‘Venus’ – Shinhwa

Shinhwa’s latest song ‘Venus’ is my new favourite K-pop song of the moment! It is currently sitting at number 8 in Soompi’s weekly K-pop chart and I cannot stop listening to it!

I was first introduced to this song when I walked into my classroom last week to see Tony, one of my favourite 8 year olds, dancing round the room singing at the top of his voice. As with most K-pop hits he had the lyrics and the dance routine practised to perfection.

The only problem is that, unfortunately, Tony is one of those kids who can’t pronounce his ‘V’s properly…

TEFL Dinosaur Comics

I realise that there are several versions of this circling the internet at the moment, but here is Wonderland’s little contribution! Seeing as they’re penned by 12 and 13 year olds most of them centre around dinosaurs fighting, killing each other and just being stupid!

T-Rex: I am scared of many things but also others are scared of me!

I don’t know why!

T-Rex: Wow! It’s a lovely house!

T-Rex: This house is such small for me. But I want to get in!!

Utahraptor: He’s such bad!

T-Rex: I can’t get in!!!

Utahraptor: You are the one who scared my brother!?

T-Rex: Hugh?

Utahraptor: Go away you big moster!

T-Rex: Waaaa!

T-Rex: Yummy food over there!

People: Wow!

T-Rex: Black holl!

Utahraptor: Ice!!

Utahraptor: Ice beam!

Museum for 10 years

People: WOW!

T-Rex: There is a horrible human there in the house!

T-Rex: Oh gosh! It’s coming out! I’ll crash it!

T-Rex: I think it’s a bug?

Utahraptor: What’s that?!

T-Rex: Hmm?

Utahraptor: Wha…what’s that?

T-Rex: It’s a bug I think.

Utahraptor: Let me see. No! It’s just a toy!

T-Rex: Oh my! I think I’m crazy it’s not moving at all!!!

T-Rex: Nowadays I’m too fat so I’m fasting. But I’m hungry.

T-Rex: So I will eat human meats.

T-Rex: Hey you! Go out in here.

Utahraptor: Here is my territory.

T-Rex: Then fight!

1 hours after

T-Rex: Ha ha!

Utahraptor: Oh my god!

T-Rex: I am crazy monky dinosaur. I will destroy a village.

T-Rex: Ha ha! Grrr

T-Rex: Uga uga!

Utahraptor: Ha ha ha!

Person: Oh my god!

Utahraptor: Such a foolish

T-Rex: Who said me foolish?!

T-Rex: You?

Utahraptor: Yes!

T-Rex: You will go to universe!

Utahraptor: Please rivive me!

T-Rex: I don’t want to rivive you! Ha ha! Such a crazy

Utahraptor: A

T-Rex: I want to play with friends!

T-Rex: Hey! Let’s play together!

T-Rex: What! ….. you!

Utahraptor: No I don’t want to play with you!

T-Rex: Can you play with me?

Utahraptor: Yes I can.

T-Rex: Really? Okay.

Utahraptor: Now I have to go now.

T-Rex: Bye! Bye!

T-Rex: I will ditroy the house!

T-Rex: Hhm…and then I will eat the house!

T-Rex: Okay! Yeah!

Utahraptor: I want to do too!

Dinosaurs: Grahhh!

T-Rex: Let’s go together and distroyed the house!

Utahraptor: Ok! Let’s go!

T-Rex: Wow!

Girl is distroy the …

T-Rex: I want to destroyed the house.

T-Rex: Oh there is it.

T-Rex: Emm. Ha ha. I will destroyed the house.

Utahraptor: Oh no, my house (cry)

T-Rex: I will destroyed your house.

Utahraptor: Okay, but let’s play.

T-Rex: Ok. What kinds of play?

Utahraptor: Let’s play hiding. You find me okay.

For long time

T-Rex: Where are you? And where is the house. Oh, no.

T-Rex: HELLO

T-Rex: AKK

T-Rex: AKK!!!

T-Rex: I’m sorry

Utahraptor: AKK!

T-Rex: I’m sorry

Utahraptor: AKK!!

T-Rex: Why are you say AKK?

T-Rex: Yum! Yum! The candy is very sweet! Yum.

T-Rex: Oh no! Ouch! I think I eats so much candys!

T-Rex: Grrrr. Im very angry. I want to punch this house.

Utahraptor: Don’t do that!

T-Rex: Why! Im angry

Utahraptor: Look you do this and person is dangure

T-Rex: Ok! Thank you

There dinosaur

Dinosaur is scary

Dinosaur smash the house

Dinosaur is two

Dinosaur is fighting

Green dinosaur are win

There is a dinosaur

Dinosaur roared

Dinosaur was chasing a white dinosaur and he didn’t know he squash the house

And he was surprise

How dinosaur knows what is it!

And dinosaur squash a house one more time

T-Rex: I’m hungry.

T-Rex: There a prey.

House: Oh my god!

Utahraptor: Who are you?

T-Rex: I’m scary dinosaur.

Utahraptor: I’m super dinosaur!

T-Rex: Where is the prey?

The Park Ji-Sung Burger

Park Ji-Sung is something of a national hero in South Korea. He played for, and captained, Korea’s national football team until he retired from international football and is now playing for Manchester United.

Whenever kids, taxi drivers, or waiters hear that you are from England ‘Ahh Park Ji-Sung! Manchester! Soccer!‘ is invariably their first response.

One of the most unusual dedications to Park Ji-Sung I’ve seen so far is at Kraze Burger. The Park Ji-Sung ‘Power Energy’ burger. It has a long list of ingredients including swiss cheese, paprika, mixed vegetables, green tea popping candy, a black rice oatmeal bun and a choice of sauces; power amino or multi vitamin.

None of us were brave enough to order it, we were put off by the idea of meat and popping candy in the same mouthful, sorry Ji-Sung!

Seodaemun Prison History Hall, Dongnimmun and Independence Park

Seodaemun Prison History Hall serves as a chilling reminder of the Japanese occupation of Korea during the 1900’s. Formerly used as a prison, the buildings are now used as exhibition rooms. Located in Independence Park in the north of Seoul, you can get to it by Dongnimmun subway.

Seodaemun Prison

Japan first tried to seize Korea in 1592, when nine separate armies raped, killed and looted their way across Korea. Temples and palaces were razed to the ground, and countless Korean treasures were stolen. Thousands of ears clipped from dead Koreans were shipped back to Japan where they were built into a big mound and preserved, to this day, as a memorial to this ‘war’. With help from Chinese troops, Admiral Yi Sun-Sin won a series of victories at sea and succeeded in pushing the Japanese back.

Records of the 5,000 activists who lost their lives during the Japanese occupation

However, Japan tried once again to colonise Korea at the end of the 19th century. After surprising defeats over both China and Russia, the path to take Korea was left open. It became a Japanese protectorate in 1905, then on August 29th 1910 Korea became a Japanese colony.

More records

This was seen as a rather strange development at a time when most colonial empires had been broken up. What also made Korea an unusual colony was that it already had most of the prerequisites to be developed nation in its own right; a language, a culture and well established borders.

Cells at Seodaemun Prison

During the occupation the traditional Confucian education was replaced by a modern Japanese system, the Korean rulers were replaced by Japanese rulers, even the Korean language was replaced by Japanese. The Korean people felt that the Japanese had robbed them of their sovereignty, their independence and their dignity.

Some of the prison buildings

On March 1st 1919 the fight to reclaim Korean independence began, with the first public displays of resistance. The death, and suspected murder, of the former King Gojong and the public reading of the Korean declaration of independence in Seoul sparked a series of protests up and down the country. Over 2 million people participated in 1,500 demonstrations. According to Korean records 7,500 people were killed, 15,800 were wounded and 46,300 were arrested, although the Japanese figures are much lower. March 1st is now a national holiday in Korea when people remember the struggle for independence.

The building where 18 year old Yu Gwan-sun, one of the main leaders of the March 1st movement, was imprisoned and tortured to death

After many years of suppression and brutality, Korea finally achieved independence on August 15th 1945. The Japanese surrender to the Allied Forces liberated Korea from their colonial rule.

The execution building

For most Koreans the Japanese rule was seen as illegitimate and humiliating, and to this day many Koreans, even the younger generations, resent the Japanese. My co-teacher often joins us when we visit places at the weekend but she said no to this. It would be too painful for her.

A Korean child bowing and paying his respects at the Reverence Monument

The rivalry between the two nations continues today as they compete with each other over technological advances, sporting achievements, and in particular over an uninhabited heap of rocks in the East Sea (Sea of Japan!) called Dokdo (or Takeshima!) that they both claim as their own.

One of the prison buildings

Seodaemun Prison History Hall focuses on the treatment of independence activists and pro-democracy activities at the hands of the Japanese during this period. Several exhibition rooms explain the history of Seodaemun, the chain of events that led to the Japanese occupation,  and the various resistance movements. One room is dedicated to displaying the records of the 5,000 who lost their lives during the fight for independence.  You can also visit the underground torture chamber, the cells, the factories where prisoners were forced to make textiles, the execution building, and the building where Yu Gwan-sun, one of the main organisers of the March 1st movement was imprisoned and eventually died during torture.

The watch tower

This is undeniably one of the darkest periods of Korea’s history, and there is still a lot of anger, hurt and resentment, but one thing I did take away from Seodaemun Prison was a sense of hope. Reading the testimonies of survivors, and how many of them are still political activists, was inspiring. Hopefully Japan and Korea can continue to build a better relationship for the future.

An old man and his dog at Independence Park

Insadong 인사동

Insadong 인사동 is a neighbourhood in the Jongo-gu district of Seoul. It is one of my favourite places in Seoul and sometimes there is nothing better than a lazy afternoon browsing and people watching over a mug of plum tea in Insadong.

Two old men whiling away the time between customers

Insadong originated as a residential area for government officials around 500 years ago, during the early period of the Joseon dynasty. However, during the Japanese occupation many wealthy residents had to move and sell their precious belongings, causing it to become a popular place for trading antiques.

A more unusual find!

During the Joseon dynasty Confucian scholars used to buy their paper, ink and brushes from Insadong and many of the old shops are still standing and still selling these things.

A shop selling hand-made paintbrushes and pressed paper

Once the largest market for antiques and artworks in Korea, it has now become a hotspot for tourists and ex-pats. A mishmash of shops, stalls and street vendors, it is possible to find some real gems in Insadong but you may have to wade through a fair amount of tat first.

A traditional teahouse

Insadong is especially well known for its traditional stationery, porcelain, pottery, hand pressed paper, and antiques. Many stores also specialise in jewellery boxes, mirrors and furniture decorated with mother-of-pearl inlaying.

Delicious plum tea

The area is also famous for it’s teahouses. There are dozens of teashops on the main street, but if you branch off and explore the backstreets that’s where you’ll find the real traditional Korean restaurants and teahouses. You can sample almost every flavour of tea imaginable but a personal favourite is plum tea, yum yum.

A street vendor selling Buddhist trinkets

The main street, Insadong-gil, is a true blend of old and new. Elderly men sell hand-carved Buddhas outside video arcades, and the oldest bookstores and teahouses in Seoul sit alongside candy-coloured cosmetic shops.

More paintbrushes

After the Korean war, Insadong became a haven for artists and even today the area remains a place for art lovers. There are over 100 art galleries in the neighbourhood, displaying everything from traditional fine art to quirky modern sculptures.

A street vendor selling hand-carved wooden items

One of the best places to browse and shop in Insadong is Ssamziegil. It is a five-storey shopping centre and the name comes from the slightly slanted paths which creates a kind of spiral. Built in 2004, Ssamziegil is home to several small galleries, workshops, and dozens of stores selling jewellery, tea and hanbok among many other things.

Ssamziegil shopping area

Insadong is a truely unique place and no trip to Seoul would be complete without a visit here.

Graffiti at Ssamziegil