Explore Korea’s unspoilt islands this summer

SayKimchi (109 of 125) The barometer is rising and the many unspoilt beaches of Korea are calling your name—your real name, not “teacher teacher” or “wowah!—waygukin”.

Palm trees are silently swaying in the breeze; tides are mechanically following the orders of their moon; crabs are roosting on sizzling sand. All of it, just waiting to be explored, enjoyed, used, even.

Not sure where to escape on your next weekend beach destination?

Check out a couple of my favorites:

Sunny Seonyudo

Sometimes it’s good to take a chance on a little-known place. When I first read about Seonyudo in my Lonely Planet, I almost skipped over it. Only five paragraphs grace the page about this beautiful island known for its small spit of white sand and gorgeous views. And now I know why. It’s so great, you’ll want to keep it a secret.

Located on the outskirts of the western shore line in Jeollabuk Province, Seonyudo—which means “the island of angels’ resort” from the legend that it was once where angels played—is a one-hour ferry ride away from the port city of Gunsan.

The island is one of about 60 mostly uninhabited islands in the West Sea. Seonyudo itself is connected to three other islands by bridge, home to a small scattering of fishing and farming villages.

There isn’t much to do here other than swim, sunbathe or rent a bicycle (tandems available for adoring couples). But therein lies the beauty of sunny Seonyu Island. It’s quiet. Scenic. Serene.

And if you look out across the water to the two large rocks jutting up from the shallow sea and the small islets popping up between like tree tops, you’ll see why this place is often compared to Thailand.

There is a strip of restaurants available on the island but you’ll find the prices to be much more expensive than on the main land. Maeuntang (spicy fish stew) cost around W30,000 for two people. Many Koreans bring their own food and drinks in coolers on the ferry, which is the best way to avoid the high costs of food on the island for every meal.

Accommodations: Camping is popular and you can set up a tent on the beach and around it for free. Shower and bathroom facilities are available in summer. There are minbak along the main road of the island. Two of the most popular are the Jung-ang Minbak (465-3450) and the Uri Park Minbak (465-0657), both of which cost around W30,000 but can double during the summer beach season.

Getting there: A bus from Gwangju to Gunsan is W9,700 (2 hours); The taxi from Gunsan bus station to ferry terminal is about W7,500. And the ferry from Gunsan to Seonyudo: W14,700 – W18,150 (three to four times daily).

Beachy Bigeumdo

Bigeumdo is an island located about an hour off the shore of Mokpo.

Famous for its heart-shaped beach, hiking trails, big beaches and even bigger skies, this island is an easy weekend escape from Gwangju.Bigeumdo

Small shacks dot the long beachfront and make perfect places to set up camp for the weekend.

Accommodations: There are minbak available but the best sleeping—in my opinion—is just above the beaches next to the small bamboo-covered shacks.

Getting there: Take a 5o-minute bus to Mokpo. Taxi to the ferry terminal (10 minutes). Take a short ferry (50 minutes, W17,000) or a long ferry (2 hours, W8,000) to Bigeumdo. Taxi to the beach.

Restaurant Review: Korea’s answer to McDonald’s

By Whit Altizer

picture9I am not a fast food guy. I have noble and much cooler reasons, but the gist of it is this: I would rather eat something else.

It took me many months and a bit of desperation to even step foot into a Lotteria. At first I even just sat and watched my wife eat a bulgogi (Korean beef) burger while I tried to wait it out for a bibimbap somewhere else.

But the longer I sat in Lotteria and smelled the food of my youth, the more my willpower wore down.

Ten minutes later, I was purring with satisfaction while stuffing my face with a burger and fries.

Though Lotteria is a Japanese company, it is has had a home in Korea since 1979 and is much more popular in Korea than Japan.

Korea, as they have successfully done with pizza, has taken Lotteria and made it authentically Korean. Where else in the world are you going to find a Kimchi Burger or a Hot Squid Burger? Even your regular burger comes with the delicious bulgogi sauce Koreans love with their beef. They have even tried to give you options that “are good for your health.”

Lotteria also serves delicious breakfast sandwiches that includes an egg rice muffin and a bagel with cream cheese.

You can find sundaes for dessert and a Korean favorite summer dessert, patbingsu.

Lotteria is clean, they recycle and come complete with giggling teenage female cashiers.

So if you are a fast food lover, or if you just find yourself in a tight spot, you will find something you like at Lotteria. Here are a few favorites.

The European Frico Cheese or simply “The Euro” stacks up against any McDonald’s burger you can throw at it according to Gwangjuite Tony Gallant.

“The Euro’s” thin beef patty is sandwiched between a sesame seed bun and topped with a thick tomato, sliced bell peppers, lettuce, pickles, black olives, bulgogi sauce and one delicious deep fried patty of cheese.

“Your mouth will be stretched to its limit while attempting to eat “The Euro” and you will not be disappointed when it finally touches your tastebuds,” said Gallant, originally from Canada.

Costs 4,200W. 234.9 calories. Calories in a Big Mac? 540.

Hanwoo Bulgogi– This burger doesn’t taste like a burger from a chain store. You might even think you are at your favorite local burger joint back home. It is a Korean beef patty, bulgogi sauce, mayo, pickle, tomato, lettuce and onion. 5,200 W. 292.8 calories.

Shrimp Burger- This seafood burger comes with a shrimp patty, thousand island dressing, tartar sauce and lettuce. It is the gateway burger to for the Hot Squid Burger for westerners. Cost 2,900. Calories 157.9.

Whit Altizer is an American living in Gwangju. E-mail him at [email protected]

Passionate protestors celebrated on May 18

By Marion Gregory

As I walked to the main road near the May 18th plaza on a Sunday night, I was a little shocked.

There were papers everywhere and music was blaring out of speakers set up along the streets for the next block. There was a huge crowd in front me and where the fountain usually was a large stage was set up.

Something important was happening, but I couldn’t quite see over the cameras and people surrounding the stage.

Then, a man in black with red scarves draped around him gave out an alarming cry and the crowd started to surge toward me.

I wanted to take a few steps back and get out of the way until I saw the look of pure joy on every facpicture8e around me. This was not a time to be afraid. I had stepped right into the middle of a celebration of one of the most important uprisings in Korea’s modern history: The Gwangju Uprising of May 18, 1980.

To look at downtown Gwangju on a regular day, you’ll see wide roads jammed with street vendors and clothing stores surrounded by tall, shiny office buildings. Some of these streets converge into a large rotunda, backed by the pristine white provincial government building.

You could never imagine that the bustling cacophony of today’s downtown was once drowned out by a fierce and violent battle for democracy centered around this same rotunda only twenty-nine years ago.

After the dictatorial rule and assassination of Park Chung-Hu in 1979, the Republic of Korea Army General Chu Doo-Hwan took power through a coup d’etat. Korea was ready for a stable government and the people of Gwangju cried out for democracy. Over the course of eight days in 1980 (from May 18-26), civilians violently clashed with paratroopers sent from the National Army. There is still unknown information about that period, but it is known that hundreds of people lost their lives to the cause.

In the end, the paratroopers gained control of the city, but the gruesome fight became an inspiration to people around the country. By the end of the 1980s, South Korea had become a democracy and the government became responsible to its people.

As I stood in the cheering crowd on that warm May night, I realized how grateful the people of Gwangju (and Korea) are for those protestors of the past. The joy on the faces of the elderly mirrored the jubilation that Koreans must have felt the day that their government was no longer ruled by a dictator. I, too, felt thankful for those passionate protestors. Had they not sparked the cry for democracy back then, I may never have been able to experience this incredible country.

And, like most Korean celebrations, this one was exciting, a little over-the-top, and fantastic. It wasn’t long before people were dancing and I couldn’t help being drawn into it. The grins on peoples’ faces were infectious and it was hard not to laugh out loud as elderly Korean men and women kicked up their heels and spun around and around. A traditional Korean band appeared and the crowd around it became a veritable mosh pit.

The night went on and, as I walked away from the rotunda, I could still hear cheering and laughter echoing through the streets. Even though the party would die down eventually, I knew that the people of Gwangju would never let the memory of the May 18 protestors disappear.

Marion Gregory is an English teacher in Gwangju from Rosetown, Saskatchewan, Canada. She has been living in Korea for six months.

Learn Korean.

Just remember, a little can go a long way in Korea!picture7

Back to the Basics



Hello (when picking up the phone).


안녕히 계세요.
[Annyong-hi gyeseyo.]
Good bye (when you, the guest, are leaving).

안녕히 가세요.
[Annyeong-hi gaseyo.]
Good bye (when you, the host, are bidding your guests good bye).

어서 오세요.
[Eoseo oseyo.]

[Gomapseumnida. (Gamsahamnida.)]
Thank you.

You’re welcome.

[Mianhamnida. (Joesong-hamnida.)]

It’s all right.

Excuse me.

Source: KBS World Radio

Film review: Remember U 5.18

By Caroline Coombspicture4

The Gwangju Massacre, also known as the Gwangju Democratization Movement, or simply 5.18, is a tragedy that most Gwangju citizens remember with great sadness and great pride.

It seems that most people you meet in Gwangju have a story to tell about a family member who was jailed, injured or killed during the uprising in May of 1980, often simply because they happened to be passing through the wrong place at the wrong time.

Although the Gwangju citizens who banded together to resist the army suffered great losses and were ultimately defeated, 5.18 is seen by many as a pivotal point in Korea’s path towards democracy.

Remember U 5.18 (2007), or “Magnificent Vacation,” as the title directly translates from Korean (Magnificent Vacation was the code name used by the army for the operation), is a touching, and sometimes difficult to watch depiction of one Gwangju citizen’s experience throughout the massacre.

Although the reality of 5.18 was principally one of great brutality, the violent scenes in this movie are interspersed with more tender ones of family devotion, a budding first love, and the deep-rooted camaraderie of the Gwangju people.

Some might argue that these lighter aspects of the film detract from the serious issues at hapicture3nd and attempt to sugarcoat the tragedy in order to make it more palatable for a wider range of viewers. It is, after all, only rated ages 12 and over.

Ultimately, although Remember U 5.18 gains poignancy from its basis as a real-life event, it is a drama, not a documentary, and its main purpose is to entertain.

A quick Internet search of articles about the massacre reveals that the movie is a little creative with the facts.

Nevertheless, this movie is worth watching as an entry point into the history surrounding the massacre, and offers the opportunity to enjoy a well-made Korean movie. The acting is solid and the movie succeeds at putting a stirring personal face to the sometimes-impersonal words of history.

Sugarcoated or not, one can not help but be touched by the suffering the Gwangju people endured, and by their remarkable courage in the face of adversity.

Caroline Coombs is an English teacher in Gwangju originally from Canada. E-mail her at [email protected].

June Festivals in Korea


Taebaeksan Mountains Royal Azalea Festival
When: June 5 (Friday)~ June 7(Sunday)
Where: Mt. Taebaeksan Provincial Park, Gangwon-do province
In early June, pink-colored royal azaleas are in full bloom across the peak of Mt. Taebaeksan, which, combined with the mountain’s lush green forest, makes for a beautiful view. Festival programs include artificial rock wall climbing and hiking through the wild flowers. Taebaeksan Mountains Royal Azalea Festival
When: June 5 (Friday)~ June 7(Sunday)
Where: Mt. Taebaeksan Provincial Park, Gangwon-do province
In early June, pink-colored royal azaleas are in full bloom across the peak of Mt. Taebaeksan, which, combined with the mountain’s lush green forest, makes for a beautiful view. Festival programs include artificial rock wall climbing and hiking through the wild flowers.

Muju Firefly Festival
When: June 13(Saturday)~ June 21(Sunday)
Where: Muju region, Jeollabuk-do province (Hanpungru Park/ Namdaecheon Stream, / Bandiland)
The Namdaecheon stream in the Muju region is a very special part of Korea, its clean environment means it is inhabited by fireflies. Visitors to the festival are greeted by an unforgettable sight: tens of thousands of fireflies lighting up the warm summer night.

Boryeong Mud Festival (July)
When: July 11(Saturday)~July 19(Sunday)
Where: Daecheon Beach, Boryeong city, Chungcheongnam-do province
This is one of Korea’s most famous festivals. The mud on the beach contains many nutrients that are known to be particularly good for your skin. Visitors to this festival cover themselves in mud from head to toe trying out mud wrestling, mud slides, and the giant mud bath. The mud massage zone is a relaxing escape from the festival mayhem.

Go Swimming in Seoul!

picture1 A really fun thing to do in Seoul during the summer is to pay a visit to one of the 6 outdoor public swimming pools located on the banks of the Hangang River. There are swimming pools in the Jamsil, Gwangnaru, Jamwon, Yeouido, Ttukseom, and Mangwon areas. All of these swimming pools are newly renovated and will open in late June.

Swimming pool schedule and information

Ttukseom Swimming Pool: opens in July. Location: Close to exits 2 &3 of Ttukseom Park Station
(Subway Line 7). TEL: +02-3780-0521

Mangwon Swimming Pool: opens in late June. Location: Hapjeong Station (Subway Lines 2 & 6) – take a taxi from the station. (Fare: about 3000 won) . TEL: 02-3780-0601

Yeouido Swimming Pool: opens in late June. Location: Close to exits 2 & 3 of Yeouinaru Station
(Subway Line 5) . TEL: 02-3780-0561

Jamwon Swimming Pool: opens in late June. Location: 10 minutes walk from exit# 1 of Apgujeong Station or exit# 5 of Sinsa Station (both on subway line 3). TEL: 02-3780-0531

Jamsil Swimming Pool: opens in late June. Location: 10 minutes walk from exit# 7 of Sincheon Station (Subway Line 2). TEL: 02-3780-0511

Gwangnaru Swimming Pool: opens in late June. Location: 10 minutes walk from exit#1 of Cheonho Station (Subway Line 5) or Exit# 8 of Amsa Station (Subway Line 8). TEL: 02-3780-0501

* Schedules are subject to change according to the condition of each pool