Monday, August 18, 2014

Destination Seoul: Korean Food You Must Try

Photo Credit to Ann Yakult Martinez

If you are thinking of traveling to South Korea, one of the things you can look forward to is the variety of food you can try. While most of them are spicy and could take some getting used to, why not open your mind and your taste buds and have a grand food adventure together with your enjoyment of the sights and sounds of this once isolationist country.

If you have seen some South Korean movies or drama, you might be familiar with some of the food you can eat in restaurants and even in street food stalls. You might not know their names, but you might remember what they look like and how much your mouth waters at their sight.

      1.      Koreans love their soju and oftentimes have to battle with hangovers. Food is still one of their best cures and they swear by haejang-guk or hangover stew. It is a steamy and spicy stew (soup) made from beef broth with lumps of congealed ox blood, radish, bean sprouts and cabbage, which is sure to kick-start your day. 

      2.      One of the most well-known Korean food is kimchi, which has been around for more than 2,000 years. The enduring Korean traditional food, which they eat with almost everything at any time of the day has 200 varieties, some of which are seasonal. The most popular is the baechukimchi or the whole (napa) cabbage kimchi. One of the less spicy ones is the daikon or chopped radish kimchi.

Kimchi grilled with Pork. Photo Credit to Ann Yakult Martinez

      3.      If you love grilled food, one of the best is samgyeopsal, or grilled pork, accompanied by sliced onions, raw garlic kimchi, perilla leaves and lettuce. Traditionally the cooked pork is wrapped in perilla or lettuce, which is dabbed with ssamjang, a mix of gochujang (chili paste), doenjang (soybean paste) and garlic. It is still spicy but milder than red chili paste and saltier.

A three layered fats or Samgyeopsal

      4.      Kimchijiggae for non-Korean speakers is called kimchi stew. It is a good thing to eat during lunch or dinner. With this stew, the cabbage kimchi is chopped and sautéed in oil. Cellophane noodles, tuna or pork, chopped spring onions and other vegetables are well as tofu and broth make up this filling dish. It is served with a side dish, and what do you know? It's still kimchi!

      5.      The next dish may take some bravado to try. It is called soy sauce crab or ganjanggejang. People who have tried this dish said that it can be addicting. However, you have to know that these are raw crabs marinated in soy sauce and a mix of aromatic herbs for a few days to remove the raw and fishy taste. It is often called the 'rice thief' because the people who love this dish eat more rice just so they can consume more soy sauce crab. Normally very fresh female crabs with roe are chosen when making this dish.

      6.      Bossam is simply steamed pork, but it is not an ordinary dish. The tender pork is sliced into bite sized pieces and eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves spread with ssamjang or saeujeot, which is a pink-colored dipping salty dipping sauce made of pickled krill (tiny shrimps).

      7.      But if you are hankering for something that will not burn your tongue because of all the fiery spices, you can try japjae or chapjae, a flavorful side dish made with cellophane noodles mixed with light soy sauce and sesame oil with a bit of sugar, sautéed pork and assorted vegetables and mushrooms before getting mixed together and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Or you can have bibimbap, which was once a royal dish. It is made up of cooked rice, sautéed mixed vegetables, and beef topped with one egg, a sprinkling of sesame oil and a teaspoonful of chili paste. You mix everything up before you eat the bibimbap.  You can also try the Korean version of rolled sushi, kimbap, made with cooked rice, strips of crab stick, egg omelet, blanched carrots, fresh cucumbers, pickled radish and anything you can think of, rolled and tightly wrapped in gim or laver (dried seaweed sheet) and sliced into bite-sized rounds.

A bowl of chapjae. Photo credit to Ann Yakult Martinez.

For sure there are items in this list that will suit your taste buds. Otherwise, you can always have some of the ubiquitous ramyun or instant noodles in a variety of flavors and degree of spiciness, but that's beating the purpose of having a food adventure. Please also check my post about surviving your trip in Korea without learning the language


About the author of this article

Ronnie Avelino is working for Day Translations, Inc., a global interpreting and translation company that provides Korean translation services. If you want to know important facts, people, and history of South Korea please click here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tour Some Places in Seoul in One Day - A Mini Itinerary Guide to Travel Korea

Travelling in South Korea doesn't need to be expensive. There are places in Seoul you can visit without really spending that much. Here, I will give you heads up to visit several place in Seoul starting from Insadong, then Gyeongbokgung Palace, Gwanghamun Square, Cheonggye Plaza and lastly Jogyesa Temple.

This itinerary guide is designed to visit 5 famous places in Seoul in just one day (or less). Depending on your patience and your determination to explore the places, you can visit these 5 awesome places in Seoul before the sunset. If you are in for a day tour adventure, hop in and find out the directions and features of the places I will include in this itinerary. 


At the crowded Insadong

Let’s start with Insadong. Why visit this place? I have two reasons: first is because this is located in the heart of the City of Seoul, making it very accessible to the public. Secondly, this place is very important in Korea. If you want to engulf yourself with Korean culture and know more about the place by looking to its traditional value, this place is a must visit in Seoul. At Insadong, you can find Korea’s treasure, and by treasure I mean the country’s valuable traditional items FOR SALE. 

Some souvenir stuffs you can buy at Insadong

Yes, you read it right, if you are looking for something precious to bring home or souvenir items to cherish, Insadong is the perfect place to visit. Insadong looks very old making it appear more traditional and valuable. There are a lot of galleries in the area where you can see spectacular Korean traditional paintings and sculptures.

A traditional cafe at Insadong

Unique items you can see and buy at Insadong

To go to Insadong via subway, follow the instruction:

      1.        Take subway line number 3 (Orange Line)
      2.       Get off at Anguk Station
      3.       Go to exit number 6
      4.       Walk straight for about 100 m.


Next stop after Insadong is at Gyeongbokgung Palace. Out of all the five palaces standing in South Korea right now, Gyeongbokgung is the grandest of all. It is considered to be Korea’s “Northern Palace”. 

An ANTM pose in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace

It has witnessed the horrible Japanese invasion during year 1592-1598, it was in fact destroyed but through the effort of Korean Government, the palace has been restored and still standing up to now. At this palace, you can visit Korea’s historical structures. You can also witness the ceremonial changing of guards in this place.

Guard at Gyoengbogkung Palace

From Insadong, you can either walk or take a subway train to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. If you are already familiar in Seoul, you can refer to the map below on how to find your way to Gyeongbokgung Palace from Insadong. But if you don’t want to take the risk of getting lost, you may take a taxi (could cost you about 3,000 won to 5,000 won) or subway. Here is the direction:

     1.       From Insadong market, go back to Anguk Station (Line Number 3, Orange Line)
     2.       Take the train going to Gyeongbokgung Station
     3.       Get off at Gyeongbokgung station and go to Exit number 5

Map from Insadong to Gyeongbokgung Palace


Next, I will take you to Gwanghamun Square. It is just a few meters away from Gyeongbokgung palace with an area of 20,000 meter squared and a statue of one of the most important historical personality in Korea, King Sejong. He is the founder of Korean alphabet Hangeul

In front of the statue of King Sejong at Gwanghamun Square

The plaza is a good place to meet with friends. You can also find several attractions and services in the area. You can wear Hanbook (the traditional Korean clothing) for free and explore the place where Korean history and culture is being presented.

Wearing Hanbok at Gwanghamun Square

You can just walk from Gyeongbokgung Palace to Gwanghamun Square. It is located in front of the Palace and all you need to is cross the street.

Map from Gyeongbokgung Palace to Gwanghamun Square


After Gwanghamun Square, a nearby Cheonggye Plaza is also a must place to see in Seoul. The Cheonggye Plaza is the head of the Cheonggyecheon stream, a stream that runs to the heart of Seoul and is 8.4 Kilometers long. At Cheonggye Plaza, you will see this Spring sculpture in red and blue which represents the colorful Korean wrapping cloth called BOJAGI

Spring Sculpture in Cheonggye Plaza

Once a concrete highway, the place has now a miniature stream where people can meet up and spend leisure time together with family and friends.

A mini stream at Cheonggye Plaza. This is the head of Cheonggyecheon stream

To go to Cheonggye Plaza, you can just walk about 60 meters away from Gwanghamun Station.


This may not be the most interesting place to visit but for those who want to experience temple stay or just visit and see a Buddhist Temple, Jogyesa Temple is a place you must visit. It is just near Cheonggye Plaza, you can just walk from there to the temple. What you will see in the temple is a 500 year old tree standing tall and proud in front of the temple. Jogyesa Temple is unique because unlike any other temples in Korea, this one is located at the very heart of Seoul. Usually, temples are located in the mountains where monks can solemnly meditate. The advantage of Jogyesa Temple is that, it can be accessed easily by people. You don’t need to go to the mountains to visit a temple.

Entrance to the Jogyesa temple

To get to Jogyesa temple from Cheonggye Plaza, go find your way towards the Jonggak Station. It is very near the plaza. Once you get to Jonggak Station, find the Exit 2 of the station (note that you don’t need to take a ride to the train). From the Exit 2 of Jonggak Station, go straight for about 70 m, cross the street and walk for another 100 meters to go to Jogyesa temple.

Map from Gwanghamun Square to Jogyesa Temple

So there you go everyone, 5 remarkable places in Seoul to visit in less than one day. I am sure you will enjoy it because aside from the fun these places can offer, you don’t need to shell out big amount of money to tour around these tourist destinations in Seoul.

Enjoy and Happy Trip!!!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Korea’s Awesome Summer Destination: Muchangpo Beach(무창포해수욕장)

Muchangpo Beach

Maybe one of the most interesting places I have visited here in South Korea is the Muchangpo Beach. It is because Korea is not actually known for beaches, unless otherwise you go down south at Jeju Island, you would rather go around the city of Seoul and Busan than going to the beach. However, the idea of getting soaked into the water under the scorching heat of the sun seems inviting, plus it’s summer, it is this time of the year when all roads lead to the beach, so I joined the bandwagon.


I could not compare Muchangpo Beach to any other beaches in South Korea because it was the first and only beach I visited so far in this country. All I can say is that it is not a typical blue sea with white fine sands where beach bodies sunbathe. Think of an ideal beach and Muchangpo would not qualify to that standard. But it is a unique and interesting place to visit especially during summer season. You may not get the best a beach can offer but there is something about this place that would make you want to go back.


Muchangpo Beach at Low Tide

The most remarkable aspect of Muchangpo beach I observed so far is the extensive low tide both in the aspect of time and area. It looks like the beach has more time on low tide, and if it is high tide, it is not really that wavy. I guess because it is summer time that is why water level is not remarkably deep. What I like most when it is low tide is that, some small islands (or can we call them islets) show up. Well at one glance, there’s not much about the island except for photo opportunity, but you will be surprised to see some living creatures in the island that you can only witness when you dive at high tide.

Small Islands appearing during low tide

There are crabs, snails, starfish and whatnot. During low tide, Koreans and other tourists go to these islands to collect seafoods and make a nice meal out of it. When we went to the island, we also collected some crabs and snails for dinner and it was fun taking something fresh from the Mother Nature. I was able to fill my pocket with some poor sea creatures.

Picking up some crabs and shells

Another remarkable event during low tide at Muchangpo Beach is the appearance of the Mystic Sea road. If you know the story of Moses, you may be familiar with how the sea parted and leave a walking trail in the middle so people could step and walk into it. This phenomenon is also happening at Muchangpo Beach. It’s just sad that the sea parting did not happen when we went there. Usually, it happens at late Spring between the months of May and June. People could literally walk from the coastline to the adjacent island during low tide.


I love sunset, but Muchangpo has the most breathtaking sunset in the world. I would just like to let the photos do the talking. I guess I was lucky enough to have a lot of volunteer models that time. These are unedited photos so you could see how beautiful the sunset is at its natural color.

Pastor Jerry Yusi and wife Cynthis Yusi

The Ladies of Sinwoldong Sungkyul Church Foreign Ministry

The BIG Brothers

Group pic at the early stage of sunset


Night time is never boring at Muchangpo because of the fireworks. I don't know why but people there light fireworks every night. Imagine how awesome it is to light fireworks on the seashore.

Fireworks at Muchangpo Beach


No matter how much I want to ignore them, these migratory birds at the beach will sink in to your senses whether you like it or not. I don’t find them annoying but I find them intimidating.. hahaha… It’s weird but I got intimidated by their presence. If you will visit Muhangpo beach especially during summer time, expect to swim with the birds.

Migratory birds at the beach


Motor boat, jet ski, banana boat, fly fish….. name it, and you can find these joy rides at Muchangpo beach. Although it’s quite pricey but I am sure you would like the experience. We did not try any of those rides anyway, but if you would like to check the prices, see the list below:

Motor boat (10 persons) : Adult: 15,000 KWon ; Children: 10,000 Kwon  per head
Jet Ski (3 persons): 30,000 KWon  per head
Single Banana Boat (7 persons): 20, 000 KWon per head
Double Banana Boat (12 persons): 20, 000 Kwon per head
Fly Fish (4 persons): 30, 000 KWon per head
Peanut Boat (3 persons): 25,000 KWon per head
Big Marble (4 persons): 20, 000 Kwon per head
Bandwagon (4 persons) : 20,000 Kwon per head
Wake board (1 persons): 30,000 Kwon per head

One of the fun rides available at Muchangpo Beach


What I like most about Muchangpo is that you can actually shop while beaching because you can see a lot of convenience stores and establishments right in front of the beach. If you want to stay overnight, there are a lot of Motels also near Muchangpo beach. If you will come in a group just like in our case, you can stay at the pension houses near the beach. We stayed at this three storey pension house called “Full House”. You may need to make reservation in advance. It is not difficult to find it since it is located just about 30 meters away from the seashore.

Full House Pension House


The actual address of Muchangpo Beach is at 10, Yeollinbada 1-gil, Ungcheon-eup, Boryeong-si, Chungcheongnam-do -충청남도 보령시 웅천읍 열린바다1길 10 (웅천읍). Depending on the mode of transportation and the condition of the road, you can reach Muchangpo from Seoul in 3 to 5 hours. If you go there via public transportation, take an express bus bound for Boryeong Bus Terminal from Seoul Nambu Terminal. Get off at Boryeong Bus Terminal and transfer to Bus number 901to Biryeongyoyang Hospital (보령요양병원) Bus Stop. Then transfer to Bus 501 located in front of a Medical Pharmacy and get off at Biche Palace Bus Stop. From the bus stop, the beach is 580 m away. You can either walk or take a taxi from there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

South Korean Government Announces Raise of Minimum Wage for 2015

Good news for all of us working here in South Korea. Effective January 2015, the new minimum wage in South Korea will be raised by 7.1 percent. According to Yonhap news, the new minimum wage for year 2015 has been set at 5,580 won per hour, this is slightly higher to the current minimum wage which is 5, 210 per hour. This means, those who are working 8 hours a day could earn 44,640 a day and 1.16 Million won monthly for those who are working 209 hours a month.

The minimum wage raise has been agreed by the trilateral council, labor and management representatives last June 2014  and has been approved by the government.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Filipino Fans Spread Rumor About Lee Min Ho's Bisexuality Issue and Kang Ji Hwan Sex Scandal

Philippines is one of the many Asian countries that patronize Korean Drama and Kpop. There are several Korean actors and actresses famous in the Philippines and they also have fan based in the said country. However, I am afraid that time will come, these famous Korean stars will hesitate to visit Philippines because of fear of being victimized again with malicious news and scandals.

Recently, two of the famous Korean actors became a victim of social media networking prank. I am referring to Kang Ji Hwan and Lee Min Ho.

Let's start with Kang Ji Hwan first. For those who do not know him, he is one of the casts of a Korean hit drama "Big Men". A lot of filipinos already know him and he has some fans in the Philippines too. Recently, the actor traveled to the Philippines for a magazine photoshoot. The supposed to be happy trip to Philippines had gone haywire when a certain woman posted a selfie on Facebook with Kang Ji Hwan on the background sleeping with a caption "together sleep with Korean actor".

The Filipino netizens who saw the photos quickly jumped into a malicious conclusion and the photos went viral online. The woman is said to be the wife of Kang Ji Hwan's guide in the Philippines and the photos are supposed to be just for fun. However, Filipino fans did not take it as a joke but rather a malicious post and a juicy news meant to be spread online. The woman in question posted apologetic message on Facebook clarifying the scandal.

But the most recent big news is all about Lee Min Ho's Bisexuality issue. Apparently, an online news with a hoax headline victimized the most famous Korean actor in the Philippines to date, Lee Min Ho. The fake online news with title "Lee Min Ho Admits Being Bisexual" has widely spread on social networking media after it caught the attention of a lot of Filipino fans. However, the news content did not really say about the actor's bisexuality but about the actor's visit to the Philippines for a concert. Without reading the actual content of the news, people started to conclude just based on the fake headline and started spreading the rumor online.

So what do you think is the impact of this news to the Korean actors and actresses that we admire? Will they still go to the Philippines without the fear of being accused of malicious issues?