Friday, July 31, 2015

WANTED: FACTORY WORKERS IN KOREA – The Dilemmas of 3D Workers in Korea

The price of working in the factories of Korea is heavy, but migrant workers still chose to work here because they want to support their respective families financially. One may be tempted to give up an office work in Philippines in exchange of high paying factory work in Korea, but there are still a lot of things to be considered before you fully decide to venture into the so called 3D work in Korea.

Usually, works in manufacturing companies are Dirty, Demeaning and Dangerous. These are the jobs that Koreans are trying to avoid, so they hire people from outside Korea to do the work. Many are lured to the idea of going into a country where their Kpop idols live and a salary that is twice or thrice as high as their current wages. However, it is not just all about that. There are underlying circumstances in working as a factory worker in Korea. You may not be able to see that in the surface, but unless otherwise you are in the situation, you will see for yourself the difficulties that every factory worker in Korea is going through every working day. But before you give out your violent reaction to this, let me stress out that the difficulties may vary from one company to another. At the end of the day, it is still about luck and the odd of getting an abusive employer. There are still good “sajangnim” out there and factories that are fair to their workers and provide proper protection at work. However, it is inevitable that cases like discrimination and exploitation may surface. So before you decide to go to Korea and work as a factory worker, I would like to share some information based on the experience of some people the difficulties that factory workers are facing in Korea. One must be ready for these and it is also important you know what to do in case you are in situations like these.

1. Issues in the contract

Let’s face it, I guess every company here in Korea has violated one or two or even more items in the contract. Before you sign the contract, read what is written on it thoroughly, but don’t expect that everything on that piece of paper will come true. I think, this item deserves some sub topic, so let me break it down one by one for you.

1a. Salary

This is I guess one of the most important issue to all the workers. In the contract, you will see how much is your basic pay, and how much is your overtime pay. Oftentimes, these figures are not making sense in the actual. Some employers give a certain “fixed amount” regardless of the number of hours of overtime. Some do not pay the right amount when the workers work during the holiday. And some are not paying the salary at the specified date in the contract. These are just few of the many issues when it comes to the wages of the employees. I am just so lucky that my employer is computing the right amount of basic and overtime and I get my salary on time. But just imagine the burdens of some migrant workers for not being paid on time and/or the right amount.

1b. Job Description

In the contract, there are not many specifications when it comes to the nature of work. Sometimes, they just put machine operator, or easy job or something like that. But I know that there are some cases wherein they signed up as a machine operator but ended up as construction workers. The type of company and job that have been described in their contracts are so different in the actual. The moral lesson of the story, don’t expect too much. You have to condition yourself that you are going to work in a factory where all you can see are gigantic machines and forklifts and whatnot. Don’t rely too much on the job description. If you can do the job, then by all means do it. But if it is something out of your capability, there’s no reason for you to hold on. You can complain about it because it is not what you signed up for.

2. Discrimination and Exploitation at work

Some employers treat their workers like robot. Just because they are paying you to work doesn’t mean they can take advantage of your “slavery”. It is hard to admit but this is happening to some workers. Sure, there are rights exist to protect the laborers from discrimination and exploitation, but workers have no idea and the lack of knowledge thereof on how to protect themselves against this kind of treatment. Some resort to requesting for change of employer but for those who are under the hawk of their sajangnim, they stayed and accepted their fate as exploited laborer. If not for the money, they could have chosen to just go home.

3. Difficult working condition

Sometimes, what makes work in the factory more difficult is the working environment. Because it is a factory, there are equipments and materials that make it a non-conducive working environment. Sometimes, workers do not have enough personal protective equipment to keep them safe in working especially the dangerous jobs. Those who are working in the chemical industry, agriculture and some dangerous machines are suffering from this difficulty.

These and all other factors contribute to the sufferings and the difficulties faced by some factory workers in Korea. So what should you do when you are facing these dilemmas? Consult the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Seoul. You can reach them by calling telephone number (02) 3785-3634 or 3785-3635 or via the hotline 010-4573-6290.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Not So Mad Experience at Boryeong MUD Festival

Boryeong Mud Festival 2015

Korea has a lot of festivals; they have festivals for everything they can think of including the weird ones. There’s one for ginseng, for lanterns, for tomato and for MUD. Yes, you read it right. Korea celebrates the presence of mud in the world whilst other people in other part of the world, including me, hate mud. I mean, who would want mud? It’s like so dirty and stinky. However, of all the festivals in Korea, the Boryeong Mud Festival actually attracts a lot of people including the tourists. That is why I was so curious about this festival and I felt like my Korea experience will never be complete without attending this infamous event in Korea which happens every July of the year.

This year, the Boryeong Mud Festival celebrates its 18th anniversary and I was so lucky I have some adventurous friends who are as curious as me about this festival. So we decided to pack our bags and went to Daechon beach last July 18-19, 2015.

We were so overwhelmed by the presence of the international visitors. Well, we also considered ourselves in that demographic since we are foreigners in this country too. We saw as much foreigners as locals in the event. They said that Boryeong is usually a quite place, but not when we went there.

International visitors at the mud festival

The whole area from the seashore of Daechon beach to the neighboring motels and pension houses were all jam-packed with different people from different nationalities. A used to be peaceful streets has been turned into party venue. At the night of the first day of the festival, we went out to see the whole atmosphere and we really felt the festivity of not so much about mud but most of all the connections of every tourist who flock in the area to have fun. There were fireworks everywhere, there were parties and most people were drunk. We walked around the beach and around the area a little bit that night but we decided to reserve some energy for tomorrow’s mud event. It’s good thing that our accommodation is just within the vicinity of the event, we have all the freedom and the convenience to go back and forth.

At Daechon beach for the opening of Boryeong Mud Festival

On the second day of the festival, we woke up so early because we don’t want to waste our time. We went out at 6 in the morning for a beach walk. The atmosphere of the area in the morning is way different from the last night. Almost everybody was still asleep and tired for over partying, bottles of soju scattered everywhere in the street and few sober tourists were walking like zombies without slipper.

It was a cloudy morning but it was so perfect for morning beach walk. It was nice to be able to enjoy the beach with friends while others are still coping with their hangovers and whatnot.

Morning walk(0r jump)  at Daechon Beach
I also like how sophisticated the surrounding area of the beach. It's overwhelming to see motels and accommodations built right in front of the seashore. I like how it looks like a village, so peaceful and clean.

Available accommodations in front of Daechon beach

After our long beach walk and breakfast, the fun had started when the mud square was opened at 9 am. We first had our mud painting which is for free. We had the colored mud painted on our faces. I don’t know how they put colors into the mud but I like the texture. It’s cold in the skin. We also saw several beauty products made of mud. Apparently, one of the beneficial properties of mud is that it is good for the skin. I am not sure what kind of mud is that but the beauty products say it all.

After we had our mud paint, we went to the mud square to enjoy more fun activities with….. ugh…. MUD… The entrance to the event is 10,000 won for adults and this entitles you to wear a bracelet that would give you access to enjoy not so mad mud activities. Teenagers and kids can pay lesser amount at 8,000 won to join the event. Kids have a separate area for this.

Entrance wristband

What are the activities in mud square?

Actually, there are a lot of activities you can enjoy there. I am not sure what they call them but one thing is for sure. Everything has something to do with mud. So to kick off our mud experience, we started at the prison mud. There’s a fake prison cell where the participants need to enter and the staff will throw you some….. I mean a looootttt of mud. We ended up soaked with this brownish and stick substance that I was trying to avoid all my life. I can’t believe I immersed myself to that. What’s even weird is that, I enjoyed it so much. The fact that I was coated with mud was so liberating.

The mud prison

After that, we tried other activities such as sliding in the muddy slides, mud wrestling, mingling with other people we don’t even know by splashing them some mud, played some weird mud games with strangers and me and friends bonded in the most unique way ever.

Playing with the mud

It was such a nice privilege for us to bond in a not so usual way. We used to go on trips, played bowling and ate in the buffet as a way of catching up to each others. But bonding in the mud? You would have thought it’s no way possible, but the truth is, it was way too fun.

Having fun with the mud

What is good about Boryeong Mud Festival is that they have a lot of activities.  As much as we want to try it all, we only have limited time to stay. We need to go back to our respective places on Sunday afternoon, so we just tried as much as we can. Although we were not able to try all mud activities, we were not really mad at all. We had fun and all we can utter was we enjoyed wrestling in the mud.
If you are planning to go to Boryeong Mud Festivals, I have some heads up for you to fully enjoy the experience. You might want to check it out.

1. Know the direction to go to the event. Do not make the same mistake I did. I went there without really checking what to ride, and where to go. I ended up paying more than 100,000 won for a taxi. It hurts but I guess the moral lesson is to really check your direction so you will not get lost. Ask in advance, or better yet Google on How to Go to Boryeong Mud Festival. You would not want to pay as much as I did just for the fare, right?

2. Save your camera from damage by using a plastic pouch. Of course, you would want to take photos of you in the mud, or else, it didn’t happen. However, I don’t recommend you bring your DSLR or camera with you. In our case, we just used phone camera because it’s easy to bring, but you need to buy that plastic pouch where you can put your phone so that it will not get damaged by the mud and the water.

3. Bring a plastic with a zip lock for extra cash. When you are in the mud, you will get soaked all over your body. Not everything in the event is free, so obviously you need to bring some money for the entrance and other activities. You can still put the money in your pocket but you need to put it in a plastic with zip lock.

4. Book your accommodation in advance. For those who are planning to stay overnight or more, you may opt to bring a tent and install it by the seashore or book a motel or pension house for group. I suggest you ask assistance from Travel More Korea for bookings. They helped us a lot to get accommodation.

5. Bring extra shirt. In the mud festival, nobody is exempted. Everybody must experience the mud no matter how mad you think it is and everybody must be splashed with mud without having the license to get mad. So an extra shirt maybe necessary.

6. Have fun, Just have fun!!! This is an opportunity to make friends with people with different nationalities and culture. Learn how to be more interactive, don’t worry, the mud will help you a lot.

There you go. I guess this is one of the most memorable experiences I have here in Korea. At first I thought mud festival is such a mad idea, but when I experience it with my friends, it’s easy not to get mad when stained with mud especially if it is just for fun.

Disclaimer: Photos owned in this blogpost are owned by Anny, Arman and Kristine.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

18 Reasons Why 4 Seasons of Korea SUCK

One of the biggest questions of travelers when they want to go to Korea is that “What is the best time or season to visit Korea?”.  It’s a question I couldn’t answer and most of the time I tell them that 4 seasons have nothing good to offer to your itinerary. Just go anytime you want because it is not making any difference. Do you want to know why? Of course you must know why 4 seasons suck here in Korea. I have 18 good reasons and I want you to know about it.

Let’s start with Winter. Not every country in the world have winter season and people from tropical countries are dying to experience the snow, that is why some of them go to Korea just for the sake of experiencing the snow, well, it’s not fun at all. Why? Because……

1. There’s no way you can have fun in the snow,’s boring

2. You can’t do anything in the field of snow, it’s freaking cold out there….That's why you can't see a single person playing in the snow during winter...

3. You can’t even go hiking in the mountain, it’s pretty impossible I’ll tell you

photo credit: Arvin Mallari

4. And no breathtaking view during winter, like this one, it’s….. meh!!!

photo credit: Arman Carinan

You see, winter in Korea is boring. But how about spring… It’s worst, ewwww… It is the time of the year where flowers start to bloom…

5. But their flowers here in Korea are ugly

photo credit: Arman Carinan
6. Different kind of unusual flowers with different ugly colors start to sprout everywhere, it’s a pain in the eyes, you know…

photo credit: Kristine Bulanadi

7. And the king of spring, the cherry blossoms bloom too. Like, who loves cherry blossoms? How can you love this view? Huh?

photo credit: Arvin Mallari

After spring, you know it’s summer when it’s getting warm. As the spring exits, comes the unlikeable season, the summer!

8. The invasion of colorful flowers continue until summer that you could no longer take it and you just want to close your eyes with the disgusting view…

Photo credit: Arvin Mallari

9. Seriously? Korea must need to work out on their environment… it’s summer and it’s dull…

10. I guess something is really wrong with summer in Korea. They have the most unhealthy trees and grasses in the world..I mean, look at that…

photo credit: Arman Carinan

11. And the atmosphere is not “summer-ish” at all, I could not feel it…let alone see it...

photo credit: Arman Carinan

12. And people just go to the beach and be miserable…

photo credit: Kristine Bulanadi

13. Who says it’s fun in the beach of Korea? You have no evidence people are having fun there…

So I’d rather fast forward to Autumn. A lot of people love the autumn in Korea, I couldn’t understand why.

14. I mean, what good can you get out of dying leaves?

photo credit: Kristine Bulanadi

15. It’s not even romantic….. not at all

photo credit: Kristine Bulanadi

16. And the view is sooooooo booorinng…

photo credit: Arvin Mallari

17. Look at that, is it even attractive?

photo credit: Arman Carinan

18. Whatever happened to Korea’s nature? Autumn is urghhh

photo credit: Arman Carinan

So you see… With my 18 reasons why 4 seasons of Korea suck, I am sure you are now even confused. But you know the real reason why it really sucks? It is because it’s the hardest decision to make. I could not pick one because all 4 seasons are just equally awesome and I always feel bad if I have to pick just one. Next time you want to go to Korea, just go and don’t make a mistake by asking the question what’s the best season to go to Korea. I am not sure what to answer to that question but regardless of the season, you will never regret coming here, that’s I know is for sure

DMZ Tour Part 5: The Unification Village Called Tongilchon

Residential Houses at Tongilchon village
Welcome to Tongilchon, a small village in Korea which has a total of 493 residents and 133 families. A very peaceful place and rich in local farm produce. In all places in Korea, this village has been considered a “Preservation Zone for the Natural Environment” by the UN because it has a well-preserved natural environment. The three main products of Tongilchon are rice, soybean and Ginseng which you can buy at very affordable prices. It has rich soil, clean water and fresh air. I guess Tongilchon is a perfect place to live in for those who want to live a peaceful life and away from the hassle of the city.

However, there’s a setback. Tongilchon is located in the northern area of the Civilian Control Line. And if you don’t know what that means, the village is located right within the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone. For more information about DMZ, you can check out the first four parts of this blog series by clicking links below.

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

DMZ Tour Part 2: Off to the Third Infiltration Tunnel

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

DMZ Tour Part 4: Visiting Dorasan Station

How does it feel to live in a village situated inside a DMZ? I am curious too, so when we went to visit the village, I checked what people are doing in the area. Basically, their primary source of income is farming. They have this market where people go during the tour which sells a lot of interesting products like the sundubu or Jangdan Bean Curd. I also saw some herbs, ginseng, liquors and other farm products cultivated in the land of the village.

The busy people of Tongilchon busy working on their farm produce

Because it is situated at DMZ, civilian entrance to the village is strictly controlled. That could also be the reason why it was able to preserve its natural environment. Some of the houses in the village has been renovated and remodeled.

One of the houses in the village

But there are some replicas of old houses in the village that represent the house design and the way of living of the first people who ever lived in this village.

Replica of old house in the village

The place is a dream village for people who are into laidback type of lifestyle but there are reminders everywhere that the village is not an ordinary one. There are symbols of war all over that remind everybody about the danger of living in this place.

It was such a nice experience to come and visit Tongilchon village. It’s ironic that I was able to find and experience peace in a village prone to the danger of war.