Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Goodbye, Korea!

Well, my feet are back on US soil. Since my Korean adventures are now over, this blog will be retired. The food blog may still see some occasional action, but it obviously won't be Korea-centric. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Anyanghigyeseyo for now!

Friday, April 27, 2007


I finally received official notice of my NSF CAREER award today. It was recommended for funding back in January, but I guess it just took this long to makes its way through the system. Regardless, I'm glad that I got it! w00t!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weekend Trip to Osaka

This past weekend, I took a trip to Osaka to visit a friend from school. Trip details are on my old blog, and food stuff will still be posted to the food blog.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Sue and I took a tour to the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone between South and North Korea) this past weekend. [Note: this entry has been post-dated] The tour that's run by the USO was full, so we had to go with a Korean tour company. We got up early and took the subway to the bus pickup location. From there, it was a not-too-long bus ride north. The first stop was an observatory.

View of North Korea in the distance. Pictures must be taken from behind a line which is maybe twenty or so feet from the railing:

The next stop was to the Third Tunnel. South Korea has discovered four tunnels so far dug by North Korea burrowing through the granite under the border. These were discovered based on information from defectors from the North. We weren't allowed to take any pictures there unfortunately. Besides the actual UN Joint Security Area (later in this post), I think the 3rd Tunnel was the most interesting site.

We also made a stop at this railroad station. This is going to be the last stop in South Korea on a train line that they hope will eventually open to connect the North and the South.

Army guards in the train station. These poor guys just have to stand there while tourists keep marching up to them to get their pictures taken with them. The guy on the right is just adjusting his helmet, but I like to pretend that it's his reaction to having to put up with all of the tourists.

Next stop: the bridge of freedom. This is supposed to be where they did a whole bunch of prisoner exchanges between the North and the South.

View of the bridge.

The end of the bridge is all fenced off. Lots of people leave flags, notes to loved ones, etc. here.

A view of barbed wire, fencing, and a guard post in the background.

Right outside where they had the Bridge of Freedom, there was this small amusement park-like area. This seemed really out of place in such a solemn site, but I guess you gotta keep the kids entertained while the parents go do more serious things.

After some lunch at a Korean Restaurant, we made our way to the official UN JSA (Joint Security Area) of the DMZ. This area is jointly patrolled by North Korea and the UN (which includes the South). After the orientation talk (in Powerpoint!), our group went into the main JSA accompanied by a US soldier from Florida (but officially serving for the UN). We got to go into the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) building where they have the official talks between the North and the South. This building actually straddles the border, and so you can enter a tiny bit of North Korea while inside.

View from the MAC. Left side is South Korea, right side is the North.

My feet with one in the South (left) and one in the North (right).

North Korean guard tower.

Gigantic tower with gigantic North Korea flag. The town below is a "propaganda village" which is supposedly only occupied by guards and loud speakers that blare North Korean propaganda (we were too far away to hear any though).

That pretty much rounded up the trip. Definitely worthwhile for anyone who happens to end up this direction. If you plan on taking a tour, make sure to book your reservations early.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Fun with PC 방's

While Sue's been visiting Seoul, she's continued her regular day job working for Microsoft. Unfortunately, there appears to be some sort of firewall here at KU that's making her VPN connection back to the corporate network not work (must be a different protocol than GT's, because my VPN connection works). She's mostly just arranged to work on things that didn't need access to their intranet, but the other day she had to access some internal server. So, we marched on down to a local "PC 방" (pronounced sort of like PC-bong), which is basically like a Internet cafe type of place, but more often used for playing games rather than checking your email. These PC joints are actually all over the place. You can use a PC there for about $1 an hour, so I'm not sure how they make enough money to even pay for rent.

In any case, we went inside and asked if we could connect Sue's laptop to their network. After a few minutes of the guy at the front desk half not understanding us, and half just saying "no", he just took us to a computer probably so he wouldn't have to deal with us anymore. So we then managed to get all of the necessary networking information off that box (which was a little tricky because all of the menus were in Korean and whenever the box was connected to the network some full-screen interface would automatically pop up and steal focus from anything else; we eventually managed to kill it and you can see the Windows ipconfig dump in the picture above), unplug its network cable, plug in Sue's laptop, and voila we were on the 'net with no firewall. I'm not sure if they really appreciate us plugging random computers into their network, but it got the job done.


Sue and I took an afternoon trip over to Yeouido, which is a quasi-island along the Han river in Seoul. (I think it's technically an island in that it has water on all sides, but the water on one side is really more or a tiny stream that looks like you could wade through it without much difficulty.)

Yeouido park.

Statue of King Sejeon in the park.

Sunset view of Seoul from Building 63 (big, golden-colored skyscraper on the island).

View of Seoul (south of the Han) starting to change into its nighttime colors.

Building 63 also has a small aquarium. Not bad, but pretty small and pales in contrast to Atlanta's mega-behemoth Georgia Aquarium.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


The cherry blossoms have begun to bloom. Quite pretty, but I guess Koreans have not made cherry blossom viewing into the same full-contact sport that it is in Japan (which is good since you don't have to fight any crowds just to see some trees).

I just thought that this was a pretty funny scene. At the end of the alley is a place where they compact cardboard boxes, presumably for recycling. I hadn't even noticed it until my friend pointed it out to me, but for whatever reason, someone decided to stick a giant red umbrella on top of all of the crushed boxes. It just looked really out of place.

It's a knock-off SMART car. Lacking anything to give you a proper measurement of the car's dimensions, I sacrificed myself so that you can get a much better feel for how small this car is. (I'm 6'1" for reference.) I think this one may even be slightly smaller than the SMART, but I'm not certain.