13 November 2018


Downtown

These pictures are taken on Tuesday before and after an RASKB lecture. The demolition and construction pictures are taken right in front of my office.

Guess the universe decided I wasn't busy enough already.

13 November 2018


HBC

I'm probably weird that I think this is an interesting view than looking uphill toward N Seoul Tower. But this angle shows Yongsan Garrison, and highrises in the distance.

The night before, I went to the first of three meetings for foreign HBC residents by the HBC Urban Regeneration Center. I showed up at work the morning of my deadline planning to ask our photographer if I could use one of the outtakes from a previous article. But it turned off he was out on assignment, and I was stuck. So rather than have a lunch break I went out to photograph HBC.

12 November 2018


Jyoung-ah's Birthday

I followed a coworker to the Hidden Cellar at HBC, where she was going to interview some people about a staging of Romeo and Juliet, in which the two leads are both women, with the male lead being the mother of my own cats.

So we walk into the place, and half the people in the room turn around and see me, and scream my name. It turned out it was the birthday of Kim Jyoung-ah, and that somehow drew out many great people, including Jacco and Robert Koehler. But also there was Lorne Oliver who used to be the sound guy for DGBD, and Steve Miller, who used to be one of our powerbloggers when I was with the government.

They had a board game version of Family Feud, and when the teams were settled it was declared our side was too stacked, with me, Jacco, and Robert, but we ended up losing badly anyway.

I answered two questions. First, "What's something other than a song that can become a hit?" I said assassination. Nope, not on the board. Then "We asked 100 women, if your husband came home at 3pm, what would he find you doing?" I said I was not a woman, so I would be at work (sort of a sexist answer), so my woke feminist answer was "he would find me not there because I was at work." Nope, not on the board.

We ended the game after a resounding defeat in which my team scored zero points, with me shouting "Americans are wrong!"

My coworker was around the corner interviewing members of The Collective, and apparently recorded all of that in the background.

I had a couple articles to write later that night, and this was not a good foresign for accomplishing that.

11 November 2018


Festival Hof

Usually when we have hoeshiks, it's me with the other copy editors, plus the legendary foolsdie as well as anyone else he drags along. The building we usually go to, right next door to our building, is being covered up for demolition. Of course I'm curious.

10 November 2018


Reggae Night

Jude Nah, the guy I can easily call Korea's main rudeboy, the keyboardist for bands like Skasucks, Pegurians, Rulerz, and I think even Attacking Forces, is moving away.

He had a DJ night at some tiny alley basement pub in Gyeongnidan, so I showed up.

Other important reason for being there, Sancho was back. Also, Moe was there and it was his last weekend. There aren't many skinheads in Korea, but when there are, there are a bunch all at once.

9 November 2018


Near Canadian Embassy

I stopped by the Canadian Embassy, mostly intending to pick up a few poppies. Security there is just a metal detector with an elderly man watching. He quickly noticed I had a big metal wrench in my pocket, which I had with me to make repairs to my licence plate.

7 November 2018


Yongsan

After I read an article at work about Yongsan Garrison opening up to visitors in a limited fashion, I talked with the writer about it and she happened to mention from the top of Yongsan-gu Office you can get a good view of the base.

I'd lost some screws for my licence plate and had to go there specifically, so I made a point of doing it immediately.

The roof is good and open to the public, but the view of the base is not. The whole thing is built so you have to do something really daring to get a better view of it not through glass.

This section of the base is nonetheless interesting, as it's hidden by a bit of a hill. I wonder what will happen with that.

After the base is declassified I hope this government office changes its tack and provides a good lookout site so we can all see what exactly is happening.

3 November 2018


The Tits at Club SHARP

Let's be honest: The Tits is a pretty awful name for a band, so here's a picture of a male nipple.

This was one of those shows where they have two dozen bands and every band gets ten minutes exactly, with a screen behind them displaying a countdown.

It's a fun concept for a show, and it's done not much more than once a year so it doesn't wear out its welcome. The bands strategise to do their best stuff, while also finding ways to cheat such as putting bands with overlapping members one after the other, or making up fake bands as placeholders.

I was late and I didn't get into the groove to get them all, which would have taken an enormous amount of effort from me. But anyway, here are several of the last bands.

3 November 2018


Kingsway

That's what they should call it, Kingsway. This is a historic path from Deoksu Palace leading through a gauntlet of nearby legations, up to where there used to be a hall of former kings' portraits, and up to an overpass leading to Gyeonghui Palace. There's a lot of bullshit mired in how this is now presented, such as that it traces the route King Gojong took to the Russian Legation from Gyeongbok Palace, and that there are underground passages that he could have taken. There are underground passages but they lead nowhere.

I had been planning to lead an RASKB tour here before the Japanese-built houses disappear. More on that later.

3 November 2018


Donuimun Museum Village

I've explored this little armpit of Donuimun over the last few years, but after it opened I haven't been back until now. The whole area is disturbing, like seeing a taxidermy version of your grandmother right after she died, but the actual exhibit is thoughtful and I was surprised at how much research they put into the geography of the area prior to demolition. I was especially impressed with the course of the stream running through here that they mapped out, which basically conformed to roads that no longer exist.

2 November 2018


Mullae

I stuck around long enough to see the sun set in Mullae, just so I could photograph this alley during blue hour when the neon signs started to pop out. The funny thing about this picture is a McDelivery scooter had just driven by and is parked in the distance, delivering McDonald's food to workers in a small factory. Just 10 meters away is a very high-quality burger place, priced higher but still reasonably, that the workers clearly wouldn't patronise.

This Saturday, November 10, I'm going back to Mullae with Ian, director of "K-Pop Killers," for a tour with the Royal Asiatic Society. You can read a bit more about it here.

Not that I'm urging more people to sign up. We already have way more people than I expected, at least rivaling the last time I did a Hongdae tour.

2 November 2018


Mullae Roofs

I hit a roof in Mullae, and from there I got an idea for a second roof to try. The first one was easy, with lots of other people out there and even some golf practice spaces up there.

The second roof, the roof door had a CCTV warning, but there was an external staircase that was completely opened, rendering the other precautious less than useless.

The actual Mullae area is hard to photograph, because the area most of us know so well is only a small sliver of it, and the rest of it is still so widespread.

2 November 2018


Mullae

Here's a view of GBN Live House a lot of music fans probably haven't seen. I walked around the area a bit and tried to get to know some of the alleys where I haven't bothered to look too closely before. I tried to avoid cafes but looked into art galleries and a few places that seemed more like studios.

2 November 2018


Southern Seoul

I headed south, but somewhere around Yeouido I realised a screw holding my licence plate to my scooter had worked its way out. I ended up driving around a while trying to find an open scooter shop, and the usual apps weren't cutting it. Finally a delivery scooter driver pulled up next to me to warn me about the problem, and when I asked the nearest place he gave directions that were that much more reliable. Someone should make a competitor to the big map companies that's curated by delivery drivers.

1 November 2018


68-Year Anniversary

My employer turned 68 years old, and to celebrate they said goodbye to the one employee who was older. I've worked next to Lyman for just about three years, and he's always been an extremely pleasant and entertaining coworker.

This was a big banquet with about 100 employees, as well as VIPs from the Korean-language paper and our corporate overlord. I brought a bottle of Pyongyangju for them to try.

31 October 2018


Huam-dong View

We went up to The Royal, a restaurant and bar uphill from my home. The view from their roof is spectacular, although it was pretty cold that night.

From Haebangchon Five-Way Intersection, it's the one road that follows a flat course and goes away from the usual HBC slope. That whole street hosts a lot of little bars and restaurants popular with Koreans moreso than foreigners.

30 October 2018


RASKB Lecture

We had some interesting people out for Ian's lecture on Korean metal.

25 October 2018


Huam Market

I discovered some time ago there's a jazz bar near my home that has live concerts a few times a week. I recall being out on my roof once or twice and hearing saxophone music in the distance but not quite understanding where it was coming from. Then once I came across one of their posters on a pole. Fortunately their Instagram account is pretty reliable.

We went there right before a cold snap, and now that it's ended I see I've since missed a few more shows, including a vocal quartet that could still be performing right now as of this update.

23 October 2018


Kotshin

Shortly before this, at Cheonan, I met a neo-hanbok designer who who makes couples outfits -- for you and your pet. Even weirder, she was staying in Seoul not far from me, despite having a shop in Cheonan. So we met up in the neighbourhood, and she remembered some of her clothes were on exhibit in Seoullo 7017.

19 October 2018


Beagles at HBC Fest

A little over three years ago now, right before I started my current job, I worked briefly for a cybersecurity company on Yeouido. The best thing about it surprisingly were the higher-up employees, who unlike virtually everywhere else I've worked rose to the top through merit. One of them has a Beatles cover band.

There's been a lot of talk lately whether BTS, a random newly generated K-pop idol group, is better than the Beatles. Their fans seem to think the Beatles are old and will fade away soon, and BTS is ready to go the distance. I am old enough to remember when New Kids on the Block were popular, and then they suddenly weren't. K-pop, modeled after boy bands like that, is built to be disposable.

15 October 2018


Jenny Woo in Seoul

I made sure we had extra time to hang out before she left, which turned out to be a very good idea. We met up downtown and I gave her my standard tour, slightly modified since I showed the Business around four years earlier. Now it starts from Seoul Station and ends around Gyeongbokgung. I had bought her a cheap Hanbok in Cheonan so I wanted to photograph her wearing it on my work roof. Last time I took an Edmontonian here, he wrote a song on the spot.

We passed by Seoul City Hall, walked along Pimatgol where we encountered Roboseyo, and visited the Sewol ferry tents in Gwanghwamun as well as getting up close with Yi Sunshin and King Sejong, before passing in front of Gwanghwamun and going for a few drinks in Seochon. After, we went to Hongdae for makgeolli in Sanullim 1992. We also ran into PhilipK, back for a visit, which was a great random encounter.

14 October 2018


Jenny Woo show at Club SHARP

The one show for Jenny Woo's tour that I actually put on was the SHARP Sunday show. As I put it together, things fell into place. Talkbats initially said they couldn't because of Nagi's wedding plans, but she changed plans and made room to play the show. Dolmangchi was broken up because Youngsam was gone, but they reformed with Jinsuk replacing them. Billy Carter played without their drummer, which caused me a lot of contemplation in the band lineup because I didn't know if they should play back to back or give some room between them. Jenny was intimidated to follow them, but her music is so different it didn't matter. And ...Whatever That Means filled out the lineup, the obvious choice as Jenny stayed with them after both shows, and they showed her their hospitality, humanity, and integrity.

It was a legendary end to a three-country concert tour.

14 October 2018


Look Beyond Urban Rock Festival in Cheonan

When I started planning Jenny Woo's Korea tour, I noted she had a small handful of Korean fans among my friendslist. One was Victor Ha, formerly of hardcore band Things We Say. Once I announced her two shows in Seoul, he told me he was planning a three-day city-sponsored festival in Cheonan and invited her to play. We had a show that night in Club SHARP but this was a worthy cause, and a paid gig.

Incidentally the only other Korean fan of hers I can remember liking her page before I announced the tour was Park Youngsoon, former lead singer of Attacking Forces, who I'm pretty sure designed the very good poster for this event.

For her shows, she was borrowing guitars, from Jina of Billy Carter at both Seoul shows, and I'm not entirely sure where for this show. When I saw there was a yellow ribbon on it, I took her aside and explained the Sewol ferry sinking to her and what it meant to the country.

The show went very well despite a cable malfunction in the first two songs. There were about 30 people present for her set, which is probably more than the previous show, and while they weren't heavily intoxicated she was able to play her more personal songs. We stuck around for the next band, the Kitsches, and hauled ass back to Seoul right after.

13 October 2018


Club DIP 1-Year Anniversary

DIP is a very strange basement space, a narrow two-storey concrete basement room with bare walls. The sound is notoriously not good. It was their one-year anniversary, and when I tried booking my own show at GBN Live House it got absorbed into DIP's very big show. Picture 19 acts, free unlimited vodka and tequila, and too many people to fit inside.

Jenny Woo, an acoustic punk musician from my hometown, performed right around when everyone was starting to black out but not yet incapacitated. The show was up close and in your face, and she was pretty well standing within the audience, who were very raucous and very responsive to her music. She sounded great. All the bands sounded great somehow. Everything went exactly according to plan.

6 October 2018


Zandari Festa

Due to my travel plans, I was unable to follow through on my ambitious coverage of Zandari, so I happily accepted Ana's Zandari article.

I went on one day only, with the main goal of meeting Glen Matlock one more time and sitting down for an interview, which appears in the latest issue of my zine. The highlights for me were Joongshiki Band (Lunch), Drinking Boys and Girls Choir, Heynam Shin and the Patients, ...Whatever That Means, and the British showcase including Glen performing. I planned to come back the next day for a secret show with Glen and members of No Brain and Crying Nut, but it was too early for me. It was better to see him play on his own this time anyway, rather than rehashing Sex Pistols songs.

5 October 2018


Return from Joseon

This site is Daehanmindecline, not Joseonminjujuuiinmindecline, so I'm not going to talk too much about where I've been since my last update. You can read about it here and here.

I've had a few private events to show pictures and videos. I didn't get anything groundbreaking or that new, certainly less so than my 2010 visit, but any photos are data.

The second of our two events was when Paul visited. Paul was the most interesting person on my tour this time, a former judoka turned actor who suffers major physical problems that severely limit his mobility. He got around up there by wheelchair (crushing at least one) and crutches. I say this not to shame him or for laughs, but because his addition made our trip all that much more interesting. It was fascinating to see how North Koreans treated him (extra kindly with one subtle exception), and the extra privilege we got wherever we went (preferential parking, front row seats).

Anyway, he visited me in the South and we had a couple great days together.

14 September 2018


Hwanghak-dong

Just a quick walk through Hwanghak-dong, and a maddening ad photo.

7 September 2018


Stuff to Buy

On the train home, I discovered a vending machine with salads. It was late in the day, so I did not try it out. I also found some socks that perfectly match both cats; Millie and Buster are predictably thrilled.

7 September 2018


Overseas Adoptees

I went to an event in Bupyeong involving a lot of overseas adoptees. Quite a lot were mixed race, and many had been adopted away as long ago as the 1950s and 1960s, the first wave of Korean overseas adoption. There are hopefully more articles on this topic coming soon.

7 September 2018


Hongdae

The Aekyung department store in Hongdae is now open, which means an embargo on some old photos has finally ended.

Here, have a look at my visit to the same site in June last year, when I had a look at Gyeongui Line Book Street, scouted out the construction site, and climbed a crane.

A few days later, I made the climb a second time, only to find they'd added "Caution - Slippery Floor" signs around the base of the crane to deter climbers.

Hey, all of a sudden this gallery has more pictures at the bottom, mostly showing some of the security faults at the base of the construction site.

I went back this year on May Day, the last opportunity to go in during daytime. The building was topped off and I reached the roof, which showed promise for the future as a place to sit high up in Hongdae.

7 September 2018


Yongsan Protest

I went through Yongsan and passed a small protest, which turned out to be by tower crane operators. Note in the background is the Yongsan Disaster site, and there are finally cranes up and construction is finally progressing, almost a decade after. I guess they could've given those evictees a couple more months, rather than killing a bunch of them.

7 September 2018


Noryangjin

Noryangjin was still torn in two, with some merchants remaining in the old building while others were already moved into the new one. There was a recent faceoff between the old building merchants and hired goons, so I went over for a closer look. I noticed a lot of the vendors seemed to be sharing a paper that seemed to be related to what's happening to them. The vibe is tense but customers still don't seem to care.

7 September 2018


Slumping School

I woke up on my day off to news that a school had nearly collapsed in Sangdo-dong the night before. Due to construction downhill, exposed land had been eroded away by rain, and a kindergarten built higher up the slope partially collapsed. It's something I've been alarmed about for several years and even included in my 2015 RASKB talk.

I headed over and found the area crawling with workers, police, and journalists. Next door was an old abandoned moon village with no remaining residents in sight.

1 September 2018


Around Downtown

Just a few pictures from around downtown and some sunset pictures from my roof. Remember KT's ugly old phrase "Life is Wonderfull"? It's back, or at least in the form of a phone booth that hasn't been removed yet. Well, now we have "Be Colorfull." Adding an extra "L" to the end of it doesn't make it a pun. The "-ful" suffix literally means "full."

31 August 2018


Jeong-dong in Sunlight

I went back the next day with a lens borrowed from work, and reshot much of the same sights in sunlight. That provides some advantages as well as disadvantages, as the houses are now more shadowed.

I was with a friend who went into the underground chambers and visited all the houses, which turned out to be six.

30 August 2018


Jeong-dong

There was news that some early modern houses in the Jeong-dong area were open to the public for a couple weeks, prior to their demolition the next month.

I went and had a quick look on an overcast day. Some faults in my lens appeared, so I figured I'd have to make a return trip.

The buildings themselves are on quite a large tract of land, while also next to an even larger abandoned lot and an even more significant abandoned highrise, pictured here.

I wrote about what's happening here as well.

27 August 2018


Myeong-dong

Here's a view of the area called Myeong-dong how we don't normally see it. I was trying to get down from Namsan and ended up in a weird dead end overlooking this view.

25 August 2018


Speech Contest

I was asked to cover a speech contest for work. It was on the Saturday when I had a one-day weekend, so that meant I ended up working eleven days straight.

18 August 2018


Abanndoned Itaewon

I'd passed by this building on the way to get food once, and had been tempted but forgot. Then I passed by it a second time when I was in less of a rush, so I decided to see what was inside. The especially weird thing is I explored a building that stood where IP Boutique Hotel, pictured here on the left, now stands.

17 August 2018


Visit

A friend from Austria mentioned he had a friend visiting Korea, so I offered to show her around a bit.

15 August 2018


Liberation Day

I celebrated Liberation Day by working.

11 August 2018


Pseudo

Pseudo returned to Korea, and I covered them for work and went to two of their shows. I missed them at Dip which they assure me was the best possible outcome. Their show at Club SHARP was fun, although their set is still pretty short for a non-hardcore band.

9 August 2018


Dongbinggo

Robert has a new business, in charge of a cafe on the main floor of a building in Dongbinggo-dong as well as the entire basement. The main floor is currently a cafe and he's trying to turn the basement into a private event space where he can have concerts and other events.

5 August 2018


New Subway Line

It looks like the city is going ahead with some of its new subway construction projects. This one will connect the south side of the river.

3 August 2018


Nuclear Summit

My cousin returned to Korea for her third visit, her previous two being in 1996 and 2014. She took part in some sort of program for nuclear regulators and industry people from around the world. I showed them around Hongdae, and everywhere we went ended up having references to nuclear energy, mostly negative.

28 July 2018


Apteria Reunion

Aaron and Amanda returned to Korea, the first time both had been here together I think since Aaron moved away. Plus they brought their crust punk band Apteria with them.

Having them back in Korea was a trip back in time for me. Weirder still, my photography style moved backwards in time about 10 years. Oh and no, that's not a bad thing.

23 July 2018


Funeral

Earlier this year, I heard the sad news that a friend's son was not doing well. Apparently Ben Coyner contracted tongue cancer, and after undergoing surgery, it continued to spread. I barely knew him even though he was around my age, but I'm close with his parents Tom and Yeri, who basically manage the RASKB now.

I've been to a handful of funerals, all of which have affected me in different ways. They're always more pleasant when they are in honour of someone in their 90s rather than 40s. But still the point of events like this is to provide comfort, which is why there are tables set out with food and booze for all mourners.

On this day there were quite a lot of RASKB people in attendance, probably partly because the second day of the funeral was on the same day as an RASKB lecture. I also ran into the Parkers, and the only picture I came away with that I want to share is of the youngest mourner, Peter Parker.

19 July 2018


Oh My Cellar

My friend Robert has taken over a basement space in Bogwang-dong, which he hopes to turn into a decent event space for the area.

We entered and basically turned it into urban exploration, except with abandoned liquor we could help ourselves to.

16 July 2018


RASKB Council

The great Kathryn Weathersby went to her final RASKB Council meeting, and we went out for food and makgeolli after. The RASKB won't be the same without her. We've had to say about a lot of people, but while there will be new people coming in and familiar people coming back, we're not going to find a new Kathryn. I expect she'll enter into that Robert Fouser holding pattern, returning once or twice a year and getting deluged with RASKB activities to lead.

Also, is that Chun Doo-hwan's signature in the right side of the picture? We had a long conversation about this before deciding that poor penniless former dictator probably is rich enough not to come to a place like this.

16 July 2018


108 Heaven Stairs

Somewhere in my neighbourhood is this staircase built during the Japanese occupation leading to a shrine that no longer is there. It took me a while to find the location, but only a few months after I did, they started tearing it up. They are either building an escalator there or possibly a funicular, which would make more sense in my opinion.

14 July 2018


When the Feverish Fail

After the parade, I hid in a PC room for a few hours editing photos and writing. I missed the final show of When the Feverish Fail, but showed up with enough time for the afterparty. It was just good to talk to sane human beings after the day I'd endured.

14 July 2018


Seoul Queer Parade

I haven't been to this event (at least intentionally) since 2015, but due to the Christian protest I just found being there too mentally toxic. This was made worse in 2016 when we had the RASKB Garden Party on the same day, and attendees had to go through a phalanx of Christians to get to the British Embassy.

This year I went, and I was working on a related article about an "ex-gay" talk held at Seoul National University earlier that week.

If I hadn't completed the interview with the anti-gay organisers, I would have printed a different article, included at the bottom of this gallery, highlighting my experiences of "love" and "restraint" (or the lack thereof) at the parade.

10 July 2018


Around Work

Just a bunch of pictures around my office. Now that they've started construction across the street, it's been interesting to watch.

8 July 2018


SKKU Renovations

I took a shortcut through the SKKU campus and saw they were doing some major renovation work to the old campus. This primarily concerns the big tarmac in front of Bicheondang, bug they are also messing with the wall in the northwestern section, exposing the backside of Seojae dormitory. There is a new, very modern entrance on the northern wall, instead of the older wall in the northern corner of the western wall. Curious how respectfully this will be done.

6 July 2018


Robert's place

Robert invited me over to his home in Bogwang-dong, sort of a black hole of Seoul located right in the middle, between Itaewon and the river. No, this is not where I believe the Hannam New Town project will displace the working class.

Robert works a lot of odd jobs, and also is a prostitute for dogs. The dogs arrange it so that when their owners need a pet sitter, they hire Robert to "look after" them. It is actually a big sex ring where the animals pay him for pleasure.

3 July 2018


Downtown

Just a couple quick pictures from around downtown.

29 June 2018


Cats

Buster continues to act older ever since his 12th birthday, but I took him to the vet where they ran a bunch of extensive tests, and ultimately said "He's old and fat but otherwise in perfect health." They actually told me his kidneys were in unbelieveably good condition. But somehow he has put on a couple kilograms, ever since being diagnosed with diabetes, which makes no sense at all.

24 June 2018


DMZ Peace Train Festival

I'd been planning to cover the DMZ Peace Train Festival, but it was only when Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols got involved that things started to get serious. I guess one could say it was all very serious the whole time, but thanks to all sorts of diplomatic breakthroughs, this whole festival ended up kicking ass.

I wrote up about this trip for the paper.

23 June 2018


The Western Corridor

After three previous visits, I drove my new scooter up the Western Corridor and took a good long look at some sites I'd visited before. On previous visits I'd been forced to hike up the hill, but this time with aid of a scooter, I was able to plunge its deepest mysteries. For instance, I discovered:

The back gate is locked, and there's a nice park back there, at which there seems to be a sort of comfort woman statue geared toward US soldiers

There is a freaking soccer field within the base's property, which seems to explain the heavy vehicle traffic observed heading in.

The whole film-making thing seems to be continuing.

One helmet cam video is up.

19 June 2018


Sunset

Buster hasn't been himself since his birthday. He would hide the weird eyelid thing whenever possible, but it was clear he was suffering. One particularly alarming sign was when he would refuse meals. But I was able to figure out it wasn't food he was avoiding, but his niece, who would eat everything and scare him away. Now I can easily feed him at a secondary location and he's down with it.

18 June 2018


Rooftopping World Cup: Canada and Vietnam vs Korea and Sweden

Kat called me up out of the blue asking to meet up this one night. I said why not, without any particular idea in mind. She came to my office, and we hit a roof overlooking Seoullo 7017 as it turned on, then we both decided to head over to Seoul Square for the World Cup game with Sweden. I found a pretty decent place to watch the game from over there.

18 June 2018


Research on Two Wheels

I had an interview at a university in northeastern Seoul, so I headed up early one morning. On my way, I checked in on Cheongnyangni 588, which is now totally gutted.

There was peril in my journey, not for me but for an American food franchise. After I sicced one of our writers on them, they acquiesced and sent him a gift, which he offered to me and I refused, because seriously, no thanks.

16 June 2018


HBC South Festival

I'm intensely fascinated with with what's going on with the Yongsan Relocation Plan, and when I heard HBC Fest was moving down there too, I was down. It did not hurt that one of the acts was the kraken roll one-man band Octopoulpe.

I took my time to run the ville, chasing after my newfound heroes Bascom and Sueno.

15 June 2018


New British Ambassador

Following the Garden Party, the RASKB Council had a dinner to welcome UK Ambassador Simon Smith, our new honorary president which is a title all British ambassadors to Korea hold. The dinner was hosted by Jang Seong-hyeon, former Korean ambassador to the US and former RASKB president. He called me up while I was at work to invite me, and I was worried about committing because I knew I had the Friday shift, and it was before I had my new scooter. Anyway, the new scooter gave me a rocket boost, and I was able to stay way too long, leaving only as a quartet prepared to come out with their surprise performance.

14 June 2018


New Scooter

It was time for a new scooter, and I found the perfect one at a great price. Only problem was, it was down in Daegu and I'm in Seoul. But rather than seeing that as a setback, I took it as a challenge. I skipped work for a day and caught a KTX south to meet the seller.

You can read about what happens next over here. Long story short, I survived the long trip and expanded what I consider my range over the Korean Peninsula.

11 June 2018


Born to Be...

How would you finish this phrase? Click through for the answer. Pretty sure it will flummox you. Which in my usage means flabbergast you but also kind of piss you off on a personal level.

9 June 2018


RASKB Garden Party

The RASKB had its most recent garden party at the British Ambassador's residence. It was a good year and we had higher attendance than usual lately. I wrote everything I wanted to say publicly for the paper.

7 June 2018


Building

Just a building I pass by every day, which I rarely ever look at. Somehow on my walk home this day, a direction I don't normally take, I noticed its strong symmetry.

3 June 2018


K-Pop Killers Documentary

You're not gonna get to see the documentary here, but here's a photo I took of the crowd at the debut screening of "K-Pop Killers," a documentary about Korean heavy metal by my friends Ian and Michael.

This picture actually makes the crowd look smaller than it really was, as there were significantly more people off to the left, and you can't quite tell how many people were sitting in the back in the area behind that pillar, but it was significant and they were crowded in on chairs tightly. It was a surprisingly high turnout.

2 June 2018


Gangnam Apartments

I had something to do south of the river, so I figured I should revisit the Gangnam Apartment complex, where apparently artists have made some sort of installation art exhibition. I had missed the whole thing and didn't see any of the art installed here, just more of the misery I'd seen on previous visits.

As long as I've been exploring, people have been alerting me to this complex, which is still semi-inhabited and not very good for casual visiting.

30 May 2018


Gwangnaru Safety Experience Center

I joined a program where I write two reports per month to the city government about issues facing foreign residents of Seoul.

We got invited to go to the Gwangnaru Safety Experience Center, about which I initially didn't know what to think. You have to use a bit of imagination to buy into some of the scenarios it presents, but in other cases you get practical experience in some emergency situations. It was enough for a pretty long article.

28 May 2018


Final Harvest

I went back to the secret spot and harvested half a bucket of mulberries this time. This was significantly more than I got last time, and the berries were still going through different stages of maturity.

I have since been giving the berries out to coworkers and people at RASKB events, and I have encountered a few notable people who refused to touch the berries when hearing where they were from, one of whom is at an expert level on the state of US bases.

So it is possible sometime soon half of the newspaper staff and a significant number of RASKB regulars will all drop dead on account of poisoning.

27 May 2018


Climberhill

On the busride back into town from the worshop, we passed by an abandoned building just downhill from a prominent landmark. I came back the next day for a closer look. Turns out it's a fairly large water treatment plant that has been closed and...turned over to street performers. I had a thorough look around but was unable to get much closer.

26 May 2018


Work Workshop

Most of the people at the paper went out to a "workshop" out in Namyangju for a night and a resultant morning of teambuilding stuff. It turns out the compound was designed by Donghwa, our owner company, which gives us several affiliate rights.

I've been to a few "workshops" before so knew what to expect: heavy drinking late night and then going home late the next morning, with possibly some work stuff stuck somewhere within all that. In the morning we were supposed to separate into teams to put together presentations on how to improve the paper. I knew it would be carried out entirely in Korean so I stayed out of it, although I took 30 seconds to put together my proposal for how to improve the paper.

25 May 2018


Busterday

It was Buster's birthday, and he developed a troubling symptom on this day: his inner eyelids had slid closed, indicating some sort of problem, probably causing him much pain.

After I took the picture to the right, I looked at it and decided it was time to take him to the vet. So I got out the carrier, chased him down, caught him, wrestled him into it, and brought him down to the vet. When I got there, his inner eyelids had retracted, probably because his fear of the vet was greater than whatever pain he was feeling. The vet took one look at his eyes and said there was nothing wrong with him.

He's been weird since but seems better. I'm still unsure what to do, as a vet visit is a huge traumatic experience for him.

23 May 2018


Mulberry Tree

That's right, they grow on trees, not bushes.

I found this site last year when walking around with Daniel from Yongsan Legacy, and I have been waiting more than a year for the next harvest. This year it came later than last year, but I got what I went looking for. Nobody seems to care.

21 May 2018


Lunches

I have identified the second-best convenience store-bought lunch in existence, the jaeyook ssambap pictured here. The best ever is the budae jjigae one, which was discontinued sometime last year shortly after I discovered it.

18 May 2018


Around Home

I've been looking through some of the smaller alleys of my area lately and have found a few interesting sights.

13 May 2018


Farewell Nightmare Lab

A friend went to the Nightmare Lab, only to find the building a hollowed out mess. I went down to confirm, and discovered the Nightmare Lab had been removed. For the last five years I've enforced a strict embargo on this location, banning even mention of the city name. There was just too great a risk of vandalism or looting.

But now that it's gone, we can say it was in Suwon at the former Seoul National University Agricultural Campus.

12 May 2018


CSI: Panmunjeom

We returned to an abandoned US military base to investigate the claim made in this article, only to find the gates open and a great deal of car traffic passing through. We returned to the gymnasium, only to find a full-sized movie set had been constructed inside.

12 May 2018


Building Boogers

At a building not too far from the abandoned military base, I ran inside for a quick look while waiting for friends. They were quicker than I thought, calling me to say they'd arrived while I was on the roof of this place.

I got quite a shock on the second floor when I found a room full of broken glass, only to disturb two cats, who both ran around the room in a panic and then darted out right past me.

11 May 2018


Private Stock for Maniac

Most of these pictures were taken on my way to a PC room to edit photos.

9 May 2018


My Area

So I jumped the fence and investigated this area under demolition. There's not that much of interest to it, but I did find a model that appears to show the structure they will build in its place here. It is always strange to find a miniature of the building you're in, especially when it's slated for demolition.

7 May 2018


Around

Here are three parts of the city that are being destroyed. The first is Hongdae, which will soon be overrun when a department store opens. The second is an old building in Yeonnam-dong, and the third is another old building in my own neighbourhood you'll be seeing a lot more of in the above galleries.

5 May 2018


Struggle Session

Nevin's band Struggle Session returns from China for its second Korean show. I got a pretty good interview out of Nevin out of it too.

How many people went to GBN for this show after reading it in the paper? I'm guessing zero. But the point of articles like this isn't necessarily to make the scene better, but to make the paper better.

5 May 2018


Children's Day with Peter Parker

Kat is counting down her last days in Korea, and she wanted to do some street shooting of Matt Parker, Kelly Jeon, and their son, the courageously named Peter. She asked me to come along to guide her through how to do a photo shoot, but I both knew I am not an expert at this and also I would probably take it over. So I showed up late and we all went out for Uzbek food together. Peter Parker turned out not to like Korean carrots (Koryo-saram kimchi).

30 April 2018


Boshintang

There has been a lot of talk lately about what's happening with dog meat in Korea. While some authorities like to talk big, saying no Koreans eat dog or there is no dog meat industry in Korea as far as they know, this is easily disproven with some quick research.

However, one restaurant that served dog, right across the street from my office, is now closed.

29 April 2018


Hongdae

I've been working on a very big project about Hongdae lately. Well, two projects. The one you'll get to hear about on this site is my upcoming article in Transactions, titled "Reinventing the Lost Village of Zandari," in which I trace the development of the "Hongdae" area to premodern times and do my best to figure out how it developed to what we now know as Hongdae. Spoilers: It took a lot of Japanese imperialism and rail infrastructure.

Not sure when it will ever be out online, so your best hope for getting it is to have been a member of the RASKB in 2017.

28 April 2018


The Beagles

Back in 2015, before I joined the newspaper, I worked for three months at a cybersecurity company. It was a stressful job, as our reward was based closely around our performance, but it was the first job I ever had where I discovered that the people highest up the hierarchy were the most deserving. This was coming off SKKU and KOCIS where seniority was in inverse with competence.

Anyway, Jaeson, the then-CEO of the company I worked for, got in touch on social media, and revealed he has a Beatles tribute band. I'd been meaning to check them out for ages, and I finally caught them for this show. Turns out, his, bassist used to be a member of Yellow Kitchen, too.

At some point I'll have a full article out on this band.

27 April 2018


Hannam-dong

There has been a lot said about the Hannam New Town project, both by me and by alarmists.

I decided it's time to start getting to know this area better, before it's gone. I headed up there and explored alleys I'd never bothered to before, discovering a long ridge stretching south of the mosque that at times feels like a razor's edge, and an expansive labyrinth of working-class housing with many dead ends.

Once this area is destroyed, Seoul will have way fewer greebles to be embarrassed about.

26 April 2018


My Area

My own part of the city currently, Huam-dong, is pleasant and quiet, sort of located between downtown, Yongsan Garrison, and Itaewon, but there is a lot to see in the area. It was heavily built up by the Japanese during the occupation, and still has a great deal of imperial-era structures. One of them is a compound of several structures that seems closed off. I climbed to a nearby roof for an overview, and I think next winter when the vegetation dies I'll be able to get in.

24 April 2018


RASKB After-Party

Well, the lanterns are out for Buddha's Birthday.

21 April 2018


Abandoned Neighbourhood

I first heard about this area when we published a Yonhap story about the area. It's a bit sensationalist, especially how it rams in the Yongsan Disaster, but that won't keep me away.

21 April 2018


Air Show

I was on the phone with someone, and I walked outside, only to find a squadron of fighter jets buzzing the city. The person I was talking to was in Yeonhee-dong, and she told me she could see them from her position too.

Nice of them to draw a taegeukgi overhead, but I guess nobody involved in planning this had any clue what actual civilians think about loud sounds in the sky during times of extreme political tension.

19 April 2018


Mangwon-dong

We're working on developing a Mangwon-dong RASKB tour, but while we have the guide, we don't have a suitable date yet.

Mangwon is interesting in how it has resisted redevelopment unlike all surrounding areas. Hongdae gentrification threatens to creep in, but for now it is a robust neighbourhood that is both highly residential and also commercial, looking at Mangwon Market.

17 April 2018


RASKB Business and Culture Club Sewoon Sangga

A little less than two years ago, I led an RASKB Business and Culture Club tour to Sewoon Sangga, and now I've led another completely different tour. The Dasi Sewoon project to revitalise the area is in a much later stage, and it's a little easier to see what will happen with this area. Whether it's sustainable, I honestly don't know.

14 April 2018


Huam-dong Roofs

It was a rainy day and I had some sights I wanted to check out. I slipped into a construction site, saw the view, and then got back and helped my own cats enjoy the view under the light rain. Not sure their deal but they seem to like water.

13 April 2018


Abandoned Mental Hospital

After this article came out, or before, I don't remember, I was curious of the current status of the hospital. Years ago the owners were hostile to outsiders, and there were a lot of ugly stories. But on our recent visit, we found the area in front of the hospital pretty peaceful, more heavily developed, and not a single person who had any issues with us or anyone else being there.

12 April 2018


Drinking at Work

Journalists are known for drinking heavily, and while that isn't exaggerated it is hardly ever shown to the public -- we are not the story. But the media, like any form of storytelling, wouldn't be anything without the extra touch of alcoholism.

10 April 2018


Street Stuff

Most of these are pictures from over a couple days. Check out the people fixing up that big BASF sign: I would not climb up that.

7 April 2018


Hansoo's Wedding

A much-loved former coworker invited me to his wedding, and of course I showed up. Hansoo started as an intern, before being promoted to a more serious position, with the offer of making him a real reporter dangled before him. It didn't pan out and he moved on to a better job, but not before we had an adventure or two together.

I've learned long ago (well, back at SKKU around 2014) that the most competent workers in any office are the interns. They are young and energetic and not yet disillusioned or soured by experience. Hansoo was a classic example of this, and while he worked for us he was popular among the foreign copy editors, not just for being a good guy but also for not making the usual mistakes senior reporters make.

His wedding was unusual, in that it was held in a big hall where everyone was seated at tables, where after the proceedings food would be brought directly to them. Probably more expensive than the usual model. I only ever heard three or four words from the bride but she also seemed to be an anglophone like her husband. I was late so I ended up sitting in a separate room with Ko Dong-hwan, as well as another former intern and her new boyfriend, a reporter at our rival paper where she now works. Scandalous!

1 April 2018


Dong Cult Park

Morgan called me up for some Mongolian food, and I joined him, only to discover it was just the two of us, he brought flowers, and it was a date of sorts. Or maybe I'm just not remembering properly; it was 49 days ago.

I took a taxi there which dropped me off at a different corner, and I got to see all sorts of signs advertising the area I'd never noticed before. Here's the funny thing though: almost all the foot traffic coming here arrives from the north, where there are no signs, and the signs I saw were to the southeast, so even people arriving from nearby exit 5 wouldn't see them.

It seemed like someone wanted these signs, and someone else wanted them in a place where nobody would see them.

1 April 2018


April Fool Cats

My favourite holiday of the year was upon us, and I celebrated by getting my cats high.

My main (only?) joke this year was a hoax article I submitted to Unite Asia. History worked out very conveniently, as a delegation of 200 South Koreans was in Pyongyang that exact day for concerts. All I had to do was expand on the publicly revealed list of acts.

On reading an article earlier in the week, I discovered that Ali was one of the main acts, and it wasn't much of a leap for me to decide which Ali this really meant. The quote in the article is legit from Ali.

I invented a few other bands, such as hardcore band Find Your Face which is actually taken from the last Broke titled "What's your Korean hardcore punk band name?" There's also black metal band Brutal Health, pogo punks Spike Island, and speedpunk band Dead Friends. And I'm very proud of the name Manujeol 1st of April Stadium. By the way, I struggled with pictures to use, not wanting to accidentally out any Koreans in any way; the feature image is of a Japanese musician performing at last year's Ska Fest, figuring he faces no repercussions. I have about five hilarious photoshopped images of South Korean punks in North Korea I probably won't share.

After submitting this, site owner Riz messaged my alias account, asking if this was an April Fool's Day joke; he only published it after I confirmed it was, and I later told him it was me. Unite Asia sort of seems like an open door, but it is still scrupulously curated by one guy who cares enough to promote scenes all across Asia, not just his own backyard.

We'll see what I can get away with, and where, next year.

31 March 2018


Mullae Show

I went to GBN in Mullae for a concert featuring several bands I hadn't seen before, including Pakk, Organic Beer, and Modsdive, as well as Graham's one-man band Victim Kit. The opening band was Pigibit5, one band I uncharacteristically enjoy a great deal, and which is coincidentally playing on my computer right now, but everyone inside was seated along the walls, like some junior high dance. It is hard for me to do my kind of photography in this kind of atmosphere.

30 March 2018


Yongsan War Memorial

I headed to Yongsan War Memoral to review an exhibit by historian Kim Chun-soo, a guy I managed to meet through Yongsan Legacy which is sort of connected to this exhibit. Anyway, it was for an article.

This exhibit may reappear in other venues in the future.

30 March 2018


Streets

Just a couple street scenes in Huam-dong and Gyeongnidan.

Decades ago my grandmother used to take us out for fancy meals to buffet restaurants. We'd wear our nicest clothes and go to these places that were much more popular with lower-class people who at best didn't give a shit that I was wearing a dress shirt or whatever. They'd be named "Uncle Willy's" or "Foody Goody," and sometimes they'd give us some pretty serious food poisoning.

Actually I just checked and Foody Goody may have been a Chinese restaurant, possibly a buffet, that was notorious for some of Edmonton's worst health code violations. We're talking rancid meat dripping onto vegetables, maggots, and butchered dogs. Anyway, here's Foody Goody in Korea!

27 March 2018


Matt Van's RASKB Lecture

Matt Van, as I'm trying to get in the habit of calling him, gave a lecture on government suppression of Korean youth culture in the 1970s, something he's written about for my paper and something that has lasting consequences in Korea to this day.

25 March 2018


Huam-dong

Slight variations of this image appear around Seoul Station. There are four in total that I know of, with one of these being covered up and another being across the street that I didn't pass.

I'm going to embarrass myself by admitting I don't know who he is. I initially thought he was Guan Yu but that seems wrong.

24 March 2018


Strange Fruit

There was a show at Strange Fruit, put on by Angle Magazine. Of particular note was Say Sue Me, who were about to set off to the UK and follow their destiny of becoming one of Korea's greatest international acts, despite being totally apart from Hallyu and K-pop.

24 March 2018


Souled Out

I was at a concert at Strange Fruit when the promoter realised he didn't have earplugs. Me not having anything to do and hating the tension prior to a concert starting, I volunteered to go out and buy some. I headed to the nearest Daiso, taking me on a pretty routine jaunt through Hongdae but also exposing me to some of the latest gentrification horrors of the area.

Most notably, I came across an abandoned building overlooking the former Danginri Line Tracks. I snuck in, finding an otherwise unremarkable building with some flooding. From the roof, I could overlook the many people gathered to watch the free, unspectacular street performers below, who perhaps should be seen as in direct competition with real concerts like the one I was late returning to.

24 March 2018


Abandoned Neighbourhood

I returned to Margarita's former home, catching it probably just prior to its own demolition. So much of the region is gone now, and it's clear it's not just Yeomni-dong but also parts of Ahyeon-dong stretching toward the market that are going. The market itself, which had relied on through traffic of local residents, is also fading, and eviction seems to have advanced accordingly.

We took one wrong turn and found ourselves facing about half a dozen people: police, workers, and one elderly woman lying in the alley at their feet. Unsure what we witnessed, we backed off and made a quick retreat.

17 March 2018


Gimpo

After the tour, everyone got dropped off at the airport, but I delayed my return by a couple hours so I could stop by Magpie Jeju and have a few beers with my old friend Tyler. I ended up bringing along Brenda, who dragged out her husband Jan. Brenda told me I should meet Joey, a local resident heavily studying Jeju shamanism. Turns out, Tyler had already invited him to meet us. Small world. It was a benevolent end to a disturbing journey into Korea's most famous resort island.

I somehow did not take any pictures at Magpie though.

17 March 2018


Jeju Jin A-young's Home

Our next stop was this village on Jeju's western coast, an interesting place where cacti grow naturally close to the sea. As in, imagine going to the beach, and as you come out of the water you climb up on some rocks to sun off and cut yourself on a cactus.

This is where Jin A-young lived. During the Jeju Massacre, she had her lower jaw shot off, and she lived the rest of her life with her face in a bandage, refusing to ever eat in front of other people out of self-consciousness. In either a blessing or a curse, she lived to an old age until dying in 2004. Now, her old home is preserved in her memory.

17 March 2018


Jeju Tea

We all pretty well agreed, on a tour of graves and massacre sites, this was the worst part: a very touristy, very crowded tea museum.

17 March 2018


Jeju Baekjoilsonjiji

Although I was only officially here as the Korea Times photographer, this place inspired me to write this opinion piece.

17 March 2018


Jeju Lunch

We stopped for lunch at a decent restaurant. Turns out, the other table decided to try some Jeju makgeolli.

17 March 2018


Jeju Seodal Oreum

Of all the locations we visited, this is the one I'd want to return to the most. The landscape here was beautiful, and it hid a horrific story of a wartime massacre. From the ridge where I'm standing to take this picture, people were executed and their bodies would fall down into the pit below. It actually reminds me of a scene from Attack on Titan, where members of an oppressed people would be pushed off a wall to a horrific fate below. Weird reference, yes, and sort of a spoiler.

Anyway, our hike up over the hill, where we saw some ruins of Japanese installations, led to a beautiful view of the coast.

It's also here that Andrew Salmon anchored his feature on the Jeju Massacre, especially where he was inspired to say this piece.

17 March 2018


Jeju Hotel Roof

Of course I went up on the roof in the morning, taking pictures of the area. I'd been up there the night before but knew I should come back after sunrise, even if it meant skipping breakfast. I did manage to fit in some breakfast, but more importantly I saw this.

16 March 2018


Jeju Super Doopub

They put us up in a Ramada for the night, and while many of the journalists went promptly to sleep, there were those of us who would not.

I found a quaint bar right outside the hotel that offered craft beer, and we crammed as many alcoholic journalists into this tiny building as we could. Turns out the owner was from Seoul and used to own a vinyl bar in Hongdae, before striking out and opening this place here.

16 March 2018


Jeju Food

After Bukchon, our day 1 itinerary was finished and we went to a restaurant, where we met local NGO members who basically made this tour happen. It was Jeju so it was a fantastic meal.

16 March 2018


Jeju Bukchon Village

We piled into a community center where we heard 80-year-old massacre survivor Ko Wan-soon speak about her experiences. The PA system didn't work properly but it turned out she didn't need it. Note the flag behind her: this is a common prerequisite at all related sites, to explicitly state the people raising awareness of this atrocity are not enemies of South Korea.

16 March 2018


Jeju Caves

We walked through a wetland to get to the Seonheul Doteul cave, where villagers hid from the massacre. If I remember correctly, at one point several villagers were caught in this cave. Jeju is full of caves, and while they are suitable hiding places, they could quickly become tombs if discovered.

We learned the Jeju islanders had a complicated relationship with the forests, which served both as protectors but also were the site where they lost many loved ones.

16 March 2018


Jeju Peace Park

One of the reasons I've taken so long to update the site is because the next big update would be a big one, as I went on an expenses-paid media tour of Jeju Island massacre sites.

A friend connected me with the organiser, and then I discovered not one but three Korea Times contributors were already part of it: one reporter and two columnists. I got to go for free and wouldn't miss any work, so nobody at the office could turn me down. I decided to go as the photographer for our reporter. You can see what we published here.

Our arrival was during fierce cold weather, which made it unbearable to be outside. The outdoor area was mostly notable for a graveyard for all the people who went missing during the massacre.

The interior was basically a museum. One highlight of this part of the tour was when Don Kirk vocally challenged their narrative on US culpability in the massacre. The US certainly played a part, as Korea was under a US military government when it began, and shit rolls uphill in Korea. But they were beneficiaries of the mass murders, not masterminds.

14 March 2018


Seoullo 7017

One night I was heading home when I saw the night sky and I decided to head upwards to get some pictures. I think I got some pretty intense pictures, anyway.

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 begun a personal research project, looking at the history of the Hongdae area. Maybe "begun" is the wrong word, as I've been closely studying it since I first arrived in December 2003.

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.

Anyway, I'm getting ready to release some interesting stuff about the Hongdae area.

Also, the Red Stripes were like everything I could ever want in a ska band. It turned out it was made up of a bunch of guys who remember the two-tone era, but it came together when Cam Otto joined. Turns out Cam spent some time in my hometown, Edmonton, and was familiar with my ska musician friends back home.

8 March 2018


Ana!

I showed up for her welcoming party off a hoeshik, so by the time I got here I was pretty intoxicated. I'm not self-aware enough to decide if I ruined the party, barging in and telling them about the #MeToo case I had just plummetted into.

But after some high-quality food, I managed to line everyone up for this very attractive group photo that flatters every single person in it, except the most famous person. Oh crap, I just realised as I'm writing this, I'm listening to his music.

5 March 2018


Last Meal

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.

A little further below, I referred to my best friends. Verv's record puts him within the top two, but Michael was the most recent one. Over the last half year we were definitely on best-friend level. So that puts him within the top 5. The other two people probably know who they are.

3 March 2018


"Yongsan"

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


Guryong Village

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. It actually has made a huge impact on the view from here.

3 March 2018


Abandoned Apartments

I met up with Amos, a guy I met through Stephen Epstein who suggested we talk about underground music scenes. Amos was doing hip-hop and I was doing punk, and I think we may have both given each other some insight.

Anyway, then we decided to hang out, which ended up meaning hitting a pretty serious section of Gangnam where they're tearing down a large amount of apartments. So that's just what we did.

2 March 2018


Michael

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

The way I see it, I've had two great best friends my entire life. And amazingly, both got to meet each other a little over 10 years ago in Hongdae Playground.

Verv has now graduated from Kyung Hee University with a master's degree in philosophy or something, with a strong point of view about nationalism and Buddhism or something like that.

We remain good friends, bonded from over a decade of shared experience, but cautious due to his alt-right leanings. It is a confusing time, but also a benefit of our friendship has been in giving me a chance to mediate between my political outrage against what he promotes and my personal like for the guy. And as far as I know, he has probably used his familiarity with me to figure out better ways to argue against atheists and non-Americans.

28 February 2018


RASKB

We had an RASKB lecture by Henny Savenije, a very friendly Dutchman who has done a lot of great research on Korea-Netherlands early contact, as mentioned on his website.

My first time meeting Henny was a couple years earlier, when I was with a former boss from a previous job. We showed up at an RASKB after party, by which time my boss was completely sauced having slammed at least six martinis. I'd told him the Czech ambassador would be there, so when we walked in my boss nudged me and said "Where is the Czech ambassador?" I said he was right behind us, and my boss marched right up to Henny, shaking his hand vigorously and giving a long speech about how nice it was to meet him, only mentioning about 30 seconds in he highly respected relations with the Czech Republic, at which point Henny said, "I think you want to talk to that guy behind you."

Years later, I can confirm Henny is a fun guy to hang out with late into the night, as his topic of maps about Korea should imply.

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
  • 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, but my complaints combined with my whole newspaper job thing could lead to actual reporting on why there haven't been changes.

  • 26 February 2018


    Huam Market

    I've been trying to get to know my neighbourhood better. Not through history or walking tours, but just through walking in and entering a consumer relationship with people. Huam Market doesn't show it but it is becoming a little gentrified. Time for me to get in everyone's face about that.

    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


    Abandoned School

    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


    Religious Retreat

    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


    Hongdae

    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


    Abandoned Neighbourhood

    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


    Scouting

    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.

    14 February 2018


    Park Sa Mo

    Ugh, these people again.

    6 February 2018


    Jogyesa

    After an RASKB lecture, we wandered through Jogyesa, I think on the way to another place to drink.

    3 February 2018


    Abandoned Neighbourhood

    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


    Seun Sangga

    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


    Northern Seoul

    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


    Japanese Prison

    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


    Rachel

    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


    Lunar Eclipse

    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's Stuff

    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


    It snowed!

    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


    Samia Returns

    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


    Gwangju

    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


    Trump Motel

    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


    Bando Motel

    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.

    If you don't know, the Bando Hotel was a landmark building in downtown Seoul created during the Japanese occupation that later had use for the Americans, even serving as sort of an embassy for a time, before being demolished for the construction of Lotte Hotel.

    Also, totally randomly, "bando" is a kind of millennial term for abandonments apparently.

    17 January 2018


    Cat Litter

    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.

    14 January 2018


    Olympic Torch Relay

    On 31 December, I found out I'd be carrying the Olympic torch on Naksan two weeks later. Coincidentally, I had plans to go up there that night for the New Year's countdown.

    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.

    You can read more about it here or here.

    13 January 2018


    Politics

    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.

    9 January 2018


    RASKB

    These pictures mainly come from after Ned Forney's RASKB lecture on the Hungnam Evacuation.

    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.

    6 January 2018


    Morgan's Birthday

    Hey Morgan, HB. Too lazy to type more than two letters.

    6 January 2018


    Me Cook

    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


    The Ville

    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


    Monkey House

    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.

    5 January 2018


    Changshin-dong

    I'm going to have a big story about this area next week.

    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 Returns

    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.
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    Copyright Daehanmindecline 2014