Seodaemun Prison/Independence Park

I know, it's been a while. I tend not to do a whole lot during the rainy season in Korea. A few trips here and there into Seoul but it's usually something you've all seen before. This weekend Katrina and were trying to come up with something to do and picked up the Top 50 Things to Do in Seoul book I've had lying around for a while and found Seodaemun Prison. As a self proclaimed history guy, I must admit, it was my kind of place.

The brief history of the prison... When the Japanese occupied Korea they used the prison as a concentration camp of sorts, at least according to the material I read. Individuals who professed they wanted independence or were rebel rousers were sent to the prison. Conditions were poor, summers were hot, winters were cold, and many people were persecuted for their beliefs. There was a factory on the grounds so prisoners could work, making supplies for the Japanese during the war. Additionally, there was an underground torture chamber, execution building, and an underground secret passage way that was used to remove the corpses of dead activists.

All in all it was a really interesting place. From what I gathered, after the Japanese left Korea, the same prison was again used by a Korean dictator to imprison individuals who wanted democracy, a fact which I was unaware of. I knew their had been a dictatorship but never heard it was so brutal. After the prison, while we were still in Seoul we headed to Katrina's favorite restaurant and got some falafel and hummus. It was a great trip for a spur of the moment.

(Entrance to the prison. It was only a $1.50 to get in so once again, I would highly recommend it.)

(One of the torture devices)

(An interactive feature - luckily they had plexiglass surrounding the walls so I didn't need to worry about the spikes. Let me tell you, not comfortable, even after 5 minutes. I couldn't imagine a day or two, let alone a week or two...)

(This little room was designed so a person had to stand but could not stand up right or in a comfortable position.)

(This is a room filled with pictures to remember all the activists who fought for independence, either against Japan of the Korean dictatorships.)

(A shot of the prison grounds. Many of the buildings had been torn down after the Japanese occupation.)

(Reverence Monument - a place to remember those who lost their lives at Seodaemun Prison.)

(Reverence Monument and more of the grounds)

(Katrina liked the lines of the buildings and so did I. This is one of the buildings where prisoners were kept.)

(Katrina with part of the prison behind her)

(An interesting brick made at the factory inside the prison. They were all stamped with the same logo so the Japanese knew where the came from.)

(Independence Park lies outside the prison.)

(Statue on the park grounds)

(Interesting little book store we found in an ally way)

(A fun little market)




Birthdays (Justin's, Matt's, and America's)

There have been a plethora of birthdays in the office lately: Justin's, Matt's, and America's. Of course, we celebrated all three. Justin's started with dinner which included two special guests - his sister, who was visiting from China, as well as Richie, Spenser's friend from Japan. After dinner we headed to Ju Rok, our Cheers, and had a few drinks. Justin left a little bit early since his sister was here and for a different reason. It was a low key night for myself even though I was up a bit later. All in all, it was a great night and I had a lot of fun. A few of the Korean Teachers even came out and joined us.

Matt in quite the character. From what I understand he has a bet with one of his friend's back in the States that if he doesn't run a beer mile in under a certain time, he will literally wet himself while in the office at work. For those of you who do not know what a beer mile is, it consists of chugging a beer and then running 400 meters, then repeating this process until one has completed a full mile. If the participant upchucks, he or she must run another lap but does not have to drink another beer. Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy working out and I enjoy drinking, I just don't enjoy working out and drinking. I was a vigil spectator during the event and was given the important task of 'time keeper.' There were a few other events in the evening and it was quite late but quite fun.

Finally, this past 4th of July, I was able to celebrate in Korea with a beer, a hot dog, and some fireworks. Matt loves America as you'll see in the pictures. He was able to find some bottle rockets somewhere so we set them off at the park. It was a nice 4th of the July and perhaps, one of the best I'll ever get in Korea.

(Justin's Birthday Group Shot, minus Ashley and Anna)

(Justin and his sis)

(Ashley & Anna)

(Anna & the Birthday Boy)

(The Flying Js - Justin & Justin)

(Justin & Spenser)

(Good Bless America... and the Beer Mile is under way. Matt of course is the one who looks like he is participating in the 1980 Opening Olympic Ceremony.)

(One part of the beer mile)

(The other, except he's not running too fast. In fact, I don't think he's running at all at this point. Nice effort Connor.)

(Matt had a nice little party set up for everyone.)

(Event 2: The Tire Toss. Similar to horseshoes only using bike tires from only Matt knows where)

(Event 3: The Umbrella Javelin. The objective was to throw the umbrella as far as possible.)

(Spenser as he participates in the can shoot. I think this is the most focused I have ever seen him during his stay in Korea.)

(Sadly, this quickly broke. Reminds me of a slingshot my dad used to use when I was younger. Instead of tennis balls we used water balloons when I was a child.)

Boryeong Beach (Again)

It's been a while since my last post. A lot has happened. A lot has not. In Korea, unfortunately, it is now the rainy season, which for all intensive purposes sucks. Luckily, a few weeks ago, before it started, I was able to make it down to Boryeong. It takes about two and a half hours to get there which makes it ideal for a weekend trip. This time, I went with my co-workers, which was a lesson in and of itself and was a great chance for me to learn exactly what kind of people I prefer to go to the beach with. From now on, I'll be sure to be very selective who I go to the beach with. What can I say, some people are just ______________. I'm sure you can fill in the blank.

Regardless of the company, I still had a great time at the beach and got a chance to hang out by the ocean. There was some big Army event happening so there was soccer and I ended up playing in a flag football game as well. Lots of fun, it just left more sore the following two days. I did get bright red on my back and feet, which made it painful to walk and sleep at night. Once it clears up again, and after the Boryeong Mud Festival, I'll be sure to make my way back to the beach again; this time with Katrina! Yep, she arrived yesterday evening at 10:30 pm!

(Starting the festivities a bit early, around 8 am perhaps)

(We met the weapons team from Osan Airbase)

(Yep, still not a hat guy)

(I was a bit concerned but HomePlus came through with the kids tent for around 20 dollars. Fortunately, I have a tarp to put over top and it works perfect. Better than spending 150 on a junk tent in Korea.)

(Yep, still not my sport. I did do a little bit better at football.)

(Interestingly, Koreans swim with shirts on. Here is a great picture. Men, women, teenagers, children, everyone, except the foreigners, shirts on.)

(Justin hanging on the beach.)

(Spenser & Calvin at sunset)

(Eva, some random girl that we met at 9 am and stayed with the guys long into the evening, even after I went to bed, with a roman candle.)