Tags: gyeonggi-do (경기도)

[ psych » pineapple ]

Election Day (투표일)

Yesterday was election day in Korea, which saw schools close and some employees granted the day off in order to vote in their local civil elections. I had a few students at our academy ask if I would be voting in the Uijeongbu elections though our discussion on the topic didn't get very far when they heard that I wasn't able to vote in Korea. However, I was pleased to see that someone in each of those classes was quick to point out, "Oh, right! You can vote in America but not in Korea. And if we move to America it will be the same for us."

For several weeks leading up to the election it's been possible to see groups out in support of their particular candidate, as you can see from the photo above. Each of the candidates is given a number and also has a particular color associated with their campaign. Blue, red, and white were the three colors I saw most often in Uijeongbu-3-dong, though it was also possible to see white, green, orange, and yellow in signs posted within other areas of the city. (To add to that a little, blue is associated with Korea's conservative party while green is tied to the country's progressive party.)

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[ rice fields ]

Cultural Heritage Administration and Vultures

Andean Condor from the Seoul National Zoo

One of the stories that I missed during my month-long absence from blogging is the potential development of having a new Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) site in the northern province of Gyeonggi-do. As a brief introduction, the Cultural Heritage Administration is responsible for the identification and preservation of eight types of culturally-important aspects to Korean culture.

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Probably the most recognizable category from the list is National Treasures, which includes names such as Namdaemun, Bangasayusang (a gilt-bronze meditating Maitreya Buddha at the Seoul National Museum), and the Tripitaka Koreana (a collection of 13th century wood blocks containing the Buddhist sutras). However, as you've probably gathered based on the title and image used at the top of this entry, one of the upcoming additions to the CHA register may end up being a Natural Monument.

On 4 April the JoongAng Daily published a story in their 'politics' section titled 'Migratory vultures find haven in disputed habitat'. The article offers a brief description of the situation outside Paju, located just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where vultures regularly congregate during the winter. Increasing development and tourism are interfering with the vulture's habitat and creating a conflict between those who want to create a protected zone for the birds and those in favor of continuing the region's growth. The connection to the CHA appears in the final paragraph, which concludes the article with:

“Since we think it is necessary to protect vultures, Paju, Gyeonggi and the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea jointly collected 700 million won ($612,500) at the end of last year and built a facility in Paju to take care of sick or injured vultures. It is in operation,” said Baek Chan-ho, an official at the Paju government.

Obviously a monetary donation isn't quite the same as designating the vulture's winter grounds as a protected area, but it may lead to other changes in the future. As an example, a part of Gyeonggi-do's Yeoncheon County was designated as Natural Monument 412 in 1999 due to its significance as a habitat for water spiders. (Here are some photos of the world's lone species of water spider, the diving bell spider Argyroneta aquatica, and its habitat.)

Since the JoongAng Daily deletes articles after they've been online for a while I've cut-and-paste it into an entry here for posterity.

[ strasbourg ]

Pocheon | FA Cup Round 2

The weather here has seen quite a bit variation recently. It snowed twice last week (though technically it was more like sleet), Saturday saw a bunch of yellow dust (황사; hwangsa) find its way over from China, Sunday included perfect blue skies, and today was warm enough where I went around in short sleeves -- much to the envy of my students. I made my way up to Pocheon over the weekend to catch the second round of Korea's FA Cup, and of course it was the day we had all the yellow dust.

Yellow dust as seen from Pocheon Stadium

Pocheon is located about an hour north of Uijeongbu by bus and I made the trip there on my own. My new friend from the Jeonbuk match two weeks ago was interested in joining me before she heard that it would involve a four hour trip for her to make it to Pocheon's stadium and back home. What made the match a little more appealing is that it saw last seaon's K3 champions Pocheon Citizen (포천시민축구단) face a side from Dongguk University (동국대학교) that finished second in the U-League. While the game ended with 4 goals it was Dongguk that came away with a 1:3 victory.

One interesting observation about the experience was that I didn't spot a single taxi out on the streets of Pocheon in the time that I spent near the city (err, town) center, but came across four of them in the parking lot of the stadium. Guess all the taxi drivers in town are soccer fans? For those interested, here's a write-up I posted to a Korean soccer forum followed by some pictures:

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[ eternal tao ]

Paldalmun and a Tale of Two Taeguks

I mentioned the Hwaseong Culture Festival at the start of last month but didn't write anything about the subject after that. I did make it to the second day of the festival, though a mix-up on the bus meant that I ended up at a mountain outside of town rather than attending the event that I had most wanted to see.

On my return to the subway station at the end of the evening I was able to take a decent photo of Paldalmun (팔달문), the southern gate to the old city walls of Suwon. According to Wikimapia the name means "open roads in every direction" and was wide enough to allow the king's procession to enter the city accompanied by horses and sedans. It took a fair bit of waiting to get a shot without cars in the foreground, but this is what I ended up with:

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[ hong lou meng ]

Hwaeseong Culture Festival / Suwon Citizen's Festival

Suwon Citizens festival Civil Service Exam Suwon South Korea from Derekwin

This weekend will see Suwon host the "Suwon Citizen's Festival", which doesn't sound all that exciting based on just the name. However, after exchanging messages with Derekwin and checking the festival website it turns out there will actually be a variety of events going on -- including several of historical significance. The one that initially caught my attention is a reenactment of the Civil Service Exam from the period of King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty (r. 1776-1800). The event is divided into three parts and begins at 10:30 in the morning at Hwaseong Haenggung, Bongsudang. For those interested in traditional calligraphy there will be a contest dedicated to the subject later in the day that may also be worth seeing.

Another event that I'm interested in involves Jeongjo's mother, who wrote The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong (한중록, 閑中錄) detailing her life as the crown princess and the murder of her husband by his father, King Yeongjo. Her son, King Jeongjo, moved the royal capital to Suwon and built Hwaseong Fortress - a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site - as acts of filial piety toward his deceased father. Having read The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong before coming to Korea I'm looking forward to a couple of the events centered around the former crown princess. In particular, the 60th Birth Anniversary Banquet and the State Wedding Ceremony between Lady Hong of Hyegyeonggung and Crown Prince Jangheon.

One aspect of the festival has already started, namely the 24 Martial Arts Performance that will continue through Monday. On Sunday it will be augmented by the Jang Yong Yeong Nighttime Military Drill that starts at 18:00 near Changryongmun Gate. Derekwin has some great photos from previous editions of the military drill that include skirmishes and some nice displays of horsemanship. I'd like to include more of his photos in this entry but only asked for permission to use the one. However, you can check out some of his photographs from the Hwaeseong Culture Festival / Suwon Citizen's Festival via Flickr here, here, and here. I've linked to the festival website above, but for easy reference this page contains directions on how to reach the various festival grounds.

Image from the official site's page on the Anniversary Banquet for Crown Princess Hong of Hyegyeonggung.
[ hong lou meng ]

Seooreung Part II: Sunchangwon (순창원) part 2

Continued from Part One ...

I posted my last entry about Sunchangwon a little prematurely, as I wanted to check with a coworker concerning a term I came across in a Korean article related to the tomb of Crown Princess Gong Hoebin.

The term that caught my attention is '일제', which has a couple of meanings based on differing Chinese characters (hanja). One of these translations is "Japanese imperialism" from the hanja '日帝', which is a portmanteau of the words 'Japan' (日本) and 'imperialism' (帝政) -- which didn't fit the story presented in the article. However, an additional meaning comes from the hanja '一齊' and means 'all at once' or 'simultaneously', which makes a lot more sense given the context.

Getting back to my story, while looking up information on the site at Sunchangwon I came across this online article, which mentions an attempted grave robbery at her tomb back in 2006. If I have the facts straight - never a sure thing when I'm the one translating - an administrative team working at Seooreung tombs found evidence of the thief's work on the morning of January 18th, with a research team from the National Cultural Properties Research Institute confirming that the excavation was of a high quality -- suggesting the work of a professional grave robber.

Scene of the crime. Image from 씨오이오 넷

The grave robber managed to dig 2.7m underground before abandoning the site, as shown in the photo above. The reddish-brown clay (적갈색 흙) at Sunchangwon is packed tightly enough that the thief didn't have enough time to break into the burial space before the threat of being caught was too great. I've done a very brief bit of reading about the burial tombs of the Gogoryeo and Silla Dynasties and the archaeological discoveries found within, but haven't heard anything about what might lay inside the tombs of Joseon rulers.

Of course, this should hardly be surprising given that the dynasty stretches back 500 years and only ended in 1910 with the Japanese invasion of the Korean peninsula. The old(est) generation was still alive for the rule of King Gojong, and I can understand if they'd feel uncomfortable breaking open the graves of his relatives. Joseon kings may not have ruled through a divine mandate from heaven like the absolute monarchs of western Europe, but there was obviously a division of power that created a social hierarchy within society. Keep in mind that we're also talking about a culture with multiple special days dedicated to performing ancestral rites for the deceased members of one's family and you can see how digging up a Joseon king's ancestors wouldn't necessarily be a priority.

Increased patrols were introduced following the attempted grave robbery in 2006 but I don't know if those are still in effect now. With the Joseon royal tombs named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites they may be seen as more tempting targets for privateers, or the assumption of heightened security might be enough to keep international grave robbers at bay. Here's to hoping local criminals are dissuaded from making any more attempts as well.

[ hong lou meng ]

Seooreung Part II: Sunchangwon (순창원) part 1

While it wasn't next on my itinerary, the tomb at Sunchangwon will be the next one I mention on account of the fact that I only have two decent photos from my time there. Within the Korean nomenclature for royal tombs, a 릉 (reung or neung in English depending on the preceding letter) is reserved for kings and queens, while 원 (won) is used in the names of tombs for the king's birth mother (if not a queen), princes, princesses, and the crown prince's wife. The third category of tomb, 묘 (myo), refers to graves of civil servants, nobles, and pretty much everyone else in society. Of note, King Yeonsangun was (posthumously) dethroned and is thus buried in a myo.

Sunchangwon is the tomb of Crown Prince Sunhoe (順懷世子, 1551-1563) and his wife, Crown Princess Gong Hoebin (恭懷嬪, ?-1592) of the Yun family. Sunhoe is the son of King Myeongjong (明宗; r. 1545–1567) and his consort Queen Insun of the Shim clan (인순왕후 심씨, 1523-1575). Sunhoe was named crown prince at the age of seven and a marriage was arranged with the daughter of Hwang Daeim before the bride's poor health led to the wedding's postponement for more than a year and eventual abandonment. In 1559 the Crown Prince was married to Gong Hoebin -- who, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration page for the tomb, was the daughter of Yun Ok. Sunhoe died in 1563 at the age of 13, but I haven't seen any explanation regarding the cause of death.

The throne eventually passed to Prince Hassong, who would rule under the name King Seonjo (宣祖; r. 1567-1608). While King Myeongjong is listed as the thirteenth ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, he assumed the throne at the age of 12 and most of his reign was actually carried out by his mother, Queen Munjeong of the Papyeong Yun clan. Myeongjong took control of the kingdom upon her death in 1565, but passed away just two years later.

Continued in Part Two ...

[ statuary ]

Seooreung Part I: Ingneung (익릉)

Spent part of last weekend visiting Seooneung (서오릉), a collection of five royal tombs from the Joseon Dynasty located in nearby Goyang City. The name translates comes out to "Five Western Tombs" in English, but between leaving home a little late and taking lots of pictures - plus a brief walkabout in the wooded undergrowth - I only saw four of the five tombs. Rather ironically, the one I didn't get to is also the one closest to the entrance. Of the 40 tombs registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites I have now seen eight, or 20%. Might just have to make the effort to see all of them ...

My first stop within Seooneung was Ingneung tomb (익릉; 翼陵) to the west -- which comes with an extra /n/ in its English name for those curious about the translation. Ingneung was built in 1681 and is the royal tomb to Queen Ingyeong (인경왕후; 1661-1680), the first wife of the Joseon Dynasty's nineteenth ruler, King Sukjong (肅宗; 1661–1720). I assume that the queen's name is what gave rise to the English spelling of the tomb's name, as Ikneung seems more appropriate based on the Korean spelling.

Ingyeong was the daughter of Kim Man-gi and Lady Han, making her a member of the 광산 김씨 (Gwangsan Kim clan in Gwangju based on what I can gather). She married Sukjong at the age of 10 and received the title Princess Consort to the Crown Prince (왕세자빈), becoming queen in 1674 when her husband took the throne. Both were 13 at the time. The union resulted in three daughters - Princesses Myeongsun, Myeonghye and Myeongan - but all three died during or immediately after their birth. Queen Ingyeong came down with smallpox in October 1680 and died eight days later in Gyeongbokgung at the age of 20.

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[ pile of books ]


Suwon, located just to the south of Seoul, is the capital of Gyeonggi-do and was the site of a large-scale demonstration yesterday. It seems the Provincial Office of Education is trying to enact legislation to limit how late middle school students can spend studying at school or after-school academies, called hagwons (학원) in Korea. The current proposal is to make 11pm the cut-off time for these students, which upset more than a few academy directors and led to the protest. The local hagwon association claims that 8,000 demonstrators showed up, while news and police reports suggest a figure closer to 5,000. Even that second figure is quite a few bodies for a weekday.

Our academy director was one of those in attendance, despite the fact that our final class ends at 8:30pm and he's been toying with the idea of limiting our classes to only elementary students. His reasoning for the possible change in policy is that the middle school students tend to be extremely moody and rarely respond in class, which makes life more stressful for the teachers. I've been trying to convince him that there should at least be a one or two month "trial" period for students who make the transition from sixth grade to middle school, as it would be a shame to kick out students still committed to their studies just because of their age.

With that in mind, why would our director decide to join a protest that doesn't affect our academy? One possible reason is that it will generate goodwill from those who are affected, so that they'll be more likely to lend support on issues that more directly relate to our policies. However, I heard from a co-teacher that our director's decision to go may have been for much less altruistic or cooperative reasons. She mentioned that it was also likely that our director went to avoid any conflict with the 'hagparazzi' (학파라치) -- the hagwon paparazzi. Had our director not shown up it's possible he would have gotten flak from local directors, as whistle-blowing against those who go against the consensus is apparently not uncommon.

After doing some digging online I came across a couple of Korean articles (here and here) that say the ruling will affect students at all levels -- classes for elementary school students will be required to end by 10pm, those for middle school students by 11pm, and those for high school students at midnight. The provincial government is considering the new law to diminish the disparity in education received by students from rich and poor families. The limitation for elementary school students may be an abstract concern for our academy, though I hope our schedule never extends that late.

While eating dinner with our academy director tonight we talked a bit about the protests and I heard a little about one of our rivals in town. Seems one of the directors for a newly-opened franchise in Uijeongbu - but one that's well-established in Seoul - is not only a cheapskate but also a sexist asshole as well. Each director from Uijeongbu was asked to contribute 50,000won (about $40 USD) to pay for banners and private buses to Suwon, with those at larger academies making bigger contributions. ECC, for example, voluntarily gave 1,000,000won ($800).

This particular director manages a large academy but skated by with just the minimum contribution, and then followed that up by trying to play grab-ass with the female academy directors during the after-protest dinner. That branch has only been open for four or five months but they've already had at least one teacher quit due to sexual harassment from this director. South Korea's libel laws prevent me from naming the academy in a public setting, but please contact me if you have a job offer in Uijeongbu and want to make sure it's not at this branch. I hope the creep doesn't treat his female students that way, too.