Free things to do in Seoul

  

Free things to do in Seoul SEMA

With all the attractions that the South Korean city of Seoul offers, it can be quite expensive. That is why it is important to know the free amazing things the city has to offer, so you can make the most out of your budget. From scenic hikes to interesting museums and poetic sunrises, there are plenty of free things to do in Seoul.

119, Changuimun-ro Jongno-gu Museum
Conceived as a salute to Korean poet Yun Dong-ju, this museum houses old photos and fist editions of this beloved poet. This museum used to be a pressurisation facility, and now the design of indoor space is what captivates visitors. The magic continues outside, from where you get memorable views of N Seoul Tower.
Jeoldusan Martyrs' Shrine
This Shrine was built on the site of the Byeonin Persecution of 1866 in remembrance of the many Roman Catholics that were murdered there. Here you can learn about the site's history through implements of torture on display.
Culture Talk
Enjoy a free concert, attend a lecture or go to one of the free exhibitions held at the Culture Talk, a cultural centre made out of five transformed oil tanks from the 1970s. According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, “The Mapo Oil Depot, a grade 1 security facility which has been strictly prohibited from public access and usage over the past 41 years, has been transformed into an environment-friendly culture space featuring festivals, performances, exhibitions and village markets since September 1, 2017.
“The Seoul Metropolitan Government is operating various participatory programs created, produced, and shared among citizens at the Oil Tank Culture Park,” such as the Dalsijang market, the Bicycle Music Festival for Urban Nomads, Project Nada,
“Dalsijang market is an environment-friendly village market held around the time the moon comes out that does not use any disposable goods. The market taking place at Culture Plaza is held on the second Saturday of each month and participated by residents, social economy entrepreneurs, and young local artists. The first Dalsijang Market will be operated on September 9 (Saturday) between 5am and 9pm. When you visit the market, make sure to bring your cup and shopping basket!”
They also describe the Bicycle Music Festival, “featuring a restaurant connected to a bicycle, a moving playground with a large tire and bicycle and various artistic performances will take place on September 9 (Saturday) along with Dalsijang Market.”
They also host exhibitions and workshops, so you will always find something to do even if there are no festivals taking place.
Seoul Museum of Art & the Cheongun Literature Library
Located in a historic building, SeMA is a modern art museum where the permanent exhibition is free and often overlooked in benefit of special exhibitions which can be crowded and expensive. Apart from being a library, the Cheongun Literature Library is one of the most stunning museums in Korea, and fortunately, one of the few free ones. Housing an average collection of books, the library's reading rooms are located in a traditional Korean house on the second floor.
Gyeongui Line Forest Park
Built on 100-year old train tracks that connected both Koreas, the Gyeongui Line Forest Park is an interesting park steeped in history. Stretching several trendy neighbourhoods, this part is the hot spot for locals to have picnics and a meeting point for buskers with their guitars in the Yeonnam-dong portion of the park. The park also hosts piano performances when the weather is favourable.
You can also take a stroll through the Bukchon Hanok Village, which is made up of hundreds of traditional Korean homes (hanoks).
Don't miss out on a tour of South Korea's presidential office. There you can walk through the house's famous locations, such as Nokjwon, which is the Blue House's garden of trees. You can book your tour on the office's official website, which states “Cheong Wa Dae is where the President of the Republic of Korea lives and works. The compound is home to administrative offices for the President, Secretariat and other staff as well as the official residence of the President and First Lady. Cabinet meetings, receptions for state guests, critical decision-making for the country, and diplomatic events all take place here. As such, the name ‘Cheong Wa Dae' not only denotes a specific location but also stands for the highest authority of the Republic of Korea.”

 

South Korean Directors in the West

  

Bong Joon Ho

Compared to “Steven Spielberg in his prime by Quentin Tarantino, South Korean Director Bong Joon-Ho has gone from blacklist to blockbuster with this film “Okja.”

The filmmaker was target by the now ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a dictator. Under her rule, any artist or writer who expressed “left-wing thoughts” - whoever criticized her or her policies - were secretly blacklisted. During that time, over 10,000 artists were targeted by her government.
“It was a nightmarish few years that left many South Korean artists deeply traumatized,” Bong said. “Many are still reeling from the trauma,” said the director, whose $50-million Netflix film tells the story of a country girl who tries to save a genetically engineered beast from the interests of a multinational company.
The blacklist consisted in denying the artists artists of state subsidies, which included Bong and Park Chan-Wook, whose erotic thriller “The Handmaiden” is an international success.
Bong's films display fascination for strong subject matter, but presented with dark humor and sudden mood shifts. His 2006 blockbuster “The Host” portrays an incompetent government left helpless in the wake of a disaster. “The Host” marked a turning point in Bong‘ career and marked a step up in scare for the Korean film industry as a whole.
The big-budget ($12 million) work focuses on a fictional monster that rises up out of the Han River to wreak havoc on the people of Seoul. Although the production encouraged strong audience interest even before it started shooting, there were many doubts concerning whether a Korean production could rise up to the challenge of creating a realistic and believable digital monster. After being unable to work with the company responsible for the CGI in The Lord of the Rings due to scheduling conflicts, Bong contacted San Francisco-based The Orphanage who took on the majority of the effects work.
Bong directed his first Hollywood film in 2012, which was “Snowpiercer,” starring Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans. The success of the science fiction story led to “Okja,” starring Swinton and Lily Collins.
“It is essentially a love story between an animal and a little girl, but also looks at how our lives are inevitably shaped under the capitalist system, whether you are a human or an animal,” Bong said.
“Okja is my sixth movie, but the moment you show your film to the whole world for the first time is always so unnerving,” he said, adding that he was feeling “nervous, thrilled and a bit relieved” to have finished the high-profile project.
Once an army-ruled blackwater, South Korea is today a cultural powerhouse and this is thanks to the greater freedom of speech the country has enjoyed since 1992, when they first elected a president without a military background. It was this change what led South Korean's entertainment industry to take the world by storm. In that contest, Bong said: “I believe the future will be brighter with the restoration of the freedom of expression.”
Despite getting this far, the release of “Okja” has caused a controversy in South Korea, due to its backer Netflix's decision to release it simultaneously in theaters and online in Korea. Major Korean theater chains opposed Netflix's plan for simultaneously online and theatrical release as films are screened in theaters for at least a few weeks before becoming available online.
In a press conference, the director assumed responsibility for this misunderstanding: “I think (this situation) has arisen from my cinematic ambition. Netflix hasn't tried to push through with theatrical releases (abroad) but Korea is a unique case.”
“This is because of me,” he continued. “While filming with (cinematographer Darius Khondji), we wanted as many people as possible in the UK, the UK and Korea to be able to see the film on the big screen. It was my greed.”
“I fully understand the position of Korean multiplex theaters... But I also think Netflix's principle of simultaneously streaming should be respected. “Okja” has been made with the subscription fees of Netflix viewers and we cannot tell them to wait until after (the movie) has screened in theaters. I respect that.”

 

South Korean Obsession with Beauty

  

South Korean Obsession with Beauty

Sure K-pop is catchy, the stage performances are original and the dance routines are spectacular, but an element essential to the artist's success is how good-looking they are. Who can resist gorgeous girls dancing short and tight outfits? Right? Right?

The importance of beauty in the K-pop world is such that there is a K-pop Idol School that only admits beautiful people. Aimed at mentoring K-pop girl group members, the Idol School's website shamelessly posted “we are recruiting beautiful freshmen.”
You don't need to have dancing and singing skills to be able to enter this school. The only requirement is being beautiful. After being criticized for promoting lookism, the institution claimed that the idea of “beauty” encompasses appearance, the mind, personal charm and enthusiasm. Despite this claim, it is clear they do care about the appearance as the school song is titled “Because you are pretty,” and the application form requires body shots of the applicant.
The program is focused on preparing students over 11 weeks for a debut after they pass the graduation exam. The institution prepares individuals to become successful idol talents with a comprehensive curriculum that includes “Mind Control” and “How to Deal with a Stage Crisis.”
In the industry, the most beautiful K-pop idols are Im Yoona, Suzy, Irene, IU, Seolhyun, Son Na-en, Kim Tae-yeon, Kang Seul-gi, Krystal Jung and Nana.
The K-pop beauty standards only reflect the country's obsession with looks. It is common in South Korea to undergo surgery in order to comply with these standards: rounder eyes, narrower faces and bigger breasts.
A K-pop band also celebrated the country's trend to go under the knife and become pretty. From nose jobs to breast implants, all four members of SixBomb went through extensive plastic surgery before releasing a new single.
One of their videos showed K-pop members visiting a clinic and lying on the operating table. Another one had them dancing with their sunglasses on and their heads wrapped in bandages. In their smash hit “Becoming prettier” they sing “everyone follows me because I'm pretty.”
The electronic track, which is the antithesis to Lady Gaga's “Born this way,” has raised criticism on South Korea's ultra-competitive, looks-obsessed society, where physical features are essential to improve one's social standing and help secure jobs - many recruitment adverts require a “neat appearance” and a CV with photo.
With thousands of clinics performing an estimated 1.2 million procedures a year, South Korea is the world's third largest plastic surgery market. This is a relevant position considering it only has a population of 50 million.
The pressure to get plastic surgery in South Korea is overwhelming. Adverts showing before-and-after pictures are displayed on billboards, subway trains, bus stops and toilet walls, and the message of them all is to urge women to “change” their looks: “everyone but you has done it.”
SixBomb's lead singer Dain had breast implants and facial plastic surgery to make her face look smaller for a video. Therefore, they had the idea to be forward about it rather than trying to conceal it.
“We all wanted to get some surgeries done to look prettier... and thought, ‘Why not perform a song about it instead of trying to conceal it?'” she said. “People will notice it anyway, so we wanted to be open about this reality where many women want to look pretty.”
Despite having released five albums since their foundation in 2012, SixBomb are yet to become a major stars and with their members getting “old” for the K-pop scene, the pressure is on, hence the effort to look prettier to get more followers.
The plastic beauty project was funded by their management, which spent 100 million won for “almost every kind of surgery that could be done on a face” and breast implants, according to head manager Kim Il-Woong.
“We haven't committed any crimes. Our only crime would be talking about it in such an open manner,” he said, adding that although many celebrities go under the knife, not many come “out of the closet.”
With the “Korean Wave” spreading around the world, more countries are becoming obsessed with looks. K-pop band members always look flawless, fit and with good looks. They are controlled by strict managements who dictate everything from what to sing to what to eat and what operations to have. As K-pop relies heavily on looks, not only Korean fans but also from overseas and mostly Chinese are having procedures in the hope of looking like their favorite stars.
A Seoul clinic confirmed that SixBomb's members had gone through extensive operations “all above the waist”. Although none of them were forced to go under the knife - allegedly - rapper Soa had to think “long and hard” before having the “double eyelid” procedure to make eyes wider and rounder. “I really liked and was satisfied with my previous eyes, so I had to think long and hard before deciding to take part in the this concept,” she said.
Although “coming out of the closet” might be a marketing move per se, the plastic surgery has raised both compliments as well as criticism. One commentator said: “I understand that you guys are desperate for publicity... but did you really need to go this far?” Another described it as “flat-out bizarre.”
This move reflect's the country's “plastic surgery culture” and the prevalent sexism behind it. In South Korea, looks determine women's “social survival” and job prospects. Recruitment agencies require a neat photo for their CV. Despite being Asia's fourth largest economy, South Korea ranks at the bottom of OECD surveys on gender equality, said Jung Seul-Ah, media monitor at rights group Korea Womenlink.
“This culture has made plastic surgery something essential for many women deemed not pretty enough,” Jung said, and an “absolute necessity for female celebrity whose looks are worshipped, consumed and capitalized on incessantly.”
Despite the criticisms, singer Dain had not doubts. “I really love my new face and am proud of how good I look on TV screens,” said said, adding she would welcome “any kind of public attention, good or band” for the project.

 

Born in New York, made in Seoul

  

Born in New York made in Seoul

As K-pop takes the US market by storm, American musicians opt to launch their own K-pop careers. When actor Will Smith's son, Jaden Smith, announced his plan to become a K-pop star, some people criticized his him. “He knows the K-in K-pop stands for Korean, right?”

When the all-American boy band EXP Edition released their first Korean music video, they were also accused of trying to take the “K” out of “K-pop” by angry fans. “Retweet if you think four white boys should stick to American pop. It's really not that hard,” said one fan on social, accusing them of cultural appropriation.
“K-pop is supposed to be a safe space for Asians to have a platform for entertainment that they often times aren't given in the West,” said another.
Although none of their members are Korean, K-pop idol group EXP Edition sing in Korean and dance K-pop style. With the tagline “Born in New York, made in Seoul,” this international K-pop band - with ethnic backgrounds that go from Portuguese to Croatian - made their debut in the K-pop scene with their electronic pop single Feel Like this in South Korea.
“Music is a universal language that brings people together,” said the band's leader Frankie. “We think there shouldn't be any boundaries when it comes to music, including K-pop.”
“We didn't think twice before leaving the US. We had little idea of what we were getting ourselves into, but making a debut in Seoul and sharing our music with Korean audience have always been our dream.”
Despite the band's relation to Seoul to learn the language, K-pop fans criticized their lack of training up against South Korean artists who attend “K-pop academics” for over a decade before their official debut.
Whether EXP Edition represents cultural appropriation or not, what is certain is that the band is “evidence of the fact that K-pop is expanding its horizon and becoming more global,” said the band's creators Bora Kim and Karin Kuroda, who also claimed that criticism had “drastically subsided and their reception had been “very successful.”
A Korean culture expert and professor at Seoul's Hangkuk University, Michael Hurt, pointed out the irony of cultural appropriation accusations.
“K-pop became a genre that's really a fusion of appropriated other, mostly American and actually African American art, especially singing and dancing,” he said. “I think it speaks to the success of K-pop in general to see that the very culture from which they appropriated this from is now trying to enter the fray.”
EXP Edition's journey began back in 2014 when Kim Bo-ra, the founder and head of the group's agency IMMABB Entertainment, had the idea of turning American men into K-pop performers for her masters degree thesis project at Columbia University.
After labeling her project “I'm Making a Boy Band,” she held an audition to recruit non-Koreans for EXP Edition. The group's final four members, Frankie, Sime, Hunter and Koki debuted in New York with their English-Korean single Luv/Wrong in 2015 and shortly after released their second single Nolja Let's Party. Once they gained popularity in their homeland, they embarked on a journey and a new challenge: they debuted in the home of K-pop.
“The casting idea of EXP Edition was so unique and different from other countless auditions we had back in New York. Personally, I found K-pop to be an opportunity to challenge myself as a performer,” said Sime.
Although debuting in South Korea was a dream come true for the band, it presented a challenge of a new kind. “My biggest fear is that people might think we are disrespecting or mocking K-pop. But K-pop became our life, what we do,” Hunter said.
“We expected such pushback because we tried something new, even surprising. But with many comments we have been receiving from non-Korean K-pop fans, we would like to inspired them and show that they can also work in K-pop, like us,” Koki said.
The band members said that what they like about K-pop and they found missing the American pop scene are the genre's versatile stage performances and the visually impressive dance routines.

 

K-pop takes America by storm

  

K pop takes America by storm

Korean pop music may have been subtly barred from China, but another powerful market has opened its doors to this Asian phenomenon. “China is no longer a viable market for K-pop touring acts,” said Ellen Kong, CEO of Elf Asia, a Hong Kong promotion company specializing in K-pop. When a door closes, however, a window opens, and this time the odds are in K-pop's favor big time.

The doors to the US market opened wide for the colorful Korean music genre after K-pop band BTS made history by beating Justin Bieber and becoming the first K-pop group to win the Top Social Artist prize at the prestigious Billboard Music Awards. This marks a turning point for the band which debuted in 2013 wit a contemporary K-pop sound that fuses hip-hop, electronica and rock.
China's barring may have backfired as the pop genre does mainstream in the West. Despite not singing in English, BTS have already sold out venues in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. As it is expected, the the US market is a gateway to the worldwide market, which has welcomed the band with arms wide open. After their sold-out US tour, they toured the world, including countries like Australia and Japan.
BTS member Kim Nam-joon, known to fans as “Rap Monster” took to the stage to accept the award and thanked their friends.
“We still can't believe that we're standing here on this stage at the Billboard Music Awards,” he said. “It is so great to see all the artists we admire, and we feel honored to be in this category with all these great artists right in front of us.”
“And most importantly, this award belongs to all the people around the world that shine their love and light on us by the millions and make BTS proud. Please remember what we say, love yourself.”
The seven-member K-pop band had a lot to thank their fans for, as they were the ones to rally a petition to an invitation for BTS to the awards. Known as ARMY (Adorable Representative MC's for Youth), BTS fanbase voted for the award on Twitter and on the awards website more than 300 million times.
“BTS was one of the first groups to fully embrace social media and completely open themselves up to fans,” said CEO of Koreaboo, Flowsion Shekar, a popular content platform specializing in K-pop with a reach of over 50 million.
BTS's music infused with socially-aware lyrical themes of anti-bullying and mental health have earned them 9.7 million followers on social media and YouTube videos that have over 100 million views each. Billboard described the success of their title track “Spring Day, which reached No. 15 on the Billboard “Bubbling Under 100” chart, as “unprecedented given K-pop's history on Billboard's singles charts.”
“International fans were able to really relate to them and feel like they truly knew the members individually. Most rookie groups are held tightly behind closed doors and everything is filtered or sanitized before it's shown to the public.”
Although BTS is the first K-pop band to win a Billboard award, they are not the first Korean artists to do so. Unsurprisingly, it was PSY the first K-pop solo artist to win one of those prestigious awards back in 2014, for Top Streaming Song, “Gangnam Style.”
From seven K-pop concert tours in the US in 2013, the number raised to 20 in 2016. While the so-called Korean Wave of pop culture has long dominated East Asia, until now it had gone unnoticed in the West, except for the global hit “Gangnam Style,” which remains the most viewed video on YouTube.
The tables have turned and even Jaden Smith -the 18-year-old son of actor Will Smith, revealed plans to launch his own K-pop career and has shown his support for G-Dragon's new album on Twitter. He has also called the BIg Bang rapper his “inspiration”. He uploaded a cellphone screen shot of G-Dragon's new EP “Kwon Ji Yong” as seen on the U.S. iTunes store. The image was enough to show his devotion to big bang and to spark a series of comments by Big Bang's fans. G-Dragon has also started touring in the US, regularly.
Due to South Korea's past diplomatic spat with China - China's opposition to the US-backed missile shield that is now housed in South Korea - a growing number of K-pop acts started touring in the US, according to industry experts. Good tensions are calming now. Love the World - we are one.
Co-founder of K-pop gossip site allkpop which has 10 million monthly readers, Paul Han has stated: “Around 8 years ago or so, it was very rare for K-pop artists to tour in the US, but now it has become quite common.”

 

ARTLOVER Announces Debut EP

  

artlover ep

Korean Female Rapper ‘ARTLOVER' Announces Debut EP “Queen Of Retro” Available Nov 16

“K-Pop prodigy” - Kpopmap “Rap driven Soul Pop gem dressed up in a retro suit” - Daily Kpopnews “‘ARTLOVER' is blazing through with a fresh take” - Sweet Sweet KPop
Following the critically praised single “Want U Back”, South Korean rapper ‘ARTLOVER' has announced the release of her debut EP “ Queen Of Retro ” and second single “Hakuna Matata”, available for streaming on November 16th 2018.
The EP offers an eclectic mix of hip hop, retro pop and soul packed into an 80's outfit inspired by music from such icons as Madonna and Dolly Parton. The sound is the result of a collaboration between the singer and Swedish writer Max Billion (Mike Perry, Cazzette) who not only helped penn the four tracks but also co-produced them.
‘Queen Of Retro' is a story about love and loss with a hopeful twist. I really wish for people to be inspired by these songs.” says the singer. Despite regular assignments for magazines such as ELLE and Vogue , ‘ARTLOVER' made a bold decision to drop the mascara and trade a flourishing make up career for something far more uncertain. She marked the transition into music with the release of her debut single “Want U Back” on March 2 earlier this year.
The single was accompanied by a striking music video filmed in the Swedish countryside.
The EP was mixed by Tae-Sub Lee at JYPE ( Day 6, TWICE ) and Dong-Kwang Seo (Apink, Eric Nam>.
 

Seoul Travel Tips

  

Seoul Travel Tips

Seoul's vibrant and multicultural atmosphere, its efficient transport and its varied entertainment offer make it an ideal destination for all sorts of travelers.

Airport Transfer to your Hotel
When it comes to air travel, it might be cheaper to fly with Korean Air if South Korea is your final destination. Once you land at the airport, you have two options to make it into the city: train and taxi. While a cab ride might be more comfortable than the train, it does take longer and it is not entirely safe as there are black market taxis and they may get somewhat aggressive when they approach you at the airport. There's always the safe option, however, of priorly booking a taxi online and you can even request an English-speaking driver. The cost varies from US$65-75 from ICN to most hotels in Seoul.
Getting Around the City
Although the easiest and fastest way to get around Seoul is by subway, traveling by bus is particularly convenient for visitors who want to get a closer look at the city sights since the bus takes tourists on routes past major attractions. If you choose to travel by metro, regardless, write down or memorize the exit number and station at the start of your trip. To make your journeys easier, download the Metro App. Getting around by taxi is also affordable and convenient, but you should have your address in Korean handy as not all drivers can communicate in English.
Customs and etiquette
Seoul may be a modern and innovative capital city, but traditional Korean customs still apply here. Although most Koreans wear Westernized clothes, visitors should still dress modestly, particularly when visiting temples and palaces.
When eating out, it is polite to use chopsticks rather than requesting Western cutlery, and avoid stabbing pieces of food with these chopsticks. Tipping is not customary in Seoul as the price of most goods and services already include a 10 percent service tax. Although tip isn't expected, it is accepted gratefully if you offer.
Money
The unit of currency in Seoul is the won (W). The best banks for foreigners to use in Seoul are Citibank, Hana Bank, Korea Exchange Bank and Shinhan Bank, and fortunately, they are scattered all over the city, which is rather convenient as the highest note of Won available is worth US$10. Therefore, most visitors will find it cumbersome to carry tons of cash on them. Seoul is a very credit card friendly city, however, and most restaurants, retails and taxis accept card payments. What you might need cash for is street food, but that won't require many notes.
Weather
There are four distinct seasons in Seoul. The best times to visit are spring and summer. Although most tourists flock to Seoul during the summer months from June to August, temperatures are quite high, so for those sensitive to the heat, it might be a better idea to visit in spring, enjoy the city in bloom. The months of autumn from September through to November are also enjoyable as the temperatures are mind and with the leaves falling from the trees, the scenery is beautiful.
Shopping
Even though clothing and accessories are inexpensive, sizing may be small. If you buy face moisturizer, you must be aware some are meant to bleach the skin - in some Asian cultures, they value pale skin and they have many products that whiten the skin. Although customer service complies with Western standards, retailers may be pushy from time to time when it involves clothing, skincare/makeup and portrait services. Leaving generic brands aside, some shops will allow to haggle with them.
Wi-Fi/Internet connection
Barring hotels, it is hard to find free Wi-Fi in Seoul. This might be fortunate, however, as it might be dangerous to use free Wi-Fi from untrusted sources, particularly when you are traveling and in a foreign country. The best solution to this dilemma is to rent a pocket Wi-Fi from one of the stores at the airport. For a reasonable price they give you a considerable amount of GB, it is supposed to be safe and you will find it extremely useful to get around, get your bearings, request an UBER, and/or book tours.

 

South Korea’s Top Visits

  

Hwaseong Fortress

When you visit South Korea, there are certain sites, activities and events you can't miss. Whether you are into admiring Korean palace architecture, relaxing by the beach or hiking stunning trails, South Korea will capture your senses. Dotted with an interesting history, the country's interesting past is reflected on its palaces and fortresses. By visiting these historical sites, you can step back in time to the Jeseon Dynasty, which was very powerful and lasted many centuries (1392-1910). The dynasty's legacy is alive in its palaces and fortresses, and it can complies with the principles of Korean architecture and Far Eastern standards.

Changdeokgung
Built in the early 15th century during the Joseon Dynasty, Changdeokgung Palace is an outstanding example of Far Easter palace architecture and design, as the complex blends harmoniously with the natural environment. King Taejong set up a Bureau of Palace Construction to create the complex - a group of official and residential buildings set in a garden which was brilliantly adapted to the uneven topography of the 58-ha site.
Although the complex was originally built as a secondary palace to the main palace of Gyongbokgung, Changeokgung served as the main seat of the dynasty for 250 years after the Japanese invasion in the late 16th century. The reason behind this change was while both palaces were burnt down during the invasion, it was Changdeokgung the one that was reconstructed first. Thanks to this change, the complex heavily influenced the development of Korean architecture, garden and landscape planning, and related arts, for many centuries.
UNESCO listed Changdeokgung Palace as a World Heritage site back in 1997 for its palace architecture, which includes all the key components of Korean palace architecture and complies with all the Confucian principles and protocols in its spatial layout, arrangement of buildings, gardens and forested mountain landscape. Like the rest of Joseon palaces, Changdeokgung complies with feng shui for good luck and, therefore, it has a mountain behind it and a small stream in front. Out of Seoul's five main palaces, this complex is the most beautiful one.
Tours in English run at 10.30am and 2.30pm. If you want to see the palace's beautiful Huwon section, join tours that run at 11.30am and 1.30am, but make sure to book online or atleast come early as the Huwon tours are very popular and they are restricted to 50 people at a time.
Hiking Around Jeju-do
Blessed with beautiful beaches and lush countryside, Jeju-do is not only Korea's largest island but also the country's favorite holiday destination. home to the natural World Heritage Site Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, Jeju-do is not ideal for relaxation, but also for those who prefer to be active.
Whether you hike up the country's highest mountain, Hallasan, or climb the incredible tuff cone Seongsan Ilchul-bong, to watch the sun rise from the ridge of a crater, the stunning views will mesmerize you. Indeed, hiking is the top activity on the island, and that doesn't involve only Hallasan or the other hundreds of volcanoes in Jeju, but also countless walking trails scattered throughout the island. For instance, if you hike up one of the Jeju Olle Trails, you can explore rough coasts and narrow lanes lined by homes made from black lava rock. Another rewarding activity is to dive into the sea and admire bright corals.
Suwon's Hwaseong Fortress
Like Changdeokgung Palace, Hwaseong Fortress is also one of the magnificent structures built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The King Jeongjo ordered its construction (1794-1796) as a display of filial respect towards his father Jangheonseja. The Joseon king moved his father's tomb to Suwon at the end of the 18th century and then he ordered the construction of a massive walls around the 6Km-perimeter surrounding the tomb.
Pierced by four gates and equipped with bastions, artillery towers and other features, the fortress was also built with the purpose of setting up a new city with its own economic power. In fact, the complex was designed by an influential military architect who combined the latest developments in the field from both East and West.
UNESCO designated the fortress as a historic site back in January 1963 and then in 1997, it was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Apart from admiring the fortress, here you can also watch a series of performances and events held at the fortress every day. In autumn, the fortress holds the Suwon Hwaseong Cultural Festival.

 

Korean Festivals     

  

Boryeong Mud Festival

Steeped in culture, history and tradition, South Korea's festival offer is diverse, interesting and educational. Whether you visit South Korea in winter or summer, you won't miss a festival as there are events all year round.

Mountain Trout Ice Festival
Winter is an exciting time in South Korea as both locals and visitors flock to the Mountain Trout Ice Festival, which takes annually throughout January. With the setting of crystal clear ice and white snow at Hwacheon, the Ice Festival features activities that cater to all visitors. From mountain trout ice fishing, snow sledding, ice sculpture and many more programs, the event has something in store for families, couples, and all visitors.
Jindo Sea parting Festival
A few times during the year, the tide is low enough for people in Jindo to walk along a narrow path through the sea from the mainland to a nearby island. The phenomenon of the sea parting is sometimes called the "Moses Miracle" and it creates a path that is approximately 2.8 kilometers long and 40 to 60 meters wide.
Hampyeong Butterfly Festival
The end of April in Hampyeong, South Jeolla Province, is the time for butterflies and that's got nothing to do with couples but with actual butterflies. The festival allows visitors to walk through fields of wild flowers and observe the butterflies in their natural habitat when spring is in bloom. This is a great opportunity for enthusiasts to observe rare butterflies up close and learn about ecology.
Damyang Bamboo Festival
Each year Bamboo lovers flock to Damyang-fun in South Jeolla Province, famous for its lush green forests awash with bamboo, other trees and cultural sites. Apart from the beautiful scenery, visitors also enjoy orchestral concerts, traditional music, riding pedaloes, fishing, among others.
Muju Firefly Festival
When the night falls, fireflies light up the sky of Muju, North Jeolla Province. The event takes place each year in mid-June and the activities include a "fireflies exploration event" - in which visitors experience fireflies' natural environment - and trout fishing.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Nestled by beautiful mountains, the mud festival takes place on Daecheon beach in Boryeong. As the mud there is gifted with high levels of minerals, germanium and bentonite, South Koreans claim this mud helps improve your skin tone. The Boryeong Mud Festival, which takes place in mid July each year, is the most popular event among Korea's foreign community, and it features fun activities such as mud wrestling, the "mud king" contest, fireworks, slides greased with mud and dance parties.
Sinchon Water Gun Fight Festival
Grab your water gun and join one of the most exciting festivals of the year. Although it started off as a fun festival in which people of all ages and nations join play with a water gun, it now features other activities which reflect unique ideas and local artists take place in these activities.
Cool Summer Music Festival
Sinchon might have started the trend but it is not the only place that holds a water gun fight. In fact, Seoulland's Cool Summer Music Festival is not only famous for its performances but also for its large-scaled water gun fight which takes place in World Plaza. While waters streams from directions to cool off during the day, at night music programs take over, including Music Survival, Chi-maek (chicken and beer) Night, and evening performances.
Andong International Mask dance Festival
Each year around the end of September, the Andong International Mask Dance Festival takes place and offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy Korea's talchum (Korean masked dances), as well as international masked performances. When the nigth falls, don't miss Hahoe's highlight performance "Seonyujul Bulnori", where you'll be able to see spectacular fireworks light up the sky, creating impressive reflections on the river.
Jinju Lantern Festival
Each year in October the Nam River is lit up with hundreds of beautiful paper lanterns of all shapes and sizes floating down the stream. This festival features an interesting tradition in which visitors write their wishes and attach them to lanterns.
Gwangju World Kimchi Festival
As expected, the Gwangju World Kimchi Festival is held to promote the most famous Korean side dish: Kimchi. The event takes place in the country's Kimchi themed park, Gwangju Kimchi Town, which features a number of diverse kimch-related programs like cooking experience, art gallery, kimchi market, and other fun events. Some of the activities include a Kimchi Master Competition, along with other hands-on program. If you don't win the Presidential Prize, at least you get to take home whatever kimchi you made at the festival.

 

Seoul Dining Guide

  

Seoul Dining Guide Noryangjin Fish Market

Whether you are into veggies, rice, seafood or beef, Korean cuisine is a great crowd-pleaser not only for locals but also for Western tourists. From street food to spicy stews, Seoul's dining offer is highly varied and delicious.
As the competition is high, you'll be able to find exquisite food that is quite cheap. Since dining out is very popular amongst locals, food establishments get so packed, there's usually a queue of people standing outside waiting to be seated. If you think you've already tried one dish, you might want to try it again at another "town" which are streets of restaurants serving their interpretation of that dish.
From the western delights in Itaewon to fine dining in Apgujeong, outstanding food can be found all over Seoul. Restaurants, cafes and street stalls can be found in every neighborhood, offering meals that range from unpretentious dishes of DIY beef or pork barbecue as well as healthy rice and vegetable dishes, to sumptuous multicourse banquets that showcase signature dishes and are a feast not only for the palate but also for the eyes.
You can't leave South Korea before sampling Kimchi – a tangy side dish of fermented vegetables – and Bibimbap – a hot bowl of rice with sautéed vegetables on top, and, often, a raw egg or meat as well. Although Kimchi and Bibimbap are the most famous national dishes, you should also sample a hotteok – pancakes with sweet or savory fillings) on a street corner. An authentic Korean experience, however, is indulging yourself with a cake and a beverage in a teahouse.
Noryangjin Fish Market
Open 24/7, the Noryangjin Fish Market features fish auctions in the morning and a dining scene at night. It won't come as a shock all the restaurants that line the market offer fish. A local favorite is a raw fish known as hoe, which is thinly sliced – similarly to the Japanese "sashimi" - and enjoyed with soy sauce, wasabi, red chilli paste and vinegar, and a paste made of sesame oil, garlic and soybean.
Hangover cures
As a result of Korea's drinking culture, a large array of hangover-curing dishes and drinks are very popular in Seoul. From pre-drinking to post-drinking beverages to delicious and spicy stews and broths, there is a large range of hangover cures available for tourists interested in having a big night in South Korea.
Located in Eungam-dom, Daerim Market is home to Gamjaguk Street, an alley named after a famous Korean dish that spans the centuries. This deliciously hot potato and pork broth is also eaten as a cure for hangover. In the alley you can purchase the broth by referring to it as "guk."
But that is not Korean broth designed to cure your hangover. Made from beef broth, with cabbage, bean sprouts, radish and chunks of congealed ox blood, haejang-guk is a satisfying stew guaranteed to kick-start your dehydrated body after a big night. One of the best places to get this dish from is Chungjinok, which has been making it ever since 1937.
Gwangjang Market
Located in one of Seoul's oldest neighborhoods – Jongno-gu – and home to over 200 stalls, Gwangjang Market is Seoul's largest food alley. If you hungry while shopping for clothes or jewelry, from stall to stall you'll find a large variety of dishes to sample, ranging from spicy rice cakes to sushi, noodles, dumplings and numerous local delicacies. The market is renown for its specialty, which is the golden fried nokdu bindaetteok – mung-bean pancake – paired with makgeolli (rice wine).
Namdaemun Market
Gawngjang market might be the city's largest good alley, but if you are looking for an authentic Korean experience, you might want to head to Namdaemun market. Best known for being the biggest traditional market in South Korea, the market is the best place to sample locally produced food, ranging from cuttlefish and noodle soup to meat, chicken's feet and pancake.
Samwon Garden
Surrounded by alluring traditional gardens and waterfalls, Samwon is famous not only for its food but also for its heavenly ambience. Best known for serving world-class galbi – barbecued-beef meal - in the course of the last three decades, Samwon also offers less expensive options such as galbitang.

 

  
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