Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Guide to Studying in Korea II

Somehow, I believe there are still many new things to see and experience even if we have stayed in a country for quite some time. This is now my fourth year in Korea and I have yet to visit the little Korean island called Jeju (제주도), a little less than an hour ride by plane from Daegu.

Hangang River Cruise in Seoul
Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju
I have seen many friends graduating one after another and it is always a bitter sweet moment. I am happy to see them graduating but I do not know what is next for me after my graduation.

There is so many possibilities and frankly, I am quite reluctant to make a firm decision on what's next after the hard mortar board placed over my head. One more year and I'm taking it one step at a time.


These days, Korea attracts a lot of students around the world for its decent and affordable education. A small minority of them are sponsored by the Korean government, and the rest are self paying students (mostly from the mainland China). Malaysia, as far as I know, is the only country sending students to Korea under the Public Service Department (JPA) or the MARA scholarships.

In my case, I am the Korean government scholar and when I first arrived to Korea, I was pretty clueless because I was never a fan of Korean dramas or songs. I was literally "lost" in Korea for a couple of weeks because I can't speak Korean, no buddy, couldn't use my laptop and I did not meet any foreigners (I was wrong though, after a few weeks, I met four helpful Malaysians) living in my university.   

The moral of the story- Some basic Korean language proficiency does helps but what's more important is your sense of adventure, never be afraid to try new things.

Living Cost

This is very subjective and it varies from city to city. In Seoul, a normal meal at the university cafeteria will be around 4000 Won (1200 Won for a roll of Kimbap but eating Kimbap everyday is just too much). In Daegu, it ranges from 2500 Won (A rarity these days unless at the cafeteria) to 4000 Won.

Nevertheless, living in the dormitory is much better because some dormitories (like mine) provide 3 complete meals a day at a lower cost (You have to pay for it in advance and the fee will be already included in the dormitory housing fee).

The Fee for the dormitory (at Kyungpook National University) is around 1,100,000 Won (or approximately 1,000 USD) per semester and this includes the food. Staying outside will cost you around 250,000 Won per month (excluding food) in Daegu but it can be more costly in Seoul. 

Most of the time, the 집주인 (landlord) will ask for a deposit (at least 1,000,000 Won but it is refundable at the end of the contract) as a guarantee.

For Malaysians, treat 1,000 Won as RM 1. This makes life easier if we do not convert the currency. OMG! One watermelon for 60 Ringgit (20,000 Won)? This is crazy! Well, some fruits in Korea can be very expensive.

The strawberries (spring), the persimmons (fall) and the sweet yellowish honeydew (summer) are very cheap depending on the seasons.

Housing: 150,000 Won to 300,000 Won per month
Food: +-200,000 Won 
Telephone bill: 15,000 Won (a normal phone) to 80,000 Won+ (smartphone)


Koreans generally love coffees. Hence, coffee shops are found all over the places. A minute walk from my dormitory, I can find at least 6 cafes. Although, I am not very fond of coffees, I wouldn't mind if people were to treat me with Starbucks coffee- I love it.

However, I would always order Hot Chocolate or Blueberry smoothie if I am with my friends. In a normal cafe, it will be around 3000 to 4000 Won. Yummy.

During exam weeks, it is also not uncommon to see students staying the whole day in the cafe revising. I find most Koreans especially those living in Seoul are very fashionable. Somehow most Asian clothing fit them perfectly.

Nevertheless, most overseas brands are very expensive because it is usually only one distributor monopolizing the business. ZARA, Guess and GAP are mark-up around 20-30% more than the usual price.

Sometimes, I have to wait for sales to afford one. 

However, you can get cheaper ones if you are to shop at hypermarkets (like E-Mart, Homeplus). Jeans is around 20 USD+ and shirts are affordable (maybe around 15 USD each?). You wouldn't be able find such price if you are to shop at Uniqlo (A pair of jeans is around 50 dollars+).

If you can, do not buy any winter clothing from Malaysia (unless if you are coming during winter) because you can get one in Korea similar in price, more variety and of course, better looking. :)

If can, buy the "Heattech" clothing by Uniqlo or equivalent (I am using one from Giordano). It does keep you a little warm as long as it is snugged tightly (fit) around your body. On the other hand, a jacket will be fine during spring and autumn. For first timer to a four season country, adjusting to the temperature can be a bit problematic so bring a thick jacket or sweater if you couldn't bear with the cold.

My city, Daegu, is the third largest city in Korea. There are many places to enjoy and experience the culture, but being a student, like everyone, I have to watch over my spending. Korea has many cheap places to play sports (ex baseball), snooker, karaoke (노래방), and drinking.

Karaoke or Norabang is only around 20,000 Won for 2 hours (depending on the hours) but you can get a smaller room for 1,000 Won per 4 songs. Cheap huh? Besides Korean and English songs, there are plenty of Filipino (very old songs according to my Filipino friend), Vietnamese, Chinese and Indonesian (old songs too) songs available too.

Cinemas are everywhere. A ticket here is around 7 dollars which is almost double than to Malaysia. (TIPS: If you purchase a ticket for the first screening of the day, there is a discount, a ticket costs only 5,000 Won/less than 5 dollars, but you have to wake up early to watch the maybe 9 am movie!). I did that only once though (because of Milla Jovovich- the sexay Resident Evil zombie slayer. hehe).


One word - Awesome! In cities like Seoul, Daegu and Busan, public transportation there are very efficient, convenient and fast. Understandably, public transportation to places located at the outskirts are hard to find but overall, good. If you are staying in Korea (eg Seoul) for a week plus, it's better to use the transportation card (Seoul T-Money: 3,000 Won).     


Korean language is (depending on people, some find learning Korean easy in the beginning but in my case) difficult when you start but once you have mastered level 2, learning level 3 is surprisingly easier. I went out with many friends even though we can converse in only level 2 Korean.

In Seoul, it is more common to find more Japanese students at the language institutes than other nationalities but in Daegu, the majority of the students are from China.

Level 1 is about the Korean characters and very basic conversations. Level 2, 3 and 4 are all about commonly used grammar and vocabulary. Level 5 and 6 delve into more serious topics like opinions on politics, etc hence, expanding your vocabulary.

Frankly speaking, science subjects during the first year will be very difficult no matter which level you are in. My first year was tough because all scientific terms, books, lectures are all in Korean. And I did not learn any scientific terms (not even one) in Korean during my time at the language institute. I was starting all over again from scratch.

Time passes, and from second year onwards, English books are widely used. Koreans still use translated books (depending on the professor's permission) but most exams are in English. Alright... I chose classes that give English exams paper! Life was easier from then on... 3.77... then to almost 4... You just need to work a little harder and smarter than the Koreans. Nothing is that simple lah.

Depending on the professors, you are allowed to use electronic dictionary to translate the Korean terms during the classes or examinations. Some scientific terms cannot be translated by the dictionary. :( My phone's dictionary perform the same task in translating but the only difference is that you are not allowed to bring your phone into the exam hall.  

Vision Korea 2012

I have almost fulfilled the prerequisites to graduate from my major. Hence, I am now trying to minor in Business Admin. To minor in a particular field of study at my university, you need to complete more than 22 credit hours. I am not sure whether the same applies to other universities in Korea.

Internet is super fast in Korea. Streaming movies, downloading, etc are a breeze but there are many sites that are censored by the Korean Government. Anything to do with pro North Korea is censored. Try searching for "North Korea official website" if you are in Korea and you will know why when you click on that North Korean homepage.

The best part of your life begins during language institute (lots of field trips, free time), drops drastically during your first year, and improve as time passes. I believe as long as you have the perseverance, never give up easily and be optimistic in life, everything will be fine.


Scholarships are not easy to get in Korea. It is like a hit or miss, either you get it or not. A few Koreans I know work as tutors, waitress and even as convenient store employee. Some Koreans too work as staffs in their university department offices to pay for their education.

To obtain a scholarship from any university, you need to have good results. According to my university's scholarship guide, you need to be the top 7% of all international students to receive an 80% (80 percent deduction from your tuition fees) scholarship for the following semester (Top 30% only entitled a 20% scholarship).

My university's link (scholarship, admission info, application, etc): Click here

Study in Korea (Korean Government Scholarship, etc): Click here

Tip: If you love writing, try to apply to be a reporter at your university's English magazine. You might receive an additional 75% scholarship. If your academic results are good too, you need not pay any tuition fees.

My studies are already sponsored by the government so I am not entitled for the 75% scholarship but this is a good way to get free education in Korea for students without any scholarship.    

The Korean government has strict regulations on working part-time for the foreign students and since I haven't work part time before, I cannot comment on this. For some Malaysian students sponsored by the Malaysian government, a handful of them are doing the "Halal" Tour (a tour catering for Malaysian Muslims to Korea, a niche market). All I can say is that they are earning huge sum of money from it.

It is very easy to succumb to the temptation of getting easy money, but as a student, I believe that if you can juggle between both work and your academic obligations, then, go for it, as long as it is legal and within the boundaries of law.

If you want to work but is not so fortunate to get a job, try to apply for part time job at your university's lab, department, etc. The minimum hourly wage is 4,860 Won per hour. (However, if you are working at some restaurants, you might be paid less. Sadly, some employers do not follow the government's directive.)


Spring is cool and refreshing and if you are allergic to pollen, it can be a big inconvenience. Summer is hot and humid (very similar to Malaysia but Daegu is hotter than Malaysia during summer) and yes, we have typhoon in Korea (occurring almost every summer). Autumn is similar to spring. In between seasons, it will rain quite frequently, so be prepared with an umbrella.

Winter is dry and freezing. What makes winter unbearable is the wind factor. The chilly wind does make your ears "numb" so it's good to have ear muffs and muffler to cover your neck but I felt beanie is optional.

Getting a Job/Graduate Studies

To get a job in Korea, it is advisable to graduate from a Korean university. Many companies in Korea require their foreign employees to be at least proficient with conversational Korean. From my conversation with my friends working in Korea, landing a job here without any Korean proficiency is quite difficult. Unless you plan to work as an English teacher, the probability to get a job here is low.

If you are graduating from Korean university, every year (around early October) in Seoul, they will be a career fair for foreign students in Korea. Students can also try applying for internships (and this may lead to full employment after graduation) at every semester.

Link for the 2012 International Student Career fair here (Note: many companies' job offers have already been removed from this homepage). If you plan to further your graduate studies here, you can refer to any Korean university's homepage and find their graduate admission procedures. Scholarships are available but the most rewarding scholarship is from the Korean government.

The merits of graduating in Korea lie not in the strength in their education (not perfect in my opinion), but in the chances of working for a numbers of well known companies headquartered here, learning to adapt in a homogeneous, hierarchical society and experience living in one of the most successful Asian Tiger economies.


In between my free time, I contribute articles for the Korean food (Check them out at the link here) blog. For half-a-year too, I worked as the ASEAN-Korea weblog correspondent, writing articles about my country. I have to admit due to deadline constraint and my other commitments, they were not as perfect as I wanted them to be.

The poem "If" by Robert Frost still holds true to this day and it is one of my favorite poems till this day. I am neither the first to step foot on this Land of Morning Calm nor I am regretting my decision to study in Korea.

Honestly, Korea is still not a preferred destination for education to most people, and I can understand the many reasons behind it. In my case, I love to walk on any untrodden path (the path people rarely take) and enjoy the nice scenery along the way.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

"If" by Robert Frost

May you have a fantastic 2013 and best of luck!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Of Snow and My Thoughts

During my first year in Korea, every time it snows, I would stop all my work and look outside for a while. The following year, snowing became so common, I ignored it and continue on with my life. The last time it snowed was during the new year's day this year, and the timing was really memorable. New year = First snow of the winter season.

At first it snows like this...

After some time...
This year was a bit different. It snowed just now, during my exam week (less than 3 more days before the D-Day). Snows reminds me of many things- that some things just don't last long, just like snows, they melt as soon as the weather turns a little warmer. So I am never easily be disappointed with many failures. I take life easily (and positively). :) 

This may be the second last winter of me living in Korea. My clock now resets whereby I have another year to go before seeing my last snow here. This means time is running up! :( It was an irony because when I first came to Korea, I never even thought of staying in Korea this long even though I was awarded the government scholarship. 

Reason is that I was still awaiting the result for the admission to local university. I applied for medicine. Of course my result was not an "excellent" one but well, who cares? Hehe... After almost 4 years in Korea, when I think of my final year, next year, I feel a little sentimental to be leaving the place I have known for so long, friends I have met and the memories this soon.  

My KNU Times juniors

Like you and me, we may have many dreams. Dreams of what we want to see or become in the future. Some hope to become wealthy, others may want to get a job in well-known companies. Who doesn't? What I am worrying is whether I will love or enjoy what I am doing in the future. I am afraid of putting the importance of money before my interest. 

Not to offend anyone, but after living in Korea and mingling with the foreigners. I found that most Filipinos communities in Korea (of all the other foreigners) prefer living permanently in Korea. Many if not all Filipinos I met hope to settle down in Korea after they graduate, etc. In my humble opinion, this is not wrong but it will exacerbate further brain drain in Philippines. 


Malaysia is facing a big problem too. Everyday is about politics and every news here revolve around politics. What saddens me most is that "ethnic race" is always part of the main discussion. I know it is tough to govern a multicultural country but isn't ethic minorities or majority are citizens too? 

Such negative impressions of the "injustice" from the ethnic minorities, as well as the dissatisfaction of the country's unequal wealth pie felt by the ethnic-majority are detrimental to the nation growth. Then what is the solutions? Malaysia needs to tackle the root cause of it- too much racial elements that were allowed to permeate here and there.

We have a race (and politically) based newspapers, multiple education systems (National, Chinese, Indian, etc), race-based political parties, a race-based armed regiment (e.g. Royal Malay Regiment), different admission processes for certain races, ethnic based quotas, and so forth. Wouldn't it be great if we are matured enough to see the benefits of uniting all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity? Let's start with the overhauling our education system first.

It would be nice to see a single unifying schooling system that all races can be uniquely interested in- classes that are taught fairly and admission to the universities are based on one's own merits. As expected, weak/poor students ought to be given better opportunity to attend additional classes and if needed, other supporting measures in the form of small allowances were given to ensure that they are able to buy books, uniforms, decent meals and attend classes.  

Teachers need to be trained as professionally as possible. Instead of allowing good but retiring teachers to retire, the government can recruit them to train the new teachers. Since the public perception of teaching is not glamorous, attracting bright students to become teachers is difficult. Government can give more overseas scholarships to bright students (interested to become a teacher) on the condition that they will come back and teach the students.

Once in a while, government scholars like from the JPA (Public Service Department) should be given the chance to teach temporarily so as to inspire the younger generations to dream big. Public universities and government's pre-universities that have admission based on ethnic backgrounds needs to be abolished or lowered (albeit temporarily) to ensure students are able to compete academically with each other. Admittedly, weak students need to be given additional support to improve themselves and they should not be penalized if they failed to meet the expectation for the first time.    

When fairness prevails, more Malaysians regardless of ethnicity will consider this country as an ideal place to settle down. This means no more infighting, more local investments, better opportunity for self improvement and the country prospers.
Nevertheless, I also knew such things are difficult to achieve. When the time comes, not necessarily with better education, but with more maturity and experience, Malaysians can live in a better place than before. I know we are not living in an idealistic world but I always hope for the best.

Some of the "supplies" from home
Snowing makes me miss home but I know I have unfinished tasks to achieve. What I need now are self motivation, strong determination and a good cup of hot chocolate. I usually prepared months before the exams when I was in high school, weeks before I took the pre-university examination but last minute during my university life. Sometimes when I think of it, life in university can be so fun :) 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Getting ready for exams...

My exam is just around the corner. I have lots more to cover but hopefully, I would be able to complete all my revisions before end of next week :) Procrastination is my biggest enemy. Distraction is second. 

Favorite soundtracks during exam week.

Chevaliers de Sangreal from the Da Vinci Code

Keep Holding On by Avril Lavigne

Time (from the movie Inception) by Hans Zimmer

Brothers (from the movie Pearl Harbor) by Hans Zimmer

Tennessee (from the movie Pearl Harbor) by Hans Zimmer

Autumn is now over and in less than 3 weeks, my forth year in Korea will be almost over. When I looked back at all the resolutions I made last year, I didn't achieve them all- I sleep late everyday. I am grateful I am able to sleep at 2 something am and wake up at 8 am everyday without fail. Hope to change this after exam. One more year to go here in Korea and after this, what's next for me? 


Monday, November 19, 2012

DMZ - Past Connecting Present

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana, a poet, philosopher and cultural critic) The DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone is one of the few places where people are unable to go, so the natural flora and fauna is able to flourish. 

This place remains untouched and unharmed despite the fact that it is the most heavily guarded and militarized places in the world. The DMZ is also the site where Korean Peninsula is divided into two. 
During the Korean War, a stalemate occurred and a demarcation line was drawn along the 38th parallel north as part of the Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953. Owing to the fact that a Peace Treaty has yet to be signed, South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war

Landmines and many unexploded ordnances are scattered at the DMZ, making it uninhabitable. It is pitifully sad that after so many years, both nations, though similar in language and race, are nevertheless still tragically separated due only to differences in ideology. 

Inje (인제군)

This place is located in Gangwon Province. Due to its proximity to North Korea, Inje has the lowest population density in South Korea. Hence, unpolluted air combined with fresh clear water can be found in this underdeveloped area. 

This region provides a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. For drinkers, this is also the best place to enjoy the delicious traditional Makgeolli made from the freshest ingredients (Dang! I did not take any pics!).   
Getting There: A five-hour express bus ride from Daegu
Accommodation: 50,000 Won per night for double room or 80,000 won per night for 10-person dormitory 

Did you see my name?
Our lodging was a sparse, yet comfortable, Korea DMZ Peace-Life Valley Education and Training Center (한국DMZ평화생명동산교육마을). Long name huh? Located between two main tourist attraction sites, it is a strategic spot for further exploration of the area. 

Each meal is around 4,500 Won and most of the ingredients from the dishes are from the region or from the farm outside the center. The first place I visited was the Eulji Observation Platform.

Eulji Observation Platform (을지전망대)
Eulji Observation Platform
No GPS signal!
Entry Fee: 2,500 won per adult (Fee for Fourth Incursion Tunnel included) and registration at the Yanggu Unification Center is needed prior to visit. Visit for more info

This is the most tightly guarded area in this region. Positioned just over 1 km from the North Korean side, we had to pass through several military checkpoints. This platform was built on the ridge of Gachilbong Peak, which is over 1,049m above sea level. 

Directly beside it, is the “Punch Bowl”, a fertile valley aptly named as it resembles a punch bowl. Innocent as it may sound, this is the site where many lives were lost during the tragic Korean War.      

On a clear day, the North Korean army can be seen from here. Unfortunately, during my trip, the weather was very misty and visibility was extremely poor. I had to make do with listening to the video presentation followed by a brief explanation about the area. Telescopes are also available. 

Due to the relative isolation from the city, the air is cool and fresh as it is located at the peak of the mountain. The rules there are simple—no photographing and strict adherence to guidelines stipulated by the army. It was an exhilarating   experience for me to be in the DMZ zone.

Fourth Incursion tunnel (제4땅굴)

This tunnel was discovered on the 3rd of March 1990. It measures over 2km in length and is buried 145m below the ground. For the claustrophobics, this is not a place to venture because the tunnel at the end is very narrow. The height of the tunnel is a mere 1.7m high and it measures 1.7m in width. 

As it was raining outside, we were wet in the tunnel from droplets of water falling on our heads. After a walk in the tunnel, I decided to take a ride in a mini train as we approached the deeper end of the tunnel. My butt got wet sitting on the damp train.... wth...

An army personnel was assigned to guide our group. He explained the intention and strategic values behind the construction of the tunnel by the North Korean army. The tunnel was built manually, using spades and explosives to bore through the hard rocks. 

What is so astounding was that after so many years of blasting rocks on South Korean territory, a railway line was also built— unnoticed and undetected by South Korea! Outside the tunnel are relics left behind from the Korean War. 

There are tanks, armored personnel carriers and rusting reconnaissance planes, located side by side, as a reminder of the many lives lost during this tragic war. There, I posed for pictures, pretending to be a pilot, an army officer and tourist with crazy posing ideas.
Nice place for countryside experience...
Due to time constraints, we had to call it a day after the visit to both sites. The trip back was accompanied by military personnel who checked our cameras to ascertain whether we had taken any prohibited photos. We had dinner at the Korea DMZ Peace-Life Valley Education and Training Center

There was a joke among our group that as the DMZ is devoid of female presence, (No kidding!) it is therefore appropriate for soldiers, retirees and wild animals. I observed that the entertainment places for the army are PC rooms, restaurants and billiard centers.  

Dutayeon Falls (두타연)
Getting there: Since the pond is located north of the Civilian Control Line, application to the military authorities must be submitted two days ahead of your planned visit and requisite approval must be obtained. No personal trip is allowed and only a group of four persons or more can enter the site. Admission fee is 2,000 won per adult

Dutayeon Valley is said to be the area where freshwater lenok fish thrive in the crystal clear valley streams. Because of its isolation, the ecological habitat of its flora and fauna around the valley is well preserved. Duta means living in peace and self-control without worrying about daily affairs such as which clothes to wear, food to eat and other nitty-gritty issues. Therefore, the name fits very well with the beauty and serenity of this uncontaminated mountain valley. 
At the Dutayeon
Side Trip: Pyeonghwa (Peace) Dam
The Dutayeon Pond is fed by water from the Dutayeon Falls, a 10-meter high and 60-meter wide cascading waterfall that channels the water of the Suip Stream (수입천) into the pond. To reach the Dutayeon pond, I had to walk over a stream via the suspension bridge. It was a chilling experience as the bridge swung precariously with every step I took.

Inje is the perfect destination for adventure seekers, history enthusiasts and tourists seeking to escape the busy city life. I always believe life is full of uncertainties. As a foreigner, the DMZ is one of the places in Korea I yearned to go to for a long time. Hence I felt a sense of accomplishment that I had been to this place and witnessed the splendor of this historic location. It is my hope that the DMZ will always remain as it is— ecologically diverse, pristine and untainted. 

KNU Times!
(This was written for KNU Times, my university's English magazine. I am currently working since last semester there so life is pretty hectic at the moment. It was some sort of an achievement to me because I am the first foreigner since its first publication in 1963.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Korea.. A Hierarchical Society..

I do not deny that I have not been in Korea that long comparable to the likes of many people I knew. Up to now, I have stayed in Korea for around 4 years. However, from the moment I arrived to Korea, the first people I met was a Korean. 

At the beginning, I do not know there were any foreigners living in my university so my friends were mostly Koreans. It was tough but with time, I matured and now, I take each challenges as if I have another puzzle to be solved.

I like to observe people too.

So far, there's one thing I cannot adapt here-It is the Korean culture of hierarchy in almost every environment. Elders are always respected no matter they are right or wrong, sometimes even juniors kowtowing to them so as to obtain good impression from the superiors. 

I think I am exposed to more Westernized environment. I questioned seniors/elders if I felt I am right, I ask when am curious, I follow orders but not blindly. In Korea, it's very rare to see students asking questions in class, students questioning professors' conducts were unheard of and promotion based on ability is not as widely practiced as promotion based on age.

Of course, I still have Asian values in me.

The other day, while having dinner with Koreans and a Chinese- Everyone were older than me, so I used honorific like "저는 (jorh nen)" instead of a more friendly term like "나는 (nah nen)" and ended my sentence with a "-요 (yo)" as to comply with the Korean style of speaking to the elders. 

Bulgogi (불고기)

So after a while, the chief of the organization entered and like they were been struck by a lightning bolt on their asses, immediately everyone rises. I was already halfway munching my beloved 15,000 Won (13 USD) 불고기 (Bulgogi) and have no choice but to stand up so as not to be the odd ones out. Then, the other Koreans began to act like as if a King had just arrived. Drinks were ordered and the rest, well, I don't really care.

When I am old, I do not want people to agree with me if I am wrong. I do not want people to hesitate and give me a vague answer rather than a Yes or No. I do not want my junior to act and pretend to be nice when any seniors or me are around.

Respect I felt, is not a God given right and it has no relation with the age of a person. It has to be earned. It's just that I felt Korean's culture of hierarchy will be huge impediment for its future growth in a long run. 

I hope in years to come, Koreans will be true to themselves and not be pretending to be nice just because the elders are around. Not all Koreans were like that but unfortunately they are the minority.  


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Adventures at Yeosu - Yeosu Expo 2012

Yeosu Expo is being held in Korea from May 12 to August 12 this year. This exposition is aimed to allow the international community to understand the importance of conservation and the proper use of the ocean and coast resources. 

Not to forget, this exposition is also held to showcase the different cultures of the world and to strengthens Korean's international image as the host country.

Welcome to Yeosu Expo! 

With a huge numbers of pavilions being set up in a short time, it was a remarkable achievement for Korea. As a student staying in Korea, it would be a wasted opportunity if I did not attend this expo. So like most cash-strapped students, we try to go on budget (It is impossible though...). 

Unpredictable as my friends were, we decided to go to the exposition after deciding only two days before.

This is me! 

I love adventure and going to places with little planning. Usually, most of my trips were not planned but we have a list of where to go and what to try. 

Getting to Yeosu from Daegu is not difficult as it seems. Yeosu is located at the Southernmost of Korea and it takes less time (and cheaper) to travel from Daegu (in the middle of South Korea) to Yeosu than Seoul (northern part of South Korea) to Yeosu.

First, get off at Seongdangmot (성당못)

Exit here - Exit number 3

The bus station is directly next to the exit 

From my university, we took a taxi to Banwoldang Station (반월당), the only station where Line 1 and Line 2 of the Daegu subway intersects. Then, we took Line 1 to Seongdangmot (성당못) and exited the station at Gate 3 (Sobu Bus Terminal - 서부정류장). 

There, bus ticket to Yeosu can be bought (Less than 20,000 Won one way). Travelling by bus was a "butt-wrecking" experience. One Ahjumma (old lady) entered the bus even though all the seats were filled and she pretended to arrange her belongings on the top rack of the bus. 

When the bus driver was halfway on the road, she asked the bus driver whether or not it is possible for her to sit on the floor of the bus. Left with no choice, the bus driver relented. 


I felt like giving her my seat but the 3 hours plus journey scares me off. Along the way, I remembered we stopped at a rest stop and during the rest of the journey, I was sleeping. We arrived at Yeosu around 6 pm and we took a bus (Free!) to the exposition site. 

There will be guides (around bus stops) so it is very easy for tourists visiting the town. My first impression of the town/city (I can't call it a city) was this is a countryside (진짜 시골처럼 ㅋㅋ). Facilities there were bare minimum but food and accommodations were as expensive as in Seoul (maybe because of the exposition).

Evening Pass 

Standard Day Pass 

Sight from the main entrance gate

We knew beforehand that visiting the Expo for a day was not enough, we quickly bought the entry passes as soon as we reached Yeosu Expo site (2 tickets - 1 for the standard day pass, 33,000 Won and the other is Evening pass, 16,000 Won). So, the journey began. 

As a souvenir, we also bought the "Yeosu Passport" at 5,000 Won each. At every pavilion visited, we can obtain a stamp to be stamped/pasted on the "Passport".

Yeosu "Passport"

Singapore Pavilion

Australia Pavilion! 

On the first day, I visited Singapore, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Australia (Had my dinner there too), Malaysia (Roti Canai at 7 Dollars? Come on!!! I can get it for less than 0.50 Dollars if I am in Malaysia!!!), Philippines and finally, Russia (Food here is so expensive, more than 20 Dollars for a decent meal). 

My Dinner @ Australian Pavilion

Malaysian Pavilion 

As it was already late at night, we watched the fountain performance and light-play at the "Big-O". That was the end of our Day 1. After we exited from the site, we searched for place to overnight. Most cheap rooms were already taken and it cost upwards 100 Dollars for a normal room. 

So we bargained and we managed to reduce the it to less than 70 Dollars.

"Big-O" fountain show 

Look at the crowd! 

My Day 2 was about waking up early and getting to the theme pavilions. As I was the earliest to wake up, (the rest were still sleeping) I managed to visit the aquarium (Lots of people!!! Honestly, if lining up for hours is a cup of tea for you, go for it but if not - skip it! I started to line up at the entrance at 8.00 am and entered the aquarium only at around 9 am.). 

Hyundai Pavilion

Bus ticket back to Daegu 

Other pavilions I visited worth mentioning were the Climate and Environment Pavilion and the Korean Pavilion. I visited almost all the international pavilions but had to give few European countries' pavilions a miss. 2 days is certainly not enough to visit all of them. 

Going back was the same and the bus journey (18,200 Won) back was better, everyone was tired so most of us slept until we reached Daegu. Dinner was a miserable Cheese Kim bap (2,000 Won) and red (or black?) bean buns. 


The expo was so-so and personally, I witnessed many people cutting in line (luckily not the younger ones) and it pissed me off at certain point. As an Asian with Asian values, I maintained my calm and respect for elders but...

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"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning" ~Winston Churchill~