A short train trip from Seoul to Suwon takes you to a couple of interesting places. The Folk Village and Hwaseong Fortress are the main reasons to visit, but there’s also a palace, traditional markets, and good food. The area is known for ‘galbi.’ Late afternoon found us at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hwaseong Fortress. Spread out around the original city the fortress wall is about 3.5 miles in length. It is not very old, just over a couple of hundred years, but it has survived through wars and occupation.
In places it has been repaired, or restored, using the original techniques and materials, so that it is almost complete. It looks new in places, but time will age it all together nicely. Still a few smaller buildings that were lost to floods, or wars, haven’t been reconstructed. It is an amazing place to explore and visit, and we hope to visit it again on a day with more time, and sunshine. It really gives you an idea of the scale of buildings of the past, and the amount of land covered by a fortress. It is huge.
Having spent the most part of the day at the Folk Village we only had time to stroll and explore part of that length. We took a taxi from the train station to the northern tip of the fortress which was quite busy with tourist buses. Fortunately they were all leaving as we arrived. If you see the ‘balloon’ in the photo, that is a ride that goes up to allow a good view, especially at night and it was our plan to ride it. But as you can see it was a cloudy, hazy day so we decided not to.
We started our exploration at the East Gate, technically called Changrongmun, but more usually called Dongmun. It is located to the far right of the map, near the little man and the garden outside the wall on the map.
There is an area up near the northern gate where you can try out your archery skills, although we didn’t feel up to the task. There’s also a cafe and snack area near the parking area if you need a quick bite.
We headed around the wall heading towards the north gate. This building is called Dongbuk Gongsimdon and it is the N.E. Observation Tower. It is kind of a weird oval shape and quite imposing.
It was cool to be able to stand in some of the buildings and gaze out over the city below. In fact there were cool views all the way along the wall even on such a overcast afternoon.
The were outposts, pavilions and other buildings scattered all along the wall. The wall walk is very popular with local walkers and joggers as well as tourists so sometimes it is better to be there at odd times.
One of the nicest areas we found was around Dongbuk Gangnu Tower. After a while the tower became known more for being a place to hold feasts than for its original military purpose, and it was easy to see why.
Below the tower lies Yongyeon Pond, now a public park, which was once pleasure pond for the nobility.
The views from the pavilion were quite beautiful.
To get to the pond from the wall you have to find the Bukammun North Secret Gate, which actually is quite easy to find nowadays.
The other widows also have striking views, this angle shows the river that runs through the center of the fortress.
You can walk along the wall and cross the river that way, but since we had already gone down to the pond level we followed a narrow path to see where it would lead.
It led us towards the north floodgates, or Hwahonhmun. This is what you would cross if you stayed up on the wall.
We went down some steep steps, following the flowing water until we came to the stepping stones across the river. The photo below is looking back the way we came.
This is so us, leaving the ‘tourist’ trail to poke about, but we have so much fun that way.
We continued on to the North Gate, Janganmun, along the outside of the wall so we could truly appreciate the size, height and shear bulk of the massive walls. We probably walked less than a mile, and obviously didn’t see everything, so I’d suggest either Hwaseong Fortress or the Folk Village, or you spend 2 days in Suwon. That’s probably what we’ll do next visit.
It had been a long day so we hailed a cab back to the station and then made our way back to Seoul and our home away from home, The Seoul House.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.
All photo credits to original owners, map to tourist site on web, rest to Debora & Elizabeth Marzec.
I almost missed out on Chief Kim, also known as Good Manager, which would have been a big mistake. I had watched the first couple of episodes and wasn’t immediately hooked, so left it on the back burner for a while and went on to watch other Kdramas. Then I thought I’d give it another try and settled in to binge watch it. So glad I did. It was one of those Kdramas that takes its time to build momentum and to flesh out all the characters so we actually care about them.
Namgung Min stars as Kim Sung Ryong, a small time accountant whose clients include local gangs and neighborhood businesses. He’s in it for the money and so helps them ‘fix’ their books. He’s so good at it that even though law enforcement know he’s doing it they can’t prove it. His plan is to earn enough money so he can leave Korea and move to Scandinavia. When he’s ‘outed’ for skimming money from the local mob boss he heads to Seoul.
Kim interviews at TQ thinking perhaps to continue his ways at a big company. Seo Yool, played by Lee Joon Ho, an upper manager at TQ Company hires Kim Sung Ryong knowing of his not quite honest background. Seo Yool thinks that Kim will help him with his own plans, or be a dupe for them, or at least not hinder them.
Nam Sang Mi’s character Yoon Ha Kyung rounds out the main players as the ethical office worker who has an impact on both Kim and Seo. She’s a strong presence within the office community and it was nice to see such a role written in a popular Kdrama. She is a strong and pivotal character.
The cast is rounded out with a fantastic group of diverse characters, each of whom adds to the overall interest and relatability of the story. I think we all like to think that ordinary people can rise to the occasion and do extraordinary things.
Without giving too much away the drama progresses with ‘Chief Kim’ beginning to understand friendship, office dynamics, and that you can in fact change things that are wrong. The story has good points about growing up, loyalty, and compassion as well as the evils of greed, corruption, and selfishness. But one of the best things about Chief Kim is the humor that runs through it. Instead of being preachy it is a fun watch, and we care about the characters. There’s also a bromance of sorts that slowly grows between two of the main leads which is enjoyable to watch. In fact Namgung Min and Lee Joon Ho won the Best Couple Award at the 2017 KBS Drama Awards.
The series was surprisingly popular in Korea, considering it ran at the same time slot as Saimdang, Light’s Diary, with an average viewership of almost 16%. It also received multiple award nominations and won quite a few, with Namgung Min winning Best Actor at the 2017 KBS Drama Awards.
It took me a few episodes to get hooked, but it ended up being one of my favorite Kdramas of the year. Give it a chance and I bet you’ll like it.
Queen Of Mystery slipped under the radar for most people. The original story was entered into a screenplay competition and was the one chosen to be made into a drama. It was also aimed for a slightly older audience, but I think that most people would enjoy it if they gave it a chance. Both leads are well respected actors and have appeared in multiple films and TV dramas over the years. The story is interesting and just different enough to not be the same old cop/mystery show.
The main lead Yoo Seol Ok, played by Choi Kang Hee, is a housewife who lives with her husband, his mother, and sister. She tries hard to fit in with her husband’s family, and society’s expectations, but all she ever wanted to be was a detective. When crime hits her neighborhood she finds it impossible to ignore it.
While working on solving the first crime she gets to know a local policeman Hong Joon Oh acted by Lee Won Geun, who finds it amazing that she’s able to see all the clues and work out ‘who did it.’ He admires her brain and calls her ‘teacher’. Yoo lets him take the credit and they get along well. He’s likeable, sweet, and somewhat innocent as to how the world really works. He has a kind and gentle heart.
Not so with the rebellious Detective Ha Won Seung, played by actor Kwon Sang Woo. He’s all rough and tumble and wants to put the criminals away by any means possible. He, of course, gets in trouble and is sent to the same police station as Hong Joon Oh. He obviously encounters local ajumma Yoo Seoul Ok and looks down on her abilities. He doesn’t understand how an ‘ajumma’ can know anything about crime. She soon becomes indispensable and the trio form an eclectic and formidable crime solving team.
Life is not all roses for the team though, as Ha Wan Seung still rubs the others the wrong way and doesn’t really understand Yoo at all. There’s no real romance in the drama, but there is attraction and friendship. Trusting others as well as oneself, growing up, and self awareness all play a part in the drama and so this can truly be called a human drama in many ways.
Queen of Mystery did ok with viewers, staying around the 9.5 % mark. The cast received a handful of awards nominations but didn’t win. It wasn’t a fantastic drama, but it was good enough that they’re making a season 2. It held my interest and I enjoyed it, even with the occasional plot hole. The characters meant something to me and I plan to watch season 2.
Because This Is My First Life was an unexpected pleasure. The premise could have been corny, or sappy, or overly romantic, but it wasn’t. It was surprisingly real, with adult ideas and conversations about friendship, marriage, and love. It was also honest, both in dialog and the portrayal of some of the main characters. I didn’t necessarily like all of them, but I have met people kinda like them in real life.
Although the main couple Nam Se Hee, played by Lee Min Ki, and Yoon Ji Ho, played by Jung So Min, are the glue for the storyline I liked that the two other couple’s lives were also fleshed out. There were three different love stories in the drama, as well as heartbreak, misunderstandings and revenge.
Nam Se Hee is a genius developer so his office puts up with his aloof, cold demeanor and actions. He has strict goals for his life and his future, and wants a non eventful life. His plans included owning a home, which he does, but his income is barely enough to cover the cost of his mortgage. He needs a roommate.
Through some miscommunication Yoon Ji Ho ends up being his roommate for days before Se Hee realizes she’s a she and not a he. But she was the best roommate he’s ever had so they work out a tenant/landlord agreement. Not to spoil things too much, this is just the beginning of their relationship, and of course things change along the way.
The two other couples Sim Won Seok (Kim Min Suk) + Yang Ho Rang (Kim Ga Eun), and Woo Soo Ji (Esom) + Ma Sang Goo (Park Byung Eun) both have interesting storylines that act as counterpoints to the main couples experiences. In fact my favorite couple were Soo Ji and Sang Goo. There were also strong same sex friendships which held the various strands of the overall story together.
At times the conversations and storyline became quite serious as the characters for the most part were trying to be honest with their feelings, and also what they wanted/expected from their relationships. This is something that is not often discussed in the average Kdrama where falling in love is often the end of the story, not the beginning, or middle part.
It rated quite well considering it was shown on a cable channel, and not free TV. It also seems to have been quite popular with overseas viewers. Again, if you haven’t watched it yet I suggest you give it a try.
I hope I’ve given you some quality suggestions for ‘the best kdramas of 2017’ and that you’ll enjoy checking them out. I’ll do one last post listing some other kdramas from 2017 as well as listing many of the over 120 or so which aired in 2017 for you to browse through. What was your favorite drama from 2017? Please comment below.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.
All photo credits to original owners. Chief Kim and Queen Of Mystery KBS. Because This Is My First Life tvN.
In parts one and two I covered such Jeonju sites as Jeondong Cathedral, Pungnammun Gate, Omokdae, Imokdae, and the Gyeonggijeon Shrine all of which are in or near the general tourist area of Jeonju. Here I’ll be posting some photos of the Jeonju Hanok Village itself. With over 800 of the old style hanok houses it is an extremely attractive tourist destination particularly favored by Koreans.
Often regarded as the spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty it draws large crowds during the day. There were many like us who were daytripping but from what I understand it is best to stay overnight and enjoy the area even more when the day trippers have gone home.
There are even hanok houses which are airbnbs or guesthouses.
Lots of cute alleyways to explore.
And to get lost in.
Gardens tucked into every small space,
and doorways that make you wonder where they lead?
This one led to the home of the grandson of the last Emperor Of Joseon.
We even got to take a quick peek inside and have a brief exchange of words with him. No photos of him were allowed though as he wasn’t wearing traditional hanbok. In fact he was resting and playing with a puppy.
After strolling around the back alleys and paths with our guide we discovered areas of art galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants as well as homes and guesthouses. We even found a hanji workshop.
Hanji is the traditional paper of Korea and you can learn more about it here.
After our tour ended and we had walked around on our own for a while he headed to the Jaman Mural Village. It was a little walk away up a hill. It was kinda like a shanty town perched on the side of a hill, but there were some neat murals.
And I can’t finish without photographs of our evening meal, which we enjoyed before we set off on our train ride back to Seoul.
Known as the food capital of South Korea we enjoyed all our meals there. We do plan to return at some point to spend a few days so that we can really explore everything this area has to offer. But if you can’t do that I recommend a day trip from Seoul. We had a lot of fun, even if I almost fell asleep on the journey home to The Seoul House.
Our day included 2 guided tours, one for the shrine and one for the hanok village. Our guides were very good and we learned a lot from them. We also walked around and explored on our own. Since not many signs and explanations were in English we felt using the tours allowed us to see the maximum we could with our limited amount of time. The tourist office and the shrine ticket office listed times for the English language tours.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Elizabeth & Debora Marzec.
Making lists of the best of things are always problematic. There’s so many different ways to measure things, and only a few of those are even somewhat objective. For example even if I use the ratings for Korean households watching a particular kdrama that number obviously doesn’t count the number of international watchers on multiple sites, both legal and illegal. Some sites like DramaFever publish their lists of ‘bests’ but since they pay for their content they don’t show all the Kdramas shown in a year. Some Kdramas are much more popular overseas, but it is hard to find specific number counts of viewers. One can also look at the Korean Content Power Index which measures how a TV show fares with things like social media buzz and online searches, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a quality Kdrama. Just one that has received attention, whether positive or negative.
If I just tell you what I liked best, does that really mean much when I have stated before that I don’t really like dramas that have more than 24 episodes. Plus I’m not much of a fan of courtroom/legal dramas which is important for 2017 because there were a lot of them. So is there a point in making a ‘Best Kdramas of 2017’ list at all? I think there is. For me it allows me to keep track of my favorites. It also gives me an idea of those I should probably have at least given a try since I check the ratings before I complete my list. For an idea of ratings I use the average % number of Korean households who watch over the entire drama, not just one specific episode. For a reader it might help them choose a new show to watch, or an opportunity to voice their opinions.
So Defendant, a show I did not watch, had an average viewership of 21.7% which is extremely high, and a Content Power Rating (CPR) of 246.4 which placed it in 4th place for TV shows for the year. (The CPR doesn’t just rate dramas. Produce 101 Season 2 came in second with 288.5.) So needless to say I would suggest you watch Defendant if you like courtroom/legal type dramas as by all accounts it was good one, however I can’t personally recommend it as I didn’t actually watch it. Which brings up the point that I’m not sure anyone could possibly watch all the Kdramas of 2017.
In 2017 there were about 127 Kdramas that I could find that were shown on either TV or Cable , plus about 25 webcasts, so that’s a lot of choices. I watched 20 in their entirety and about 16 that I haven’t finished watching yet, or just gave up on.
Earlier this year I posted The Best Korean Dramas So Far This Year, 2017 and in it I mentioned Goblin and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo both of which I heartily recommend. They fell into that grey area of are they 2016 or 2017 Kdramas as they bridged both years? Basically they would both be in the top ten Kdramas for both years for me.
Another ‘bridge’ Kdrama was Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim which I didn’t watch until this year having been put off by the title. It turned out that ‘romantic’ was used in the old fashioned sense of having an idealized view of reality, not the lovey dovey romantic sense. There was some of that between some of the characters, but the main gist of the drama was to strive for what was right. It was a pretty good drama with a decent cast of actors. (Seo Hyun Jin, Han Suk Kyu, & Yoo Yeon Seok.) It scored quite high on the Content Power Rating with 248 which put it in third place for the year and it averaged just over 20% in the number of households viewing it.
I also had Strong Woman Do Bong Soon as one of my top choices, but upon rewatching it recently, it slipped a little in my rankings. I still love Min Hyuk, and how much he adores her, but Do Bong Soon came across as more of a bully at times than I’d have liked. I know some of the situations were meant to be for comedic effect, or just to show her strength but when people can’t fight back on an equal footing then you have to be careful not to cross the line into bullying.
Also on my list were Man to Man and Chicago Typewriter, both of which I enjoyed as well as Circle Two Worlds Connected which kept me thinking from week to week. The question is would any of the Kdramas I watched in the second half of the year bump these down the list?
And you guessed it. Part 2 will cover those Kdramas from the last half of the year which I enjoyed and feel comfortable recommending.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.
All photo credits to original owners.
Jeonju is a wonderful place to visit with a lot of things to see and do. In part 1 Jeondong Cathedral, as well as Pungnammun Gate, Omokdae, and Imokdae are all mentioned. Part 2 covers Gyeonggijeon Shrine.
Gyeonggijeon Shrine, which was built in 1410 CE., houses the portrait of King Taejo the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. In ancient Korea ancestor worship was a part of life and as the ‘ancestor’ of his people this shrine was built to honor him.
In many ways the shrine and outbuildings look like a typical Korean palace, but it was built for a different purpose, to house the dead King’s portrait. The Yi clan of Jeonju, ancestors to King Taejo came from this area which is why the shrine is built here.
The shrine is quite spread out, with multiple courtyards and buildings. It is a pleasant place to wander around and there were were quite a few people looking for the perfect photo.
Beautiful gateways and doors led from courtyard to courtyard. sometimes we came across people in costume finding the best spot for their social media updates, which was rather an odd mix of the traditional and modern.
The shrine area also houses a modern purpose built museum which showcases portraits of multiple famous Joseon Kings as well as mortuary tablets, carriages, and other artifacts.
We took the English language tour which was led by a very informative guide, who led us all around the site explaining things along the way. She made sure to give us enough time to take photos and of course we were free to wander around after the tour if we wished.
Parts of Gyeonggijeon Shrine were used for the filming of the Kdrama Moonlight Drawn by Clouds. The walkway through the bamboo felt familiar, unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of that area.
We enjoyed our visit to Gyeonggijeon Shrine and highly recommend a stroll around it, particularly if you’ve rented costumes and want some nice backgrounds for your photos.
It is surrounded by some lovely walls and there is a small charge to get in.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Debora and Elizabeth Marzec.
Away from the usual tourist haunts lies an area around Konkuk University (Seoul) that deserves a visit. Known as Kondae it is a less touristy destination very similar to Hongdae with the nightlife to match. We, however, went to visit Common Ground a shopping mall/food park built from bright blue shipping containers. The University itself has been the site of multiple Kramas and is also an attractive place to visit.
Stacked up to provide a mix of small and larger inside spaces Common Ground is home to an eclectic mix of trendy shops, restaurants, and bars.
The shops lean toward young and up and coming designers and products and so they can at first appear a little pricey, but take a closer look and you’ll see many unique items you might not see anywhere else.
Some more well known brand that cater to a younger demographic can also be seen, with quite a few small shops selling beauty products, handmade jewelry, and even weird lucky water plants.
The central courtyard has some permanent food trucks which offer a variety of food and drink if you don’t want to try one of the almost dozen restaurants. The craft beer choices at Space Bar were really rather good.
Probably best known as a photogenic area for instagramable posts we enjoyed it as an interesting break from hard core sightseeing. There were things to look at and admire, things to buy, food, and drink all in an attractive setting.
Common Ground is also known for hosting weekend markets, events, exhibitions, and performances. While we were there they were gearing up for a big Halloween party.
Not too far from the Gangnam area by subway, although across the river, the Kongdae area is well worth a visit if you are on the eastern side of Seoul.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elizabeth Marzec.
It is that time again. The time when we look back at the year just gone by and somehow want to quantify it. The lists are everywhere. We look at them, and agree or disagree, which we somehow feel helps us define our own opinions and thoughts on the past year. They also in some way seem to give us closure as we look towards an even better year ahead.
My list isn’t the ‘best’ Kpop songs of 2017 because judging the best is probably better left to professional musicians and critics who follow Kpop much more closely than I do. And in some ways it is not the ‘top’ if you just count numbers, like how many views a song got on Youtube for example. And it is not strictly just my favorites, rather it is an amalgam of all those. Many will probably disagree with my choices, but check out my list anyway and let me know which ten you would have chosen. Please note I have limited my song choices to only one from each group otherwise there wouldn’t be many groups represented.
Really Really. Winner. This one just stuck in my head. It has a nice beat, is kinda chill, and easy to dance around the house to. Although many feel it is an awful word it was a ‘pleasant’ song. It didn’t challenge me. It did what it set out to do, it made me feel summery and relaxed. It has a simple theme, “I really really like you” which is nice to hear even if you’re not the actual person they’re singing to. The beat and rhythm were good and of course their singing was on point. Really Really did quite well in numbers with their MV (official MV only) and it stood at over 53 million at the end of 2017, which put it at 17th most watched Kpop (all, male & female) MV. (Love Me Love Me, may technically had been a better song but it didn’t grab my, or the public’s attention as much as Really Really.) Really Really was a hard song to not to like.
Mic Drop (Steve Aoki Remix). BTS. Wow, what a year for BTS, so many great songs to choose from. I chose this one because to me to it harkened back to We Are Bulletproof and their determination and confidence in themselves right from the beginning. Their performance is strong, powerful and defiant, and they are confident in themselves, their hard work, and their talent. They have proved the haters and the big agencies wrong and have grown themselves into the most well known Kpop group on the planet. Mic Drop (remix) had over 99 million views at the end of 2017 which put it in about 10th place overall for Kpop MV views for the year, not bad for a song only released in late November. It also was the number one song for iTunes downloads in the USA.
Energetic. Wanna One. Young, unpolished and temporary, Wanna One hit the Kpop world with a bang. Formed from a TV talent/reality show, without perhaps the necessary years of training they have done remarkably well. Energetic is a fun, catchy song, but basically their inclusion in my list boils down to puppies and kittens. It’s entertaining to watch cute young things play around and enjoy themselves. I did see them perform Energetic live at the Busan One Asia Festival and they were very enjoyable to watch and they gave a very good and professional performance. Standing at 22 on the most watched MV list at over 42 million they can be proud of themselves.
Bling Bling. iKon. I liked the song when I first heard it, and then I saw them perform it live. Wow, I know watching and listening are semi-passive, but I never realized how some songs just need to be live. iKon rocked the whole arena with Bling Bling, everyone was totally caught up in the party atmosphere, we were out clubbing with those around us. It was memorable. If I even get the chance again I’ll definitely be there ready to be rocked. A good song boosted on my list due to a powerful and awesome live performance.
Dramarama. Monsta X. One of the many groups I like, this was perhaps my favorite song of theirs for 2017, although some days I might have chosen Beautiful. Not as established as some of the other groups on this list they are doing well building their fanbase and producing good songs with dynamic and stellar dance routines. They need something really special this upcoming year to vault them into the top few mega successful Kpop groups.
Honeymoon. BAP. Some of the songs I like are not always the most popular, but we all like things for our own personal reasons. BAP were the first Kpop group I saw live in concert so they will always be special to me, but more than that, I like Honeymoon. Unfortunately not many seem to feel the same way as it is only hovering around the 4 million MV views, MV’s from before their forced hiatus, due to slave contract issues, right as they were beginning to do well were getting around 20 million and upwards for some of them. Honeymoon is a good song. If you haven’t listened to it please give it a chance.
There are some songs that I don’t really like when they first come out but then start to grow on me over time. Such was the case with Ko Ko Bop, EXO. I like weird, quirky, innovative or whatever you want to call it, but it can sometimes overpower the actual song, fortunately EXO just steered clear of too much. The song is interesting and a bit different from the usual and stands out among the sea of BTS songs as a change of pace. Placed 8th of the overall MV view totals with over 104 million it still somehow doesn’t feel like a true EXO success.
Clap. Seventeen. Again perhaps not the most popular choice, as Don’t Want To Cry has more views, but I like Clap. It is another easy listen. I can enjoy it without having to try too hard and sometimes that’s all I want from a song.
Cherry Bomb NCT 127, and O Sole Mio SF9 both flew under my radar until I saw them performed live. Sometimes live performances don’t hold up under close scrutiny, but both these groups caught me up with their songs. I rewatched their MVs and realized how they can sometimes skew the complete picture. I guess each medium does that, whether you just use audio, MVs, practice videos, TV show, or live performances. Each experience shapes our views. O Sole Mio had a nice little Latin vibe going for it, while I think Cherry Bomb was going for wtf.
Rookie song for 2017 (excluding anything by Wanna One) Dam Da Di, Golden Child probably mostly for the puppies and kittens aspect, plus the earworm that Dam Da Di turned out to be. Also I should probably mention the debut of Highlight, formerly Beast before contract disputes and a member leaving. Plz Don’t Be Sad is the obvious song for them.
As an insight into how/why I made some of these choices, the music I listened to in my teens obviously included some of the big names of the time such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, however, I also was a fan of Slade, and The Bay City Rollers who some consider the very first ‘boy band’. What goes around, comes around.
Have a great day everyone.
Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photos and video credits to original owners. Feature photo Just Jared.