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The National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. This blog will be run by the students of the fifth NSLI-Y South Korean year program.

A small segment from our final cumulative presentation chronicling our adventures during the winter program. 

A Reflection on “The Miracle on the Han River”

Although, I had originally signed up for the supporter led group that researched Korean History, I was actually placed in the Korean Economic and Technology group. This fact did not disappoint me; however, I had very little idea as to what to expect from our supporter led activities, which in itself felt like a bright new challenge. Even so, soon after beginning our research activities, I came to realize that I infarct had been placed in the right group. This is due to the fact that through our winter break program activities I have come to the conclusion that no other nation in the world has its economy more intricately nor complexly bound to its history, culture, and past than South Korea. To understand not only Korea’s economy, but Korea as a modern nation, one must look into the political and historical factors that shaped it into what it is today. However, examining the shaping of Korea into a modern nation is not an easy task as the truth on what created this “miracle” on the Han River is not always as clear as the river itself. In fact, it seems to be more of a murky pond muddled with clashing opinions and viewpoints, than a pristine clearing. To validate our preexisting conclusions and hypotheses on the Korean economy we were forced to dive right in into this murky pond and search for the bits of irreversible truth in a dark pool of conflicting views and beliefs.  Through our cultural assignments we extensively researched in hope of being able to answer one simple question: “Who or what force was responsible for the creation of the ‘Miracle on the Han River?’”.

To prepare us for the cultural activities that were ahead of us we received a debriefing on Korea’s economy as well as its history from our supporters. Afterwards we were ready to head to the site of our first cultural activity: The Park Chung-Hee Commemorative library and museum. Park Chung-Hee, a famous (and to some infamous) past leader of Korea is credited with implementing the necessary policies for Korea to advance economically. Although his policies did in fact help revolutionize Korea, he is often the target of criticism due to his widespread human rights violations, his dictator styled approach to politics, as well as his strong friendship and unfair deals with some of Korea’s largest companies. Of course, his exhibition made no mention of this, but rather painted him as a martyr of the Korean struggle to get ahead. Regardless of his countless human rights violations one cannot ignore the fact that he was a leading factor in Korea’s economic revolution. Next we visited the commemorative museum and library of Park Chung-Hee’s adversary: Past President Kim Dae-Jung. This exhibition gave us a view of Park Chung-Hee as a ruthless evil man and Kim Dae-Jung and a liberator of the Korean people (making no mention of his own follies) who democratized the nation. Regardless of the propaganda like material presented, one has to admit that he was also indeed a key component in the creation of the Miracle on the Han River. Both museums hail their respective honorees as the creators of the Miracle on the Han River, which is one reason why one cannot visit one without visiting the other. Together they form something somewhat close to what appears to be the truth of Korea’s development than they do apart.

For our next cultural activity we headed to the National Assembly for a tour which was unfortunately canceled to do political activity. Even so we got to visit a small exhibit on on the presents that Korea has received from other nations.  Afterwards, we walked down to the 63 building, what was once the tallest building in Korea, and now serves as one of the prime symbols of Korea’s modernization. Heading to the sixty-third floor not only gave us  a peek into the city landscape of Seoul, but also a peak into the present and future of Korea as our eyes gazed over the modern mecca that Seoul has become with its tall skyscrapers and seemingly thousands of cars that line its highways.

To be able to authentically experience Korea’s past we headed to the Gasan Digital Complex Interactive Museum, where we had the opportunity to experience firsthand what life was like for the workers of the factories that once lined the streets of Gasan. This was perhaps one of the most unique experiences of our journey as we went from room to room not only looking at, but also reenacting life in the 1980’s in exact replicas of the places that made up the lives of these workers. Through this we were able to see the drive and determination of the workers, the Korean spirit to get ahead, as well as the difficulties that filled their lives. We got a similar experience from our tour of the Miner’s and Nurse’s Museum we visited which commemorated those who were sent to work abroad in Germany, a milestone for the Korean economy.  There, we were also able to interview an actual miner who was sent to Germany and later became a world history teacher. As he responded passionately we could not help but notice his adulation of President Park Chung-Hee (he referred to him under a no longer used title that translates roughly to his majesty). Regardless, he and also those we met were adamant that they were the sole creators of the Miracle on the Han River. Looking through their toil and hard work, as well as their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the good of the country, I do not believe they were far off. After looking through the past we decided to look towards the future as we headed to Yonsei University for our next cultural activity.

For our final supporter led activity we headed to the prestigious Yonsei University for an open exhibition on nanotechnology. This exhibition showcased the intense research on solutions to global problems through nanotechnology of Korean university students from schools nationwide. Although all of the information presented was written in impeccable English,   the point of this activity was not to comprehend the topics being presented to us, but rather to grasp the aptitude of Korean students in advanced global research as well as to see Korea’s role on the global stage as a problem solving force. As I walked around the exhibition I could not help but feel surprise that it only took about thirty years for the role of the “twenty something” in Korea to completely transform from the role that we witnessed at the Gasan Digital Complex Museum.  This activity gave us a better perspective on Korea’s advancement not only in the field of science, but as a society in general, from factory workers to scientists.  Afterwards, it was time to collect data for our research project for which we headed to the Sinchon Area. Once there we interviewed regular Korean citizens of varying ages on who they believed was the creator of the Miracle on the Han River. Judging from the wide range of responses we received we were not able to get one clear answer from the Korean people, but rather we reconfirmed the belief that at the present time no clear creator is able be discerned, and that this will be a widely debated issue for time to come.

After participating in every cultural activity as well as doing research on my own I was finally able to form my own hypothesis as to what forces led to the creation of the “Miracle of the Han River”. My conclusion is that no single factor created the Miracle on the Han River, but rather a wide range of factors modernized Korea into what it is today, mainly:  the drive of the workers who fought for their country( as we learned from the Gasan Museum as well as the Nurse’s and Miner’s center), the ruthless policies of Park Chung-Hee ( as we learned through his commemorative museum), and then finally  democratization by president Kim Dae-Jung (as we experienced from his commemorative exhibition) . Through these three factors Korea was able to rapidly develop from third world nation to world power. Among these three factors, I believe the Korean people were the most important factor as not a single advancement could have succeeded had it not been for the willing sacrifices and hard work of the Korea people.  The Miracle on the Han River is clearly not a mere miracle, but rather a result of the hard work by Korean citizens along with essential policies by Korean politicians.


The NSLI-Y Academic Year students just finished a busy winter break including storytelling, research projects, trips, and, of course, language study. We’ll each be sharing about our winter research projects over the next few weeks.

My group studied Silla Buddhism and traveled to Gyeongju to see the numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and experience its unique culinary delights. We also completed an interview with the Korean commission of UNESCO and visited Korea’s National Museum.

우리 역사 팀은 통일 신라 불교를 연구했고, 그 과정에서 많은 것을 보고 공부할 수 있었다. 국립 박물관 견학을 통해 한국 문화에 대해 배울 수 있었다. 그리고 그 후에는 경주를 방문했는데 가고 싶었던 불국사, 안압지를 가볼 수 있어서 좋은 시간을 보낼 수 있었다. 마지막으로는 유네스코에 방문하여 인터뷰를 했는데 대학교에서 정치학에 대해 공부할 계획이 있는 나에게는 많은 도움이 되었다. 그 경험이 가장 기억에 강하게 남는다.

Here’s an overview of our Gyeongju trip specifically that I wrote upon returning back to Seoul:

"Visited Gyeongju, the historic capitol of Korea’s Silla Dynasty and home to a throng of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The day did not go at all as planned. When things don’t go as planned there are two common results. The first, that you have a horrendous time of it. The second, you get caught up in the lost art of serendipity and innovation. The day was the second type and included wandering into a field of massive royal tombs in snow that reached our knees, nearly missing our bus home, and climbing up what turned out to be a blocked road while searching for the Seukgoram Grotto.

The day included:

•Eating infamous Gyeongju bread. The bread part is actually more like a secondary characteristic of the massive, steaming bean filling.
•Visit to Bulguksa/불국사 Temple.
•Viewed Royal Tombs and ancient observatory, en route we saw an ancient underground refrigerator.
•Full-course Korean traditional meal (Mom and Dad—you don’t have to worry that Korea’s not feeding me!)
•Viewed 남산 and 경주 historic areas.
•Visited Anapji pond and temples at the site which were stunning at night with the lights.”

That’s all for now!

No Winter Blues in Seoul: Suwon Day Trip

• Overview •

Korea is a magnificent place in all its shapes and colors, in all its varieties and seasons. Though Seoul is famed for its winter cold, the weather truly is nothing to fear. Rather, the season offers many unique attractions and fun travel opportunities. I hope my post encourages anyone that might otherwise bundle up for a cozy day at home to instead venture out of the comfortable by going to Suwon, a city on the outskirts of Seoul, where traditional landmarks and unique aspects of Korean society and culture can be experienced.

안녕하세요? 켈시이에요. 작년에는 한국에 겨울에 가면 많이 춥다고하던데요. 요즘 춥지만 재미있는 여행을 할수있어요. 저는 특히 수원여행을 좋아해요! 아름다운것들이 많이 있어요!



To make the most of my time in Suwon, I joined a bus tour that would allow me to see many of the city’s main attractions without worrying about transportation. For $11 and by simply RSVPing ahead of time, you can join the tour on Sundays. My group included only two others so I essentially got a private tour of Suwon. For more information, visit their website.


• Stop 1 •

Our tour started out with our tour guide exclaiming about toilets. I couldn’t understand all of the Korean so I understood it as a precaution to use the restroom before the long day. Smart advice—inevitably groups are always held up by that one person that seems to have drank copious amount of water right beforehand.

Instead of restroom advice, we actually arrived at a toilet museumHaewoojae Toilet—and were welcomed by statues mocking deprecation and exhibiting a vast variety of number-two-related appliances. Unfortunately, with a group of 3, there was nowhere to hid my laughter. My laughter clearly affected my ability and desire to take pictures as I now realize I have none from the museum.

• Stop 2 •

Our next stop was Hwaseomun, the west gate of the Suwon fortress. It includes a rainbow gate. Here, I got to experience traditional Korean archery. Though my skills weren’t up to par, it was nonetheless a cool, hands-on activity. We also passed by the north gate of the fortress, Jangamun. As I recall, parts of these buildings were destructed by the Japanese.

Final Stops •

We then arrived at the north flood gate, Hwagongmun. This stop also had a beautiful pond and walking area.

My favorite site was Hwaseong Haenggung, the largest rural palace from the Joseon Dynasty. There, I watched a martial arts performance that featured 24 different martial arts styles.

We closed the day off at a museum, which was relatively vanilla compared to the rest of the trip, but has some decent displays of historical relics (but not a lot compared to other Korean museums).

Photos •

Suwon is a photographer’s paradise. Here are some of my favorite snapshots from my trip:




Eating in Suwon

The Sunday bus tour starts at 10 am. For most, visiting will require quite a lengthy trek on the subway. For ease and convenience, I recommend a quick GS 25 breakfast. Convenience stores are a totally different animal in Korea than they are in the US. In Seoul at least, there is a convenience store culture and you can often find students there enjoying a quick and cheap ramen dinner. There also is an absurd amount of these stores so there will be one near wherever you are departing from. Recommended GS snacks include their “beauty jelly” drinks and nut packs. Be sure to stock up on cheap snacks because the Suwon tour will run through lunchtime.

For a late lunch, enjoy a meal outside exit 4 of the subway station. There are several universities located in Suwon so there are a number of dive restaurants just outside the subway station to cater to students. Watch out for the expensive coffee shops and instead grab tasty Naan bread for $1.50 just at the Indian restaurant across the street from exit 4. South Korea has a surprising number of delicious and inexpensive ethnic food restaurants. 

Helpful Phrases •

Excuse me. Please give me one naan.
저기요. Naan 하나 주세요.

What are you going to do this Sunday? (For asking your friends to go to Suwon!)
이번 일요일 에 뭐 할 거예요? 

Wow…I want to go too. Are you going alone?
우와… 저도 가고 싶어요. 혼자 갈 거예요?

When do you want to meet? (Something to ask your tour guide so they don’t leave without you)
언제 만날래? 

Do you want to see this? (Something to ask your friend when semi-appalled by the toilet museum)
이거 볼래? 

• Helpful Vocabulary •

정조: Name of the king that constructed the Hwaseong fortress.
화성: Name of the wall surrounding the center of Suwon.
수원천: Name of the river running through Suwon that will be visible during parts of the tour
여행 가이드: tour guide
관광: sight-seeing

Enjoy and best luck with language learning!

Kelsi, NSLI-Y Korea Academic Year

서울광장에 갑시다!

안녕하세요? 미카이에요. 겨울 방학 동안 시청에 갑시다! 저 곳에서 많은 것을 할 수 있어요. 먼저 1 행 또는 2 행 시청 지하철을 타세요. 덕수궁, 서울 도서관, 에서 관광할 있어요. 하루에 한국의 역사와 문화를 많이 배울 수 있어요. 특히 겨울 동안, 바로 시청 앞에서 아이스 스케이트를 할 수 있어요. 재미있네요!


Let’s spend a day in Sichong! I came here initially just to visit Deoksugung Palace, but ended up doing a lot more than expected. There’s a ton to do in one place. Okay, let’s start the day arriving at City Hall Station on line 1 and line 2 at 11:00am. Leave the station through Exit 2. Walk straight a few meters and arrive at Deoksugung Palace! Just in time for the changing of the guards ceremony. The ceremony is held in front of the Daehanmun Gate. The royal gate is opened and closed through a shift ceremony held three times a day: 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, 3:30 pm. 


After the ceremony, you can buy entrance ticket for a small fee of 1000 Won and stroll around the palace grounds. Deoksugung Palace is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. It originally belonged to Wolsandaegun, the older brother of King Seongjong of the Joseon Dynasty. It became a proper palace when Gwanghaegun became king.

Seokjojeon is one of the western-style building that stands in Deoksugung. The east wing of building now holds as a Palace Treasure exhibit, and the west wing is used as part of National Modern Arts Center. You can also go inside for a small entrance fee.

By the time you leave the palace grounds, your stomach will probably growling: it’ll most likely be lunchtime! No problem. Just turn right as soon as you exit the palace gates to find 할머니국수 to eat delicious noodles for an affordable price (3000 - 6500 Won)


For a quick and cheap dessert, turn left upon exiting the restaurant and walk a few meters ahead to get a yummy 호떡, a Korean pancake filled with sugar and nuts, a very popular street food in the winter time. However these aren’t just any old 호떡. These are 씨앗 꿀 호떡 filled with all sorts of nuts and seeds and covered in brown sugar. 진짜 맛있다!!


After filling yourself up, cross the street towards these buildings:


Let’s walk into the old building into front. This is the Seoul Metropolitan Library. It actually served as the original City Hall up until 2008. Inside, not only can you read their collection of over 200,000 books, you can also learn a bit of Korean history on the upper floors through the small historical exhibits concerning the operations in City Hall since its founding in 1926. You can even visit the old mayor’s office and access the government published archives. Many people come here to study as well.


The Library is actually connected to the current City Hall, the curved glass building right behind it. It is currently headquarters for the Seoul Metropolitan government, but inside there are is a lot of the general citizens as well. Upon walking in, you’ll see entire walls covered in greenery, a vertical garden reaching all the way until the 7th floor. The the building is actually based on an award-winning eco-friendly design by Jeon Sucheon.



On the lower floor, you can walk about Citizen’s Hall, where there’s plenty to do and see, especially for children. For example, the Gungisi Relics exhibition displays the archaeological relics from the Joseon Dynasty excavated during the construction of the new City Hall. Every day there are some sort events scheduled for family fun. On my visit, I was just in time for the bike trick show.


After you’re done looking around City Hall, head up to the 9th floor to the Sky Plaza to relax at a cafe with an assortment of pastries and drinks. The prices are average, but if you bring your own cup you can get a 500 Won discount! Since it’s winter, the ice skating rink in front of the buildings should be open. You can skate for only 1000 Won an hour, so why not end your day on the ice?



Useful Words/Phrases:

표 하나 주세요. - One ticket, please.

덕수궁은 어디에 있어요?- Where is Deoksugung Palace?

역사 - history

- Seoul City Hall

도서관 - Library


인천 차이나타운 & 월미도

On the subway map, at the end of Line 1 lies a small dot that reads 인천. Above it in even smaller writing, barely visible and sometimes completely overlooked, is the name of the neighborhood where the famed Sino-Korean dish 짜장면 was invented – 차이나타운 (Chinatown).

얘들아, 우리 읽는 사람들이 한국에 오려면 인천의 차이나타운에 가세요! 한국에 있을 때 어느 날에 날씨가 시원고나 그냥 따뜻해면 월미도에 가는 날이에요. 이 두 곳에 가면 한국-중국 문화에 대해서 배울 수 있을 뿐만 아니라 짜장면이나 특히 맛있는 만두도 (내 재일 좋아하는 한식 얘들아) 먹을 수 있어. 그런데, 디스코 팡팡을 타기 전에, 먼저 내가 우리 읽은 친구들한테 조심해야 한다고 해야 해요. 타기 전에, 배가 앞으지 않더록 큰 식사를 먹지마세요. 위험하잖아요. 그레도, 이 두 곳들이 재밌으니까 좋은 추천하는 것 같아요.


Off line 1 at 인천역 you can find the main gate to 차이나타운 right in front of the only exit. Through it’s arches you can peek into the shops decorated with breads and snacks and restaurants announcing their authentic recipe for dimsum.

자유 겅원

If you keep walking straight from the main gate you will finally reach stairs painted with the seats of the . Take your time to play with your camera and pretend to be the ruler of the vast lands of Korea as you sit on the throne of the king. For now. Going up the peak of the stairs past the Third Gate you will find yourself surrounded by the great, towering trees of “Freedom Park.” Take a stroll around the park and you may find yourself saying  “아 좋아, 시원하다!” Explore the crevices of this park and discover the tower that draws in the great majesty of the Incheon port.


값이: 짜장면8,000 

되지고기 없이 주세요.

, , 두고워!



값이: 옹기병1,500 to 2,000 

: , 고구마, 고기


값이: 왕만두 (3), 군만두 (6), 물만두 (6) 3,500 

우리 다 따로 내려해요



Although as the attachment  도 to the name suggests this area as an island, a small strip of high has long been constructed to connect this island to the rest of Incheon. This small not quite beach area, a boardwalk area rather, has turned into a semi-amusment park that is frequented by crowds to watch the ever wild 디스코 팡팡  and 바이킹.

To reach this final destination take the bus number 23 from the bus stop in front of the 차이나타운 main gate and get off at “wolmido”

디스코 팡팡 & 바이킹

임장료: 5,000 

Before you finally gather the courage to take a ride you must understand that your body will ache, specifically the arms, once the ride is over. This is not for the faint of heart. Please do not eat right before you sit.

앉으세요. 조심해야돼요.

우리 외국인 아니야!”라고 해도돼- You may scream to the 디스코 팡팡 handler that you are indeed not a foreigner in hopes that he will not make your life ride all the more bumpy. Nevertheless, once the inevitable happens and he finds out you are a foreigner he may ask "어느 나라에서 왔어요?” to see what else he can comment on to entertain the watching crowds.

Cafe Day
여러분, 안녕하세요~ 저는 엘리자베스입니다! 한국에 있을 때 놀란 적이 많이 있죠? 저는 한국에 카페가 많이 있는것을 보니까 놀랐어요.  미국에 비해서 활씬 더 많더라고요. 그래서…저는궁금합니다. 한국에는 가페가 왜 이렇게 많죠?
If you have ever visited China or Japan (or almost any other Asian country), you may know about the prevalence of tea in their culture and daily life. Given the historical connections and the geographical proximity, it is easy to assume that Korea possesses a similar “tea culture.” After going five months without being offered a single cup of tea, I have given up on this notion. Equally surprising as the lack of tea is the abundance of coffee and cafés. Seoul’s cafe numbers went from approximately 800 in 2004 to around 17,000 today. It is virtually impossible to walk down a street without coming across a handful cafes.According to a 2009 survey, 41.8% of the surveyed 19,470 said they visited cafes three to four times a week.  If you hang out with Korean friends, you will inevitably end up at a cafe. But wait! I see you walking towards Ediya Coffee…Instead of going to the everpresent franchise coffee shops, let’s take a look at what else Seoul’s rich cafe culture has to offer!  
Let’s begin! The majority of cafes don’t open their doors until until 10 or 11 (in contrast to the early hours when Americans go to cafes to get their caffeine boos) so feel free to sleep in. We begin our day at the 4th exit of Hongdae Ipgu Station (홍대입구여). Hongdae is an area known for its artsy culture, clubs, and shopping. It also boasts a wealth of unique cafes, catering to the diverse interests of the college students and other inhabitants.  

Cafe Wonderland  
Our first stop is fifteen minutes from Hongik University, removed from the crowds and noise of the areas around exit 8 and 9. Behind Seokyo elementary school lies this cozy and unique cafe. Cafe Wonderland has a warm atmosphere for you to enjoy a late 아침밥 (breakfast) of a waffle accompanied by a cappucino to wake you up. Be sure to tell the server 여기에서 먹을거예요! (I’ll be eating here.) It would be a waste to get takeout when you could sit at a table made from a bathtub…The unique and pleasant decor of this cafe makes for a charming start to your day.  
Tom’s Cat Cafe
We make our way down to more central Hongdae to one of Korea’s infamous cat (고양이) cafes. Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like—a cafe filled with cats that you can play with to your hearts desire. You de-germ yourself with handsanitizer, pay a set fee, receive a drink of your choice, and then you are all set to sit down and play with the numerous 야옹ing (meowing) cats. For those with cat allergies or just simply averse to felines, 강아지 가페 (dog cafes) and Hongdae’s one 양가페 (sheep cafe) provide a suitable alternative.
Cafe Comma
Our last stop in Hongdae is one of Seoul’s more well known book cafes. This spacious cafe has plenty of tables and couches and the walls are lined with bookshelves, provideing a perfect atmosphere for you to catch up on that mountain of 숙제 (homework) due tomorrow. These book cafes are a popular hub for students and can be found in almost any area. For some nice shots of this cafe, check out this site:
Cheese Cafe Sunrich
The caffeine from three drinks is getting to you and you’re beginning to feel the first pangs of hunger. We stray a bit off the coffee shop path and end up at a specialty cafe focused on cheese. If you’re tired of the kraft style cheese that’s popular here and have been longing for some variety in the cheese department, this unique cafe with imported cheese and numerous meal options is the perfect spot for some 점심 (lunch).
Board Game Cafe
Our final stop is a board cafe in Gangnam. After a day filled with walking from cafe to cafe, it’s time to unwind. Grab a coffee and sit down with your friends to play any of the numerous boardgames available. Reminiscent of your childhood days fighting over monopoly and jenga, but this time the instructions are in 한글! (Hangul)
I hope you enjoyed your day exploring a few of the wide varieties of cafes that Seoul has to offer. Here are some phrases that might help when you go off cafe exploring…
따뜻하게 해드릴까요? Would you like it hot? Answer accordingly:
네, 주세요! Yes, please.
아니요, 아이스 주세요. No, iced please.
테이크아웃 take-out (not to be confused with 포장, used for food take out)
조단의 인사

안녕하십니까? 이 방학 시간이 너무 빨리 날아가고 있지요? 다음 주 후에 이월이 벌써 됄 겁니다! 요즘 저는 한국의 전통 음악에 대해서 배우는 것으로 이 중요한 기간을 잘 지내고 있습니다. 저는 그레이스랑 앤써니랑 전통 음악 종류 “사물노리”를 특별히 연구하고 있습니다. 사물놀이는 원래 “농악” 라고 한 농부의 음악에서 생겼습니다. 그런데 “사물놀이” 종류의 이름대로, 사물노리를 할 때 악기 네 개만 씁니다: 북, 장구, 징하고 꽹과리. 나종에 이 악기들에 대해서 더 복잡한 설명해 줄 것인데 지금 시간이 없습니다 ㅋㅋ…

이제 여러분이 사물놀이에 궁굼합니까??

Ideal Date in Mansu-Dong, Incheon Part 2

It’s 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon in Incheon, and you’re all tired out from hanging out with your BF at Incheon Grand Park. You’ve either just gotten off bus 16-1 at Mansu-Dong High School, or you’re making your way down the trail that encircles the city. Where to go from here?

Welcome to the neighborhood of Mansu, specifically the 6th district. This little end of town is a surprisingly exciting place to live as well as visit; with cafes, noraebangs, individually-owned boutiques as well as chain makeup stores aplenty, it offers something for everyone. The night life can be equally as exciting, though the area’s fewer number of bars means for a slightly safer evening out.

The next stops on our visit, however, will be a few blocks away from the neighborhood’s main drag. When you get off the bus, walk straight down the street towards the next bus stop a few meters away, turn left, and then turn at the first right (also don’t worry that these all look like back alleys… they’re fine, I promise ㅎㅎ). For our nature-loving trail-walkers, make a right at the bike stand in front of Hyundai Apartments (현대 아파트), the first right again, and then the last left at the end of the street. If you come to the end of the street where the bus stop is, you’ve gone too far.

Time Cafe

A few steps down this quiet back-street, tucked away among the villa apartments and auto service shops, you’ll find a tiny coffee shop called Time Cafe. This little gem is such a secretive place I can’t bear to reveal it’s visage with a picture; just know that you’ll recognize this cozy oasis by the clock on the door and the pile of quilts in the window. Come here for an hour or two to recharge in preparation for the rest of the afternoon, cuddling up together among the pillows and blankets. Here’s the moment where you whisper some sweet nothing into your BF’s ear, like “I love you almost as much as this latte.” (이 라떼만큼 너를 거의 사랑해~~)

Playing Pool (당구)

Now that you’re caffeinated and ready to take on the evening, let’s head out together to the one facility in Korea almost as prevalent as the infamous noraebang: the pool hall/당구장. Those of you thinking of the American billiards experience might swallow your gum at the idea of two young teenagers entering such an establishment alone. A vivid scene comes to mind of a darkly lit, smoky basement, reeking of cheap beer and filled with scary biker dudes. Now push those thoughts out of the way, because playing pool in Korea couldn’t be more different.

Look to the second and third floors of buildings — usually above or next to a noraebang, actually — to find a pool hall. You’ll know it’s a pool hall when you see the iconic red, blue, and green circles in the window. It will most likely look a bit grungy from the outside, but fear not; even the most sketchy-looking 당구장 is startlingly well-lit indoors. Once inside, you’ll most likely find a few huddled groups of teenage boys trying to look cool, and an ajusshi or two idly smoking a cigarette, but no bar and no roaming clouds of smoke.

The method of payment will relieve those already familiar with noraebang; you pay by the hour to the ajusshi at the front (about $15 an hour when I went — not super cheap but manageable) and get your pick of any table in the hall. You can, of course, play at a standard pocket table, or you can go for the pocket-free snooker table; the Korean version of this game is called Four Ball, or 사구. Being horrible at just regular pool, I have no idea how to play sagu and will not try to teach you. You can, however, try to ask the cute teenage couple on a date next to you if they’ll play teams and teach you guys: “Wow, you really play sagu well! Could you by chance teach us how?” “와우, 사구를 정말 잘 하네요! 혹시 우리한테 조금 가르쳐 주면 어때요?”

Ddang Ddang Chicken (땅땅 치킨)

For dinner, just down the street from the pool hall and Time Cafe is God’s greatest gift to mankind, the fried chicken shop called Ddang Ddang Chicken/땅땅 치킨. South Korea is already the fried chicken capital of the world, but this place takes it to a whole new level. The plates are slightly more expensive than usual — they run from about 12,000-15,000 won each — but one order is enough for two people, and two orders makes it a feast. My personal favorite is the perfectly fried, lightly honey-drizzled, juicy Hobson chicken (I have no idea if that’s actually what the Korean name means but that’s what I’ve named it in my mind… the Korean menu item is called 허브순살치킨). It’s boneless but slightly more substantial than popcorn chicken; the gently battered exterior offers a faintly sweet flavor that is excellently complemented by both the honey mustard and barbecue dipping sauces. As an accompanying dish, the pre-sauced Ddang Ddang Bulgalbi/땅땅불갈비 offers a spicier kick than the chicken; to round out the meal, I recommend the eternally-refreshing Coca-Cola, the spice-reducing complementary lettuce salad and pickles, and those flavorless, ubiquitous, and utterly addicting rainbow corn puff rings they serve at every chicken shop. If you can’t remember how to order all this, just give the guy at the front this message: “Do you remember that one foreign girl that always came here? I’ll have what she had.” “그 자주 여기에 왔던 외국인을 기억나요? 그 여자가 먹던 것을 저도 먹을래요.”


^ these are the two menu items you need to order!


^ The Holy Menu Itself… make good use of set meal discounts!!

Cafe CanMore

The final stop on your date is Cafe CanMore, a cute little second-floor shop on the Mansu main drag that is actually more spacious than it looks from the outside. Their specialty is fruit drinks and desserts — you won’t find chocolate here — and the interior decor is a cross between Grandma’s living room and CandyLand. You can plop down on the rocking chairs in the middle of the cafe, or for a more romantic experience, snag a table for two in the window. Then settle in with refreshing juice-ade or snow-flower patbingsu and enjoy the quiet atmosphere (분위기) together.

There’s also a Cafe CanMore in Seoul at Sincheon station, and this blog post offers some telling pics of what the place is like. Note the iconic furniture ;)

Time to Go Home

It’s now 10:00 pm and time to go home — you have school tomorrow!! For an easy ride back, simply take the intercity bus from Incheon to Seoul! The ride takes about an hour and 20 minutes, but you don’t have to transfer anywhere; just sit back and relax. From Mansu-dong, get on bus 1301 at Samik-Gwangmyeong Apartments/삼익-광명아파트. The bus stop is only a few blocks away from CanMore, and you should be able to see the Gwangmyeong Apartments in the distance to guide you. Bus 1301 stops at the main locations in Seoul, such as Hongdae and Seoul Station. Check it out on Google Maps:

What a fun day you’ve had! From the Grand Park to playing pool to visiting cafes and dining on the best chicken in the world, today was an amazing date. Who knew Incheon could be so much fun?! So, when will you be back?



I said, “Hey! I got some new shoes on and suddenly everything’s right.” —Paulo Nutini

I descend the four flights of stairs to take the 7am train from Suraksan Station in northeastern Seoul to Noksapyeong, an area towards the center of the city, every morning. I go underground in Suraksan and come up in Noksapyeong. Although I have come to know both of those areas well now, but I cannot picture what the miles of earth I am passing under look like. So I get out of the subway and walk. From station to station to station and to station. I know what I’m going under now.  I want to walk you through a part of Seoul you might not have seen before, literally. I want to show you the real streets of Seoul. I want you to see what goes on above the jihachul.

We start in Hongdae. Start out of exit two and make an immediate u-turn. As you walk down the street (towards Hapjeong station), you’ll see an ahjumma selling some of the most delicious fried tteok and tattertots I’ve ever tasted. Past the fried tteok, if you keep walking, there will be a huge LIG building on your right. Inside the lobby there is an art hall with a pop-up noonchi, from wooden structures to landscape paintings. Keep walking and you will find yourself at Hapjeong station. Walk past that.

This is where hongdae ends. The feeling of trendy youth shops is lost in bigger office buildings and more toned colors. Keep walking. If you follow the main road (YangHwaRo) past Hapjeong station, you will come to the Han River. Walk over the bridge and stop at the restaurant/cafe on your right. This cafe overlooks the river and sells a sweet strawberry mocha latte and some nice pastries. But don’t drink too much, yet. 

If you walk past the restaurant, on your right hand side, you will be in Seonyudo Park. The visitor’s center is usually vacant and so it is a nice place to put your bags down, sit on the cold stone floor and look over the garden with delicious 300 won mocha lattes from the machine near the bathrooms. And for 300 won a cup, you can drink more than just one.

When you leave the park, go back across the same bridge you came on and then down to the Han’s walking path. Go right on the walking path and walk until you see the red bridge, the backdrop for many Korean dramas. The bridge is about a kilometer and a half from World Cup Stadium. To get to WCS, walk past the ridge, around the parking lot, over the small bridge and make a right onto the walking path. If you walk here for about 15 minutes, you’ll see a sign for World Cup stadium. Follow the signs. 

You really have a goal-den opportunity to experience what a Korean soccer game and so if you go to the stadium’s website you can find a game schedule (FC Seoul!) ( scroll to the bottom and call that number)

Because you are already at the Han and at one of the most beautiful industrially designed bridges, you have another golden opportunity- to see sunset on the river ( The closest subway station is World Cup Stadium Station on Line 6.

For day two, I want to walk you through some of Seoul’s history. The ‘88 Olympic Games was one of the first time Seoul was showcased on a truly global scale. In talking with my host parents, they told me that it was in 1988 that they tasted pizza for the first time. Walk straight out of Jamsil Station, Exit  10. You feel the ‘80’s as you exit the station. In between the two busy— it is at this point in writing this post I realize I am the only one left in the entire subway and that the cars were no longer moving. I wait and wait some more. Sure enough about ten minutes later I hear the engines rumble and the train starts to move again. Before it reaches the next station, I see an ahjumma coming towards me. We are alone in the cart. I ask her what happened and she told me the subway had made its last stop and we were all supposed to get off.  We both laughed. There was nothing else to do. So we laughed— lanes of traffic, there are statues commemorating the ‘88 Olympic Games in Seoul. Keep walking straight for about one kilometer and you will arrive at Mongchontoseong Station Exit 3. Descend into the station and come out of Exit 1. This is the entrance to Olympic Park. Walk through the huge entrance gate to the park’s walking path. The path encircles the entire park so whether you make a right or a left, you will end right where you started. I won’t tell you which way to go, although on your way around, make sure to stop at the Seoul Bakjae Museum and look at some of the skillfully crafted prehistoric models. Also, if you are in the mood, there are gymnasiums, gyms and an Olympic pool you can use that give student discounts (although the discount aren’t much).

Walk back to Mongchontoseong Station, out of Exit 3, and down the main road to return to Jamsil Station Exit 10. Leave Jamsil Station from Exit 7 this time and keep walking straight. This is SongPiDeRo, a road that will lead you to the Han river. Walk across the bridge and onto the North side of the river.  There is a nice path alongside the river, but I recommend walking one more block to TteuksomRo where there are more stores and activity (make a left). If you walk until TteuksomRo and make a left, about a block and half from the Starbucks on your right hand side is PapBurger. You can fill up on some unique and inexpensive hamburger-rice combos. Regardless of which path you choose, you will be walking towards the deceptively named Tteuksom Resort Station. Although there isn’t a “resort,” there is a nice park and library shaped like a worm. If you take TteoksomRo, walk until you see a sign for “Tteuksom Resort” and follow the signs to the “Hangang Park,” (make a right when you see Starbucks on the corner). Underneath the station is a library/lounge/cafe in the shape of a worm. If you go up into the worm, you can get a better view of the river. When at the park, go to the large cement area that lies just east of the station. You have seen this place before. It might be PSYchologically difficult to remember where you saw it. Hint: as you look across the river you see Gangnam.

I hope I was able to walk you through some parts of Seoul you haven’t seen before and help you get a better sense, spatially, as to how the city is structured. Never forget that although the jihachul is fast and convinient, there is a certain unparalleled experienced in walking through the incredible city we live in.

Entrance to Olympic Park 

 Indoor Swimming Pool 

Overlooking the riverSeoul Sunset Halfway across the Han

걷기 정말 좋아한다. 그 걷기 안내가  서울에  더  알아보고싶으면 좋겠다.   가끔은 모든 곳고 것을 볼 수 없다. 그래서 제 걷기 경험을 주고싶다.  그 생각하기 방법과  어떻게  세성에 볼줄 알  수 있다.    항상 질문있으면 물어봐도되다. 줄건하세요!

Some useful words and phrases:

Bridge: 다리

Where is the 30 cent coffee machine?: 삼십원을 모카를 주는 마신이 어디에 있어요?

Olympic Park: 올림픽  공원

Excuse me, do you know how to get to World Cup Stadium?:  시례합니다. 월드컵기장에 어떻게 가는지 알아요? .

Where is the closest subway station from here?: 여기에서 가장 가까운 지하철역이 어디에 있어요?