Monday, October 16, 2017

DMZ Tour, South Korea

On Thursday we took a guided tour to the DMZ (demilitarised zone).  The DMZ divides the Korean Peninsula almost in half and separates North Korea and South Korea.    The DMZ was established in 1953 by the Armistice Agreement at the end of the Korean War.

The DMZ is 250 km (160 miles) long and 4 km (2,5 miles) wide.  While the zone itself is demilitarised, both sides of the divide are heavily militarised.  It's safe to say that this is the world's most dangerous border.

Our first stop was at Imjingak Park at Paju, about an hour's drive north of Seoul.  Imjimgak is 7 km (4,25 miles) south of the DMZ and this is the closest that a person can get to the DMZ without clearance.

The Bridge of Freedom used to be a railroad bridge across the Imjin river which was used for repatriating POWs and soldiers from North Korea.

The Peace Bell weighs 21 tons.  It was dedicated on 1 January 2000 in hopes of welcoming the 21st century as when reunification will finally take place.

Mangbaeddan was declared a UNESCO Memory of the World in 1983.  Every year, especially on New Year's and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) people come here to pay respect for family members separated during the Korean War.

Our next stop was to the Dorasan Korail Station that used to connect Seoul and Pyongyang.  It opened in 2002 and is 2 km (1,25 miles) from the border.  The station has been renovated but it is strictly for show as no train as run to North Korea since 2008.

Then it was on to the the Dora Observatory for our glimpse in to North Korea.  Each Korea maintains a peace village on their respective side of the border.  Gaeseong is in South Korea and in the 1980s the government built a 98,4 metre (323 feet) tall flagpole.

The North Koreans responded by putting up a 160 metre (525 feet) tall flagpole, the fourth tallest in the world, in Kijeongdong which is the village just north of the border.

The bright blue buildings in Kijeongdong were built in the 1950s.  It seems that the village is just for propaganda.

Here are some photos of soldiers out on patrol.  

Since 1974 there have been four North Korean infiltration tunnels discovered by South Korea.  The third tunnel was found in 1978 following a statement from a North Korean defector.

The tunnel is about 1600 metres (5,200 feet) long and 73 metres (240 feet) below ground.  The tunnel slopes down and would have allowed up to 30,000 soldiers and light weaponry per hour in the event of a sneak attack on the south.  There's no photography allowed in the tunnel.

After lunch, we headed to the War Memorial of Korea.  It's a museum that used to be the South Korean Infantry Headquarters.  It's rather large with over 10,000 items on display.

There are a number of indoor and outdoor exhibition halls.  Outside are several monuments and military vehicles on display.

The original plan was to visit the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom which is controlled by the United Nations.  Due to the recent tensions between North Korea and the USA, there are military drills so all visits were cancelled for the week.  Too bad because that's the visit that I was most excited about.  Oh well, now I have another excuse to come back to South Korea.  Here's a short CNN video I found on YouTube that talks about the JSA.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Korean Food

There's no excuse for going hungry in Korea.  We've been living off of Korean food for over a week and have loved it.  Lots of rice, vegetables, meat and plenty of kimchi.

Overall, eating out in a restaurant is pretty inexpensive.  And yummy street food is even cheaper.

Most menus here are only in Korean but some have pictures that allow you to point.  When you go to a restaurant you will be given cold water for free.  Korean chopsticks are metal but most places will bring you a fork if you need one.  The best thing about Korean restaurants is that you will not be bothered by waiter or waitress.  Every table has a call button that you press when you want a server to come over.  Otherwise they will leave you alone.  Why don't we have these everywhere?

Every meal comes with banchan which are tasty small side dishes that you are given for free.  They are placed in the centre of the table for sharing and they come with unlimited refills.  At a minimum you get two but some places give up to six or eight different items.

Kimchi at the street market
In Korea, a meal isn't a meal without kimchi which is cabbage fermented in a brine of salt, ginger, garlic, scallions and chilli pepper.  Besides cabbage kimchi there's also radish and cucumber kimchi.  The average South Korean eats 18 kg (40 lbs) of kimchi every year.  Kimchi was included on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

At traditional restaurants is where you'll get Korean BBQ where meats are cooked on a grill in the centre of the table.  The meat is cooked and then scissors are used to cut in to smaller pieces.  You put the meat on a lettuce leaf or a perilla leaf, with thin sliced garlic, gochujang (chilli pepper paste), onion in sesame oil, and kimchi.  Kind of like Korean fajitas.

Bulgogi is marinated beef that is sliced thin or shredded.

Galbi are pork or beef ribs.

Samgyeopsal is pork belly.  The best is the Jeju black pork version.

Mandu are steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or deep-fried dumplings.

Jajangmyeon are fried noodles with black bean sauce.

Kimbap is the sandwich of Korea.  It is seaweed wrapped around rice and various ingredients like egg, carrots, radish, cucumber, plus either ham, cheese, tuna, or bulgogi.

Bibimbap is rice topped with an egg, veggies, and gochujang.  It is served in a bowl, mixed together and eaten with a spoon.  Dolsot bibimbap  is served in a warm stone  bowl with a raw egg that cooks against the sides of the bowl.

Jjigae is a thick soup or stew that is often served in a boiling bowl or pot at the table.

Gochujang jjigae is chilli pepper paste soup.
Budae jjigae

Kimchi jjigae is kimchi stew with pork or tofu added.

Sundubu jjigae is soft tofu stew and a raw egg is added at the table to the boiling bowl.

Budae jjigae is "army base stew" that contains Spam and instant ramen noodles.

Tteokbokki is the ultimate street food.  It is a finger-sized sliced rice cake and fish cakes served in chilli pepper sauce.

Japchae is a noodle dish with beef and vegetables marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil.

Soju is a clear distilled drink made from rice, wheat or barley.  The alcohol content can range from 16,8% to +50%.  You can sip it or do shots.  Not quite slivovice but good.

You might not think of fried chicken as Korean food but there is nothing better than Korean fried chicken.  Oh so good and never greasy.  It is served with mu which is a sour pickled white radish that's been cut into cubes.

Donkatsu is a Japanese dish but can be found in many Korean restaurants.  It is a deep-fried pork cutlet.  Basically Korean řízek.

Jeon are savoury pancakes made from a wheat-based flour then then fried.  There are many different varieties.

Pajeon are made by adding long strips of spring onion to the mix.

Patbingsu is shaved ice with sweet red beans and condensed milk.  Granola and ice cream are added along with fruit.

I did try the raw octopus in Busan.  It was fine but no where near the top of the list of my favourite Korean foods.

In Gangnam we stumbled across a Czech pub but didn't try it.

There are a couple of places in Brno that have Korean food.  I'll need to give them a try because I'm already missing my daily serving of kimchi.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Jeju City, South Korea

Jeju City제주시, is the capital of the Jeju Island Province and is home to more than 587,000 people.

Samseonghyeol is a historic site.  Legend has it that this is the place where the three demigods who founded the island first appeared.

The Jeju Folklore and Natural History Museum opened in 1984 and is well worth a visit.  There are over 3,000 exhibits which are divided into four exhibition halls.

Sinsan Park was opened in 1988 to commemorate the arrival of the Olympic torch to South Korea for the Seoul Olympic Games.

Olympic sculpture

There's a Korean War memorial and a sculpture dedicated to the '88 Olympics.

The Jungang Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary serves the local Roman Catholic community.  Its status was raised to cathedral in 1997.
Jeju City Hall

The Arario Museum is down by the seafront and has an impressive collection of Western and Asian contemporary art.

The Buddhist Bodeoksa Temple dates back to the 17th or 18th century.

The Dongmun Traditional Market was established in 1945.  The market burned down in a fire in 1954 and moved to its current location but kept the original name.  There are more than 300 vendors here selling everything imaginable.

There are several active Buddhist temples in Jeju.

Here's one at Donggosan.

Here's another temple we stumbled across at Sinseong.

A random obelisk found in the city centre.  No clue what the Chinese characters on it say and the dedication was only written in Korean.

No visit to Jeju would be complete without trying the Jeju Black Pig BBQ.  It was quite tasty, especially with the grilled kimchi.