29 August 2015

Blue Star

After the ska festival, we weren't tired of music yet, so four of us headed over to Blue Star to see if we could catch any of Funkafric Boostdah, who were playing a set there. Turns out the show didn't go so late, but we got food and good makgeolli and said hi to a few friends also there.

29 August 2015

NGOSKA Fest 4 - Toasters

Meeting Rob, who I don't feel weird describing as "the man who brought ska to America," was impressive. He was pretty low-key, as are most musicians on tour, but after the thought-provoking interview he did with Broke, I was curious to see what he'd be like in person. The band is almost as old as me, and I was surprised how intimately familiar the audience was with his music. I also learned the real truth behind his nickname "Bucket" which otherwise seemed like an odd thing to associate with, even with his explanation being it's from "Long Shot Kick the Bucket." It is but how it arrived in place as his nickname is kind of a big surprise I think he's not comfortable with making publicly known.

29 August 2015

NGOSKA Fest 3 - Beat Bahnhof, Respects, Skasucks

The night before the show, when I met with three members of Beat Bahnhof and Rob from the Toasters at a meat place in Hongdae, I told them I really liked Autocratics and Rollings. One member said "I used to be in Rollings" and another said "I used to be in Autocratics." That was amusing. Looking at their bio, if I'd mentioned Bon DX I may have been three for three. In concert, they were exactly what you'd think based on the label -- energetic 2tone-influenced Japanese ska, with no shortage of sunglasses. They were a lot of fun, and it was a good choice to pair with the Toasters, though they'd have to ratchet back the energy a little.

Respects were one of two newly formed bands this year, which is why I wanted to interview them.

Skasucks had a great show, I'd say probably even better than last year's, just because the venue better allowed them to access their secret weapon -- the audience. The lineup has had some significant changes from last year, adding in Janghyup and Jongo and making the whole thing a little more skinhead. And seeing Insoo from Crying Nut jump in to play keyboards alongside Goyang was a thrill.

29 August 2015

NGOSKA Fest 2 - South Carnival, Kingston Rudieska

As far as I'm concerned, South Carnival stole the show. This might be partly because I was more surprised by them than anyone else. Despite the "ska" pun in their name that we revealed in interview, there's probably more Latin and Cuban in their DNA than anything particularly Jamaican. I recall them having two spot-on ska songs in their performance, but their Latin stuff was superb.

Kingston Rudieska started a little slower, but they have some unbeatable hits they deployed at this show, including "Gimme Your Love" with their "macho" sax player Nakwon filling in for Stingers ATX's Walter on guest vocals. I think the band is starting to develop Nakwon and Cheolwook more as vocalists, which is great because they both sound fantastic.

29 August 2015

NGOSKA Fest 1 - John StockTone, Pegurians, Burning Hepburn, Lazybone

This year's New Generation of Ska Fest was a little scaled back compared to last year's, which would've been almost impossible to top, considering the busy street setting. I was excited about having the Toasters as this year's headliners (well, one of them, backed by the Japanese band Beat Bahnhof -- a tactic which we will probably see more and more of in the coming years). It was quieter and more intimate than last year, and as far as I can tell it could be considered a success in every way.

The festival started a little slowly as people gradually poured in, and by Burning Hepburn it was in full swing. The first couple bands were helped greatly by the energy provided by our friends from Daegu and the inexhaustible dancing of a kilt-clad Ji Min-geun. That guy's a superhero.

23 August 2015

A Ninja-Flavoured Funerary Ceremony

Sunday, 23 August was the ten-year anniversary of the death of Ninjalicious, considered by those who've been around long enough as the originator of the current concept of urban exploration, and also possibly the name itself. A Torontonian, Ninjalicious was one of the first to write about visiting forbidden places, and unlike most contemporary urban explorers, he wasn't some camera geek who cared more about equipment than seeing an unbelieveable sight.

Ten years on, we have a small but productive and enthusiastic community, located 16 hours by plane away from his hometown, but still very much indebted to Ninjalicious and his writing. On the other hand, you can't count on Canadians to practice ancestral worship ceremonial sacrifices, and in the off chance the Koreans were right on this one, why not throw him a party?

The party in question is known in Korean as a gijesa, involving a ritual sacrifice of food and alcohol with incense and candles and bowing. And at the end we get to eat everything left there that's actually edible. At the end we cleaned up our garbage and vanished into the afternoon, in search of more food and alcohol.

Wherever Ninjalicious is, he may have felt a tug toward Korea, a country he's probably never visited, and he may have been surprised to see this meal spread out for him.

22 August 2015

Bye George and Jen

I'm losing friends everywhere this month. George's time in Korea is over, and he's convinced Jen to follow him back to Alaska.

They had a party at George's luxurious Myeongdong apartment, and after a full day of exploring, I figured that being coated in crane grease wasn't a good enough reason not to go.

22 August 2015


I forgot how terrifying cranes are. I didn't exactly cry up there, or at least I didn't shed any tears, but my reaction was a sort of more profane take on sobbing.

22 August 2015

Oil Tanks

The oil tanks have been getting a bit more attention, and some of what I've been seeing in pictures has surprised me. Anyway, here are some more pictures to surprise me.

22 August 2015

Yet Another Abandoned Neighbourhood

This was our third abandoned neighbourhood of the day. I'd already visited this one once before on my hunt for Captain Q. This time, the main difference was that urban renewal blankets had been put up over everything...really half-assedly.

22 August 2015

Another Abandoned Neighbourhood

Our visit to this abandoned neighbourhood didn't last long, as an elderly evictee didn't like us being there and chased us out. I really dislike making life harder for people living in eviction zones, so we left quickly and quietly.

22 August 2015

Underground Stream

Going over a bridge, we both realised that we were suddenly on a bridge. Below us was a pleasant looking park with a stream, but where did that stream go? The answer may surprise you, but probably won't if you've been following this site for a while.

22 August 2015

Abandoned Neighbourhood

On the day that North Korea was supposed to attack us because the South was blasting K-pop into their country, I met up with Kanghee to scout around some areas. We hit three abandoned neighbourhoods, two roofs, one underground river, and one crane. Busy day.

I was scouting for a location to put on a ceremony the day after, which you can read about above.

16 August 2015

Stormy Weather

Another day with lousy weather, another afternoon with the cats.

15 August 2015

No Brain at Gwanghwamun

I went out around 6 to go to Hongdae for a show at Double A Studios with a ton of new young bands. But downtown was turned into a labyrinth and the police were the minotaur.

I went home, and came out again around 9pm to see what it was like around Gwanghwamun. Turns out, I arrived just as No Brain was closing the show. I can't begin to describe what it was like, celebrating the end of World War II and Japanese occupation of Korea, with one of Korea's oldest punk bands performing and managing to get thousands of Korean people to sing along with them.

15 August 2015


I went out on Liberation Day to see what kind of traffic was at construction sites. Turns out, construction workers work through this holiday. Also, say goodbye to one of two Geumhwa Apartments.

When I left home, it started raining, despite the Sun being out. When I got back home, the rain seems to have stopped. Good grief.

14 August 2015

Just an Ordinary Bus Stop

What lies behind that nondescript construction fence? Probably nothing. I mean it's not like there's a lot of room back there for anything other than a truck and some laundry...

14 August 2015

Flags Everywhere

Someone dropped a flag-bomb on Korea in celebration of the 70th anniversary of liberation from the Japanese occupation at the end of World War II. Smooth sailing from there on out, right?

12 August 2015

Bunker Busters

This is my second time hitting this underground spot, first time with a camera. Due to the conditions inside, it was pretty worthless. These are probably some of my worst UE photos ever.

10 August 2015

Bye Jaeeun

Jaeeun is leaving for Cornell University to become a lawyer, but before she left

8 August 2015

Broke in Korea 21 release

The new issue of Broke in Korea came out, and Jeff was nice enough to let me hitch on to his August Second Saturdays show at Ruailrock. There was also a free show at Channel1969 that I stopped by and gave out a bunch of zines.

Second Saturdays was a lot of fun, though I'm leaning more and more away from late shows. Green Flame Boys and ...Whatever That Means were great as usual, and Rux did an enjoyable acoustic set (here's hoping Booil's brain surgery went well). Then BettyAss closed the show with a great set. I think I may have seen them at Spot several years ago, but I don't seem to have any pictures so I probably haven't ever seen them perform before. They were very talented, and apparently have been playing around Gwangju for a decade. Anyway, despite my distaste for late nights, we stayed out until sunrise.

8 August 2015


Sitting at home putting the finishing touches on the zine, and I noticed it was darker than a solar eclipse. An intense rainstorm was rolling in and it was dark. THe cats didn't seem to care, and I photographed a feast they had once the Sun was out a few hours later.

2 August 2015


If anyone's noticed I've been harder to reach lately, here's why. My phone battery pack caught on fire while charging on my bed. Fortunately I was home and stopped it with only minor damage to the mattress, but if I wasn't there this could've been a serious fire.

1 August 2015

Pegurians CD Release

It was a long, busy day followed by a long, boozy night. One of my favourite Korean bands released their debut CD, another favourite band started the show with an amazing set, and Redboi was there to celebrate his birthday.

1 August 2015

Galaxy Demolition

After a tip from Justin that demolition is speeding up, I returned to the Galaxy Apartments to see them before they're all gone. Somehow I ended up in a group with all Koreans, which is pretty rare.

We discovered they're using a demolition technique I've never seen before, which is probably best compared with a lumberjack felling trees. Not sure if it's a new technique, or just something they can't do with demolitions that are located closer to populations. Pretty bizarre thing to see though.

1 August 2015


I met up with Kanghee and we made our way through Gangnam. We visited an apartment complex closed down for "remodeling," which is another way of saying they'll be totally destroyed and new ones will be built in their place.

26 July 2015

Susubori Academy

In July I signed up for a makgeolli-making class with Susubori, an academy all about fermentation. I first came in contact with them in 2012 when I wrote an article about Makgeolli Mamas and Papas, and earlier this year I arranged for them to sponsor the RASKB Garden Party, where they served their own makgeolli and cheongju.

After a Sunday afternoon class, I had a big plastic container filled with fermenting rice. A week later, it was ready to bottle. It was pretty good, and after a few days it started to take on a chocolate taste.

18 July 2015

Return to The Host

Mas and Richard wanted to go somewhere dark to introduce us to this zombie game that they play. I suggested we try the Host tunnel, and loaded up on fireworks, steel wool, and alcohol.

11 July 2015

Seodaemun Overpass Concert

So, Crying Nut played. It was a very short but still pretty fun show, with a bunch of other bands I hadn't seen before who were generally pretty good.

Speaking of the Korea Observer, I also wrote this article about the scandal in Korea brewing due to the Hacking Team data leak. It may have been the first English-language article to point out that the NIS were trying hard to get surveillance equipment during the presidential election campaign, which they were already suspected of manipulating by trying to manufacture public consent through Twitter. Turns out they also had purchased equipment that let them listen to anyone's phone calls, during the election. Which they totally only used on North Korea.

Anyway, the day after this was published, the Times and Hankyoreh had their own articles about the connection to election dates. Shortly after that, one NIS spy was found dead in his car. It looks like they were talking about this a lot in the Korean media as well, so while I certainly contributed to this guy's aggravation, he probably didn't know about me or the Observer when he decided to kill himself.

11 July 2015

Seodaemun Overpass

I heard about another overpass closing, so I decided to have a look and maybe write an article about it. This is what I ended up with. It was a pretty fun time, and then I noticed a poster saying that Crying Nut was playing later...

7 July 2015

RASKB Lecture: Complications of Urban Renewal

Here's the video for my RASKB lecture, which went online much quicker than I expected. I wish it had been framed a bit better, as the video doesn't offer a particularly good view of the visuals. Anyway, I'm not ready to watch it all the way through yet.

5 July 2015

Rooftop Picnic

I was contacted by a French urban explorer staying in Korea, and we ended up having a picnic on top of a familiar roof. Likely there will be more pictures with them over the coming months.

4 July 2015

Dead Gakkahs / Kitsches Split Album Release

I really did not want to go to this show, entirely because I had a huge backlog of photos to get through. I ended up going anyway, because it was a pretty good show, but next day I spent about five hours in a PC room where I could finally have proper access to the free Photoshop demo software again, on a computer that runs properly. Anyway, I showed them.

4 July 2015


I was doing some cleanup in the UER database the other week, and I discovered that I have now visited abandonments in every single gu district of Seoul, except Yangcheon-gu. Yangcheon is the one that has Mokdong, so it's pretty rich, and as it turns out the Yangcheon Hyanggyo is in another district.

In order to complete the list, I did some research into the district, revealing one big New Town project that very well could be shelved. I headed down there, and the area is quite nice with some thought into creating an elaborate road infrastructure for the buildings to go up around.

Did I find what I was looking for? Yes. Does that make me happy? Kind of no. But I met a couple friendly cats (though nowhere near as friendly as Jeju cats).

3 July 2015

A Few Sites

Here are a few places that don't seem all that connected. First I took a couple pictures of the banners up at Namdaemun voicing opposition to the Seoul Overpass park plan. Apparently some of the vendors are against turning the old overpass into a park because it will create traffic jams. I guess they don't remember when the demolition of Cheonggyecheon Overpass resulted in less overall traffic. Anyway, the plan is certain to create a whole lot more foot traffic, and Namdaemun will now be more conveniently connected to Seoul Station, and the market is certain to benefit from the added convenience.

I also had to hurry down to my favourite part of Cheonggyecheon to get a picture of the Cheonggyecheon Museum. One of those pictures will find its way into my RASKB lecture tomorrow.

28 June 2015

Gay Pride Parade

After the stress caused by shooting the opening of the Gay Pride Festival, I figured this one would be tough too. I showed up planning to mostly shoot the Christian protesters, but by the time I arrived they were a little less active. I decided not to go into the Pride grounds itself because of their strict rules for allowing photographers. And, not really knowing the rules that well myself, I didn't want to post any pictures that could get someone in trouble. So if there are any issues here with what I'm posting, please e-mail me to let me know.

For the actual parade, I found a high up perch right along the road, so I had a pretty good view of the parade. Quite a lot of people were cheering and waving at me, as if I was the one in the parade and I was on a float (strategically shaped like a ventilation box). Aside from a few elderly Christians who tried forcing their way into the parade near the beginning, it went very smoothly and was quite a lot of fun. I saw a huge number of my friends both Korean and foreign, all of them straight, and joined some of them later on in the parade. There were quite a lot of entertaining costumes there, with a Spiderman, a couple Jesuses, and all the usual gay stuff.

It was a very positive experience (no pun intended, Christians), and certainly helped stave off the negativity.

27 June 2015

Autocratics CD Release

This is their third time back in Korea. The Autocratics are an energetic Japanese ska band that are equally fun to watch and listen to. Like so many Japanese bands, their live act seems like a pretty good aerobic workout. Anyway, they seem to have built a relationship with the Korean scene if they're back here for a third time. Hopefully we'll see more of them, especially at bigger events.

27 June 2015

Abandoned Neighbourhood

I was introduced to this area by Daniel Lenaghan, who gave me only the gu name. But as soon as I arrived there, it was pretty well the first thing I saw. This area is next to another abandoned neighbourhood that was worth visiting back around 2012. It looks like they're clearing out the entire hillside, which is to be expected but still a shame.

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. Driving a car after all these years is weird, especially after getting used to scooters. Perhaps the strangest is that other drivers see you on the road. Best example, if a car sees you coming, it won't pull out into the road in front of you. It took some getting used to and felt a little more socially connecting with other drivers on the road.

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.

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