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Archive for April, 2013


One of the places I had most wanted to visit in Korea is the city of Gyeongju. Gyeongju is referred to as a “museum without walls,” and contains several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although I had wanted to visit badly, Gyeongju is a 3.5 hour bus ride away from Jeonju. Given the fact that there is so much to see and do there, I felt I needed several days in the area to really make the trip worthwhile. In February, I had a three day weekend, and decided it was the perfect time to finally see what Gyeongju has to offer:

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I woke up Sunday morning to a concerned note from a friend back home. This friend returned back to the US last fall after working in South Korea for several years. Watching the latest reports out of Korea, he was worried for the safety of his friends still living on the peninsula. I sent a message back telling him not to worry, and thanking him for the sweetness of his concern.

Returning back to Jeonju after the Holi Festival in Busan, I decided I should probably call my family. My father, a Korean War Veteran, worries about the situation in Korea, and has never trusted the actions of the North. My mother is my co-conspirator in trying to keep my father from the latest news and needless worry. With the situation at hand, this has been impossible. Regardless of what may appear on the news at any given moment, my Korean friends and neighbors carry on as if everything is normal. Indeed, for a country still technically at war since 1953, this is truly the case. North Korea has a long history of heightened rhetoric, and occasional aggressive and unprovoked action. The people of South Korea carry on and make the best of things despite their neighbors to the North.

I reassured my mother, and told her that there were two things that, if they were to happen, would signal to me that the situation was growing more dangerous. The first of these would be the closing of Gaesong. Gaesong is the factory park that is jointly run by North and South Korea. This area produces quite a bit of revenue for North Korea. I have found it humorous that Kim Jong Un has closed ties with South Korea, but has continued to allow workers from the South into this area for economic gain. It has been hard to take any threats seriously when that has been the case.

The second occurence that I thought might signal a need for concern would be if the US moved more war ships into the region. This would not necessarily indicate immediate action or need for alarm, but it would signal a much more serious concern on the part of the US. Given the fact that their Intelligence is far superior to mine, I would take this action as a truer sign of potential aggression.

Within the last 24 hours, both of these things have occurred:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/north-korea-south-korea-workers_n_3003225.html?utm_hp_ref=north-korea

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/us-warship-deployed-north-korea-asia-pacific_n_3000077.html?utm_hp_ref=north-korea

Also of note, Richard Engel, famed chief foreign correspondent, is currently in Seoul. Engel is usually in the midst of any breaking global aggression.

Life in South Korea continues as usual. None of my Korean friends or co-workers have even mentioned the latest events. I wake up. I teach my children. I make plans for festivals, and for travel. I go about my normal life. I am not too overly concerned. I am paying close attention to the news now. I check the US Embassy in South Korea’s website periodically for any travel advisories or warnings. So far, there is only a strong warning not to travel to NORTH Korea.

Duly Noted!

After today’s news, I did decide to register with the Embassy. It is probably a needless precaution, but I think it wiser to prepare for any possible eventuality.

I plan to travel out again this weekend and play with my new toy, a Cannon SX50 HS. It is terribly hard to worry when spring has arrived, flowers are in bloom, and fun festivals abound.

Also of note, Richard Engel is in town. He’s handsome, brilliant, brave, and has a passport full of stamps. How can a girl be blue when the perfect man has landed in her backyard?

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Indians In Korea hosted Holi Festival in Busan on March 31st. Holi in India has long been on my list of things I really want to experience. Obviously unable to book a flight to India, I jumped at the chance to attend the festival in Busan.

Each year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hindu mythology. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.

There were no bonfires in Busan. We met at the beach at 9:30, and waited for events to unfold. There was a last-minute change in the starting time. The festival was moved from 10:30 to 9:30. We arrived at 9:30, but apparently most of the participants missed the change. People were slowly trickling in for the rest of the morning. We were given Holi caps and colored powder, and instructed to please not play Holi until 11:00. By 11:00, many, many people were still straggling in, so we were given beer and samosas to snack on.

Although it took a little time for the main event to begin, we had a lovely time on the beach dancing to Bollywood tunes. Once it was time to “play Holi,” nearly 1000 people pelted and wiped one another with brightly colored powder. There were kites in the sky, people being tossed in the air and buried in the sand, and costumes and merriment. This was a beautiful day and place to celebrate the renewal of Spring.

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