Tag Archives: Seoul

hangul

South Korea Celebrates the 568th Anniversary of Hangul

In the picture above, foreign students of the Korean language institute Sejong Hakdang pose in front of a statue of King Sejong in downtown Seoul in order to commemorate the 568th anniversary of the Korean alphabet.

by REERA YOO

South Korea celebrated the 568th anniversary of the promulgation of hangul, the Korean writing system, with various events in central Seoul on Thursday, reported Yonhap news agency.

Hangul has always been a source of pride for Koreans, so much to the point that Oct. 9 is designated as a national Korean holiday for South Koreans and Jan. 15 for North Koreans.

The Korean alphabet was invented by King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and was promulgated in 1446 to replace an older writing system based on Chinese characters in an effort to make every Korean citizen literate without years of formal schooling. With 24 characters, consisting of four consonants and 10 vowels, hangul is considered one of the most scientific and efficient alphabets in the world.

The main ceremony for Hangul Day was held at the Sejong Center for Performing Arts on Thursday morning with the attendance of 3,000 government dignitaries, foreign diplomats and leaders of Hangul-related organizations, according to Yonhap. Ten individuals were honored for their contribution to the Korean language including American missionary Homer Hulbert (1863-1949), who advocated for Korean independence from Japanese colonial rule.

hangul museumThe main exhibition hall of the National Hangul Museum. (Photo credit: The National Hangul Museum)

The National Hangul Museum also opened to the public on Thursday after three years of construction. Nearly 10,000 hangul-related artifacts are housed at the museum including the oldest Korean typewriter in existence and the Yongbieocheonga, the first work ever to be written in hangul, according to the Korea Herald.

Meanwhile, a hangul festival kicked off Tuesday at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul. The festival hosted art exhibits, street performances, a fashion show, and a hangul handwriting contest for foreigners.

In addition, Seoul held an exhibition of about 50 hand-painted postcards that were chosen from a contest hosted by the city government to raise public interest in the Korean writing system. Seoul city buses will also be carrying typographic designs inspired by Hangul for an entire month starting from the holiday, according to the ministry.

Hangul Day was originally proclaimed in 1926 as an effort to preserve the written language under Japanese colonial rule, but lost its status as a legal holiday in 1991 due to pressure from the South Korean government to reduce the number of holidays. It was reinstated as a national holiday just last year thanks to the campaigning by the Hangul Society.

Featured photo courtesy of Yonhap

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North Korea Believed to Still Be Digging Tunnels to Seoul

by REERA YOO

South Korea recently discovered tunnels believed to be dug by North Koreans, according to Gen. Hahn Sung-chu.

Hahn, a former two-star general who is now a tunnel hunter, used dowsers to detect three tunnels inside a Seoul apartment building’s basement. These tunnels were 13 to 16 feet wide at a depth of up to 39 feet. A team attempted to drill holes to lower a camera, but before they could, they detected two underground explosives and had to stop the operation. Hahn told CNN he is sure that the tunnels are the work of North Koreans and that they are signs of “a kind of invasion.”

Three tunnels were found in the 1970s and one was found in 1990, but no other tunnels have been found since. Despite this, the South Korean Defense Ministry believes that there may be 20 tunnels in total and continues to search for them.

Although the Defense Ministry is still hunting for “invasion tunnels” near the border, it is convinced that none would reach further than 6 miles from the Demilitarized Zone due to the Imjin River and the large amount of groundwater in Korean soil.

“From North Korea to Seoul is a considerable distance,” said Kim Min-seok, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman. “And the soil structure contains a lot of granite, so it’s not an easy dig like it was digging tunnels in Vietnam, for example.”

On the contrary, an anonymous former intelligence official from North Korea told CNN that a tunnel to Seoul, no matter how far-fetched it may sound, is possible. The defector claimed that North Koreans would remove soil and stones during nighttime to avoid detection and would dig in a vertical manner that allows the water to drain back to the North.

“I was told the tunnels are not directly connected to the streets of Seoul because of the risk of being detected. The tunnels are connected to the sewers linked to the relevant organizations,” the defector said.

He added that although the tunnel digging operations peaked in the 1980s, he believes that the North Korean capital would still protect the several tunnels it created over the decades.

In recent years, tunnel hunting has become a mere token effort by the South Korean government, which is now more concerned about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Featured photo via CNN

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[VIDEO] #HappySeoul’s Contribution to ’24 Hours of Happy’

by JAMES S. KIM

When Pharrell William’s “Happy” comes on the radio, take heed: You may find yourself clapping along, whether you are happy or not.

Cities and countries around the world have been uploading hundreds of music videos as a contribution to Pharrell’s “24 Hours of Happy” campaign. South Korea already submitted several of their own, but we think that this one, which was uploaded yesterday, might be the best of them all.

The video features several prominent locations, including Gangnam and Hongdae, while also showcasing Seoul residents of all ages. We’re pretty sure most don’t break out into song and dance all the time, but they certainly look capable of doing so.

Also, the hanboks and sunglasses pretty much sealed it for us.

Image via Happy Seoul

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Gangnam Aims To Attract 10 Million Visitors By 2018 With Its Annual Festival

by STEVE HAN

South Korean capital Seoul’s Gangnam District, which was popularized globally by K-pop megastar Psy’s viral hit “Gangnam Style” in 2012, is developing strategic plans to lure 10 million foreign tourists by 2018, according to the head of the district.

In 2012, prior to Psy’s release of “Gangnam Style,” more than 850,000 foreigners believed to have visited Seoul’s affluent southern district. In the following year, that number soared to 5.11 million. Shin Yeon-hee, the head of the Gangnam District, said she and her team will set the groundwork to attract even more tourists by hosting global events, including festivals and concerts.

“The target is to attract 20 million foreign travelers by 2017,” Shin told the Korea Times. “If that goal is attained, bringing 10 million to Gangnam will also be possible. We already have good facilities for tourism … What we need to develop further is cultural content.”

A big part of the district’s effort to make itself more tourist-friendly is the annual Gangnam Festival, a four-day event which began today on Yeongdong Street near the COEX building, an area considered as Seoul’s equivalent of New York’s Times Square. Although smaller-scale festivals have existed for years in Gangnam, the district combined them in 2007 to leverage its brand.

The festival is said to include a fashion festival, a marathon, a global food festival, and a two-hour K-pop concert by JYJ.

“The festival has huge economic effect, with the visitors spending 6.1 billion won last year in Gangnam,” said Shin. “We also hope the festival will have other positive effects, such as revitalizing Korea’s fashion industry and boosting international awareness of Gangnam.”

Aside from festival activities, the district also has plans to remodel the World Taekwondo Headquarters building into a taekwondo-related cultural park by 2016.

Featured photo courtesy of Daum

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Seoul Mayor Takes Cues From Los Angeles’ Emergency Preparedness

by REERA YOO

This past weekend, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon visited Los Angeles to tap the city’s expertise on emergency preparedness, reported The Los Angeles Times.

Park, a potential presidential candidate who began his second term as mayor of Seoul in July, visited Los Angeles’ emergency operations center, the Los Angeles Fire Department, Dodger Stadium and the site of Korean Air’s future downtown skyscraper to learn more about the city’s disaster plans.

Recalling the Sewol ferry disaster, which killed more than 300 passengers in April, Park stated that he was looking to Los Angeles’ expertise on handling crises to ensure Seoul is better prepared to respond to emergencies.

“Many mistakes and systematic problems were involved in that accident,” Park told the L.A. Times. “As manager of this big metropolitan city, I’m really in charge. I feel a strong sense of responsibility.”

He added that Los Angeles would serve as a valuable guide for Seoul due to its predisposition to natural disasters such as earthquakes and fires.

In addition to surveying disaster plans, Park also spoke with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti about increasing trade and tourism between the two cities. The two mayors will discuss more initiatives when Garcetti visits Seoul in November.

According to The Korea Herald, Park also met with Hollywood producers and directors during his trip to promote Seoul as a film site for future movies, particularly for the third installment of Star Trek, which is slated to be released in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times

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Seoul Plans to Build Its Own High Line Park

by REERA YOO

Downtown Seoul will have its own grassy elevated park similar to New York’s High Line Park by the end of next year, said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

A 17-meter-high motorway near Seoul’s main train station will be closed to motor traffic and converted into a park for pedestrians. The road has connected Seoul’s central business district with the city’s west since the 1970s, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Seoul said it drew its inspiration from New York’s High Line Park, one of the world’s most famous urban-renewal projects. The city expects to spend about $37.5 million on the project.

“The roadway is a historic heritage from the industrialization era, which means it is much more than a road,” Park told the Korea Times. “Once completed, it will be a tourist attraction. It will also help the regional economy around Namdaemun Market.”

Since 2000, Seoul has torn down more than a dozen elevated roads, stating that they are no longer useful in traffic management. At the suggestion of Mayor Park and a non-profit group, the demolition of the roadway in question was turned down in favor of preserving it as a public park.

“It is better to rejuvenate the city instead of destroying its cultural heritages for building something new,” Park said.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is currently collecting ideas for the renovation and plans to hold a contest around October, according to the Korea Times.

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[TRAILER] Uncovering SKorea’s Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in ‘Save My Seoul’

by JAMES S. KIM

It’s hidden, but once you know what to look for, you’ll realize it’s everywhere.

Underneath the glamour of Seoul is a booming prostitution and sex trafficking industry. The capital of South Korea is referred to as a “paradise” for the sex industry that men can easily access.

That’s what Jason and Eddie Lee, brothers and co-founders of Jubilee Project, discovered during their trip to Korea last year. Save My Seoul, a feature-length documentary set to release in Spring 2015, aims to raise awareness about the issue and spark action to end trafficking in South Korea.

“When my brother, Eddie, and I went to Seoul, we thought that it’d just be another visit, but this time, we came across something we had never seen in Korea before,” says Jason Lee, the director and co-producer, in the trailer.

Equipped with hidden cameras, the brothers traverse Seoul’s underworld to find that the issue goes “far deeper than lost girls and lustful men. Instead, it’s a consequence of the broken Korean culture that turns a blind eye to and condones one of the biggest human injustices of our generation.”

You can watch the trailer below:

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Mysterious Sinkholes Could Slow Construction of Korea’s Tallest Skyscraper

by TONY KIM

The emergence of multiple sinkholes throughout Seoul, including ones along the streets where the Lotte World Tower is being built, has raised public concern about the safety and soundness of the construction of Korea’s tallest building-to-be.

Officials from the Lotte Group didn’t seem to have an explanation for the mysterious depressions, one of which measures half a meter wide and 20 centimeters deep, and was found about 500 meters from the construction site, according to AP.

“We are working on an investigation of sinkholes, but it will take some time to figure out what’s going on,” Seulki Lee, a spokesperson for the Lotte Group, told CNN.

Lee said that Lotte engineers believe that the tower’s construction is unrelated to the appearance of the sinkholes, but that’s hardly a comfort to the public.

After pictures of the sinkholes started circulating via social media, and especially in light of the Sewol disaster that raised concern over public safety in Korea, government officials are responding to the problem with caution—a response that threatens to stall the construction project. More than half of the floors of the 123-story, 1,824-feet-high tower have already been constructed. Once finished, in 2016, the Lotte tower–to house a hotel, office space and apartments—will be the sixth tallest building in the world.

But Seoul government officials appear to be prioritizing the safety issue, even over the progress of such a large-scale development. Last month, in an unusual step, the Seoul government formed an advisory committee made up of engineers, scholars, attorneys, architects and environmentalists and asked them to submit their opinions about the Lotte tower project, AP reported. The city even rejected Lotte’s request to open a shopping mall that is part of the development, noting that safety and traffic issues needed to be addressed first.

“After Sewol, the public’s sentiment has taken a turn to stress safety over any other values including economic development,” engineering professor Park Chang-kun, who sits on the tower’s advisory committee, told AP.

Further adding suspicion around the Lotte project is the fact that water levels in a nearby lake fell from 16.5 feet to 14 feet, according to various media reports. Park told AP that, while touring the Lotte construction, he saw water pooling in the sixth basement of the building and said that it could very well be from the lake. He said that “water circulation underground could have accelerated due to the construction.”

There are several possible causes of sinkholes, including water that might be dissolving land covered by limestone or gypsum; surface drainage or erosion; and construction, which can indirectly cause the holes by diverting groundwater pumping.

In the past five years,  133 sinkholes have appeared in Seoul, according to Arirang TV.

Photo via the Korea Times