Dolce Vita Pension in Pocheon, Korea has taken both the media and social media in South Korean by storm.
It is no surprise that thousands of of fans fly to South Korea to attend K-Pop concerts every year, but now some fans will be able to stay at the K-Pop star's pension hotel, have a chance at spotting the star, compete for the attention of his family and relax in the meantime.
Given his extravagant style, the result is a funky mix of street art, pop art and high fashion. To top this extravaganza, the hotel is decorated with fan-oriented details such as miniature figurines of Big Bang and suites named after Big Bang songs.
G-Dragon also devised a room only for himself and his friends. The room is named after the title son of G-Dragon's last album - “Crayon”.
“G-Dragon's family originally bought the land thinking they would build a vacation home for G-Dragon to come rest occasionally,” said hotel manager Eun-mae Huh.
“Two of his mother's friends run pension hotels in the area, which is where the idea for this pension hotel came from.”
G-Dragon put up around US$920,000 to finance the hotel as a gift to his parents. His father, Young-hwan Kwon, runs the hotel and currently lives there with the K-Pop star's dog, Gaho.
“G-Dragon came to stay with Taeyang recently, and 2NE1 is also supposed to come soon,” said Huh.
According to the hotel manager, the success of the pension hotel came early. From the start, bookings started pouring in from fans including those who travel from far like Japan.
While Big Bang is one of Korea's biggest boy bands with the most albums sold in the country in the first half of 2012, their success overseas is not as big but has been growing rapidly since they started. In fact, they took home the title of “Best Worldwide Act” at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2011.
Therefore, the overseas fans are expected to crowd the pension hotel then and again. However, according to G-Dragon's father, the hotel will not be receiving guests under the age of 19. Apparently, teenage fans are not welcome to keep the pension hotel a quite place for guests to rest.
“It's not a place for teenage fans to come, and we won't be receiving them even if they come with parents” said Kwon in the interview. “It's not meant to be a commercial enterprise but just a quiet place for guests to stay.”
Rates start at ?250,000 (double occupancy).
2.25 Gisan-ri Ildong-myeon, Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, Korea.

K-Pop idols with eccentric personalities  

When somebody describes a person as 4D in Korea it means that they are eccentric, wacky and even deranged. However, far from being an insult, it's actually a compliment to their original and strong personality. The best example of this is the K-Pop industry as there are many 4D stars, but far from scaring fans away, it just make them love their idols more.
Here's a list of the wackiest K-Pop idols out there:
1) 2NE1's Bom: The girl band might be known for its crazy and energetic girls, but it is Bom the one that stands out for her 4D personality, hands down. And fans love her for it. Her passion for corn and random outbursts has made her one of the most entertaining Korean singers.
“On the outside, I may seem happy a lot. But I'm human, and it's not possible to be happy all the time.”
“My voice! And my style, my looks, Park Bom herself is an original!”
- Park Bom
2) Big Bang's Top: The boy might be known for his charming eyes and heart-warming eyes, but sometimes it's his wacky personality what stands out the most. His love for toys and crazy hats doesn't seem normal to anyone, not even to Bom who thinks he is from another planet.
“No matter what anyone says, passion never lies.” “I'm trying to become a person who I've been imagining as my hero since I was very little.” “To being Big Bang is I don't think being Big Bang has a definition yet. It's something that's unfinished.”
-Top
3) T-ara's Hyomin: Known as the Folding Screen, Hyomin has such a peculiar sense of humour that makes everyone laugh at her wacky jokes. Everyone loves her for her “I-don't-care” attitude and silly dances.
4) Super Junior's Yesung: Even though Yesung is professional, charming and serious while he is on stage, the minute he is not performing he is already showing his strange personality. Indeed, with a tortoise as a pet and extravagant dances, Yesung proves to be completely our of the ordinary.
5) Beast's Hyunseung: Without a doubt, there are many K-pop stars who stand out for their wacky personalities, but what makes Beast's leader special is he seems to live in his own world. Once and again, he says things that only him seem to understand, but that's what makes him loved by everyone.
6) FT Island's Seunghyun: He might have been the band's cute little one, but today Seunghyun is the member that keeps FT Island on their toes with his strange dances and squeals.
7) U-Kiss' Kiseop: He might have fooled us all in the beginning by looking shy and quiet, but now he has proven that he is just the opposite. The best part is that he doesn't care about his image.
8) 2AM's Jo Kwon: this is the a case where 4D reaches its pinnacle. Jo Kwon's eccentricities reach such level that he even got his own name for it: kkap. His specialty is turning charming and even sexy dances into pure entertainment. Not only his facial expressions but everything he says is highly peculiar.

Jisan Valley Rock Festival  
South Korea has a hopeless addiction to festivals and music, so when those two elements come together, they create a mind-blowing event: Jisan Valley Rock Festival, Korea's largest music event.
Set in the gorgeous Jisan Valley Ski Resort, numerous fans lie on multicoloured picnic blankets in front of the stages. The colourful display of blankets turns to dust as soon as the headliners take to the stage and rock the night away.
The festival, which is held annually on the last weekend of July, has gathered outstanding both local and international rock stars, including Stereophonics, Radiohead, The Stone Roses, Beady Eye and My Bloody Valentine.
Over the course of three days, thousands of festival-goers sip on fun drinks and dance as there was no tomorrow or go into a frenzy when their band play.
The festival is arranged by 9Ent, which is Smash Corporation in close coordination with Japanese Fuji Rock Festival. Back in 2009, the festival's maiden year, controversies emerged regarding the festival's split from neighbouring Pentaport Rock Festival. Nevertheless, the festival's sponsor changed to Mnet media in 2010 and CJ E&M in 2011. Ever since, VRF has been successful and grown into one of South Korea's biggest music festivals.
There are three stages at the festival: the first one is a Big Top Stage, which is the main stage outside. This is where headliners perform. Another stage is a Green Stage, which is smaller than the Big Top Stage. There is also an Open Stage for amateur singers.
Tickets are restricted to four tickets per person. Ticket sales are divided into three phases. The first one is without announcements and is called Early Bird. This sale usually starts in February on the Internet. From this point until the third phase of ticket sales, headliners and other musicians are announced gradually. Festival-goers can buy either the three day passes or the day tickets. Day tickets at only available in the latest phase and camping is not available for day tickets.
Campers usually take their own tent. Catering and some retail services are provided by various small companies, usually mobile catering vans, with food stalls in the camping grounds. Since 2010, festival-goers can only buy goods or good with T-money cards.
Among the headliners and other musicians that have performed in Jisan Valley Rock Festival, there have been outstanding bands and a massive British invasion: in 2009, legendary bands such as Weezer and Oasis rocked the festival grounds. In 2010, some of the artists included one of the hottest rock bands of this millennium, Muse, as well as Pet Shop Boys, Vampire Weekend and Massive Attack. In 2011, bands like The Chemical Brothers, Arctic Monkeys and Suede performed at the festival.
In 2012, the British invasion swamped the festival with mythical bands such as Radiohead and The Stone Roses. Among the local lineup, rock group Nell was the huge standout. The lineup of the never disappoints, and 2013's lineup was also off the charts with bands such as Stereophonics, Nine Inch Nails and The Cure.
 
Crayon Pop’s Bank Account Incident  
Crayon Pop's Bank Account Incident
The South Korean girl group formed in 2012 -under Chrome Entertainment - Crayon Pop has been widely criticised for opening opening a bank account specifically for charitable contributions.
The issue was that the announcement was worded incorrectly. The announcement seemed to emphasize that the bank account was for gifts instead of making it clear that the deposits would be donated to charity.
The announcement states: “As Crayon Pop rises in popularity (...) it is sometimes difficult to handle all the presents (...) From now on, the gifts we receive from fans, whether it's five on-site or via mail, will not be accepted. You can gift Crayon Pop in another way instead. We will soon open up a account specifically for presents. Those who want to offer gifts can enter a deposit into the account. Once the account reaches a certain sum, it will be donated to help those in need and charity organisations.”
A good deed never goes unpunished and the fact that they did not consult with fans prior their announcement was not received well, especially amongst those who had already prepared gifts or were planning to give the girls gifts with no monetary value.
Moreover, the wording of the announcement, mentioning a special bank account being set up and asking fans send in deposits raised suspicions of observers.
After the backlash, Crayon Pop and Chrome Entertainment issued an official apology and announced they would rethink their previous decision.
First the company stated: “The reason why we decided not to receive gifts was because the members felt burdened when they received expensive gifts. We chose a ‘donation' method where both the fans and the singers could be happy, but we didn't put enough thought into the method or the way we spoke up about it.
Of course we are thankful for the gifts, but it's also true that we feel sorry. It's burdensome for both the person who gives and the person who receives, and for student fans who aren't financially well off, it could even be bad. And even when the members wear it (gifts), that could create a misunderstanding.
We can't accurately divide the presents between what we can and what can't receive. We also cannot ignore the effort of our fans, so we had to figure out a solution that would best suit the both of us. We chose a method of donation that everyone could be happy with, but we weren't good in the execution and in the words we chose. We are sorry.”
Top connections in the K-pop industry  
Top connections in the K-pop industry
Show business might work a bit differently from other industries but it's ruled by commercial logics after all; thus, networking is a determining factor when it comes to making it in the K-pop industry.
There are certain idols who seem to get along with everyone, including influential people in the industry. Some of these idols obtain these connections through their label, some of them are personal friends and some just seem to come by randomly.
Media outlet Dispatch and JD Visual Dive has uncovered some of the top connected idols in the industry.
Big Bang's G-Dragon tops the list with his countless friends in the K-pop industry, including Jo Kwon, Jun.J, Jay Park, Shin Se Kyung, Yoo Eun Hye, among others. He also has connections abroad. Among his foreign friends, there are extremely successful artists such as Will Smith, Missy Elliott, Flo Rida and Justin Bieber. K-pop celebrities also need to look after their style and G-Dragon knows this. That is why he is also well-connected in the fashion industry; for instance, he is friends with Le Soo Hyuk.
2NE1's CL comes second in the list. CL is also friends with a lot of K-poppers such as Sohee, Nicole, Mir, Hyoyeon and Min. She also has a brilliant selection of international friends such as Kanye West, Will.I.Am and Jeremy Scott.
BoA is the veteran in this list. He has been in the K-pop industry for the longest and she has friends in every corner of the South Korean entertainment world, hidden or not. Most people know she is close friends with Lee Hyori and Kahi, but she is also friends with actors such as Yoo Hae Jin, Lee Jun Ki, Jang Hyuk, and Shin Se Kung. Her international links would turn anyone green with envy. She has connections to divas like Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears and Koda Kumi.
Seungri’s Sex Scandal  
Seungri's Sex Scandal
K-pop star Seungri - best known as a member of South Korean boy band Big Bang - has been implicated in a sex scandal in Japan.
A Japanese tabloid magazine named ‘Friday' released a story with the suggestive title “Famous Hallyn Idol Group Big Bang's Seungri's Bed Photos Leaked”, and uncovered revealing photos of a man who is supposed to be Seungri.
According to the magazine, these photos were taken by a woman who affirms that she spent a night with the idol member.
The article states: “Currently residing in Japan, Seungri's bed scandal was revealed... A woman who slept with him shared, ‘Seungri has the habit of choking (the other individual involved) during sexual intercourse.” She also - allegedly - stated that he didn't even kiss her once.
Undeniably, with this sex scandal, the magazine has achieved a massive success in terms of readership. After hearing about Seungri's apparent sex scandal, netizens have been commenting with their own opinion on the issue, and most of them have expressed their disbelief in the publication's story.
Followingly, Seungri talked about this scandal on a TV show called ‘Incarnation‘. He stated: “I came onto the show because I thought I should let the public know about what happened during the scandal”.
“It was the first time in history that an idol became the centre of a scandal like that. The magazine / tabloid I was published in is very famous. They don't even bother to talk about anyone who isn't famous. It was my first scandal, but it was so big. I was a bit scared and shocked. It think a lot of people started to think I was an adult because of that scandal.”
He added: “To be honest, I was told about it being printed in the magazine a week beforehand. It's not printed on the internet, but printed at a factory. So I couldn't stop it even if I knew.”
True or not, Seungri's scandal has had the same consequences Miley Cyrus's twerking has. If anything, it has put them both back on the map of the entertainment world.
Busan Rock Festival  
Busan Rock Festival
Every year South Korea hosts an incredible music festival with a peculiarity that will surely make all the bohemian rock lovers very happy: the admission is free of charge.
Inaugurated in 2000, Busan Rock Festival has become very popular amongst South Koreans. The music festival takes place every year in August in Busan. Impressive rock, metal and indie bands play near the beaches of this South Korean city.
This festival is not only unique because it is free, but also because it takes place right in the city. The event usually takes place at the spacious Samrak Park that borders Busan's west edge against Gimhae. There are two stages, the main stage and the smaller stage for up-and-coming acts.
This year was dominated by big names in Korean indie music. The Finnish band Stratovarius headlined the event this year. Another international band Soil & Pimp Sessions, a jazz/funk 6-piece out of Tokyo, also rocked the event.
A band from South Korea, Kingston Rudieska swept the audience off their feet. They are the original Korean ska band and - like wine - have improved since their foundation a decade ago.
Romantic Punch was also in the line-up. The band looks like they are out of the 80s and the frontman knows how to put on a good show. Other bands that played at the festival were Icy Cider - rock band with an entertaining frontman, #1 Korean - a grea ska-punk band who lay back into reggae sometimes -, Feverdogs - an up-and-coming band from Busan, who will soon become a big indie phenomenon-, Stoned - punksters from Busan -, and other rock bands.
  
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