Tagkorea

Not your typical “sign your life away” kind of waiver

I stumbled upon this when I was rummaging through some of my things.  It’s a waiver for visiting the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North and South Korea.  It pretty much says that my safety is not guaranteed if the North decides to attack.

The United Nations Command, the United States of America, and the Republic of Korea cannot guarantee the safety of visitors and may not be held accountable in the event of a hostile enemy act.

There’s even a section about not interacting with the soldiers on the other side too.

Fraternization, including speaking, making gestures or associating with personnel from the Korea People’s Army/Chinese People’s Volunteers (KPA/CPV) side, is strictly prohibited

Anyway, the full text is here for people who are curious

VisitorDeclaration

Seoul: Following the Korean Stereotypes – No, Not Plastic Surgery

Seoul: Following the Korean Stereotypes – No, Not Plastic Surgery

Food

Dog lovers out there beware, some people eat dog meat in Korea – in a stew form, called Bosintang. We had to go to a shady shop in an alley in Myeongdong to get it. I didn’t know that it wasn’t a mainstream thing to eat until the lady at the tourist info center told us.

The meat was very tough (typical carnivore meat), and it tasted a lot like lamb. To be honest, it was pretty good, but it’s not something I would eat more of, since beef, chicken and other mainstream meats taste so much better.

Now for something less weird than dog meat. Our friend who lives in Seoul took us to a Korean restaurant to have something more mainstream.

It’s nice to know a local who is able to introduce us to such delicious food! Aside from the pork, we had acorn jelly, chives, seaweed, etc. Next, there is eating fresh seafood at Noryangjin Fish Market – a giant warehouse looking building where people sell seafood and then buyers can take their purchases to a nearby restaurant for preparation.


Somehow it was clear to all shop personnel that we were Chinese, and people kept yelling at us in Mandarin to buy their seafood. One shop kept insisting to us that we buy crab, and as we kept refusing, they kept lowering the price even though we actually did not want to buy it for other reasons. This “unintentional” haggling, however, did get us a slightly better deal on fish, giant prawns, clams and octopuses.

Eating the octopus raw is interesting since when the tentacles were served to us, they were still squirming as they were freshly killed. I learned that the whole point of eating this is to feel the tentacle grab on to the inside of the mouth as it is chewed, but otherwise it is pretty tasteless.

We also had Korean barbecue, although for some reason, the place we went to was super expensive for very low quality meat.  We still don’t know why it was so expensive.  We went to another Korean barbecue place that was a lot better and cheaper, but I felt that the Korean barbecue restaurants were on par in terms of quality.  And oh yes, there was also lots of kimchi.

E-Sports

I’m not a fan of StarCraft, but I play DotA 2, so naturally we watched a DotA 2 tournament. There was no cost to watch the game, but there wasn’t that big of an audience either, so a rowdy audience was definitely missing. The game was exciting and we saw a lot of pro plays, but the cast was all in Korean.

Before entering the stadium, we saw people at the entrance wearing Zephyr shirts, and I thought, “they must be fans of that team or something” and asked them for directions for where to get food. Later, I found out they played for Zephyr. Awkward.

During the intermission, I got to chat a bit with “Whiplash”, one of the English casters, who was casting the game for Internet viewers. It was weird at first since he introduced himself by his online name – quite unexpected. From him, I found out that teams who play in Korea generally live together in the same house so it’s easy to practice together.

Pet Cafes

I heard much about them before my trip. It definitely sounded intriguing. Go in, get a drink, pet the animals, right? Kind of, only if you find one that likes being pet by you! Most of the animals we saw didn’t really pay any attention to us except for this one beagle who was licking my friend’s face non stop.

Plastic Surgery

Ads. Ads everywhere. In the street, in the metro – complete with before and after pictures. Walked by a lot of clinics too. Yup it’s definitely a thing in Korea.

Link to more photos: here

The Demilitarized Zone: The Divide between North and South Korea

A day after getting back from my work trip in USA, I went on my next adventure to South Korea and Japan. As a part of the trip, my friend and I went to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The DMZ separates North and South Korea along the 38th parallel and is a result of the end of the Korean War. To this day, tensions between North and South Korea are high. On the tour bus ride there, our passports were checked multiple times as the UN had to account for each person who would be travelling in a potentially dangerous area.


“Korea DMZ” by Rishabh Tatiraju is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Joint Security Area at Panmunjom

The most worthwhile part of the trip was to be able to visit the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom or the so-called “Truce Village”. This is the part of the DMZ where people from the North and South can see each other face-to-face. Travelling here allowed me to see a piece of history that I was already interested in.

Before going in everyone had to sign an agreement, where one passage says, “The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action.” Luckily, the US soldier informed us that it was “highly unlikely for anything to happen”. We were also told to not make any gestures toward the North Korean guards or any tourists on the other side.

The blue buildings are conference buildings where meetings with both sides take place. They are placed such that half of the building lies on each side of the border. The gray/white building is the Panmungak, a North Korean building. On the first door on the left, a North Korean soldier stands on guard. Concrete slabs show the separation between the two sides. I guess this means I’ve technically been to North Korea – at least for a few minutes.

Third Infiltration Tunnel

Another destination we went to was the Third Infiltration Tunnel, which had the potential of being used to attack the South and its location was revealed by North Korean defector. This was known because there were clear signs of holes drilled in the rock for the next blast, and the holes were aimed toward the South side.

To prevent injury, everyone had to wear hard hats – which was a really, really, really good idea since there was a low ceiling and I hit my head at least a dozen times. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photographs underground.


Third Tunnel of Aggression” by Josh Berglund is licensed under CC-BY-2.0

Dora Observatory Post

This is a place where one can look toward North Korea from afar – but photos are not allowed past the yellow line for fear of being mistaken for sniper scopes. It’s pretty barren on that side. If only my camera could take a shot like the image I found on Wikipedia!


The view of North Korea from Dora Observatory” by Josh Berglund is licensed under CC-BY-2.0

Dorasan Station

Dorasan Station is one of the few places one can actually go to Pyeongyang, at least before 2008. Our tour guide happened to be named Dora, so when we got to Dora Mountain she said, in her accented English, something like, “Look! This is my mountain!”

Lunch!

Lunch was a delicious mushroom and beef hotpot with kimchi, salad, and other delicious goodies on the side (if only I knew what I was eating)!

Outdoor Military Vehicle Display in Imginjak

Nothing much to say here – just a showcase of various military vehicles.

Back to Seoul

The tour lasted the full day. It began in Imginjak and ended at the Joint Security Area. We had dinner (more on that very “special” dinner in another post) in Myeongdong and spent the rest of the night walking around there.

Link to more photos: here

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