books

I have been cramming my bag, but also cramming my brain with all things Korea-related. This includes reading books about the place, two of which I thoroughly recommend if you’re ever offered an expenses-paid trip to Seoul in the hope of improving your readership’s understanding of the country…like I have, sorry to rub it in.
The two books are Korea: The Impossible Country by Andrew Tudor covers everything from prehistory to modern dating culture AND The Birth of Korean Cool by Euny Hong, which is part autobiography, part social analysis, part funny.
I wish to acknowledge the fact that, by recommending books, it will seem like I’m posting this in order to look erudite and well-read. That I am, somehow, on the same plane as the authors mentioned. If you want to make this assumption then please do. (I mean, if you are assuming I AM erudite; not if you are assuming I am doing it just in the hope that you will think I am erudite. I am not; unless you genuinely think I am, in which case I am.)

 

 

 

Korea Program Itinerary (Tentative) (as of 17/09/2014)

And so it begins…

The email came in late in the day. I had been checking by Inbox on and off, mainly on, for three days, waiting for the schedule to come through: what we would be doing for a week in Seoul.

“Hello fellows D:”Usually I’m not sure about emoticons. But this time the enthusiasm barely reflected my own :))))))). A camera trained on me as I read the accompanying doc: Korea Program Itinerary(Tentative) (as of 17/09/2014) would have captured me punching the air, stamping my feet.

Sunday October 19

“Arrive in SEOUL”

I like the use of capitalisation here. I yell it in my head. Arrive in SEOUL!!

“Transfer to KOREANA HOTEL, Free Time”

Hotel with an excellent name, and Free time. Two of my favourite things. Three if you count random capitalisation. On the Koreana Hotel website the place looks like blocky city accommodation. Clunky, beige and grey. The fitness room and sauna is a men-only facility and there’s a picture of a handsome man grimacing as he does weights.

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In the LP Seoul Chapter, which I downloaded as soon as I found out I was going, the hotel isn’t listed. Excellent. Trip Advisor reviews make it sound like any business-skewed hotel anywhere. Excellent. I am more the type who stays in places described with terms like “slightly shabby, comfy, colourful staff, shared bathroom…” 

Monday October 20 <Morning> Orientation at KOREANA HOTEL

KOREANA HOTEL!!

Introduction of Korean Press Foundation and an overview on the Korean media – Lunch hosted by Korea Press Foundation

LUNCH…HOSTED!! Am I excited about all the wrong things? Should I be thinking hmmm, a good chance to forge relationships between South Korea’s mediashpere and the blah blah instead of getting excited about LUNCH HOSTED?

<Afternoon> Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gwanghwamun or Korea National Diplomatic Academy: Briefing and interview on current diplomatic issues between Korea and Australia and inter-Korean relations

Wha?

Dinner hosted by the Australian Embassy and Australian Chamber of Commerce (AustCham)

I get scared when abbreviations are pointed out. It’s like we will be required to use AustCham in a sentence

Dinner with the Australian ambassador and Australian business community

Wha? Dinner with the ambassador. When Rachel read that bit she said “Ooh. Hob nobbing” I wonder what the Ambassador and I will talk about? Seriously, I know nothing about Korea and he/she will know everything. I don’t even know if he is a he. Better look that up. Perhaps I can drop the term Austcham – test him/her out.

Tuesday October 21 <Morning> Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) in Umyeon-dong, Seocho-gu: Briefing and interview on the Korean education system and educational policy. KEDI, an organization under the Office for Government Coordination, specializes in designing new educational systems and developing educational policies and institutions

Today I went into a Korean supermarket in search of some sesame oil that had been featured on the SBS show Food Safari Korea. Usually I use a drop of sesame oil and it pervades whatever I’m cooking as if it were plutonium. In the telly show the Korean chef (Adelaide based, has a fine looking place called MAPO I think) was splashing it on like a winning F1 driver on the podium. In the supermarket I had a language breakthrough – overhearing someone say anyonghasseyo to a customer. Anyonghasseyo means hello, how are you or both at the same time – not sure but it’s what they say and I knew that! It’s a lingua breakthrough, although I don’t think I’ll ever get a handle on those squiggles.

<Afternoon> Korean Food Foundation in Briefing and interview on the current status and strategies of the globalization of Korean food and the current status and future outlook of Korean restaurants in Australia. Korean Food Foundation, managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair, is devoted in endeavours such as researching for the globalization of Korean Food and gathering information on and establishing a global network for Korean restaurants abroad. Related to Patrick Witton’s interest, Korean Restaurants in Australia

Yoiks! I’m frantically reading and watching everything about Korean cuisine now that I have instigated a logistical undertaking from Heong and Co that will see us cross town and enter the inner workings of culinary Korea. My first experience with Korean food was back in the mid-90s when I was living in Crimea Street St Kilda East. Our neighbours made mention of a Korean restaurant in Carnegie. Called Kimchi Grandma, I think. They were hooting about it, so we rolled over a few suburbs and entered an eatery of white-tiled, hard-floored clangery. I cannot pretend to remember much more than the food being kind of warmly spicy, and lots of little plates of stuff, something I now know as banchan, including the eponymous, omnipresent, kimchi. Brave is the marketing strategist who hands the success of an entire nation’s cuisine (in fact two nations – at least for the past 70 years) on pickled cabbage. At least these days it is spiced with chilli – an ingredient that harbours those capsaicinoids that send pleasure/pain signals to receptors in the brain. But back before those New World chillies got to the peninsula, Koreans, north and south, only pickled the cabbage with salt. And they often fermented the stuff in claypots. Over the centuries a billion eight-year-olds must have screwed up their faces at the sight of Mama entering the house carrying a pot of salty cabbage. For breakfast. Acquired taste is one that is learned. No one likes Stilton off the bat. Surely, likewise, kimchi. And it is only the power of a nation’s pride that has seen Korean food make a mark well beyond the backblocks of Busan. So, back in Carnegie, Chris, Sam , Rachel and I voluntarily took mouthfuls of pickled cabbage, and whatever else was on the table (it has been near 20 years), probably bibimbap and bulgolgi or some other dish that sounds fun, like it contains bubbles or something.