7 July 2015

Resurrection City: Seoul's neverending urban renewal process [Royal Asiatic Society lecture]

I'm giving a lecture on urban renewal in Korea on Tuesday, 7 July for the Royal Asiatic Society. It will basically be a general outline of urban renewal through the lens of my work, identifying a lot of the trends and phenomena I've observed over the past eight years here. RASKB lectures are held near Anguk Station at the Somerset; they are 7000KRW or free for RASKB members.

I'll also be rerunning my Yongsan tour the weekend after so we can bring the topic into the real world.

26 June 2015

Abandoned Neighbourhoods

I took a trip through Seongdong-gu to check in on two neighbourhoods, only to find that both have been almost totally moonscaped, which is a new word I'm going to probably use. I used an image from each of the two neighbourhoods to advertise my upcoming RASKB talk, so I decided to update the pictures with how the areas look now.

24 June 2015

Leaving Jeju

I was mostly lucky with the weather, but it rained the morning I was leaving. The flight was a bit rough, but at least it was quick.

23 June 2015

Jeju City

My last night in Jeju City, I desperately needed a nap. Before that, I visited the amusement park across the street, and after the nap I went back to Magpie Jeju for fried chicken.

23 June 2015

Abandoned Water Plant

The last of four abandoned places we visited was this old water treatment plant. It's an old concrete shell with a couple pretty interesting buildings.

23 June 2015

Jeju in the Morning

We woke up in the morning with just the right amount of time to drive back to Jeju with time for getting lost in the backroads along the coast.

22 June 2015


The day wound down when we reached Sanbangsan and met up with Andre. We stayed in a hostel south of the mountain, hung out with cats, and drank in the harbour until curfew.

22 June 2015

Green Resort Hotel

From the circus we went to an abandoned resort. Known as the Green Resort Hotel, its only claim to greenness seems to be the cheap coat of paint on the building. I think it may have previously been in use, but now its only visitors seem to be horses.

22 June 2015


The highlight of the trip was always going to be the abandoned circus, because, well, abandoned circus. I mean, good weather and seeing friends again is all well and good, but abandoned circus. That meant the return of UEey the Clown, the world's second most popular urban exploring clown (out of two).

22 June 2015

Incomplete Resort

The first stop on our island odyssey was an incomplete resort sitting alongside a major road and wasting away. Getting in was a lot of work, which in the end turned out to be the most fun we had here. Least fun: scrambling up over a hill of disease-ridden pigeon crap. We held our breaths and muttered curses to the pigeon gods.

22 June 2015

The Beasts of Jeju City

Monday morning started with a visit to some very friendly alley cats, far friendlier than any strays I've seen in Seoul. We got a quick lunch and stopped by Tyler's place to say hi to his corgi Chagall. Or call around looking for any place with car rentals available. It turns out with the semester ending recently, the island was flooded with students who rented everything with two wheels and almost everything with four wheels.

21 June 2015

Magpie Jeju

I'm the only person I know who's visited all three Sungkyunkwans, and now I've also visited all three Magpies, though I suspect that's a far less exclusive club. I spent Sunday night (and later Tuesday night) at the bar talking with Tyler whenever he wasn't distracted by work.

Magpie Jeju has the same beers delivered from the mainland (with plans to start brewing domestically soon), the same pizzas, and also fried chicken. The chicken is pretty basic and competent, and comes with a great doenjang-flavoured coleslaw.

21 June 2015

Going to Jeju

After getting a new job, I decided I needed to do some travelling before starting. It wasn't enough time for a visit to Canada, so I decided to finally hit Jeju instead. It's a short flight away that costs less for a round trip than a one-way KTX trip to Busan. On the first night I found a hotel close to the water in Jeju City, and also close to Magpie Jeju.

15 June 2015


We check in with a couple anarchaeological digs, one over in Insadong, and the other which I noticed while hitting a rooftop during the Pride Festival opening. The Insadong site is getting scrubbed from the location, possibly with some removal, and the Golden Plot will be interesting to watch over the next while.

13 June 2015

RAS Garden Party

The annual highlight of the Royal Asiatic Society is the garden party held to celebrate the anniversary of the world's oldest Korean studies organisation. This year marked the 115th birthday. We had around 200 RASKB members, as well as VIPs including US Ambassador Mark Lippert, UK Ambassador Charles Hay, and a handful of other ambassadors including Nepal, Netherlands, France (though I didn't get the chance to run into him), and Czech. My main contribution was dragging in Susubori Academy, which provided their own makgeolli and cheongju.

10 June 2015


Lured up onto my roof again for another sunset. This time, a recent rain had washed the tiles clean so I came back inside without blackened souls. I promise not to do this too much.

9 June 2015

Gay Pride vs Christians

The opening of the Pride Festival was cancelled/minimised/moved to YouTube, ostensibly due to MERS concerns, but that wasn't enough for the Christian extremists who showed up to protest human nature.

I had a pretty fun time stopping by and taking pictures of the nutbags, and when I got home and was editing pictures in a safe environment, I started to get mad. Now, having finished translating as many of their signs, slogans, and hate group names as I can, I'm feeling mentally ill.

I've addressed a lot of the propaganda on their signs in the main post, but here are a few general observations:

  • Everyone was well-behaved and jubilant while I was there, as both sides had been instructed to be civil and non-violent.
  • The protest against the gay pride event was entirely Christian, with no other active protesters of any other faith or lack thereof visible.
  • While you might support their right to have this confrontational protest (presumably if you're American), the dirty politics they played leading up to the event should be a different story.
  • The people participating in this protest are fucking stupid idiots, but we don't know who they are; maybe they had a family member come out of the closet, maybe they're fighting their own natural inclinations themselves.
  • Sick and tired of people saying the protesters were acting "un-Christian." If they were, then they statistically would've been far more accepting. Set aside what some 2000-year-old demi-god stood for for one minute: the Christians here are against another group of people. If anything, acting hateful -- which you could even accuse me of doing right now knowing my state of mind -- should be considered "acting like a Christian" and being accepting of LGBT people should be considered "acting humanistic."
  • 7 June 2015


    Even despite Uijeongbu's attractions, being back in Seoul feels good. Here are a few pictures from my trip home, and around my neighbourhood.

    7 June 2015

    Noksan Church

    I'm not on Tumblr, but I'd be curious if this guy has caught wind of this bizarre church. At first I thought it was a very unfortunately designed department store, until I saw the sign out front. The egg is eye-catching, and also from the street, that green trim behind it gives the impression of a dinosaur's back. What is supposed to hatch out of that egg? Also, if they coloured it better, they could really fuck over Vegreville.

    7 June 2015

    Oh look, another abandonment

    After the week I've had, I'm starting to feel burned out enough on abandonments that one single apartment building doesn't hold my attention for long. This one is interesting in its own right, and the fact that it's one single building makes it a bit more unusual, as well as a mercifully quicker explore.

    7 June 2015


    Oh look, naked women. I stumbled across a sculptor's yard, with a variety of sculptures sitting out in the open doing their thing. These sort of places are not too rare, but it's always fun to take a walk through and admire the statues.

    7 June 2015

    Beck Suck Stream

    Way back in 2010, a few of us visited a stream running through Uijeongbu that was buried for a stretch under a parking lot. I returned only to find they're in the process of daylighting the thing.

    7 June 2015


    Last time I was in Uijeongbu, there were all these elevated rails for a still-unopened LRT, the U Line. Unlike the elevated rails in Incheon and Yongin, this one opened with relatively little fuss, and to me feels like a great part of this city. I rode the train all the way from Uijeongbu Station to the far terminus, enchanted by the view the whole way. Seoul needs one of these things.

    7 June 2015

    Joseph and Soomin's Wedding

    Seems like just yesterday I met Joseph for the first time and watched him crawl across a narrow ledge. Anyway, a little over three years later, he's getting married.

    Okay, so there's a bit of a public panic right now, with schools closing and everyone freaking out about MERS. What better place to go during an epidemic than a crowded wedding hall with a buffet? And yes, I was sure to eat the raw beef just to tempt fate.

    6 June 2015

    Search for Captain Q

    Now that there are two stores on my street that have slush machines, I decided it would be a good idea to stock up on rum so I can Captain Q up my slushes. Captain Q is the oldest Korean rum, with claims tracing it back to 1501 (which seem about as unlikely as Mr Pizza's campaign that Korea invented pizza). During the Korean War and its aftermath, Captain Q or at least bootleg versions were probably responsible for blinding as many soldiers as the North and its allies. It's a cheapass rum but it mixes well with other drinks and it's correspondingly low-priced.

    I only know of one grocery store in Seoul where you can find it, and it's a bit remote, especially when my trek out that way uncovered yet another abandoned neighbourhood. This one is currently being trashed out, with a lot of activity in it still. Probably by fall it'll be cordoned off from public view before the excavators move in.

    5 June 2015


    With Buster's help and my increased understanding of the roof of my apartment, we've discovered a family of cats living on a roof next to us. It seems there's one mother cat and three kittens, all orange coloured, leaving me to ask Buster what he's been up to when I'm out at work.

    4 June 2015

    Skunk Hell III

    As I previously posted, one of Korea's two most infamous punk live venues has returned, this time in Mullae. I stopped by to interview Jonghee about this unexpected news, and talk about Skunk's history. All I have for you now is a picture of the stage and a link to the official Skunk Facebook profile, where you can find upcoming shows listed.

    I'm going to be working on Broke in Korea 21 with this as the main story which should come out sometime in August, and I'm hoping to have a release show at Skunk to celebrate.

    3 June 2015


    Thanks to someone on Flickr, I found out about another abandoned area in northeastern Seoul. It's getting hard to find these sites these days, so my bar is set low. This particular area is very low-rent, maybe not so far off from Guryong but on a much smaller and more manageable scale. There also doesn't seem to be all that much conflict over this place. Google Translate tells me the English name of this area is Westfall, which doesn't sound right.

    3 June 2015

    Street Art

    I've noticed a bit of graffiti right on the street next to Anguk Intersection. An early morning visit before traffic had woken up helped me get a closer look.

    2 June 2015


    I opened the window and slipped out onto the roof. Previously I had a look out there when I was trying to set up a bird feeder, but this time I was more curious, and wanted to repair some roof tiles. It's less dangerous than it looks, but it's still far from safe. You know it's not a good idea if even your cats are worried.

    30 May 2015

    Mullae Belongs to Me

    The news caught nearly everybody by surprise that Skunk Hell was coming back. This new venue, the third, was reopening in Mullae, across the street from Space Moon and Lowrise. The opening show had only Rux playing a relaxed 90-minute set. Quite a lot of people came out, mostly new people I've never seen before as well as a few old familiar faces.

    The new venue is clean and well constructed, maybe on par with Club Spot but with less of a bar and a much better lighting system. The stage is a good size, with a rail along the front maybe trying to do the same thing as that metal counter at Skunk. I don't know how frequently they'll have shows or how they'll advertise, but it's worth keeping an eye on for the next Skunk Hell show.

    28 May 2015

    Galaxy at Night

    All concurrently, I visited this location, as did my old exploring friend Justin, as well as a popular urbanism blog. Seems like 134 abandoned apartment buildings is a pretty big deal. After my previous visit, I wanted to go back at night. Turns out I wasn't the only one.

    25 May 2015

    Galaxy Apartments

    It didn't seem all that possible, but I'm always up for a challenge. I managed to slip inside the complex by crawling through the dirt and slipping through the fence. Then I left, wandered around outside, saw other people just randomly wandering in, and decided to give it a wander too. I'm not saying it's all-access, but with a few precautions I was able to avoid being asked to leave.

    23 May 2015

    Galaxy Apartments

    I also used the opportunity to visit Galaxy Apartments, a complex of about 134 mid-level buildings all slated for demolition. A very tall wall has been built around the property and it seems it's being prepped for asbestos abatement prior to demolition. I didn't get inside and didn't consider it very possible.

    23 May 2015

    Guryong Village

    The conference was right up the street from Guryong Village, so I decided to revisit that area to see how the redevelopment plan was going along. Not really much noticeable yet, other than the total removal of that community center by the entrance.

    23 May 2015

    AAJA N3Con

    I was invited to join the AAJA's annual conference, as they needed extra tour guides. They got me to lead a few mostly foreign reporters around downtown, and I attended a few seminars and a few dinners. But the only pictures I actually did take were from the roof of the building next to Seolleung in Gangnam.

    21 May 2015

    Buster's Birthday

    Here are a few pictures from Buster's ninth birthday. We started celebrating right after midnight, but during the next evening he seemed uninterested in having more catnip. Moderation, thy name is Buster.

    20 May 2015


    I got an invite from the RAS to a tour of Jongmyo by Societas Koreana, a group run by the Academy of Korean Studies with apparently an attack website. The guide was Lee Bae-yong, former president of Ewha Womans University, and we were promised translation devices, unprecedented access to buildings, and a Hanjeongshik meal in my neighbourhood afterward. Well, they delivered. If they have future events I'd be happy to go along.

    17 May 2015

    Jenn's Birthday

    I went from Bukchon to Seochon for a Hawaii-themed party at Jennifer Flinn's Hanok. During the party, her husband passed out noisemakers, then whipped out a birthday cake, revealing that it was Jenn's birthday. So, it was sort of like a reverse birthday party, where the hosts both knew what the day was, and we were all tricked into attending a birthday party. And all I brought was my camera. This is the only picture with actual humans in it, as I otherwise only photographed cats.

    16 May 2015

    Yeondeunghoe Buddha's Birthday Lantern Parade.

    For the fourth year in a row, we went back to the same bar for the Yeondeunghoe Buddha's Birthday Lantern Parade. That bar has served us well, and I've never been there for any date other than the parade, which makes it increasingly special. This time, the parade seems to have started and ended extra early, proceeding mainly through daylight and ending around 8:30. It felt disappointingly short; hopefully next year it will run later into the night.

    16 May 2015


    Buster turns 9 on Thursday, May 21. Here are a few pictures of him early in the morning at in the evening doing what he does best: lazing around and being a bastard.

    15 May 2015

    Early Morning

    I've been getting up a lot earlier these days. Well, I always am up around 5-7am, and I have to get up and feed my cats at some point in that period, but lately I've been trying to get out of bed and go out to take a few pictures. There are a lot of places around Jongno that are best to photograph before everyone wakes up, including security guards. Last week was Yulgongno, and this week was a familiar rooftop overlooking Insadong.

    13 May 2015


    With the recent news that Skunk Hell is opening for the third time in a new location, this time in Mullae, I'm probably not the only one fixated on Korean punk history right now. Here's a walk-through of Hongdae, stretching from Sinchon all the way to Hapjeong, with some glimpses of important sites along the way.

    13 May 2015


    I haven't spent much time around the northern part of the city, so I went up to have a look around. I covered a lot of ground, and revisited Dream Forest for the first time since 2008, when they were still clearing out the last traces of the amusement park.

    12 May 2015


    I've been curious about this place for about a year now. Basically, they're submerging Yulgongno where it runs through that unpleasantly narrow passage between Changdeokgung and Jongmyo Shrine. It's been ongoing for quite some time, and so far all they have to show for it is a narrow trench and one completed underpass walkway. They will likely expand this dig northward, changing the course of the road while they get this all completed. A lot of effort for just an underpass.

    9 May 2015

    Chicken Toilet

    Verv went on a walk in his neighbourhood one day, and found a newly opened chicken hof named "Chicken Toilet." Yeah, that's pretty weird. I agreed to go along, but I wasn't so sure I'd be able to stomach the food. Turns out, the food was fine and the decor wasn't that much of a deterrent. We were there with Hullaski Sivart, admin of Asia Pundits and OinK, so you will probably see a lot more about this place in the near future.

    This link might work?

    7 May 2015


    Last month, Archaeology Magazine put out a couple images of an archaeological excavation in downtown Seoul. It was treated as a real novelty by the archaeological community, as well as the Korean expat blogosphere, despite the fact that this sort of survey is mandated by law in the district, and is far from abnormal. The archaeological discovery would doubtlessly continue in every direction for a long way. This particular area is in the corner of Insadong area, directly north of the Eye of Sauron, which inspired the nickname Under the Eye of Sauron.

    In preparing for my upcoming RASKB lecture on urban renewal, I decided I needed to take a closer look at this site. I also sought to compare it with another recent new building which introduced an interesting way to preserve some trace of such a site.

    6 May 2015

    Last Roof with Ryan

    For Ryan's last night in Korea, we hit a roof and went for pizza at Magpie.

    4 May 2015

    Songdo Again

    Ryan's obsession with DDP gave me the idea to bring him to Songdo. Unfortunately the wind was too strong to fly the drone -- we saw another pilot testing his out and then freaking out when a kid got too close. On the bright side, we found our way onto the roof of G-Tower, which is now pretty easy to get to following the closure of the 29th-storey observation deck and opening of the new one.

    3 May 2015

    Wedding Crashers

    One night we decided to just wander around downtown, which was pretty fun, and then we ended up at Blue Star where we found a wedding party in full swing. We managed to get a table to the side and then the wedding guests invited us into the fold.

    1 May 2015


    I was visited by Ryan, a friend of Javin and Neil from Toronto. He was here to fly his quadcopter and do timelapse stuff, and while a lot of the latter got done, he didn't have enough chance to do the former. Anyway, hopefully by the time he comes back the drone laws won't start being enforced.

    2 May 2015

    Monkey Business

    Here are the pictures from the latest Monkey Business show, which had an interesting lineup with Christfuck, Reddot, Sulsa, Pigbit5, and 100 Blossom Club. This was my first time seeing Reddot and my first time seeing Pigbit5 in a long time. Quite a bizarrely diverse lineup, between grind music, punk, and whatever you want to call Pigbit5 (indie pop?).

    29 January 2015

    Podcast interviews with Andre

    My friend Andre does a podcast about Korea, and he wanted to interview me, mainly about urban exploration and punk. We sat out in the cold at Cafe Gondry in my neighbourhood, and he talked to me while a truck blared on trying to sell stuff in the background. He asked me a bunch of warmup questions about cults in Korea, and I stumbled through it leaving a lot of information gaps.

    27 April 2015


    Yes, I returned to Korea.net for a few days to fill in for someone else. It gave me time to write an article about Songdo and help plug my RASKB tour, but it also gave me time to reflect on some of the forgotten reasons why I left that job:
  • diminishing editorial control due to new boss
  • access restrictions to e-mail, left-wing news websites, and various other online tools
  • reading about Park Geun-hye all day

    And yes, why not visit the roof there? It's a pretty wide open place with unlimited access, and the view across USAG Yongsan is so unthinkable it's worth seeing.

  • 26 April 2015

    104 Hill Construction

    Is it urban renewal if they're just tearing down trees on an urban hillside? Whatever it is, it looks pretty significant. It's visible from the elevated road going past Yeonhee-dong, located directly above a school which would probably be the worst area to welcome a landslide if there's heavy rain soon.

    25 April 2015

    RASKB Songdo Tour

    The Songdo tour went pretty well, with 16 people joining us. At the last minute an RASKB connection got us into the Gyeongwonjae Ambassador Hotel, the Hanok village being built inside Cental Park.

    After the tour, seven of us decided to stay around. We walked through Canal Walk which seems like an okay execution of a good idea, got food and ended up at Cinder Bar, which was near the end of a three-day music festival based in Songdo. We got to hear some good country music and have a few drinks before heading back to the city.

    The tour overall functioned smoothly despite some odd and surprising last-minute changes caused by things being open or not open. The weirdest one was the G-Tower's open-air observation deck being closed, and a newer observation deck being open instead. The city is always changing, and I'm going to miss it.

    16 July 2014

    Songdo Visit 2014

    I only just realised I never shared these pictures from a trip to Songdo last summer. They were part of SKKU's summer program, so they were shared somewhere else. For this visit, we stopped by NEATT to find it wasn't fully opened yet, walked through Central Park, had a great tour of Compact Smart City, and then visited the observation deck of G-Tower, which accounts for a lot of what we'll be doing this Saturday with the RASKB tour.

    18 April 2015

    Monkey Business Show

    It's nice having a show in your neighbourhood. At least when the cops don't turn said neighbourhood into a labyrinth of police buses. Getting there from Bukchon to Seochon was an ordeal, but I made it.

    This was a free show, with a very good lineup. Madox opened, and I'm planning to interview Jinyong for the next issue of Broke, whenever that is, to find out more about how that band works. We also had Fishingirls who were more enthusiastic to be on stage than any other band I've seen, followed by Seoul Dolmangchi's second show and then an excellent set by Green Flame Boys, and finished with Joongshiki, who converted a lot of people at my Broke show a couple weeks earlier.

    Sad news though: Monkey Business is closing next month due to rising rent.

    Also, on the topic of punk, here's a recent blog post I wrote on Korean punk history.

    16 April 2015

    Sewol Anniversary

    Exactly one year ago, governmental authorities showed their shortcomings by allowing a half-assed ferry company operated by a religious cult to send a ferry out into the sea. When it listed and sank, the crew (recruited from the cult, all but one) told the passengers--mainly schoolchildren--to stay below in their cabins, while they evacuated. Over 300 lives went down with this ship, a situation that was exacerbated by a stalled rescue services response and further slowed by journalists gumming up the access roads for what few rescue services were being sent. The de facto head of the ferry operator/cult escaped justice, later being found after an extensive manhunt turned up his body, itself separated from its de facto head in a field amid a few bottles of bizarrely expired soju (no, I didn't know that stuff could expire). A vigil by the parents of the 250+ students was turned away by the government at almost every opportunity, and in response, the parents and their activist supporters turned away the government. The government clearly feels awful about this but doesn't want too much transparency. A year later, plus a handful of smaller civic disasters, and nothing has really changed.

    This is probably the biggest protest I've ever attended in Korea, not necessarily by number of protesters but by size of police response. One article I read said there were 10 000 riot police deployed for this event. Another article said there were 10 000 protesters, which seems like a serious underestimate.

    I attended the protest in Seoul Plaza in the early evening, then went home for a few hours and decided to head out again when I could hear the demonstration moving from my window. I discovered that the police had sealed off my neighbourhood, completely cutting me off from downtown in an attempt to defend Cheong Wa Dae, as they frequently do. I was trapped in my own neighbourhood...or I would have been if I didn't know about the mountain pass to Sungkyunkwan. Downtown Seoul was partitioned off by riot police buses and turned into a maze. I ran into a familiar face around Boshingak and we helped each other get through the maze to the center of the protest, in Gwanghwamun Plaza. Around 1am I decided to navigate out of the labyrinth, only to discover due to gates closing and police redeploying that the maze had completely changed.

    13 April 2015

    Songdo Again

    I went back to Songdo to do more follow-up research for the RASKB tour. This time I wanted to investigate an interesting building called Tomorrow City. Turns out it's closed since 2011. I also wandered around more of the island, finding very little other than a whale statue and a phone booth. It was an overcast day, and that made the place all the more depressing. Anyway, should be a fun tour, and there will be quite a lot to see. Just, some of it isn't completed yet, and some of it was completed years ago and now sits neglected and empty.

    11 April 2015

    Sewol Anniversary

    Speaking of cops, there were a lot of them around Gwanghwamun Plaza. It's almost the one-year anniversary of the Sewol sinking, and Saturday was awash with activity and music. I expect that Thursday will have a protest as well to mark the actual anniversary. Curious how many peole will make it out.

    11 April 2015

    Cop Mountain

    I went up Bugaksan and came down Inwangsan. It can be confusing up there. Anyway, I'll refer to this area as Cop Mountain due to the high number of cops everywhere. They're not in the pictures, but they were around to make sure nobody was taking pictures in certain areas.

    9 April 2015


    As you can be reminded by the post above, I'm planning an RASKB visit to Songdo. I've taken whatever spare time I've had to visit the place and figure out the best places to go. And the original itinerary has been ripped to shreds, seeing as how quite a few of the attractions are still not opened, unlike what I'd thought I'd heard. But we've also figured out a few more interesting attractions to visit instead.

    9 April 2015


    Every trip to Songdo takes you through Incheon. Well, at least if you do it right. I saw some interesting sights before being stranded in an abandoned neighbourhood. Escaping from Incheon is always a bit difficult.

    4 April 2015

    Broke in Korea 10th Anniversary Show

    Well, everybody survived the Broke in Korea 10th Anniversary Show. The latest issue was released and can be downloaded here.

    We had a very interesting mix of bands, some familiar and some totally new or seen in a different light at this show. It was pretty wild but nothing ever really went wrong, other than the cops showing up around 11 due to noise complaints from the newly opened tourist hotel across the street.

    1 April 2015

    April Fools' Day

    For obvious reasons, I want to be careful what I post on April 1. Other than hearing about some pretty extreme homophobic rezoning issues, reading a magazine from 40 years in the future, and discovering that some of my favourite bands were playing a reunification festival in North Korea, it was a quiet day with some interesting discoveries. I found a mildly interesting abandoned building on the way to Dongdaemun, and over there I found a highrise that seems to be having lots of problems.

    27 March 2015


    Four of my closest friends are going to be leaving over the next couple weeks. I managed to gather three of them here: Nels, Ken, and Jessica.

    Nels has run down his six-month tourist visa and needs to go back to the US in order to keep the door open on applying for American citizenship. He is getting married to his girlfriend Sohhee before leaving, so soon enough both of them will be able to settle comfortably in either Korea, the US, or Canada.

    Ken got into the master's program for documentary media at Ryerson, and is moving to Toronto where he will conquer the world's documentary media industry.

    Jessica...passed her classes at Le Cordon Bleu Seoul and is going to take her next semester in Australia. Don't ask me why.

    Tyler, who was too sick to come out, is moving to Jeju to work at Magpie Jeju.

    We met up, visited a lot of places, set off fireworks, at a lot of chicken, and watched Nels propose to his fiancee.

    22 March 2015

    Seokjeon Daeje at Sungkyunkwan

    As you probably know if you've visited this site in the past week, I led another RASKB tour to Sungkyunkwan for the Confucian rite Seokjeonje. You can see all my pictures here, or visit the Korea Blog for a more thorough writeup.

    Last September, last time I tried to do this tour, they changed the date on us. To make up for it I dropped the price and convinced the SKKU Museum to stay open. This time, we headed downhill and arrived just as the ceremony started. It was quite a performance and I had the music stuck in my head the rest of the day.

    21 March 2015

    Smartphone Pictures

    After my camera battery died, I pulled out my smartphone and used that for a while. Most of the pictures are from around home.

    As long as I've lived on this street, I've wanted to make a video game where you have to go down this road as quickly as possible, while avoiding any collisions and trying not to get into people's pictures. It can be played on the easiest setting which is walking, or medium which is on a scooter or bike, or hard which is a minivan.

    21 March 2015

    North of Seoul

    I ventured up over the slope of Bugaksan into Seongbuk, the area immediately north of Seoul as of its traditional boundaries. What did I find? Abandonments, as usual. And other stuff.

    20 March 2015


    I just realised I'd been spelling this area wrong, as Cheongnyangnyi, for some reason. It doesn't look right but it still feels instinctual. Anyway, these were all taken from the roof of the Samsung Insurance building.

    18 March 2015


    Well, putting birdseed out did work this time. At least two pigeons have learned we have birdseed. It was a rainy day, but Millie was willing to sit on the sill where rain was hitting her in order to watch the pigeons come right over to her. These two pigeons were fighting quite a bit for dominance of the birdseed, and it sort of mirrored the conflict on the other side of the screen between these two greedy cats. We saw some magpies way in the distance, but no other birds yet. Initially there were five pigeons but only two of them stuck around long enough to find the seeds.

    16 March 2015

    Munmyo Jeryeak

    In preparation for the RASKB tour to Sungkyunkwan, I stopped by the SKKU museum to learn a bit more about the relevant musical instruments used in the performance and visit the offices of Sungkyunkwan Confucian Academy. So, here are some of the main instruments. I'm pretty sure these aren't the actual ones they use for performances, if they do indeed use live music.

    Anyway, the group is getting pretty big, but there's still time to sign up.

    14 March 2015

    Antifascist Show in Susaek

    So there's a new government-funded venue right outside Susaek Station. It's a nice building filled with all sorts of things for musicians including live music space and practice studios. They don't allow drinking in the live music space itself which is a bit irritating. Anyway, this was the first show of Seoul Dolmangchi, a new band inspired by working-class politics as laid out by left-wing skinhead bands like the Oppressed. They were fun, and we also got a pretty bizarre Yuppie Killer set in which they were too sober to ignore their lack of musical skills, we played in traffic with Yamagata Tweakster. Plus, Kuang Program, Scumraid, Huqueymsaw, and a couple others I missed.

    13 March 2015

    Reggae Night

    Just a few pictures from a busy but not very photogenic night. I went to Zion Boat for their second anniversary to see Philip K perform, and while it was a very fun performance, it was a bit too intimate for me to pull out the speedlight or anything. And my pictures of Pegurians over at Ruailrock really didn't work out due to how those damn musicians never can stand perfectly still.

    12 March 2015

    Upstream of Cheonggyecheon

    There've been talks of restoring all the streams that originally fed Cheonggyecheon. The latest addition is this newly constructed canal that runs along the property of the new Gwanghwamun D-Tower. This thing runs directly south to the source of Cheonggyecheon, and while it's for show, it traces the path of an ancient stream (that probably still is hidden away underground).

    11 March 2015


    After attending an RASKB lecture on birdwatching in Korea, I decided to try again with using birdseed to lure more birds onto my roof. I'm not too interested in birds, but Millie and Buster are.

    10 March 2015

    Ta, Neil Ta

    For Neil's last day in Korea, we went for Ho Lee Chow in Myeongdong and then hit a few roofs. Things got a bit tense when we were ambushed by construction workers who'd seen us on one roof and wanted to know what we were doing. After getting Neil to erase a few photos (they couldn't care less about me), they let us go on our way and were quite nice about it.

    9 March 2015


    So, Neil Ta is fucking done with rooftopping? What about subways?

    7 March 2015

    Yuppie Killer Cotton Candy release

    Yuppie Killer has released their latest album, in tape form for some reason. As expected, they had a show in Double A Studios, and thanks to their free alcohol, which was a mix of whatever they could get, including at one point Everclear, many memories were made and promptly forgotten.

    The show also featured the possibly final performance by Mixed Blood, during which my camera died before miraculously coming back to life. .

    6 March 2015

    Yongma Land

    I discovered that the last time I visited Yongma Land was December 2013, meaning I didn't go there at all during 2014. The owner still seemed to remember me, and he keeps copies of all the articles ever written about his park.

    Anyway, for a Friday afternoon, the place was pretty crowded.

    6 March 2015

    Woorim Market

    On the way to Yongma Land, we took the wrong bus, which meant that we had to get off a bit farther and walk through a market, which turned out to be a pretty good time. So good that we took the same way back when we left.

    5 March 2015

    Dongdaemun Roofdogs

    Last year during Javin's visit, we discovered that one of the department store buildings of Dongdaemun Market has dogs in cages on the roof. There seem to have been two of them then, and two of them now, and their colourings are close enough that they could be the same or related. Pretty weird.

    4 March 2015


    Taking the ITX train from and back to Yongsan Station, we decided to hit the roof and then hit the tent village in the former red-light district, which has become a ritual of urban exploring in Korea.

    4 March 2015

    Seoul Ski Resort

    Sometimes you get on a train and go on a long ride, only to find that what you were looking for is gone. This time, it was Seoul Ski Resort, an old ski hill located in Namyangju. Ironically, it's just uphill from the former location of Jumbo 747. However, I feel like fate will find a way to tempt me back to this small corner of the city again.

    Anyway, despite security and increased razor wire, we decided to climb the hill and get in anyway, just to make sure the magnificent ski rental lodge was definitely gone.

    2 March 2015

    Neil "Fucking Done with Rooftopping" Ta

    Neil caused a lot of controversy last year when he wrote about "5 Reasons Why I'm Fucking Done with Rooftopping." For better or worse, the article is kind of irrelevant to Korea, where the fads and tropes of rooftopping have passed by quietly. Anyway, Neil hasn't held back when it comes to rooftops in Korea.

    2 March 2015

    Abandoned Neighbourhoods

    I brought Neil along on a walk from one abandoned neighbourhood to another. We also did of course hit some roofs.

    1 March 2015

    March 1

    To celebrate Korea's independence movement, we went to an abandoned oil tanker, then hiked across Digital Media City, hitting a rooftop, enjoying some public art, and ending up in a demolished shantytown.

    27 February 2015

    Cat Cafe

    We had some time to kill, so Neil suggested coffee. I'm not a huge fan of coffee on its own, but how about a couple dozen cats? We went to the cat cafe next to Hongdae Playground.

    27 February 2015


    I needed to buy a new remote shutter for my camera, so that meant a trip to Namdaemun Market. I met up with Neil Ta who's visiting Korea for a couple weeks.

    23 February 2015


    A regular walk through the woods, followed by an interesting reveal: we've just discovered Korea's oldest arboretum.

    21 February 2015

    Holy Mackerel Village

    A walk through a pretty typical abandoned neighbourhood, barring the facts that it's quite extensive and it's outside Seoul. Also, some of the most vicious hired goon graffiti I've seen since the Yongsan Disaster, all targetting one woman seemingly. Definitely a refresher for all of our vocabularies.

    20 February 2015

    Return to the Nightmare Lab

    Korea's biggest holidays are always great times to visit some of the more sensitive/intense places. This year we decided to visit the Nightmare Lab. It was a fairly large group which limited our mobility in certain ways, but we still made it into the Nightmare Lab. This time we looked closer at the specimens, and despite me fearing that the fluid levels were dropping (which looking at older pictures they aren't), we discovered that most of these specimens are extremely old, dating back to the '50s and '60s in most cases.

    Entry is increasingly sketchy and we usually have to rely on prior acts of vandalism. Also according to some sources, this place may be getting refitted into something new sometime this year. Will the nightmare come to an end?

    19 February 2015

    Empty Embassy Compound

    Back around 2007, my attention was drawn to the Empty Embassy Compound, a brownfield zone located in prime real estate between Gyeongbok Palace, Insadong, and Bukchon Hanok Village. Since writing that article for Asia Pundits, I've managed to find a way in, though it's so public that I could only do it at times when the area isn't crowded, such as late at night or on major holidays. So, now it's a major holiday.

    Apparently Korean Air was getting ready to redevelop the area into a luxury Hanok hotel; a major roadblock had been the girls' school next door, due to zoning restrictions preventing hotels from opening near schools, but discussion was made of cancelling the law or closing the school.

    But then with the blowback over the "nut rage incident," KAL lost the public support it needed to push this through, so we're ending up with a big empty weed jungle and mosquito swimming pool for the foreseeable future.

    This is questionable interest to people who are into urban exploration for the photos, but it's a very bizarre tract of empty land inside the downtown core of one of the world's biggest cities. Going there, I was struck by the emptiness as well as the wide open views of Seoul's downtown skyline. Walking through there was much more a mind-opening experience than I would've figured -- well, I already knew that empty field plus downtown would be interesting for me -- but it was a very quality experience, up there with any abandoned neighbourhood I've ever visited. This is a new way to experience downtown Seoul, while standing in an urban wasteland.

    18 February 2015

    UE is a Crime

    Javin tipped me off to Moses Gates, an explorer turned urban planner who was spending a little over one day in Seoul on his way across Asia down to Australia. Kind of odd timing being around during Lunar New Year, and he got to experience Seoul at half mast, as the crowds just weren't there, and too many restaurants were closed. With help from Ryan and Tyler, we took him to abandonments, rooftops, and subway tunnel. It was one of those days where we made the most of limited time and drank way too much.

    And still, the highlight of the night was when we got the DJ at Vent to play "UE is a Crime" by the UE Kingz.

    17 February 2015

    FC Seoul vs Hanoi FC

    Ryan Ihm is getting ready to leave Korea, and his last FC Seoul game was the night before the Seollal long weekend. Verv and I decided to come along and meet all the new foreign FC Seoul supporters--there sure are a lot of them, and they sure take the team seriously. No Dunbar rolls and double-fisting soju/baeksaeju, just lots of cheering and deep analysis of the game.

    Anyway, FC Seoul destroyed Hanoi 7-0, which was entertaining but about halfway through I was thinking it would be nice if the Vietnamese got one shot in. It sure was a violent game though, with both sides racking up the fouls. I guess since this league plays so infrequently, players care less about getting red carded, because there's chance enough they'll have moved onto a different team by the time the next game comes up.

    14 February 2015

    Cry and Singalong Together

    CST reformed after more than five years apart. I think their last show was in 2008, possibly the final Skunk Hell show. Even though they've been gone for so long, they haven't been forgotten, though maybe more the people than the band itself. Frankly, if you're going to drag your band out of retirement after over five years, better to call it a reunion show than a "last show," because then you won't seem quite as hypocritical at the next reunion show in 2022.

    10 February 2015

    Guryong Village

    Surprisingly I haven't visited Guryong Village before. It's the shantytown in Gangnam that is going to be redeveloped soon. It has always been a very tense place, and I really don't like going places where I could bother residents. But I figured it was time to pay it a visit before things get too crazy. There was a fire in November, and just four days before my visit there was a pretty crazy battle with hired goons.

    The area is mostly still pretty lived in, and gets a lot of foot traffic (and car traffic) from people climbing the mountain behind it. There are lots of dogs and cats, and although this was a pretty casual day, I see bad things in this area's immediate future.

    6 February 2015

    Warkerhill Motel

    One of my favourite parts of travelling is staying in motels. Nels disagreed with me that this place was chintzy, but there's no beating the hilarious name. For those of you who don't know, Walkerhill is a pretty upscale hotel in Seoul. This is on par with the Hilton Motel I found in darkest Gyeongbuk (although I just checked Daum and there may be as many as 71 Hilton Motels throughout Korea).

    6 February 2015

    Hitting the Slopes

    We went out on the ski slopes and had a closer look at the chairlifts, which was my favourite thing to crawl around. I got many pictures of this exact scene from many angles, showing the park with the green lift in the foreground.

    6 February 2015

    Last Resort

    The whole point of this trip was to reach the abandoned ski resort. There was only one other human on the site, but we gave him a wide berth. His guard dogs were very friendly though, and sad to see us go.

    6 February 2015

    Car Trip

    Renting a car to get out into the mountains was a fun enough part of the trip. Despite recently getting a Korean licence, I decided to let Nels do most of the driving while I stuck to navigation.

    5 February 2015


    Last time I was here was June 2004 during the rainy season. I had a meal in the ship, which I'm pretty sure was random inedible seafood. It's a small resort area with not much beyond hotels and seafood restaurants.

    5 February 2015

    Train Ride

    Six hours on trains. That's all I have to say about this.

    3 February 2015

    Abandoned Buildings

    I spotted these buildings on a bus recently, and didn't think much about them until I was bored one day. Not the most exciting place, but it's certainly in a surprising location.

    31 January 2015

    Burning Hepburn vs SkaSucks

    Walt is leaving Korea this month, so Redboi came up to Seoul and decided to have one last weekend with him. We hit Zion Boat and This is Chicken, and went to a pretty wild ska-punk show at Ruailrock which I think was the release party for a SkaSucks/Burning Hepburn split that I never got a copy of.

    27 January 2015

    Javin 2015 Part 2

    Javin's finished his stint in Korea for the third consecutive year, which means 2015 is already over and we can just wait for 2016 now.

    17 January 2015

    Javin 2015

    This marks the third year in a row that Javin came to Korea to teach short-term winter break programs and travel a bit more around Asia. Just like the last couple years, this month has marked a busy period, as we get a lot done in a short time.

    This time he brought his quadcopter with him, and we found a few places to launch it where we wouldn't bother any residents. I'm looking forward to seeing his footage soon. Hell, I'm still looking forward to seeing his stuff from 2013. Toronto is Home, Hong Kong is Home, but what's Seoul, chopped liver?

    We also hung out with Ali, formerly of the Daegu math rock band Colours, now of the new project Mountains.

    10 January 2015

    RASKB Tour of Kyung Hee University Natural History Museum with Verv

    As soon as I found out Verv worked at KHU's Natural History Museum, I figured it would be a very good choice for an RASKB tour. Verv talking about animals is always the best thing ever, and the museum has six storeys of taxidermy and fossils and so on. Plus the banner art running the stairwell is pretty bizarre in a retro sort of way, depicting natural history into an apocalyptic future.

    We ultimately had a group of nine, which was probably right the size for moving around this building and staying together. Then after, we went out to a restaurant, followed by a bar, followed by a rooftop.

    2 January 2015

    The Bone Tunnel

    I made it less than 24 hours into 2015 without doing anything of questionable legality. Anyway, as we discovered on Christmas, the way has been paved for reaching the Bone Tunnel without having to crawl over ice or scale a very sketchy fence (though you can still do the latter, if you like).

    Anyway, I set back to visit the Bone Tunnel, mainly to scout out the entrance and only go a little ways inside. I brought a Ukrainian along with me because when has that ever gone wrong (NSFW)?

    I hit three very difficult tunnels that day, and yes, I did find monsters at the end of it.

    Also, you may note that the entire 2014 year is now open in the archives for you to look through.

    31 December 2014

    New Year's Eve

    For New Year's Eve, I hiked up a mountain. Right around midnight, a big group of people came and fired off tons of fireworks, ruining the mood. They were up there for about 20 minutes, and left before the cops could respond. I was not involved with them, and Daehanmindecline does not support any illegal or disruptive activities. Here's for a crime-free 2015!

    29 December 2014

    Yonsei Under Construction

    Has anyone noticed what a dump Yonsei looks like lately? Oh well, could be worse: you could be stuck in Songdo.

    29 December 2014

    Interview with Colin

    Last summer, I was interviewed by Colin Marshall, an urbanist who was visiting Seoul for a limited time and interviewing anyone he could find, seemingly. He went on my RASKB walk of Yongsan, and afterwards we sat at the train tracks bar and did a one-hour interview that ended up being pretty thorough, touching on a lot of urban exploration and urban renewal issues, as well as the punk scene and how life in Korea has changed over the past decade. I can't say whether I recommend listening to it, but he is very thorough about what's in it, plus there's lots of train sounds.

    27 December 2014

    All Together Now

    This show was the closest thing we had to a Christmas/New Year's show that I could find. There isn't that much to speak of happening on Christmas or New Year's Eve, but this one show between the two had a very interesting mix of older mostly punk bands and younger mostly hardcore bands. I was more focused on the zine, as well as the attendance of Verv, so I didn't start taking pictures until very late, starting at Rudy Guns and also getting Things We Say, Return Bois, and Find the Spot.

    I also released the 19th issue of Broke in Korea at this show, which can be downloaded at the usual place, where you will also find almost everything you need for Hongdaepoly.

    25 December 2014

    A Very Merry Host Christmas

    Though I consider visiting the Host on Christmas Day to be an annual ritual, I'm pretty sure this is only the second time we've done it on the day (the first being my original visit in 2009). Things have changed a lot under Seoul, but still the only monsters down there were the ones in our group.

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