In 2009, I went on a summer study abroad immersion trip to South Korea with a weekend trip, by cruise, to Japan.
My UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies professor, Dr. Wooseob Jeong, along with my Academic Advisor, Jennifer Hawkins, chaperoned five students throughout the two countries. It was an intense, long trip, but it was so much fun!
Day 1: Leaving O’Hare
Journal Entry: 5/20/2009
“Star Alliance: the way Earth connects” — Apparently we offer space shuttle flights at O’hare now. Today’s security is Code Orange.
The trips consists of me, Kory, Ben, Jan, Michael, Jennifer, and Wooseob. I keep being told to “go with the flow” even though we are only just boarding the plane. Overprepare, then you’re ready for anything, right? I think statements like those make people worry too much. Why not under-prepare? For sure I might be a little lost at first, there might be one of those initial freakouts, but I’ll overcome my fears; that’s what life’s about.
Our breakfast was served at 3a.m. (1p.m. in Chicago). The steak dinner we had was a lot better than these eggs. I slept most of the flight but it was hard to sit still for so long; all my limbs kept falling asleep.
My mind is falling asleep. I’m living such a boring routine lately. I feel like i’m rushing only to stand in line with everyone else. I’m not getting ahead but I’m not falling behind. Am I right where I need to be?
I’m trying not to have any expectations of how this trip will turn out. I am mostly excited about the food; so I can’t have any expectations about that because I haven’t tried any.
Day 2: Arrival at Dongju College
Journal Entry: 5/22/2009
Landed at Incheon Airport on Friday; skipped a whole day in flight. As we went through security they checked our body temperature with a heat scanner behind our ear. I finally got a stamp on my passport–about time. Stupid Switzerland and France is too good for stamps. The exchange rate for won is 1202-1 U.S. dollar. Wooseob greeted us by taking pictures as we walked through the gate. His dad drove the girls as the boys took the bus to the train station. His dad doesn’t speak English but taught us how to say “Why are you so late” because Wooseob was late. We ate some sushi, kimchi, oodon soup, and fried rice at the train station.
The train ride is three house to Busan. The scenery is a lot of rice paddies and then small towns inbetween. Cars mostly are the same except for being smaller. Maintenance vehicles are very small in comparison.
Its customary not to make eye contact with others for an extended period of time. It is more for if you are interested in or hitting on them.
Arrived in Busan and was greeted by Mr. Shin, who works at Dongju College. He took us to lunch on campus and he informed us that he will be visiting Milwaukee and chicago in the month of July with some students.
Heard from several strangers on the street that I was beautiful and many people go out of their way to say hi. They elongate the word when they pronounce it; sounds like their mocking us.
At Dongju we got a tour of the museum containing artifacts of tools, pottery, tombs, and weapons. We got to meet the Beauty School coordinator, or perhaps dean, and learned about their program. We stepped in on a class and all the students were drying real hair on mannequin heads and styling. I asked if I could take a picture and a couple girls in the background did the “asian sensation” pose immediately. I guess it would just be the sensation pose because their ethnicity covers the first part. Instead of saying “cheese” they say “kimchi”. Kimchi is served mostly with every family-style or traditional meal. It is cabbage marinated in red pepper paste.
The other class we got to visit was a makeup removing, massage and aesthetics class. This was the first year students. After their “GRE”s they’ll then split off into hair and makeup or massage tracks.
After the classes we headed to the subway to downtown Busan. The smells on the streets are of food and exhaust. Unpleasant. The streets are way too small for cars. I pretty much think we ate 10 different meals at 10 different restaurants. I never seem to be getting full. Most of the food is really good and I already know I’m going to miss it. Well I know I won’t miss the kimchi–or these little fish.
Day 3: Taejongdae Park
Journal Entry: 5/23/2009
Breakfast has a wide array of options on my plate: dried squid, one egg, ham, tofu, soup, rice, seaweed, red beans, and kimchi.
Today is the Busan City Bus Tour. We head for the train station and right across the street is China Town. Three students from Dongju join us for the tour. They are learning English and will be visiting UWM in July. Our first stop is Taejongdae Park. The walk is about 3km–uphill.
We ended up getting off at the wrong stop. So we had lunch and then found another bus stop and headed towards Piff Square where the International Film Festival is held. It is a huge market with about everything and anything you can find.
There were a few pet shops on the streets but the animals smelled so bad that I couldn’t walk in the store; they were cute in the windows at least.
We took taxis to Haeundae Beach and took a walk for a little bit. We went into a fish market, or so I thought…the fish we chose from the buckets were grabbed by the lady and she butchered them. Then she sent us to floor five. We ate raw fish for dinner and it was really chewy…not a favorite. Then we walked across the street and karoke’d for two hours.
Day 4: Haeinsa Temple
Journal Entry: 5/24/09
Today we took a three hour drive to visit the Haeinsa Temple. It is one of the best known Buddhist Monasteries in Korea, but does not house the remains of Siddhartha Gautama (like I was told when I visited).
It was about a mile hike uphill and the park was filled with shrines and stones piled on top of each other. People stack the stones as a wishing method. Real monks still live here. Haeinsa is also home to the Tripitaka Koreana. These are the wooden tablets (81,258 of them) with carved Buddhist scriptures.
They are a print making device where the monks roll them with ink and then place paper on top to have the imprint. Koreans were the first with this printing knowledge while all other places were still writing the scriptures by hand.
Don’t be fooled by this tempting sign claiming to serve “nutritious soup”. They may believe the the soup is nutritious but they are in fact serving you dog meat soup. You can find videos on Youtube about that if you’re interested.
We skipped that stop and decided to have gourmet Pizza Hut instead. Delicious. Appetizers consisted of bruschetta, chicken wings, quesadillas, and riblets. The pizzas has so many toppings on them that one piece was filling. They also served lechee and sangria fountain drinks.
Day 5: Capital of Korean Spirit
Journal Entry: 05/25/09
Andong, the capital of Korean spirit!
Today we went to Andong and visited Dosan Seowon, which is a Confucian academy located. It was very beautiful and secluded. Hwang planted the lotus flowers in the south-eastern pong. There was only one in bloom.
Next we went to a traditional village: Hahoe Village. This village was never affected by the Korean War; it was sort of a dead end road. People still live there and their main source of income is tourists. Wooseob bought some chilled bean soup.
Day 6: Busan to Osaka
Journal Entry 5/26/2009
14 hour Panstar Cruise from Busan to Osaka.
Day 7: Arrival in Japan
Journal Entry: 05/27/09
Arrived in the Osaka Harbor at 10 a.m. We are touring Japan on a Korean bus tour. Our first stop is China Town.
Then we went to Kobe to visit the earthquake memorial park. The earthquake hit at 5:45 a.m. on January 17, 1995. The park illustrates the restorations process of the Port of Kobe.
Next we headed to the mountains to visit Arima. This place is popular for the hot springs. It is the oldest spa area in Japan. Arima hot springs are rare worldwide ones containing lots of minerals and natural ingredients.
Later we walked down Midosuji and ended up in the Ebisubashi shopping district. It was so packed with people that I was more interested in people watching than the actual shopping. The clerks greeted everyone by saying hello but in the most ear-wrenching way possible: high pitched and nasally.
Day 8: Temples and Shrines in Japan
Journal Entry: 5/28/2009
Woke up and went to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. It is an independent Buddhist temple in Kyoto. The Otowa waterfall has three channels of water streaming where visitors can drink from. The first is intelligence, the seconds is love, and the third is immortality. I drank for love.
Next we went to the Higashi Honganju temple. It is the head temple in Kyoto. It is the Eastern Temple of the Original Vow: one of the two dominant subsects of Shin Buddhism in Japan and abroad. The other is Uishi or the Western temple.
Following we went to the Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto. The torri at the entrance before the main gate is one of the largest. The main building is designed to imitate the Kyoto Imperial Palace on a three-fourth scale.
Stopped for lunch. Of course.
The never ending staircase to the Happy Terrace.
We then traveled by bus to Nara to visit the Todai-ji Temple. This is a Buddhist temple that houses the world’s largest Buddha. It is also headquarters of the Kegan school of Buddhism.. As we exited the temple we walked through a deer park where hundreds of deer roam freely. I bought some biscuits and one deer followed me for about two minutes pushing me in the back with his antlers and biting my shirt. Jerk.
Day 9: Osaka Castle and Japan Cruise
Journal Entry: 5/29/2009
Today is the last day of our Japan Tour. We went to a duty-free store first. Then we went to the Osaka Castle Museum.
We then went to the harbor to board the PanStar Cruise. Ben and I signed up to sing Wonderwall on stage for Karaoke.
Day 10: Capture a Crescent
Bulguksa Museum in Gyeongju; otherwise known as a tourist trap. We learned about the history of the temple and got to see original artifacts and statues from the archaeological dig.
Next we went to the actual Bulguksa Temple. This is the place of the Dabotap and Seokgatap stone pagodas.
Following we visited a park with a whole mess of mounds. At first I thought they were real but during the tour I found out they were tombs. The most famous is denoted as the Heavenly Horse Tomb.
Next we went to see a Buddha in a cave. This was in the mountains and faces the East Sea; thought to be used as a protection of the country from Japan Invasion and any Tsunamis or Typhoons.
Day 11: Geoje Island
Guess what? Another boat ride! This time to Geoje Island to see the Korean War POW camp museum.
Next we went to the Okpo Shipyard. In 2000 it became DSME: Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. This was in efforts to break away from Daewoo Heavy Industries (along with Hyundai and Samsung Industries). It is one of the largest shipbuilders in the world.
We went on a tour through the grounds and it is more like a small community than just a shipyard. There are schools, hospitals, hotels, and restaurants. DSME builds merchant ships such as FPSO, LNG and Rigs for drilling and also creates naval ships such as destroyers and submarines.
We had free time after we got back into Busan so all the boys went out together and all the girls went out together. Jen, Jan, and I all got fake eyelashes put on for only 40,000 won. We had to lay down with our eyes closed for an hour while they glued them on. It was totally worth it. They’ll last for about 3-4 weeks.
Day 12: Daegu
Journal Entry: 6/2/2009
We took a train to Daegu to visit Kyungbuk and Kiemyung Universities. Little did I know that this city is notorious for being really hot. It is the basin of the surrounding mountains and I did not dress for hot weather.
We sat in on a class where the students prepared two presentations in English for us. The first one was related to the Government Information use and the laws pertaining to it. Korea protects the citizens personal information as required by law. The government helps citizens update their own personal records. National Archive of Korea (NAK) and National Archives and Records Administrations (NARA).
The second presentation referred to copyrights. Then we were treated to lunch and dinner by some students and professors. All the students were in the Library and Information Science majors; undergraduate and graduate.
Day 13: Jeonju
Journal Entry: 6/3/09
We took a bus to Jeonju today and had a tour of Jeonbuk University. We also sat in on a class where students presented for us; only it was all in Korean.
We met the Director of the Information Science Department: Hye Young; she was adorable. Hye Young offered us and several of her students to come over to her country home. We had a huge “festival” barbecue in her backyard. I got to try several Korean wines; which were delicious.
Hye Young and her husband were very kind to us. They had bought new bed mats for us to sleep on and new pillows for everyone too. They had bought us lunch and dinner!
Their house was gorgeous and they are almost complete in building. Their garden is huge in their backyard and their front yard is landscaped wonderfully.
Ben prepping the grill to cook the sausages.
Me and some other girls cleaning the veggies.
Lighting the barbecue pit.
Day 14: Dinner with the Dongju President
Journal Entry: 6/4/09
We had breakfast on the patio and then headed back to the University. We went with the students to Jeonju Hanji Museum. It was on the history of paper throughout the ages. There was also this funny hologram video about how paper is made; or how a paper nymph persuades trees to die.
We all went for lunch and this was one of the few times that we each had out own dish to eat out of. After lunch they dropped us off at the bus station so we could head back to Busan.
When we got back, Dr. Kim picked us up. Apparently Dr. Kim isn’t really a Dr. but it would be rude to start calling him Mr. at this point.
We had an hour to ourselves to cleanup for dinner with the President of Dongju. We dressed up and went to the dining room only to meet the group of students that are coming to UWM.
After dinner Bomin took us to the Piff area to shop for shoes and I found two pairs. Then we went to meet the others at a kareoke bar. We got to try soju-which is what they drinks shots of when they party. Its 40 proof alcohol for 1,000 won. All the students treated us to food and drinks.
Day 15: Ulsan
Journal Entry: 6/5/09
We went to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. The motto is “the only thing must be answered by and through your heartful prayer whatsoever.” This temple was placed on the seaside and viewing it today with such beautiful sunlight. It wasn’t too hot but walking up all 108 steps made it warmer.
Dr. Kim drove us to Ulsan to go to the Hyundai factory. We were welcomed with a presentation addressed to UW Milwaukee. Hyundai-Kia makes up 50% of the cars in South Korea while Daewoo makes up a majority of the rest. There used to be a 100% tax on all imported vehicles.
We toured the grounds and were not allowed to take pictures anywhere except the showroom. We saw the factory building with the elantras and the then port. The area of the shipyard looked like a sea of cars.
On a side note: My false eyelashes are still doing great!
Day 16: Seoul Train
Journal Entry: 6/6/09
Our last breakfast at Dongju was joined by Mr. Shin to say goodbye. We are heading to South Korea’s capital: Seoul. It is the largest city in the country and one of the largest in the world with a population of ten million.
Wooseob told us to lower our expectations on this new hotel we’re staying at: Metro Hotel. Its in Myongdong, pretty much the heart of Seoul. We each got our own rooms with twin beds; Dongju had full sized beds.
Wooseob took us to lunch and then we headed to the Seoul Museum of History. We joined four parents and their four kids and hung out with them at the museum, then through Insadong shopping area, then to dinner, the riverwalk, and dessert at Krispy Kreme.
Journal Entry: 6/7/09
Journey into the Demilitarized Zone of Korea started off with a checkpoint from the military guards. All passports had to be checked before entrance. No pictures were allowed of the guards on duty.
First stop is Imjingak in Paju. This is a park that has several statues and monuments regarding the Korean War. This is where the “Bridge of Freedom” lies. The Freedom bridge does cross the Imjin River but crosses a stream adjacent to it as it follows the train connecting North and South Korea. It is famous for being the site of the exchange of POW’s from the war.
The most heavily militarized border in the world sits at the 38th parallel between the two countries. The two sides signed a ceasefire on July 27, 1953 marking the end of the Korean War. The DMZ was created as each side agreed to move their troops back 2,000 meters from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The whole DMZ is about 2.5 miles wide and it has become a wildlife reserve. Since the armistice agreement was never followed by a peace treaty, the nation is still at war.
Mt. Dora Observatory was where you could view North Korea through binoculars. This is the part of South Korea closest to the North. It was too foggy to be able to see much of anything but we did get to see a North Korean guard post. No pictures were allowed past a yellow-marked line unless you would want to sit in a tour hour class about what you did wrong.
We went to the 3rd Tunnel which was built by North Korea about 250ft. underground. It is about 5ft wide and 5ft tall. It was designed to be a surprise attack on Seoul. There are three other tunnels found but rumors have it at about 20 total. North Korea never admitted to planning an invasion and instead painted the walls of the caves black and proclaimed them to be coal mines. There are dynamite holes in the walls that point toward South Korea. South Korea has placed three concrete barricades in the tunnel before the MDL.
The Dorasan Station railway, which connects Seoul and Panmunjom, was called the Gyeongui Line before division in the 1940s. It is the last station a South Korean citizen can visit without going into North Korea. Currently the train only ships materials to the Kaesong Industrial region and ships back finished goods. Its reconnection has been seen as part of the general thawing in the relations between North and South in the early part of this century.
This entire train station is empty besides the tour buses of people that showed up. We got a picture with a military personnel guarding the gate to the tracks. The inter-Korean railroad is still unfinished for citizens. At the station, they had passport stamps that one would hypothetically get if they traveled to North Korea, but there was a picture of no stamping your passport.
On the wall there is a picture of former President George W Bush signing the railroad tie with President Kim Dae-jung. His visit to the station on February 19, 2002 where he had attended the ceremony beginning construction of the railway to reconnect the Koreas. Bush is holding the marker upside down and below the picture is the actual signed railroad tie.
We had the rest of the evening to ourselves and decided to have dinner at Outback steakhouse. Later on we went to Itewan to experience foreigners street at night. Went to the U.N. Club to dance and enjoy ourselves.
Day 18: Korean Folk Village, or “Old World Korea”
Journal Entry: 6/8/09
Went to Gyeonggi University and got a small tour of the campus and also sat in on a class. The University has two campuses, one in Suwon and the other in Seoul. Courses are mainly taught in Korean but in the international college English is mainly used.
Some students took us out for lunch before we headed to the Korean Folk Village.
The Korean Folk Village in Suwon reminds me of Old World Wisconsin. It is a mini-theme park dedicated to the traditional agriculture, buildings, village life, arts and crafts, and medicine.
We got to watch the Farmer’s music and dance, acrobats on horses, and a traditional wedding.
Day 19: Seoul National University
Journal Entry: 6/9/09
We went directly to the Seoul National University Library where we were given a PowerPoint Presentation about the library. This was followed by a tour of the library. In December 31, 2008, the library’s total collection of books, including all the annexes, was approximately 3.7 million volumes. It is a public library as well as academic. We were given a coffee mug as well as a cup warmer/USB extension port as a gift.
After we headed to the bus station where we went to Cheongju to visit the Jikji Early Printing Museum. Jikji was printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377, it is the world’s oldest extant movable metal print book.
Jikji was published in Heungdeok Temple in 1377, 78 years prior to Johannes Gutenberg’s “42-Line Bible” printed during the years 1452-1455. The Gutenberg museum apologized for not recognizing the Jikji as being the oldest published book with a gift to the museum.
Day 20: Yonsei University & National Assembly
Journal Entry: 6/10/09
Yonsei University is a private research University in Seoul. It is also widely regarded as one of the top three universities in Seoul along with Seoul National University and Korea University. These three schools makeup the acronym SKY.
In 1990, Yonsei University Library became the first to operate a computerized library system in Korea. Recently, in 2007, Samsung donated $30 Million in the construction. The name was changed to the Yonsei-Samsung Library in 2008. The Library’s collections total more than 1.8 million printed works and 16,000 serials.
The entrance of the library is denoted as the U-Lounge (ubiquitous). There are touch-screen LCD’s where you can search for a book, read newspapers, post memo’s, and play games. Probably one of the most high-tech libraries I’ve ever seen.
Next we visited the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, the legislative branch of the national government. We got a tour of one of the halls where single-member constituencies comprise 245 of the National Assembly’s seats, while the remaining 54 are allocated by proportional representation. Members serve four-year terms.
We were given a presentation on the Library next. We were given pamphlets about the Dokdo island. Sovereignty over the islets is disputed between Japan and South Korea. South Korea claims it has been their for some time and currently have military personnel stationed on the island. There is also two Korean citizens who have taken permanent residency on the rocks.
Afterwards we met some people for dinner. We were supposed to go on a boat ride but we decided to check out the Bier Halle close to our hotel in Myongdong and then went out for karaoke.
Day 21: Korean Supreme Court Library
Journal Entry: 6/11/09
First we visited the Korean Supreme Court Library. We received a tour of the library and then a multimedia overview and description of everything.
We then received a tour of the building and the surrounding grounds including a garden on the roof. It had rain the day before and cleared out the smog for a beautiful day.
Next we went to Sunggyungwan University which is the Confucian university in Seoul. The professor we met gave us all frame 1,000 won. The image on the front of it is this University.
After that we found this:
Day 22: Korean National Library
Journal Entry: 6/12/09
Korean National Library, also known as the Korean National Library, is the largest library in the country and serves as the national library of the country. It is located in the Seocho District of Seoul.
Korean National Library just had its grand opening in May. It is called the Dibrary (pronounced dee-brary) and claims to be the first such repository in the world, the new 8-story building will offer only digital content to users via a stunning number of computer terminals, laptops and televisions.
The National Library of Korea has made efforts to digitize its collections, making them accessible online. Users can access digital resources, e-books, digitized manuscripts, and other online materials through the library’s website. The library’s mascots are d-to, u-to, and n-to. Stands for digital, ubiquitous, and nature. They are rather creepy.
After we went to the Taekwondo stadium. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and is their national sport.
We got to have a break and then everyone met in the hotel lobby at 11:00pm. We met this late because we headed out to Dongdaemun to go shopping. It is only open from 10pm to 5am. Dongdaemun area is the largest wholesale & retail market area in Seoul city and the main item of the market is clothes.
Day 23: Seoul Plane
Journal Entry: 6/13/09
Departure from Seoul at 6:30pm and arriving back at O’hare at 5:30pm the same day. So long Seoul.
Leaving with these fancy things: