Not Just Another Walk in The Park

This weekend was Korea’s memorial day weekend, which meant a nice 3-day weekend for me.  My friends and I decided to get out of Seoul for the weekend and explore the Northeastern coast of Samcheok.  Samcheok is famous for beautiful clear water, a picturesque coastline, high mountains, some of the biggest caves in the world and a very special park called Haesingdang Park, also known as Penis Park. Taking into account the conservative culture of Korea, I think you will be just as surprised as I was to find out that Korea has this infamous park covered with hundreds of penis sculptures.  (If you are offended by the word penis or images of the male genitalia, then I suggest you don’t read this entry).  I think you will also be a little surprised to hear the story behind this park and to see that it is one of the most beautiful parks in the world.

Legend has it that there was a a newlywed couple, a fisherman and a  virgin girl who loved to collect seaweed.  The girl was collecting seaweed one day and her husband was supposed to come back and get her but there was a bad storm and since he couldn’t make it to her, the girl died in the ocean.  She died a virgin. When she died, the fish all disappeared.  The fishermen mourned the loss of their fish.  Apparently a man decided to urinate in the ocean one day and the spirit of virgin liked what she saw and the fish came back into the ocean.

Statue of the Virgin

After that the villagers began exposing themselves to keep the fish coming.  Eventually they built giant statues of cocks. Now the park is covered in phallic artwork.

Obviously I wasn’t sure what to expect when coming to this park, but it exceeded my expectations.  I think that if this sort of park existed in the USA it would attract a different sort of crowd if you know what I mean.  In a strange way this park works.  The natural setting of the park is beautiful and the artwork is truly unique.  There are penises in the shapes of benches and chairs and even a huge one in the shape of a canon.  I would say that overall it is very tasteful and artistic, especially considering what the focus of the park is.  People visiting the park included tourists of all age including families with young children. My friends and I had a fun time taking pictures with the statues.  We were even lucky to catch a nice viewing of the shirtless Korean military soldiers running through the park doing training exercises 🙂 Kind of strange that they would pick that location to do their training, but like I said, it’s a beautiful park. I was glad we took advantage of the nice weather this weekend to get out of Seoul and see some other sights.

Welcome to Penis Park

Year of the Tiger Penis

Chinese Calendar Sculptures

View from the Park

Another Nice View

They Come in All Shapes and Sizes 😉

Penis Bench

Some were big....

Some were smaller than others...

Some were very long...

No matter what shape or size, they were all beautiful

It wasn’t your typical day at the park.  But who wouldn’t want to spend a beautiful day at the park surrounded by clear water, mountains and one of God’s greatest creations.

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Korean Education

I typically write posts based on the activities and adventures I get into on the weekends.  What I have neglected to post  is about my daily life as a native English teacher in a Korean school system, which could be considered just as adventurous and exciting as my life on the weekends.  There is a new documentary coming out on Korean education created by a nineteen year old American girl.  After visiting this website I became inspired to share it with anyone out there who bothers to read my blog.  I think it is worth it for anyone to watch it to get a better idea about a day in the life of a Korean student in terms of education and body image.  I bet you didn’t know that my Korean students go to school an average of 10 hours a day and study for an average of 6 more hours a day on top of the time they are in school.  I bet you didn’t know that education is the top industry in Korea followed by plastic surgery.  I bet you didn’t know that Korean students sleep an average of 4-5 hours a night.  I bet you didn’t know that Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world.  There is no way I could possibly explain the stress and competition that Korean students face everyday. I cannot even understand it myself.  You need to hear it for yourself from the Korean students.  I ask that you watch this 15 minute video clip of this documentary in the making.  It really moved me and helped me to understand things about my students better, for example, why they are falling asleep in my classes and why they are so competitive in nature.  I want to try to write more about my day-to-day life in the Korean public school system and the things I observe everyday that are part of this bigger picture.  Enjoy the film and you can even donate money to make it happen.  I don’t know the creator of this film but I think it is very perceptive and admirable that a girl so young could create a film with a concept like this. When I was 19 I didn’t know the first thing about Korea or it’s education system for that matter. So educate yourself:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1877491487/documentary-on-korean-education

Korea from Coast to Coast

I’ve just about hit my 10 month mark of living in Korea and I can say I have traveled to many key points around the perimeter of the peninsula.  I have see the east and west coasts as well as the furthermost northern and southern points. This weekend I traveled to the East Sea (The Sea of Japan) and spent some time near the 3rd largest mountain in Korea, Soraksan.  Unfortunately, the weather did not hold up and I couldn’t do too much sightseeing.  It rained all day Saturday and the fog was so thick that you couldn’t even see the mountains. But luckily the drive there and back to Seoul was very picturesque.  Next time I hope to do some hiking.  With all the mountains surrounding me I am gearing up for some outdoorsy activities this spring.

Usan Rock

East Sea

Rocky Coastline of Korea

설악산 (Soraksan)

The Most Heavily Militarized Border in the World

DMZ

Living in a big city, it’s like anywhere else, you get caught up in the hustle and bustle and focus on the daily routine of your own life.  Living in a place like Seoul makes it easy to forget the reality of living in Korea.  Korea is still a divided nation at war and Seoul is only about one hour away from a nation without food, without Internet, without television, but heavily armed with nuclear weapons.  North Korea, the only communist nation left in this world, only a matter of tens of kilometers away from me, still exists and the world remains in fear of this small and weak country because of it’s leader and strength in nuclear power.  This weekend I had a chance to visit the border that separates the two Koreas and I was able to have a snapshot look into North Korea.  I saw many areas of the DMZ including the 3rd North Korean infiltration tunnel, the Imjingak Freedom Bridge (connecting South Korea to the DMZ), the Dora Observatory (looking into North Korea), Dorasan Station, the Bridge of No Return, and the Joint Security Area, which is guarded by both North and South Korean soldiers. Unfortunately we will never have a true picture of the real North Korea because what is available to us is in the form of propaganda villages and a false pretense of happiness displayed by the North Korean people living in Pyeongyang. You are automatically filled with fear from what has been taught in the US schools about North Korea.  But I was mostly filled with sadness for the soldiers.  They are at most 16 or 17 years old, have no notion of the outside world, come from a malnourished and impoverished childhood, and are brainwashed into thinking they are living the best life available to them.  They highest aspiration for them is to be in the military service.  They will never be able to experience the little things in life that bring us happiness like watching a funny movie or going to a bar at night with friends.  My visit to the DMZ gave me a refreshed look at my own life and a renewed appreciation for the freedom I have.

Art piece that shows the divide between the North and South

Last train station before heading toward the North

JSA (Joint Security Area)

North Korean Property

Do You Remember Where You Were?

Can you remember where you were when you first heard of the events that happened on September 11, 2001?  I was sitting in Religion class in my sophomore year at Mercy High School in Middletown, CT.  It’s extremely surreal to find myself in Seoul, Korea, hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden ten years later.  This time upon hearing the events of Osama Bin Laden’s death, I was sitting at my desk as a teacher. Even stranger for me is that I first heard of the news on none other than Facebook, a social networking site that did not even exist ten years ago.  Within minutes of the breaking news story, I noticed at least fifty posts on Facebook that linked me to the top videos and news stories broadcasting across the nation. My first thoughts and feelings were similar to my reactions on September 11th, disbelief, confusion and uncertainty.  As I watched Obama’s speech I felt relief for the people all over the world who lost friends and families in the terrorist attack. Nothing will ever be able to heal the damage done in their hearts, but they can finally find some condolence in the fact that the mass murderer of their loved ones is dead.  I watched the videos of everyone in the USA celebrating this victory and was happy to see the open display of pride we have for our country.  Today is a day that will be remembered forever in history books.  This is the first time a US president ordered the killing of a man in the name of terrorism. I am proud of my country and I think we should celebrate, but I am also left with many questions. My own morals leave me confused.  When is murder justified?  In my opinion, murder does not solve any problems; it creates more problems.  Has killing Osama really done the nation “justice” as Obama has stated many times?  Do you celebrate the killing of someone else even when it seems justified?  How exactly do you celebrate an event like this? What repercussions will our country face from this action? I think there is a lot more to think about before running around the streets waving our flags around.  We may have won a huge battle in terrorism, but I think we are very far from winning the war. At this point I am very curious to hear more details about this operation. I would love to hear other people’s initial reactions to today’s events.