Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tips to Pass That Korean Language Test

You are in South Korea.

Working Day and Night and earning 5 digits salary, sometimes 6 digits if you are hard working enough.

You experience 4 seasons in one year.
You have free board and lodging.
You eat kimchi everyday and other Korean food.
You can now buy the gadgets that you want, the shoes, the bags and the outfits for your pormang pang breezy.

You are now officially the breadwinner of the family and you provide them with all their needs and their wants because you can afford it now.

But wait, just wait. I am sorry, I hate to burst your bubble but it’s not that easy. I know you dream to work in South Korea to earn a decent salary, but you need to pass that Korean Language Test first before you can have your working visa.

KLT or Korean Language Test is held in Asian countries including Philippines if the Human Resource Department of Korea sees the need to hire foreign people to work in the manufacturing industry of Korea. Learning foreign language is always a bit of a challenge. So I understand if you feel the anxiety and the stress and the pressure for the upcoming 13th Korean Language Test in the Philippines because believe me, I’ve been there and I’ve done that!

What’s the secret in learning Korean Language and to pass the exam?

Actually, NO. There’s no secret, only practical tips. If you are street smart enough, you sure can pass the test, I can’t promise you pass it with flying colors, but you can definitely ace it if you know the drill. Here’s my unsolicited advice (based on experience) for all of you aspiring to work in South Korea.

1. Familiarize the Korean numbers for the listening test

How important is this?

Very important, because I personally surveyed my friends who failed the exam last time and most of them told me that they failed because of the listening test. Most of them were not able to answer the questions correctly, or if they answered it correctly, they put the answer in the wrong item number. For example, the question is for number 20, they answer in number 18. Even if the answer is correct, that would still be wrong. If you are familiar with numbers in Korean, this will not happen.

In listening test, you will be given an answer sheet with numbers from 1 to 25, each number has 4 choices which are 1, 2, 3 and 4. Just imagine how NUMBERS play a vital role in the listening test. You will hear a lot of “bun” word in the listening, so it is really important you know the numbers in Korean.  If the speaker said “ship ko bun”, you know you have to answer on number 19.

2. Get the context word for reading test

If you can’t understand a Korean sentence in the question, don’t worry, that’s normal. You are not expected to learn it all in a short period of time. If it’s too long and you can’t understand what it’s saying, get the context words of the sentence. Or rather, take out all the words that you can understand and try to make sense out of that known words. Refer also to the choices and see if you can make any connections to the question.

This tip will only be very effective if you know a lot of vocabularies. It is also important to memorize as many words as you can.

3. Ignore the particles

Because this is a written test, particles are inevitable to set the sentence in a formal mode. Don’t get confused with these particles, you can just ignore them and get the root words. The particles that I am talking about are 이/가, 를/을, 은/는.

For example, the word 사람, in a formal sentence, sometimes they write it as 사람이. You have to make a mental note that사람 =사람이. It’s not a different word, there’s just a particle at the end of the word. If you want to know more about these particles, you can do so in your advance study. But for time being, just ignore it, get the root word and never mind about it for now.

4. Use some mnemonic device

I always find mnemonic device an effective way to memorize. I used it once and will never fail to use it more in the future in case I need to memorize something. In this case, you can make your own code to easily memorize vocabularies. Sometimes, I find this strategy funny and stupid, but since it’s effective, the hell should I care! Here are some mnemonics I used and until now I can still remember:

The Korean word 그저께which means a day before yesterday. It is pronounced as geujeokke that sounds like “videoke”. So if I need to remember how to use that word, I just think of videoke.

The word어머니 or eomoni, which means mother. It sounds like “money”, and mothers always ask money especially during salary day. If I need to say mother in Korean, I just remember money and voila, I can recall it easily.

These are just my example, you can make your own to aid you in the memorization of the words.

5. Limit your study resources (If possible, just use the reviewer)

Studying Korean language is effective if you have a lot of books and online resources. But if you have limited time, then you must just use the reviewer provided by your training center or by the POEA to study so you can concentrate on what’s important in the test. Other resources may give you lessons, some are even advance, that are not useful for the exam. The reviewer are still the best resource to study, so as much as possible, concentrate on that.

6. Listen to Korean music and watch Korean Dramas in your spare time

It’s not just all about studying. You need to relax also so that your brain can breathe and rest. In this spare time, you can still actually learn passively by listening to Korean music or watch Korean drama. Challenge yourself if you can understand by picking up the words you know and make sense out of the context. This is one way to practice your strategy to effectively implement the tip number 2.

I know you can do it! Just trust yourself and believe in the power of prayer. Do your best not only to study hard but also to study smart. You have few days left before the exam, all I can say is…..
May the force be with you!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

If Korean Peninsula is Westeros (Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones)

Winter is almost over in Korea but for all of us Game of Thrones fans, Winter is coming. Before there will be clamor and brouhahas for the upcoming Season 6 of GOT, let me ride in the front seat of the bandwagon by talking about the TV series in this blog. Technically, it’s not really about the storyline and whatnot, no need to worry about spoilers, if there are spoilers, it is completely unintentional and minimal. You know what I mean?

I decided to talk about the comparison of the Peninsula of Korea to Westeros or the Seven Kingdoms, a place where most of the actions in Game of Thrones take place. But of course, we should all know that while Korea is real, the continent of Westeros is from the imagination of George RR Martin. If there are of any similarities, I am speaking in behalf of the author that these are all just coincidence

What really triggers me to write about this is the uncanny similarity of the map of Westeros to the map of South Korea. It is not perfectly the same, but I don’t know, if I look at the map of Westeros, it really reminds me of the map of Korea, that rabbit looking island in the map of the world, but maybe it’s just me. You be the judge!

Left: Map of Korea
Right: Map of Westeros (Seven Kingdoms)
Let’s start with The North! In Game of Thrones, when you say NORTH, you are actually equating it to the castle of Winterfell of House Stark. Although there are other houses in the North, Winterfell stands out because some of the most important characters in the series live here. In fact, the place plays a vital role in the story line. Since House Stark is in the North, I can’t think of any other places in Korea to associate it with aside from the northernmost city of South Korea which is PAJU

Left: City of Paju
Right: The North: Cast of Winterfell of House Stark

Just like The North, Paju is also quite isolated. I mean, it’s not literally isolated, it’s still part of South Korea but because of the distance, going to Paju is just like going to a whole new world. I know it too well because I lived there for 2 years. Those were the days when going to Seoul was really an effort. The House of Stark in The North is very traditional and pays respect to their Gods. The people of Paju, as per my observation, are also very traditional. Despite the modernization, you can still see the Korean old ways especially with the elderly. The Wall is located in The North, their protection against the wildlings and the white walkers. Paju on the other hand has DMZ, a heavily guarded area to protect South Korea from North Korea.

Therefore, The Wall in Game Of Thrones is just like the same as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of South Korea. Unlike in GOT where there is a literal big, sturdy and strong walls, DMZ has barbed wires. 

Left: The Barbed Wire at DMZ
Right: The Wall at The North

However, beyond the barbed wires of DMZ and The Wall, is a very dangerous arena. You could die if you go beyond the area. In The Wall, there are “Night’s Watch”, but in DMZ, there are ROK armies. Both were recruited and well trained to hold and guard the area. 

In GOT, there are horrors “Beyond the Wall”. There are wildlings who wish nothing but the destruction of the Seven Kingdoms. They call themselves Free Folks, they are savage and primitive raiders. There are also White Walkers, Children of the Forest and giants. Really, it’s a dangerous place. Oh wait, did I say DANGEROUS? Well, in Korea, there’s North Korea. Just like Beyond the Wall, nobody wants to go there because there’s an entity named Kim Jeung-Un. Ok, nuffsaid.

Left: view of North Korea from DMZ
Right: View from The Wall
Let’s move a little bit and go to other places in Westeros. Presenting The Vale of Arryn where a castle called The Eeyrie of House Arryn stands. 

Left: at the Garden of the Calm Morning in Gapyeong
Right: The Eeyri in The Vale of Arryn

The location of the The Vale of Arryn is characterized as a fertile land nestled within the great range of the Mountains of the Moon. Although the TV series did not really show it as a very high place, in the book version, people can hardly go to The Eeyrie castle because 1) it is heavily guarded and 2) it’s so high you could risk your life going there. There’s no risky place in Korea I could associate this place with but for the level of elevation, I guess the city of Gapyeong is perfect for this. Gapyeong is a beautiful city in the mountain. It is far from Seoul and you must really make an effort if you want to go there. But just like The Vale of Arryn, you can view the beautiful place from the top, plus tourist destinations like Nami Island, Petite France and The Garden of the Morning Calm are located there.

Another amazing place in Westeros is The Riverlands that holds the castle of Riverrun of House Tully. This is a Kingdom of rivers and hills, it’s a small but populous place. The trees and plants in this area are healthy because of its fertile land, thanks to the numerous rivers that run across its stretch. 

Left: Yangpyeong, South Korea
Right: The castle of Riverrun in Riverland

The only place in South Korea that I can associate this with is Yangpyeong. When I went to Yangpyeong for rail biking, I saw how their land was so fertile judging from the plants and trees and crops that grow there. And the river, it’s just awesome.

Now off to The Westerlands, where the castle of Castelry Rocks of House Lannister stands. The Westerlands is consists of a landscape of hills and valleys. This place is very rich in natural resources. It’s just a small Kingdom and mountainous but rich in metal, a perfect place for mining. 

Left: Rocks in Danyang
Right: The Casterly Rock in Westerland

I don’t know where to get gold and silver in South Korea, but because of the caves and a beautiful landscape of the area, I guess Danyang is a place that we can associate with The Westerlands. The rivers, the hills and the breathtaking view of the valley is something you can look forward to when visiting Danyang.

Let’s now go to The Iron Island where you can see the castle of Pyke of House Greyjoy. I think Pohang is the Iron Island of South Korea. Why? Because 1) they are both rocky island. 2) not too crowded. 3) land is barely fertile  4) surrounded by the sea and 5) Fishing is one big source of their economic production. The only difference between the two is, while the Iron Island is associated with the “Sunset” Bay, Pohang is known for its Homigot “Sunrise” Square. 

Left: At Pohang
Right: The Castle of Pyke at the Iron Island

And how about the King’s Landing? Well, obviously it’s Seoul! Do I need to say more? Well, location wise, they may not be the same, but the fact that it is the capital of the Seven Kingdom, I just thought that it will give justice if I assign this to Seoul. They’re both over populated, life in these cities is luxurious and most of all, this is where the ruler of the nation/Seven Kingdoms operate. Seoul has no slum like Flea Bottom in King’s Landing, not that I am aware of, but go to Seoul Station, you can see a lot of homeless people there, making it looks like a slum. So just like in King’s Landing, Seoul holds a crowded population and this is where rulers, rich, influential and poor people live all together.

Left: Seoul. South Korea
Right: King's Landing
How about The Reach where the beautiful castle of Highgarden of House Tyrell stands? This is never to be underestimated because, take note of this, The Reach is one the richest Kingdom in all of Westeros. It is located in the Southern part of the Seven Kingdom, much like of Busan. Snowfall? It’s a strange thing to both Busan and The Reach. Compared to all other areas, these two enjoy the same warmer climate. The Reach acquired its wealth from their production from the fertile land while Busan is more on the production of fish and other seafood. Nevertheless, both of them are essential part of the nation in terms of economic development.

Left: Busan, South Korea
Right: The castle of Highgarden in The Reach
And finally, one of the most interesting places in all of the Seven Kingdom, the Dorne where the castle of Sunspear of House Martell is located. The Kingdom is as interesting as the city of Gyeongju of South Korea. 

Left: Gyeongju, South Korea
Right: The Castle of Sunspear in Dorne

What makes Dorne and Gyeongju similar? Well, for one, they are both located in the Southern part of the nation. Although Gyeongju has no deserts just like Dorne, at least both consist of rocky mountains. But what is interesting about these two is that, walking in the city is just like walking in a museum. In the TV series, everywhere you look in Dorne is a piece of art, so much like in Gyeongju. Through this, you can really see the culture and tradition in every single corner of the city. In Geyongju and in Dorne, you can sense how they really value their so called “national identity”, and that what makes them identical.

I hope you were convinced in one way or another with this little comparison of mine. They may not completely the same, but location wise and characteristic wise, I think I was able to give justice to this comparison. But hey, this is a personal opinion, I could be wrong. The important thing is, Season 6 of Game of Thrones will soon commence!

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Closer Look To The Monument To The Nation at The Independence Hall in Cheonan

Tall, Dark and Handsome!!!

Before you associate these adjectives to me (which I gladly accept as a compliment…haha), I am actually pertaining to the Monument To The Nation, you know, that tower behind me.
It’s tall because it stands 51.3 m high on a 24 meter square platform.

It’s dark because it symbolizes the dark history of Korea and how the people of the nation struggled to survive and achieve the independence, unification and prosperity.

It’s handsome because it was neatly designed to evoke the form of a wing of the bird soaring high up in the sky to show that Korean spirit is indomitable. It was also made that way to look like a praying human hand.

The tower is located right in front of the entrance of the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan. This has become the striking symbol of the hall. Before you can go to the Independence Hall, you must pass at this tower first.

I like how every single design of this tower has a meaning. For example, the platform of the tower has a map of Korea embossed and 24 bronze signs signifying the 24 directions.  The front and back of the monument has very interesting carvings too. At the front, you will see a carving that resembles to the “taekukgi”, it’s a symbol you see in the flag of South Korea.

On the other side, you will see the carving of a Rose of Sharon, the national flower of Korea.

You will also see mosaic pieces surrounding the tower, these mosaic pieces represent the four faithfuls which are Cheongryeong, Baekho, Jujak and Hyeonmu.
The Monument to the Nation maybe just a simple tower with great carvings to some, but for Korea, this is the symbol of their persistence and determination to get the independence that they are enjoying right now. Whether you perceive it as a bird’s wings soaring up high or a praying hand, it doesn’t matter. All we know is that this tower reminds the people of the love of Koreans to their country.

Friday, March 11, 2016

2016 Cherry Blossom Forecast in Korea

Cherry Blossom at Kynghee University

I am making it a tradition every year to post a forecast of the cherry blossom in this blog because 1.) To remind everybody that winter is almost over, 2.) To inform travelers of the best time to go to Korea during Spring time, and 3.) I just love cherry blossom.

Of all the spring flowers in Korea, Cherry blossom is my favorite one because everybody anticipates its blooming every year. It is the kind of flower that only blooms in several days (not even a week), that is why for me, it’s rare and important. I guess I am not alone that gets excited for the cherry blossom. If you are one of Sakura’s fans, check this map with the corresponding dates of blooming of the cherry blossom. This is courtesy of VisitKorea website.

2016 Cherry Blossom Forecast by VisitKorea

Friday, March 4, 2016

When in Busan- Visit the Busan Tower(부산타워) at Yongdusan Park

Busan Tower at Night Time

Your journey to Busan will never be complete without paying visit to the Busan Tower. You have no other valid reasons why you can’t visit it because Busan Tower is just right at the heart of the city. It’s a place you would want to go to get a top view of the city. The tower is one of the most remarkable landmarks of the city because of its popularity. It stands 69 m above the sea level and it is a whooping 120 meters tall.

I had the chance to visit the Yongdusan Park when I visited Busan a year ago. I guess it was a great timing because it started to get dark when I went there. At first I thought I couldn’t appreciate it at night time but apparently, the night view was so stunning. The city lights offer an awesome view from up there.

The City view at night

Surrounding the tower are different objects that symbolize history and culture of Busan. There’s the statue of Great Admiral Yi Sun-shin, you can also see the Bell of the Citizens, and the flower clock.

The statue of Great Admiral Yi Sun-shin at Busan Tower

As far as what I’ve observed, the park serves as the hangout place for families and couples at night time. I find the place romantic and at the same time surreal because it’s a park with an escalator. If Namsan Tower has a cable car, Busan Tower has an escalator so you can conveniently climb up the Yongdusan Park. Awesome!!!! Right?

The surrounding of Busan Tower

If ever you’re in the area of Busan, you can find the Busan Tower at this address:

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan
부산광역시 중구 용두산길 37-55 (광복동2가) 용두산공원 내