Monday, May 26, 2008

Sinsikdang (Damyang)

Sinsikdang means "new restaurant". Yet, they're supposed to be cooking their mouthwatering ddeokgalbi (떡갈비) for three generations ; the kind that rocks your palate (the meat, not the gems on which they're presented).

Some pretend that the interior could be cosier. Or that the noodle soup tastes even better than the ddeokgalbi.

I don't care. I had both. Twice.

And the next day I swiched beef for pork across the street : yummy ribs / Galbi too, even more "no thrill" service... except for the yelling adjochi / psycho maitre d'.

And the next day it was time to expose my own ribs at the local spa.

Fat chance.

Sinsikdang / 신식당 (restaurant)
68 Damju-ri, Damyang-eup, Jeollanam-do, DAMYANG, ROK (Jeollanam-do)
Tel +82.61.382.9901

SM 2007

Their website : sinsikdang.co.kr.

see other restaurants in Seoul and Korea.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Restaurants in Korea

Seoul guides are full of great restaurants and it would be impossible for me to list all the places where I enjoyed fantastic food since 1991 : Seoul one of the best cities in the world for affordable delicious meals (starting from street food and market snacks, and all the way up to the usual upscale suspects). Unfortunately, I lost most of the cards I picked up (if any) after such moments of bliss. Besides, I'm too lazy to dig into my porous memory. Furthermore, some joints may have closed or turned into one of those ugly high rise tombstone appartment buildings. So every now and then I write something down on this excuse for a site. Those lucky ones are not necessarily the best spots (except for The Gaon, of course).

Feel free to leave a comment, an update or a recommendation. But don't sue me if you get sick, lost or both.

You can browse all the posts with the label "
restaurant", and I'll try to update the list below once in a while. Follow the links for those which already have a place in Seoul Village (again, this is not a best of) :

Seoul :




Gangwon-do :


Busan :

  • in HAEUNDAE-GU : Nampoong (Chinese)

Chungcheongnam-do :


Gyeonggi-do :

Gyeongsangnam-do :

Incheon :


Jeollanam-do :

Beefing up Korea

Red carpet to Middle Eastern and other Arab nations : one month ahead of the KAS (The Korea-Arab Society), 22 Arab countries are attending a conference in Seoul today.

Cultural issues will be mentioned, and Seoulites are already invited to enjoy local delicacies at the Arab Cultural Festival*, but the menu clearly highlights energy and oil supplies as the main dish. I guess we'll also get a slice of real estate and finance : LEE Myung-bak never made a mystery of his intentions to see more petrodollars reaching the Korean shores.

Korea will definitely need some help in the months to come (inflation, weaker won, commodity and food prices, slower growth...). The real estate sector faces gloomy times : more constructors are going bankrupt, some banks may fall, and more than a few individuals as well (non-fixed rates are favored here as well / bad).


And the MBtious President needs to deliver some good news for his own good : he had to apologize last week for not warning the public about the resumption of US beef imports**.

In spite of LEE's affection, US is not exactly the most popular flavor around Gwanghwamun these days***, and building partnerships with new players should pay in the long term as well : France secured many important deals in times of trouble thanks to similar ties with Arab countries.


* this should go beyond the usual spots near Itaewon's Mosque. See Arab Cultural Festival website : arabculturalfest.com. (June 6 to 8, 2008)
** mad cow disease is a relevant issue, but Korea should also cope with other food related health hazards, not to mention asbestos in the subway, cancerous materials used in interiors... a specific agency seems long overdue.
*** unless Obama wins - Barack asked the Government to give up Korean - US FTA

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update 20080527 - Al Ahli Group and Busan city teaming up to make a Marvel Entertainment theme park by H1 2013... this is not exactly the kind of cultural outcome one could have expected from this conference... nevermind. The best sashimis on Haeundae courtesy Wolverine ?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

25h Myeonok

Wanghimni Newtown will not rise before a few more years. Yet, the area is changing at a very quick pace, starting from Wangshimni Station. Just like with Cheonggyecheon, many shops adopted the same system of wooden signs, masking the ugly old buildings behind. New constructions are already changing the main street, internal franchises and banks tend to multiply.

25si Meyonok is not likely to disappear that soon. This small noodle specialist offers a fake traditional decor but a very good, simple and cheap sujebi (수제비 also writen Sujoebi or Sujeobi after its sujeop-bi origin).

25H Myeonok / 25시면옥 (restaurant)
286-4 Haengdong-dong, Seongdong-gu, SEOUL, ROK
Tel : +82.2.2297.8522

Seoul Village 2008

see other restaurants in Seoul and Korea.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Claiming Dokdo as Takeshima equals claiming Seoul as Gyeongseong

According to the Chosun Ilbo, from 2012, "all social studies textbooks for middle school students will have to describe the Dokdo Islets, or Takeshima in Japanese, as Japanese territory"*.

Again**, Dokdo Islets are Korean territories, and even the Japanese government told so in the late XIXth century. Dokdo has been under the Japanese flag only during the Occupation, and the "Takeshima" claims are purely driven by the neofascist revival in the archipelago.


The vast majority of Japanese people are not claiming Dokdo / Takeshima. The core of the debate is not between Korea and Japan but between today's Japan and yesterday's Japan. And the key question is : which Japan will rule in the future ?

Actually, saving Dokdo is about saving Japan.

Epidermic reactions in Korea are exactly what these warmongers want : it ridicules all their other claims of restoration of the truth regarding the darkest face of the Showa rule (ie comfort women). And the contrast with the silent and indifferent Japanese people is striking. Actually, it is more ignorance than indifference : German kids know much more about Nazism than Japanese adults about the atrocities caused by the facist regime that ruled the region during the first half of last century.

It's up to the Japanese people to decide : allow those warmongers to set the diplomatic agenda and rewrite textbooks for the next generations, or continue on their peaceful path. But to ensure the latter choice, they must at last face the sometimes troubled history of their beautiful country.

Here are the actual historical facts :

1) Indeed, Dokdo happened to be Japanese in the past, but only during the occupation. Japan first claimed Dokdo a few months ahead of the 1905 invasion, via the Shimane Prefecture (so that the anschluss would be considered a international aggression). So if Japan claims Dokdo, it must also claim the whole Korean peninsula. When you consider both the Korean propaganda regarding Dokdo and the Japanese propaganda regarding Takeshima, the former has an historic perspective over 2 millenia and a great part of the proofs are actually Japanese documents, while the latter focuses on the XXth century, avoiding the crucial issue of the Japanese Occupation of Korea.

2) Japanese ultranationalists are basically racist : they consider themselves the superior race, the one that preceded all others, and doesn't owe anything to anyone. They deny any influence of China or Korea in the development of the Archipelago, and d
uring the Occupation of Korea, they were particularily violent and eager to annihilate the Korean culture and identity***. Forcing name changes was a key element in a cultural genocide planned from the start. Japan renamed Dokdo "Takeshima" in 1905, and like all the names changed during the occupation period ended with WWII, Korea restored the original name after the independance****.

3) What's in a name ? Significantly enough, Dokdo means "remote island" in Korean, which reflects the difficulty for this country to defend this couple of rocks far away from its mainland. Significantly enough, Takeshima means "bamboo island" in Japanese, which seems absurd considering the fact that not much can grow on these rocky islets but piles of guano. On the other hand, the name makes perfect sense if you know how bamboo reproduces : by its very name, "Takeshima", perfectly symbolizes the first implantation of imperial Japan on Korean soil during the 1905 wave (Dokdo was the first piece of land conquerred, the first outgrowth of the glorious Showa era in Korea). So when Tokyo's hardliner revisionists claim Dokdo as Takeshima nowadays, it is exactly the same as if they claimed Seoul as Gyeongseong-bu (its degraded name under the Occupation).

4) Japan's claims leverage on the fact that Dokdo was not mentioned in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, but Dokdo was mentioned as Korean in the initial versions. The US switched to a Japanese "Takeshima" in december 1949 drafts before avoiding any mention in the final version. The ephemeral attribution to Japan was due to lobbying, but also to the fear that Korea could fall in communist hands. But then the US realized they would be exposed to condemnations by international tribunals. Thus the final pat. Anyway, this Treaty didn't solve anything : neither China nor Korea were present, and no Japanese war crime was mentioned.

5) Actually, this is the core of the problem : unlike Germany, Japan never faced its own history. The reason ? The US and Japan sealed an unwritten pact after Hiroshima and Nagasaki : Japanese war criminals were never charged, the Emperor remained at the top, and Japan never accused the US for the use of nuclear weapons against civilians. And oh, Japan was forced to embrace democracy and peace.


6) Now that the last WWII survivors are disappearing, neofascist movements in Japan try to seize the opportunity and change the diplomatic agenda. Dokdo is only part of a vast revisionist scheme, where education is of course the key to the next generations.

Japan faces a crossroads : either it follows these warmongers and lets them rewrite history books, or it decides to stay
on the path of peace and to let its people know what really happened during its darkest period.

It is time for the Japanese people to realize that such revisionism is meant to fuel nationalism across the region and force the return of warmongers at the helm of countries that either evolved towards democracy (Japan, Korea...) or may one day take that path (China is definitely contributing to this unfortunate trend, claiming the Koguryo culture*****).

It is time for the Japanese moderates aware of the dangers to wake up and expose these impostures.

It is time for the Japanese people to make revisionism illegal and, in order to succeed in this much needed task, to elect lawmakers that truly work for the good of their own country.

It's high time for Japan to cope with its past and, just like Germany, to teach its children an accurate and fair vision of history.

Seoul Village 2008

* "
Japanese Textbooks to Repeat Dokdo Claim" (20080519)
** see "
Red blogule to Japan's neofascists - forget Takeshima and Mandchukuo" and "Blogule rouge aux Jeunesses Japonaises - idees et chemises noires" (20060502), "Blogule blanc a Ban Ki-moon - drapeau blanc sur Dokdo" (20060420) "Red blogule to Japan - No UN Council seat for an Unrepentant Nation" and "Blogule rouge au Japon - Pas de siège au conseil de sécurité de l'ONU pour les révisionnistes" (20050410)
*** Nowadays, they use more subtle means and mostly focus on revisionism, trying to either destroy proofs or to forge new ones (ie fake archeological discoveries of ancient Japanese civilizations). Their recent remobilization has been fueled by the recent love affair between the two people : Japanese culture is popular in Korea (which stopped censoring cultural goods as a retaliation for the wartime atrocities), and many Japanese people started learning Korean to follow the dramas in their original versions (I wish they fell for better embassadors of Korean culture than Bae Young-june). Worse : the Emperor declared his friendship towards Korea and confirmed that part of his blood is Korean !
**** note that the "Sea of Japan" was never formally renamed "East Sea" (... not to mention "Sea of Korea"). That change (officialized in Monaco in 1929) was very important for ultranationalists : if the body of water on your Western shores is labeled "East Sea", how can your country claim it as its own ?
***** see "Red Blogule to China's revisionism - No to the Chinese cultural Anschluss" (20040901)

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ADDENDUM 20091116

Japan decided to tell the truth by releasing the proof that Dokdo doesn't belong to them (see "According to Japanese law, Dokdo is not Japanese"). Change is at last coming to this great country (see "A Common History").



Thursday, May 8, 2008

7 zones

LEE Myung-bak's government is facing big hurdles these days but at least something seems relevant : grouping provinces and big cities around 7 economic zones, and accelerating bullet train projects at the national level. I hope this won't alter the "cluster" approach but boost each region.

The 5 major zones will be :

- Central metro : Seoul + Incheon + Gyeonggi-do - major : finance & hi tech
- South East : Busan + Ulsan + Gyeongsangnam-do - major : heavy industries
- Daegu / Gyeongbuk : Daegu + Gyeongsangbuk-do - major : electronics, textile, energy
- Chungcheong : Daejeon + Chungcheongnam-do + Chungcheongbuk-do - major : science, R&D, education
- Gwangju / Jeolla : Gwangju + Jeollabuk-do + Jeollanam-do - major : tourism

Two provinces remain on their own :

- North East : Gangwon-do - major : tourism and medical
- Jeju : Jeju-do - major : tourism

Not a dramatic change for Jeju but some hope for Gangwon, now a segment of one potentially more advertized overseas. Splitting Gyeongsang is an even smarter move. Jeolla remains untouched and focused on tourism, but a "Sun Belt" Economic Zone is also planned from Mokpo to Busan along the South Coast in order to rival Seoul and accelerate the demographic and economic development of Mokpo area. Top chaebols will be invited to open vice-national HQs in the new zone. Preferably not in the Busan area, already a major hub by itself.

If new administrative levels could limit the intranational competition between self proclaimed Asian hubs, they are not necessarily good news - poorly handled they would even destroy value everywhere. I also suspect some potential cannibalization / coopetition with Korea's existing cluster strategy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Goodbye HiSeoul, hello Haechi


I'm glad Seoul officials decided to dump the "HiSeoul" slogan*.

Born in October 2002, HiSeoul was underlined with the "Soul of Asia" motto four years later.
According to the Chosun Ilbo, the official slogan will be either that one or the less delicate "Soul Seoul".

Bonus : the city will be knicknamed "City of Haechi" as a tribute to the fabled lion which gave its brand and logo to Haitai, the famous confectionery company.


On Haitai's logo, the lion looks OK, but the original model has a funny look and a stupid smile. I understand the cultural / nationalist motivation and I do like this character, but many may wonder why the World's center for knowledge society wants to be represented by a strange animal apparently plagued with the IQ of a fencepost.


The daily newspaper presented Haechi (해치)'s new official portrait : a bubble caricature, probably the fruit of a bad LSD trip by a sci-fi cartoon artist. The two statues planned for Gwanghwamun Plaza will probably look more like the ones which laid there a couple of decades ago.


Still, I'm dubious. They just took away the old "bank trees"** in the middle of Sejongno, and I know the new plaza will have no tree - fountains do look nice in the summer but they won't protect you from the blazing sun when you cross this large stretch and they won't be working during the long winters.




* Strangely enough, the death warrant was issued right before the HiSeoul festival - http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200805/200805020021.html
** 은행나무 - I prefer the korean name to the Japanese artifact (gingko biloba)

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addendum 20080608 : following Hwa Young J's comment, I added the new Haechi logo.
PS : pronounce "Haechi" like you sneeze. Strange way of blessing a city.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Festival season(s)

Busy week in the 'hood : Jogyesa's Lotus Lantern Festival telescopes with Seoul City's Hi Seoul Festival (now a 4 times a year event). Not to mention a candlestick march of 10,000 opponents to US Beef imports near Cheonggyecheon on Friday night.

Even if rain is expected tonight for the lantern parade, both operations seem big successes. Last night at the Gyeonghuigung, thousands gathered to attend an outdoor concert. An opportunity for many kids and families to hear a La Boheme aria, to see conductor CHUNG Myung-whun arrive like a rock star, or to welcome the next president (OH Se-hoon a little ahead of CHUNG Mong-joon at the event - and probably in the polls as well).

Definitely more glamourous than the concert at Sajik park the other night (one of these corny singers exposing their wigs and fake teeth on Tuesday evenings at the TV).

Lotus Lantern Festival :
llf.or.kr
Hi Seoul Festival :
hiseoulfest.org

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