Saturday, May 30, 2015

DMZ Tour Part 3: A Glance at North Korea at Dorasan Observatory

In front of the Dorasan Obsevatory
(c) Anny Martinez

Of all the places we’ve visited during our DMZ Tour, I guess the most exciting part was when we went to the Dorasan Observatory because this is where we had the chance to view North Korea through the binoculars. This is the second stop of our tour right after the 3rd Tunnel. If you wish to read the first two parts of our DMZ tour, please feel free to visit the links below:

DMZ Tour Part 1: The Remnants of War and the Symbol of Peace at IMJINGAK

Our shuttle bus took us from 3rd tunnel to Dorasan Observatory which is about 15 minutes away. While we traveled, all I saw were military schools and green trees. I realized that DMZ area is not congested with villages and people, which is why the ecological system in the area is good.
When we arrived at the observatory, a lot of people were taking turn to take a peek at North Korea. They have strict rules when it comes to photography. You will see a big yellow line in the observatory which means you are not actually allowed to take photos after the line.

Photo opp behind the yellow line. No pictures allowed after the yellow line. At the back are people looking at North Korea through the binoculars available.
(c) Jack Rusl

What did I see in the binoculars?

Let’s use this photo as a reference.

A view of a fake village of North Korea from the distance
(c) Jack Rusl

In the photo, you can almost see a village. This village is called Kijongdong. According to history, this village was made by North Korea to show to South Korea how they are living a luxurious life. However, when they further checked on it, they found out that the buildings in the village are actually made of concrete shells… boohoo!!!! AND the controversy doesn’t stop there, they also found out that the windows of the buildings do not have glass. That is why they called this village a Propaganda village, which means a village made by North Korea for the purpose of showing off.

You can actually see the village clearly though the binoculars. I can also recall that I saw the world’s second tallest flagpole holding a Korean flag, in the photo, you can see in the middle part that flagpole I am talking about.

North Korean Flag standing tall and proud. This is the second tallest flag in the world
(c) Arman Carinan

I also saw some North Korean farmers working on their lands and some vehicles carrying some unknown stuff. I must say that North Korea is a busy country, well, at least for this fake village. There are a lot of things going on in the area. I wonder if they know they were being spied on by the curious tourists.

Area surrounding the Dorasan Observatory
(c) Arman Carinan

Our tour bus only allowed us to stay at the observatory for like 20 minutes, but I must say it’s enough time to have a good view of Kijongdong village. For me, it was a memorable 20 minutes of my life because for some reason, I have this strange heavy feeling while looking at a parcel of North Korea and I also felt like I went to this restricted country eventhough I am few kilometers away. I don’t know if I could ever see that again but I will be forever proud I had the chance to take a glance at Kim Jeung-Un’s Kingdom.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

DMZ Tour Part 2: Off to the Third Infiltration Tunnel

Entrance to the third tunnel
(c) Jack Rusl

This is part 2 of a 5 part blog series about our DMZ tour. If you haven’t read it yet, I talked about the first stop of our DMZ tour which is at IMJINGAK and you can read the part 1 HERE.

If you want to go beyond Imjingak, which is going near to the soil of North Korea, you must take the shuttle bus that would tour you to the second destination which is the Third Tunnel.

But first things first, here are some important reminders for you if you are planning to go beyond Imjingak (which I suggest you should, I mean, you’re already at the border, might as well push the trip towards the nearest place you can get to see North Korea):

1. You must bring your passport with you
2. You must pay 11,700 KRW or approximately $12.00 for the bus
3. You must buy the tickets at Imjingak
4. Be careful with the camera, you are not allowed to just take photos everywhere you want
5. Private vehicles are not allowed

There are a lot more but I guess these are the most important ones that you must take note to tour DMZ.

So what’s the deal with the Third Infiltration tunnel?

Well apparently, Korean Forces discovered the existence of this tunnel in 1978, and when they were looking for somebody to blame, North Korea insisted that the tunnel was intentionally made by South Korea in order to attack them. Upon further investigation, they found out that the explosion to create the tunnel is facing southward which means that the tunnel was made by North Korea to attack South Korea and not the other way around. They dug the tunnel so that their army could attack South Korea so they could be caught off guard, what a cowardice move. Around 30,000 soldiers can actually move through the tunnel per hour. Imagine the disaster it could have caused South Korea if the tunnel card had been played well.

Monorail that will bring people inside the tunnel
(c) Jack Rusl

We entered the tunnel via a monorail train. The staffs made us wear helmet and I was like, this is too much!!! I don’t think we need this. But when we entered the tunnel, I immediately understood why they have to issue us hard hats. We were also advised to leave all our things in a locker and we must not take photos.  If you’ll walk along a 2 meter width and a 2 meter height tunnel, you’ll be thankful you did not bring anything because that will definitely make your life miserable in the 73 m deep tunnel.

The entrance hole of the tunnel
(c) Jack Rusl

If you are so tall or if you are claustrophobic, you may not enjoy the trip down there. We have to walk with our back creeping hunched so we could get through the tunnel. But if you are shorter enough not to reach the 2 m height, you’ll probably feel like walking in the park inside.

We walked and walked and walked until we reached the area where we saw a coiled barbed wire blocking the triple concrete wall. It signifies the end of the tunnel and they have installed heavy security aside from the barbed wires so that nobody can get through the wall because after that wall, you’ll never sure if you can get back alive. It’s already North Korean soil and outside the boundary.
To add insult to the injury, North Koreans painted the rocks black inside the tunnel so they could make a coal mine a front for the creation of the tunnel. They are so tricky right? And it’s not awesome.

Since we are not allowed to take photos inside the tunnel, there are still various sightseeing points outside and of course, photos are already allowed. Just like this intriguing structure about a round thing being split in two, it’s a no brainer to understand what it means.

symbolic sculptures at third tunnel

There is also a video room where you can see documentaries about DMZ but since our time was limited, we preferred to just roam around the vicinity of the tunnel. I like how nature oriented are the sculptures you can see in the area.

Some symbolic sculptures in the area

They also have sightseeing points like this where you can see how the two Koreans were divided and the miniatures that show the DMZ area.

The miniature map of the 38 parallel

It was a short stay at the Third Tunnel but I believe we made the most of our time not to mention the experience of going inside the tunnel that could have caused destruction to South Korea. I can just refresh how hard we walked inside the tunnel just to see what’s inside and I guess it’s all worth it.
In part 3, I am going to bring you to Dorasan Observatory. It is an area in DMZ where you can see North Korea at its closest. I am excited to share it to you, but for now, wait until I get it posted.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

DMZ Tour Part 1: The Remnants of War and the Symbol of Peace at IMJINGAK

Welcome to DMZ
(c) Meynard Ramirez

Finally! Yes, Finally! I was able to visit the DMZ together with the wanderlust friends. We actually planned this out last year but because of so many circumstances, we postponed it. However, we are so determined to tour DMZ, so we decided to really go there, by hooks or by crooks.

DMZ or also known as the Demilitarized Zone is an area in Korea that runs along the 38th Parallel which serves as a buffer between the North and South Korea. It sounds scary to some because this area has high risk of military conflicts, but for us, it sounds challenging.  We had toured 5 remarkable places at DMZ and a single blogpost will never be enough. So this is a 5 parts series and for part 1, I am going to talk about IMJINGAK.

The Imjingak
(c) Jack Rusl

When you take a DMZ tour, the first stop will be at Imjingak. You can go to Imjingak via bus or a taxi. If you are not paying a tour agency for this trip, you can take subway via Gyeongui line and get off at the last station which is Munsan Station. Then from there, take a taxi. It will take about 10 minutes from Munsan Station to Imjingak. There are also several DMZ tour packages available which is more expensive of course but more convenient I guess.

At Imjingak, you can see the contrast between war and peace. On the other side of the park, you will see the remnants of war including photos, artifacts and even locomotives which have been destroyed during the war in the early 1950s. On the other side, you will see a Pyeonghwa Nuri Park. It is a place symbolizing hope and peace, there are even rides and fun stuff. I may say that Imjingak is one bizarre place.

Let’s look at the area where remnants of war are placed. In this park site, you can see two historical things that played vital role during the war. One of them is this wooden bridge called Freedom Bridge which measures 83 meters long. It is called freedom bridge because during the war, North Korea released about 13,000 POWs and allowed them to return to South Korea and they walked through this bridge. The bridge gave them their freedom.

The Freedom Bridge at Imjingak
(c) Jack Rusl
We tried to set our foot at the Freedom Bridge so we could cross to the borders and step on the soil of North Korea, but after about 25 meters, this barbed fence full of ribbons with hope messages greeted us. So that means, we could not go far up to this point.

Another important item in the park is this original steam locomotive smokestack. This is considered to be the most important cultural heritage of South Korea. It was destroyed by bomb during the war and it has witnessed the tragic history that caused the division of North and South Korea.

Preserved Locomotive
(c) Meynard Ramirez

At the entrance of Imjingak park, you will pass through the Imjingak War Memorial and this preserved locomotive will welcome you. This is the MK3 244.

Preserved Locomotive MK244
(C) Meynard Ramirez

This garden is under the Freedom bridge, they created this to commemorate the Korean War.

Korean War Garden
(c) Arman Carinan

Adjacent to the Freedom Bridge is this altar called MANGBAEDAN. Those who are separated from their families in North Korea go to this altar to perform ancestral rights especially during New Year and Chuseok. Oh.... the feels..

The Mangbaedan
(c) Jack Rusl
There is also a pagoda where you can see a large Korean bell with a striker. This bell will ring once the North and South Korea will reunite. This is a good symbol of hope because it looks like they are anticipating that time will come, they will be one again.

The bell
(c) Jack Rusl

I guess one of the sentimental objects I saw aside from the photos of war which you can see all over the area are these messages written in ribbons that are hanging in the barbed wires to prevent people from going to the restricted areas. These are messages of hope that someday people of North and South Korea will unite. But be careful, because there are some defenses installed in these barriers because nobody is allowed to go beyond the line.

Message of peace and unity
(c) Arman Carinan

You can actually see the demarcation line from Imjingak. According to the agreement, nobody from the North and South can go in the area. We are at the observatory and at our back, you will see the restricted area. No man can go to that place.

The forbidden area at our back. Photo taken at the observatory at Imjingak
(c) Jack Rusl

I guess we have too much emotion to carry right now. Let’s take a look at the light part of the Imjingak, the Pyeonghwa Nuri Park.

Entrance to Pyeonghoa Nuri Park
(c) Jack Rusl

The park gives a complete opposite feel. It’s a place where anybody can just relax and enjoy especially the kids. I can see how kids love the park. They can fly kite, they can run freely and they can just play around despite the fact that this area is just few kilometers away from the enemy.

Kids enjoying at Pyeonghoa Nuri Park
(c) Kristine Bulanadi
I mean, who would not feel good with this kind of view. It is indeed something you want to see in the park. That is why the locals bring their family here to not only commemorating the war that had happened before but also feel the peaceful ambiance of Pyeonghwa.

Some piece of art at the park

I personally like the presence of pinwheels all over the park. For me, it symbolizes peace. I like it when it is windy because pinwheels in variety of colors look like dancing and entertaining you.
Pyeonghwa Nuri is indeed a place of hope and peace.

The pinwheels

It may look odd being situated adjacent to the heavy ambiance of war memorabilia but I guess it’s a good way to remind people of Korea that war is over and Korea is inching towards unification and peace.

 Our stay at Imjingak gave as a roller coaster feeling but that’s not just it. The DMZ tour hasn't ended yet. I have a lot of interesting stories to tell as we go nearer and nearer the soil of North Korea. This is just the first stop so stay tuned for the part 2 of DMZ tour.

Jumpshot at Imjingak
(c) Jack Rusl

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Factors Why OFWs in Korea Can’t Save Money

OFW Financial Literacy Semunar in Busan

Working in Korea, or abroad in general, is one big opportunity for OFWs to save money. Why? Because most of the time, even the domestic helpers, could earn considerably bigger amount of money than in the Philippines. In Korea particularly, a migrant worker can possible earn 4 times bigger than the minimum wage earner in the Philippines. However, despite the fact that OFWs in Korea earn big every month, most could still find it hard to save money. Some even go home without a single peso in their savings account, that’s why some choose to stay as illegal worker because if they’ll go home, they could no longer support the lifestyle that they have established to their respective families.

But what exactly are the reasons why despite the big salary, OFWs in Korea could not commit to set aside part of their income for savings? I am sure there are a lot of reasons, some may say “Wala eh, kulang talaga kahit malaki ang sahod”, or “Isang barangay ang pinapakain ko sa pinas, do you think makapag ipon pa ako?”, or the classic “Kasi nung nasa pinas pa ako, kulang ang binibigay ko, pero ngayon nandito na sa Korea, kahit gaano pa kalaki ibibigay ko, kulang pa rin, kaya bigay ko na lahat”. And if there are no more hugot answers, some will just say “Kasalanan ni PNoy yan!!!”
My point is, the reasons will become endless. Unless otherwise na gusto mo talaga makapag ipon, makakahanap ka ng paraan kahit ano pa ang sitwasyon mo. Pero ano nga ba ang mga humahadlang sa bawat Juan Dela Cruz na makapag ipon? Here are some factors based on my experience as an OFW in Korea. Ito yong mga challenges na kakaharapin ng isang OFW na naghahangad makapag ipon para sa kinabukasan ng pamilya.

1. Homesickness

You maybe wondering, anong kinalaman ng pagiging homesick sa pagiipon??? . Malaki po!! Baka hindi nyo lang napansin, but for me, Homesickness is one hell of a termite eater. Maybe you refer to it as just an emotional feeling pero sobrang naapektuhan po ng homesickness  ang ating pagkatao lalong lalo na sa pinansyal na aspeto.

If you are homesick, marami kang gusting gawin na pwede mo ibaling ang atensyon mo. You can’t just watch movies the whole day to kill boredom and homesick, right? One of the many scapegoats for homesickness is……. SHOPPING!!! Aminin mo man o hindi, shopping can help subside our loneliness. Sino ba naman ang hindi magiging masaya pag nakabili ng bagong sapatos? Lalo pa dito sa Korea, you can buy adidas, Nike or Puma anytime you want. Sa pinas kasi sasabihin mo pa, “Pagiipunan ko yan.” Dito you can buy it using part of your one month salary.

Hindi lang yan, kumusta naman ang mga gadgets? Of course you feel lonely, kelangan mo may entertainment during rest hours para hindi malungkot, so bili ka ng iPad, bili ka ng laptop at bili ka ng bagong cellphone, yong maganda at mahal para swabe ang paglalaro ng COC.

How about clothes? Hello!!!, Korea is very fashionable. Bawat kanto may mga panindang damit. Subukan mo mag ikot sa mga market kung nalulungkot ka, siguradong ubos ang sip manwon mo.
You see? Pag lagi kang homesick, lagi kang naghahanap ng pwedeng mapaglibangan. And sometimes, the hobbies you found are expensive it would take you away from the potential of maximizing your savings.

Oh wait, I guess I need to buy a new DSLR. What do you recommend? Nikon or Canon? LOL

2. Remit All 

It’s salary day!!!

You’re happy, and you’re excited.

Tapos biglang nag PM si nanay sa Facebook. “Anak, kmusta ka na?”

Eto yong mga tanong na minsan ayaw mo sagutin, dahil pag sinagot mo yan, ALAM NA!!! hahaha
Magugulat ka na lang, from the hi and hello conversation, bigla na lang, “ay may utang pala akong babayaran kay Aleng Siona”

Minsan naman, “Anak, ang ganda ng sofa na nakita ko sa mall, sale 50 percent! Pangarap ko talaga yong ganong klaseng sofa, kaso wala ako pambili”

Sometimes you wish you don’t know how to read between the lines, pero pag ganyan na ang linya ni nanay o ni misis, alam mo na yan.

But of course, we love our family, and because we are earning and we have the capability to provide their needs and their wants, we send all the money we have and yes, sometimes including the allowance.

I really commend the Filipinos abroad who are willing to all out support the family, BUT, think again? Are we really helping them or spoiling them?

Hindi porket nasa abroad ka, hahayaan mo na sila kumain sa Jollibee araw araw. Be practical and teach your family to be practical by just sending them the amount they need. No need to elevate the lifestyle if it will compromise your savings.

Always remember that you have to pay yourself too. Pay yourself by setting aside part of your income for savings. 20 percent will do. And the remaining amount, teach your family na pagkasyahin kung ano lang meron.

The rule should be, DON’T SEND ALL YOUR MONEY for remittance. I’m sure kulang pa rin yan kahit gaano kalaki because they tend to also elevate their lifestyle a notch higher because of your money. Ok lang sana kung kaya mo imaintain yan all your life, but hey, your stay in Korea is limited. So think of the future too.

3. No Financial Goal

I remember ang sinabi ng isang pari during our PAOS, sabi nya pag wala ka daw goal, suntok sa buwan ang pagpunta mo dito sa Korea, and I super agreed to what he said.

Importante po na may goals tayo at importante din po na isusulat natin ang mga goals natin.
In terms of financial, how much do you want to save for the whole duration of your tenure? What are the things you want to accomplish or to buy and how much do you need to get it? Things like these are essential to ask so you could be able to plan out your financial goal.

Your goals will somehow prevent you from spending your money to unnecessary things or impulsive buying. You get to weigh if it is a need or a want and most of all, you become wise with your spending. So get a pen, write down your financial goals and put it in a place where you can see it everyday.

4. Lack of Financial Education

I believe that Financial Education is the key to financial freedom. Importante din po na mayroon tayong kaalaman kung paano nga ba pamamahalaan ang iyong mga finances. You can gain financial education by reading books and attending seminars. I suggest you read books of Robert Kiyosaki, Suze Orman and I recommend my personal favorite “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Clason.

May mga local authors din na magagaling, I recommend Randell Tiongson’s “No Nonsense Personal Finance” and books of Brother Bo Sanchez.

If there are seminars in Korea, grab the opportunity to attend. We are so lucky there are several financial advocates here in Korea na nagtuturo ng personal finance and investments sa mga OFW. Isa na rito ay ang “Financial Literacy Advocates Network” or FLAN na nag coconduct ng mga coffee sessions at seminars on how to properly manage finances and to invest.

Saving is one simple word but very complicated process. However, if you get the hang of it, you’ll realize that saving money is as easy as 123 plus it will give you the confidence to move forward with your life because you know you have a safety net if everything falls down. Gawin nating lifestyle ang pag iipon, wag nating asahan ang tejikum and kukmin dahil iba pa rin ang may sarili kang ipon.

To all OFWs in Korea, God Bless on your financial journey.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Best of Filipino Food in Korea at Cebu Grill and Live Bar

Entrance of Cebu Grill in Seoul

Korea has slowly been opening its door not only to Western food and Oriental food but also to the Philippine Cuisine. I know a lot of Filipino restaurants at Hyewha-dong which is open only every Sunday and I personally witness that while majority of the patrons are Filipino, there are several foreigners and Koreans intentionally visit the Filipino flea market every Sunday just to get a taste of Filipino Food. I think it is now safe to say that Filipino food can penetrate to the Korean market, although it’s not that easy, but eventually, it will. It takes a lot of courage for somebody to really establish an authentic Filipino restaurant that serves not only for Filipino migrants but to other nationalities as well especially the Koreans.

Well, somebody from Cebu is brave enough to open a restaurant in Seoul that serves Filipino food, the Cebu Grill and Live Bar owned by Ms. Anne. Seeing that they open in a daily basis, Cebu Grill and Live Bar is not only marketing to every Filipino who misses eating pinoy food but also to everybody living here in Korea. According to the owner, they have a lot of non-Filipino customers. Aside from Koreans, they have Indian and American customers who go to their place just to eat and sometimes to unwind.

Chilling and meeting with FLAN (Financial Literacy Advocates Network) with the owner Ms. Anne

Cebu Grill and Live Bar was established last September 2014. It is still a baby business but its existence has been spreading like wildfire especially to the Filipino communities. It’s a fusion of a restaurant and bar. The owner doesn’t want to remove the element of “bar” atmosphere because she wants to cater to customers who don’t want only to eat but to drink and have fun. The drinking culture of Korea will indeed favor this idea.


Inside the Cebu Grill and Live Bar
(c) Jack Rusl

When I arrived at the place, I was like “Why it’s dark in here?”, then I realized that it’s a restaurant and a bar, so basically, it should be dim, at least that’s what I know about bars (‘coz I don’t go to bar… haha). But for some reason, I liked how they have low wattage lighting inside the restaurant because it gives a youthful vibe, I don’t know if it’s just me, but that’s how I felt.

I like the interior design of Cebu Grill and Live Bar. It was artistically designed that it looks like a sophisticated modern club. It’s obvious that the owner has invested a lot in the furniture, in the decors and decorations. In general, it gives a homey ambiance. You can feel like you are in your own abode where you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the food and drinks.

The Bar area
(c) Jack Rusl

The place is small though. While it’s a good place for intimate and romantic setting, I just think the place will be easily overcrowded especially if you come in group.


At Cebu Grill and Live Bar, you can’t see waiters in uniform serving you in a delicate and formal manner. The owner of the bar herself will cook for you and serve you your food together with her accomplices. With her jolly personality and accommodating staffs, you know you’re in good hand. Small acts like asking you if the food is ok, if it’s warm enough or not and whatnot, it makes the customers feel important. And since she’s hands on to everything, you can taste the passion in the food they are serving.

Cebu Grill and Live Bar also offers side entertainment to the customers. There’s a small stage in front of the room with drum set, guitar, TV screen and some musical stuff. When we went there, it was scheduled for live viewing for the fight of the century also known as Mayweather Versus Manny Pacquiao fight. We watched the boxing show while having our lunch. In some other days, they also invite bands to entertain the customers, and sometimes, the staffs themselves including Ms. Anne take the center stage to give customers a show.

the mini stage for some entertaining show
(c) Jack Rusl

Ms Anne said that the place could serve a venue for a meeting, for reunion, for gatherings and whatnot. It’s a place for everything you want to do (decent activities of course).


Now let’s go to one of the most important aspects of a restaurant, the FOOD!!!

Of course you should expect Filipino Food at Cebu Grill and Live Bar cooked in a Filipino way and serve in a Filipino way. Let’s take for example, the shrimp. Nothing’s really special about the shrimp. It’s so simple and looking ordinary, but I remember home with its simplicity. It’s one of those “lutong-bahay” type of food that you can’t help but eat with your bare hands.

I also like the way they present their food. I like it when they put soupy dish in a unique pot like this.
We don’t have like this in the province in the Philippines, but we have a different version of this and I suddenly remember those days when I used to cook sinigang in a pot that looks like that. How nostalgic it is.

We also ordered grilled squid. It’s perfectly grilled and flavored. It’s not so tensile, so it’s easy to chew.

Here’s my favorite, the lumpia.

It’s so simple and ordinary outside that it looks no better than any other lumpia in the world, but as they say, do not judge the book by its cover, you should not judge this lumpia by its own wrapper. It has so much good tasting stuff inside. I can’t describe it much because I am still debating for myself if it has pure meat inside or if they stuff other staff like veggies. But for me, it’s delicious.
Aside from these, you can also order other Filipino type of food depending on the availability.
And for the prices, I did not get a chance to check the menu, but for what we ordered, which is good for 6 people, we paid around 18,000- 20, 000 won (=$18.00-$20.00) per head.


Cebu Grill and Live Bar has already transferred to the new location. You can check the information below for the clear directions on how to go to the place via the subway.

It’s easy to locate, I appreciate it much that they provided clear direction on how to go to the place. It was my first time to go to that side of Korea and I did not find it hard to locate the place.

So for those who are here in Korea and miss Filipino Food, you now know where to go. There’s nothing compare to the feeling of being at home while enjoying the food you used to eat. This is not only for gastronomic adventure but also to party with friends and family.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Wandering at the Amazing Ihwa Mural Village

The yellow cat beaming with smile welcomes visitor to the village
(c) Jack Rusl
To be honest, I never heard about “Ihwa Mural Village” so it’s never been on my bucket list. I was just tagged along by my friends in a photowalk in Seoul and I have no single idea about the place we will visit. It’s one of those days when I just want to wander around and discover places I didn't know.  But sometimes, it is when you explore the unknown you will find great treasure that you could probably cherish, and this time, it’s the unforgettable walk in one of the most preserved places in Korea, the Ihwa Mural Village.

Like the Bukcheon Hanok Village, Ihwa Mural Village is an actual residential area too. However, unlike the Hanok Village, Ihwa is one place that you could think has been forgotten by rapid development. While Korea has gone a long way in terms of technology and architecture, Ihwa remains to be encapsulated in the early years of Korea.  I have no idea why, but maybe because the village is situated on Naksan, a mountain. Mountains could have trees and forest and whatnot, but Naksan is exceptional because it has a village on it, that is why they call Ihwa a moon village because it’s in a high place and is near the moon.

Some old houses with attractive paintings on its wall
(c) Kristine Bulanadi

But just because it’s an ancient village doesn't mean Korea should take it for granted, of course not, there are still people living in the village. What could have been a depressed area for not being able to go along with the development of the country is now one of the tourist attractions in Korea. A lot of us don’t know about the place but there are several tourists in the area when we went there. Instead of demolishing the village, the Korean government has found a way to make it look happy, they made a massive artistic and cultural make over.

The colorful walls on the way to Ihwa Mural Village
(c) Jack Rusl

The idea of the village revamp has not only made it a better place to live in but because it became a tourist destination, people living in the village start to convert their place into restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlor to earn revenues from the tourists.

Random art places
(c) Kristine Bulanadi

Today, people flock to Ihwa mural village to get a glimpse of the different murals which you can by the way see all over the area. The attractive paintings on the wall draw photographers and tourists to the place.

Paintings with positive message
(c) Jack Rusl

Several artists were hired just to fill the walls of the nearly dilapidated village with interesting paintings. That is why you will not find it boring because each painting has its own personality and different artistic touch. From colorful flowers to beaming sunshine and even animals.

One of the many animal paintings on the wall of Ihwa
(c) Jack Rusl

And not only the walls, even the stairs have their own share of arts from the creative minds of the painters. Look at this 3D-ish painting of the fishes in this stair. This makes climbing up the village bearable. Remember that this is a mountain village and it feels like a never ending uphill climb when you go to this village. But don't worry, there are concrete stairs for your convenience and not just stairs, there are painting like this that would make you feel welcomed when you step on it.

3D Fish painting on stairway

You will not only entertained by paintings when you go to this place. As I've said, it's a total art make over, and when we say art, it's not limited to painting. So there are some 3D arts that could amaze onlookers and visitors of the village.

3D art at random street at Ihwa
(c) Arman Carinan

Even if you are not really into arts and stuff like this, this place could unleash the inner artist in you because you can't help but appreciate every single masterpiece displayed at any random streets in Ihwa Mural Village.

Chicken made of metal
(c) Jack Rusl

When we reached the top of the mountain, we exited the village and it ended up with a wall lining from the top of the mountain all the way through the busy street of Seoul. But what amazed us when we were at the top is the view of part of the city Seoul.

View of the city of Seoul from the top of Naksan Mountain
(c) Arman Carinan

All I could uttered was "DAEBAK". I looked behind me and I saw the 21st centur-ish look of Seoul in the form of the Ihwa Village who stuck at the under-develop era of Seoul, but when I looked in front of me, I felt like time has fast forward into the modern Seoul where infrastructures and technologies are rapidly advancing. The place is so perfect if you want to compare the THEN and NOW Korea.

If you are interested to go to this place, it's so easy. Just take Seoul Subway Line Number 4, get off at Hyehwa Station and go to Exit 2. Once you exited, walk straight ahead for about 200 meters until you reached the street called Dongsung-gil, turn left and walk straight until you reached Lock Museum. Walk for about 50 meters and turn right onto the Naksan Gongson-gil where you can see the Naksan Park. Check out the maps available there to go to Ihwa Mural Village. Remember, it's a village with lots of alleys and streets, so you probably get yourself lost but don't worry, just have a map ready and keep exploring the area, Ihwa Mural Village is just around the corner.