New Year's Eve
For New Year's Eve I planned to get the zine printed, but the shop was closed. I met up with Verv and Zeinab and John Middlemis of Chanter's Alley and we went to Zion Boat for food, then Roots Time for midnight, where we ran into Tyler and a ton of Indonesians. Never have there been so many Muslims in Roots Time before.
Also, as it's the end of the year, I'm unlocking all the 2013 archives. I don't know why I do it this way, but it's fun torturing visitors to my site.
Rise Again Volume 1 Ska/Reggae Festival Part 1
After the big protest, I went to a big reggae/ska concert starting at 10pm and going all night. It had pretty well every Korean act connected in some way with Jamaican music, minus Windy City and Funkafric Boostdah.
I took way too many photos, so this will be broken up into three individual galleries. This one includes Ska Wakers, M.Tyson, Tehiun and Purijah, and Kingston Rudieska.
29 December 2013
This protest movement has been gaining momentum in Seoul. The main issue is over the privatisation of the KTX, of which there seems to be conflicting sets of facts: talk to one person, and they're selling the KTX off to a foreign company, and talk to another and it's merely being shuffled around so it's in the care of a new government bureaucratic body. I don't know and I don't have a strong opinion.
The second biggest message of the protest is about the National Intelligence Service's role in tampering with the last election, which is actually a pretty big deal. It would be like if the NSA decided that a Republican administration is in their best interests, so they started psy ops against the Democrats. That's just wrong, and in a civil democracy the government shouldn't be selected by a spy agency. The NIS is essentially an entirely partisan body.
And of course there are the usual calls for the president to step down, which I don't think have much sway.
Plus there are numerous more political protest movements involved, as always. I try to keep them all at arm's length, while at the same time respecting the citizens' right to protest.
25 December 2013
Dongdaemun on Christmas
For Christmas I decided there might be some advantage to returning to the church. Turns out I was wrong, as the protest was still going on and there was a worker stationed there. But I got the image for this new banner.
24 December 2013
Working on Broke in Korea 16
Work on Broke in Korea 16 is nearly complete and it can be downloaded here. I finished around 7:30pm on Christmas Eve, and rushed to the print shop, but they only had time to print me four copies, one of which had a printer's defect. One more went to Ken who was leaving for Canada that night, and the other two are in Roots Time. I've looked through and determined what's too hard to read -- and also that one page appears in two different places -- so soon there will be an improved draft. But for the most part it turned out looking exactly how I wanted.
19 December 2013
Mad Professor 2013
I happened to find out one week earlier thanks to Iain from Yuppie Killer that Mad Professor was returning to Korea. He was last here on August 15, 2004, my first year in Korea. That show was also in Itaewon, and judging by pictures was 95% foreigners. This time around, there's an actual domestic reggae scene, and it was kind of like the last show, except invaded by half the Korean reggae and ska scene. I met Mad Professor afterwards, and I'm pretty sure I was the only person he met who had been to both shows.
By the way, yes, all the pre-2011 archives still exist, but just aren't online. It would take a colossal amount of moving files to make them all visible again.
On the way to Yongma Land, I happened to spot this church that was definitely closed and being prepped for demolition. On our way back, we went out for Uzbek food and then Tyler and I found a way in. The church has been emptied out and there's a protest next door, so it was kind of a high-profile trip, but we got in and out without problem.
16 December 2013
I published one more final article with the Korean government, here, about Yongma Land.
We went back to Yongma Land to meet the property owner and talk about the park's status and what he expects of visitors. I won't repeat myself too much because it'll all be said on the government page, but basically if you go you are expected to pay him 5000 won. And if you try to sneak in or you think it doesn't apply to you because there was nobody watching the gate, they operate on the honour system, so the more people (foreigners in particular) who think the rules don't apply to them, the more it's ruined for the rest of us.
So anyway, Yongma Land is still open/closed two years later, and there are no signs of this status changing. It is becoming increasingly popular for production companies, and it can be considered a great sandbox for urban explorers ranging from fledgeling to experienced. Just be aware that the owner is probably watching you in your stupid Santa suit from a window.
Also, although these pictures were taken on 16 December, this update is being made at 11:41pm on Christmas Eve. I have completed Broke in Korea 16 which is downloadable here. As of this moments there are some upgrades that need to be made for print quality, but that PDF will look fine on your computer.
15 December 2013
Santa in Dongdaemun
I invited Lex out to a short day of hitting rooftops in Dongdaemun. We managed to get on one, but gradually decided we'd rather go for Uzbek food than crawl around in the cold much longer. It probably had something to do with walking up seven flights of stairs to get to the roof of the Lotte Fitin, which didn't really inspire us that much at the moment due to the snow, ice, and CCTV.
14 December 2013
Santa Claus Conquers the Koreans
The day after buying the Santa suit, I took it to the abandoned neighbourhood next to Sohn Kee-chung's park, which is dwindling down to a very small grouping of buildings. There was active demolition uphill, and constant truck traffic below us, but we managed to stage a few good photos before getting kicked out. Jessica was Santa's assistant this day.
13 December 2013
Christmas Shopping in Hongdae
I went on a walk through Hongdae, looking for a costume shop that sells Santa suits. One was long gone, but I found Joy's Party in the same building as the CU around the corner from DGBD that we always hang out at when there were shows in DGBD. For 32 000 won I found a decent Santa suit that had everything I would've wanted, minus an actual wig. It's already paid for itself in entertainment value, as I've had it with me for four days in a row for a lot of pictures. We'll start here with some early Santa work on some rooftops and in some reggae bars.
12 December 2013
There've been a few reports on Facebook of seeing snow this year, but the first actual snowfall I experienced finally happened. I decided to go out on a walk and wander through the mountain behind my home that hides a secret civil defence base. Then I headed through Yeonhui-dong and took some pictures during a gap in the snowfall.
This snowstorm was also pretty strange in that it generated thunder and lightning, a rare thing I've heard happens in Korea often, but I'd never experienced back in Edmonton.
7 December 2013
Abandoned Gas Station
I'd noticed this building before for the interesting metal lattice on the roof, and always wanted to go up there, but the only access was through an active business. Well, now it's closed down and being slowly demolished, so there's plenty of time now.
Scratch that. Quickie demolition. So it's okay if I show that it used to be crammed full of abandoned wedding dresses of not bad quality.
6 December 2013
Returning to KOCIS
I was called back to my old work for a week to fill in, and during that time I got to attend a year-end party that also signified the majority of the ministry moving to Sejong City. They should all be moving down there by before Christmas, and as you can tell in some of these pictures, they're not too happy about it.
3 December 2013
Morning in New York
I did actually manage to convince a few people that I was in New York, and not Songdo, one of Korea's most ambitious megaprojects. I'd visited earlier this year, but I've been meaning to go back for a while so I could see it at sunset, and visit a couple other sites, such as the rotting airplane (which turns out was still being used as extremely gaudy storage by the junkyard/used car dealership below it). Anyway, yes, Songdo has its own Central Park and Statue of Liberty, and a few other points of comparison with New York I discovered along the way.
These pictures were taken just as a wave of some of the worst pollution China's ever belched at us started to roll in. At some points I could literally taste something burning on my tongue just from breathing.
2 December 2013
My Visit to New York
I had a couple days with nothing to do, so I jumped on the airport line and headed for New York. Last time I was here was in the '90s, and things have...changed a lot. The city has been totally redeveloped, and there are no people left. That could've just been the Chinese pollution. I walked through Central Park, visited a New York boutique, and had Chicago-style deep dish pizza. I tried visiting the Statue of Liberty but it was on private property and shut down for the night. Oh well.
1 December 2013
I finally got around to going back to this building, which overlooks the abandoned building in Hongdae and otherwise has a pretty good view of things.
29 November 2013
Ken's Night Off Part 2
This bundle of photos has Find the Spot and Scumraid, two bands I've photographed plenty of times, as well as My Man Mike, who I photographed from above at a park show once. Anyway, some weird stuff happened at the end of the show that won't be seen in this gallery, but be careful about any links you may click.
Ken's Night Off Part 1
There was a hardcore show at Club Spot that was going to include the first performance by Misawa, which is more or less Chadburger without Aaron and with more Find the Spot. There were a number of other bands I hadn't seen properly yet as well, especially K-Rampus but also Dead Gakkas and My Man Mike, so it seemed like a good show to shoot.
What's more, Ken had mentioned that he was going to be there but he wasn't bringing his camera so he could have some time off and relax instead of shooting more pictures compulsively and giving himself a lot more to edit later.
So up I stepped, the "photo terrorist" as I was called at the last show I went to. And yes, some of these photos will inflict terror upon you, but I think I did pretty well with a lot of others.
26 November 2013
Just a few photos from a number of unconnected places.
I went halfway across town to meet some friends at Yongma Land, only for the bus to take a lot longer than I remembered and to show up just as they were leaving. Still, I got one picture of the owner's contact information, which could be useful as he is stepping up his efforts to make money off people coming to see decaying amusement park rides.
Also some safety signs from a New Town, and a happy face.
I was in the area for a job interview and I had an hour to kill after while waiting for Jaeeun to meet me for a few drinks at the Big Rock Brewery, so I picked a random rooftop and went up.
16 November 2013
2013 Korea Japan Punk Fest Part III
And this is the last third of the show. It does look like I missed Yello Loko and Stoned somehow, but Ken probably got them all if you want to view them on his website (Ken, seriously, get yourself some webspace).
Anyway, for this gallery you can see a lot more audience participation, including plenty more from E-daeng, and you can see everyone a little more drunk and uninhibited, which includes me as I'm pretty sure my live music photography gets better the more I drink.
16 November 2013
2013 Korea Japan Punk Fest Part II
As I mentioned below, nobody was getting really excited about the bands this night, at least not until the last handful of bands. The exception to this was E-daeng, the bassist of Return Bois, who played a pretty good set and then spend the rest of the night jumping on stage during the Japanese bands. Sure, he was disruptive, but it really was good to see someone having fun for the rest of us. I laughed at his antics, a lot, but I salute him for keeping the show entertaining and demonstrating how properly to not give a fuck. MVP of the festival.
16 November 2013
2013 Korea Japan Punk Fest Part I
It's already been two years and the Korea Japan Punk Festival is back in Korea. This year's show featured 21 bands, which was way too big a number no matter who you are. Japan sent five bands, all of which I'm pretty sure I remember being pogo punk, and Korea had 17 bands presenting a very diverse picture of the Korean scene, lacking any strong niches. This show was a bit strange in that audiences weren't really moving inside until much later at night, but this gallery only takes us up to the first of the Japanese bands. More to come soon.
15 November 2013
Thunderhorse Tavern was opening a new location in the former location of Powwow, and finally the unpleasant history of that place may have been purged for good. It's been renovated quite thoroughly and looks very nice now.
11 November 2013
Just a bunch of pictures, ranging from the RASKB office to heading to TBS eFM late one night to a random rooftop to what my cats killed for me.
8 November 2013
If you read these posts chronologically, you might've been surprised at the lack of infiltration in the previous day's Expo visit. I was saving it for the next morning, upon which I came back before sunrise and crept through the amusement park before security woke up.
The amusement park itself isn't in bad shape, maybe just in need of a cleaning, but its main problem is probably just that it's kind of old-fashioned feeling. I've kept a list of all the abandoned amusement parks I've visited, ranked from how much I enjoyed them, and this one would probably come in around the 1/3 mark. It's a pretty large park, and the vigilant but non-threatening security does make it enjoyable to infiltrate.
7 November 2013
Recently another urban explorer posted pictures from the Expo, and I was surprised to see that the adjacent amusement park had been closed for a year. I tried making plans to go there myself which kept falling through, until I got a call back from a job application to KIPO, Korea's main patent office. Fully aware that I wouldn't be up for relocating to Daejeon, I went along with it and spent the previous night in the city so I could visit the Expo.
I met up with Adam, who I'd previously met back in 2008 when I visited the city to see another abandoned amusement park, Daejeon Greenland. That had been my first time meeting Nik, who became my best friend, stayed a couple years, left, came back, and now is gone. A lot of time had passed, it seems.
6 November 2013
A Rainy Day in Downtown Seoul
I stopped by the Canadian embassy to pick up some poppies for Remembrance Day, and then I walked along the street behind Deoksugung. I'd just been there a couple days earlier, but this time there were more people and due to the rain a lot more umbrellas were out, adding extra colour to the scene.
5 November 2013
After getting rained out the last time I visited, I returned to Oksu to survey the damage. It's pretty extreme, and certainly suggests a far different landscape than it used to. This isn't the largest abandoned neighbourhood I've seen, but due to the geography it is one of the more extreme ones.
4 November 2013
There was a lantern festival at Cheonggyecheon, and the timing was right to see it at dusk so I headed over. Most of the displays seemed to be related to Baekje, and there was some questionable content that fortunately hadn't been translated into Japanese.
4 November 2013
After having recently broken my tripod, I knew I couldn't last that long without a new one. I borrowed a huge metal tripod from Kanghee for one evening, but finally I got myself to Namdaemun to buy a new one. I also made sure to take a bunch of candid photos in the market as well.
3 November 2013
Matt invited me along to a party at Kelly McCluskey's place, one of my cowriters in a Scott Bug project many years back. And I don't think we'd even seen each other since then either. I showed up at his place and the first person I saw was Robert Koehler.
After Robert left, one of the other people was surprised to find out who he is. Kelly made a point of mentioning how three of Korea's top bloggers were there, which deeply offended me on behalf of Robert and Matt.
1 November 2013
I met up with Jen recently to hit a few rooftops around Hongdae and Sinchon. Most of our plans were thwarted due to worker activity, but we did manage to get to the roof of a radio tower under construction. We wussed out of climbing the radio tower though due to not being able to verify whether the tower was transmitting or not, although just a couple weeks ago two of my other friends climbed it and one seems to have passed out on the very top.
29 October 2013
I don't normally post names that help with locations these days, although I usually leave clues in contained within the pictures. Oksu has been an obsession of mine for years, ever since I found out it was going to be demolished. This whole area stretching between Oksu Station up to Singeumho Station has been getting knocked down, one area at a time, ever since I first moved into this attractive neighbourhood back in 2007. Now there's barely anything left, and I expect next time I come here I'll find another area set for demolition.
When I left home it was cloudy, and when I came out at Geumho Station it was heavily raining, so I only took a couple pictures before heading home, where I found it once again not raining.
29 October 2013
Rooftop Rescue Mission
I've been on a very weird sleep schedule since being unemployed, or maybe it's better to think of it as a lack of schedule. It started off by having me sleep briefly two times during the day, but my energy level was too low so I've consolidated it into one sleep period again. Now, any time after 6pm I suddenly get overcome with the need to close my eyes, and I sleep heavily for around six hours. I try not to wake up until 3am at the earliest, and I'm wide awake and active during sunrise.
After a lazy Sunday evening, I woke up shortly after midnight to see this update on Facebook:
Fuuucccckkk!!! Im stuck on a rooftop! Is anyone in Hongdae???
I picked up the phone and called, just as they were escaping. Even before I talked to Lizzy, I was pretty certain where they were stuck, as the same thing had happened with me and Javin earlier this year. Just heed my warning: beware the room with the inactive elevator doors; it's a trap.
Anyway, they were safe, but I was recently woken up so I decided to join them and we stayed out until sunrise.
27 October 2013
Halloween at Club Spot
Halloween seemed a bit more subdued in Hongdae this year, probably due to the fact that most of the parties were so far removed from the actual day of Halloween, which wasn't until the following Thursday. At Club Spot, where they always have a Halloween party, most of the costumes were half-assed, just an easily removable mask or going in costume like Jesse's douchebag costume. Anyway, the show was fine, though I showed up late, just in time to catch Mixed Blood's Misfits tribute called the Mixedfits. I also saw Full Garage and Yuppie Killer, although I was much more preoccupied with costume pictures than live music. And yes, upholding the longstanding tradition, there was a way-too-drunk antipodean there, but this year he didn't end up threatening or attacking me.
I went as UEey the Clown, and the latex mask proved to be insufferably sweaty to wear. Lately I've been getting a lot of coulrophobic comments because of my Kakao profile picture, and this just validates the fear that I too feel.
Recently I saw someone else on UER posting clown pictures, and I told him "If this is anyone but Urbex Clown, you're stealing my bit." For an added layer, I realised later I was stealing a Krusty the Clown joke.
22 October 2013
Drinking is a fact of life in Korea, and if you leave home you'll probably end up drinking, or if you don't drink, you can expect to spend a lot of time watching other people drink. Here are some pictures from a few nights of drinking in a variety of different places.
18 October 2013
A friend fell asleep on the bus on the way to Yonsei recently and overshot her stop. When she caught a bus back toward the university, she kept an eye out for my window and thought she saw a cat in the window. If so, it was Buster on his new ride, a suitcase with wheels I moved onto the dresser by the window, giving him a bit more height. I kind of want to make this thing look more like a racecar.
Anyway, now he knows that people on the bus can see him. I'm not sure what he'll do with this information.
16 October 2013
Man on a Ledge
When this first happened, it really deeply affected my mind. Then, the next day, I got a phone call from Robert Koehler saying that he knew who the guy on the ledge was, and it turned out he's just another rooftop photographer who's more daring than the other guys. So, just a crazy thing that happened to a likeminded individual, albeit one who spent way way too much time perched on the edge with his legs dangling over the side. If I'd been up there five minutes more without the cops coming, I would've moved to another position where I would've seen him, and as soon as I saw his camera gear I would've figured out what he was up to and would have almost certainly talked to him (after a few paranoid minutes of spying on him, of course).
So, despite all the craziness, it ended up being pretty inocuous. I've included the original write-up I posted on Facebook right after everything went down, mainly because I didn't want to forget any details but now because it allows me to remember the emotions I felt throughout.
15 October 2013
I met up with Ken in Myeongdong to go to Ho Lee Chow, where we redeemed a coupon I'd given him for his birthday. Afterwards, we walked around Myeongdong a bit. Ken always seems to like the market, although I consider it overdeveloped and without the charm of all the other markets. Well, there are one or two corners I favour.
13 October 2013
Sohn Kee Chung's neighbourhood
Not literally the name of the place, but a lot of the streets are named after him and it's next to memorial park bearing his name (though he himself was born in Sinuiju and buried in Daejeon. Knowing his legacy, it's sad seeing these ruins bearing his name.
If you aren't aware, Sohn competed and won gold in the marathon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but he had to compete under the Japanese name Son Kitei because Korea was occupied by Japan at the time. He famously bowed his head in shame/protest while accepting his Olympic gold medal (also note that the bronze medalist was following suit, although he isn't famous because he only got bronze). Back in Korea, the Dong-a Ilbo published the photo with the Japanese flag removed, the Japanese governor-general had eight people imprisoned and shut down the paper for nine months. Sohn and Nam's medals are still counted for Japan in the IOC's records.
Anyway, enough history. Wouldn't everyone be better off if a bunch of We'ves or I Wants were built here?
9 October 2013
We went back to the abandoned university, though this trip was less about photography and more about infiltration, as there are numerous buildings and numerous, numerous security measures to avoid. We got in okay, but I got a small tear on my beloved tiger shirt during a hurried exfiltration (yes, that's a word). And jeez did my pants ever take a beating throughout this trip, to the point where I was holding them together with safety pins; good thing they were only 5000 won at the flea market.
Oh yeah, also, Joseph gave me his old copy of Access All Areas, which I didn't mean to bring, but it was the only prop I had on hand when setting up this shot.
8 October 2013
I went to a very interesting lecture on Seoul during the Japanese occupation, but since I don't tend to photograph lectures, all the pictures are from after, in which I was drinking with Jaeeun who recently finished her LSAT and was in desperate need of deprogramming.
5 October 2013
Seoul International Fireworks Festival
For the fireworks festival, we returned to the area where I'd identified three potential rooftops. We got there too late for the one I'd been up on the previous time, and my second hope turned out to have tight security and was booked full, so we ended up sitting outside candidate 3 for about half an hour waiting for someone to go through the door so we could sneak in. This was also my chance to invite my only two Croatian friends in the world to meet.
4 October 2013
I caught another Jazz Five performance, this time in a basement bar in Sinchon called Nori. This one got a surprisingly high number of people out, surprising me as well as the band. I wouldn't have thought New Orleans jazz done by a Danish band would get such a great response, but it certainly did.
3 October 2013
As well as the series finale of Breaking Bad and the end of my time as a government propagandist, this week also marked my final show with TBS eFM. I'd been there just short of a year, but due to the "season" change they were moving Re:Play to the late-night slot and discontinuing the budget for regular guests like me. It's been an interesting year, and I've gotten away with far more than anyone could ever expect on a commercial radio station. Here is the list of shows that we put on:
1. Ska - two songs from each "wave"
2. Punk Goes Ska - punk bands covering ska/reggae songs
3. Mod - dealing mainly with the '70s mod revival
4. Skinhead Reggae
5. Lounge Exotica
6. TV Theme Songs
7. Christmas - all songs by punk or ska bands
8. New Year
10. Space Age Music - songs about space
11. Canadian Content
12. Hip-hop - documenting the rise of old-school hip-hop in the late '70s/early '80s
13. Soviet Music - of course mentioning Viktor Tsoi 14. Songs About Alcohol - I gave up drinking for January and this was in commemoration of that horrible period
15. Nonverbal Vocals - scat, doo-wop, a cappella, beatboxing, toasting, Jud Jud
16. Star Trek Singers - originally started as just "star singers" but I managed to find all six from Star Trek, albeit by bending the show rules slightly and delving into the early '90s
17. Train Songs - a theme show with all different genres pertaining to trains
18. World Country - I somehow managed to find six country songs from six different countries outside the US; this started as a tribute to Stompin' Tom and I decided to overlook American country
19. Outsider Music - this show generated a lot of feedback, not all negative
20. UK Reggae - I felt I owed the station something more listenable; this was originally going to be all songs about Margaret Thatcher but I didn't want to push my luck
21. Clash Covers - songs made famous by the Clash which they were just covering, eg "I Fought the Law," "Revolution Rock," "Police on My Back"; I was barred from playing "Brand New Cadillac" due to station restrictions on brand names
22. Proto-Punk - in recognition of the Television performance in Seoul
23. Spy Themes - this one was tough to do because there was another regular guest dealing with soundtracks and I was told to limit instrumentals
24. Canada 2 - after returning from Canada I did a show about my trip, including music I heard on the plane, my dad's old band, and a Shin Jung-hyeon album I bought in Edmonton
25. Boogaloo - after seeing the Slackers do a boogaloo song in Edmonton, I researched the genre and put this show together.
26. Jamaican Genres - I ran down mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, and dancehall
27. Korean War - this show was broadcast on July 26, one day before the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement; part 1 and part 2 28. Dr Ring Ding - we had Dr Ring Ding in the studio with us to introduce some of the original songs he's covered over the years, and do a live performance for us in which he named us both; part 1 and part 2 29. Music I Hate - songs I had a problem with, though I respected all the musicians; included Specials, Social Distortion, the Beatles, Louis Prima, Johnny Cash, and Byron Lee
30. Jolly Fat Women - after reading this article I decided to spotlight the six named talented women
31. Chuseok Special - in which I molded Thanksgiving songs into Chuseok and also played songs themed around Chuseok regarding family and traffic
32. Best of retrospective
1 October 2013
On my first couple days of unemployment, I wandered around mainly. On Tuesday I went to Ilsan for another Jazz Five show, only to find I'd grossly miscalculated and arrived one hour too late to even catch the end of the show.
Next evening, I walked around Hongdae and scouted out rooftops for the upcoming Seoul International Fireworks Festival. I found three with good potential.
30 September 2013
You might remember last year when I managed to book a show for Danish ska bang Babylove and the van Dangos in Club Ta between festivals they were playing in Korea. This year, the saxophonist Johan returned to Korea with his jazz band, and he made a lot more time to play shows off the festival circuit. I made it to their Monday show at Club Auteur, which wasn't heavily crowded, but that's understandable considering most people had to work the next day. Not me.
30 September 2013
In early August I gave my notice that I was going to quit my job with the Korean government on August 29, my two-year anniversary. I showed up that day, only to be told there was no replacement and asked if I could stay longer. I stayed a while longer while they found a replacement, showing up once again on my last day, only to be told that the replacement didn't have a valid visa. I was asked to stay until Chuseok, at which point I was told I'd be coming back after the long weekend, and finally I was told I'd be working until the end of this month. So, today is the third day I've shown up being told it was my last day. Is it? I'll believe it when I'm gone and the new guy is here.
29 September 2013
It was raining all weekend but I decided to venture out on Sunday evening to test out some nearby rooftops. One of these I had been on before, but I felt like reshooting there. Due to the overcast conditions -- which are good for a lot of my type of photography but bad for long exposures -- I'll probably have to reshoot this again.
25 September 2013
This is Chicken
This is Chicken, a This is England-themed chicken hof run by everyone's favourite Korean skinhead Jiwoong, closed recently, and we were all crushed. Then, reports of a new This is Chicken surfaced, and at first I thought it was just another chicken place with the same name. But as I was walking south of Sangsu, I discovered its new location and was greeted by Jiwoong running out of the place after me.
The new place looks great, is cleaner, and holds much more room both for customers and in the kitchen. I'm glad to see it's back.
25 September 2013
Buster wanted to send a message, and due to lack of vocal cords and opposable thumbs, the best he can manage is to etch it into my skin while tripping balls on catnip.
20 September 2013
UE Meetup Afterparty
After we were done with abandoned stuff, we headed to Sinchon for food and drink. Since one of the guys is just visiting Korea, I suggested we test his tolerance of spicy food and take him for dakgalbi. And then afterwards, even though he doesn't drink we convinced him to try dongdongju, which came as a big surprise for him, as anyone who's wondered what the hell it is can attest. Also, I followed everyone to a noraebang and we ended the night sitting around in Lesbian Park, and attempted to answer the question of how it got that nickname.
20 September 2013
The last part of the meetup we had over Chuseok took us to an abandoned neighbourhood. Anticipating way too many people showing up, I was somewhat stingy with the details and had a backup plan if there were too many people. Ultimately there were eight of us which was a bit larger than I'd prefer, but when we were out we generally separated into two groups of four naturally, and nobody was ever too loud.
19 September 2013
Just a warning: this gallery contains some of the most disturbing pictures I've ever taken, so if you don't want to see closeups of various animals preserved in jars -- and far, far more disturbing -- don't click this link.
18 September 2013
As advertised on this page, we had a meetup over Chuseok. I was quite surprised by the number of people who came, but fortunately we'd chosen a roof that could comfortably host us all. It turned out there's some convoluted rental procedure, but we were eventually allowed to stay up there long enough to see the Sun set. There were so many people I didn't have time to talk with everyone, or get to know that many people or get an idea of who was interested in doing more. George and Jen, who hosted us there, seemed to have a great time, so we all seem to have survived.
We had a couple more activities throughout the long weekend but I didn't go out of my way to promote either of them because there really aren't many places that are safe to bring a large group. More on that later.
18 September 2013
We found a sizeable abandoned neighbourhood that's midway through demolition. The plan was to find one good rooftop to see it all from, though considering the scale I'm not sure we did see everything. We also ran into a short, stocky guy in a black uniform with an ID card hanging around his neck. He watched us with suspicion as we walked by, and we later proved him correct when he caught us in an abandoned apartment complex. Fortunately we were on the way out and we got over the fence before he could stop us.
17 September 2013
The radio schedule changed for Chuseok, so I ended up going to the station to be on air live. Before that, I stopped up at the roof to see what it was like.
15 September 2013
Morene Market Again
This is pretty much the same as last time, except I came back under better lighting conditions to reshoot some pictures.
14 September 2013
I went out right before sunset for some more photography, but this time I got on an old favourite rooftop that's had increased security in recent years, and then I went on a walk through the actual market, which is always quite an experience.
12 September 2013
It was Ken's 30th birthday, so we celebrated with beer, meat, and Choco Pies.
8 September 2013
I took a walk through the area around my home and visited a couple interesting places. I wanted a closer look at the New Town construction, and I managed to get on one very nice roof. Then I came back a little later to try to photograph it at sunset, but was a couple minutes later than I would've liked.
7 September 2013
I ducked out after the show to visit another subway entrance I'd been curious about. This one was a bit more climbing-intensive, notably more stealth-intensive, and a lot more door-checking-intensive. I almost certainly should not have gone down there by myself, but I got in and out quickly and I'll probably not go back to this one again.
7 September 2013
Reggae at Kuchu Camp
Alright, finally here are the pictures from the reggae show at Kuchu Camp. I finally saw Hellivision after numerous people telling me "They're a really good band despite their name," which confused me because I don't think it's all that bad a name, despite maybe being more suited to a rockabilly band.
Hakase-Sun was fun to watch but having seen Lim Ji-hoon put on a comparable act with a backing band I wasn't as overwhelmed as I could have been. He stuck around and played keyboards for Oki Band, a very interesting fusion band that combines reggae, world music, and electronica with Ainu folk music, which proved to be the highlight of the show.
Chuseok 2013 UE Meetup
Click to RSVP
Well I didn't get to all my photos this week due to a heavy workload. You can blame the president for going to Russia and Vietnam. I was supposed to be done last week, but they've been unable to find a qualified replacement so I'm stuck with the government.
But at least I have time off on Chuseok. This year, we're having another meetup. This one starts on the first day of Chuseok on a rooftop, as they usually do, and from there we'll plan what other places to visit based on interest and number of people. I've got a few places in mind, but if you want to stay in the loop, you'll have to RSVP to the event page. If you can make it to the roof, hit Yes, but if you can't but you want to come to later events, hit Maybe so you can stay in the loop.
This first event is low risk and open to all; the idea is just to socialise and exchange ideas before being put in more risky situations. Please come: Jenn looks so bored all by herself on that ledge.
7 September 2013
Loud Night Out in Hongdae Playground
There was another show in the playground. I've been told that the district office is cracking down on unauthorised performances, so they got official permission to do this show. First time I've been to a show in the playground where there weren't at least a couple other competing performances. It was quite pleasant.
Unfortunately I was only able to stay for Mixed Blood and My Man Mike because I was planning to go to Kuchu Camp to see Hakase-sun. More on that later.
6 September 2013
Kanghee and Ivan's Party
Kanghee is getting ready to leave Korea soon, so he invited a bunch of people over for a party. The food was very good and he was giving away some of his possessions to make travel a lot easier.
On the way home, there were very few taxis so I started walking. After about half an hour of no success, Dori pulled up on his scooter and I was able to convince him to drive me home.
4 September 2013
This night, Ken wanted to meet up in Sinchon, so I figured I might as well try another roof there and play around with my prime lens, which has far fewer abberations than my regular lens at these exposures. Ken ended up not being able to make it for that part, but we met up for Pommes Frites, in which two heart attack survivors ate probably one of the most inappropriate foods outside of bacon.
3 September 2013
I heard that the Rinnai building in Hongdae is clearing out, and almost all the businesses have left, including the doctor I used to go to. So, I stopped by, still mindful of my previous visit up here when we'd almost been locked out on the roof. There are signs of a security guard, but I haven't seen the security guard himself.
28 August 2013
Trash's Birthday Bro-Down
I went out with a friend for a nice quiet night, and when we stopped by Beer O'Clock we found a big group of my friends having a surprise party for Trash. I'd been told not to let Trash see the invitations to it on Facebook, but I guess I'd skipped the actual invite. So I showed up randomly, and then I got some amusing pictures of a bit of a bro-down going on outside.
Anyway, nothing controversial, just one of our friends flicked a lit cigarette off a balcony and it must've hit some Korean guys walking by. They came upstairs looking pretty angry, which led to a lot of drunken chest-pounding out front.
25 August 2013
I met up with some friends at one of my favourite rooftops, which still proves to be reliable. Unless you're talking about the stairs up there, in which case you have to be really careful to avoid plummeting ten storeys to your death.
24 August 2013
I drove out to Hongje around sunset for some photos from a rooftop. Taking a cue from some of the other rooftop photography coming out of Korea lately, I was looking for the exact right light settings to get the best pictures. This gallery takes place over the course of a sunset, and you can see the light differences throughout.
23 August 2013
Three Thumbs Show
I made it out to a show at Three Thumbs for the first time ever. It turned out there were way too many photographers there, and I don't have much interest in getting roughly the same photos as everyone else, so I only got pictures of a couple of the bands before standing aside. Anyway, it was my first time seeing Billy Carter since they came back from Europe.
18 August 2013
Roof in Dongdaemun
I stopped by Dongdaemun to visit that newly opened building overlooking Dong Cult Park. It was a bit trickier up there than I was expecting, and I decided not to do anything too crazy without someone with me.
18 August 2013
On the way to the mental hospital the previous day, I rode by this entirely different hospital in Seoul. It's part of one of the big New Town projects, and I remember seeing it still in operation while surrounded by abandoned buildings a couple years ago. It looks like it finally closed last September and it took me this long to notice. Unfortunately the interior is gutted so there's not much to see.
17 August 2013
With Ivan visiting and Shuang about to leave, I acted on a recent tip that the mental hospital has new entry points. We went two hours out into the countryside and just happened to find that, yes, entry is once again possible. It goes to prove one of the old axioms of urban exploring: if you can't find a way in, just wait a while for someone less scrupulous than you to make one.
Anyway, I didn't get that many pictures because I had a creeping sense of having been here too many times. And also it was way too hot.
15 August 2013
August 15 was the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan at the end of World War II. We got the day off work, and I caught up on my sleep for most of the day. I headed out late in the afternoon to look at some things, and ended up not doing much more than hitting a couple new roofs and ordering Chinese food.
14 August 2013
Kanghee invited us out to try something I'd never even thought how to approach in Korea. I won't say what it is, other than to share this single picture and mention that I've found a substance more vile than crane grease.
10 August 2013
If you're visiting Korea, you have to fit in time to see at least one abandoned neighbourhood. I've slowly come to realise that they're one unique thing about Korea that isn't quite done the same way in any other part of the world. China comes close, but from what I've seen in pictures an abandoned neighbourhood in China doesn't look much worse than an active one. Also, the abandoned buildings tend to be squatted in with enough regularity that Chinese urban explorers don't pay them much attention.
I managed to bring Ivan along with a friend he met at his hostel for a look around this abandoned neighbourhood, which is getting quite a lot more attention these days.
9 August 2013
Every time I come here, this train tunnel changes. Since the first time when there were explosion warning signs, it's getting much closer to what looks like a completed structure in parts.
7 August 2013
Bye Dr Ring Ding
After getting home, I saw Dr Ring Ding's recent posts from Zion Boat, so I rushed over to say goodbye before he leaves the country. As you can probably tell by previous entries we had a fantastic time with him while he was here, and I'm looking forward to hearing the EP he recorded with Kingston Rudieska as well as welcoming him back to Korea in the not-too-distant future.
7 August 2013
I previously mentioned the new Seoul Rooftopping page on Facebook. They hosted a meetup so I came along with Ivan. It was in Gangnam in a part I don't find extremely fascinating, but the roof was nice and we even managed to order delivery up there a couple of times.
6 August 2013
I was contacted by Ivan, a Croatian wandering through Korea, about urban exploration. So, we met up for the usual: Korean food, rooftops, and train tunnels. I invited along Rhee Kanghee, who I've been in contact with for a couple years but never tried anything like this with.
5 August 2013
Dr Ring Ding on TBS eFM
This week for our radio show on TBS eFM, we're joined by Dr Ring Ding, who talks about the music that influences him and may or may not sing live on the show (it's prerecorded, so you can probably guess what happens).
5 August 2013
A couple months ago I stopped by this abandoned neighbourhood I pass by every day and got up onto a decent rooftop for a look around. In particular there's one interesting building that has a traditional-style tiled roof, but is otherwise a normal modern building. It's probably been shut down for a while, but recently the doors and windows were knocked out, presumably by workers, so I went for a closer look.
4 August 2013
Round Eye and Daikaiju Practice Room Show
Apparently these bands which are visiting Korea got banned from FF for being a little too interactive with the audience. Yuppie Killer set up a last-minute show in their practice room where they could play to a room of people who appreciated their antics. Although I got the impression everyone there was fighting off a hangover, it was still a pretty fun show.
4 August 2013
I'm starting to consider moving to a new apartment, and I went out on my scooter to scout around the area I'm thinking of moving to. Of course, on the way I found a number of abandoned apartment buildings.
3 August 2013
Jisan Afterparty at Club Ta
After everyone got back from the festival, there was a private party at Club Ta featuring a jam session by members of Kingston Rudieska, Doberman, and Dr Ring Ding's band. It was slightly more lively than this picture from the end of the night suggests.
It was a much more intimate session than Jisan, with no more than maybe 40 people there. There was no set agenda, just playing around with some commonly known songs and jamming. It's certainly more fun sitting a couple meters away from the performers than it is watching them from a mud pit. Little did I know, the next performance by Dr Ring Ding I'd be sitting even closer to him.
3 August 2013
Jisan Rock Festival
I'm really not a fan of large music festivals, and Jisan was no exception with its muddy grounds and unfriendly security. The only reason I came out was to see Dr Ring Ding.
I made it to the gates of the festival around 4:10, 40 minutes after Dr Ring Ding was supposed to go on. I figured I'd missed his whole set, but then I heard his voice from inside the resort. They'd been running late, and I still had half a set left to see. I stayed for some of Doberman's very energetic set, then I left early, skipping Kingston Rudieska's set, but mainly so I could have a headstart racing them back to Seoul in time for the afterparty, which we'll get to soon.
3 August 2013
Driving to Jisan Rock Festival
I decided rather than take uncomfortable crowded buses, I'd drive down to Jisan on my own. The route took me through Anyang, Uiwang, Suwon, Yongin, whatever's past Yongin, all the way into Icheon, then back to Yongin. Then all the way back to Seoul after the show.
I basically know the way there, but not directly to Jisan. I ended up taking the wrong highway, leading to Jisan Country Club, and rather than double back I thought I could drive around the mountain, taking me on a 45-minute drive through the countryside.
Anyway, it was a long trip with lots of interesting things along the way--so many, eventually I just got frustrated and kept on driving, pretending that wasn't an abandoned factory I just passed.
28 July 2013
Yongin's "Other" Monorail
With the recent opening of the Yongin EverLine, the small, inconvenient town finally righted a glaring embarrassment. But what you didn't know was that there's a second elevated train line in Yongin, dedicated to serving the amusement park, and it is abandoned. I've found a few Korean articles on it, but literally nothing in English yet, so I'm kind of keeping this one down low.
I took the EverLine down there, which was quite a pleasant trip, then I hit the backroads until I saw the monorail track overhead. I only ended up finding one station, out by a pretty small parking lot I'm assuming is for employees, but presumably there are other stations on Everland grounds. This one is on public ground, with an amazing view in of the park, and presumably if you were brave enough to walk the rail, you could get into the park for free? They've secured the platform itself and there's electricity running, but the track is perfectly out in the open.
27 July 2013
Here are some more pictures of my soggy trip back to Seoul. I had a closer look at the renovated building of Incheon University, which now is part of Chungwoon University. I also stopped by an abandoned factory up in northern Incheon, in an area where the air quality was low, to put it mildly.
I had to take pictures of two Japanese-built buildings for an upcoming article, and not making it would probably have meant the article would run without them. Sure I ended up having to drive back an hour in the rain, but I got it done finally.
27 July 2013
Abandoned Army Base
I returned to the same abandoned army base because, well, it was the anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement. I managed to get into the one last building I skipped last time, and otherwise had only a quick visit.
Speaking of the armistice, I also added mp3s of my most recent TBS eFM show in the Radio folder, if you want to hear us talk about music of the Korean War. My segment is roughly the last half of the first file and the first half of the second file. Or if you find my voice as annoying as I do, you can read about it over here and listen to more songs.
21 July 2013
I randomly hit up a rooftop along Cheonggyecheon and found pretty easy access. It's a nice enough roof with an okay view of Cheonggyecheon.
Recently someone started a Seoul Rooftopping page on Facebook. It looks like they're pretty busy and have done a lot of rooftops I haven't tried (statistically it's unlikely considering the huge number of roofs across the city). It's good to see more people up to this sort of thing and doing it responsibly.
20 July 2013
Return to the University
I broke one of my long-standing rules about not going into a building once demolition has begun. However, it appears that the central dome that used to connect these twin towers was not load-bearing.
I first found this location back in 2010, when it was just semi-abandoned. Will was driving me around Incheon on his motorbike, and we randomly came across this campus with three magnificent buildings in varying states of disrepair. At the time, the gymnasium was open and hosting a taekwondo tournament, but one of the towers was shut down and in a state of decay. We managed to go from one tower over to the other, where we slipped in an open window. It was one of the most memorable abandonments I ever got in, mainly due to the magnificent architecture. Its current state is very unpleasant to look at, and I don't know why demolition seems to have halted.
I never did make it to Incheon Port.
20 July 2013
Colombian War Memorial
Thanks to some photojournalism from Yonhap News, I read about the Colombian War Memorial, which has been closed off due to construction on Incheon Metro Line 2 (I'm Metro!). This seems like a crappy thing to do, although I'm assuming it's only temporary until the subway line is complete, at which point it will be dusted off, repaved, and reopened with apologies. In the meantime, they didn't make it easy to get in--though obviously not impossible, provided you don't have a problem fitting through these gaps in the fence. Probably not accessible to the disabled or elderly--which Korean War veterans these days most likely are.
20 July 2013
Not far from the base was a vast empty wasteland in the shadow of Cheongna New Town, another megadevelopment that almost rivals Songdo. I visited here in 2010 when a large neighbourhood stood here, mostly abandoned at the time but still with a lot of work to do. Everything's gone now, with the notable exception of an abandoned apartment complex way out in the open, surrounded by empty land long ago destroyed.
The next morning I wondered why I felt so sore; it must've been all the stairs I had to climb.
20 July 2013
Abandoned Army Base
I set out on Saturday to photograph some old colonial buildings in Incheon, but I didn't make it there due to other distractions. For instance, I discovered an abandoned army base on the way.
This is interesting timing, as the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement will be on this Saturday. The Korean government has been bending over backwards to celebrate this occasion, because the remaining Korean War veterans all across the world are quickly dying out, and I've been swept up in it, both officially and off the clock.
19 July 2013
The government held a ceremony for foreign bloggers who are representing Korea on the Korea Blog--DHMD was there, incognito.
18 July 2013
I'm working on an article (that I will probably link after it's done) about the new Czech Center located in the top floor of Castle Praha. Did you know that building had a fourth floor? It does, and right now you can visit a very interesting photo exhibition of pictures taken by Czech(oslovakian) photographers participating in the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.
13 July 2013
Sancho and Redboi Reunited
Joe (AKA Sancho) and his wife Lan are back in Korea for a visit, and they managed to get together with friends they know from Hawaii who are currently stationed in Korea. The logical way to mark this occasion was to drink all night at Roots Time and keep requesting they play skinhead reggae.
12 July 2013
During the rainy season there's not a lot I can do outside, so here are some simple pictures from around Hongdae.
7 July 2013
After I got back from vacation I found this strange wall built in an alley I sometimes take to work. Turns out it's a spite house built for reasons my Korean isn't strong enough to understand. The thing is 1.5 meters high and has no roof. As far as I know it was built here because the actual owner of this plot of land wanted to exercise their ownership rights, and really didn't have anything else to put there. So it's a big fuck you to the neighbours and people who walk through that alley.
6 July 2013
I met up with Soulkee who I previously met a couple months ago for some exploring fun. It turns out he's been at it since, and when we met up on Saturday night he brought a Chinese friend along who's staying in the country for a couple months. I decided to give her the tour, so we did the usual: rooftops and subway tunnel.
Canada Day 2013
For Canada Day I met up with Ken and we had the most un-Canadian celebration you could imagine: American-Chinese food at Ho Lee Chow. The other pictures I threw into this gallery are all from later days, but I had to put them somewhere.
30 June 2013
I found an interesting new roof in Sinchon. Not very high up, but the rooftop itself is a very interesting layout. I'll have to go back for reshoots soon.
I was disappointed to see demolition already starting, but I have a feeling it will still take quite a long time before this place is permanently erased.
On the topic of blog posts about abandoned places in Korea, here's one with a much worse tone. My main issues with it lie in saying they broke in (when it seems more evident they just crawled through an opening, and also with being uncareful about giving out location and entry details. Oh, and buying into the whole rumours and myths of the place.
29 June 2013
On Saturday, I went to a Canada Day barbecue organised by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, followed by a concert/film screening at Cheonggyecheon Plaza put on by the Canadian embassy. It was all part of adding more to this article. I didn't actually get a chance to see the Canadian ambassador give a speech, at least on the level of what the Korean ambassador had said, and unfortunately he had Monday off for Canada Day (or more accurately, he was running around being very busy attending ceremonies on that day).
25 June 2013
Cult at it Again
Remember Mannam? No, they haven't gone away. After a Mannam tour of Africa by (now official) chairman Lee Man-hee (which ended up being promoted after-the-fact as a SCJ event), the cult rebranded itself Mannam International Youth Coalition and tried to recruit a lot of African youth organisations, and now they've arrived at the even more bland "International Peace Youth Group." This group, not unlike its predecessors, thinks that peace is good, and if you disagree with that, well, you should just fucking die you heathen scum.
To celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the end of the Korean War, they held a parade through Itaewon on June 25, the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. But hey, what do I know? It was pretty much a stealth event, and other than a warning from Peter, the police were taken aback when suddenly all these cultists appeared all over Itaewon, with their own minders, traffic guides, and videographers popping up at every corner. The whole thing was pretty underwhelming compared to their last event I'd crashed. Still, there were some pretty hilarious moments throughout the night, including some foreigners who knew Mannam was a cult but were tricked into participating in this new IPYG event, and a Christian evangelist who let his guard down and shared a very human moment with us. Plus there was Peter getting interviewed by SCJ members who hadn't memorised the list of SCJ enemies, during which he Godwins the unsuspecting cultists, and we also ran into Edward Snowden who's hiding out in Korea and making informative videos on SCJ.
SCJ has proven it will do whatever it can to deceive people, especially foreigners, into accidentally supporting it and its leader Lee Man-hee as a "renowned peace activist," which just goes to show you should never let your guard down.
"If everyone had the same goals, then there would be world peace." -Lee Man-hee
22 June 2013
Abandoned Hanok Village
Jacco had invited me out to his area to visit an abandoned neighbourhood. This was my third in the same day (I didn't take pictures in the first due to a high police presence and having been there before). What we got here was a much more intimate look at an old Hanok neighbourhood that's been shut down and closed up by the district police, leaving not too many opportunities for ingress (yes I know that word sounds pretentious but after a while it's become an important part of my vocabulary). We had a look around until the local evictee organisation seemed to be taking a closer look at us, then we wandered off and had a pretty good meal on the edge of a red-light district.
22 June 2013
Tyler shared with me the coordinates to an abandoned neighbourhood in northern Seoul. I was familiar with the area, having driven through it with Will Wilkins several years ago (2010?), but at the time it was all still fully active and we found nothing. Now, it's been mostly torn down, leaving a long, skinny scar along the side of one of the mountain slopes.
21 June 2013
Reuniting with my cats was easier than I was expecting. They actually weren't as nice at George's place as I'd earlier assumed, and Millie had spent nights crying, and one of them had been either crapping or barfing everywhere, and they'd been spilling out of the litter box. When I went to see them they seemed to recognise me, but not immediately warm up. When I brought out the carriers, Millie crawled into one to investigate and we locked her inside.
Since moving back they've gone back to normal very quickly.
16 June 2013
Last Night in Edmonton
After the Slackers show, we went back to my parents' place for our last supper together. We went on a walk to the ravine, I packed up, and then I probably went to sleep too late.
The flight home was mostly uneventful. There was less turbulence from Vancouver to Incheon than there had been coming out, but the entertainment system broke down so I had to rely on my laptop for entertainment. The problem with watching TV shows you've downloaded on your laptop is that you aren't guaranteed that there won't be any nudity in the show.
Anyway, I'm back in Korea and fell back into the same routine of drinking at Roots Time, visiting abandoned neighbourhoods (three in one day; pictures coming soon), and having run-ins with religious cults. I've been working on articles based on my time in Canada, the first one being an interview with a Korean War veteran.
16 June 2013
Slackers Show 2
The Slackers matinee show on Sunday had way fewer people than the Saturday show, which meant the show was a bit more intimate, we were all a bit less drunk, and they played a lot of songs I don't think they normally play. They even did a boogaloo song.
Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of JK and the Relays opening, mainly due to all of us still being a bit hungover and nobody else being up at the stage. I also had a good conversation with their manager, and with their lead singer after the show. It turns out they tour Japan regularly and are coming there in September.
15 June 2013
Slackers Show 1
It all ended up a huge coincidence, but some time after I booked my tickets to visit Edmonton, I discovered that the Slackers were also coming there, and they'd be doing two shows on my final weekend there (I missed Finntroll by a couple seasons though).
If you've known me for at least five years, you probably know I think the Slackers are the greatest live band on the planet. It's a claim that's tough to back up, but after having seen them once in my hometown in 2003 before moving to Korea, twice in 2007 when I booked them in Hongdae, and two more times in Edmonton while visiting this time in 2013, I'd have a hard time making a case for any other band being above them.
They were coming to Edmonton with JK and the Relays, a band from Calgary, and Jesse Wagner of the Aggrolites, who performed a really good set backed by JK and the Relays. I made it my mission to talk to Jesse about a possible future Aggrolites tour to Asia that would include Korea, and I made a connection with the JK and the Relays promoter who said those guys also regularly play Japan, in which case I said it would be easy to bring their three-piece travelling band over to Korea. So, fingers crossed we get one or both over here in the future.
Pure fluke, and after the show was over I went backstage and told the band that I was in the best place in the world, having just seen my favourite band play and looking forward to seeing them play a second show again the next day. More to come.
15 June 2013
My parents had two cats until recently, when one of their cats passed away. They decided that while I was there it would be a good idea to get a new cat so I'd have some sort of personal connection. We visited a woman who wasn't exactly a breeder (which is a good thing) and had several cats to pick from. My mom came into it wanting to adopt one of her two female kittens, but I convinced her that male cats aren't so bad, and this one boy who reminded me very much of Buster took a quick liking to us.
After some serious deliberating, my parents chose him and we brought him home. So far he's been a very calm cat, though it was clear he was nervous at first. He really liked being around all of us, and on my last night in Edmonton he even spent the morning in my bed purring like a chainsaw. My parents eventually named him Gus from what I hear.
15 June 2013
Oh yeah, when you're in Edmonton you have to go to St Albert. This is kind of like the Goyang to Edmonton's Seoul, or maybe a better comparison would be Gunpo to Edmonton's Suwon, but anyway they have a fairly large farmers' market there. We ran into the woman who runs the Korean food stand at most of these, selling mostly homemade Korean foods as well as a few other things I wouldn't think to include. Kimchi tastes very different over there and I was ready to pin it on the red peppers used which have a very different flavour, but she insists they're made with something more authentic. So if not that, I have no idea.
14 June 2013
Urban Exploration in Edmonton
I got into urban exploration after leaving Edmonton behind, and, despite having done some UE-related things while in Edmonton including on my 2008 visit, I had never actually met any of the local explorers. I had hoped to meet a bunch more, but plans fell through, and I only ever ended up meeting two guys. They proved to me that despite geography, urban explorers are all pretty similar regardless of where you are in the world. We didn't get around to doing anything particularly UE-ey, but we did stop by a place where we could see this view.
14 June 2013
Eat it, Annan
Swiss Chalet is probably as authentic as New York Fries or Boston Pizza, but me and my sister have always had a competitive relationship when it comes to this place. At times in our youths one of us would refuse to go there without the other, only to deprive the other of the chance to later go there on their own without us. Does that make sense? It did at age 10. I also got pictures of Edmonton's outskirts, which fill me with a sense of dread I can't explain. This city needs a zombie wall.
13 June 2013
My sister set up a night for us to go to a Korean restaurant, followed by a slideshow of North Korean photos, followed by a Korean noraebang, which apparently they do have in Edmonton. Anyway, it turns out we didn't have time for all, so thankfully we didn't make it to the noraebang.
For the meal, it was basically me and Annan, plus Greg and his family. Greg is one of my oldest friends, and several years ago he and his now wife River visited me in Korea on their way back home from Australia. Since then they've had two kids.
For the North Korean slideshow, a more random assortment of people showed up, including one or two guys I hadn't seen in years. We spent a lot of time on it and there was no time left over for the noraebang...at least according to Edmonton standards.
Everyone's second favourite urban exploring clown is back, this time in Canada for some subterranean hilarity. I managed to work time in to visit two drains I remembered from my youth. The first is a small culvert running under a road. I recall visiting it with friends when I was young and being the least brave about going in. Not sure what I was afraid of; now there are homeless people living in places like this.
The other one is a much larger storm drain entrance that is fed from my parents' neighbourhood. When I visited in 2008 I took a picture of it but didn't get close, and going off the picture afterwards I estimated it was four feet high. Turns out I was wrong and it's large enough to stand up straight in, though you'll want to keep your feet to the sides.
12 June 2013
On Tuesday a tornado warning was issued for Edmonton. The rain was a bit more intense than usual but it didn't last that long. Even then, most Edmontonians went out without umbrellas.
I met up with Jean Pierre Van Eck, a Dutch veteran of the Korean War and Canada's first non-Canadian president of the Korean Veterans Association of Canada. I'd planned to contact him on Monday, so I was surprised when my mom brought me a newspaper with this thorough article about a ceremony attended by the Korean ambassador just one day earlier. That's what I get for procrastinating, I guess. Jean Pierre helped put me in touch with the Korean embassy so I was able to attend the ambassador's lecture on Monday.
We also went to La Ronde, a rotating restaurant in downtown Edmonton, to get a good view of the city. It's actually larger than Seoul in area, but it's so flat that you might not be able to tell.
On the way home, there was a mist in the field near my parents' place, so my dad and I grabbed our tripods and went out into the field. Somehow he wasn't able to capture the mist, but I was sure to always include him in the foreground which I think brought out the subtle white mist a bit better.
11 June 2013
My Parents' Neighbourhood
I went further down into the River Valley by myself to have a more thorough look around. It's changed quite a lot to be almost unrecogniseable from what I remember, but there were still some parts that were untouched (or at least would be until a certain evil clown comes through later in the week). The sky was overcast but the clouds presented their own interesting patterns and helped remove harsh lighting. I'll be back for one more trip soon.
to stop by CJSR and see if I could convince them to let me on air (spoiler: they did)
to attend a lecture by the Korean ambassador to Canada
to meet up with Margot, a well-travelled Canadian I met who has been to Korea, and go to a Korean restaurant
All things done, but I'll flesh them out in articles for work in the near future.
9 June 2013
This is mostly pictures of my parents' cat Ava, with a couple images of my first time down to the River Valley. Ava was slowly warming up to me but was still nervous every time I did something unexpected.
8 June 2013
It took me by surprise how late the sky is lit (this picture was taken at 11:30pm) and it took me by even greater surprise how early the sunlight comes back (I never figured it out but sometime between 3 and 4, when the party would be in full swing in Roots Time.
7 June 2013
Baby Seal Club
On Friday night, I made it to a show at Baby Seal Club, a diy venue just off Whyte Avenue. It was a good opportunity to catch up with a lot of people I hadn't seen in years, and get an impression of what the Edmonton music scene is like these days.
I learnt that the Wednesday Night Heroes have broken up and Graeme now has a new band with the kind of Korean-sounding name* No Problem, and I was sort of relieved to see I'm not the only one who's had noticeable hair loss over the years.
Baby Seal Club, despite not offering a chance to exterminate baby seals, is in a run-down old building that probably would've been abandoned or destroyed if it hadn't been turned into a venue. In a lot of ways it reminds me of a Korean venue, like a Ccot Ddang or a Powwow or a Lowrise. It's actually run as a private club and I had to register as a member in order to get inside, something I don't thing I've seen done in Korea.
On my second night in Edmonton we went to the Black Dog, a pub on Whyte Avenue that's been there as long as I can remember. It was strange getting used to Canadian prices again (which are close to the prices at Maloney's) but at least the beer was way better than what Korea has to offer. I say that but we spent most of the night drinking Big Rock beers, though they do taste a lot fresher in Canada where they're made.
Thursday night was always my night for going out and drinking back when I was in university. The main reason was because I'd have to DJ on CJSR after midnight, but most of the nightclubs had criminally cheap drink specials. This meant I usually didn't do much on Friday nights (or mornings).
6 June 2013
I stayed with my parents most of the time, and with my sister for a few nights. My parents live in a three-storey condo they recently bought and renovated in west Edmonton that's closely connected with the River Valley and the ravine system.
5 June 2013
Flying to Canada
My first impression on flying into Edmonton was how flat it was. This is something I remember from my previous two returns, but I never get over it. You can see forever in all directions. What saves Edmonton is the River Valley, one of the largest contiguous city parks in North America. You can see it in this picture but you can't get a sense of its dimensions from this high up.
4 June 2013
Millie doesn't take kindly to changes of scenery. I left the cats with Jenn and George. We dropped them off at George's very nice Myeongdong apartment and Jenn showed us the roof.
I knew it would take the cats a few days to adapt, but they did shortly after I was gone. Now the only question is what they'll think of my dungeon of an apartment.
4 June 2013
So, I'm going back to my hometown from June 5 to 18. It's my first time being back since 2008, and much has changed since then. I'm less certain how much has changed back there, other than the fact that half the people I know are parents now.
I don't have many solid plans yet, but the following will be happening:
I'm planning to locate any Canadian veterans of the Korean War living in my hometown. The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) is located in my hometown (in 2007 I was visited by a friend from back home at the time actively serving in the PPCLI), so I think it will be possible to find veterans of the Battle of Kapyong.
I'm hoping to reconnect with my old radio station CJSR and get on the air again. To that end I'm bringing back about 50 Korean underground CDs. You can see some of the CDs I dug up from a box in the closet to take along, but if you're wondering where several other more obvious choices are, this is before I brought home another 15 CDs from my office.
As luck would have it, I'll be in town when the Slackers stop by for two shows. It'll be great to see them again after bringing them to Korea in 2007, and I'm also going to make an offer to Jesse Wagner, the Aggrolites lead singer, that he can't refuse. Well, he probably can, quite easily.
Other than that, I really don't know what to expect.
We visited our old friend The Host to play around with the idea. Ken brought his guitar, and Tyler and his girlfriend tested out the acoustics of one particular part of the tunnel. What was initially planned as just me and Tyler slowly ballooned up to a party of ten, with guys in the minority.
Also, I finally managed to find myself some steel wool, which gave us the opportunity to play with fire. This is kind of an old cliche in the urban exploration community but that doesn't make it any less cool. With less than an hour's worth of preparation, we were spraying the tunnel with tiny bits of flaming steel wool.
26 May 2013
Hongdae: Above and Below
After the festival in the playground, we toddled off to have a look at some of Hongdae's more forbidden sights, both high above the streets and below them.
> Last night this place was crazy. There were hundreds of people, 2 bands playing, and a DJ.
Is this place always this crazy? I was in Seoul for the weekend, and i do not ever remember this place being as crazy. Usually just a few musicians, and some people hanging out.
> It was like that every weekend 5 years ago.
> Here's hoping PGH gets some her fathers vibe and clears that place of all the riff-raff. Break out the police and batons.
> Hey man, a lot of those bands are actually quite good. It is nice to see Koreans who are not conformists.
And then it gets dumber and dumber, as is ESL Cafe tradition.
Anyway, if you're familiar enough with this page you probably also knew that Saturday was a big free festival in the park organised by Hellrise, Jarip Music, and Bass Attack. I admit I'm not familiar with Bass Attack, which seems to be related specifically to electronic music, but between Jarip and Hellrise that's most of the Korean punk scene, as well as a bit more diversity on the Jarip label. I'd say it was like the old days when the playground was thoroughly punk territory, but it was never quite like this. Anyway, let's hope that the additional attention raised by this night doesn't send people coming to the park in search of good music just to find the same old cover bands have taken over again.
I had a lot to do that night, and was mainly only interested in taking pictures when there was still daylight, so I missed a huge number of bands that I would've liked to see.
25 May 2013
After DMC, I went over to Hongdae to meet some people and go on a rooftop or two. On a whim I tried a new building and found an even better roof than the cinema. Getting in relied on lucky timing with the security guard who's very active but also leaves his desk a lot. On the way down he caught us, so I'm not sure what will happen next time I visit.
25 May 2013
Digital Media City
I'd been planning to go to DMC as a warmup to my recent trip to Songdo, but somehow it worked out in this order instead. The two projects both have a lot of similarities, though DMC feels a bit more lived-in, probably due to the fact that the housing here has no reason to be less popular than the next valley over, and Songdo is still in a pretty awful location.
Songdo is obviously a much huger project but DMC is a little further along, and the architecture goes for shapes other than towers.
I had as much trouble here finding a good rooftop as I did in Songdo, with my only genuine success being a slightly older style highrise building with standard minimal security. Otherwise I got onto a ledge halfway up a building and passed by another building I'd previously rooftopped that wasn't so impressive.
22 May 2013
The Day After Buster's Birthday
I always seem to forget Buster's birthday. Somehow I always mix it up with May 25, which I think was my wedding anniversary or something.
Anyway, the day after his birthday this year, Buster tried to kill me. He always goes to this one table when he wants to get attention, yowling and knocking stuff onto the floor. This time, he knocked an oversized novelty lighter onto the floor. I came over and showed him what the lighter does, and it had this strange double flame thing going on. I tried putting it out but it kept burning, so I eventually blew it out. I put it back on the table and walked away. A minute later I smelled something burning, and saw the lighter had flicked back on and was setting fire to some papers on the table. I ran back, grabbed the lighter, and threw it into a basin full of water in the washroom. So that's how Buster tried to kill me this year. And, in all fairness, presumably himself and Millie too.
19 May 2013
Paul and Yumi's Wedding
Paul and Yumi have already been married for five years (since before the last time Paul left Korea), but they never bothered having any sort of ceremony. Somehow, they decided five years wasn't too late, so they signed up a bunch of us to get on base and visit the Dragon Hill Lodge where they had the ceremony.
18 May 2013
Seoul Jazz Fest
One of my coworkers was supposed to go to the Seoul Jazz Fest, but had to go cover something else instead. I managed to take her place on the second day of the festival, and ended up backstage (one of the most boring backstages I've ever seen, by the way) to talk to one of the performers. It rained later in the day, but I had an umbrella with me to protect my drink. And me I guess.
18 May 2013
After the meetup a few weeks ago in which we found an interesting new roof after dark, I intended to come back with more equipment during the daytime. You can see from a few more angles what this roof is really like, and how much less dangerous it really is than it appears. So far, I have not been brave enough to dangle my legs over the edge of an actual rooftop, and despite how it may look, this has not changed at all.
On the way down the security stopped me and informed me that the rooftop is no foreigners. So I guess any Korean can go up there? If you're not Korean and you visit this roof, wear a Korean disguise.
17 May 2013
Mermaid's Last Night
Lately Mermaid has become one of the more popular bars to visit, partly because it's in a quieter area removed from the overstimulating heart of Hongdae, partly because our friend Sunwoon works there. Somehow, the place closed down, leading to one last party featuring the band Watersports.
17 May 2013
I took a road trip down to Incheon during Buddha's Birthday on Friday, intending to visit Songdo and stop by a few other familiar sights along the way. One notable detour was taken onto Wolmi-do where I had a closer look at the cancelled Wolmi Eunha Rail line and a few other interesting places. I also hit up a few rooftops along the way and found my way into two subway tunnels in different stages of completion.
16 May 2013
Last time I visited this tunnel was with Javin, when everything looked much more primitive still. They had this interesting three-story apparatus for working closely with the walls of the tunnel which I thought bore an interesting resemblance to Korean gate architecture. It especially resembles the Goguryeo architecture of south gate of Taesong Fortress in Pyongyang, built sometime before 427.
Incidentally, my friend Phil recently reappeared after conspicuous weeks of Facebook absence, to announce he'd just returned from the Other Korea, so that linked picture is his.
15 May 2013
Having rescued my tripod from the clutches of Jaeeun, I returned to the Joongang Cinema to take some more proper shots not lit up by my in-camera flash. It's amazing how much better some of the reshoots are.
This year Jo reminded me about it, asking if I knew any good rooftops from which to see the parade. Of course I did, but even better I knew an exotic bar with a great view of the street and an expensive menu. We also met up with Jenn from RASKB, Rob and his baby, and a girl who I'd met while we were both applying for the job at KOCIS, who also brought her baby. They were late so we enjoyed most of the parade in peace.
This is going to be a new annual tradition. Hopefully not with all the babies though.
11 May 2013
South of the River
I know it technically is, but I don't consider Guro and Yeongdeungpo to be "Gangnam." They're too real.
We ventured south of the Han to fulfill Jo's touristy request for a dog restaurant. I ate a light lunch beforehand so I wouldn't be hungry while I was there. We ended up getting dog meat in two dishes: one a spicy looking plate of meat, and the other in a soup. I had a very tiny piece from the first, which was way too tender for me to get any enjoyment out of, and a spoonful of the broth from the soup, which was pretty good. It was actually a lot harder for me to work myself up to try than I was expecting. I guess I've lost my adventurousness somewhere along the line of getting used to Korean food.
Afterwards, full of male stamina, we did something a lot less controversial: recreational trespassing for photography. Three of us started a two-wheeled convoy and tracked down an old water pumping facility that I haven't visited in two years. I don't know why it took me so long to go back, but it's a pretty interesting location.
10 May 2013
Korea Gig Guide is Real
I met up with Shawn Despres and Anna to talk about Korea's underground music in person. Shawn had recently returned from the Korea Rocks tour of the UK and had a number of interesting behind-the-scenes stories about that tour as well as SXSW. Anna is visiting Korea and has been soaking in as much live music as she can.
This is probably as good a place as any to share my latest work blog post, Girl Groups of the Underground. I know I missed a bunch, but I was mostly going by who I've seen and talked to.
8 May 2013
Buddha's Birthday is coming up (I know how much Verv hates that term), and Cheonggyecheon is filling with oversized lanterns.
Tomorrow I'm going back to the place where I watched the parade last year and took a couple of the pictures seen in this article. Expensive drinks, very comfortable, great view.
5 May 2013
How to Make Love to a Building
Normally I don't post pictures that give away the point of entry into a building, but I'm pretty confident there's nobody else out there who would want to try this. Even I backed out, so you know it's gotta be pretty bad. Well, Tyler got to show off his infiltrating skills and made love to a building.
4 May 2013
I made it to 51+ Festival around 5pm, having already missed several hours. It's a bit strange not having it on May 1, and a fair number of people seemed unaware it basically started as a May Day celebration at Dooriban back in I think 2010. It was a very pleasant festival with four stages on different floors of the building, and I discovered a few new (non-punk) bands I'm interested in.
Right when I arrived I saw Cort workers handing out information about their long-running strike. Having already acquainted myself with their movement, I exclaimed something positive about Cort which seemed to concern the guy in front of me. But no, I just was glad to see a Cort protest taking part in a concert I was attending.
Also, this was the first reunion show of Command 27. I hope to see them play more shows.
4 May 2013
Foreign Students' Paintings of Seoul in 2030
Part of the Seoul Friendship Fair was this excellent collection of kids' paintings predicting what Seoul will look like in 2030. I was hurrying by and the "1st Robot President" painting caught my eye. There was a lot of great stuff here, some of it hilarious, some of it serious, and a few that seem inevitable.
4 May 2013
Seoul Friendship Fair 2013
I made it to the Friendship Fair, which was a lot of fun and had a lot of interesting participating countries you wouldn't normally think of. One of my Facebook friends openly admitted he'd never heard of Azerbaijan before. He later said once he heard it spoken aloud it was more familiar.
I also ran into Nikola of Kojects again, and we discussed the swarm of cultists passing right in front of us.
I mostly disapprove of the Korean government's attempts to promote the country as multicultural simply by being more welcoming to mail-order brides, but the festival was a lot of fun.
4 May 2013
On my way downtown to cover the Seoul Friendship Fair, I was cut off by a fairly large parade. It later turned out that they were coming from Namdaemun where there was a big festival for the restoration of the gate.
Slowly over the afternoon, Sejong Plaza filled up with cultists dressed in identical yellow jackets. I suspect that the recent law about flash mobs might have been inspired by them.
For lunch I went out to find a rooftop where I could get better pictures of the Joongang Cinema, but both the main highrises across the street were of no help. The best I could hope for was this medium-height building which lends a good view, but not of the cinema.
And then I went to Myeongdong for Ho Lee Chow at their new location. Never again will I have to brave the masses in Itaewon to get American-style Chinese food. Still waiting for a Hongdae or Sinchon branch.
1 May 2013
International Trespassers' Day
After a close encounter with one worker who had decided not to celebrate the holiday, I headed to another site for more daylight craning. While I was up at the top the Sun set, and I climbed down in twilight.
1 May 2013
International Workers' Day
I had May 1 off for International Workers' Day, and decided to capitalise on the opportunity while construction workers would also be enjoying a break from work. It was good exercise and lent a new perspective on my neighbourhood.
Incidentally, President Park celebrated the day by meeting with business owners, because of course she would.
30 April 2013
A couple years ago, Mark Russell tipped me off about the Joongang Cinema, an old movie house in Myeongdong that had closed in 2010. At the time it was impenetrable, an old building without any promising entrances as well as on the edge of a high-traffic area.
It turns out that another friend was determined enough to get in. He climbed the fence, then found a hole to squeeze through and opened a door for lazy me to get in behind him. The interior was much larger than we both expected, and despite the fact the seats had been removed, there was a lot to see in there in the dark. I've lent my tripod out to a friend but after getting it back I'm hoping to go back there.
Seoul UE Meetup
As far back as 2009, I've been organising meetups to visit the Host fairly regularly, maybe a little over once a year. It's a good location to introduce people to the hobby and give them a way to challenge themselves while never being in very much danger. It's also a good place to go with a group, as opposed to more sensitive locations where you'd have to worry about a variety of factors. From here, once you get in the entrance there's no real stopping you. I think this trip with eleven people was the largest yet, and the biggest drawback was that at times it was hard to think who was missing.
Although the red-light district is long gone, Yongsan has also introduced a new feature that's worthwhile to wind down the adventure: more tent restaurants. We found one that had an impressive makgeolli selection and some really nice food.
So, no injuries and no arrests--all in all a pretty decent weekend of events. My hope is, now that we've established a bit more of a peer group, everyone will be more able to find new locations and explore them on their own, as well as providing useful skillsets.
27 April 2013
Return of ...Whatever That Means
I had pictures of an unannounced appearance by ...Whatever That Means a short while back, but this was their official comeback show. I had been busy with the meetup earlier in the day so I didn't have a huge amount of time to spend at the show.
27 April 2013
Seoul UE Meetup
I'd brought groups of people up to this rooftop before, and we'd never had any trouble. It seemed like one of the surer rooftops for having a meetup, but I discovered that the doors are a bit more locked than they used to be. Instead, we had to climb up an even more obscure way to get onto a very high part of the roof.
It was an interesting event and had a good mix of newish English teachers in Korea, European travellers, and long-termers I'm more familiar with. We had absolutely no contact with security, which probably surprised me more than anyone else.
Afterwards, a smaller group of us went out for microbrewed beers and hit another rooftop that allowed for more freedom of movement.
Just a few days earlier, I found this guide to rooftopping written by someone in Ulsan. He would probably have a problem with our event, advising "Don't show up and try and 'sneak in' with 10 of your best photographer friends and their significant others." Then he goes and gives specific information about which rooftops are open in Ulsan, something I wouldn't necessarily approve of. Then again, it looks like rooftops are far less commonplace in Ulsan than Seoul.
24 April 2013
Seoul UE Meetup
I met up with a bunch of people on a weekday night so we could visit some interesting places around Hongdae, some high above the ground and some below it.
22 April 2013
Buster took up this new posture and seemed to be showing off his arm muscle. Though I can't imagine how a cat would be bulking up.
21 April 2013
I'd gone here last Thursday with Jez, but we'd failed to get into one apartment that had a ton of interesting large-scale pottery in it. I'd originally seen these sitting on a piece of furniture, and from a distance thought they were much larger than they were. They appear to be Chinese pottery, modern-made, so less exciting than they could have been, but still a pretty strange thing to discover and probably still worth a lot of money to the right person. We also found a bottle of baemsool, or snake liquor, in a cabinet in this place.
21 April 2013
New Town Animals
Lately there's been a lot more web activity about urban exploration in Korea. There's also been a lot of people sharing urban exploration resources for Korea that include several of my pages as well as the tourist group, which has been getting more attention and has even started mentioning the words "urban exploration" recently. What might turn out to be their weakness could be the infrequency of their tours (yeah, rather than the more obvious limitation of trampling places with 20-30 tourists at a time).
I got together with some people, all who met each other this weekend for the first time, and we hit up a couple abandoned areas. We went to the New Town I'd discovered the previous day, then an older and more familiar neighbourhood.
I went to work on Saturday, just more proof I'm becoming Korean, and on the way I noticed a fairly extensive abandoned neighbourhood by the side of the road that I take to work every day. Calendars in the homes seem to indicate that the section closest to the road was abandoned in December 2012, which is strange because I'd heard it's illegal to evict people during the coldest months of the year.
This is another New Town project, one that I was expecting would have been cancelled with the election of Park Won-soon, but I guess not. This development is only going to get more and more extensive until it eats up a very prominent piece of land on par with the wastage around North Ahyeon.
18 April 2013
Exploring with Jez
I m et up with Jezabellezza, a British traveler who tracked me down when looking for information about the local music scene, and had a lot of questions about Korean music as well as urban exploration. She managed to get onto a show put on by GT Arpe, and we met up on Thursday for a visit to an abandoned neighbourhood. We got into a very impressive church that still had its stained glass windows and pews, and spent a lot of time waiting for some teenage vandals to lose interest.
15 April 2013
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Tyler sent me a message that they were digging up the road in Yeonnam-dong, revealing an extensive-looking sewer system. I've seen this before closer to Hongdae Station along the road between exit 2 and exit 8, but this one smells less awful. Still, not going down there; I still haven't exhausted this city's underground tunnels with convenient sidewalks.
14 April 2013
For an upcoming article, I took a few pictures of bike paths around the city. Well, two of them, because I was feeling lazy.
Also, last weekend Jae Kim claimed that she's the one who first said "butt goats," to which Jesse backed her up. I specifically remember hearing the word for the first time from Jonghyuk "Orc" Blood Pledge, and thinking "That sounds like butt goat." Then at some point I posted it on the Broke message board, where Jesse liked it and soon after made it his temporary username. Am I going insane? No, it's everyone else.
13 April 2013
Open Your Eyes Fest at Club Spot
After a full day of the maddest locations Yongsan can provide (outside Hooker Hill), I ended up at Club Spot for a little bit of a very big show. I managed to see the brief ...Whatever That Means reunion show preview, as well as Animal Anthem. Unfortunately not much more, as the day had been equally taxing on me and my camera.
13 April 2013
After the heavy stuff I'd uncovered in Yongsan, I needed to unwind. My idea of unwinding involves light infiltration in places that haven't become the center of a national tragedy, so the revolving restaurant on Yongsan served as a welcome diversion. Last week I posted a gallery of scouting pictures, and this day I returned and headed straight for the top. Great view up there, and I'm still piecing together bits of history to get an image of how the area has developed over the last century.
13 April 2013
Part two of the Billion-Dollar Wasteland walk, I went to the Yongsan railyard, land that was given up by Korail for the country's largest development project (really? even over Songdo?) only to faceplant in a dusty field full of weeds.
Matt of Popular Gusts has a lot to say about the issue, as well as links into his archives and news sources documenting the development of the development of the area, including their brief plans to rebuild 9/11. As well, a lot of the pictures he took of the neighbourhood appear to come from a get-together back in early 2011 when we wandered through Seobu-Icheon-dong and did the tunnel walk. I'd been wondering if he ever did anything with those pictures.
Anyway, I returned to the site and determined to jump the fence into the now-empty railyard. Here's what I found.
13 April 2013
The Billion-Dollar Wasteland
Imagine wanting something so bad that you'd kill for it. Now imagine yourself killing six people to get it--one of whom was a police officer working in your interests. Now fast-forward four years, and imagine that your project which has claimed six lives has just become a fatality itself.
Did those (five of the six) people die for nothing? Or did they die fighting an ultimately futile megaproject that would kill itself in the end?
I went to Yongsan to investigate the wasteland stretching between Yongsan Garrison and Yongsan Station, with all sorts of surprises in between, some of which are unexpected and pleasant, and some of which are not worth the price extracted in human lives.
Like all modern humans with a camera and a weblog, I sometimes take pictures of food too.
9 April 2013
Jacco owes me a beer
Not too long ago, Jacco offered to buy me a beer if I could get into this seemingly abandoned building on a backstreet in Jongno. Mission accomplished, so it's time to beer up.
The building is almost totally empty inside, but you can see a lot of surprising old construction techniques, mainly using newspapers for insulation and some of the more traditional looking window patterns.
I was dumb enough to not perfectly move back some materials covering the gate, and within a couple hours after first going in someone had come by and more properly locked it, so this might be the only chance to see the interior.
9 April 2013
We've had a pretty bad yellow dust problem this year. I noticed some of the cars in our parking lot were covered in a powdery yellow film, so I took a few pictures trying to show it off.
Judging by the pattern it looks more like this was caused by the rain, but rather than delivering the yellow dust I think it's just moving it around into this texture.
9 April 2013
I drove up to Namsan for lunch to have a look around and take pictures of downtown. There's lots of nice parkland up there, as well as renovation work. More on this later.
5 April 2013
Funkafric Boostdah has lately been playing sort of low-key concerts in Blue Star, the makgeolli bar on the edge of Insadong. I skipped the last one mainly because I thought it would be way too crowded, but I ended up going to the second one (which was more crowded than the first I hear) with Jacco, everyone's favourite seven-foot-tall dancer.
2 April 2013
I saw this on the driveway in front of my apartment after a rain.
The weather's been really weird lately. Lots of sunshowers and rainstorms lasting only a few minutes. Not even really enough to justify an umbrella, at least for me.
1 April 2013
I was going to go out for lunch today, but I found my scooter boxed in by a fleet of identical black cars. Check out the excellent parking job they did, sure not to leave any room for me to get through. This is the second time this has happened in my time here, at least that I've noticed.
Spend a four-day weekend with us exploring inside some of the best-known abandoned places of Korea all while riding in a Pierrot Motors luxury bus with wi-fi and a bathroom! - Okpo Land, the Jumbo Jet of Namyangju, a secret tunnel from Cheong Wa Dae to Gwacheon, and the mysterious Joseon Door (locations are subject to change). Along the way to these destinations we will take the "Scenic Route" through some of Seoul's abandoned neighbourhoods in Gangnam, Hongdae, and Bukchon Hanok Village. See Korea's true beauty. Now that is the way to spend a long weekend!
0900-0910 - meetup at an undisclosed location for an important mandatory tutorial on UE safety and ethics
0910-1000 - go shopping in Seoul's markets for gear we will all need--respirators, gas masks, rubber boots, steel-toed boots, camping gear, climbing equipment etc
1000-1200 - visit the big abandoned Jumbo 747 where we will have lunch
1200-1300 - go on a walk through an active subway tunnel 1300-1400 - visit abandoned area in Bukchon Hanok Village
1400-1500 - drive through abandoned part of Pimatgol
1500-1600 - visit the abandoned campus of Dan Kook University
1700-1800 - visit Yongma Land, an abandoned amusement park in Seoul
1800-1900 - eat
1900-2000 - visit Okin Apartments 2000-2100 - climb a construction crane (note: due to safety concerns, we will be going up in teams of 10)
DAY 2 - Saturday
0800-1000 - take the secret underground tunnel from Cheong Wa Dae to Gwacheon. I'm undecided yet if we'll be able to sneak the bus inside, so we might have to walk the entire length.
1000-1200 - visit the abandoned mental hospital in Gyeonggi-do, Korea's most haunted site
1200-1500 - visit various abandoned locations in Cheorwon, DMZ (abandoned train station, communist party headquarters, 2nd tunnel)
1500-1600 - rooftopping abandoned skyscrapers in Songdo
1600-1700 - abandoned Bible Expo in Songdo's Central Park
1700-1800 - stop for supper in Wolgot
1800-1900 - drive to Suwon
1900 - Woncheon Lake Land Amusement Park, where we will camp out for the night
0800-0900 - catch a ferry from Okpo to Busan
0900-1100 - catch a ferry from Busan to Nagasaki
1100-1200 - visit Gunkanjima, the famed Battleship Island. We will have to bribe fishermen to bring us there, probably taking multiple boats due to the size of the group. Does anyone know anyone who knows Japanese?
UPDATE: It turns out, they offer tours, so we won't have to do anything sneaky at all.
1200-1300 - lunch in Nagasaki
1300-1500 - return to Busan
1500-1700 - return to Seoul
Domestic: KRW 100 000, or KRW 300 000 if you want to sleep in hotels rather than camp in abandonments with us
International: KRW 1 million, which covers all costs including airfare from any major North American city with direct flights to Incheon.
*ALL participants are expected to be in general good health and must sign a liability waiver. If you require special accommodation please feel free to contact Jon or Aloysius
31 March 2013
Return to Yongma Land
My South African friend Roberta was visiting from Sokcho, so I offered to show her around by taking a scooter tour of the city, with a surprise destination. That ended up being Yongma Land, which I haven't revisited since the fall.
Following the Expedition Korea trip there in January, it seems the owner has a much bigger presence there. At one point I even witnessed one group handing him a fair amount of money. If he's charging people to be there, good on him, I guess. He didn't ask us for money probably because he didn't want to try speaking to us, or because he thought we were part of a group, or because he only charges for more official photo shoots.
If you spend a lot of time on Facebook, you may be aware of two things: my freakish new clown obsession, and this group that's been arranging photowalks to abandoned places. The two are related.
I first heard about Expedition Korea after their January event, in which they brought something like 30 people to Yongma Land. For anybody who's been there, you probably know that it's a popular site for photographers, mainly Koreans, and the owner is often on site but doesn't mind the visitors. Turns out bringing 30 people, mainly foreigners, makes him panic, and the police were called to break up the photowalk.
Next month, they planned to go to a closed shopping mall north of the city. But on an advance trip, the sole owner of Expedition Korea, Sabrina Hill, discovered there was security, so she moved the trip last-minute to a nearby abandoned school, where they had 41 RSVPs. It's around then that I first said "It's not a clown car" in reference to their activities.
The third month was when things started really going over the top. She started advertising it as "Seoul's unseen shame," before revealing the third destination of 2013 would be the shantytown in Poi-dong, just south of Yangjae, where a community of evictees was set up to make way for Olympic facilities around 1988. This place has made the rounds in the news over the last year or so, but it's still not a tourist place where visitors are welcome to wander around with cameras. That's the reason I haven't been out there.
Ultimately, Sabrina did the right thing and cancelled the event, citing "an unforeseen scheduling error."
She went on to say:
Seeing that some people didn't read the event details, or the posts I had written earlier this month, some missed the point of this photowalk altogether. This was always meant to be a private, low-key exploration of an area that is often overlooked by so many in Seoul. I wanted to share this with people who could help raise awareness and get the word out.
This was never about exploring a site and using the misery of others to gain a few decent photos. It was instead about capturing stories of real people that we might otherwise not notice or know much about. These photowalks are always about untold stories. One of the Maxims of Expedition Korea is Respect. Respect for the property and the people.
It's honestly a dubious statement, managing to be simultaneously self-aggrandising and self-unaware. How can you be low-key and also help raise awareness and get the word out? The previous two photowalks were certainly not low-key, as one attracted the cops and the other was changed because it was predicted on-site security would not be happy. In February they posted something called the "No Impact Pledge" which is kind of a basic shrug at standard UE ethics. This includes:
Keep the noise to a minimum.
Do not break or remove property from the location.
Respect the private properties surrounding the location.
A nice gesture, but still hopelessly naive about the impact large groups have on these locations, regarding not just security concerns due to the high visibility of such a group but also safety concerns as well as privacy concerns. I've spoken directly with Sabrina on the need for some discretion toward these places; she wrote on Facebook "I've never really been impressed with how no one really did this, or shared great locations - and for those people that hoard locations - it's all good."
I admit I'd been more careless about location details in the past, back when there was no one around to do this, but nowadays I keep the locations of the places I visit more low-key specifically to not tip off those who are more careless--for instance people who would trample a location with a 30-person photowalk. So anyway, this comment reeked of criticism of me specifically, even if she wasn't aware of who I am.
Anyway, I was vindicated when the trip was cancelled. There was no way for it to be anything other than a brief irritation to the residents there, bringing stress and also luring others into treating this place like a tourist destination. It was tacky marketing, undeniably exploitative in how it hung the plight of those people on the integrity of Expedition Korea, Imaag Studios, and Imaag Design Studios (all run by the same person) as well as their media sponsor Groove Magazine.
So I was quite taken aback when they unveiled their destination for next month--an abandoned neighbourhood in Anyang. Groove was conspicuously absent, replaced by something called the Itaewon Times. This event promises "a free photowalk to one of the coolest places in Gyeonggi-do," so clearly they haven't learned their lesson.
While I know at least one of my friends weighed in on last month's event, this month I didn't feel like keeping quiet. I posted that this tour was "scuzzy" (I can't remember the exact quote because it's all since been erased). I also warned her that it's not a clowncar, a comment that completely went over her head. One of my friends who'd been back there recently warned that there is security on site, which Sabrina Hill angrily denied before deleting his comment too.
So, we met up with my friend to do our own three-person photowalk around the area, and I have to say, we really felt conspicuous there, frequently drawing a lot of attention from the locals. I created the persona of UEey the Clown to simulate what it would be like to send in the clowns, so to speak. It was specifically intended to challenge our idea of what's respectful to do at these sites. It was a costume just like Yangbantal et al, and nobody outside our group ever saw me wearing it (though we had one close call in the first room which just goes to show you can never be too sure you're alone).
You can see it in the pictures, but here are some important observations we made:
Many of the buildings that look abandoned still have residents. We ran into one who was bemused but didn't do anything otherwise. I told him in Korean that we're photographers and we'll leave now, and he seemed okay with that. Right outside, there was a very angry looking guy sitting in a truck watching us.
There is an evictee headquarters right in the middle of the district. At times they play protest music over speakers. Their banners and graffiti are found all across the area. This means there is an ongoing legal battle with the city and probably the construction company.
Some graffiti messages warn that trespassers will be prosecuted. Others warn of asbestos. A few others warn that there are still residents inside. While the first two might not be totally true, there are plenty of other buildings without such messages that are much safer to approach. Still others say they will fight city hall to the death, or warn against dumping garbage, which I wouldn't consider the same level of threat to recreational trespassers.
The streets through this area are still active, and many people walk, bike, and drive through. Bus routes are still active. However, other than the scrappers and the odd photographer, they know where they're not supposed to go. Too many violations of these rules and those people might have their privileges taken away.
There certainly is security, in the form of white trucks with flashing lights on the roof. They're totally unmarked, which leads me to think they could be run by the evictees or some other more civil group trying to prevent accidents that would reflect badly on themselves.
Sabrina insisted that this area is totally public and she has a right to be there, which is a very dangerous attitude to take. You may have the "right" from a legal standpoint, but you may have to assert your "right" to be there on people who have much bigger problems to worry about. And yes, you may not be doing anything wrong, but the cops can still be called. I felt that perhaps three people was too large of a group to bring there, so good luck with ten times that number.
This photowalk should not happen. It certainly can happen, in the physically possible sense of the word, but I'm pretty certain it won't go well (although there is disagreement about whether the previous photowalks--especially the one to Yongma Land--went wrong). There are a lot of things that could go wrong: from the most obvious being injuries to the less apparent negative effects on the people of this neighbourhood, and even the likelihood that this would sour the evictees on foreigners, meaning all of us are going to be treated with more suspicion in the future. Like I tell everyone new, when you go to abandoned neighbourhoods, you're walking into a battlefield. And I think it's a worthwhile experience for everyone to see it, just not all together.
23 March 2013
Sete Star Sept in Ccott Ddang
I've been meaning to stop by Ccott Ddang for a long while. It's yet another reclaimed space in a neighbourhood that doesn't have a lot of history left, and it's got close ties with the other similar places like Lowrise and DGBS. Sampung was opening for a show there which seemed like an ideal time to check it out. I was otherwise pretty tired and didn't get all that many pictures.
20 March 2013
On Wednesday we got all four of us back together again, the first time since 2010 when we travelled around together and visited China and stuff. This was my first chance to see the other guys' pictures. We ended up filling Roots Time with an assortment of other people.
17 March 2013
I went downtown on Sunday for a car-free market that was being held on the street in Gwanghwamun for an article about the event. I admit I was more interested in the car-free aspect than the market part, but my employers saw otherwise. It was a good time, anyway.
20 March 2013
Daehanmindecline Presents: Joseonminjujuuiinmindecline
What: North Korea slideshow
Who: photos from three friends who visited DPRK together in 2010
Where: Roots Time
When: Wednesday at 8pm
Why: All four of us are back in Korea at the same time, and we're going to have a reunion to share photos and lament that Roots Time no longer serves Daedonggang. All are welcome to join us.
I did this before as a way of showing some of my pictures that will never find their way online, and this time I'm intending to pare down my selection to give the other two more time to share their photos.
13 March 2013
Roots Time has reopened
After what feels like an eternity, Shinji and Ogin have finally come back from India and reopened Roots Time. They brought back all sorts of Indian snack foods, so if you want to try them I suggest going there soon.
We're going to have a slideshow in Roots Time sometime next week or the week after. One of my friends who went with me to a country that rhymes with South Korea is visiting, and in order for me to see his photos properly I'm setting up another slideshow in Roots Time for us to see his photos properly. You can get kind of a sample here but I have no idea what he'll have in store for us in Roots Time.
Also in this gallery, I threw in a bunch of pictures of the RASKB afterparty at Blue Star, which this time was a much more musical experience.
10 March 2013
Everybody Yun Chung Tonight
I finally went up Namsan Tower, which I've discovered is now officially named CJ Seoul Tower, thanks to sponsorship from one of Korea's most ominous entertainment companies.
Anyway, the elevator was far less terrifying than I expected; although it is billed as the "world's fastest elevator" this is clearly a joke, because it moves relatively slowly and has a ridiculous visual display on the ceiling to make it look faster. Up on the observation deck I was never really at ease, and whenever I got close to a window I felt like the tower was tilting downward.
On the lower observation deck I noticed they had these descriptions written up for various tourist sites across Seoul, and the English in these was pretty bad in some cases. Proofreading put my mind at ease. I remembered that the KTO is soliciting error-reporting on tourist signage, so I thought I'd submit a few images for 30 000 won worth of reward.
9 March 2013
Hilariously Inept Security Measures
I went by the Gyeongui tunnel entrance to see if it was still open. They have put up two tiers of security: this gate warning people not to go into this otherwise harmless-looking parking lot, and some plastic zip-ties over the actual hatch. Why?
From a friend who I'm going to keep anonymous until further notice:
So I got caught in the Gyeongui tunnel last night. In the entrance near Hongdae. Someone must have seen us going in.
We were down in the separate room in the spot that has a door leading to the tracks. I had heard faint voices earlier but thought nothing of us. Suddenly someone was yelling "is someone there?" Thinking it was someone coming from the tracks, I was thinking to head back to the ladder. Trying to figure out what to do, we climbed under the machinery to another portion of that room. Just then the door leading away from the tracks in the portion we were just in opened and someone looked around with a flashlight. We just waited and suddenly the door to the portion we were in opened and the guy spotted us and led us back to the ladder.
At the bottom of the ladder there were maybe three guys and another five at the top of the vent. They didn't seem angry at all and I just casually started putting away my camera. They gave my friend a pair of gloves for climbing the ladder and offered to carry our bags. At the top the rescue workers insisted on helping us down, etc. They just kept asking if we were okay, if we were hurt, etc.
Up on the surface there were police, paramedics (with a stretcher!!), and very official looking Korail guys waiting for us. I was expecting the absolute worst but all along they just kept asking if we were okay. One guy even told me, in English, it was okay and not to worry. They very specifically explained that being down there is not a crime and they were just worried, it is dangerous, etc. We just kept saying "sorry" and the police, etc repeated "it's okay, it's okay".
They assumed my friend was also a foreigner but when they realized she is Korean they talked with her. They even very specifically explained to her that being in was not a crime and to not worry. They were just worried about us and warned us it is dangerous to enter. So I guess that is good to know for the future. Breaking into active train tunnels is dangerous but completely legal.
I didn't volunteer my ID card but they took down my friend's information. On me they just wrote NAME / AGE / NATIONALITY. Everyone started dispersing so we just followed suit and walked the opposite direction from them. All in all, after getting up to the surface, we were on our way after about five minutes.
A few remarks about this incident:
No, that was definitely not me.
I don't blame whatshisname for getting caught. It could have just as easily been me.
It must've been someone looking out from one of the adjacent apartments. To someone down on the street, it would just look like a couple people standing on a big inexplicable monolith, because you can only see the grate from above.
So far, nobody I know of who's gone down there has ever behaved irresponsibly. Now that trains are running, there's no more tunnel-walking. It's just a good place to go to watch the trains go by from a safe vantage point.
My theory is the authorities thought my friend and his friend were going down there to commit suicide.
Just because they were told in this one situation that it wasn't illegal to go down into an active subway tunnel, we can't expect the authorities to have this response every time. In a lot of situations, we all exist by the graces of the authorities here. Further encounters, and especially future injuries, will result in stricter punishments. Or, well, punishments period.
Before they installed the suicide doors in most subway platforms, I recall seeing warning signs that threatened a fine of one million won for anyone going into the tunnel.
I would've handled the situation exactly the same as how they did, but I might've allowed them to continue thinking the Korean was a foreigner for a longer amount of time, like I previously did with my "Japanese" friend Jaeeun (probably the only Korean since 1945 who doesn't feel remotely offended at being called Japanese).
9 March 2013
Enter the Stargate
I took an old-fashioned form of transportation up north of Seoul, where I revisited Jangheung, a vacation area on the southern edge of Yangju. It's charming but seems utterly pointless, especially considering it's less than 20 minutes away from Eunpyeong New Town to the south, but it really feels so much farther removed from Seoul.
Yes, there are pictures of abandonments in this entry, more specifically some stuff I probably shouldn't have gotten so close to in Jangheung as well as some stuff I saw along the road back to Seoul.
8 March 2013
That stupid pole in Powwow
Last month I was at that big Japanese ska show at Prism, and I made a remark about that fucking pole standing in the middle of the room. I turned around and Bialy happened to be right behind me.
Prism has one, Skunk Hell/Drug had one, Powwow has one.
I fear this will continue to be a misunderstanding as long as these venues have these annoying poles in the middle of the room. Yes, I know the building would probably collapse if it weren't for that damn pole. But I will continue to complain about how they ruin the view and worry my Polish friends.
6 March 2013
Don (AKA Redboi), a friend of Joe (AKA Sancho), recently moved to Korea. Why? He's a military spouse, and his wife has been in the army for years and years. Anyway, I gave him a quick weekday night tour of a couple places, though Hongdae's seeming a lot smaller these days with This is Chicken gone and Roots Time closed for the winter. Well, at least one of those will be back this Wednesday.
5 March 2013
Weird and Wonderful Korea
Shortly after getting married, Chris Backe has premiered his latest book, Weird and Wonderful Korea. It contains over 100 offbeat tourist destinations all across Korea, as well as suggested itineraries to hit as many of them as possible in a limited timeframe. Anyone who's done any amount of travelling in Korea knows there's a lot more out there than advertised, and this book is probably the best shot at demonstrating that fact. Most of the entries are places I've never heard of, especially further away from Seoul.
PDF copies are available now, and they should be rolling out print versions in the near future.
Chris and Laura have moved to Thailand, and you can expect Weird and Wonderful Thailand in the future.
3 March 2013
After my previous visit to this closed park, I discovered that the merry-go-round had appeared in the video for "Gangnam Style." That meant a return trip was in order. I also wanted to get into the haunted house, or in this case "Ghost Nation," which was basically a couple cargo containers joined together with various mannequins dressed up as Korean ghosts.
2 March 2013
Chris and Laura Get Married
I was invited to the wedding of Chris and Laura, which was held in Hongdae Playground. Initially I hoped to stop in on the wedding and hope the timing worked out with a show going on in Spot, but by the time the wedding got started I'd missed Heimlich County Gun Club and Midnight Smoking Drive, so I gave up on the show and went along with the wedding party. Considering what a spectacle their wedding could've been in the playground, it was surprisingly heartfelt and brief because Laura was cold without her jacket.
1 March 2013
I got an extra ticket from Tyler to go to Gopchangjeongol's return show. Apparently the members all have visas to play in Korea now, so that last show I went to never happened.
This show was not what I was expecting, as they had chairs out in Sangsang Madang and everyone was sitting. In the end it appears to have been for their older fans, but I find it a pretty stifling way to watch a band, especially when you're trapped in the middle. The show was still impressive, and they did two sets. I didn't take pictures until the very end.
Mannam has given up on recruiting foreigners now, though it still seems they go after migrant communities who don't have access to the English-language media, offering events on statutory holidays when the migrants are free. They've especially gained a reputation for showy festivals on patriotic holidays such as March 1 and August 15, which kind of really sucks because Korean independence and freedom have nothing to do with some cult that didn't form until 1984 after the Universe completed its first orbit. It's crass in the same way that it was crass when the Mormons baptised Anne Frank as a Mormon posthumously. Likewise, I saw banners depicting some of Korea's independence activists; I guess it's just because the dead aren't capable of answering the door and saying "No thanks."
By the way, I didn't go mainly because they probably already have a big file on me from the 6th Festival of Restoring Light and Heavenly Culture/Shinchonji National Olympiad/World Peace Festival/International Day of Mannam. However, I did drive by when they were marching on Gwanghwamun and I was surprised how many there were. Then I met up with Peter and Michael after for Elvis Sandwiches.
28 February 2013
10th Korean Music Awards
Most of my photography of the KMAs wasn't suitable for my article, but there were a bunch of entertaining pictures. I especially had a time trying to get a picture of Park Daham, who I'm now convinced doesn't know how to smile (at least to force it for a photo). He will give you two options: bare his teeth or squeeze his eyes shut.
28 February 2013
So how about that weather?
It got up to +13 very quickly, as you can see by my phone which is stuck in a snowdrift in my parking lot. Later that night we had freezing rain, and then the temperature dropped back down to +1. Oddly I remember being a lot more comfortable when it was -1 last fall.
27 February 2013
Learning How to Drive
I'm working on an article for work about applying for a driver's licence in Korea. So far, I've completed the first step: watching an hour-long video about driving. It was put together in a format similar to a Korean comedy show, hosted by a comedian with a panel of basically judges, and they cut to skits depicting driving situations. It's all a lot more optimistic than it could have been, with no images of horrific car accidents (other than one computer-simulated one that's pretty dramatic but not gory at all). I've also confirmed that they don't seem to teach how to shoulder-check here, as the video clearly said in order to change lanes all you need to signal far enough in advance and move into the lane you wish to be in.
Anyway, here are just a few pictures around the DMV.
26 February 2013
The POW Camps of WWII...afterparty
I went to an RASKB lecture about the WWII POW camps of Korea, put on by Jacco Zwetsloot and Matt Van Popular Gusts. They did quite a lot of research, digging up the exact locations of three camps located in Seoul, Incheon, and Hungnam. The Seoul camp is just north of Samgakji and one building still existed until a few years ago as part of a girls' school. In fact, here is the location.
The Japanese brought white prisoners to Korea in an attempt to break Korea's goodwill toward the white race and accept Japanese domination, and it's a little unclear how well that worked at the time. There are stories of Koreans lining the streets to watch the POWs paraded before them and yelling and spitting at them, but the pictures from right after Japan's surrender show the now-liberated Korean people much more genuinely happy to welcome the Allied forces.
24 February 2013
I met up with everyone for Mike's last night in Korea, and we experimented with gochujang fusion food, mainly putting it on things that would taste terrible with it.
23 February 2013
Recently I hit a bump and my scooter stopped behaving properly. The top speed dropped to 50, which was especially dangerous considering the speed limit on my way to work is 50, which means no car goes slower than 70.
I took it to one repair shop where the guy tested it at low speeds and decided it was fine. I took it to another repair shop for a second opinion where its condition was downgraded to "really not good." That shop gave me a good deal on a replacement scooter. Same model, different colour.
I offered to do a trade-in, but the repairman insisted it was worthless and offered to get rid of it for me. His idea of doing this is leaving it outside with the keys in the ignition and waiting for someone to steal it. I'm tempted to steal it back, just because.
23 February 2013
Closed Amusement Park
A few months ago, Morgan showed me this amusement park, but I didn't think to go back until recently. As far as I knew it was closed just for renovations, but I recently discovered the equipment's all just sitting there decaying behind a fairly intimidating-looking fence. Of course, like all fences in Korea it was easy to get over. Then there were the workers to contend with, or at least one that I was able to see.
19 February 2013
Partly Demolished Wedding Hall
I finally met up with Tyler again after something like half a year of not seeing him. He'd randomly wandered by a closed wedding hall under demolition so we paid another visit at night to see what was left. There was one whole building related to the wedding hall, but the wedding hall itself was already mostly torn down.
18 February 2013
Having made it back home, I fed Millie and Buster, only for Millie to get sick and barf everywhere. Oh well, at least she was too weak to fight Buster.
18 February 2013
Fire in Insadong
On Sunday night there was a fire in a corner of Insadong, which spread when a gas tank exploded, reaching other gas tanks which also exploded. It was a pretty massive blaze but no one was killed.
After work on Monday I went out to see what kind of pictures I could get. The cops were blocking off the area in all directions, so naturally I hit up a couple of nearby roofs with no problem.
Money Times printed this article lamenting on the fact that people from other countries will see this and take pictures, and it might be part of their memories of Korea. Because we must never acknowledge any of the stumbles that Korea makes on its way.
That writer would probably have a heart attack if she ever sees this page.
17 February 2013
Abandoned Glass Factory
After the temple we went to a nearby abandoned factory. This place isn't all that hard to visit, as it's right next to the train line, but as usual nobody ever looks at it. It's a very large facility, formerly a paper mill, and we walked the length of its largest building.
Then, right after we reached the end and were coming back, we were spotted by two guards on patrol. We were on the second floor and they were on the ground, so we had to come down to them. We went out a door they probably weren't expecting and made a hasty escape without ever catching sight of them again.
Lots of reasons to go back to that place for a visit though, most which didn't make it into my pictures.
17 February 2013
Abandoned Buddhist Temple
We went out again to the abandoned Buddhist temple. It's been a long time since my last (first) visit, and I was honestly worried what I'd find. But I wasn't expecting it to have been mostly cleared out. Most buildings were thoroughly emptied, and the main house was even stripped down, so I doubt this was looters. To be honest, I'd been hoping some Buddhist association would come in and preserve the artifacts, so I'll content myself to think this is what happened. It made for a less fun photo experience, but that doesn't bother me so much.
We met up with Michael, a soldier stationed in Korea whose work originally brought my attention to this place. For those of you familiar with UER, you may be conscious of the fact that urban exploration is heavily a white-people hobby. Not here in Korea (although that's still mainly due to the fact it's not popular here at all).
16 February 2013
Despite the fact I had to get up early the next morning, I risked going out to a late show at DGBD to see Heimlich County Gun Club. I also made sure to catch a bit of Lady Winchester--last time I saw them I ended up setting up a triage. Anyway, I was only 20 minutes late the day after.
14 February 2013
Dong Cult Park
We call this whole area Dong Cult Park, althought that name really only applies to the big ugly thing that will be completed in time for 2010, and the subway station underneath it. The area we actually go to is called Little Russia even though there are a lot more Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Mongols, and Koryo-ins there. Maybe we should just refer to it all as Gwanghui-dong and Gwanghui Station, but I have a feeling Gwanghee couldn't take it (note for people who don't follow my romanisation: they're both the same in Korean).
Anyway, I went back on Thursday to get daytime pictures of the area for the article I just linked.
12 February 2013
Bon DX and Kingston Rudieska at Danginri Theatre
I never would have imagined Danginri Theatre would be big enough to fit an entire ska band, let alone two of them, let alone everyone willing to come for a free Tuesday night show. Somehow, they all fit.
10 February 2013
I met up with Gwanghee who was spending Seollal alone as off doing Korean things. Not that you can tell she was there from the pictures, as she really hates being photographed more than anyone I've ever met.
This place is a nice change from Roots Time every once in a while. It's really huge and not at all claustrophobic, and while I don't know anything about the music, the people who usually humour my tastes at Roots Time have the chance to turn the tables on me.
10 February 2013
Dong Cult Park
Mike's back in Korea so I invited him along to the Uzbek bar. Verv decided to one-up me by bringing someone I'll be surprised to see. Turns out he had a similar idea to me: he brought a Mike lookalike.
We don't go here weekly like we used to, but I'm going to make sure we go every Seollal and Chuseok when the district fills up with migrant workers freed from their factories.
9 February 2013
New Year Asia Ska Festival Part II
Here's the second part of the New Year Asia Ska Festival photos. I think during Skaff-Links a lot of us were tired out from the Autocratics' set. It was certainly safer taking pictures during their set. But then for the last few songs they brought on members of Bon DX, Autocratics, Number One Korean, and Kingston Rudieska and things got pretty wild. But the show still wasn't over: Number One Korean was the final band of the night.
9 February 2013
New Year Asia Ska Festival Part I
Here are the first three bands from the big ska show: Counter Reset, Bon DX, and the Autocratics. Counter Reset were a bit out of place, but I'm a fan of having one non-ska band at a ska show.
This show also convinced me that Korea needs a two-tone band badly; the Autocratics played an extremely energetic set that I hope informed a lot of Koreans that ska doesn't have to sound reserved and old-fashioned. I'm surprised I got as many decent pictures as I did considering the energy in the dancefloor.
Coming soon: Skaff-Links and Number One Korean. Also, another encore show featuring more of Bon DX and Kingston Rudieska crammed into Danginri Theatre.
9 February 2013
I decided it was time to grab my cats, grab my razor, and shave the dreadlocks out of their backs. Millie still loves it, and although she was a bit agitated she was clearly on my side. She would bite the tufts and try to pull them out with her own teeth, and she would lick my fingers to encourage me to keep going. She even started licking the shaver at one point.
Buster was a different story, but fortunately his hair doesn't tangle as much as hers does.
8 February 2013
Cats and Flash
No, I wasn't flashing the cats--but rest assured, they do see me naked and they don't really care.
I decided to try my new flash out on the cats. The good thing about this kind of flash is it (usually) doesn't point directly at them, so it's probably much better for their eyes despite being able to be brighter. They liked the attention, anyway.
6 February 2013
Simon and Simon
After running into Simon the previous weekend, I invited him along to the RASKB photo group, where I had the pleasure of introducing him to his long-lost brother Simon. Okay so one's English and the other's French-Canadian, and what parent would name both kids Simon? But it was fun to see. The first in a series of doppelgangers
5 February 2013
How do you set a snowman on fire? Simple: gasoline (not kerosene, as I discovered on attempt 1). This is an old ritual we used to do back home. I wish it could be attributed to ancient pagan rituals, but it arose out of a discussion of oxymorons.
We had previously done this in public parks in a quiet corner somewhere away from trees or other hazards. Of course there was grass under the snow, but the snow protects it from catching on fire. I'm less confident that it protects the grass from gasoline though.
Thanks to the urban renewal process, I live next to a large dirt lot that's around 22 hectares. This is all land that used to support a large lower-middle-class population, then was evicted and cleared of buildings, and will soon hold large highrises for yuppie nuclear families that don't seem quite as common in Korea anymore. Anyway, this provided a safe venue for a snowman barbecue, provided I avoid the many pitfalls (spoiler: I didn't).
3 February 2013
Verv invited me over to see his new apartment, which is bigger than the old one and doesn't have eggshells all over the floor. Zeinab came over too to cook some Iranian foods for us. It was pretty amazing and she better do it again or I'll have to do something extreme, like visit Iran.
2 February 2013
Rux at Danginri Theatre
I went to Danginri for an acoustic show featuring Rux and three other bands. However, I was more focused on figuring out how my new flash works. For now, it's probably all just automatic settings.
Jonghee played an entertaining enough set with a kazoo, which is probably just as annoying as you can imagine, but it was a lot more fun than the acoustic shows I remember him putting on a long time ago.
2 February 2013
On Saturday I went to Namdaemoon to buy a new speedlight for my camera. I brought Ken along, who turned out to be totally fluent at Korean once he steps foot inside a camera shop.
We also ran into Simon, one of the people I travelled with through...let's just say one of the parts of Korea that most people don't get to see. It's been over two years, but he's back in Korea for a visit for now.
29 January 2013
More Roofs and Tunnel
I met up with Javin in Dong Cult Park for some Uzbek food and rooftops. Unfortunately, the famous Dong Cult Park Exit 12 has been sealed off, presumably for renovations. We had to jump a not-too-complicated fence to get a closer look at it. They do seem to be fixing the escalators, which previously were never actually active.
We also went to the new subway tunnel construction, where I was glad to see all the blasting signs down. We went in around a kilometer, until I was pretty sure I saw a worker in the distance ahead. There was a loud machine down there, and I'm hoping it's another TBM.
Javin wanted to get home around 10 so he could have a full night of sleep and wake up on time for the DMZ tour, but I got him home around midnight. Oops.
27 January 2013
Cats are lazy. I also added in a candid picture I took on the bus of a young girl talking on her cell phone that didn't really belong anywhere else. It's probably not that interesting to most people in Korea that kids so young can take the bus by themselves, let alone carry smart phones.
26 January 2013
Rooftops of Seoul
In 2011 I met up with Andrew, a Chinese-Canadian photographer living in Hong Kong who specialises in rooftop photography. A year and a half later he put his friend Javin in contact with me. We spent the afternoon hitting roofs across downtown, North Ahyeon, Sinchon, and Hongdae. Most were places I'd been before, but one in particular was totally new to me and quite impressive. We pulled off the trifecta of rooftop, abandonment, and tunnel, as well.
20 January 2013
I went out to Jangchung-dong to have a look around a section of the city wall. I found an interesting statue garden there with some pretty strange works. Not quite penis park weird, but I suspect a lot of it was intended for the same purpose: breaking the ice with frigid newlyweds. And obviously you get away with a lot more in Jeju than you do in Seoul.
Then occasionally Label Market comes along at Sangsang Madang, turning the second-floor gallery into a CD store. CDs are sorted by label, and as you walk around trying to find music you like, you realise how much more there is out there. You'll find GMC, Steel Face, Jarip, anything you can name, and then you'll find more stuff that you were only half aware you needed. This was the first time I bought CDs in a long time, and I walked out with ten of them. I'm doing an article for work about it early next month, so you can read more.
Also, the disco-bbongjak legend Epaksa appeared for a rare public performance, free of cost, and I wasn't the only one who showed up to say I've witnessed the good Doctor Lee. It was definitely strange, but also very cool.
Well, the first part wasn't so bad. Hiking up was a bit of exercise. But then coming down was suicidal. The slope was littered with heavy brush, rocks, large gouges in the earth, and who knows what other unholy obstacles to our survival. We both managed to do a bit of skiing, but in the deep powder lacking a snow bed it was pretty well impossible to turn or stop. I made a few videos on my phone that I might be able to upload soon.
12 January 2013
Heimlich County Gun Club and Chanter's Alley at Powwow
I'm still recovering from a tonsil infection, but after having spent the previous weekend as a shut-in I decided it would be better to get out this time. I made a quick stop at Powwow where Paul's band Heimlich County Gun Club was playing. I stuck around because Paul's wife Yumi was having her first show with Chanter's Alley, then I went home for an early night.
8 January 2013
In the lobby of my building is a bunch of chairs made by industrial designers. In other words, chairs that are not for sitting on, but about musing on the meaning of what is a chair. Sort of like how the KFC Double Down shattered our preconceptions of what it means to be a sandwich, by offering something that looked sort of like a sandwich but is mostly inedible.
1 January 2013
On New Year's Day, I took Airin and Isa to the same abandoned neighbourhood, where I've slowly been covering more and more ground. We followed a similar path to where I'd taken Jen last time, but we went further up the hill and found a Hanok section.
The weather had warmed up to just below freezing, which meant the roads were all very slippery. By the end of the day all our shoes and socks were soaked and we slowly started freezing. Then the next day it was -14.
New Year's Eve 2012
New Year's Eve
Last week I was contacted by an urban explorer from Hong Kong named Airin. She was interested in visiting Yongma Land, and I gave her a few other suggestions of places to go too. We met up a few times, including on New Year's Eve to see the train tunnel. She brought along her friend Isa, who's studying at Yonsei KLI.
Please remember that these photos are all copyrighted to me. If you want to use
them in any way, there's a 90 per cent chance I'll give you my permission, and be able to
give you a copy with a higher DPI.