The Kpopjacket: In Photos.

I’ve written about the Kpopjacket before including how I had to move all the patches I’d made up until then to a new larger jacket, but this post is basically a photo history of who the jacket has been photographed with. Most of the patches are of groups I have actually seen and they will have something saying where and when. Others were because I liked a group or their logo. As you can see however I’ll soon run out of room and some patches will have to be removed to make way for only groups I’ve seen perform live.

 

Most of the times the Kpopjacket has been photographed was at official photo ops, but on occasion I’ve been able to hang out for a few minutes with the artists.

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From big name stars,

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to lesser known ones.

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I’ve also seen some of the ‘queens’ of Kpop. The women who can command the stage all by themselves.

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And the guys who can make one swoon.

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A co-ed group, which is unusual in Kpop.

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And those who gave the best hugs.

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An artist who made my day complete with his reaction to learning I was putting his group patch on the Kpopjacket. (He also gave the best hugs.)

I want to thank the companies who allow some interaction with the artists, getting these photos with each of the members was a ton of fun.

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The Kpopjacket has been to Korea a few times and did some of the Kpop sites.

The Kpopjacket has also appeared in a few fan photos and has even been interviewed in both Korea and the USA.

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I’ve had a lot of fun both making and wearing the Kpopjacket, but maybe the best thing about it is all the Kpop friends I have made along the way. Thanks guys and I’ll see you at a concert soon.

Have a great day everyone.

All photo credits to original owners.

Changdeokgung Palace: In Photos.

There are five main palaces in Seoul which are all worth visiting, with Gyeongbokgung being the most popular. However, like King Seongjong (ruled 1469 CE- 1494 CE ) I have a great fondness for Changdeokgung Palace. He said “Although Gyeongbokgung is magnificent and splendid, the perfect location in this city is really Changdeokgung.”

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Built within the guidelines of Pungsu-jiri-seol a geomancy system similar to the Chinese Feng Shui it really blends in with the surrounding landscape with many of the buildings nestled among trees. We have visited in both Spring and Fall so the photographs reflect both seasons.

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The Palace was constructed on the orders of King Taejong ( ruled 1400 CE – 1418 CE ) as a secondary palace. It proved so popular that at times ( 1610 CE – 1868 CE ) it became the principal royal residence. One of the big attractions is Huwon, the secret garden located behind the palace and abutting the lower slopes of Ungbong Peak of Mount Bugaksan. To enter Huwon you need a separate timed ticket.

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People waiting for their timed entry to Huwon after having already got their ticket. You can buy a ticket online or on site.

 

 

 

 

Tickets do occasionally sell out.

Changdeok Palace has multiple buildings of interest, including some National Treasures. It is also a World Heritage Site.

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The Geumcheongyo Bridge is the oldest extant bridge in Seoul and was built in 1411 CE. many people cross it without realizing its age and importance. You can see it in the foreground of the above photo.

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Injeongjeon Hall, basically the throne room, was first built in 1405 CE , burnt down during the Japanese Invasions of the 16th century, rebuilt in 1610. then it burned again in 1804 CE and was rebuilt yet again.

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The courtyard markers show where each rank of officials would stand. The courtyard dates from 1609 CE.

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However, one of the reasons I like Changdeokgung so much are all the smaller buildings with their hidden spaces and beautiful walls and gates.

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Just as these kids on a school field trip have found a place to hide I can imagine people having done so for centuries before them.

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I also love rooflines,

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and trees in bloom.

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Changdeokgung Palace in well worth visiting at any season, but Spring and Fall are the best times.

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Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy reading Gyeongju: Why you should visit on your next trip to Korea,  Yongyeon Pond: In Photos and Horseback Archery In Korea.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

 

 

 

 

Huwon: The Secret Garden Of Changdeokgung Palace.

While most first time visitors to Seoul are told to go to Gyeongbokgung, Korea’s main palace, there are actually five main palaces each with something different to offer. The buildings do all have a certain similarity however their surroundings, landscapes, and other aspects make each one worth visiting.

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One of the many reasons for visiting Changdeokgung Palace is perhaps the beautiful secret garden tucked away behind the palace. Huwon needs a separate entry ticket as the number of visitors is strictly limited to help preserve the garden. So you need to buy a ticket to the Palace and a timed ticket to the garden. These tickets can sell out at busy times of the year.

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The palace complex was built in the early 15th century on the command of King Taejong (ruled 1400-1418) who wanted it built according to the principles of Pungsu-jiri-seol.  Pungsu is a system of geomancy somewhat similar to the Chinese Feng Shui. It basically means that the palace was adapted to the landscape and not the other way around.

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This explains why Huwon has been designated an Ecological Scenery Conservation area as the original builders retained much of the indigenous tree cover.

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The entrance to the secret garden is inside Changdeokgung Palace and it is by timed entry. Once through the barrier a long paved walk (uphill, this photo is taken looking back down to avoid having people in the photo) takes you to the garden itself.

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The first area you come across is a beautiful square pond with a small circular island. In this general area there was a library and small pavilions in which to read, rest and meditate.

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Further along there are other ponds and building complexes, one of which was built so the King could see what it felt like to live like a commoner. Well maybe an upper class commoner or scholar since the complex had about 120 rooms!

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The garden landscape was designed to be as natural as possible, with only minor changes to nature to add to its beauty. Fall is perhaps the best time to visit as many of the leaves change color and enhance the natural charm of the garden and buildings.

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It is a bit of a trek to get to the back of the garden but it is well worth the effort to see where the Ongnyu stream flows out from a fissure in the rock. This secluded area of the garden was where the King and his family would go to relax, picnic, drink, write poetry etc.

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There’s a lot of hidden gems and amazing scenery to see as you stroll around the garden.

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We even saw a Korean Raccoon Dog cross the path in front of us, but we were too slow to capture it on film. This shows how the garden, which covers about 78 acres, has been left pretty much in its original state. The buildings have been rebuilt, repaired, and restored over the years, but the garden feels like it has been there forever.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

You may also enjoy reading about Yeomiji Botanic Gardens,    Gyeonghuigung Palace,  and  Seokguram Grotto.

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The Zoo In Seoul Grand Park: In Photos.

I’ll admit that zoos are a problematic institution. However, nowadays many of them are the last refuge for endangered animals, as well as being educational centers which teach people the necessity of taking steps to preserve animals in the wild. Personally I love well maintained zoos with caring and educated staff, and so will often visit ‘the zoo’ while on vacation.

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The Zoo is a part of Seoul Grand Park which also has lots of other options. We haven’t visited them all yet, but have enjoyed the Theme Gardens, the Children’s Zoo, and the Botanic Gardens.  The Zoo only cost $5.00 it get in which makes a cheap day out, especially if you take the subway to get there, and a picnic to enjoy while there. However we sometimes just get a snack as that’s part of the fun.

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There’s a couple of different options to get to the Zoo once you get to the park. It is uphill to get to the Zoo so we have taken the chair lift up to the zoo entrance each time as you also get some amazing views over the park and Zoo. You can also walk or take a trolley bus.

We first visited the Zoo in Seoul Grand Park back in the Spring of 2015 and then visited it most recently in the Fall of 2017. Both are great seasons to visit, one for the cherry blossoms and the other for the colorful foliage.

By visiting it more than once we could see the improvements that have been carried out in the meantime. The tiger area is so much better now, and there are plans in place to upgrade some of the other areas as well. Many of the animal enclosures have vegetation, rock walls for climbing, or dirt to dig in, each to suit the occupants. There still are some enclosures that require improvement, which can be said of many zoos worldwide.

Spot the animal.

The zoo is spread out over a large area with wide roads and paths which make it a pleasant place just to spend some down time. There are many food options as well as multiple seating places to enjoy your own picnic. We saw people of all ages enjoying a day out in a beautiful relaxed environment. The animals seemed to be well taken care of too.

Korea is known for its cold winter weather so all the animals had inside shelters of some kind. Some of these were somewhat reminiscent of Jurassic Park!

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Sloths are among our favorite animals.

The camels were having a lovely time out in the Fall sunshine.

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There are children’s play areas scattered about as well as what looked like a designated lunch area for school groups and other children to eat. It was situated in a quiet place tucked away near the forest.

The monkeys and apes also had some pretty amazing playscapes.

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The Zoo at Seoul Grand Park is beautifully landscaped both with areas of planted flowers and those left more natural like the mountain forest against which it abuts. It was beautiful in both Spring and Fall and I would recommend it for a lovely day out from the hustle and bustle of Seoul. If you get there early you can even have whole areas to yourself.

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Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

You may also enjoy Wolji Pond At Night: In PhotosNamiseom Island: A Land Of Fairy Tales And Adventure,  and Gyeongju: Why You Should Visit On Your Next Trip To Korea.

Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time? Part 1. (Around 2009)

There are many different things needed to form a top Kpop group, including the music, lyrics, choreography, company support, costumes, the talent of the idols themselves, and more. All these need to come together to create the perfect whole. Of course not all groups are equal and some are acknowledged for being better at one feature than another. And it is the ability to perform the choreography at a top level that sets some groups apart.

I’m a big fan of dance practice videos because they allow me to focus on the dancing without all the distractions of a MV or the often weird camerawork of music shows. Originally dance practice videos were just that, a video of the group practicing, and were a little rough around the edges. They were unlike the more polished ones we see today, but even back then you could see how difficult and complex the choreography often was. I also enjoy the ‘dance’ version MVs that many groups put out, but even some of them fall prey to weird camera angles and zooming in and out. I like to be able to see the whole dance performed by the whole group.

The Kpop dances we see today grew from the work of earlier groups and global influences. Rather than write a whole history of Kpop dance I’ll begin with some of the groups who were popular when I started following Kpop. (around 2009). Groups such as TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, 2PM, Beast, MBLAQ, UKiss, Brown Eyed Girls, T-Ara, 2NE1 etc. produced some of the songs and dances which have become classics of the genre.

While all of these groups sang and danced, some came out with amazing pairings of the two. Who can forget TVXQ’s Mirotic which came out 5 years after their debut, or SHINee’s Ring Ding Dong which may be one of the best loved song and dance pairings for all fans, not just Shawols. Super Junior, the first ‘large’ group (13 members) to be successful, has had multiple hits many of which can be recognised from a single dance move. Think Sorry, Sorry, which was choreographed by Nick Bass and Trent Dickens.

2PM were known as ‘beast’ idols for their powerful dance moves as seen in 10 Out Of 10, while Beast showed understated, but distinct dance moves for Fiction. Big Bang was, well Big Bang, with all the foibles and idiosyncrasies we’ve come to love. Taeyang has always been acknowledged as one of the best dancers in Kpop, but as a group, not so much.

So which of these groups had the ‘best’ dances is hard to say, but personally I have a great fondness to Ring Ding Dong. Even though SHINee went on to produce a whole string of fantastic dance videos Ring Ding Dong will always be special to me. I also enjoyed 2PM’s Heartbeat, and then I have to say that 2009 was basically the year I actually followed girl groups. Their dances of that era had a uniqueness that seems to have disappeared from the recent Kpop scene.

Brown Eyed Girls came out with Abracadabra, T-Ara with Bo-Peep Bo Peep, BoA with Eat You Up, and 2NE1 with Fire. Of these I liked Abracadabra the most, and the Brown Eyed Girls’ signature dance move (the Arrogant Dance) is still seen throughout the world as Psy used in his Gentleman MV.

Did all of these have the most complex and difficult choreography executed in the most perfect way?  No, but they had interesting dances, that fit the songs, kept ones attention, and highlighted the dancing skills of the groups members.

As dancing skills have improved and the importance of other criteria such as Youtube views have become more important to the entertainment agencies, even more focus has been put on dance and choreography. It is therefore unfair to compare the skill level of that time with now as it is inevitable that people will improve over time. Needless to say I think some of these earlier groups deserve recognition for helping Kpop improve in multiple areas, and dance skills is definitely one such area.

Part 2 will cover the early 2010’s. If you have a favorite song/dance MV from 2009 please feel free to share it in the comments.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photos and MVs belong to original owners.

You may also enjoy Like Dance? Watch Kpop,  and  Best Of Weekly Idol Play Dances.

Gyeonghuigung Palace, Seoul.

There are ‘five grand palaces’ in Seoul; Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksung, Changgyeonggung, and Gyeonghuigung. They were all built during the time of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392 – 1910 CE.  Although they each have a lot of similarities of style, there are arguments for visiting all five.

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Gyeonghuigung has a few things going for it. For example it is the least visited by tourists so you can get beautiful photographs without all the people. It is right next to the Seoul Museum of History, and the Seoul Museum of Art so you can see multiple things without having to walk very far. And it is free to get in.25158450_10210685329199910_234718457049456984_n

Built for king Gwanghae in 1616, as a secondary palace it, at one time, had about one hundred buildings within its walls. In fact it took up so much land that it was once connected to Deoksugung Palace by an arched bridge. Ten kings used it at times over the centuries even though it wasn’t the main palace. Unfortunately Gyeonghui has seen some hard times over the years and what you can see now is only a remnant of what it once was.

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It was burned by accidental fires in the 19th century and much of it was torn down by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea in the 20th. The Japanese relocated a couple of the buildings to other parts of Seoul, but most everything was leveled or removed to make way for a Japanese Middle School.

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By 1988 there wasn’t very much left except for foundations. In the 1990’s the Korea Government began rebuilding it as it once was. Using the original techniques the restoration continues to this day. About 33% has been rebuilt, but they will never be able to rebuild all of it because some of the original land has been lost to modern development. Plus they don’t know what all the lost buildings looked like, since only foundations were left. Still they have done at amazing job and it is well worth a visit.

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Entry to the other four ‘grand palaces’ is only a very nominal fee, and if you get the pass it is even cheaper. About $14.00 US without the pass, v $10.00 US with the pass. The passes can be bought at any of the other palaces + Jongmyo Shrine. Also if you are wearing a hanbok you can get into the palaces for free. (True when I wrote this but check before you go.)

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

You may also enjoy reading Day Trip To JeonjuKimchi Pots: In Photos,  and Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Markets.

My Attempt At Making A Hanbok: Part One.

The Korea Hanbok is one of the most beautiful traditional clothing styles found anywhere in the world. Although no longer everyday dress for most Koreans they can still be seen being worn by Koreans on many special occasions such as weddings and national holidays. They are also commonly seen at many tourist sights.

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Hanbok rental shops have cropped up in the past decade near palaces, temples, hanok villages and other historic sights. Not only tourists rent Hanbok, young Koreans sometimes do it for a ‘couple’ date, and yet others just do it for fun and instagram photographs.

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My daughter and I even dressed up at the airport while we were waiting for our flight.

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And for our kimchi making class.

These rental and ‘costume’ hanboks vary in quality, style and authenticity. Don’t get me wrong, they are often very beautiful and stylish and provide many people with an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have, but they aren’t totally the real deal. Real hanboks are expensive as can be seen when you search online. If I was considering one for a wedding, or other special occasion, I might pay that kind of price, but I just want to have one for conventions and to wear at my historical recreation groups events.

With those constraints I’ve been looking at historic hanbok design. My historical re creation group stops with the year 1600 CE with everything needing to date before then. However it still permit modern things such as allowing people to wear glasses etc. so it is not as strict as many reenactment groups. Still many people try and recreate the costumes, accessories, food, crafts etc as accurately as possible.

(Photo of my daughter wearing an Elizabethan gown made by our friend, Alex.)

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The hanbok is said to have been around for about 1,600 years and tomb paintings from Goguryeo show some of the earlier styles. The Goguryeo Kingdom was around from about 37 BCE – 668 CE. These early images show a chima, or pleated ‘skirt’ tied above the breasts, a jeogori or jacket long enough to cover the hips, and wide sleeves. An underdress or pants might be under the skirt.

( This is “a recreation of clothing from the Goguryeo Kingdom (37 B.C. to 668 A.D.) based on a 5th century mural from Susanri Tomb in Pyongan Province in North Korea”. [ARUMJIGI CULTURE KEEPERS FOUNDATION, JOONGANG ILBO])16183720

The Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392 CE) was somewhat influenced by the Mongols, and Mongol princesses even married into the Korean royal family. At that time the chima was usually gathered not pleated, the jeogori became shorter, the sleeves narrower, and the otgoreum appeared. The otgoreum is the bow tied on the front of the jeogori which has become integral to the design of all hanboks since then.

(The photo below shows the change in the length of the jeogori over time, plus the change in the style of the sleeves, here with the two extremes. The photo shows modern replica clothes based on research by Korean experts.)

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http://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Culture/view?articleId=100729

The Joseon Dynasty (1392- 1910) covers such a long period of time that changes gradually took place throughout those years with the jeogori becoming even shorter. So much so that an extra band of fabric had to be added over the skirt and under the jeogori to preserve a woman’s modesty. The jeogori also became more form fitting.

For myself I’m thinking of perhaps making a sokchima (petticoat), a chima, (skirt) and perhaps two jeogori, starting with the historically older one with the longer jacket. Now that I’ve decided on that I need to think about materials. Hanbok was traditional made from sambe (hemp), mosi (ramie), cotton, or silk, depending on class and the season. People often had summer and winter hanboks made from different fabric. Living in South Texas I need to take extreme heat into consideration, so I think I’ll use linen, an easily accessible material similar to hemp, that is relatively cheap and helps keep the wearer cool. If I could afford real Korean mosi (ramie) that would have been my first choice, but most of what is sold as ramie in the US isn’t really proper mosi. Just as a lot of fabric sold as linen is actually a linen blend. Fortunately I was able to buy some really nice linen a few years ago. The photo shows my linen stash. Not sure which colors to choose just yet though.

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Koreans were once known as the “white clad people” and you can understand why when you look at old paintings and photographs, but this was probably because of their white cotton summer outfits, particularly for the working classes.

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Even the poor sometimes wore colored clothes although not the vibrant hues available to the wealthy. The royals and the royal court obviously wore the most splendid clothes made from silk in the winter and mosi in the summer. The colors were intense and deep with gold and red being particularly favored, as were other dark colors. (Dark colors require more dye and are therefore more expensive. The same is also true of really vibrant colors.) If they could afford it mature women tended towards dark greens and reds, while young girls had the widest variety of color choices. The poor were likely to wear pale pink, light green, grey and so forth as lightly dyed cloth was cheaper to make.

The more wealthy you were the more likely you were to have more cloth used for your clothes, and the more accessories and embellishments you would have. Embroidered clothes obviously cost more, and if they were embroidered with gold thread then you were exceedingly wealthy. Needless to say I can’t afford the time or the money to make an outfit like that. I think I’ll aim for someone in the middle, not a slave and not wealthy.

I began making the sokchima, (petticoat) before deciding to keep a record of the process so I don’t have photographs from the beginning. Basically I used a piece of linen 2 1/2 times the measurement around my chest just above my bust and under my armpits. Traditionally the sokchima and chima were held up by a tie, more recently straps or even a bodice have been used to make the dressing process easier and the outfit more comfortable. I then tore it along the weave (often easier than trying to cut a straight line). The next step was to measure from where it would sit above my bust to the floor plus about 3” longer than the length I needed. I ended up with a rectangle of cloth.

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I hand hemmed one long side and the two short sides. Since I make my outfits to be used multiple times, they must all be machine washable. This means I can’t leave any rough edges or the fabric will unravel. I do have a sewing machine, but no serger, so I do a fair bit of the sewing the old fashioned way…by hand. I then pleated the last long side which is where I’ll attach a band to tie it.

This is where I stopped for now, and where the adventure begins. I have looked at some of the patterns online, but nearly all of them concentrate on making a modern hanbok.  What I need to do now is some experimenting with the band, particularly since I’m using pleating not gathering. Well at least for now I am. If you look at the recreation of the white 5th century dress it almost looks like the chima might be tied lower than above the bust. This is one of the reasons I’m making the sokchima first. This way I can work out methods and fix mistakes before I begin on the rest of the outfit. It is also why I chose a drab color as I don’t want to mess up with one of the pretty colors.

Wish me luck.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners.

You may also enjoy Ramie: “Wings Of A Dragonfly,”   Hanji: The Paper Of Korea, and  Korea’s Greatest Hero.