Wednesday, 30 September 2015

International Folk Music & Dance Concert @ National Museum of Korea's Yong Theater

As expected,  tickets were all gone in a jiffy! Being a free concert featuring dances and songs from different cultures, the International Folk Music & Dance Concert, organized by the Senior Public Diplomacy Group, was very popular among the Korean and international audiences.

The Senior Public Diplomacy Group is an organization of former diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea, whose main objective is to help promote and strengthen South Korea's friendships and relations with other countries. And I think tonight, they succeeded!

Dances and music from Korea, Mongolia, Brazil, USA, China, Indonesia, Cambodia and other countries were all applauded and enjoyed by the crowd.

Three of the hundreds of audience members, Insook from Seoul, Veronika from Germany, and Terri from Namibia were especially impressed with the kind of show that featured dances and music from different countries. They said they were lucky in the first place to have been able to get tickets, and even luckier to have been able to watch this kind of concert in Seoul.

Thanks to Mr. Ha-Kyung Choi, the president of the Senior Public Diplomacy Group, and to Mr. Tae-Hoon Lee of the Korea Observer, those who sat and filled the 862-seater Yong Theater of the National Museum of Korea in the Yongsan District of Seoul were treated to a Sunday night of international performances that surely helped understand each other's culture.

Looking forward to the next international concert!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Seoul's Trickeye Museum @ Hongdae

Who doesn't like optical illusions? It's like magic, but without the need for a magician. Or a rabbit.

And the Trickeye Museum in Seoul's Hongdae district is about all that: optical illusions. And a lot more!

So, when Trickeye Museum invited guests to their new wing, I just had to sign up and bring along two ladies who I thought would enjoy the visit. Yvonne and Carly were on their last day in Seoul; they were all over the city for a few days for sightseeing, and had to fly back to the Philippines. And on their last few hours in South Korea, they were able to experience the unique type of entertainment and fun the Trickeye Museum offers locals and international visitors alike.

During our visit, we saw moms with their kids, couples, groups of tourists, and international students who were also there to have fun posing with the illusions with their friends.

But for Yvonne and Carly, spending their last few hours in Seoul on and around these unique fantastic scenes that definitely tricked the eyes was the highlight of their visit to Korea.

If you're visiting Seoul soon, or if you're already here, do squeeze in a visit to the Trickeye Museum for added fun, memories and unique photographs to your Korea photo album.

By the way, around the Trickeye Museum lobby, there is portraitist, who can sketch you for a few minutes while you sit. There is also a shop where you can be made-up and costumed to look like a Korean prince or princess.

Here are more of Yvonne and Carlye's photos at the Museum:

The Trickeye Museum is very easy to find as it's just a few minutes from Exit 9 of Hong-Ik University Station of Line 2.

Here's the Museum website for directions, opening hours and other details need for your visit:

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Spreading The Word of Self-Acceptance @ Itaewon in Seoul

A couple of months back, a video of a lady standing on the sidewalk wearing only her bikini and asking people to draw 'hearts' on her body went viral. It was a way of sending a message that everyone should accept their body, no matter what size it is.

And last weekend, as I was talking through Itaewon on my way home, I saw a couple of ladies, who were definitely not Koreans, standing on the sidewalk and asking people to draw 'hearts' or a write a message on their bodies.

I thought it was spot on. The message, that is.

The Korean society has a bad habit of judging people with how they look: from the color of their skin, to the kind of face, and to the type of one's body. That's the reason why plastic surgery clinics are raking it in. Everyone wants to look handsome and beautiful because if he or she is not, they feel inferior than everyone else. And if one is trying to find employment, they're sometimes judged, not by what's on their resume, but by the amazing result of their trip to a plastic surgery clinic! This kind of pressure from the society causes low self-esteem to many young adults in Korea.
And these ladies standing on the sidewalk of Itaewon were definitely trying to send a message that day to Koreans and foreigners alike: accept and love who you are!

Accept your body and face as they are, and there's no need to visit that plastic surgery clinic, or get into that fad diet programs and pills that could harm your body. Save your money instead, and spend it on movies, pizza, or on cups of iced cafe mocha. :-)

Monday, 21 September 2015

Person of the Week: Sinchon's Piano Man

Seoul's Sinchon Rotary is always crowded. During the week, it's full of university students as this spot is close to four universities: Sogang (where I used to play tennis!), Yonsei, Ewha Woman's, and Hong-ik. The main artery of Sinchon, Yonsei-ro, is full of cafes, shops, private institutes and restaurants.

Last July, Yonsei-ro, the artery connecting Sinchon Rotary to the entrance of Yonsei University, hosted a huge water slide where those who wanted to cool off during the summer stripped down to their swim wear and slid down the slipper slide.

But tonight, as I walked along Yonsei-ro from my quick visit to service center to have my defective USB checked, I spotted this guy playing on a piano on the sidewalk. He was oblivious to the noises of people passing by and buses driving past him. 

The melodies he was playing attracted some passers-by, including myself. I stood for a few minutes to listen to his virtuoso performance, and for a moment, if only the acoustics were good, and if the piano's strings were of better quality, his mini-concierto could have been worthy of standing ovation from everyone. Well, actually, since everyone was standing to listen, it was indeed a standing ovation. 

Like most of Korean kids, I also studied piano when I was in grade school. But this talented piano man performing along Yonsei-ro is probably a music major, who was just polishing his Rachmaninoff on this rusty upright piano and playing for anyone who just wanted to listen to some music amidst the noise of the city.

This musician is our person of the week.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The 2015 R16 World BBoy Championships @ Seoul's Jangchung Gymnasium

Over the years, the R16 World Bboy Championships were held at the Olympic Park in Seoul, which was a bit far for me to travel. I would need about an hour to take the bus and subway to get there.

But luckily for me, this year, they brought it closer - to Jangchung Gymnasium in the Junggu District, which is about ten minutes by bus from where I live! That close!

           (Crowds lining up to enter the 
               Jangchung Gymnasium)

                  (Joonho at the R16 marker)

             (A bboy crew posing inside 
                    the Gymnasium)

In the previous years, these annual bboy championships were always in the calendar of both local and international bboy fanatics in Korea.

The Championships are held over two days. On the first day are the finals for solo competitions for bboy, locking, and popping. And on the second day, it's all about the crews: the best performance and the best in battle.

  (The judges of the crew performance and battles)

                    (Team Korean turned the                                           house...upside down)

In the past championships at the Olympic Park, the organizers included a graffiti alley where famous graffiti artists impressed everyone with their creativity and works of art. I actually looked forward to it, but the R16 organizers told me that, since the Jangchung Gymnasium grounds didn't have enough space, the graffiti attraction was dropped this year.

I watched the crew competitions on the second day, and I was able to bring along two friends with me: Joonho, who wanted to become a bboy, and Eugene, who is a real bboy! If you've heard of Bboy Dynamo from Philadelphia, that's Eugene. 

                  (Lock N' Crew's showcase                                                   performance)

Before battling each other, the eight teams from Korea, USA, Russia, Taiwan, Netherlands, Kazakhstan, China, and Australia impressed the crowds with their showcase performance, which were judged. 

As always, the competition electrified the Jangchung Gymnasium with those incredible moves, dislocating stunts and flips that temporarily defied gravity. But in the end, there could only be one champion crew. 

                  (And the winner is....)
                   (...Team Russia!)

Team Russia won the final battle against Team USA, while Team Korea won the best performance. I think Team Russia's victory over the closest rival team would have made Vladimir proud. :-)

Although only Team Russia and Team Korea brought home the winners' checks that night, the bboy culture in Korea in particular, and the bboy generation all over the world in general were also the winners that night.

So, thanks again to R16 and to the Korea Tourism Organization for another round of crazy, electrifying and memorable bboy performances and battles! Joonho and Eugene had a fun time watching the championships here in Seoul. Eugene even had a chance to say 'hi' to DJ Skeme Richards, one of the guest DJs, who's also from Philly.

Next year, I hope you hold the Championships again here in my neighborhood because this year was, to use ghetto-speak, dope

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Best Singers in Korea Don't Sing K-Pop!

The very first time I turned on the TV in Seoul years ago, I surfed the channels and ended up watching a show featuring K-pop singers. There were girl bands, boy bands and soloists. After minutes of watching, I decided to watch the news channel instead. Ha-ha-ha!

Having listened to really good professional singers all my life, I was disappointed to hear ordinary and, at times, mediocre singing on Korean TV. Although I could not understand the lyrics, I could tell whether she, he, or they weren't really singers at all. They were just dressed up, made up, and showcased as an entertainer. The formula seemed like: as long as he or she is good-looking, who cares about the horrible singing? Ha-ha-ha! 

Of course, there are standouts; the real singers with good voices. Who are they? They are the ones who still have a career and an audience year in and year out, unlike those girlbands and boybands who seemed to evaporate alongside global warming.

And since I have heard people singing in almost all the places where one can impress an audience (captive or not!), I conclude that the best singers in Korea don't ever sing K-pop!

People sing at norae-bang, buses, trains, small stages, and sidewalks! But the best ones prefer to stay hidden, up there in the church choir, providing music for the soul, and music that you can't possibly compare to that heard at entertainment shows where the so-called professional singers lip-sync.  

So, if you want to listen to the best singers in Korea, you know where to find them.