Previously I've seen a Hilton Motel, and I've stayed in a Warkerhill Motel, and I could name numerous other businesses infringing on the brand of famous international companies. But out of the blue I figured there must be Trump motels in Korea, so I did a search, which brought me to Trump Muintel in Naju. This place was newly opened last year, and actually looked very nice. The fact it was branded "Trump" and had prison cell theme rooms, though, that was a little nuts. And that meant I had to go see for myself.
19 January 2018
Cheong Wa Dae
Part of what brought me down here was the knowledge I could visit a full Cheong Wa Dae replica. This has been on a to-do list, but finally I had enough of a reason to do a full presidential tour of southern Korea.
19 January 2018
Hapcheon Image Theme Park
So in a way, I went to sleep in the Bando Motel, and the next morning I woke up and found myself at the Bando Hotel, in occupation-era Kyungsung. This theme park collects old movie sets after they're finished and basically reconstructed a geographically imperfect Seoul, where you can move from Joseon through imperial era into the modern era by walking down the street. Not easy to get to but worth a visit for the right person.
18 January 2018
On a Thursday after work I set off across the country, hell-bent for Hapcheon County, a remote part of South Gyeongsang Province I'd never come anywhere near.
Amusingly enough, I found right next door to the podunk bus station, and literally a podunk bus station judging by the Korean names they use here, the closest possible motel was a Bando Motel.
Remarkable considering what I was here in this town to see.
Also, totally randomly, "bando" is a kind of millennial term for abandonments apparently.
17 January 2018
Someone disposed of cat litter wrong. It first appeared in this untied yellow garbage bag, and then the garbage collectors rejected it and stamped this message on it, warning of a 1 million won fine. The bag stayed there as is for a while, and some of the litter got out. Interesting to see what happens. In my 14 years here I've never seen any consequences of improper garbage disposal. As Kim Jong-un taught me last year, I had been doing things wrong, but it is safe to err on the side of regular disposal.
After I shared this image on a relevant Facebook group, many of us learned there actually is a special bag for cat litter. There apparently is a 50L bag for non-burnable trash we should be using, but they are not easy to find.
This all dates back over a year, to a ceremony in 2016 when I was awarded for a torch design suggestion with a big fat novelty cheque and an offer for either free Olympic event tickets or the chance to carry the torch.
A bunch of political stuff. The Korea Times publishes "shit" on the cover for probably the first time. Elderly people with flags of Korea, America, and Israel protest "communism." Unnecessary English words.
Ned has a very interesting story, having come to Korea only to find people still remembered his grandfather who played a major role in the Hungnam Evacuation, which saw 205,000 soldiers and civilians evacuated from northeastern Korea during the war. This wasn't some small-time Dunkirk-type operation. The Hungnam Evacuation may be a good part of the reason why the US didn't go nuclear in 1950, and there are an estimated 1 million people alive today because of it, including President Moon.
After I introduced Matt to The Korea Times, we ended up teaming up to take on a different kind of subject (for me): a restaurant that dabbled in some imagery teasing the US. You can read what we came up with here, but long story short, we concluded there wasn't much depth to any particular anti-American ideas there. The word "Me Cook" does seem to bother some advanced learners of Korean from America, but not all. This is a little less blatant than if, let's say, some Canadians opened a restaurant called "Murica."
6 January 2018
After we were done with the Monkey House, we went into town to visit the Ville. This one in particular has more life than the other one I've been visiting, and a rejuvenation project has resulted in some very striking street art. Also, we ran into an American Chinese restaurant. It was not great quality, but that in itself added a bit of authenticity. A lot of the food they seemed to just aim for the appearance rather than the flavour, resulting in a noodles dish that was just udon noodles deep fried. But the chicken dish we got was still pretty good.
6 January 2018
One site I learned about a few months ago was the Monkey House, but it's a long trip by Seoul Metro and honestly not a very exciting structure visually. What it actually is is pretty horrific, a place where they sent Korean prostitutes serving US soldiers when they got STDs. They would basically be imprisoned and given painful injections to cure their infections, and their screams inspired the nickname. I have no reason to believe this was the only one, and may just be the only known surviving abandoned one.
One word of advice, it's not worth going to Dongdaemun Mansion's roof. It's open but there are cameras everywhere and a worker who will respond quickly. He only was cooperative with me when I explained my reason for being there, something I wouldn't get away with normally.
4 January 2018
Matt is back in Korea, having completed his MA in Korean studies at the University of Washington. He's only here for a couple months, but I'm trying to lure him into being a columnist at work.
31 December 2017
New Year's Eve
I had to work New Year's Eve until second deadline, which came early because everyone wanted to get out of there. After, I met up with the Chinese and Taebaek tourists and we followed Morgan and Bomi and other guests up Naksan.
It was a very weird coincidence, as earlier just that day I got some news about something interesting happening in that exact area you'll hear about on this site in a couple weeks. Spoilers, there's going to be fire.
Anyway, our usual New Year's Eve fireworks fun was ruined by the sudden increased CCTV and a disembodied voice telling us to stop doing what we were doing, from climbing on the wall to lighting fireworks. Possibly next year we'll be forced to consider going somewhere else.
30 December 2017
Mullae Metal Show
Apparently earlier this year, Michael was travelling through Japan, and so was Jericho at the same time. So they met up and he took her to a Japanese metal-visual kei show. It's kind of his scene, so he wanted to show it off while she was here. I was interested to go along too so I also headed to GBN, a venue I have frequented, about as much as anywhere considering how often I go to shows anymore.
It was strange being there and being a complete stranger to all the bands (except Huqueymsaw). People generally saw me as the strange punk version of Michael who'd strayed over into a different room than he'd usually be in. It's probably the closest I can get to experiencing what it's like to be new in the Korean punk scene these days.
People on this side are generally the same as the punk-hardcore side, though probably a little less spontaneous. I've always been interested in knowing more about the metal scene, and my interview with HarryBigButton a few days later was maybe slightly related.
29 December 2017
Gongdeok Jokbal Market
Jericho told me there was one particular Korean food she'd had in LA Koreatown which she was curious to find. After hearing her describe it a bit I immediately knew she meant bossam, one of my favourite Korean foods. There's no shortage of restaurants around serving it, and despite how it generally looks, it's considered a low-class food in Korea. When figuring out where to go to get it, first I suggested a newly opened restaurant near my work. Then I thought better and suggested we try the pigs' feet market near Gongdeok Station. Pig feet restaurants generally also serve bossam.
Fortunately, it turns out Chinese people also have a concept that the more run-down the restaurant, the better the food. The market itself is quite a sight to behold, anyway.
25 December 2017
Abandoned Army Base
I brought back a few friends to see the abandoned base, figuring there was safety in numbers. This time there were no wild boars sighted, but we saw at least one deer running away from us through the brush.
There have been a few changes since last visit, as it appears OCN has been filming a TV show here, and for no discernible reason someone's been putting up fences along the main road to discourage vehicles approaching some of the buildings. Also, we almost got locked inside.
25 December 2017
It's been a busy year for Santa, who only had time for a brief appearance in the tunnel on December 23. We caught up with him while he was waiting for a ride and had a chance for some Chinese tourists, who normally wouldn't be visited by Santa, to sit on his lap.
24 December 2017
I was asked where we could see Christmas lights in Seoul. It's not quite like the West, but the best thing I could come up with was Cheonggyecheon, which was crowded for some festival. We were able to avoid the crowd and get pictures, and then after we headed to Ikseon-dong for food and drinks.
23 December 2017
Santa Wars: The Last Host
I liked the latest Star Wars movie, except for that one scene where the hero escapes and runs down the stairwell, only to get to the ground level and discover an impassable door, so he retraces his steps a few levels and finds himself in a totally closed luxury department store with no way out. Oh wait, that happened to me in real life after I saw the movie at Lotte Cinema Avenuel in Myeongdong.
Anyway, the porgs die. Leia dies. Chewie dies. Ben Solo dies. Everyone who ever existed dies. Especially those born a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I mean what, did Poe Dameron make it to 1 million years old? Were you expecting to wander into the Sarlacc pit in Yongsan? It may feel like it sometimes, but that thing is a life form that is long since dead. No need for teasers.
Except if you click on this gallery showing our Christmas adventure. I was less drunk when I wrote it and I know I said a bunch of spoilery things about Star Wars.
17 December 2017
Just a few pictures taken while driving around whenever.
Please remember that these photos are all copyrighted to me. If you want to use
them in any way, there's a 90 per cent chance I'll give you my permission, and be able to
give you a copy with a higher DPI.