Seoul Pt2, Gyeongju, Panmunjom, Ulsan and other places
Seoul has a number of interesting statues, one of which is Admiral Yi Sun Shin famous for his successful defeat of invading Japanese navies primarily through his invention of the turtle ship. There is also an interesting statue of Sejong the Great. The king responsible for the Korean alphabet.
Seoul is also good for shopping providing you are not shopping for exclusive brands when prices are then considerably higher than Europe. There are many department stores across Seoul. Another student area, with several department stores is the area near Ehwa University where I could meet another good friend of mine from the UK, Seongmin.
If something more active is of interest, a favourite Korean past time is noraebang which is essentially Karaoke but don’t call it that here.
Noraebang essentially means singing room and there are many different places. Some which are elaborate and others just functional. Many have a selection of songs in English and sometimes even Japanese (especially if from one of the animations).
Noraebang is great fun but be aware that many Koreans are used to singing and therefore the quality is higher than many countries like my own where noraebang tends to be done in pubs by people out of tune and too drunk to care.
It is easy to think Seoul is Korea. Over 25% of the population live there and over 50% when including the vicinity but there are a lot of there places worth visiting.
To understand Korean beyond popular culture it is a must to be aware of The Korean War is an incident which defines and separates North Korea from the south. The war is not yet officially over, it was an armistice and not a ceasefire or peace treaty signed.
Even then only North Korea, The Chinese and US signed it (the south refused considering the job incomplete)
You can visit the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) in the north at Panmunjom, even (technically stand in the North Korean side) although I think you need to book in advance. Before going to the actual DMZ you will be given a briefing at to the code of contact as well as signing some form which basically means that you go at your own risk (it is still a flashpoint).
When I went the North Korean soldiers stayed well back from the border line (a pity when you want a good picture).
To me it seems as if the North Korean soldiers seem tougher, while the South Korean seem like (very young) models. However I have been assured that the sunglasses worn are for practical use.
Chuncheon is famous for its dakgalbi and is great. Busan (or Pusan) has a more relaxed atmosphere although it is the 2nd biggest cities and is a very interesting place. I also visited the very interesting Daedunsan. The mountain has an impressive suspension bridge with inspiring views and the 127-step Samseon overpass. Years ago I saw the bridge in a guide book given to me as a gift and I set my mind upon going,
Gyeongju is one of the more attractive cities in Korea and was once the capital of the Shilla Kingdom between the 7th-9th centuries. I went twice once with Youngeun and once with Jinhee. The place is famous for the royal tombs and the Bulguksa temple built in the 8th century.
Youngeun lives nearby in Ulsan so I went there to meet her. Ulsan is an industrial town famous for its ship building but it is still worth passing through for over reasons. We went to a Ferris wheel on top of a department store which was an interesting concept for me.