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Farewell to Seoul

ChogakpoSome of the highlights and not-so-highlights of my visit to Seoul. First the good.

  1. Soundday in Hongdae
  2. Gwacheon’s National Museum of Contemporary Arts
  3. The Leeum Gallery (post to come soon once I’ve done a bit of research. Now done. Post is here)
  4. Insadong. Yes, there’s some touristy tat for sale, but there’s also some really high quality stuff as well. Fabric designer Lee Geon Maan has two outlets, selling ties, scarves, handbags and purses to die for, numerous shops contain the patchwork silk chogakpo (above right), while you can also spend millions of Won on ceramics. Park Young Sook has a gallery to herself and also takes up most if not all of a gallery on the other side of the road. Both galleries proudly display a picture of the Queen admiring one of her teapots during a trip to Insadong a while ago. (Sorry I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a snap of these, but one of her teasets is below right).
  5. Oh, and I met the famous Marmot.

Park Young Sook teasetAnd now some of the things which take a bit of acclimatization and / or cultural interpretation.

  1. Saturday afternoon at the Kyobo bookstore.
    • Don’t go there unless you have an irrepressible sense of humour and enjoy contact sports. It’s what the first day of Harrods sale must be like1.
    • And the idiot salespeople in the CD section seem to think that if you’re foreign and looking for a band with a foreign-sounding name then you ought to be looking among the foreign bands, regardless of the fact that it’s a Korean band you’re looking for.
    • And it would take a master logician to work out the rationale behind the organisation of the CDs in the Korean pop/rock section. It’s not by genre, and it sure as hell ain’t alphabetical2
    • Their featured CD in the classical section was a DG release of a Mischa Maisky-led string trio playing an arrangement of the Goldberg Variations. It was playing over the PA system, there was a big poster advertising it — and of course no actual copies of the CD in sight anywhere.
  2. Korean non-web-savviness. I’ve ranted about this before, and assumed it was just London Koreans who aren’t very good with providing information on a website. But it’s Seoulites as well. First up, the Whanki museum. It’s hard to get to, so they lay on a special bus from Insadong. Except the bus timetable they provide on their site is out of date. Second up is the Soundday map.
  3. The Deoksu palace ticket office. I’ve heard Koreans being called the Italians of Asia; I’ve also heard them being called the Irish of Asia. When it comes to driving, Italy certainly comes to mind rather than Ireland, but the Deoksu palace ticket office sure is puzzling. There are four ticket windows at the main gate, all of them staffed. Two of them sell tickets for the palace, and the other two are clearly labelled as selling tickets for the art gallery in the palace grounds. I was just interested in the gallery, so strode up to the appropriate window with confidence. Sorry, you can’t buy tickets for the gallery here. You’ve got to buy a ticket for the palace. And then you buy your ticket for the gallery at the entrance to the gallery, not here. As their English wasn’t very good it would have been a waste of breath to ask them what, precisely, they were doing sitting in a booth selling tickets for the gallery if you couldn’t buy a ticket from them.

Thanks to Kim Nam-hee and especially Lee Jong-soo for showing me round, and to Dawn Chung for telling me about Soundday.

  1. Incidentally, can anyone tell me the correct etiquette when pushed from behind in a bookstore, or for that matter in the street, subway platform, or wherever? Is it (a) push back, hard? (b) apologise for being in the way? Or (c) don’t take it personally and go with the flow? I assume it’s (c), but would welcome comments from Koreans or experienced non-Korean Seoulites []
  2. Again, incidentally, what would be the convention, if arranging alphabetically, when some bands / singers have Hangul names and others have Western names. For example, would Cuzky get filed under “Hangul Ka”? []

3 thoughts on “Farewell to Seoul

  1. 1. C of course! When in Rome…
    2. I don’t know anything at all about music, but since Koreans tend to think in 한글 even when thinking of a word usually written in Roman letters, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all filed by “the” 한글 spelling.

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