Monday, April 25, 2011

The "Changing Room"

E-mart on a Sunday afternoon.
At first glance, this looks like the corner of just about any department store: racks of clothes, posters with hunky/sultry-looking models, a checkout counter, large nylon sheet hung up with a couple metal hooks -- wait a minute. Large nylon sheet hung up with a couple metal hooks?

Oh, Nissa's just trying on a bra in the store. For a second there I thought something weird was going on.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Seoul from 66 years ago

"Time" magazine's 1945 map of Seoul and Korea.

I was looking at some old photographs of Seoul the other day and came across Time magazine's 1945 snapshot of post-war Korea. It's an interesting slice of history as told by the foreign correspondents based in Seoul.

The various landmarks on the map of Seoul, above, caught my eye, in particular. I had never heard of the "White Buddha" featured in the northwest section of the map, so I did a little research and found out that it dates from the 13th or 14th century. It's funny how the Bodogak Hall White Buddha was considered -- at least by Time magazine -- to be one of the most important historical landmarks in 1945, but today doesn't even show up in tourist guides to the city.

"Not Slave, Not Free," Oct. 8, 1945

"City of the Bell," Oct. 8, 1945

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Korea's favorite sport

The stadium at Jamsil in Seoul.

On Friday, we went to Doosan Bears vs. Kia Tigers game in south-eastern Seoul's Jamsil stadium. As I reported early in our trip to Korea, baseball is Korea's most popular sport and the fans really put Americans to shame. Like at some US ball games, each batter had his own theme song. But I blushed when more than half of the 27,000 fans attending Friday night's game started singing "Sufin' USA" in unison for Kim Seung-hee (see video at end).

Batter up! Kia Tigers

The game, as see by Mike.

The crazy fans.

Baseball meta: A fan watches the game on her cell phone TV and in real life at the same time.

Rocking the nosebleeds.

South of the river

Ginger coffee latte and organic strawberry cupcakes at Mug for Rabbit Cafe in Apgujeong.

Bicycle on Garosugil, Seoul's fashion center.

A quiet moment at Asia Park, a remnant of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Yeouido: The 'useless' island

The walk toward the 63 building.

Yeouido Island is known in Korea as many things -- the home of the National Assembly and the largest Protestant congregation in the world; the headquarters of LG, the Korea Exchange, and broadcasters MBC and KBS; and the location of Seoul's first airport in the 1920s. Still, this important business and political center in the middle of the Han River is called "Yeouido" or "Useless Island" in Korean. The name comes from the centuries the island was left to the whim of the Han River's floods. When the water was low, the island was a pasture for sheeps and goats. When the water was high, only a tiny bit of the island remained visible.

One giant river engineering project and six-lane bridge later, the river is one of the newest developments in Seoul. This week I had the chance to explore some of those developments while waiting to meet some friends for dinner on the island. Following are some photos from the trip.

Yoido Full Gospel church is the largest Protestant Christian congregation in Korea, and some say the world.

Yeouido Park in the center of the island used to be an airport.

A traditional Korean forest in Yeouido Park.

The crosswalk to the Han River.

The 63 building was the tallest building outside of North America when it was built in 1985, but today is more famous for the aquarium in its basement.