Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nampodong Street Market: A Must Visit Place in Busan to Shop and Sightseeing

A breathtaking view in one of the streets at Nampodong Market
I found a new favorite place in Korea, it’s a place called Nampodong Street in Busan. The place draws thousands of visitors every year because the venue of Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is just within the area. Add to that some famous tourist attractions like Busan Tower and the Jagalchi Market (I’m going to talk about these in other blogposts). However, for me, what makes Nampodong an awesome place to visit is the street market. It has a lot of assortment of shops which sell not only branded items but also cheap but quality products. In this blogpost, let’s try to check out the Nampodong Street Market and let’s see what we can do in this place.

Since this is a market, shopping is the obvious reason why people go to this street. Nampodong has wide alleys but they also have narrow alleys. There are streets that not even a row of 10 people could be accommodated.

In this photo, we almost fully occupied the width of the street

But what amazed me is that eventhough the alleys are so narrow, they can still manage to install shops and stalls in the middle of the street.

One of the many stalls in the middle of the narrow street

The friendly vendors in the market are easy to talk with. They can even give you discounts for the items if you can speak their language well. The numerous items for sale all over the market is so overwhelming. Bags, shoes, fashionable clothing and even jewelries, name it and you can find it at Nampodong street market.

Anything you can find and buy at Nampodong street market

The market does not only sell clothing and whatnot, to satisfy your gastronomic cravings, street foods are also all over the place. In fact, some people intentionally go to this place not to shop but to eat street food.

Street food at Nampodong

There are also numerous Korean restaurants in the area. If you are looking for a place to dine in at Busan and taste the authentic Korean food, you won’t find it difficult to look for one at Nampodong.

Enjoying Kamjatang at this restaurant

You see, Nampodong Street Market is not only for shopping but also for food tripping. It’s so diverse. And speaking of diversity, if you don’t feel like shopping or eating, you can go sightseeing. Yes, you read it right, sightseeing in the market. At Nampodong, you can find almost everything to satisfy your eyes. Starting from Weird Street to cool mascots and awesome people, you can be fully entertained by just looking at your surroundings.

Having fun with this weird bronze statue

What I can’t forget about Nampodong is the strange but awesome bronze statues lining the streets of the market. Oh well, it start at the very center of the Nampo shopping headquarters where two bronze statues, a man and a woman, half naked are standing tall and proud. This has become the landmark of the market.

City spot at Nampodong Street

Despite being a city market, the place looks a little bit laidback for me. Although there are a lot of modern touches to the buildings and the architecture in general, I will still consider Nampodong Street market real and raw in terms of people and culture. I like it when it’s congested with people but not so noisy.

Next time you go to Busan, don’t forget to include Nampodong Street Market. You must visit this place, or else, your trip to Busan will never be complete.

To go directly to the shopping street, take Metro Line Number 1 (orange Line) and get off at Nampo station. Go to Exit 1 or 3 to the PIFF square.

Check the map below.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Of Sanggojae and Bukchon Hanok Village

The traditional Korean houses at Bukchon Hanok Village
When you're in Korea and if you want to fully experience and immerse in Korean traditional culture, I suggest visiting the place called Bukchon Hanok Village. It is not a place made for tour per se because it is an actual residential area. However, because of its popularity and interesting features, people go to this village to take a walk and to see the Hanok or known as Korean traditional house. Unlike any other folk villages in Korea, Bukchon Hanok village is not artificial. Meaning, what you see now is the actual design of houses during the Joseon Dynasty way back 1392!!! So it’s just like travelling back in time when you stroll around the Bukchon Hanok Village.

The literal meaning of BUKCHON is Northern Village, this was a place where high ranking officials lived during the Joseon Dynasty. People have preserved the place even after the Joseon era and it’s amazing how they passed this on from one generation to another without actually ruining it.

So this is how a typical Hanok looks like:

They are typically single-story building and the structures are generally made of clay, wood and stone. Because Korea has Winter Season, people a long time ago installed Ondol on their Hanok, this is a heated floor which is topped by curved tile roofs.

This is the typical view inside the Hanok.

I am not 100 percent sure that this is what it used to look like because nowadays, people who own these Hanok houses put some modern touches into the house to commercialize it and make business out of it.  People are flocking into this area of Seoul just to see these traditional houses, while this bothers some residence of the village because of the noise, others find this a good opportunity to open a business like cultural centers, museums, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses.

One of the many museums at Bukchon Hanok Village

I like the village because there’s a nostalgic ambiance. Although I don’t exist during the Joseon Dynasty, I get a glimpse of how Korean people lived a long time ago in the area. I wonder how it feels like to really live in this village.

One of the most visited areas in the village is this house called Sanggojae. It’s a Hanok with a modern touch. The reason why it's famous is because it was featured in the Korean drama called Personal Taste.

And I have made fun out of it by doing the Lee Min Ho pose in front of the Sanggojae.

It was nice seeing that house in actual. The house name literally means “A place for mutual love”.

To go to Bukchon Hanok Village, get off at Anguk station on Subway line number 3, go to Exit number 2 and walk straight ahead for about 300 meters.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Corporate Culture of Korea According to the TV Series MISAENG

The recently concluded TV series Misaeng made a big buzz in the entertainment industry because of its impact to the viewers. It is a Korean drama series top billed by Im Si-Wan as the main character Jang Geu Rae. Misaeng is the story of a guy named Geu Rae (which actually means YES in English) who struggled his way climbing up to the corporate ladder of a famous Korean company One International. His logical knowledge in the game BADUK(a cheese like board game) helped him go through the circumstances and difficult situations in the corporate world despite the fact that he did not even graduate in High School.

People are so talking about this TV series that’s why I decided to watch it too. True enough, I was hook since the first episode because I felt like I was watching my own life story. I can really relate to Geu Rae, I think we have the same struggles and experiences. Judging from the first episode, I knew that it was a heavy and a gloomy drama. You will see how an undergraduate started his career doing some odd and demeaning jobs and how he got himself into a big time corporation even without a college degree. You will sympathize him as much as you will hate the people who humiliate him. I also commend the casts for the excellent acting and for giving justice to their respective characters. 

Misaeng reveals the Corporate culture of Korea to the world. Although the story is just a mere fiction based on a webtoon, I can testify that there’s a touch of truth to the story. If you think working with a suit and tie in Korea is glamorous and luxurious, you are wrong. People working in Korean companies have their own fair share of worries and disappointments. In the show Misaeng, we can see the working life of Koreans in different perspective. For this reason, let’s go over the different culture that we can see in a conventional Korean working environment.

1. The drinking culture

If you are in Korea, you will see people in uniform going home drunk. I am not sure how often this is happening and in what day of the week, one thing is for sure, Koreans love alcohol. They have this thing called soju, it’s an alcoholic drink famous in Korea. Others also resort to beer and wine. The reason why drinking is very apparent amongst the Korean is because of stress. When they want to unwind, that translates to drinking soju or beer. One must initiate or invite co workers to drink with him and you can’t just say NO to that invitation, it’s kind of rude for them. If you want to talk to somebody, if you want to thank somebody, or if you want to hang out with somebody, invite the person to have a drink with you, not to mention the spicy Korean food as a side dish.

Koreans are also into coffee. Since soju or beer is not allowed inside the office, people find temporary comfort with coffee. There’s always coffee in their pantry to temporarily relieve stress at work.

2. Discrimination at work

At work, there’s always discrimination and Korea is not exempted with that. Here in Korea, discrimination is very strong especially at work. Usually, women are considered weak and incapable of carrying out tasks, so working women really suffer much from this kind of discrimination. However, in this day and age, women have their own way to prove themselves and sometimes they excel more than the men. This sometimes put them into more trouble because this causes insecurities to some men. Discrimination for women at work is just men’s defense mechanism for their insecurities and pride.

The discrimination at work is not only limited to gender. Sometimes, people are looking into your degree, your school, your scholastic records and to your experience. Korea really value education, if you don’t have any, you might find it hard for people to accept you as their league. That is how Koreans look down to people who don’t have a degree.

3. Pali-pali culture

Every single second for Koreans is very important. You will often hear bosses shouting “Pali-pali” which means “hurry”. You need to work fast and you need to maximize your time in working. The quantity of work is as important as the quality. That is why people are pressured at work because of this hurry culture. However, this makes people more productive at work and it results to better production and somehow helps a company to progress further.

4. Bootlicking

Yes, even in Korea people are willing to lick the boots of their bosses just so they can get favor from him. Whether the motive is for promotion, or salary increase or for commendation, there are always ulterior motives behind bootlicking.  I mean who wants to be somebody’s puppet? If they know they can extract some honey juice to a high ranking person in the company, they are willing to do everything just to get the approval. Yes, bootlickers do exist in Korean corporations.

5. Office Politics

Issues and scandals are part of the system. When things like this happen in a Korean corporate settings, they will openly talk about it, and once resolved and the culprit has been punished they will keep mum about it. Life goes on as usual and you just have to be strong enough to go through all these office politics. It will just pass but there is no assurance that it will never happen again. Remember that there are different personalities in an office, people sometimes are willing to give up integrity and dignity for the sake of money or position.

6. Yell it out

Misaeng also shows how it looks like working with Koreans. If you made mistake, or if you are into arguments, they will shout at each other like they will kill each other. If it is your first time, you will be afraid of them, all the more if you are the one being shouted at (which I already experienced). But if you know Koreans, shouting and yelling is just one way to show off their frustrations and disappointments, but after everything is settled, things will go back to normal. No hatred, no grudges, and no big deal, as if nothing happened. At work, shouting is already a common scenario. If you are planning to be a part of a Korean working environment, you must prepare yourself to be shouted at, but always remember that it’s totally normal especially if everybody is under pressure.

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies in Korean corporate world. It’s not even a walk a in the park. Misaeng shows how different personalities deal with different stressful situations at work. At the end of it all, the family is the reason why everybody is holding on to their jobs. As much as they want to be relieved with the burdens of stressing at work, the family is waiting at their respective homes cheering them and giving them inspiration to hold on and continue working despite the difficulties. At home, people show their different side of personality. What’s important is you leave the worries inside the four corners of the office and become they person that you are at home.

I guess why Misaeng became a big hit to the viewers is because it is very relatable to everyone.  Everybody is talking about work and career and this show is a perfect representation of the corporate world. Everyone who has a job or had a job can relate to this show. This is one TV drama that doesn’t need a love team or a love story to attract viewers.  Korea proves that they can make a good TV show without making romance a major deal.

The 20 episodes are worth watching for, there are a lot of values to learn from it and it will also make you realize how you are as a worker.  You’ll get to realize what really matters most in life and make you give importance to people who value you the most. Misaeng is just a metaphor of society. It does not really mean incomplete life but it refers to the society. Our society is not yet complete, despite the evolution of technology and people, we’re still struggling to reach the ultimate status. We still have a lot to do to and to accomplish to really say that we are complete.