The Horses Of Jeju.

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There’s an incredible variety of horse breeds around the world, but the Jeju Island horse may be among the least known outside of its home. Jeju Island, off the southern tip of South Korea is one of the nine provinces that make up S.Korea, and it has had a long association with horses and horse breeding.

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Wild horses have existed from Paleolithic times onwards, but they were not spread all around the globe. Early man probably hunted them for meat just like any other animal. When man tamed the first horse no one knows, but through DNA analysis, archaeological remains and other methods it seems that domestication of the horse is likely to have occurred in Kazakhstan around 3,500 BCE.  Examination of DNA shows that a small number of stallions were domesticated with a larger number of females over a longer time period. This can be posited by the reduced degree of genetic variation in modern male horses versus females.

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It is unknown whether these first domesticated horses were ridden or used to pull chariots, but we do know that evidence of chariots and domesticated horses both show up in northwestern China around around 2,000BCE. (Many other ancient civilizations used domesticated horses and chariots for warfare and transportation as the domestication of horses spread out from central Eurasia.)

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The first evidence of horses in S. Korea comes with horse themed objects in graves from around 1,000 BCE onwards. It seems likely from an examination of horse related objects that horses were brought to S. Korea from Central and North Asia as well as Han Dynasty China (206 BCE-220 CE) over the course of a few hundred years. (Finding a horse shaped belt buckle does not necessarily mean that domesticated horses were there, as horses have long held symbolic power.) The photo above is from the 5th century CE Muyongchong Tombs in the Korean Kingdom of Goguryeo, now situated in N. Korea.

The first evidence of horses on Jeju island dates to the end of the Stone Age/beginning of the Bronze Age from horse teeth found in middens (trash dumps) in Gwakji-ri and Handeulgul Cave. Unfortunately teeth alone do not prove horses themselves were on the island. But at some point horses arrived on the island and thrived. Having been there for possibly 2,000 years Jeju horses are considered native to the island.

Image result for jeju island horses Documents from the 11th century CE mention a gift to King Moonjong from Jeju of an “excellent steed”. During the 13th century Jeju was ruled by the Mongols and records show that 160 Mongolian horses were brought to the island as it was a perfect place to raise horses.  There were numerous horse ranches on the island, both private and those run by the state. The Mongol horses no doubt were cross bred with the Jeju horses already there, which along with the geography and climate of the island created the Jeju horse we see today.

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Jeju horses, sometimes called, Jorang horse, Jejuma, or Gwahama, are a small breed with a large head and thick neck. They are stocky with a rectangular-ish body. Stallions are in the 12 to 13 hand range with mares being slightly smaller. They have hard strong hooves and rarely need to be shod. They come in a wide range of colors each with a specific name, for example Jeokdama is a chestnut, and a Wallama a pinto. Markings are also used as sub identifiers. Once endangered by the move away from horse powered agriculture towards industrialization in the 1960’s, they were designated Natural Monument No 347 in 1986 in an effort to preserve the breed. 150 horses were classified as true to the breed and placed in a protected area.

In 2000 a stockbreeding institute was appointed by the government to manage and set up a pedigree register for Jeju horses owned by island residents. The register now has over 2,000 entries and strict rules are enforced to keep the bloodlines pure.

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Horses have been an important part of the daily lives of many cultures for thousands of years. From agriculture, to warfare, to art and more. The Jeju horse has done all that as well as been a source of sustenance, yes they still eat horsemeat on Jeju and you can find restaurants specializing in it. A practical people they are both preserving pure bred Juju horses, and also using them for economic purposes. (Many other countries eat horse meat, including France, Belgium, China, and Japan.)

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Tourism has gone a long way to help preserve the Jeju horse, however when you go horseback riding on the island you are far more likely to be riding a ‘Hallyu’ horse than a pure bred Jeju horse. The Hallyu is a cross breed that is better suited for tourists than the native breed.

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You might have noticed similarities between Jeju horses and Mongolian horses, or to Icelandic horses or even the Russian Yakut horse and that is because there are genetic links from Mongolian horses to breeds in Iceland, Scandinavia, and the British Isles, as well as to horses in Jeju and Japan. The theory for the spread into Europe is that Russian traders took them, or used them as pack animals, and they spread their DNA into native horse populations.

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If you want to see some horse art from Korea please check out  https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/wQyQpJwr

To see Vixx attempt to ride horses on Jeju Island see  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrF1zbzvBPg

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Horseback Archery in Korea: A Korean Traditional SportHwarang, The Flower Boys Of Silla, and Korea’s Greatest Hero.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners.

 

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Kpop Idols Who Were Athletes First.

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In a previous post I spoke about Korean actors who were athletes before they became famous, today I’m going to write about some Kpop idols were were known as athletes before they became idols. There are quite a few idols who showed great athletic promise when young and may have succeeded if they had chosen to pursue sports as a career.

I’m going to start with Leo from the idol group Vixx.

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Leo, seen on the far right in the above photo, was born in 1990. His real name is Jung Taek Woon and he was a very athletic child. By the time he was 14 he was a National Youth Soccer player and remained so until 2007.

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He has kept up an interest in soccer and can be seen playing with Korean great Park Ji Sung on the variety show Running Man episode 199.  Nowadays, however, you are more likely to see him playing Futsal, a smaller, 5 a side version of association football which is usually played indoors. He is well known among idols as being a talented player.

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It turns out he’s talented in other sports too, he swims, has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, has taken up boxing, and is an all around competitor on shows such as Idol Star Athletics Championship and Let’s Go Dream Team.  Leo has also learned new skills such as fencing on Let’s Go Dream Team. He does however, have his clumsy and wtf moments as shown by his 2017 Idol Star Athletics Championship. I must note that it is really cute to see him laugh at his mistakes.

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Whether as an idol or a sportsman Leo is a talented young man determined to succeed, and hopefully he’ll have fun along the way.

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It would be hard to follow Kpop and not know about Jackson Wang’s athletic background. Born in Hong Kong in 1994, with 2 athletes as parents, he began fencing at the age of 10. By the time he was 16 he was ranked 11th in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and in 2011 he placed 1st at the Asian Junior And Cadet Fencing Championships. After turning down a college scholarship he moved to Seoul to begin his trained as an idol, debuting in 2014 in Got7.

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Belonging to one of the ‘big 3’ agencies, JYP, Jackson has a chance to have a great career in Kpop, but I do wonder how far he could have gone as a fencer. You now see him as much doing the variety show rounds as you see him as a singer. He is popular as he is a little wild and crazy and gets away with antics that Korean idols would be chastised for. Nevertheless he has created a career for himself in Korea, and in Asia in general, and seems to be having fun.

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I was fortunate to be able to exchange a few words with Jackson, as well as Bam Bam while getting set up for this photo.

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In a bid for the most unexpected sport, Winner’s Kang Seung Yoon was once a professional billiards/pool player. While he was younger he entered and won a billiards/pool competition at the Busan National Sports festival, making him the representative for Busan.

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He won a few other competitions too.

A fast study he’s known to pick up languages fairly easily and he is said to have some impressive skateboarding skills too, however, I think he is very decidedly better off as a singer songwriter.

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Yunho, of TVXQ and DBSK fame, holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is a 3rd Dan in Hapkido. He began practicing martial arts when he was 5 and was a national level Gold Medalist while in Middle School.

Before entering the military he apparently took some MMA (mixed martial arts) classes and his coach said, “he has extraordinary athleticism”, but those who have watched him dance through the years know that already.

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Having finished his military commitment earlier this year I’m looking forward to his comeback.

 

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First,   Easy On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors, and  My Favorite Parks. (Actors, not green spaces.)

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photos credits to original owners.

Beolcho: A Korean Tradition Of Maintaining Ancestral Grave Mounds.

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Ancestral grave mounds can often be seen when travelling around Korea, from the large meticulously maintained royal tombs to the small ones spotted on hillsides in the distance. Even if you see an overgrown tomb it is highly unlikely that it is not cared for at least a couple of times a year and particularly before the major holidays of Lunar New Year and Chuseok.

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Beolcho is the name for the traditional weeding, pruning, grass cutting, and general maintenance needed to keep each tomb in good shape and to honor those that are buried there. Families come together sometime before the holiday to work on making the ancestral grave mounds look well cared for in preparation for the ancestral rights and the family’s paying of their respects to their ancestors.

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With Chuseok being just a couple of weeks away, people all around Korean are preparing for Chuseok and the custom of Beolcho will be occurring all around the nation. (Some families will pay a company to cut the grass etc, while yet others will do it in the morning before the ceremonies, however, an old saying castigates those people by saying “those who Beolcho late are not rightful descendants.”)

This year (2017) the Chuseok holiday period lasts 10 days because of when it falls on the calendar. Sept. 30th is a Saturday, and Oct. 1st a Sunday, the 2nd is a government holiday. the 3rd, 4th, and 5th are Chuseok, the 6th is National Foundation Day, then the 7th and 8th are the weekend and finally Monday 9th is Hangul Day. This means many more Koreans than usual will be able to visit their families and some are even planning to go on vacation.

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Chuseok is somewhat like a cross between the American Thanksgiving holiday and the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. It, and other holidays, hold great cultural significance to most Koreans and even if there have been slight changes from past practices it is still one of the most important times of the year, and a great deal of preparation goes into it, not least is the custom of Beolcho.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Seollal: Korean New Year,   The Game Of Yut,  Geune Ttwigi,    and Horseback Archery In Korea: A Traditional Sport.

All photos credits to original owners. Photo 1 Elle Marzec, all others to Yonhap News Agency.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Jolhon: A Korean Alternative to Divorce?

In Korea Jolhon is increasingly becoming an alternative to divorce for many long time married couples. Known as Sotzcon in Japan and first proposed in the 2004 book I Recommend Graduating From Marriage by Yumiko Sugiyama the idea has since spread to Korea, with its most notable proponent being Baek Il Seob from Grandpas Over Flowers. Although still legally married to his wife of 40 years, he has not seen his wife in well over a year. He famously said he had ‘graduated from marriage’ on a well known Korean variety show. In his case he said it was because they did not get along.

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Jolhon is the idea that each marriage partner can design a “secondary life after a long dutiful marriage” while they stay legally married to each other. They live as individuals not as a couple. As of yet there is no set definition of exactly what this means and some couples appear to still love each other and see each other occasionally, while some see it as a way to live apart without the social stigma of divorce.

The divorce rate in Korea is surprisingly quite high, with gray, or twilight divorces being a large contributor to that number. Even with the social stigma, that includes it reflecting badly on family members, and that it is frowned on by multiple religions many seniors feel the need to fulfil dreams that they put off while bringing up children, or to just live a ‘life for themselves’.

The trend seems likely to become more popular as more and more women don’t see much of a future within a marriage after the children have left home. With one of the longest life expectancies in the world many expect to live half their life after that point and wish for more than just staying to look after their husbands. They ‘want to live free with minimal marital obligations’. Jolhon allows them to do that.

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I first came across the idea in the recent Kdrama Man Who Sets The Table and on looking into it find it an interesting concept. Here in the US we have ‘being separated’ but that is often a stepping stone on the road to divorce. Jolhon seems to actually be an alternative that is working out for many couples in Korea and Japan.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Hanji: The Paper Of Korea,   Korea Without The Chili Pepper! and  Easy On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photos to original owners.

Should You Be Watching Kocowa?

      

Kocowa which stands for Korean Contents Wave is a relatively new streaming service from the ‘big 3’ Korean broadcast stations, MBC, KBS, and SBS. Seeing the global growth of such sites as Drama Fever, which had over 8 million monthly active viewers in the US in 2015,  it decided that it would be better to stream Korean content straight from the source rather than through 3rd party sites. As of this time Kocowa seems to be only available in North America, although they have stated it will be available in other markets in the future.

Being new there’s still some controversy and confusion as to how much it will impact other streaming sites such as Drama Fever and Viki. So far it looks like Drama Fever will lose some shows, while Viki has been able to add an option to watch Kocowa content through their service. Right now it may be personal choice and loyalty that keeps people viewing the sites they know and are familiar with. I’ve been a little disappointed with Drama Fever lately so I’ve enjoyed the advent of Kocowa. Yes I realize that this is a which came first, the chicken or the egg situation, but since things are what they are, I’ve added Kocowa to the sites I subscribe to for Korean content.

  

I’ve been watching some of the variety shows not available on DF or Viki and for ease of access and how quickly the latest episodes are translated Kocowa definitely gets a thumbs up. (Note: Netflix has surprisingly beefed up their selection of variety shows to include Chef And My Fridge and some episodes of Men On A Mission. Plus they are also showing some Korean dramas as Netflix Originals, such as the enjoyable Man To Man.)

   

Kocowa has the usual Kpop shows and are promising exclusive programming to include concert performances from big name artists. It also has JYP’s new show Party People which might be a fun watch depending on the guests chosen. I’m only one episode in so waiting until I’ve watched a few more episodes before deciding if it will go on my must watch roster of shows.

   

Kocowa has about 140 Kdramas listed right now, with a mix of ones currently on air as well as many classics. One thing to note is that some of the titles are slightly different from what the dramas are called on other sites so bear that is mind if you’re looking for something in particular.

It can be difficult to know which streaming sites to subscribe to as each has slightly different content and fee structure. If you can afford it is often better to subscribe to more than one, but that can quickly add up to a fair chunk of money. Some sites have free options but those usually require you to watch with ads. There are also options which others have recommended but I haven’t tried such as KissAsian and Crunchyroll.

So for now I subscribe to https://www.dramafever.com/   https://www.viki.com/  and  https://www.kocowa.com/ for Korean content, and  https://www.netflix.com/ and  https://www.hulu.com/  for general content with the bonus of an occasional decent Korean offering. How this will change a year from now I don’t know, but hopefully our access to Korean dramas, variety shows and other content only improves, and getting it cheaper would be nice too.

I’m interested in which streaming services you use? You can comment down below.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Korean Variety Show Games:Lose And Face The Punishment,   Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First,   and Six Degrees Of Yoo Jae Suk.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

Photo credits to original owners.

Korea And The Silk Road.

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When I was growing up I learned about the Silk Road in a very simplified way, as it being one special route that brought silk and other goods from China to the West, and Western goods to China. Since then however, historians have come to realize that there were multiple trade routes, and that some are far older than they originally thought and traveled much further than they had previously known.

Historians can map trade routes in Baltic Amber from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean dating back thousands of years. And the trade in tin from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean, and from China to the Middle East are almost as old. But these trade routes weren’t followed by a single trader, but rather each trader would travel a certain distance and pass the goods to the next trader at markets and in towns along the routes. This led not only to the passing on of tradable objects, but also information, knowledge and religion were passed from person to person along the trade route. Trading towns and cities grew up along the routes and trade grew. Unfortunately these routes also sometimes became the routes invading armies followed, and diseases could also spread from person to person along the different routes.

Rome traded with other empires across the known world in places such as China, India, and Africa. They traded valuable materials with each other such as grain, fabrics, metals, and pottery.

By the first century CE you can see from this simplified map that quite a few trade routes existed and that by passing goods along the routes, both land and sea, that trade between the Roman Empire and Han Empire was possible. The Romans and Chinese even wrote about it at the time and due to archeological evidence we know that Chinese silk was the favorite cloth of rich Romans. Where this map falls short is that it doesn’t show the trading routes that go east from China to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, (57 BCE -668 CE) Baekje, Goguryeo, and Silla, and then onto Japan. (Northern Korea does make it onto this map, but is labeled as a part of the Han Empire, when in fact that area was Goguryeo, a Korean kingdom,)

Stem cup, Late Roman, fifth century. Glass. Excavated from the north mound of Hwangnam Daechong Tomb. Lent by Gyeongju National Museum, Korea. (National Museum of Korea)

(Note, in the National Museum of Korea in Seoul there’s a whole section of objects found at archaeological sites in Korea that came from distant places along the silk routes to include this example of Roman glass excavated from a Silla tomb.)

China and Korea have had a long and intertwined history and trade routes between the two date back a very long time. In fact much of what we know about early Korea comes from Ancient Chinese texts. Among the many things they wrote they said that the people of Silla liked ‘glass beads and gold’. Much of the Three Kingdoms time period saw a flowering of art and knowledge and many people from Silla were known to have resided in China to learn, trade, and work. Many goods, artworks, and knowledge passed both ways between the two countries. Silla was said to have enjoyed ‘a golden age’.

But the Three Kingdoms may not of just received trade goods from Chinese traders, they may also have been traveling some ways along the routes themselves, to perhaps obtain better deals and more diverse items. About half way along one of the more popular silk routes in Samarkand a Sogdian wall painting dating to 655 CE seems to show two men from the Goguryeo Kingdom in Korea, based on their clothes and weapons. The men in question are the two on the right and if they really are from Goguryeo this is amazing as they would be thousands of miles from home.

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The above photo is of 8th century Sogdian Silk. The Sogdians were famed traders along the central parts of the overland silk routes and had many connections both east and west. If Koreans from any of the Three Kingdoms did indeed visit Samarkand it shows their understanding of the politics of the Silk Roads, and they were directly dealing with one of its most important players.

There is a Chinese painting from around the same time period (7th cent. CE ) showing envoys from the Three Kingdoms at the Chinese Emperor’s Court so Koreans were very definitely traveling outside of the Korean Peninsula.

The Three Kingdoms were also a through point, both by land and by sea, to Japan and were instrumental is passing along things such as Buddhism, the game of Weiqi, (called Baduk in Korea and Go in Japan) as well as Bonsai, (called Penzai in China and Bunjae in Korea) to Japan. In the Asuka period ( 538-710 CE ) the Japanese city of Nara could perhaps be considered the last stop eastwards on the Silk Roads. The Shoso-in Repository holds many Silk Roads artifacts from many far away countries.

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Merchants and traders weren’t the only ones to use the Silk Roads. Monks, Buddhist ones in particular, traveled far and wide, both to learn and to teach. Buddhist monk Hyech’o  (approx 704-787 CE) from Silla followed in the footsteps of earlier monks and traveled to India and surrounding lands. He traveled by both land and sea and spent over 5 years doing so. He visited as far west as ‘the Arab lands’ and thankfully for us wrote a diary of his journey. In it he notes information on all sorts of different things he saw during his travels. Travel changes people and when they write about their travels those writings can influence other people too, leading to cultural exchanges of ideas as well as goods. Hyech’o was not the only Korean monk to travel long distances, although he was one of the more famous ones.

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Many Korean monks and nuns traveled to Japan and help spread Buddhisms and later Confucianism among both the elite and working classes. They brought with them no only religious ideas but, along with merchants and refugees, they also spread the knowledge of silk making, as well as iron working techniques and the idea of surnames. Many other items both of Chinese and Korean origin were exported to Japan such as the oven, bronze bells, gold and silver jewelry as well as stoneware and household items.

Medieval trade routes and geography [20881 x 12578]

By the 11th century, you can see from the map just how far the trade routes had spread, although I think many would have been in existence long before this time, just perhaps unknown to us. Trade along the Silk Roads had periods of boom and bust, at some points in history trade almost ceased, while at other times it was booming. The fall of the Tang dynasty in China disrupted trade, while perhaps surprisingly the Mongol invasions and conquests revived it.

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Long known in the west as ‘The Hermit Kingdom’ Korea was for centuries anything but locked away from the outside world. Once a far looking place that was eager to trade with the outside world, using the Silk Roads to gain products, religions, and ideas, Korea inexorably turned in on itself in the 17th -20th centuries. Now, however, Korea is once more spreading its products and ideas onto the world stage. No longer known as the Silk Road international trade and travel to many of parts of the world are once again a part of Korean Life, and those long ago ancestors are probably smiling.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Korea’s Greatest Hero,    Juryeonggu: A 14 sided Dice From The Golden Age Of Silla, and  Horseback Archery In Korea: A Traditional Sport.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners.

Looking For Cactus And Succulents In South Korea.

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Looking online at sites such as Pinterest, and those catering to the latest in garden fashion both inside and outside the home, one can see the rising popularity of growing succulents. Brides now use them in bouquets, businesses have them as the plant of choice, and teachers are receiving them as end of year thank you gifts. Floral shops now make succulent arrangements for almost every occasion. Korea has been quietly growing cactus and succulents for many years now and are on the cutting edge of growing the most fantastic hybrids and clones, particularly of Echeverias and Haworthias.

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Basically all cactus are succulents (means a plant with fleshy leaves that stores water,) but not all succulents are cactus. (Cactus have spines.)

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Korea has a limited number of succulents native to the region; Orostchys Malacophylla, Orostchys Japonica, Sedum Aizoon, Sedum Sarmentosum, and Hylotelephium Erythrostictum, but that hasn’t stopped them from growing a vast number of non native varieties for home use and for export. Korea has become famous for its succulents and you can even buy them online here in the US. The Prickly Pear cactus which is native to the Americas is grown on Jeju Island and they even make a chocolate from it.

 

If you’re visiting Seoul one of the best places to see a nice variety for sale is at the Jogno Flower Market Alley. A little over 100 meters in length it is chock full of stalls selling all sorts of plants, however, the main focus is succulents. Succulents make perfect houseplants for busy city people and are a favorite of many urban dwellers around the world. Relatively easy to take care of, if you follow the instructions and provide the correct amount of water and light etc, they provide both sculptural interest and colorful beauty to one’s home.

You can also see some really nice collections at some of Korea’s numerous Botanic Gardens. Korea has fifty four Botanic Gardens to be precise, although not all have all varieties of plants on display. Of the half dozen or so Botanic Gardens we’ve visited most had some succulents on view. The Greenhouse at the Seoul Grand Park had one room devoted to them, as well as an incredible Orchid room. (Since many orchids have fleshy parts that store water they are considered to be succulents although many people do not group them as such.)

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Another place in Seoul was one of the greenhouses set up at the old wastewater plant in Seoul Forest.

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Outside of Seoul the Yeomiji Botanic Gardens on Jeju Island have perhaps the nicest collection of cactus and succulents that we’ve seen so far in Korea. Their greenhouse is massive and is divided into specialized areas, all of which were quite impressive.

We also found another smaller garden while on Jeju Island that had a lovely display in their greenhouse, unfortunately I can’t remember it’s name at the moment.

If you’re interested in growing succulents, particularly some of the fabulous Korean hybrids and/or clones I suggest you find a local nursery who can help you out. If that is not an available option I know they sell a lot online, but please use caution and common sense when buying from online sources. There is a good article here which may be worth reading before you buy online.

Next time we visit Korea we plan to find some time to visit another Botanic Garden, or two. Maybe you can add one to your list too.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Yeomiji Botanic Gardens,  Halle Arboretum,   Spirit Garden, and   Seoul Forest Park in Photos.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photos belong to original owners, Debora & Elizabeth Marzec.

Korean Variety Show Games: Lose And Face The Punishment. Part 2.

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Running Man, one of the most challenging of Korean variety shows, is also known for some fairly intense punishments, although sometimes the actual games themselves turn out to be far more grueling than the actual penalties and punishments. Any time the games are played in mud the contestants end up exhausted.

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Some penalties play a recurring role and will show up with a certain regularity. One such penalty is forced air being blown at a contestants face if they answer a question incorrectly.

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Whenever there’s an episode with a pool location there’s a chance of the penalty being the ‘catapult dunk’. This one looks a little bit scary as you have no control.

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Another type of punishment is something hitting your head, like a metal tray, or even water or flour.

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The forehead slap seems like it would really hurt.

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And the walking in public or riding the subway dressed in crazy outfits is embarrassing, although I’m not sure all the Running Man members can even feel embarrassed any more.

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Poor Kwangsoo even had to wear hot pants to work while he was filming a movie.

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While Weekly Idol likes butt slapping as a punishment, Running Man has taken that one step forward and used the historic form of that punishment method and used a large paddle.

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All the Running Man members enjoy punishing each other, as well as just making fun of each other, and they seem to take quite a bit of delight in making each other ugly by drawing on each other’s faces.

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There are a lot more penalties and punishments that take place on Running Man, do you have a favorite? You can let me know in the comments section below.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Part 1,  The Humor In Mud,  Six Degrees of Yoo Jae Suk,  and Korean Variety Show Games.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photos to original owners. In this case probably SBS.

Korean Public And Street Art: In Photos.

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Koreans have a heritage of creating art that dates back thousands of years, so it is not surprising that they are still doing so. Art museums and galleries showcase some outstanding collections, but art also needs to be accessible in the daily routine of life and street and public art fills that need.

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Like most major world cities Seoul has a thriving tradition of public art along with street art, which may or may not be city sanctioned. And of course the line between art and graffiti is a very fluid one. Longtime fans of easily accessible outdoor art of all kinds we made no attempt to seek it out, we just allowed ourselves the pleasure of discovering it along the way.

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On our first visit we obviously headed for some of the must see sights and public monuments such as this statue of King Sejong the Great, one of the most important monarchs in Korean history, which is public art on a grand scale. However, being fans of somewhat more unique and quirky art we kept our eyes open to see what we could spot.

And sure enough we found some a little while later.

Public parks and large open areas are often perfect places to find all sorts of art.

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This ‘monster’ from the movie The Host would randomly make noises and freak out the little kids while the parents stood around laughing. In that sense it also became performance and interactive art. (We didn’t even know this existed or we would have made a point to see it, fortunately we just came across it while walking in one of the Han River parks.)

Seoul Forest had a sculpture garden, and then some fantastic random art pieces such as this giant wire man that you could actually climb inside.

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Most parks had art, some on quite a large scale to complement the space.

It turned that almost everywhere we went there was street art as well as the large public installations.

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Sometimes it cropped up in heavily trafficked tourist areas or formed the backdrop for public performances.

Some art pieces showed their colors better after dark.

And of course there was Kpop art.

We saw art every day and unfortunately sometimes neglected to take photographs, but Seoul is so filled with art, not to mention the amazing architecture of buildings both ancient and modern that are artworks in their own right, we became a little blase. I’ll do a future post on Busan, and one on Jeju Island, both places also chock full of street and public art.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Foodies Delight: The Street Food Of Korea,   Seoul Forest Park: In Photos,   and  The National Treasures Of Korea.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elle and Debora Marzec.

Korean Actors Who Were Athletes First.

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The idea of casting athletes in movies goes back almost to the beginnings of cinema. Johnny Weissmuller who was one of the top competitive swimmers in the 1920’s gained even more fame for being one of the early film Tarzans. Esther Williams, another swimmer who had won 3 national level championships by the age of 16, was a famous movie star of her day. And most of us are familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilding, and Dwayne Johnson, American football and professional wrestling, who created successful movie careers for themselves after their athletic careers wound down, so it should come as no surprise that quite a few Korean actors were quite athletic before they became famous for acting.

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Song Joong Ki was a promising short track speed skater during his middle school years (typically older than in US, up to age 16) and represented his home town 3 times at the National Games, as well as winning at regional meets. Unfortunately he suffered an injury during his first year of High School which ended his athletic career. On the up side it allowed him to focus on acting classes and schoolwork. His parents had encouraged the acting classes because of his shyness.  He scored well on his college entrance exam and attended the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University.

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He had small acting roles, modeling gigs, and appearances on TV in entertainment shows, before his big break in 2010 in the Kdrama Sungkyunkwan Scandal and by becoming a regular cast member on Running Man, on which he showed his athleticism as well as his intelligence. It was both of these that really drew him to my attention and he has been one of my favorite actors ever since. Other roles followed with him gaining more critical acclaim with each performance.

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Then in 2013 he began his mandatory military service, returning to acting in 2015 with the leading role in Descendants of the Sun, playing the leader of a UN peacekeeping unit.. Originally some people worried if he could carry off such a masculine role, but now they can’t imagine any other actor in that role.

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From athlete, to variety show cast member, to actor Song Joong Ki has proved himself to be a multitalented celebrity who still seems modest and grounded in the real world. I can’t wait for his next Kdrama.

 

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So Ji Sub trained as a swimmer for 11 years and even won a bronze medal at the Korean National Games. He has said that swimming and hip hop were his interests when he was young and that he had no interest in becoming an actor. Liking hip hop and having an athletic swimmer’s body on a six foot frame he decided to try out for a modeling job that might place him near his hip hop idol Kim Sung Jae. He got the job and discovered he could make money by modeling.

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It wasn’t long before modeling led to small acting parts and the rest is history. So Ji Sub has acted in multiple movies and Kdramas as well as making appearances on variety shows. His most famous works might be his most recent, Master’s Sun, and Oh! My Venus, however he feels that What Happened in Bali was one of his best roles.

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He has continued to exercise and maintain his athletic figure and can be seen regularly as a print model. He also maintains his interest in hip hop and has released multiple albums and singles and has even had a couple of photo essay books published.

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Nearing 40 years old he doesn’t seem to be aging, instead like a fine wine, he seems to be getting better and better. All that athletic training in his youth definitely paid off.

 

Both Song Joong Ki and So Ji Sub filmed Battleship Island in 2016 and I’m looking forward to its upcoming release. Set during the Japanese occupation it looks like a dramatic watch, but with two of my favorite athletic actors starring in it I’ll be sure to do so. Set on Hashima Island during a time of forced labor by the Japanese of Koreans it will showcase an aspect of history that the Japanese don’t necessarily want brought to light. Its expected release date is July 2017.

 

On that somewhat somber note I think I’ll finish today’s post and write part 2 to cover other Korean athletes who became actors.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy  Is It The Kdrama Actor?   Easy On The Eyes:Korean Models Turned Actors,    and My Favorite Parks. (Actors not green spaces.)

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

All photo credits to original owners.