Category Archives: korea

Seoul Friendship Fair

Seoul Friendship Fair  03
Seoul Friendship Fair is a rare opportunity to sample international food outside Itaewon. It’s held this weekend at Seoul Plaza (City Hall Station) from noon to 7 pm. I went there last year so all the photos are from 2011. This year marks the 17th anniversary of the festival.

Around Seoul Plaza are booths that show and sell goods from foreign countries. There’s lots of things to buy at this festival, so make sure you bring cash!

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Just like last year, traditional costumes will be presented. They look very pretty but I imagine it must’ve been very hot. Those women were walking in circles, bowing and curteseying.

There are no food booths at Seoul Plaza – those are lined up at the street of Mugyo-dong. Read the rest of this entry


Gio Cat Café in Seoul (Café Gio Cat)

Gio Cat Cafe Seoul Korea 00
Last year I wrote about a cat café in Tokyo, but there are plenty in Seoul as well. So I went to Café Gio Cat in Seoul with a friend – and while it has cats too, it is very different compared to the Tokyo one.

Gio Cat Cafe Seoul Korea 03

Tokyo’s Mellow Cat Cafe is quite unusual because it’s a quiet relaxed place without many cats. Since half of them are asleep anyway, there are usually only three or four walking around. It’s not the best place for impatient cat lovers as you are not allowed to follow the cats or attract them using toys.

Café Gio Cat is very different: There are over twenty cats and at least a dozen came running at me once I entered the cafe. Now, the place isn’t small, but even with cats able to walk above you, it’s still crowded. Watch where you’re going! 🙂 Read the rest of this entry

Cafe with Penguin & 1st Penguin – Penguin Cafes in Seoul

1st Penguin  Seoul  06
I already talked about Seoul’s coffee shops such as the Charlie Brown Cafe and Hello Kitty Cafe. One day I wondered if there are cafes about my favorite animals (penguins) and yes, there are at least two in Seoul. Obviously there are no living animals there unlike in cat or rabbit cafes. One cafe is a study cafe called 1st Penguin and the other is an ordinary one called Cafe with Penguin.

1st Penguin

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While it’s not unusual for cafes to be used for studying, I think the coffee shop owners would rather have customers who stay for just one hour instead of six. Still, I’ve seen coffee shops both in Tokyo and Seoul which were clearly remodeled for students. My local Starbuck’s in Nakano introduced long tables with small lamps – good for studying.
1st Penguin is located near Korea University, one of the three best universities in Korea. With an emphasis on small tables with just two chairs each and a desk lamp for most tables instead of one big overhead one, this place is clearly a study cafe. People don’t come here to chat, so it was very quiet. Don’t have anything to study? They have books too – not as many as a book cafe though.

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Near the walls they have power sockets to connect your notebook. WiFi is available and free. Small snacks are available and if you’re hungry after studying there are lots of restaurants nearby – this is a university area after all.

The 1st Penguin falls short in the penguin department. Just a few cuddly toys on the bookshelf and around the front. On the other hand, the simple design of the interior and the colors help students to stay awake unlike the typical Starbuck’s with warm colors. I didn’t think that the staff was very friendly – maybe he’s only used to regulars? Read the rest of this entry

Solo Karaoke

Karaoke box in Korea
Karaoke is either done with friends/colleagues (Asia) or in a bar in front of people you don’t know (West). But friends don’t always have time and trying out new songs in front of others can be embarrassing. Then it’s time for solo Karaoke, also called “Hitokara” (一人hito(ri): one person; kara: Karaoke). There are Karaoke boxes for just one or two persons in Korea and in Japan.

For some going to a Karaoke place alone can feel embarrassing too. Last November One Kara opened near Kanda Station in Tokyo. One Kara caters to soloists who can even record their singing on CD. They also have a dedicated lady’s space with women-only cabins. From 10am to 6pm it’s 600 Yen and from 6pm to 6am 1100 Yen per hour. Headphones are available for an extra fee.


Bringing the concept of hitokara home without waking up the neighbors is うるさくないカラOK!ミュートマイク (Silent Karaoke is OK! Silent microphone). Pressing the special piece that is attached to the microphone to the face should mute the sound. The mic is connected to an iPhone and can be used without the mouthpiece. The set is available for 3980 Yen. A USB version is offered for Wii and PS3.

I haven’t tried the mute microphone or One Kara, but I have been to a solo karaoke box before. Read the rest of this entry

Lady Burger, Men’s Ramen: Gender-specific food

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Women and men are different which is true to a certain degree. There is no shortage of studies about the topic and since the ones that connect everything to genetics sell well, most people think that there are more differences than there are. Actually there is nothing that stops girls at being as good at maths as the boys. Socialization though can be difficult to explain, much harder to explain than, for example a gene which forces men to cheat on their wives. Anyway, I want to talk about odd advertisements.

The photo above is not an odd cover for a women’s magazine but an advertisement for Lotteria’s Lady Burger. The text makes it clear (in English and Korean!) that this burger is for ladies only. The burger is even called “hot style” and an “it item”. The lady though doesn’t seem to know what to do with the burger and mistakes it for an accessory to accentuate her waist. That’s a good choice since even a burger with less calories is not healthy food. If you order it, the burger will be wrapped in pink – just in case your boyfriend mistakes the burgers…

… because, after all, men don’t know what do with burgers:

Lady Burger  Seoul  02 Read the rest of this entry

Marronnier Park in Seoul

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Marronnier Park is a popular meeting point in the Daehangno neighborhood of Seoul. Daehangno is the theater distract with over 100 mostly smaller theaters showing performances and plays of all kinds every day. Exit line 4 at Hyehwa Station (혜화역) and you will soon see many ticket vendors. There are of course many restaurants, gift shops and coffee shops as well to spend the time before and after going to a theater. But Marronnier Park itself is a place for performances as well.

There is a stage and I’ve often seen bands performing there for free. In autumn the D-Festa was held, a festival to support the area. During the festival time there were many performances at Marronnier Park.

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Marronnier Park is many things, but there’s one thing it isn’t: a park. Read the rest of this entry

Christmas Market in Seoul, or: Why Chili Con Carne is German!

PICT0576Christmas Market 2010
You may be aware that Germany has some hugely popular export products such as cars and beer. One of the seasonal export products are christmas markets. Christmas markets are huge in Germany and in cities like Hamburg and Berlin you will often find multiple ones within walking distance. Just like Munich’s Oktoberfest, German christmas markets are held at many countries outside Germany nowadays and even Seoul has one.


Last December it was called “German christmas market”, while this year it was called “European christmas market”. There is a big christmas tree and some terrible old German christmas songs are played unless there is a band performing live. The market is quite small and even though they included more countries, it hasn’t expanded.

You can buy christmas decoration, cookies, waffles, glow vine (Glühwein), sausages, soup, roesti, apple pie and … chili con carne. Read the rest of this entry

D-Cube City Shopping Mall

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I went to this shopping mall a while ago with a friend. D-Cube is one of the newer shopping malls in Seoul and has the usual mix of shops, restaurant and cafes with occasional events to keep the customers entertained.

Obviously, D-Cube is more a place to do window shopping rather than buying clothes and accessories. It is not the cheapest place to shop although there is a Uniqlo at D-Cube too.

The Japanese company Mori Building Group took part in the development of D-Cube City. It opened in September this year.

D Cube  Seoul  03 Read the rest of this entry

Yonsei Essay Contest

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When I decided to pick up Korean after having learned Japanese, I decided on Yonsei University. The university’s Korean language program has a good reputation, much like Naganuma School’s Japanese course. One of many things that are different compared to Naganuma are the contests. I can remember only doing one contest (haiku writing) and even that one was just for fun.

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Yonsei though loves contests reminding me much of many Korean dramas that introduce a contest at some point in the story line, usually just for the sake to stretch a thin plot. Anyway, if you want to see museums or visit Suwon you have to do it yourself since only the last class (level 6) will do a graduation trip.

Instead of class trips, we get contests. One of them is the essay contest which was held in October. Read the rest of this entry

Hello Kitty Cafe in Sinchon, Seoul

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For fun cafes in Seoul, Hongdae is the place to be. The nearby Sinchon area mainly offers the big franchise coffee chains, but there is one which may be considered a bit more independant: the Hello Kitty Cafe. Curiously, there’s one in Taipei (Taiwan) and there used to be one in Hong Kong as well. However, there’s none in Japan. Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise at the VenusFort in Odaiba, Tokyo comes close as they sell pancakes there, but it’s more of a theme park.

There is a Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae and in nearby Sinchon. I haven’t been to the Hongdae one which I heard is larger. But the Sinchon one is as much pink as the Hongdae one and that’s all that matters, right? ^___^ The website of the cafe doresn’t work properly though as the navigation on the top doesn’t work. Text is rendered unreadable unless you switch the text encoding (in the “View” menu of Safari and Chrome) to “Korean Windows”. Fortunately there is a second navigation below: Click on the leftmost kitty and a list of locations will be displayed. Click on the yellow button on the right to display a map.

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For the Hello Kitty Cafe in Sinchon, get off at Sinchon Station (the one between Hongik University and Ewha) line 2 exit 3. Walk down the street until you reach the Nature Republic cosmetic store and then turn right. Keep your eyes on the small side streets on your right, as the Hello Kitty cafe is in one of them. The cafe is open from 11am to midnight.

So how is the cafe? Read the rest of this entry