Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Korea Attack: Yeonpyeong Island Shelled By North Korea Nov.23, 2010

Yesterday I was doing my daily checking-facebook-between-classes and I noticed that many status updates from other teachers in Korea were links about North Korea attacking an Island near the disputed border between North and South Korea.

I've included the story from Huffington Post below, and will try to give the general mood in Seoul. My coworkers seem unfazed, and my boss seems dismissive of the attack. When I asked her if she was nervous, she explained that this sort of thing happens every few years, and it is just North Korea trying to get some attention. 

Everything was business as usual for the day, though by the time I found out at 4pm yesterday, I had only one class to go and was antsy to get home and read more news.

The Canadian Embassy sent out a message stating that they have not issued any advisories for Canadians.

So, as much as the news sources back in North America may be throwing around some pretty scary words, things seem to be back to normal today.

Keep sending good thoughts to the Koreas, though!

Today's violence, which saw dozens of shells rain down on their homes and set more than 60 buildings on fire, is the most serious act of aggression against civilians from Pyongyang since the bombing of Korean Air flight 858 in 1987. It was the first artillery strike on South Korean soil since 1953.
All over the news yesterday
As plumes of black smoke billowed from the coastline of the island, South Korea moved onto its highest peacetime emergency footing, returning fire on North Korea and scrambling F-16 fighter jets to the scene.
Yeonpyeong Island, which spans just three square miles and was once claimed by North Korea in the 1970s, has always been a point of tension because of its location near the Northern Limit Line, the sea border between the two countries.
Around 1,600 people live on the island, mostly fishermen drawn by the rich surrounding waters, as well as a garrison of 1,000 South Korean sailors.
The residents are used to acts of North Korean aggression. In June, North Korea responded to joint military drills by the United States and South Korea in the Yellow Sea by firing 130 artillery shells towards Yeonpyeong Island. However, only ten of these actually cross the Northern Limit Line and none caused any damage, landing in the sea.
Note: Incheon is where the International Airport is located
Today's attack also appears to have been in response to military exercises in the vicinity. "We were carrying out naval, air force and army training exercises and they seem to have opened fire in objection," a military official told YTN, a South Korean television station.
The attack came as Stephen Bosworth, the United States envoy on North Korea, departed from Seoul for Beijing. Mr Bosworth is attempting to find a consensus to restart the six-party talks between China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and North Korea on the rogue state's denuclearisation.
It also comes as North Korea prepares for a change of leader, with Kim Jong-un, the third son of Kim Jong-il, widely expected to take over from his 68-year-old father. Analysts have noted that the last handover of power in North Korea was also accompanied by a series of aggressive acts intended to strengthen the new leader's relationship with the army. An internal power struggle in North Korea, between hardliners and reformists, is also thought to be underway, and could have sparked military action.
The attack, coupled with the unveiling over the weekend of a new light water nuclear reactor, equipped with a startlingly accomplished array of centrifuges, underlines North Korea's continuing intransigence in the face of international pressure on it to disarm and cooperate in a peace process.
Eight years ago, the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong saw 13 North Korean sailors and four South Korean sailors killed as gunboats traded fire across the Northern Limit Line. The 85mm guns fired by the North Korean ships were loud enough to rattle the windows of residents on the island, according to news reports. Three years before than, a further 30 sailors died in the first battle of Yeonpyeong.
Picture of Yeonpyeong Island
Aware of the precarious situation of the island, South Korea maintains one of its newest class of "patrol killer" guided-missile ships, designed for close-range naval skirmishes, nearby.
Meanwhile, the island itself is equipped with 19 fully-stocked bomb shelters, into which panicked residents fled today. Lined with tank traps and trenches, it is permanently ready for war, and residents conduct monthly air raid drills and keep gas masks in their homes.
South Korea has often speculated that the North will attack Yeonpyeong in order to strengthen its hand in any negotiations with the West.
Today's attack, however, coming after the sinking of the South Korean Cheonan warship with the loss of 46 sailors, may tip the tensions between the two countries over the edge. However, there are few immediate military responses available to the South. The North Korean gun posts which opened fire today are well-entrenched, and difficult to attack.

Dinner with Jan

On Friday I went for dinner with my cousin Jan and his girlfriend at his place.

He had invited several other people to dinner, including a friend of his, Junsu, who also happens to be one of the members of famous K-pop group 2PM (see their wikipedia page). During dinner, he put a photo up on twitter of the group, which had pages and pages of comments within minutes!

I don't really know anything about k-pop, but it was a pretty cool night!


Harry Potter.. I have to wait another month for this?!

This past Thursday, it seemed like everyone I know went out for the opening of the final Harry Potter movie. 

The movie doesn't come out here for another month... it's killing me!!!

Ads in the subway

Seoul Peace Marathon Nov 21, 2010

Last weekend I ran another 10km race, this time in Olympic Stadium. Around 10,000 people ran. It was a lot of fun!

Our group-(back row) Julia, Andrew, Carly, Steph, Kari (front row) Renee, Me

Picnic afterwards on the field in Olympic Stadium
My time this week was 1:00:39.92 .. I stopped to use the bathroom mid race, so I'm gonna go ahead and say that I managed to finish in under and hour! WOOHOO!

The winner ran in 35 minutes..

Friday, November 19, 2010

I finally tricked some students into liking me..

Diana and Sophia

Got my picture in a concert blog!

A couple months ago I went to a Global Gathering-- Fatboy Slim/Justice/Armin Van Buurin all day concert. The shows were a lot of fun, and of course, we wore our animal onsies!

Scroll down to picture 38- its a picture of me and Renee!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chonggyecheon Stream- Seoul Lantern Festival

I forgot to write about this before, but is definitely worth mentioning. On the Monday before Sarah left, we decided to head down to Chonggyecheon Stream in the heart of downtown Seoul to check out the Seoul Lantern Festival.

Scores of artists from around the world contributed and displayed their works along the stream. It coincided with Seoul hosting the G20 so I think it was meant to also be a proud display of all Seoul has to offer, and a major tourist draw for the week.

Luckily, we went late after work on a Monday when it wasn't busy, and so could avoid the large crowds that had been flocking to see the event.

The lanterns were great, but what is more interesting to me is the story behind Chonggyecheon Stream. Before its opening in 2005, this downtown core area only contained an elevated highway and dilapidated machine shops. In 2003 the mayor of Seoul commissioned the massive urban renewal project on the site of an old stream that flowed before rapid post-war economic development required it to be covered by the highway. It cost $900 million to make, but has since become a popular location for both Koreans and tourists to see the reintroduction of nature to the city, and beautiful design.

Chongyyecheon before and after

Sarah and Laura in front of the Brazilian"Christ the Redeemer" lantern 

Lantern Festival at night taking forms such as traditional dancers, exotic animals, and iconic landmarks
Sarah on the stream

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seoul Sports Marathon November 14th, 2010

On Sunday I ran a 10km race in the Seoul Marathon. It was along the river at the old World Cup Stadium on a cold but sunny and beautiful clear day in Seoul. This was probably the biggest race I have run in yet; events included 5km, 10km, half marathon, and full marathon distance.

My final time was 1:02:31. Definitely room for improvement, but at least I know what I can achieve with little or no training! (My legs were unhappy with this)

 One of my fellow runners, Carli, sent over some pictures from the day. Enjoy!
After the race they had a tent giving out free tofu stew with soy sauce, and mokoli (a fermented rice wine) . Needless to say, we stuck around drinking mokoli for a few hours after the race :)
The group waiting at the finish line (minus one who was running the half)

Next race is next Sunday. I'm hoping to break 1 hour! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Student drew this picture of me in class.. not bad!

My door lock broke

I arrived home at 1am on Thursday night after a birthday dinner... and my key card was busted. The unlock flashed green, but then it wouldn't move the bolt in the door. I tried maybe 3 dozen times and then decided to attempt getting help from the limited-english front desk. 

This is the picture I took after 20 minutes of watching this dude fiddling with my door doing the exact same thing I had tried for the previous 15 minutes. The master key that fit in the slot below the door snapped while he was trying to turn it.

He soon called a maintenance guy from downstairs (old man, looked like he had been woken up by the call and was not pleased) who just got down to business. He slammed the door with a hammer, waking everyone else on the floor up. Eventually he jimmied the door open!!! I gave him one of my spare boxes of Pepero (빼빼로) for his troubles, and went to bed. 

Happy Pepero Day!!!

While most of North America knows November 11th as a time to remember those who bravely fought for our country, things are a bit different here.

South Korea has unofficially adopted Pepero (빼빼로) Day. Pepero is a cookie stick, dipped in
chocolate syrup, manufactured by Lotte Confectionary (The Lotte brand is basically the high-end Walmart of S. Korea). Rumor has it, a few years ago people started giving gifts of Pepero sticks on 11/11 because it looks like four sticks lined up. Now it has begun a massive Pepero buying frenzy (extra large pepero sticks, pepero boxes shaped like a heart, pepero gift boxes, etc) around this time each year. Sort of like a Valentines Day, except only one company stands to profit!

Every year, 55% of the annual Pepero sales are made for this November 11th "holiday". While the company denies starting the annual event, it DEFINITELY promotes it.

I have no complaints. Arriving at school, I immediately received two boxes of Pepero, one box of ferro rocher chocolates, and a cookie/chocolate from my students.

So from me to you, Happy Pepero Day!

Bye bye Sarah~

She left on a jet plane...

But she'll be back again!

Next visitor arrives at the end of November.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Halloween Party

On October 29 my school held its semi-annual "Market day" and halloween party. Each month, students are given "talking club dollars" depending on how well they do their homework, how many classes they take, etc. These kids have been saving their dollars now for almost 6 months. Some kids had managed to save up to 100 "talking club dollars",  usually getting between 6 to 12 dollars a month.

On this day each room transforms into an activity, marketplace, or game. It kind of reminds me of the carnival day we had at our high school!

This party had a games room run by Sarah and me, a face painting room, a Twister room (playing the hand/foot to color game), a candy market room, a cotton candy room, a marketplace room (buying pencils, toys, etc) and a magic show room.

The day was exhausting but a big success! Plus, seeing the kids in their halloween costumes was pretty hilarious considering they only bought them for this party!
Sarah and Laura setting up our game room- pin the tail/nose on the cat/witch

Sky, Sarah, Laura Teacher

Annica, Michelle, Jessica, Jessica's sister

Minds being blown by the halloween magician

Alice, Mary, Annie

Talking Club coworkers (and boss, white shirt back row)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween in Korea

Happy Halloween!

On halloween night we headed out to Hongdae, an area of Seoul that encompasses many clubs and bars, as well as the student-ghetto for several Korean universities.

We gathered in a park with hundreds of other halloween-ers and had a great time seeing some of the other costumes people had come up with.
Getting choked by a Korean clown on stilts

Darts with Richard, Wes, and Sarah

Met up with my cousin Jan and his girlfriend, 심정