Category Archives: Life in Seoul

The Rainy Season Is Back in Seoul


source: The Korea Times

I thought the rainy season was coming to an end. But it seems to be back again!  Heavy rain and thunderstorms yesterday, more today, and lots more on the way.. According to the Korea Times there have been downpours of a record 60 mm an hour in Seoul and central and southern areas. At least 17 people have been killed in  landslides and more have been injured or are reported missing.

below: the rain this afternoon






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Korean cooking: Golbengi muchim

When I watched the drama Dae Jang Geum, about the cooks at the Joseon royal court, it really made me want to become a better cook. I make Korean food most days but I stick to fairly simple dishes so I thought about joining a cooking class but never did. Now I’m about half way through New Tales of Gisaeng and Ms. Han, the head chef at the gisaeng house is spending a lot of time at Doctor Geum’s house trying to win over her future mother-in-law with her cooking. It’s making me think about cookery classes again! She’s cooking lots of good food so much so that anyone who is against the marriage but tries her food is charmed by her amazing cooking – I’d like to be able to cook like that! It makes me hungry watching it! Tonight I made golbengi muchim for dinner – served with rice and soju of course!

The ingredients are

finely sliced carrot, cucumber, onion, mild chillies, and cabbage

1 tin of whelks (golbengi 골뱅이)

sauce – Korean chilli paste, chilli powder, sugar, salt, vinegar, crushed garlic, sesame oil, and sesame seeds

Mix it all together and voila!

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Another walk to the film location of What Happened in Bali

Last spring, while out for a walk, we stumbled over one of the locations in the SBS 2003 drama What Happened in Bali, starring Ha ji-won, So Ji-sup, and Jo In-sung. The one-room houses that Ha-ji won’s and So ji-sop’s characters lived in are located on a mountain  on the outskirts of an area in Sangdo-dong, Dongjak-gu which is now being developed. There were many other small houses like this in the area and we wondered if they would survive now that a large apartment complex was being built nearby.

2 sides of Seoul – small houses on the mountain with large apartment blocks in the background

Well, we went back and walked the same route recently and sure enough many of the little houses on the mountain had signs on them to show they were going to be demolished.

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makali and jon in the rain

makali and kimchi

Whenever it rains in Seoul, my husband wants to eat jon (like a savoury pancake) and drink makali (milky colored Korean rice wine). Apparently it’s traditional “rainy weather” food and on rainy days we’ve been to restaurants that sell jon and makali and they’ve been pretty busy. There are lots of scenes in Korean dramas of eating jon in the rain too. The scene from Brilliant Legacy (starring Dong Yi’s Han Hyo joo) comes to mind with the scene in episode  4, where Go Eun sung (Han Hyo joo) the poor heroine meets a halmoni, old lady, and ends up letting her stay at her flat because she has lost her memory. Go Eun song comes home in the pouring rain and suggests that they eat kimchi jon. Continue reading


Filed under Korean Culture through Drama, Life in Seoul

Moving Again!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently but we’ve had to move again (after less than a year at our old apartment) and with the chaos of stuff lying around the floor I haven’t had a chance to do any Dong Yi posts at all. Last time we moved, it all went so smoothly so I wasn’t so worried this time. But I should have been. Last time we had a dream team of 4 people who packed up all our stuff and put it all away carefully in the new flat – even the books on the bookshelf were placed back in the same order as before! This time was a different story. One of the problems was that this place is a lot smaller than the old flat, so I guess it was harder to find a place for everything and after the team left us the inside of the flat looked like a rubbish dump – piles of clothes and futons and kitchen utensils lying around everywhere. Part of me wanted to complain about that (the other team would at least have left things neatly folded and piled up) not to mention the broken glass in the large picture frame and the bent curtain rail amongst other things. But  when I saw the sweat dripping down their faces in the hot summer sun with no air conditioning carting our stuff over the balcony to be sent down to the truck. I couldn’t say anything. And after they left there has been lots of  surprises – like when I opened the bottom kitchen drawer and pulled out a bunch of T-towels and oven gloves that had been stuffed in there and then at the back of the drawer I discovered, yes, two bulbs of garlic. Interesting. Opening drawers and boxes has been like opening presents at Christmas. We never know what we are going to find inside.

Anyway, we’ve moved out of a tall blocks of flats which are called apartu (apartments) here. Apartments are usually built in a large complex. Here’s our old view…

and we’ve moved into  a “villa” which sounds (to me at least) quite swanky, but it isn’t. It’s a low block of flats usually with no more than 4 or 5 floors.  Apartments are the most popular but are a lot more expensive than villas. Here’s our new view…

I like it. It’s got atmosphere and to be honest I don’t understand the obsession with living in apartments. But maybe I will, in time? Maybe there is something dreadful about villas that I haven’t discovered yet. I suppose security is better in apartments since there are security guards on duty 24 hours a day and I bet apartments are warmer in winter too.  But on the other hand, they are not the friendliest places to live with neighbours often not greeting each other when they see each other. One of the strange things I found about living in the apartment block was that the flats also have speakers inside built into the walls connecting to the caretaker’s office. So I could be sitting watching TV and suddenly a loud voice booms out around the room telling me that someone has not parked their car properly in the car park or that the meat van has arrived outside building number 132, if anyone wants to go and buy some pork or whatever. Useful information I suppose but I never got used to all those messages at all times of the day.

The villa is fine and near the shops and from the window I can hear sounds of life below. I don’t feel as removed as I did before. So it’s all good, although I’m still rummaging through our stuff but will still find time to watch Dong Yi tonight.

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Pok-nal is here

It’s the first day of pok-nal today in Korea and it’s traditional to eat samgetang, chicken and ginseng soup.

samgetang, chicken and ginseng soup.

There’s a whole chicken in the soup with ginseng and glutinous rice, jujube fruit, garlic, ginger, and lots of leek. It has a mild flavour and comes with a small bowl of salt to dip pieces of chicken in.

So what’s pok-nal?

The hottest part of the summer in Korea is considered to be around mid July to the beginning of August. The first day of this hot season is called cho-bok (초복)  and it’s today, July 19th. The temperature in Seoul at the moment is 86ºF (30ºC) so not too bad, but hot enough. The middle of the hot season is chung-bok (중복) on July 29th and the end is called mal-bok (말복) on August 8th. Because it’s hot in the summer people can feel sluggish and low on energy so as this dish is full of good things, it’s supposed to make us healthy and strong during this period.

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snap of the day: kimchi pot shop

In Seoul I stumbled over this cute shop selling kimchi pots all ready to be filled with chili paste, soy bean paste, or soy sauce.  I wouldn’t mind a few pots just for decoration. But when they are in use they look like this…

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Snap of the Day. Garlic Truck

A truck selling garlic by a market in Seoul

Garlic season is here. In Korea it’s harvested in June and July and the market places and street stalls are now stacked high with it. The six clove variety is said to be the most popular and the six-clove garlic festival is on now in Taean about three hours from Seoul.

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Calligraphy Lesson 4

The teacher came around a few times to check what I was doing and show me where I was going wrong by guiding my brush across the paper. Finally our group got to practise our first whole hangul character today too. 가 Ka.

Still wobbly with dodgy spacing but it’s a start.

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Calligraphy Lesson 3

I like the pace of this course. Every week (still only in week 3 though) I’m given a new stroke to practise. Today I arrived a few minutes early to get settled and begin the warm up (below) as I find that I really need this time to calm down and clear my head. Korean conversations go on around me as more students arrive and set up their work, getting ink stones from the cupboard at the back of the room or cups of tea from the refreshment table. I think this warm up could be used for various psychological tests including personality assessments or even as a (cheap) lie-detector test because  I can see that my state of mind really affects my strokes. For example, if I’m in a hurry and can’t be bothered to brush enough of the excess ink off on the side of the ink stone before I start, then I get a thick blotchy line that gets bigger and uglier as the ink soaks into the paper (see top line below). If I lose concentration, the line starts veering off in the wrong direction. If someone comes and looks over my shoulder then there’ll be a little hiccup in the line or it will wobble because I suddenly feel nervous. So I bet it would be possible to asses if someone were telling the truth by making them paint straight lines and interrogating them as they go. Then all we’d have to do is assess the wobbles and hiccups in the lines. This test could also be used at job interviews to reveal personality traits such as if the candidate is able to pay attention to detail. I’m obviously not able to, because my lines don’t even start or end at the same level as each other which reveals (I bet) that I’m a generalist and not a specialist. I think I’m on to something here.

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