Paul and Yumi's Wedding
Paul and Yumi have already been married for five years (since before the last time Paul left Korea), but they never bothered having any sort of ceremony. Somehow, they decided five years wasn't too late, so they signed up a bunch of us to get on base and visit the Dragon Hill Lodge where they had the ceremony.
18 May 2013
Seoul Jazz Fest
One of my coworkers was supposed to go to the Seoul Jazz Fest, but had to go cover something else instead. I managed to take her place on the second day of the festival, and ended up backstage (one of the most boring backstages I've ever seen, by the way) to talk to one of the performers. It rained later in the day, but I had an umbrella with me to protect my drink. And me I guess.
18 May 2013
After the meetup a few weeks ago in which we found an interesting new roof after dark, I intended to come back with more equipment during the daytime. You can see from a few more angles what this roof is really like, and how much less dangerous it really is than it appears. So far, I have not been brave enough to dangle my legs over the edge of an actual rooftop, and despite how it may look, this has not changed at all.
On the way down the security stopped me and informed me that the rooftop is no foreigners. So I guess any Korean can go up there? If you're not Korean and you visit this roof, wear a Korean disguise.
17 May 2013
Mermaid's Last Night
Lately Mermaid has become one of the more popular bars to visit, partly because it's in a quieter area removed from the overstimulating heart of Hongdae, partly because our friend Sunwoon works there. Somehow, the place closed down, leading to one last party featuring the band Watersports.
17 May 2013
I took a road trip down to Incheon during Buddha's Birthday on Friday, intending to visit Songdo and stop by a few other familiar sights along the way. One notable detour was taken onto Wolmi-do where I had a closer look at the cancelled Wolmi Eunha Rail line and a few other interesting places. I also hit up a few rooftops along the way and found my way into two subway tunnels in different stages of completion.
16 May 2013
Last time I visited this tunnel was with Javin, when everything looked much more primitive still. They had this interesting three-story apparatus for working closely with the walls of the tunnel which I thought bore an interesting resemblance to Korean gate architecture. It especially resembles the Goguryeo architecture of south gate of Taesong Fortress in Pyongyang, built sometime before 427.
Incidentally, my friend Phil recently reappeared after conspicuous weeks of Facebook absence, to announce he'd just returned from the Other Korea, so that linked picture is his.
15 May 2013
Having rescued my tripod from the clutches of Jaeeun, I returned to the Joongang Cinema to take some more proper shots not lit up by my in-camera flash. It's amazing how much better some of the reshoots are.
This year Jo reminded me about it, asking if I knew any good rooftops from which to see the parade. Of course I did, but even better I knew an exotic bar with a great view of the street and an expensive menu. We also met up with Jenn from RASKB, Rob and his baby, and a girl who I'd met while we were both applying for the job at KOCIS, who also brought her baby. They were late so we enjoyed most of the parade in peace.
This is going to be a new annual tradition. Hopefully not with all the babies though.
11 May 2013
South of the River
I know it technically is, but I don't consider Guro and Yeongdeungpo to be "Gangnam." They're too real.
We ventured south of the Han to fulfill Jo's touristy request for a dog restaurant. I ate a light lunch beforehand so I wouldn't be hungry while I was there. We ended up getting dog meat in two dishes: one a spicy looking plate of meat, and the other in a soup. I had a very tiny piece from the first, which was way too tender for me to get any enjoyment out of, and a spoonful of the broth from the soup, which was pretty good. It was actually a lot harder for me to work myself up to try than I was expecting. I guess I've lost my adventurousness somewhere along the line of getting used to Korean food.
Afterwards, full of male stamina, we did something a lot less controversial: recreational trespassing for photography. Three of us started a two-wheeled convoy and tracked down an old water pumping facility that I haven't visited in two years. I don't know why it took me so long to go back, but it's a pretty interesting location.
10 May 2013
Korea Gig Guide is Real
I met up with Shawn Despres and Anna to talk about Korea's underground music in person. Shawn had recently returned from the Korea Rocks tour of the UK and had a number of interesting behind-the-scenes stories about that tour as well as SXSW. Anna is visiting Korea and has been soaking in as much live music as she can.
This is probably as good a place as any to share my latest work blog post, Girl Groups of the Underground. I know I missed a bunch, but I was mostly going by who I've seen and talked to.
8 May 2013
Buddha's Birthday is coming up (I know how much Verv hates that term), and Cheonggyecheon is filling with oversized lanterns.
Tomorrow I'm going back to the place where I watched the parade last year and took a couple of the pictures seen in this article. Expensive drinks, very comfortable, great view.
5 May 2013
How to Make Love to a Building
Normally I don't post pictures that give away the point of entry into a building, but I'm pretty confident there's nobody else out there who would want to try this. Even I backed out, so you know it's gotta be pretty bad. Well, Tyler got to show off his infiltrating skills and made love to a building.
4 May 2013
I made it to 51+ Festival around 5pm, having already missed several hours. It's a bit strange not having it on May 1, and a fair number of people seemed unaware it basically started as a May Day celebration at Dooriban back in I think 2010. It was a very pleasant festival with four stages on different floors of the building, and I discovered a few new (non-punk) bands I'm interested in.
Right when I arrived I saw Cort workers handing out information about their long-running strike. Having already acquainted myself with their movement, I exclaimed something positive about Cort which seemed to concern the guy in front of me. But no, I just was glad to see a Cort protest taking part in a concert I was attending.
Also, this was the first reunion show of Command 27. I hope to see them play more shows.
4 May 2013
Foreign Students' Paintings of Seoul in 2030
Part of the Seoul Friendship Fair was this excellent collection of kids' paintings predicting what Seoul will look like in 2030. I was hurrying by and the "1st Robot President" painting caught my eye. There was a lot of great stuff here, some of it hilarious, some of it serious, and a few that seem inevitable.
4 May 2013
Seoul Friendship Fair 2013
I made it to the Friendship Fair, which was a lot of fun and had a lot of interesting participating countries you wouldn't normally think of. One of my Facebook friends openly admitted he'd never heard of Azerbaijan before. He later said once he heard it spoken aloud it was more familiar.
I also ran into Nikola of Kojects again, and we discussed the swarm of cultists passing right in front of us.
I mostly disapprove of the Korean government's attempts to promote the country as multicultural simply by being more welcoming to mail-order brides, but the festival was a lot of fun.
4 May 2013
On my way downtown to cover the Seoul Friendship Fair, I was cut off by a fairly large parade. It later turned out that they were coming from Namdaemun where there was a big festival for the restoration of the gate.
Slowly over the afternoon, Sejong Plaza filled up with cultists dressed in identical yellow jackets. I suspect that the recent law about flash mobs might have been inspired by them.
For lunch I went out to find a rooftop where I could get better pictures of the Joongang Cinema, but both the main highrises across the street were of no help. The best I could hope for was this medium-height building which lends a good view, but not of the cinema.
And then I went to Myeongdong for Ho Lee Chow at their new location. Never again will I have to brave the masses in Itaewon to get American-style Chinese food. Still waiting for a Hongdae or Sinchon branch.
1 May 2013
International Trespassers' Day
After a close encounter with one worker who had decided not to celebrate the holiday, I headed to another site for more daylight craning. While I was up at the top the Sun set, and I climbed down in twilight.
1 May 2013
International Workers' Day
I had May 1 off for International Workers' Day, and decided to capitalise on the opportunity while construction workers would also be enjoying a break from work. It was good exercise and lent a new perspective on my neighbourhood.
Incidentally, President Park celebrated the day by meeting with business owners, because of course she would.
30 April 2013
A couple years ago, Mark Russell tipped me off about the Joongang Cinema, an old movie house in Myeongdong that had closed in 2010. At the time it was impenetrable, an old building without any promising entrances as well as on the edge of a high-traffic area.
It turns out that another friend was determined enough to get in. He climbed the fence, then found a hole to squeeze through and opened a door for lazy me to get in behind him. The interior was much larger than we both expected, and despite the fact the seats had been removed, there was a lot to see in there in the dark. I've lent my tripod out to a friend but after getting it back I'm hoping to go back there.
Seoul UE Meetup
As far back as 2009, I've been organising meetups to visit the Host fairly regularly, maybe a little over once a year. It's a good location to introduce people to the hobby and give them a way to challenge themselves while never being in very much danger. It's also a good place to go with a group, as opposed to more sensitive locations where you'd have to worry about a variety of factors. From here, once you get in the entrance there's no real stopping you. I think this trip with eleven people was the largest yet, and the biggest drawback was that at times it was hard to think who was missing.
Although the red-light district is long gone, Yongsan has also introduced a new feature that's worthwhile to wind down the adventure: more tent restaurants. We found one that had an impressive makgeolli selection and some really nice food.
So, no injuries and no arrests--all in all a pretty decent weekend of events. My hope is, now that we've established a bit more of a peer group, everyone will be more able to find new locations and explore them on their own, as well as providing useful skillsets.
27 April 2013
Return of ...Whatever That Means
I had pictures of an unannounced appearance by ...Whatever That Means a short while back, but this was their official comeback show. I had been busy with the meetup earlier in the day so I didn't have a huge amount of time to spend at the show.
27 April 2013
Seoul UE Meetup
I'd brought groups of people up to this rooftop before, and we'd never had any trouble. It seemed like one of the surer rooftops for having a meetup, but I discovered that the doors are a bit more locked than they used to be. Instead, we had to climb up an even more obscure way to get onto a very high part of the roof.
It was an interesting event and had a good mix of newish English teachers in Korea, European travellers, and long-termers I'm more familiar with. We had absolutely no contact with security, which probably surprised me more than anyone else.
Afterwards, a smaller group of us went out for microbrewed beers and hit another rooftop that allowed for more freedom of movement.
Just a few days earlier, I found this guide to rooftopping written by someone in Ulsan. He would probably have a problem with our event, advising "Don't show up and try and 'sneak in' with 10 of your best photographer friends and their significant others." Then he goes and gives specific information about which rooftops are open in Ulsan, something I wouldn't necessarily approve of. Then again, it looks like rooftops are far less commonplace in Ulsan than Seoul.
24 April 2013
Seoul UE Meetup
I met up with a bunch of people on a weekday night so we could visit some interesting places around Hongdae, some high above the ground and some below it.
22 April 2013
Buster took up this new posture and seemed to be showing off his arm muscle. Though I can't imagine how a cat would be bulking up.
21 April 2013
I'd gone here last Thursday with Jez, but we'd failed to get into one apartment that had a ton of interesting large-scale pottery in it. I'd originally seen these sitting on a piece of furniture, and from a distance thought they were much larger than they were. They appear to be Chinese pottery, modern-made, so less exciting than they could have been, but still a pretty strange thing to discover and probably still worth a lot of money to the right person. We also found a bottle of baemsool, or snake liquor, in a cabinet in this place.
21 April 2013
New Town Animals
Lately there's been a lot more web activity about urban exploration in Korea. There's also been a lot of people sharing urban exploration resources for Korea that include several of my pages as well as the tourist group, which has been getting more attention and has even started mentioning the words "urban exploration" recently. What might turn out to be their weakness could be the infrequency of their tours (yeah, rather than the more obvious limitation of trampling places with 20-30 tourists at a time).
I got together with some people, all who met each other this weekend for the first time, and we hit up a couple abandoned areas. We went to the New Town I'd discovered the previous day, then an older and more familiar neighbourhood.
I went to work on Saturday, just more proof I'm becoming Korean, and on the way I noticed a fairly extensive abandoned neighbourhood by the side of the road that I take to work every day. Calendars in the homes seem to indicate that the section closest to the road was abandoned in December 2012, which is strange because I'd heard it's illegal to evict people during the coldest months of the year.
This is another New Town project, one that I was expecting would have been cancelled with the election of Park Won-soon, but I guess not. This development is only going to get more and more extensive until it eats up a very prominent piece of land on par with the wastage around North Ahyeon.
18 April 2013
Exploring with Jez
I m et up with Jezabellezza, a British traveler who tracked me down when looking for information about the local music scene, and had a lot of questions about Korean music as well as urban exploration. She managed to get onto a show put on by GT Arpe, and we met up on Thursday for a visit to an abandoned neighbourhood. We got into a very impressive church that still had its stained glass windows and pews, and spent a lot of time waiting for some teenage vandals to lose interest.
15 April 2013
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Tyler sent me a message that they were digging up the road in Yeonnam-dong, revealing an extensive-looking sewer system. I've seen this before closer to Hongdae Station along the road between exit 2 and exit 8, but this one smells less awful. Still, not going down there; I still haven't exhausted this city's underground tunnels with convenient sidewalks.
14 April 2013
For an upcoming article, I took a few pictures of bike paths around the city. Well, two of them, because I was feeling lazy.
Also, last weekend Jae Kim claimed that she's the one who first said "butt goats," to which Jesse backed her up. I specifically remember hearing the word for the first time from Jonghyuk "Orc" Blood Pledge, and thinking "That sounds like butt goat." Then at some point I posted it on the Broke message board, where Jesse liked it and soon after made it his temporary username. Am I going insane? No, it's everyone else.
13 April 2013
Open Your Eyes Fest at Club Spot
After a full day of the maddest locations Yongsan can provide (outside Hooker Hill), I ended up at Club Spot for a little bit of a very big show. I managed to see the brief ...Whatever That Means reunion show preview, as well as Animal Anthem. Unfortunately not much more, as the day had been equally taxing on me and my camera.
13 April 2013
After the heavy stuff I'd uncovered in Yongsan, I needed to unwind. My idea of unwinding involves light infiltration in places that haven't become the center of a national tragedy, so the revolving restaurant on Yongsan served as a welcome diversion. Last week I posted a gallery of scouting pictures, and this day I returned and headed straight for the top. Great view up there, and I'm still piecing together bits of history to get an image of how the area has developed over the last century.
13 April 2013
Part two of the Billion-Dollar Wasteland walk, I went to the Yongsan railyard, land that was given up by Korail for the country's largest development project (really? even over Songdo?) only to faceplant in a dusty field full of weeds.
Matt of Popular Gusts has a lot to say about the issue, as well as links into his archives and news sources documenting the development of the development of the area, including their brief plans to rebuild 9/11. As well, a lot of the pictures he took of the neighbourhood appear to come from a get-together back in early 2011 when we wandered through Seobu-Icheon-dong and did the tunnel walk. I'd been wondering if he ever did anything with those pictures.
Anyway, I returned to the site and determined to jump the fence into the now-empty railyard. Here's what I found.
13 April 2013
The Billion-Dollar Wasteland
Imagine wanting something so bad that you'd kill for it. Now imagine yourself killing six people to get it--one of whom was a police officer working in your interests. Now fast-forward four years, and imagine that your project which has claimed six lives has just become a fatality itself.
Did those (five of the six) people die for nothing? Or did they die fighting an ultimately futile megaproject that would kill itself in the end?
I went to Yongsan to investigate the wasteland stretching between Yongsan Garrison and Yongsan Station, with all sorts of surprises in between, some of which are unexpected and pleasant, and some of which are not worth the price extracted in human lives.
Like all modern humans with a camera and a weblog, I sometimes take pictures of food too.
9 April 2013
Jacco owes me a beer
Not too long ago, Jacco offered to buy me a beer if I could get into this seemingly abandoned building on a backstreet in Jongno. Mission accomplished, so it's time to beer up.
The building is almost totally empty inside, but you can see a lot of surprising old construction techniques, mainly using newspapers for insulation and some of the more traditional looking window patterns.
I was dumb enough to not perfectly move back some materials covering the gate, and within a couple hours after first going in someone had come by and more properly locked it, so this might be the only chance to see the interior.
9 April 2013
We've had a pretty bad yellow dust problem this year. I noticed some of the cars in our parking lot were covered in a powdery yellow film, so I took a few pictures trying to show it off.
Judging by the pattern it looks more like this was caused by the rain, but rather than delivering the yellow dust I think it's just moving it around into this texture.
9 April 2013
I drove up to Namsan for lunch to have a look around and take pictures of downtown. There's lots of nice parkland up there, as well as renovation work. More on this later.
5 April 2013
Funkafric Boostdah has lately been playing sort of low-key concerts in Blue Star, the makgeolli bar on the edge of Insadong. I skipped the last one mainly because I thought it would be way too crowded, but I ended up going to the second one (which was more crowded than the first I hear) with Jacco, everyone's favourite seven-foot-tall dancer.
2 April 2013
I saw this on the driveway in front of my apartment after a rain.
The weather's been really weird lately. Lots of sunshowers and rainstorms lasting only a few minutes. Not even really enough to justify an umbrella, at least for me.
1 April 2013
I was going to go out for lunch today, but I found my scooter boxed in by a fleet of identical black cars. Check out the excellent parking job they did, sure not to leave any room for me to get through. This is the second time this has happened in my time here, at least that I've noticed.
Spend a four-day weekend with us exploring inside some of the best-known abandoned places of Korea all while riding in a Pierrot Motors luxury bus with wi-fi and a bathroom! - Okpo Land, the Jumbo Jet of Namyangju, a secret tunnel from Cheong Wa Dae to Gwacheon, and the mysterious Joseon Door (locations are subject to change). Along the way to these destinations we will take the "Scenic Route" through some of Seoul's abandoned neighbourhoods in Gangnam, Hongdae, and Bukchon Hanok Village. See Korea's true beauty. Now that is the way to spend a long weekend!
Return to Yongma Land
My South African friend Roberta was visiting from Sokcho, so I offered to show her around by taking a scooter tour of the city, with a surprise destination. That ended up being Yongma Land, which I haven't revisited since the fall.
Following the Expedition Korea trip there in January, it seems the owner has a much bigger presence there. At one point I even witnessed one group handing him a fair amount of money. If he's charging people to be there, good on him, I guess. He didn't ask us for money probably because he didn't want to try speaking to us, or because he thought we were part of a group, or because he only charges for more official photo shoots.
If you spend a lot of time on Facebook, you may be aware of two things: my freakish new clown obsession, and this group that's been arranging photowalks to abandoned places. The two are related.
I first heard about Expedition Korea after their January event, in which they brought something like 30 people to Yongma Land. For anybody who's been there, you probably know that it's a popular site for photographers, mainly Koreans, and the owner is often on site but doesn't mind the visitors. Turns out bringing 30 people, mainly foreigners, makes him panic, and the police were called to break up the photowalk.
Next month, they planned to go to a closed shopping mall north of the city. But on an advance trip, the sole owner of Expedition Korea, Sabrina Hill, discovered there was security, so she moved the trip last-minute to a nearby abandoned school, where they had 41 RSVPs. It's around then that I first said "It's not a clown car" in reference to their activities.
The third month was when things started really going over the top. She started advertising it as "Seoul's unseen shame," before revealing the third destination of 2013 would be the shantytown in Poi-dong, just south of Yangjae, where a community of evictees was set up to make way for Olympic facilities around 1988. This place has made the rounds in the news over the last year or so, but it's still not a tourist place where visitors are welcome to wander around with cameras. That's the reason I haven't been out there.
Ultimately, Sabrina did the right thing and cancelled the event, citing "an unforeseen scheduling error."
She went on to say:
Seeing that some people didn't read the event details, or the posts I had written earlier this month, some missed the point of this photowalk altogether. This was always meant to be a private, low-key exploration of an area that is often overlooked by so many in Seoul. I wanted to share this with people who could help raise awareness and get the word out.
This was never about exploring a site and using the misery of others to gain a few decent photos. It was instead about capturing stories of real people that we might otherwise not notice or know much about. These photowalks are always about untold stories. One of the Maxims of Expedition Korea is Respect. Respect for the property and the people.
It's honestly a dubious statement, managing to be simultaneously self-aggrandising and self-unaware. How can you be low-key and also help raise awareness and get the word out? The previous two photowalks were certainly not low-key, as one attracted the cops and the other was changed because it was predicted on-site security would not be happy. In February they posted something called the "No Impact Pledge" which is kind of a basic shrug at standard UE ethics. This includes:
Keep the noise to a minimum.
Do not break or remove property from the location.
Respect the private properties surrounding the location.
A nice gesture, but still hopelessly naive about the impact large groups have on these locations, regarding not just security concerns due to the high visibility of such a group but also safety concerns as well as privacy concerns. I've spoken directly with Sabrina on the need for some discretion toward these places; she wrote on Facebook "I've never really been impressed with how no one really did this, or shared great locations - and for those people that hoard locations - it's all good."
I admit I'd been more careless about location details in the past, back when there was no one around to do this, but nowadays I keep the locations of the places I visit more low-key specifically to not tip off those who are more careless--for instance people who would trample a location with a 30-person photowalk. So anyway, this comment reeked of criticism of me specifically, even if she wasn't aware of who I am.
Anyway, I was vindicated when the trip was cancelled. There was no way for it to be anything other than a brief irritation to the residents there, bringing stress and also luring others into treating this place like a tourist destination. It was tacky marketing, undeniably exploitative in how it hung the plight of those people on the integrity of Expedition Korea, Imaag Studios, and Imaag Design Studios (all run by the same person) as well as their media sponsor Groove Magazine.
So I was quite taken aback when they unveiled their destination for next month--an abandoned neighbourhood in Anyang. Groove was conspicuously absent, replaced by something called the Itaewon Times. This event promises "a free photowalk to one of the coolest places in Gyeonggi-do," so clearly they haven't learned their lesson.
While I know at least one of my friends weighed in on last month's event, this month I didn't feel like keeping quiet. I posted that this tour was "scuzzy" (I can't remember the exact quote because it's all since been erased). I also warned her that it's not a clowncar, a comment that completely went over her head. One of my friends who'd been back there recently warned that there is security on site, which Sabrina Hill angrily denied before deleting his comment too.
So, we met up with my friend to do our own three-person photowalk around the area, and I have to say, we really felt conspicuous there, frequently drawing a lot of attention from the locals. I created the persona of UEey the Clown to simulate what it would be like to send in the clowns, so to speak. It was specifically intended to challenge our idea of what's respectful to do at these sites. It was a costume just like Yangbantal et al, and nobody outside our group ever saw me wearing it (though we had one close call in the first room which just goes to show you can never be too sure you're alone).
You can see it in the pictures, but here are some important observations we made:
Many of the buildings that look abandoned still have residents. We ran into one who was bemused but didn't do anything otherwise. I told him in Korean that we're photographers and we'll leave now, and he seemed okay with that. Right outside, there was a very angry looking guy sitting in a truck watching us.
There is an evictee headquarters right in the middle of the district. At times they play protest music over speakers. Their banners and graffiti are found all across the area. This means there is an ongoing legal battle with the city and probably the construction company.
Some graffiti messages warn that trespassers will be prosecuted. Others warn of asbestos. A few others warn that there are still residents inside. While the first two might not be totally true, there are plenty of other buildings without such messages that are much safer to approach. Still others say they will fight city hall to the death, or warn against dumping garbage, which I wouldn't consider the same level of threat to recreational trespassers.
The streets through this area are still active, and many people walk, bike, and drive through. Bus routes are still active. However, other than the scrappers and the odd photographer, they know where they're not supposed to go. Too many violations of these rules and those people might have their privileges taken away.
There certainly is security, in the form of white trucks with flashing lights on the roof. They're totally unmarked, which leads me to think they could be run by the evictees or some other more civil group trying to prevent accidents that would reflect badly on themselves.
Sabrina insisted that this area is totally public and she has a right to be there, which is a very dangerous attitude to take. You may have the "right" from a legal standpoint, but you may have to assert your "right" to be there on people who have much bigger problems to worry about. And yes, you may not be doing anything wrong, but the cops can still be called. I felt that perhaps three people was too large of a group to bring there, so good luck with ten times that number.
This photowalk should not happen. It certainly can happen, in the physically possible sense of the word, but I'm pretty certain it won't go well (although there is disagreement about whether the previous photowalks--especially the one to Yongma Land--went wrong). There are a lot of things that could go wrong: from the most obvious being injuries to the less apparent negative effects on the people of this neighbourhood, and even the likelihood that this would sour the evictees on foreigners, meaning all of us are going to be treated with more suspicion in the future. Like I tell everyone new, when you go to abandoned neighbourhoods, you're walking into a battlefield. And I think it's a worthwhile experience for everyone to see it, just not all together.
23 March 2013
Sete Star Sept in Ccott Ddang
I've been meaning to stop by Ccott Ddang for a long while. It's yet another reclaimed space in a neighbourhood that doesn't have a lot of history left, and it's got close ties with the other similar places like Lowrise and DGBS. Sampung was opening for a show there which seemed like an ideal time to check it out. I was otherwise pretty tired and didn't get all that many pictures.
20 March 2013
On Wednesday we got all four of us back together again, the first time since 2010 when we travelled around together and visited China and stuff. This was my first chance to see the other guys' pictures. We ended up filling Roots Time with an assortment of other people.
17 March 2013
I went downtown on Sunday for a car-free market that was being held on the street in Gwanghwamun for an article about the event. I admit I was more interested in the car-free aspect than the market part, but my employers saw otherwise. It was a good time, anyway.
13 March 2013
Roots Time has reopened
After what feels like an eternity, Shinji and Ogin have finally come back from India and reopened Roots Time. They brought back all sorts of Indian snack foods, so if you want to try them I suggest going there soon.
We're going to have a slideshow in Roots Time sometime next week or the week after. One of my friends who went with me to a country that rhymes with South Korea is visiting, and in order for me to see his photos properly I'm setting up another slideshow in Roots Time for us to see his photos properly. You can get kind of a sample here but I have no idea what he'll have in store for us in Roots Time.
Also in this gallery, I threw in a bunch of pictures of the RASKB afterparty at Blue Star, which this time was a much more musical experience.
10 March 2013
Everybody Yun Chung Tonight
I finally went up Namsan Tower, which I've discovered is now officially named CJ Seoul Tower, thanks to sponsorship from one of Korea's most ominous entertainment companies.
Anyway, the elevator was far less terrifying than I expected; although it is billed as the "world's fastest elevator" this is clearly a joke, because it moves relatively slowly and has a ridiculous visual display on the ceiling to make it look faster. Up on the observation deck I was never really at ease, and whenever I got close to a window I felt like the tower was tilting downward.
On the lower observation deck I noticed they had these descriptions written up for various tourist sites across Seoul, and the English in these was pretty bad in some cases. Proofreading put my mind at ease. I remembered that the KTO is soliciting error-reporting on tourist signage, so I thought I'd submit a few images for 30 000 won worth of reward.
9 March 2013
Hilariously Inept Security Measures
I went by the Gyeongui tunnel entrance to see if it was still open. They have put up two tiers of security: this gate warning people not to go into this otherwise harmless-looking parking lot, and some plastic zip-ties over the actual hatch. Why?
From a friend who I'm going to keep anonymous until further notice:
So I got caught in the Gyeongui tunnel last night. In the entrance near Hongdae. Someone must have seen us going in.
We were down in the separate room in the spot that has a door leading to the tracks. I had heard faint voices earlier but thought nothing of us. Suddenly someone was yelling "is someone there?" Thinking it was someone coming from the tracks, I was thinking to head back to the ladder. Trying to figure out what to do, we climbed under the machinery to another portion of that room. Just then the door leading away from the tracks in the portion we were just in opened and someone looked around with a flashlight. We just waited and suddenly the door to the portion we were in opened and the guy spotted us and led us back to the ladder.
At the bottom of the ladder there were maybe three guys and another five at the top of the vent. They didn't seem angry at all and I just casually started putting away my camera. They gave my friend a pair of gloves for climbing the ladder and offered to carry our bags. At the top the rescue workers insisted on helping us down, etc. They just kept asking if we were okay, if we were hurt, etc.
Up on the surface there were police, paramedics (with a stretcher!!), and very official looking Korail guys waiting for us. I was expecting the absolute worst but all along they just kept asking if we were okay. One guy even told me, in English, it was okay and not to worry. They very specifically explained that being down there is not a crime and they were just worried, it is dangerous, etc. We just kept saying "sorry" and the police, etc repeated "it's okay, it's okay".
They assumed my friend was also a foreigner but when they realized she is Korean they talked with her. They even very specifically explained to her that being in was not a crime and to not worry. They were just worried about us and warned us it is dangerous to enter. So I guess that is good to know for the future. Breaking into active train tunnels is dangerous but completely legal.
I didn't volunteer my ID card but they took down my friend's information. On me they just wrote NAME / AGE / NATIONALITY. Everyone started dispersing so we just followed suit and walked the opposite direction from them. All in all, after getting up to the surface, we were on our way after about five minutes.
A few remarks about this incident:
No, that was definitely not me.
I don't blame whatshisname for getting caught. It could have just as easily been me.
It must've been someone looking out from one of the adjacent apartments. To someone down on the street, it would just look like a couple people standing on a big inexplicable monolith, because you can only see the grate from above.
So far, nobody I know of who's gone down there has ever behaved irresponsibly. Now that trains are running, there's no more tunnel-walking. It's just a good place to go to watch the trains go by from a safe vantage point.
My theory is the authorities thought my friend and his friend were going down there to commit suicide.
Just because they were told in this one situation that it wasn't illegal to go down into an active subway tunnel, we can't expect the authorities to have this response every time. In a lot of situations, we all exist by the graces of the authorities here. Further encounters, and especially future injuries, will result in stricter punishments. Or, well, punishments period.
Before they installed the suicide doors in most subway platforms, I recall seeing warning signs that threatened a fine of one million won for anyone going into the tunnel.
I would've handled the situation exactly the same as how they did, but I might've allowed them to continue thinking the Korean was a foreigner for a longer amount of time, like I previously did with my "Japanese" friend Jaeeun (probably the only Korean since 1945 who doesn't feel remotely offended at being called Japanese).
9 March 2013
Enter the Stargate
I took an old-fashioned form of transportation up north of Seoul, where I revisited Jangheung, a vacation area on the southern edge of Yangju. It's charming but seems utterly pointless, especially considering it's less than 20 minutes away from Eunpyeong New Town to the south, but it really feels so much farther removed from Seoul.
Yes, there are pictures of abandonments in this entry, more specifically some stuff I probably shouldn't have gotten so close to in Jangheung as well as some stuff I saw along the road back to Seoul.
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.