KESKIVIIKKO, 30. SYYSKUUTA 2020
Split by a hair-trigger border, the Korean Peninsula offers the traveller a dazzling range of experiences, beautiful landscapes and 5000 years of culture and history.
Decorum plays a major role in Korean people’s generosity to outsiders, and their instinctive graciousness possesses a highly endearing quality. Helpfulness abounds, whether it’s at a tourist office, asking someone for directions or finding yourself deep in a conversation with a stranger. Time-honoured Confucian principles have set a template for strong civic pride in a society that is introspective, perhaps, but also decorous and affirmative. You may pass glorious landscapes and gaze out across dazzling seas but don't forget, half of your travel journey will be about the people, and the Korean tribe are a joy to be among.
Korea might be known as the Land of the Morning Calm, but dive into its capital Seoul, the powerhouse of Asia’s third-largest economy, and serenity may be the last thing you’ll perceive. This round-the-clock city is constantly in motion, with a work-hard, play-hard mentality that epitomises the nation’s indefatigable, can-do spirit. You can hardly turn a corner without stumbling across a helpful tourist information booth, a bustling subway station or a taxi in this multifaceted metropolis where meticulously reconstructed palaces rub shoulders with teeming night markets and dramatically modern architecture.
South Korea’s compact size and superb transport infrastructure mean that tranquillity is always within easy reach of urban sprawl. Hike to the summits of craggy mountains – some of which transform into ski slopes come winter – enveloped within densely forested national parks. Get further off the beaten path than you thought possible by sailing to remote islands, where farming and fishing folk welcome you into their homes or simple seafood cafes. Gaze up at the distant stars from serene villages surrounded by rice fields, sleeping in rustic hanok (traditional wooden house) guesthouses.
Festivals & Food
Rest assured the ROK also knows how to rock. A packed calendar of festivals and events means there’s almost always a celebration of some sort to attend wherever you are – it might be Boryeong for its mud fest, or Gwangju for its Biennale or its annual salute to that most Korean of foods: kimchi. Koreans are proud of their culinary culture and rightly so – there's a tantalising array of dishes, flavours, aromas and textures in the local cuisine, to be washed down with plenty of toasting involving a head-spinning array of alcoholic concoctions.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SOUTH KOREA
The best times to visit Seoul are from March to May and from September to November, when the weather is mild (average daily high temperatures stay below the mid-70s) and travel expenses are low. If you're a powder hound, you'll want to visit between December and February, when average daytime temperatures stay around the freezing mark and snow can be frequent. It's best to avoid the summer months, also known as monsoon season. During these months, Seoul is uncomfortably humid and full of tourists. What's more, hotel room costs are at fever pitch.
March-May - Springtime is arguably Seoul's most beautiful season. The city erupts with budding trees and blooming flowers, including cherry blossoms. The weather is also quite lovely, with high temperatures hovering between 50 and 75 degrees (though you might want to pack a jacket for evenings). Hotel and plane ticket prices are also at their most manageable; however, it's still a good idea to book early. Even though the crowds aren't as thick as the summer season, Seoul's many springtime visitors can limit your lodging options.
June-August - If you don't mind oppressive humidity, long lines, torrential downpours and high travel costs, then come to Seoul in the summertime. But for a more comfortable vacation, opt for a sweet shoulder season (spring or fall). Should you decide to plan a trip for this time of year, be sure to check out the vibrant festivals taking place in Seoul during July and August.
September-November - Seoul experiences pleasant weather in fall: Daily highs stay in the mid-50s and mid-70s, though you may experience some rain here and there. Autumn airfare and hotel prices are also more affordable compared to summer rates, and the thinning crowds mean shorter lines at major attractions. During Chuseok (a public holiday in South Korea), keep in mind that travel could become busier and rates are likely to spike, as the holiday is considered as big as Lunar New Year (the country's biggest holiday).
December-February - Though winter in Seoul is quite chilly – temperatures hover between the 20s and 30s – the cold weather does welcome plenty of opportunities to ski in the mountainous areas near Seoul. Plus, as the temps drop, hotels prices and airfare do, too. You may have to pack some heavy coats and sweaters for a wintertime trip to Seoul, but it'll be lighter on your pocketbook. However, be sure to avoid Lunar New Year. During this time, travel becomes expensive and congested with families traveling to their hometowns to celebrate.
GETTING TO SOUTH KOREA
The vast majority of travellers arrive at the gleaming Incheon international airport; often referred to as “Seoul Incheon” on international departure boards, this offshore beast handles a large and ever-increasing number of international flights. Korean Air and Asiana are the two big Korean airlines, operating direct flights from a number of destinations around the world. Seoul increasingly features as a stopover on round-the-world trips, and the country is well served by dozens of international carriers. Fares increase for travel in the summer months and at Christmas time. A departure tax applies when leaving Korea, but will almost certainly be factored in to your ticket price.
GETTING AROUND SOUTH KOREA
The best way to get around Seoul is via the subway. You can throw in a taxi ride here and there if you plan on staying out late, or a bus ride if your destination is too far to walk. Seoul is too massive to be explored solely on foot, but it does contain some neighborhoods that were made for walking (Bukchon Village, for example). Because Seoul's public transportation is so cheap and extensive, we advise against renting a car (plus, traffic in the city is legendary). If need be, you can rent a car at either of Seoul's two airports, Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Gimpo International Airport (GMP). The vast majority of international flights come in via Incheon. You can take a taxi from Incheon or Gimpo into Seoul, or if you're looking to save a little coin, the AREX (Airport Railroad Express) train goes directly into the city too.
Subway - The Seoul subway is inexpensive and widespread, making it an effective way to get just about anywhere in the city. So long as you avoid rush hour (8 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. on weekdays) and don't try to ride between midnight and 5:30 a.m. (when the system is closed), you should have a pretty smooth subway experience. The signs, maps and recordings in the stations are in English. Seoul residents use cards known as Multiple Journey Transportation Cards (or T-money cards) to pay for subway rides, with fares starting at 1,350 won (about $1.20) for the first 10 kilometers of travel. T-money cards cost 2,500 ($2.24) won for the card; fares for 10 kilometers traveled cost 1,250 won ($1.12).
Bus - While Seoul's subway system is easy to navigate, its bus routes can be a bit more complicated and daunting for foreign travelers. Most bus maps are not translated into English, and most bus drivers speak only Korean. To ride the bus, you can pay the bus fare in cash on the bus or use a T-money card, which decreases the bus fare by 100 won for adult travelers. Buses and bus stops are color-coded to reflect different routes. Blue buses (main line buses) travel long distances within Seoul city limits and cost 1,300 won ($1.17) for a single journey ride. Green buses, which cost 1,000 won (90 cents), cover the same area but travel shorter distances. Yellow buses run a loop through downtown, and cost 1,100 won (about 98 cents) per ride. Finally, red buses run to Seoul's outer suburbs and cost 2,400 won (about $2.15) per ride. Enter the bus from the front and always exit through the back, unless the bus is only equipped with one door. Buses run all hours of the day thanks to the night bus, marked with an "N" before the bus number.
Taxi - You can hail a cab pretty easily in Seoul, and a short ride can be very inexpensive. Silver, orange or white regular taxis cost between 2,800 to 3,000 won (about $2.50 to $2.68) for the first two kilometers (about 1.25 miles) plus an extra 100 won (about 10 cents) for every eighth of a mile thereafter. Between midnight and 4 a.m., taxi prices increase by 20 percent. Deluxe taxis, which are black with a yellow stripe, cost 3,200 to 5,000 won (between $2.90 and $4.50) for the first three kilometers (about 2 miles), with an additional 200 won (around 18 cents) for every additional tenth of a mile. Aside from the price, the differences between these taxis and regular ones are more passenger space and no nighttime surcharges. There are also international taxis that guarantee bilingual drivers, but those must be reserved in advance (can't be hailed). If you opt for regular taxis, it's a good idea to write down your destination to show to your driver to avoid miscommunication.
Car - Driving around Seoul tends to be hassle-prone: Traffic in the city happens more often than not and drivers can often throw caution to the wind when getting around in a hurry. Avoid the headache of driving and make use of Seoul's public transportation instead – there's probably a subway or bus stop wherever you need to go, and both forms of transport are markedly cheaper than renting a car. However, if the urge to drive is insurmountable, you can always rent your own set of wheels from rental desks at Incheon airport.
On Foot - Seoul is too big to traverse on foot alone, but it does contain a number of neighborhoods and hiking trails that provide nice areas to put one foot in front of the other. Just be careful when crossing the street – green lights given to pedestrians tend to be short to help the flow of traffic, so cross briskly.
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH KOREA
Newly opened in January of 2018, St. John’s Hotel is located along Gangmun Beach in Gangneung. The hotel houses over 1000 guest rooms and suites as well as a seasonal infinity pool, banquet facilities and restaurants. All units at St. John’s are equipped with a flat-screen satellite TV, a desk, a seating area with a coffee table and a small fridge. You will also find an electric kettle and wine glasses. Private bathroom includes a walk-in shower and free toiletries. American breakfast buffet is available every day at Oh! Crab Restaurant. Freshly baked goods, coffee and desserts are available at ANGPANG lobby lounge all day. Gyeonpo Beach and Songjeong Beach are within 1 km from St. John’s Hotel. Gangneung KTX Station is under a 10-minute drive away.
- Pyeongchang Ramada Hotel & Suite by Wyndham
Offering a complimentary shuttle bus, Pyeongchang Ramada Hotel & Suite by Wyndham features a convenient accommodation for skiing and having a leisure time with nature. Free parking and free WiFi are available at the property. All rooms feature a flat-screen TV and a terrace with views. Some rooms include a kitchenette. Private bathrooms are fitted with a hair dryer, a shower and free toiletries. Pyeongchang Ramada Hotel & Suite by Wyndham offers a continental or buffet breakfast. Guests can enjoy dining at the on-site restaurant, operated by one of the well known food companies in Korea. The hotel offers a business centre and a 24-hour front desk that can help guests with any queries that they may have. Other convenient amenities also include a coin laundry, a swimming pool and a fitness centre. The accommodation is located 1.8 km from Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza and 4.2 km from Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre. The nearest airport is Yangyang International Airport, 66 km from the property.
- Ramada by Wyndham Gangwon Sokcho
Ramada by Wyndham Gangwon Sokcho is located next to Daepo Port, highlighted by a road that extends to Oeongchi Beach, just 1 km away. The hotel houses 556 guestrooms and suites as well as on-site sauna facilities. All rooms and suites come with a private balcony with mountain or sea views. Minibar, bottled water and tea sets are provided in each room. Bathrobes, slippers and free amenities are placed in the private bathroom fitted with a rain shower. Staying guests have complimentary access to the business centre and fitness centre throughout the stay. The indoor swimming pool is available at an additional charge and includes kids’ pools, wet and dry sauna rooms, and sun beds. The hotel has an on-site restaurant serving all-day buffet with local and international dishes. Coffee, tea and light snacks are also available at the café. Ramada by Wyndham Gangwon Sokcho is situated 2 km away from Seorak Beach and 10 km from Seorak Waterpia water park. Yangyang International Airport is a 25-minute south from Ramada Gangwon Sokcho Hotel.
The Shilla Jeju is 10 minutes' walk from the famous Jungmun Beach. It features 6 dining options, a fully-equipped fitness club with 2 spa pools and a sauna, a luxurious spa and free WiFi at the business centre. Rooms of The Shilla Jeju are air-conditioned and features either a mountain or an ocean view. Each room at Shilla is equipped with flat-screen cable TV, a minibar and an in-room safe. There are both indoor and outdoor pools as well as a hot tub at the fitness club which are open for free to staying guests all year round. Children have free access to kids' playroom. Strollers are available for rental free of charge. Guests with an international passport can visit the onsite casino. Free parking is available at The Shilla Jeju. Cheonjee Restaurant serves Korean delicacies and unique Jeju dishes. For traditional Japanese food, visit Hinode at the 3rd floor. All-day buffet is also available at the Park View Restaurant. The hotel is a 10-minute drive from Yeomiji Botanical Garden and a 50-minute drive from Jeju International Airport. Free rental service for infant goods (a cot, a baby chair, a child cup, a baby bathtub etc.) is available upon prior reservation.
Featuring ocean views, Hilton Busan is set in seafront location. This hotel provides an ATM machine and newspapers that guests can use. All rooms are fitted with a seating area and a flat-screen TV with cable channels. With a private bathroom, certain units at Hilton Busan also have a sea view. A buffet breakfast is available each morning at the property. Various dining options are available at the interactive on-site restaurant with open kitchen. The hotel also has a rooftop bar with ocean views, offering cocktails and a la carte menu. Guests at Hilton Busan can enjoy using the fitness centre, sauna as well as rooft pool with sun deck. The hotel also boasts jet spa and kids pool. Hilton Busan is situated 9 km from Haeundae Beach and Busan Aquarium.
Located at the heart of 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic site, Skybay Gyeongpo Hotel is just within a short stroll of Lake Gyeongpo and Gyeongpo Beach. Boasting its cleanest quality, this iconic 5-star hotel offers indoor/outdoor pools, fitness centre and other top-of-the-line facilities. All rooms feature a terrace with either an ocean or lake view. Some rooms are equipped with a spa bath. Skybay Gyeongpo Hotel provides free WiFi, free private parking and 24-hour front desk. Guests can enjoy Infiniti Pool and Restaurant Soiree on the 20th floor with ocean view. The all-day dining Restaurant One is also available on the first floor. The nearest airport is Yangyang International Airport, about 40-minute drive from the property.
Set in Yangyang, within less than 1 km of Osan Beach and 2.7 km of Naksansa Temple, Dignity Hotel offers accommodation with a bar and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive. The property is situated 3.5 km from Seorak Beach, 4 km from Osan-ri Prehistory Museum and 16 km from Hajodae Beach. All rooms have a balcony. The units in the hotel are equipped with a flat-screen TV. At Dignity Hotel all rooms come with air conditioning and a private bathroom. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy an Asian breakfast. Dignity Hotel offers a terrace. Speaking Korean and English, staff will be happy to provide guests with practical information on the area at the 24-hour front desk. The nearest airport is Yangyang International Airport, 7 km from the hotel.
- Shinhwa Jeju Shinhwa World Hotels
Located in Seogwipo, 11 km from Jeju Jungmun Resort, Shinhwa Jeju Shinhwa World Hotels provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Among the various facilities of this property are a bar, a shared lounge and a garden. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, an ATM and currency exchange for guests. Guest rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel each room is fitted with a wardrobe and a private bathroom. Buffet and American breakfast options are available daily at Shinhwa Jeju Shinhwa World Hotels. The accommodation offers a children's playground. The property has an on-site hot tub, hairdresser's and business centre. Alive Museum Jeju is 11 km from Shinhwa Jeju Shinhwa World Hotels, while Shilla Hotel Casino is 12 km away. The nearest airport is Jeju International Airport, 28 km from the hotel.
Paradise City features an indoor and outdoor pool open all year round as well as a fitness centre and a children's playground. Free WiFi access and free private parking is available at the hotel. Each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV and a complimentary minibar. En suite bathroom is fitted with a bath and a toilet with an electronic bidet. Extras include slippers, a bathrobe, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Guests may enjoy playing darts, billiard, bowling and PlayStation games at Paradise City. Incheon Port International Passenger Terminal is 12 km from Paradise City, while Incheon Port Coast Passenger Terminal is 13 km away. The nearest airport is Incheon International Airport, 2 km from the property.
- Marriott Jeju Shinhwa World Hotel
Providing free WiFi in all rooms, Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort features indoor and outdoor pools, spa facilities, a casino and a business centre. Each room is fitted with a safety deposit box, minibar, flat-screen TV and desk. Private bathroom includes a bath, bathrobe, hairdryer and bath amenities by Thann. Guests can store luggage at the 24-hour front desk or enjoy a drink at The Islet Lounge. Including an electric vehicle charging station, private parking is provided on site. Breakfast is offered at Sky On Five Dining Restaurant from 06:30 to 10:30. All-day-dining buffet is available from 6:30 until 22:30 at Café The Islet, while Chinese dishes prepared by chef Alan Chen are served at Le Chinois. Jeju Shinhwa World Marriott Resort is a 40-minute drive from Jeju International Airport. Alive Museum Jeju and Hyeopjae Beach are both less than 15 km away from the 5-star hotel.
PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN SOUTH KOREA
Much of the Korean travel experience is defined by the hustle and bustle of the country’s sprawling metropolises. But for those willing to venture beyond the city limits into South Korea’s rural destinations, unique cultural encounters, regional culinary specialties and stunning natural landscapes await. South Korea preserves a large amount of tradition as well as natural beauty. As a result, it is a country full of spectacular sights of both industrialized, urban cities as well as cultural, suburban and rural areas. It is a diverse country for both city tourists and wild adventurers.
2,000 years ago Namhansanseong Fortress served as one of the four largest fortresses that protected the country’s capital, back then called Silla, from Tang China. Today, it currently stands as a historic monument for tourists in the Namhansanseong Provincial Park on top of Mount Namhan.
Gobungun, Changyeong is a green grassy field that has the appearance of many small hills. It is actually a site of over 180 ancient tombs that date to the fifth and sixth centuries. The majority of the tombs were built for those of royalty or high governmental status.
Established in 1395, Gyeonbokgung Palace houses the Throne Hall, which stands as one of the most, if not the most, iconic structures of the Joseon Dynasty. It was the center for essential state affairs as well as storage for ancient Korean royal books that were looted by the French military.
Located in the heart of Seoul, Changgyeonggung Palace served as the residential palace for queens and concubines of the Jeoson dynasty. During the Japanese colonial rule, the building became a zoo and a botanical garden, but later returned to its former refined status.
Inwangsan is a 338-meter high mountain that hosts numerous castles built on the outskirts of Seoul to protect the city from foreign invasions. Today it serves as a popular tourist spot to view of Seoul’s features, including the palaces, N Seoul tower, and the Korean president’s residence, the Blue House.
- Seoul Seonggwak Fortress Wall
An 18.2-kilometer long stone wall that served to protect Seoul from foreigners during the Joseon dynasty, the Seoul Seonggwak Fortress Wall is a historic site that is part of a walking tour program. Starting from Dongdaemun, tourists walk along the fortress wall and continue on to Naksan’s park and museum.
Known as South Korea’s largest natural swamp, which covers 5,500 square kilometers, Upo Wetlands is home of over 1,000 species. The government enlisted it to become a part of the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance to protect it from environmental degradation, and has been protecting it since 1998.
Known for its preservation of most of its original structures, Andong Hahoe Village is South Korea’s most iconic folk village that has been a birthplace for scholars and nobles of the Yu clan since the 16th century. Today, it remains as a one-clan community that has conserved many of its traditions.
For centuries, Samhwasa has been a scenic point for inspiration. Poets, as well as painters, sought out the Samhwasa Temple to view the West peak of Dutasan Mountain, which was said to look like a phoenix and a crane, and the East peak like a dragon and a tiger.
Yonghwa Beach is unique in that both seawater and freshwater are available due to the Hwacheon stream. Thanks to its accessibility to both salt and freshwater, it is one of South Korea’s most valued sources for fresh seafood. In fact, many travellers visit Yonghwa Beach solely for the seafood.
Known as the connection of the sky with the land, Cheonjiyeon Falls is a legendary site where seven divine beings descended from heaven to bathe in the pond: the name means ‘the pond of the gods.’ To respect the holy space, a Seven Fairies Festival is held every May.
According to legends, the temple Miryang Maneosa was once home of the son of the dragon king, who was turned into the five-meter-long rock that is on the temple. Rumors claim that any woman who could not conceive sons would be able to after wishing on the five-meter tall rock.
The highest mountain in South Korea, is Jeju Island’s most iconic milestone that has been designated as one of South Korea’s Natural Monuments. It is home of over 4,000 different types of animal species, especially around a crater lake called Baengnokdam.
A small ecological village in Namhae-gun, Darangee Village maintains its cultural and traditional efforts to preserve over 100 steps on farmlands on a 45-degree mountain slope. Due to the village’s dedication to its maintenance efforts, it produces a large amount of the nation’s rich natural resources such as crabs.
A traditional village that maintains its Neo-Confucian culture and architectural style of the early Joseon Dynasty, Yangdong Folk Village stands as the most valuable among South Korea’s six folk villages. It is one of the largest villages in South Korea that preserves ancient aristocratic lifestyles as well as folklore materials.
Located in Gyeongju, a city nicknamed ‘a museum with no walls,’ Bomun Pavilion is South Korea’s prized gazebo that is adjacent to a pond, where one could see cherry blossoms during spring, luxuriant green leaves during summer, ruby and mustard flora during autumn, and soft white snow during winter.
Haeinsa Temple is a significant milestone that houses some of the country’s most precious religious artifacts. These include the world’s oldest intact Buddhist canon, the Tripitaka Koreana, the oldest wooden Buddha statue in South Korea, and UNESCO world heritage storage hall of Buddhist Sutras called Janggyeong Panjeon.
An enormous field full of green tea leaves alongside the slopes of several hills, the Goseong Green Tea Field produces over 40 percent of South Korea’s tea leaves. To celebrate the flourishing fields, the neighboring residents hold a festival every May and decorate the fields with small colorful light bulbs every winter.
The Anapji or Anap Pond is an artificial pond man-made around 1,500 years ago during the Silla dynasty as part of the palace where flowers and birds flourished. To this day, three structures still stand on three separate artificial islands with patches of lotus flowers framing the pond.
Despite its nomenclature meaning ‘Blue Mountain Island’ for its panoramic green mountains and deep blue sea, Cheongsando Island was once part of a military base to prevent foreigners from invading. Today, however, it is famed for its residents pursuing a slow life, making it Asia’s first ‘Slow City'.
An emblem of traditional Korean architecture and culture in the southernmost part of South Korea, the Sankwang Temple is where the largest annual Lotus Lantern Festival in the country is held. During the festivities, the temple is decorated with numerous lanterns with geometric as well as lotus shapes.
WHAT TO EAT IN SOUTH KOREA
In recent years South Korea has become better known for its technology than its food. However, thanks to delicacies like kimchi, which has become a global sensation, things are beginning to change. Here are is a list of South Korean foods you have to try.
- Hoeddeok (sweet syrupy pancakes)
Known as a sweeter version of the Western pancake, hoeddeok, or sometimes spelled as hotteok, is a popular Korean street food, especially during the winter season. It is essentially flat, circular dough that is filled with a mixture of cinnamon, honey, brown sugar, and small pieces of peanut and cooked on a griddle. The delicacy has crunchy exterior and soft interior as well as an irresistible flavor.
- Bulgogi (marinated beef barbecue)
A juicy, savory dish of grilled marinated beef, bulgogi is one of the most popular Korean meat dishes throughout the world, and was ranked as the 23rd most delicious food in the world according to CNN Travel’s reader’s poll in 2011. It is often grilled with garlic and sliced onions to add flavor to the meat. The meat is usually wrapped in lettuce and it is also traditionally eaten with ssamjang (a thick, red spicy paste).
- Samgyeopsal (pork strips)
One of the most popular Korean dishes in South Korea, samgyeopsal consists of grilled slices of pork belly meat that are not marinated or seasoned. They are commonly dipped in seasoning made of salt and pepper mixed in sesame seed oil, and then wrapped in lettuce along with grilled slices of garlic, grilled slices of onion, shredded green onions, and kimchi. It is one of the most common dishes found in any Korean restaurant throughout the world.
- Japchae (stir-fried noodles)
Often served as a side dish during lunch or dinner, japchae is a traditional Korean noodle dish made up of stir-fried sweet potato, thinly shredded vegetables, beef, and a hint of soy sauce and sugar. Depending on the chef, additional ingredients like mushrooms are added to the mix. Japchae is known for its sweet and flavorful taste and its soft yet slightly chewy texture.
- Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
One of the oldest and probably the most essential dishes in Korean cuisine, kimchi is a spicy and sour dish made up of fermented vegetables. It is prepared with various kinds of ingredients, but the most common main ingredient is cabbage. Kimchi is popular among foreigners for its unique flavor, as well as its high nutritional value, fiber content and low calorie content. However, for Koreans, it is most popular due to its significant cultural value. Without kimchi, dinner is considered incomplete.
- Ddukbokki (spicy rice cake)
Ddukbokki, also spelled tteokbokki, is a common spicy Korean food made of cylindrical rice cakes, triangular fish cake, vegetables, and sweet red chili sauce. It is often sold by pojangmacha (street vendors). People enjoy ddeukbokki for the combination of spicy and sweet flavors.
- Sundubu-jjigae (soft tofu stew)
Served in a large stone bowl, sundubu -jjigae is a common spicy Korean stew generally made of dubu (tofu), vegetables, mushrooms, seafood, beef or pork, and gochujang (chili paste). Depending on the chef and region, some ingredients are removed, substituted or added to the mix. Though different variations exist, traditionally, a raw egg is placed on top of the stew and mixed with the soup before serving to add additional flavor to the dish.
Bibimbap is essentially a bowl of mixed ingredients including, but not limited to, rice, namul (seasoned and sautéed vegetables), mushrooms, beef, soy sauce, gochujang (chili pepper paste), and a fried egg. The ingredients found in bibimbap vary by region, and the most famous versions of the dish are found in Jeonju, Tongyeong, and Jinju.
- Seolleongtang (ox bone soup)
A traditional hot Korean soup made from ox bones, ox meat and briskets, seolleongtang is a local dish of Seoul, often seasoned with salt, ground black pepper, chopped green onions, or minced garlic according to the consumer’s taste. The broth is of a milky white, cloudy color and is often eaten with rice. Seolleongtang is known for its soft yet chewy texture and flavorful broth, and can be found in most Korean restaurants in Seoul.
- Haemul Pajeon (seafood vegetable pancake)
A version of pajeon, which is a pancake-like Korean dish made predominantly with green onions, egg batter, wheat flour, and rice flour, haemul pajeon incorporates seafood to the common pancake. Common seafood ingredients used include, but are not limited to, oysters, shrimp, squid, and clams. Haemul pajeon is generally eaten as a main dish and is known for its soft and chewy texture as well as its mixture of seafood flavors.
Soondae, or sometimes spelled as sundae, is a unique Korean dish made of pig’s intestines stuffed with several ingredients such as noodles, pork blood, and barley. Versions of soondae differ in fillings and wrappings, and are often prepared differently according to the province or city in South Korea. Nevertheless, though the recipes differ, every soondae is chewy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the side, creating an interesting mix of textures as well as flavors.
- Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles)
Naengmyeon is a common cold Korean noodle dish that consists of long, thin noodles, cucumbers, slices of Korean pear, slices of beef and a hard-boiled egg. The noodles are often made of buckwheat, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, but can also be made of arrowroot and kudzu, depending on the type of naengmyeon. It is a popular dish especially during the summer to cool off under the scorching heat and thick humid air in South Korea.
- Hobakjuk (pumpkin porridge)
A sweet and grainy dish, hobakjuk is a traditional Korean porridge made from steamed pumpkin and glutinous rice that has been soaked in water. Though its appearance is simple, it is extraordinarily sweet and flavorful due to the pumpkin. It is a popular meal during breakfast hours, and is often a perfect meal choice for people who are unwell and unable to consume heavy meals. It is served both hot and cold but is best when hot.
- Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup)
A common dish particularly during the summer, samgyetang is a traditional soup made of chicken, garlic, rice, scallion, Korean jujube, Korean ginseng, and spices. It is known to have a high nutritional value. Not only is it known for its healthy contents but it also is popular simply for its creamy and meaty flavor.
WHERE TO SHOP IN SOUTH KOREA
Inspired by its shopping complex in Milan, this outpost of the fashion and lifestyle boutique is about as interesting as Gangnam retail can get. The blend of fashion, art and design includes several local designers and big-ticket global labels. There's also a brilliant selection of international books and CDs to browse, and a chic cafe for an espresso or glass of wine.
Going strong since 2002, this lively weekly market helps to propel talented young creatives on to big-time retail. It's a great opportunity to meet the crafters and buy a unique souvenir, be it a hand-painted baseball cap, a colourful piece of jewellery or a leather bag. A good line-up of singers and bands play all afternoon, too.
See what's coming next in Korean fashion at this fabulously well-designed boutique, which offers streetwear, gifts and bags on the ground floor and more formal styles upstairs. Even if you're not buying, the shop design, especially upstairs, deserves your attention. There's also su;py cafe next door.
Around 60 different Korean designer shops selling crafts, fashion and homewares are gathered at this slick complex. Spread over several levels, the complex surrounds a central rest area where a piano invites passers-by to give impromptu concerts. Shops to look out for here include the monochrome accessories of 4T (www.4ourt.co.kr), and the handmade shoes of Le Cordonnier (www.ucnehandworks.co), where the master cobbler Yun Hongsik shares a space with his watch-designer daughter's brand Metal et Linnen.
Seoul’s shopping malls hardly come any more stylish than this one in the previously industrial hub of Guro. The interior spaces surround a waterfall that cascades down seven floors, and plenty of terraces allow relaxing in fine weather. There are good restaurants and a superbly designed Korean food court in the basement. Also here is the D Cube Arts Centre with a concert hall and larger theatre for musicals, and a very spiffy Sheraton Hotel (with fabulous views from all rooms).