One night I was heading home when I saw the night sky and I decided to head upwards to get some pictures.
11 March 2018
Walking to Work
I hate walking, especially in the morning. But this is what I see on my walk to work.
10 March 2018
The Red Stripes
I've been working on a personal research project, looking at the history of the Hongdae area.
Anyway, through the RAS, I offered a walking tour of Hongdae, and then we had a meal at Duriban then went to Prism Live Hall for a reggae and ska show. I led a pretty large group, mostly people older than me. This was my third time leading this particular tour, second for the RASKB. First for an ambassador.
The Red Stripes were like everything I could ever want in a ska band. They also had one member who'd lived in my hometown and knew the scene there.
8 March 2018
I showed up for her welcoming party off a hoeshik, so by the time I got to this welcoming party. But after some high-quality food, I managed to line everyone up for this group photo.
5 March 2018
Michael was all skin and bones when I met up with him. We went to Coyote Saloon on Seoullo 7017 for a last meal, before he would jump on an airplane and head back to America.
3 March 2018
One of the great things about Huam-dong is the many large-scale wall murals showing views of the city. I photographed this one late one night, which shows the National Museum of Korea just north of the river, then basically a row of urban fabric behind it, then Namsan. This is especially weird because it basically snubs Yongsan Garrison. I get doing that for legal reasons, but this is an especially interesting case, basically making up shit to pretend there's nothing to see here.
3 March 2018
After we were done with the first place, we wandered over to Guryong Village, where the vacancy rate is still creeping up, as is the skyline of Gangnam to the north over this old moon village. We participated in some amateur psychogeography, or in other words we followed a woman up into the neighbourhood attempting to find the right paths to get around. Due to new construction nearby, suddenly Samsung Tower Palace isn't the only sight dominating the skyline.
3 March 2018
I met up with Amos, a guy I met through Stephen Epstein who suggested we talk about underground music scenes.
Anyway, I brought him to Gangnam where they're tearing down a large amount of apartments.
2 March 2018
The end is in sight. Michael has been threatening he's going to leave, and now here he is leaving. These two pictures were taken at the galmaegi restaurant right next to my home, which is open from like 4pm to sunrise. This restaurant is a great place to stop and build memories, and then erase them.
I just walked by, at Monday morning 12:30am, and it was closed. Odd.
1 March 2018
Verv has now graduated from Kyung Hee University with a master's degree in philosophy or something. He now has a job in Suwon, and it's likely he'll move down there sometime in the near future.
Also, since Michael Spavor was in town, we stayed out late, at least until 2am.
26 February 2018
Seoul Monitors Program
Just a couple years ago, I was teasing Chance about his position on a City Hall board aimed at solving problems foreign residents of Seoul face. Then I went ahead and joined another program, giving myself a chance to monitor city stuff and submit two reports per month.
I've already submitted four:
problems with building heating in winter
building emergency evacuation mishaps
Korean religious cults that run rampant without any information from Korean authorities
difficulties with the government website we use to submit these
I'm not saying it'll lead to any changes, of course.
26 February 2018
I've been trying to get to know my neighbourhood better. Huam Market is showing early stages of gentrification.
21 February 2018
The Rooftopping Olympics
So there was the Olympics and the Paralympics (okay both have long since passed by the time I got around to writing this update), but did you know about the Rooftopping Olympics? Considering a couple shootings ago, the one in Las Vegas, it is quite surprising I was able to get onto a roof overlooking the Gangneung Olympic venues. Hell, it was easier than getting inside; at least I didn't need to go through a scalper to get up here.
I figured I owed it to my many loyal followers -- who refresh this page every day waiting for my daily updates, who've signed up for the newsletter, who add me in their RSS feed, or whatever is done these days -- to actually attend the Olympics while they were in Korea. So I headed out, figuring I could get tickets to a curling event. That's one event that wouldn't sell out -- it was a Wednesday -- and hey, they had women's curling the same day, in case men's was crowded. What could possibly go wrong with my plan?
So...yeah, I had to settle for a less popular event, men's hockey, and dodged a long line thanks to a scalper with tickets to US vs Czech. Fortunately the seat was in a non-American section, and I found myself sitting in front of two British Columbians.
After the game, I went to Canada Olympic House looking forward to Canadian beer on tap...only to discover they were all out and were selling Coors instead.
I caught a train back in the evening, making this a day trip.
18 February 2018
Whenever people ask me where to find abandonments, I should just tell them: "get to know your neighbourhood a little better." Chances are, wherever you live in Seoul, there are a few abandoned places. In one part of my neighbourhood is Centennial Christian School International, which closed in 2016 for admissions irregularities. No, I haven't been inside; the building still seems cared for, like it could open any day.
18 February 2018
So it was still a day of the supposed Seollal meetup, but I was tired of planning things for people.
Instead, I turned to religion. Or at least, an abandoned military religious retreat. I'd been aware of it for a while, scouting it from outside and approaching the front gate, and finally determined it is unsupervised. The fence is still pretty secure, despite some fallen trees compromising it, I'd say better secured than some of the abandoned actual military bases I've visited.
The interior is nothing special. The buildings look like they could open tomorrow with no problem. I did not try any doors or get close to any windows, just in case there were alarms.
17 February 2018
Our adventuring this day took us to Hongdae, where we hit a few roofs and fantasised about hitting some cranes one final time before they disappear.
15 February 2018
Dong Cult Park
A long and adventure-filled day ended up in Dongdaemun, a place I like to visit once every major holiday while the migrant workers flow into Gwanghee-dong.
We hit a roof, where I got vertigo but endured waiting for blue hour, which paid off.
Then we went for Uzbek food, which is always a good time, but especially so on the holidays.
After that, we bought some store beers and went to sit under a bridge where we spent way too much time watching and cheering on a couple of ducks that clearly wanted to fuck each other.
From there we got a little separated as I found a washroom, the others went behind the bushes, and MO'D wandered off looking for a hotel.
Somehow after all that we came back together and had some late-night budae jjigae, which was a good choice.
15 February 2018
The Cat Houses of 588
See those colourful blankets down there? Those are shelters for cats. One security guard overseeing this area seems to have some district office support to improve the lives of cats in this area, providing food and shelter and even carrying out a trap-neuter-release program it seems.
After my previous visits, security has gotten a lot tighter. But never have I met a nobler human being working in the security industry. When he caught us I told him we were here to help cats, and he gave us this whirlwind tour of the area, showing us all the places where he'd left out food and built cat shelters.
I've never been so glad to be caught by security, let alone in a red-light district.
15 February 2018
For the first official meetup day, we went to a reliable abandoned neighbourhood I've been visiting a lot lately. I met up with Niall from Gwangju, who's probably the most prolific explorer in Korea I've seen.
We entered a demolition area, which just as I predicted had no workers during the long weekend, and got some fun up-close shots of old abandoned buildings dwarfed under big apartments under construction.
I try to carry cat food with me at all times now, but because it was the holiday I especially had cat food, and I left this neighbourhood with none left. I fed a very pregnant tortoiseshell living on a roof, and then I ran into an old tomcat just sitting on the ground among smashed bricks, looking like he'd given up, but I had no cat food left.
The heartbreaking thing about feeding stray cats here is it probably doesn't help much, just delaying the inevitable. Sometimes all I can do is give a cat its last meal, and make it a feast.
14 February 2018
It was Valentine's Day, on the eve of Lunar New Year. I wanted to make sure my meetup plans were in good shape -- oh, and I had lost a lenscap on my previous visit -- so I drove up to check for updates. There is one large part of this area facing active demolition, but it has always had workers. I figured the long weekend would be the perfect time to enter when the workers are gone, and it looked like everything was lined up.
Except there was one hitch: on my way up, I found an abandoned house at the side of the road.
After an RASKB lecture, we wandered through Jogyesa, I think on the way to another place to drink.
3 February 2018
I returned to the most recent abandoned neighbourhood, and this time I fixated on the section that had been mostly demolished, which left a pretty spectacular view of some remaining houses at the foot of some very tall new highrises.
During this visit we disturbed a squatter, found what I'm jokingly calling a druid's house, and saw some stuff from the Olympics.
2 February 2018
A magazine asked me for pictures of Seun Sangga and then once I provided them, it stopped replying to my emails. So Vice all over again. These pictures are divided a little odd, as the first bunch are ones I took pretty easily, and the second bunch are ones I more carefully edited.
2 February 2018
I went up to northern Seoul to visit an abandoned neighbourhood I'd heard about. One section was almost totally demolished, another was relatively untouched with people still moving out, and a third area was an old Hanok village I'd visited years earlier.
1 February 2018
Not the one you're thinking of. This building was somewhere secretive, no longer in use but still somewhat hidden. The assassin of Kim Gu apparently spent time here.
1 February 2018
I've been in contact with Rachel online ever since this story, but she contacted me out of the blue one time telling me she had a lead on another incendiary story. This time, the Pokemon Korea League was banning foreigners from competing, which has all the right elements for a viral news article: it's a little weird, it's about foreigners and Koreans, and it's very easy to sympathise with one side. In the end, foreign players were allowed to compete, but were ineligible for prizes and placements to represent the country in global tournaments. In a rare case, I think the paper did right by them. Rachel came to our office and I took some portraits which we never ended up using. Enclosed are two I like and two outtakes.
31 January 2018
As I exclaimed on Facebook, this is the most extreme solar eclipse I've ever experienced.
Okay, granted, I've experienced a pretty extreme solar eclipse back in 2010, and it was actually during the daytime, but it was a pretty good joke. This time, within one month we got to see a pretty badass moon followed by a lunar eclipse.
31 January 2018
Ned has become a fixture at the RAS, which I don't see anyone complaining about. He may have stumbled into his fate, as his grandfather had a major role in the Hungnam Evacuation, but he is a US Marine who has also made time to honour his ancestor.
He also runs a website that has mentioned me a few times.
I knew about the statue but I hadn't ever really noticed it before now, but this one time on my way home I took a moment to pay it some attention. Dr. Hyun and Ned's grandfather basically teamed up to save hundreds of millions of lives, possibly more.
One more reason, as tenuous as it may be to the original incident, to visit the area by my office.
30 January 2018
That's about all I can say. As I walked out back of my building, I looked up the street and managed to get this image. It was a beautiful scene and this image doesn't do it justice. Though I could have waited around and tried to recapture it from a better angle.
27 January 2018
So, Samia's back. Apparently New York was starting to suck as soon as it realised its most successful slumlord had been elected president of the whole country. I mean fair enough, but Trump is more likely to nuke Korea than Manhattan.
She came back and had another great concert at Leo's, after which she apparently went off to a drag show somewhere. When I followed her half an hour later, I ended up getting lost inside Korea's LGBTQ community, which is a good place to lose oneself.
20 January 2018
Note 7 in Gwangju
After my DSLR died, I had two decisions: die or start photographing everything on my phone, which considering I have a Note 7 may also lead to death.
We walked through Gwangju guided by an explorer I'd been hoping to meet for years, visiting a couple abandoned buildings and a pretty impressive rooftop. Then we went to Alleyway, a restaurant that serves high-quality beer and foreign food all in one location in a convenient package surrounded by a community that would be diluted if done the same in Seoul. After that, we went to a metal show at Bohemian. Gwangju might not have a lot of live music, but it has enough that is worth scrutiny and would make a big difference to anyone living down there.
20 January 2018
So while I was inside a Trump-branded prison cell theme room, I had the TV on and at first it showed a porn video with masked people boning, but then when I started paying attention I switched channels until I got to a channel showing a movie of Koreans resisting a tyrannical government. Around that time, I got a message from a contact that we would be meeting the very next day in the same place where I was watching Korean civilans getting gunned down for looking sideways at the military dictatorship. It evoked an emotion that can't be properly expressed without using that cliche "han" I still cling to.
We met up at this square in the city, where we totally randomly happened to run into Isaac, a friend from the Seoul hardcore music scene, there with his dad, who turned out to be a former Canadian diplomat on vacation visiting his son. Anyway, synchronicity is a friend of the urban explorer, and we did some exploring with the Isaacs until they had to catch a train back to Seoul.
This first gallery covers my D750 coverage until its battery died, shortly after emerging from our first abandonment. We hit an abandoned colatec which I wish I could have spent more time down in photographing stuff. But I worked very economically knowing my camera was about to die.
19 January 2018
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.