Category Archives: South Korea

South Korea – The ugly American

This is my last post on South Korea so i thought i would leave a few parting words and some pictures.

In South Korea there is not much talk about North Korea and no one really seems to care they are only 25 miles away from this fabricated dystopia. Like Japan, Korea is an occupied country. There are many US military bases here, one of the perks for the US when you help a country settle a war.

I can’t claim I know anything about the culture of South Korea but what I do know and experienced is that the Koreans are friendly, open, and caring. Like this lovely lady who carried on a conversation with me during the Saturday market.

Or these two ladies who talked with me like i was their neighbor.

And the young lady, shopping in the market, who didn’t mind if i took a picture of her baby while leaving her purse unattended hanging from the carriage.

Not once did anyone say no to getting their picture taken, except the prostitutes.

My stay in South Korea was short and I didn’t get a chance to try the grubs or stuffed squid …

I wanted to linger a little longer in the market …

I wanted to leave a prayer on a piece of paper dangling from a string on this rock thing …

Or spend more time with my good friend Rick.

However, I did have one confrontation in South Korea in front of the 3 Stooges bar, post is here. I was talking to one of the waitresses when I encountered a drunk American solder yelling at me wanting to know what I was doing there taking pictures. The waitress tried to wave him on but the man just told the young lady “where to go”. Now this is not typical of US service men but this guy was just an Asshole.

This guy walked up to me and puffed out his chest, stood 6 inches from my face, balled up his fists, and looked at me through glistened eyes. I was thinking, “Now where was Rick?” This guy must have thought he was “Mr. Homeland Security.” I diffused the situation by introducing myself and i quickly shook his hand.

This confused him, so easy to do, i wish i had a picture of this guy.

We talked a few minutes and he finally smiled, mumbled, and then walked away.

It’s a shame, but the ugly American is alive and well. I can’t believe that the only person i had a problem with in Korea was a fellow countryman. I have been to many countries and every time i hear loud obnoxious rude behavior, it’s always an American.

Anyway the confrontation did not dampen my experience or what i thought of the people and country of South Korea…

And, i have to thank Rick and his wife for my stay. Maybe next time I will see them in Malaysia.

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South Korea and prostitution

Some have mentioned that taking pictures of prostitutes is a little weird and I am glorifying or demeaning this practice. Well, not really, and if my naysayers take a moment to peek at the world around them they might learn something about their fellow human being. Although i do not participate in this profession i have gained a lot of insight by casual conversation and realize anyone different is not that far removed from you or i. Nope, not stopping, not going to give in.

I did a post of the Thailand Sex Trade that can be found here. By comparison Korea is well known as a source and destination for human trafficking and from what i researched and observed Korean prostitution it is a little more gritty or covert. Korea being a homogeneous country normally does not cater to the foreigner except around the US Army bases. Here are a few pictures.

The availability of this trade is everywhere, bars, brothels, even barber shops (2 barber poles hanging from the building means a brothel).  For some Korean men, married or not, bringing clients to a brothel is all part of doing business.

Prostitution in Korea is illegal but overlooked. Rick took me to the Red Light district in Osan. It is a one-way one-lane ally lined with windowed rooms facing the street and the street went on for at least half a mile.

(these two photos by Vital and Rabu)

I couldn’t get a good picture of these ladies standing in the rooms; every time I tried they would scream and wave a fist at me. Here is an empty room where you can see the reflection of our car in the window indicating the proximity of the narrow street. You stop, chat with the ladies, and negotiate a price. If a price is agreed upon, you park, walk through the glass partition and get business done.

Here is one lady sitting in her open glass door. Rick stopped the car and I talked to her briefly. I wish we had more time but there were shoppers in the cars behind us.

A more discreet and expensive alternative are the drive-in hotels. You can identify them by the curtain in front of the entrance way. This is to hide your vehicle so your boss or wife won’t see your car parked in the parking lot during your lunch hour. You see these all over Korea.

Unlike Thailand the profession is not in your face but is available for all who just lift up the sheet and look.

Next the last post on South Korea with some parting thoughts about “ugly Americans.”

Seoul, Korea –The Seoul Tower and the second best meal I ever had

In the middle of Seoul is the Seoul Tower. Built in 1969 it sits atop Namsan Mountain.

You can walk or take a cable car to the top, great views of the city.

I had to borrow this picture of Rick’s beautiful wife as I didn’t get a picture of the light house behind her. Before electricity the mountain was used for communications to other mountains in the area. Fires would be lit in these chimneys to signal to others across the lands.

Isn’t she cute, ok on to the BBQ

On this same day we went to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, well I went while Rick stayed in the car with his broken leg.

Korean BBQ

Called Gogi-jip, Korean BBQ restaurants are as numerous as McDonalds in the US. Finding a great one is not too difficult.

Rick called his Korean friend and handed the phone to the waitress to ensure we ordered the best they had.

The best and highest quality beef is called Hanwoo. This Hanwoo was marbled to perfection and cooked on charcoal.

Along with the beef are an array of Kim Chee’s (of course), vegetables, and condiments, anything fresh the chef picked up in the market the morning before.

I can’t say this was the best meal i ever had nor that greasy hamburger we had the other night but they were very good.

Next prostitution in Korea

South Korea – Best meal i ever had

(The following pictures are posted with permission and is done all in fun.)

This is my good friend Rick and he just broke his leg three days before I got to his house in Korea. He and his wife live in Asan, South Korea and I have known Rick for almost 30 years. His wife is out of town and he was so kind to take the time to ferry me around with a broken leg.

The second night in Korea poor Rick’s foot was in pain and he said he had to go have it looked at by a professional and get some medicine.

Rick makes a call “Yeah we are on our way, it’s an emergency, I’m parking at the front door.”

To my surprise we pull up to The Three Stooges, one of the local bars in the little town of Asan.

These two young ladies talking to Rick own the bar and have helped Rick and his wife in their time of need. They quickly administered a prescription. Poor guy is in such pain.

You can tell Rick is in real agony. Just look at him, poor guy is in excruciating pain. I can’t stand to look at my friend any longer in this state.

Oh cruel world the humanity! Can’t you see my friend needs help!

(Don’t worry Mom there is nothing illicit going on here. The young ladies are just trying to get more of Rick’s money.)

Finally the gods must have been listening because the color is coming back to Ricks face and he is looking better. I was getting worried.

With medicine administered, we decide to go get a mid-night snack. We walk and hobble to Mama Burger, a road side cart.

Mama serves hamburgers with a side of deep fried chili peppers.

This was one of the best meals I had in Korea. The Hamburger reminded me of a McDonald’s double cheese burger with a fried egg.

The chili peppers were stuffed with vegetables and deep fried.

The peppers were crispy, spicy hot, and salty, excellent meal to end the night.

Next morning we will see the Seoul Tower i think…

South Korea – Dog Meat and Kim Chee

South Korea is a beautiful place and the next few posts will briefly touch on dog meat, prostitution, Kim Chee, and the Joseon Dynasty.

Away from the metropolis of Seoul Korea the landscape quickly changes into a beautiful countryside of rice fields and modest homes. Any piece of land not occupied by a building, rice is planted. This is the little town of Asan.

Looking like Frodo’s home, graves can be seen dotting the landscape and backyards.

DOG MEAT

The custom of eating dog meat goes back to the beginning of time when very little protein was available however, it is still practiced today but is quickly fading as many Korean people have changed their attitudes. The consumption of dog meat, called Gaegogi, use only a certain breed of dog and I am told the taste is gamey and tough.

(Wiki)

This building near Ricks house is a Nureongi or dog farm. Dog barking can be heard in the distance.

It’s an aximoron to see so many domestic dogs as pets and still a small percentage of the population eat dog regularly. The larger population are against the practice of eating dog meat. And of course PETA has demanded that the Korean government re-address the issue. As superstition and attention to the issue increases it will soon be a part of the history of Korea. On to something a little more appetizing.

KIM CHEE

Kim Chee is a spicy, pungent, sweet and sour, traditional fermented vegetable dish and if you come to Korea you better get used to it as it is served at every meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Traditional jars for storing Kim Chee (wiki photo)

The primary vegetable is napa cabbage but as you will see any vegetable can be made into Kim Chee.

Invented by the Chinese nearly 3000 years ago but updated in the 1500’s by the Koreans there are thousands of varieties and Koreans eat 40lbs of it each year.

Napa cabbage, seaweed, and radish Kim Chee

Rich in vitamins and good bacteria called lactobacilli found in fermented foods like yogurt, Kim Chee is a health food and can boost the immune system. Korea has become the authority when it comes to this high fiber, low fat, health food.

Every house has some Kim Chee pots on the roof fermenting away.

Kim Chee vendor in Asan

Dog meat is probably something you should NOT seek out but Kim Chee, being an acquired taste, should be experienced and savored, you will not regret it. Next, Seoul Tower and the best meal i ever had…

South Korea – Seoul

South Korea is a beautiful place and the next few posts will briefly touch on dog meat, prostitution, Kim Chee, and the Joseon Dynasty. My good friend Rick put me up for a few days and showed me some sights. More on him later.

When I arrived at the KL Airport I got “Profiled” going through customs. In a sea of Asians and Malaysians I was singled out and asked to “step aside”. In the 10 minutes of questioning, and scanning, and sending my passport information to where ever they send it, I did not see one other person to be asked to “step aside”. I was profiled!

(Bankok Post)

Customs agent, “Sir step aside please, right over here. Passport and boarding pass please. Where are you from?”

I said, “I live here.” Being polite I also added “Where are you from?” dumb mistake. I’ve been through customs a hundred times and I know better. Only answer the question and don’t add anything more.

The customs agent looked down on me from his high perch. “I’m from Borneo.” He flipped through my passport. “So you live here?”

“Yes in KL but I’m from the United States.”

“Yes I see, thank you.” The customs agent calls over another agent and they begin to talk in Chinese I think,  “Wa wa wa wa Mr. David, wa wa wa American, wa wa wa Seoul.”

Second agent, “Waaaa.” He turns to me and starts a barrage of the usual questions. Have you been asked to carry any other luggage? How long is your stay? How long have you lived in Malaysia? Business in Malaysia? Traveling with anyone else? Reason for traveling to Korea?

“I’m on my way to see a friend.”

First agent to the second agent, “Wa, wa, wa, waaaaa.” He turns to me, “Holiday then?”

“Yes sir.”

Both agents looked at a computer screen in front of them for the longest time, “Thank you Mr. David, have a nice holiday.”

No one else got pulled aside, not one. Not to make light of people who really are profiled and victimized and fondled, and searched, but I just got served. I got profiled!

South Korea has a rich history spanning 3000 years or more. Today Seoul has nearly 25 million inhabitants and after the Korean War (1950-1953) the country quickly recovered and became one of the major financial and manufacturing hubs in the world. These two pictures were taken from the Seoul Tower and one from Rick.

There are five palaces built in Seoul by the Joseon Dynasty. Some were used for vacations, others to house the royals, and most were used to govern, plot wars, and run the city.  

The Jongno-gu Waryong-dong Palace was built in 1483.

The business end of the palace

Rick and his wife live 30 miles south of Seoul. On the way into Seoul we stop at a rest stop for lunch, cafeteria style, just pick up what you want. We kind of went overboard, wanting to try different items.

This is my dear friend Rick. He’s trying to decide what to try first. More on Rick later.

Mackerel and Kim Chee cucumber. I didn’t think i would like a whole pickled cucumber but Rick recommended it and i wish i ordered more.

Kim Chee ginger.

Vegetable and salted fish. The whole meal was very good and refreshing. Authentic as it gets in Korea. Next, Seoul Tower.