A weekend in Jeju (제주도)


Last weekend, The Two Crabs took a quick jaunt to Jeju for a bit of R&R. Located 50 miles south of the Korean peninsula, Jeju is often called "the Hawaii of Korea" - which is quite an exaggeration. Still, it has a few similiaries. It's a honeymoon destination, but now more for Chinese tourists than Koreans. And it does have palm trees and a semi-tropical environment, complete with extinct volcanoes dotting the island. It was Mrs. Crab's first trip to Jeju. But Mr. Crab was here back in 2009 when I was researching the 2010 Lonely Planet Korea guidebook. 

Jeju is a short 50-minute flight from Seoul's Gimpo airport. Many low-cost airlines fly to Jeju including Jeju Air, Eastar, Jin Air and others, many for less than $100 roundtrip if you book far enough in advance. We flew Eastar, which was the pleasant staff and service for a no-frills airline, and no extra charge for checked baggage.

IMG_5361 Before arriving in Jeju, we rented a car from Hertz via Expedia. But when we arrived at the airport, we could not find a Hertz rental desk anywhere. After questioning several employees, we finally learned that Hertz rentals are actually fulfilled by KT Rental Car; you must take a shuttle bus from Jeju airport door 6 to reach the KT Rental Car station. For only $35 a day, we got a small Kia with GPS (in Korean only).

After picking up our car, we headed off to Seogwipo, the main city on the south end of the island, about 45 minute drive from Jeju airport. We went straight to our AWESOME little hotel - Jeju Jungmun Log Pension & Resort. If you're seeking luxury accomodations, look elsewhere. This is basically glamping (glamorous camping). The cabins were cozy but roomy, with a real bed in the upstairs loft area, and a bathroom, kitchenette and living area with TV in the ground floor, plus a patio and upstairs balcony. The resort is located on a hilltop in a working mandarin orange farm with views of the ocean. We didn't arrive at our hotel until almost 9:30pm, but with the help of the English-speaking staff we ordered a pizza and beer at enjoyed the stars and cool views from our balcony.

IMG_5390 On Saturday morning, we hit the road to Seongsan Ilchulbong, a crown-shaped volcano crater rising from the sea. We had a great spot of lunch at Saesom Galbi, which I fondly remembered from my 2009 visit, dining on Jeju's famous black pig. Later that afternoon, we headed to Jungmun Resort, which is the main "high-roller" breach resort area of Jeju with several 5-star hotels, most with casinos. I managed to win $15 from the Lotte Casino! We were oddly in the mood for a good American burger, so we tracked down Gecko Bar & Grill about a mile outside of the resort. 

One of the most curious aspects of Jeju is the fact that there are not one, not two but THREE "sex" museums, which is very interesting when you consider the fact that pornography is illegal in Korea. We checked out Jeju Loveland, which is a sort of naughty themepark with artwork and sculptures created by art students. Most of the artwork is more laughable and unintentionally funny than erotic. 

We were originally hoping to hike to the top of Hallasan, the tallest mountain in all of South Korea. Unfortunately Mrs. Crab was just getting over a cold so we decided to postpone the big hike until next spring. Although it's not Hawaii, Jeju has plenty of activities to keep anyone busy. There are dozens of beaches and museums to explore, plus even smaller islands that are worth a short excursion trip.  

A few scenes from Jeju:


Camping at Taeanhaean National Park, Korea (태안해안국립공원)

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Over Labor Day weekend, the Two Crabs took a camping trip to Taeanhaean National Park (태안해안국립공원)- a gorgeous seaside park located in the west coast of South Korea on the Yellow Sea. This was the third Korea national park camping experience. Although not as scenic or dramatic as Seoraksan National Park, the campground was the nicest we've experienced in Korea. 

Logo_park_01 Taeanhaean National Park is located a 2-hour drive southwest of Seoul. There are actually several private campgrounds in and around the park, but we stayed at the official National Park campground near the city of Taean. This huge campground is located in a peaceful pine forest just steps from the water.

We arrived on a Sunday morning and most folks were packing up to leave for the weekend. Because Monday was an American holiday, we had a whole campground section to ourselves! Unlike other Korean campgrounds we've experienced, there are no marked spots. You basically put up your tent wherever there's space and place a sticker on your tent. We got the closest spot to the beach!

This campground has lots of amenities including several hot water showers, a rarity at Korean campgrounds -- though you'll pay about $3.50 for the privelege. There's also a camp store, several camp kitchens and plenty of bathrooms. Unusual to Taeanhaean, you can't light a fire on the ground so you need to rent or buy a fire pit from the camp store for $5 a night.  TNP campground costs 30,000 Won, or about $30 a night -- our most expensive Korean camping experience.

Like most Korean campgrounds, there are no picnic tables, so you need to plan ahead; we bought a table from REI last year which has come in handy several times already!

Just outside the borders of the campground, you'll find a little road with several seafood restaurants selling great dishes like 해물탕 (Heh-mul-tang), a stew with assorted seafood like scallops, crabs, oysters, squid and clams for about $40 that will easily feed 2 or 3 people. The little road of restaurants also has some convenience stores, a mobile cafe and even a noraebang (singing room). For hiking and walking fans, there's also a coastline hiking path that stretches more than 40km to neighboring beaches. 

As for the beach itself, don't expect a white sandy beach with palm trees. Like most beaches on Korea's west coast, Taeanhaean has a brown muddy sand beach with shallow water. At low-tide, the water retreats more than half a mile from shore! Hundreds of Korean fisherfolks and families use this opportunity to dig for their supper, mainly clams and other small shellfish. While the beach here may not be the most picturesque by day, you can't beat the amazing sunset views in the evening!

A few scenes from Taeanhaean National Park:





Our First Year in Korea


Yesterday, the Two Crabs marked our one year anniversary in Korea! We're bummed that our tour is already half over (time flies when you're having fun!) -- but we're looking forward to another year of exploring Korea (and more of Asia) with friends and colleagues!

Highlights of Year 1:

  • Hiking and camping in Korean national parks (Seoraksan, Odaesan and Bukhansan!); 
  • Skiing the slopes of Yongpyong  Phoenix Park -- the main venues for the 2018 Winter Olympic.
  • 3-day ski trip to High 1 Ski resort with 30 colleagues & friends.
  • Weekend bike rides along the Han river, and stopping for drinks and ramen noodles at the many waterfront 7-Elevens!
  • Chillaxin with friends at Doosan Bears Korean baseball games (nothing says baseball like beer, dried squid, fried chicken and cheerleaders!)
  • Exploring the back alleys of Seoul's traditional Hanok villages and markets.
  • Business trips to Busan and Daegu with time to explore.
  • Partying with 10,000 other Koreans and foreigners at the Boryeong Mud Festival (where we were by far the oldest party people).
  • Eating at countless Korean BBQ restaurants (Korean food = AWESOME), and stumbling on great international restaurants.
  • Sampling Korean street food at Namdaemun market.
  • Sampling Korean craft beer and soju...and the occasional Cass swill.
  • Cheap work lunches at hole-in-the-wall restaurants with food that's better than any Korean food we've ever had in the States.
  • Escorting Vice President Biden to the DMZ.
  • Meeting Sec. John Kerry.
  • Working with White House staff during President Obama's visit.
  • Hosting our first overseas guests, Angelina from San Fran and Sarah from Stuttgart!
  • Using my limited Korean language skills to find a toilet, hotel or order food.
  • Growing our own tomatoes, salad, watermelons, green beans and veg in our backyard garden (all Mrs. Crab's doing).
  • Hosting some funtastic backyard BBQs at our home.
  • FLEISCHFEST. 'Nuff said.
  • Making many great Korean and Foreign Service friends and working with the most awesome Consular team ever.


Here's to another great year in Seoul!

Gay Pride Month in Korea


In celebration of Gay Pride Month, Seoul recently hosted the 15th annual Korea Queer Festival. For the first time ever, the embassies of the U.S., France and Germany participated by hosting informational booths at the festival. As part of a separate US Embassy cultural exchange program, Star Trek and Internet star and gay rights activist George Takei also visited Korea. 

LGBT rights and gay awareness are still relatively new "concepts" in Korea. According to a recent Pew poll, only 39% of Koreans said they have no objection to homosexuality, but that's up from 17% in 2007. Technically, there is no law barring gay marriage in Korea. In Korea, gays can even change their legally change their gender on official government documents such as their passport. However, objection to gay rights is still high, as evident by the large number of protestors who tried to halt the Queer Festival and parade.

A few photos from Korea Queer Festival 2014:






Gardening in Seoul

 Mrs. Crab is the "Green Thumb" in our family. Mr. Crab, not so much. But since arriving in South Korea, we've both found a new passion for gardening together. This includes regular trips to Seoul's famous Yangjae Flower Market and even the AAFES Four Seasons shop.  

But most of our flowers and plants -- and many of the ceramic pots -- have been gifted to us by friends and colleagues who are PCSing (permanent change of station) from Post. Thank you friends, and rest assured your flowers and plants have found a good home! 

Our front and back yard are now blooming with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, celery, basil, watermelon, green beans, eggplants, cucumbers, strawberries and rosemary! And most of all, beautiful flowers everywhere. 

Korea is currently in the middle of its rainy season, so everything is quite green and flowery right now. For those curious, Korea's climate is very similar to Mid-Atlantic region - four distinct seasons with hot, humid summers (but rarely over 85F), and cold, dry winters (rarely below freezing).  So pretty much anything we could grow in Washington DC, we can grow in Seoul!

A few scenes from our Seoul garden, along with some notes on the origins of various items in our yard:

IMG_9311Above: All the pots are from our friend who sadly just PCS'd back to the States. The wrought iron chair in the background was found by a longtime friend next to a dumpster in Alexandria, VA! 



Above: The ladybug lantern was a birthday gift to Mrs. Crab from a friend. Most of the pots above were purchased here in Seoul. The red pot was purchased by a visiting friend at a Salvation Army thrift shop in London for 50 pence. The metal cat sculpture is from Mrs. Crab's sister in Baltimore. 


Above: The terra cotta pot was purchased at a pop-up flower market in Islington Green, London, England. The lantern is from Mrs. Crab's brother-in-law. 

IMG_9291Above: The far left pot came from Bahrain, as did the clay lantern on the right. Note our HUGE tomato plants in the right plastic pot! 


Above: Mr. Crab bought the bistro table set in Virginia for Mrs. Crab just a few months after we were married. The umbrella was from AAFES Four Seasons in Seoul...it has built-in solar lights and BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS!  The colorful hanging white and brass lamp on the right came from Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. 


Above: This gorgeous blue peacock pattern pot came from Seoul's famous Yangjae Flower Market, purchased for just $10!  The silver lanterns are from Ikea in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The incense burner on the right came from a traditional market in Bahrain. 


Above: The bushy plant on the left is lavendar. The oval pot in the middle was a gift from a friend in Bahrain. And to the right is our trusty charcoal grill that we've carried all over the world since we were married! 

IMG_9297Our little back patio. Note the wood pile in the back for our fireplace. 

IMG_9297Above: Lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and celery growing on the side of our house.


Ski High 1! (하이원!)



During the 2013-2014 Ski Season, the Two Crabs had the opportunity to sample four of Korea's major ski resorts: Yongpyong, Phoenix Park, Bears Town and High 1 Resort. Of those, HIGH 1 is by far the tops! The Two Crabs visited High 1 during the American President's Day holiday weekend with dozens of friends and colleagues. 

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 9.00.57 PM High 1 is a four-hour drive from downtown Seoul, located in the southeast corner of Gangwon province. It's certainly not the closest, but it's worth the drive. At 1,367m (4,484 ft), High 1 is the highest elevation and most snow-sure of Korea's ski resorts, hene the name. 

Don't let the poorly-designed piste ski map steer you wrong: this place is HUGE. 18 runs. 3 gondolas. 6 chairlifts. The resort is a huge horseshoe-shaped bowl, with all the runs dumping into a common mid-station before ending in a gentle green slope down to the base village.

There's something for everyone here. For beginners, there are several gentle, long lazy green slopes. For experts, there are actually some honest-to-gods challenging (albeit short) slopes to tackle. Non-skiers will find dozens of restaurants and cafes, a huge casino and great accomodations. Our group of 6 stayed in a large, 2-bedroom Mountain Condo with heated ondol floors. Our hotel complex even had several outdoor hot tubs!

High 1 has one major negative point in our book: the slopes are "dry". You won't find a drop of alcohol for sale at any of the slopeside restaurants, cafeterias and cafes. The only place to find booze at High 1 is the lone convenience store at the base station, the casino, or bring it with you. As noted before on this blog, Koreans have yet to embrace the Apres Ski scene! 

A few more scenes from High 1:

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Ski Phoenix Park! (휘닉스파크)


Korea got a nice dumping of snow on Saturday.  So early Sunday morning, the Two Crabs and an FSO friend hit the slopes, this time at Phoenix Park in Pyeongchang county, South Korea.  It seemed a fitting location this week, as Phoenix Park will be the site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events at the 2018 Winter Olympics!  

IMG_2130Quick recap on Phoenix Park: It's about half the size of Yeongpyeong - Korea's largest ski resort that will serve as the main venue for the 2018 Winter Olympic events. The runs aren't as long, and there are only a few short "expert" slopes.  Phoenix is in the Olympic spirit, sporting a huge LED Olympic "torch" outside the resort entrance.

Architectually, Phoenix Park may not be much to look at, but it has a little more character. There's a ski village on the road to the slopes with "minbaks" (basic B&Bs), ski shops and restaurants. The prices are cheaper than purpose-built Yeongpyeong and it's 30 minutes closer to Seoul.  There's even a couple of mid-slope restaurants. Interestingly, it seemed like 80%+ visitors to Phoenix Park were snowboarders, whereas Yeongpyeong was about 50/50 skiers vs. boarders. Not surprising since Phoenix has a huge freestyle park with half-pipe.  


Tip: You can get a 25% discount simply by asking.  We paid $45 for a 5-hour lift ticket...with 25% discount. I'm told diplomats and U.S. Forces Korea military personnel & dependents can get up to 40% discount, but your results may vary.

Some more scenes from Phoenix Park:


Don't Drink & Ski!?!? So why do many of the restaurants serve 1.5L-sized beers? 



Typical Apres Ski fare: Bulgogi beef with rice, pork cutlet with gravy, and side dishes of kimchi, radishes, miso soup, plus Cass Korean beer! Incidentally, just like Yeongpyeong, Koreans at Phoenix Park still have not discovered the pleasure of "Apres Ski".  At every stop, Americans and Europeans were the only people drinking beer. 


Above, slopes can get quite crowded, especially after lunchtime. But if you're a good skier, stick to the intermediate and expert slopes, which are practically empty even on the most busy days!



Nothing says skiing like Dunkin Donuts!


A strange site at most Korean ski resorts: pressure air hoses to blow the snow off your skies & boards!


Phoenix Park: brought to you by Mini Cooper. Even the gondolas look like Minis!



Inside the DMZ


Mr. Crab recently had a rare opportunity to work inside the DMZ for several days, during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to South Korea.

Despite its name, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North & South Korea is one of the most fortified borders in the world, replete with observation posts, soldiers and thousands of landmines.  Both sides also maintain their own "peace villages", where a small number of civilians live and farm.  More on that later.

Probably the most well-known site in the DMZ is the Joint Security Area (JSA), also known as Panmunjeom for the old village that once stood here. The JSA is the only place where North & South Korean soldiers stand face-to-face, and where the only place where both countries officially communicate.The area is administered by United Nations Military Armistice Commission (UNMAC). 

Ironically, the DMZ has become one of South Korea's most famous tourist attractions...no wonder why some soldiers refer to the DMZ as the Disneyland of Korea.  When visitors arrive to Camp Bonifas, the South Korean side of the JSA, the first place they are taken is the DMZ Museum and Visitors Center, which even includes a souvenir shop where you can buy cheezy trinkets like DMZ T-shirts and mugs:


North Korea also runs tours on their side of the border, as we observed on a few occasions, as in the photo below of a Western visitor sightseeing on the North side of the JSA:


Within the JSA, each side has a large imposing building -- Freedom House in South Korea and Panmungak (Panmun Hall) in North Korea. The buildings are mostly empty and only used for ceremonial purposes. In between the two buildings is the border between North & South Korea. And straddling both sides of the border is "Conference Row" - a group of blue and silver structures. The silver buildings are exclusively for use by North Korea. The blue buildings are jointly-used buildings. Here's a look at Conference Row and North Korea's Panmungak building, as seen from the roof of South Korea's Freedom House:



Above: North Korean soldiers photograph a South Korean soldier and Western visitors to the DMZ. The unassuming concete slab at the foot of the DPRK soldiers is the border between North & South Korea. 

Inside the main conference room is a typical conference table, set up so the Korean border runs down the middle. There is no border line within the room, but the flags and microphones on the table are arranged so they straddle the border, and the tiled floor breaks at the border too. Within the conference room, visitors can walk to the north end of the room...the only place where one can freely (and safely) walk into North Korea.

Republic of Korea (ROK Army) soldier stands guard inside the MAC conference room:


When officials from either side are visiting the conference room, soldiers/officials from the opposite Korea cannot enter the room. But that doesn't stop them from peeking into the windows and photographing visitors! (In the photo below, I'm actually standing in North Korea.) 

IMG_1108Above: North Korean soldier peers into window while South Korea soldier stands guard inside the UNMAC conference room.

Outside, it's a cat & mouse game as both sides watch each other closely. But the North Korean soldiers are much more obvious in their tactics.



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Over the years, the JSA has been the site of several bloody skirmishes between North & South Korea. The most infamous of these was the Axe Murder Incident in 1976, when North Korean soldiers bludgeoned to death two U.S. Army officers who were cutting down a tree that was blocking their line of sight. The memorial below now stands at the location of the incident.


Another famous site near the JSA is the "Bridge of No Return" that was used for prisoner exchanges after the Korean War. The bridge has been featured in numerous South Korean and Hollywood films including "Die Another Day" and "Salt". It's now quite overgrown by weeds and barely standing.


 One of the most surprising aspects of the DMZ is the fact that there are two villages where people live and work -- Kijong-dong in North Korea and Daesong-dong in South Korea. Kijong-dong is known as "Propaganda Village" because most of its buildings are actually empty shells. The most visible landmark within this area of the DMZ is the giant North Korean flag atop the third largest flagpole in the world. Just north of the Propaganda Village, and just outside the DMZ, is the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint North-South Korean venture. 


But apart from the JSA, the two villages and military observation posts, the DMZ is void of development - completely untouched since 1953.  And that's made the DMZ a de facto nature reserve, 4km wide and 250km long. 

A North Korean observation post surrounded by nothing...


A desolate farm house in North Korea:IMG_1184

 Abandoned village in North Korea:


A farm just outside Daesong-dong village on the South Korean side of the DMZ:




If Korea is ever united, the DMZ would make a heck of an awesome national park!





Ski Yongpyong! (스크 용평!)

The Two Crabs have two shared passions in life: traveling and skiing.  So when we landed our Korea assignment, we were psyched because Korea has 1) snow and 2) ski resorts!  South Korea has a young but growing ski industry, no surprise in a country that is about 70% mountainous.  In 2018, South Korea's Pyeongchang County will host the 2018 Winter Olympics

649px-Pyeongchang_location_in_Korea Last Monday, to avoid the weekend crowds, the Two Crabs took a day off work to hit the slopes. So we waxed up the skis, packed the Jeep Wrangler and hit the road to Yongpyong, by far the largest and most built-up ski resort in Korea and the main venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics.  

Location & Directions: Like most of Korea's ski resorts, Yongpyong is located in Gangwon Province. Yongpyong Resort is located about 127 miles east of Seoul.  Leaving Seoul at 7:30am on Monday morning, it took us about 2 hours, 15 minutes to drive there with zero traffic (on a Saturday afternoon, the same trip can easily take 4-5 hours due to Korea's infamous weekend traffic). The best route from Seoul is Route 1 to Route 50 toll road (W9,000). 

Basic info & Price: Yongpyong has 31 runs and 15 lifts including one main gondola. IMG_5766Foreign visitors will be pleased to know that most of the ticket agents speak basic English, and all the piste maps, the resort website, and most of the signs are in Korean and English. Lift passes at Yongpyong come in a variety of prices and packages, based on the times you are skiing. We paid 66,000 won (about $62 USD) each for the 10am-4:30pm lift pass. Ski and board rentals are also available; we noticed that the basic ski rentals are sub-standard compared to U.S. or European ski resorts; if you're a good skier, shell out the extra bucks for premium equipment rentals.

Weather & Snow Conditions: On our ski day, the weather in Yongpyong was about 28F / -2C, or about 10F colder than it was in Seoul.  The snow conditions at Yongpyong was a mix of natural and man-made snow. I would characterize the snow conditions as dry and frozen granular. If you've ever skiied in the Mid-Atlantic / East Coast, the snow at Yongpyong was similar to a good cold day at a Pennsylvania ski resort.

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 9.38.17 PM
 Terrain: Let me preface this by saying that the Two Crabs are advanced intermediate skiers; we've skiied everywhere from West Virginia & Pennsylvania to Austria, France and Italy.  If you're used to skiing in the Rockies or the Alps, you may be disappointed. The terrain at Yongpyong (and most of Korea) is similar to those found at southern Pennsylvania resorts. Yongpyong runs are mainly beginner (green) and lower intermediate (blue).

IMG_5749The so-called "black" runs on the left side of the mountain would be an intermediate on the East Coast -- or a difficult beginner run in Austria!  We didn't have a chance to ski the "double black diamonds" on the far right side of the mountain because they were closed for most of the day, but I imagine they would be similar to an East Coast black / Austrian intermediate.  Our favorite run at Yongpyong was actually the "Rainbow Paradise" - a long, lazy blue run that's more than 5km long!  If you want to stay away from the crowds, keep to the intermediate and advanced run areas.

One very annoying issue at Yongpyong: the ski runs are named for colors, and the colors don't match the run rating -- the "red" run is actually a blue rating; the "new red" and "blue" runs are actually blacks, etc!  So if you're a beginner, make sure you examine your piste map closely before attemtping any runs that might be beyond your skill level. 

Lodging: We were only at Yongpyong for a day trip. But lodging at Yongpyong, and at most Korean ski resorts, is very expensive. According to their website, average rooms cost $250-$500 per night! The higher end rooms can accomodate up to 6 people so it's best to go with a group and split the costs. There is also a youth hostel at the resort.  The hotel rooms come in both Western-style rooms with real beds, and Korean "ondol" rooms where guests sleep on mats on heated floor.  

IMG_5743 IMG_5743

Dining: There is no shortage of dining options at Yongpyong. The main ski lodge has a food court with many options from Korean to fast food. The mountaintop gondola station has a Western and Korean restaurant plus street food vendors selling everything from pretzels to churros.  We had lunch at the "Green Snack" restaurant. The portions are huge and cheap. For less than $6, the Two Crabs shared a pork cutlet, which was similar to weinerschnitzel covered in a tangy sauce and several sides and a yummy soup. Tip: You mut order and pay at a separate desk and pick up a food ticket, then get in the food lines and hand your ticket to the cook. Nearly every restaurant had an indoor and outdoor seating area, but we were usually the only skiers sitting outside. The indoor seating areas at Yongpyong restaurants and shops are UNCOMFORTABLY hot, with the heat cranked up to sauna-like temperatures!

Apres Ski: From our first impression, Koreans have yet to discover apres ski. Although beer is sold at all the restaurants, we didn't see anybody else partaking. At lunch, the Two Crabs were the only skiers drinking beer. Later at the Gold Snack shack, we got some strange looks when, again, we were the only people drinking beer when everyone else was nursing their hot chocolate and tea. 


Facilities: The main lodge and base gondola station (above), houses a lift pass ticket booth, ski and snowboard rentals, locker rooms, lockers, several snow sports shops and a ski/snowboard repair shop. Dining options include a main cafeteria with fireplace and several restaurants including a burger joint and Chinese restaurant. The Twosome Place coffee shop has indoor and outdoor seating.  Lessons are also offered, including English lessons taught by native speaking instructors. The resort village also includes several other lift pass stations, an outdoor stage, children's play area and snow tubing area. 

Bottom line: It's not Austria, but Yongpyong is a pretty good time. The Two Crabs will be back! A few more scenes from Yongpyong...

IMG_5688  IMG_5707 IMG_5707


IMG_5663 Pyeongchang-2018-logo

Christmas in Korea!


Merry Christmas from Korea!  Actually, since about mid September, it's already started to look a lot like Christmas.  For better or worse, Koreans have embraced every aspect of the holiday season, from over-the-top consumerism to holiday decorations, music, gift-giving and other traditions. Religiously, South Korea is about 33% Christian, 25% Buddhist and the rest are secular or no religious affiliation. But nearly all Koreans - Christian or not - have embraced some aspect of Christmas. Downtown Seoul is decorated in lights and tinsel. The grounds of Seoul City Hall have been transformed into Korea's version of the Rockefeller Center -- a Winter Wonderland with a giant Christmas tree and ice skating rink!  A few scenes from around Seoul:

IMG_1269Shinsegae - Korea's most high-end department store, decorated a la Macy's or Harrod's.


Giant Christmas tree in front of Seoul City Hall.

IMG_5649Mr. & Mrs. Korean Frosty, at Incheon International Airport.

IMG_5611Scenes around Itaewon, Seoul.

1497590_10153553975645109_999724852_nA snowy day last week outside of Gyeongbokgung - Seoul's main palace.

And a few scenes from the Two Crabs' Christmas tree and our collection of ornaments from around the world. And in case you're wondering, the U.S. Passport ornament came from Pottery Barn's travel ornament collection. The Union Jack on the Maryland Blue Crab shell was handmade by my awesome brother-in-law.