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Fall 2010

Fall 2010

Seon Meditation: The Art of Harmonious Well-being
The G20 Comes to Seoul
Explore Korea
Anmyeondo: A Little Slice of Pleasure
Go For a Hike on the Baekdu-Daegan Trail

Italy in Winter
Book Review
No Place to Envy
Through the Lens
Hantaek Botanical Garden

Fall 2010

Editor’s Notes
3 Autumn in Korea
Editor, Suzanne Han, introduces the wonderful activities for all to enjoy during the
spectacular Korean Fall season.

5 Seon Meditation: The Art of Harmonious Well-Being
Misoo Jung shares the benefits of Seon Meditation. Feel better and have fun doing it
with this gentle form of meditation.

9 The G20 Comes to Seoul

Peggy Edersheim Kalb explains the Framework for Strong and Sustainable Growth,
an oft-repeated mantra for the G20.

Explore Korea
11 Anmyeondo: A Little Slice of Pleasure
Jimalee Sowell takes us on a journey to some terrific beaches and magnificent
forests as she explores this amazing area on the Yellow Sea.

14 Go For a Hike on the Baekdu-Daegan Trail

David A. Mason has travelled the remote spine of the Korean mountains. You don’t
have to be a serious hiker to visit small segments of this historic trail.

17 Italy in Winter
Lynette Hinings-Marshall visits Milan and the surrounding area during the winter sea-
son and explores its fabulous shopping and dining.

Book Review
21 No Place to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Jimalee Sowell reviews Barbara Demick’s award winning book about North Ko-
rea and the difficult conditions experienced by ordinary residents in the city of

Through the Lens

23 Hantaek Botanical Garden
Sally Bilski visits Hantaek Botanical Garden, a wonderful day trip from Seoul
spent in the amazing and diverse collection of plants from all over the world.

Fall 2010

Editor’s Notes
Autumn - A great time to explore Korea

The air is getting cooler, the leaves are changing,

the rice fields are becoming golden, the sky is blue…
Autumn is a great time to get out and explore Korea. I
hope that Jimalee Sowell’s article about Anmyeondo,
an island on Korea’s west coast, and David Mason’s
article about the Baekdu-daegan, a 1,400-kilometer
mountain-system that forms the backbone of the Ko-
rean Peninsula, will inspire you to get out and see
more of this beautiful country. In our Through the
Lens, Sally Bilski shares with us some photographs
she took on a recent visit to the Hantaek Botanical
Garden, which is a great place to visit for fall foliage.
As autumn is traditionally a time for reading in Ko-
rea, we have a review of a book about North Korea.
You can also learn about an ancient meditation cul-
ture that can lead to peace of mind and good health.
And if you’re itching to get away to some other part
of the world, check out our Travel Section.
I would like to thank all our contributors, and as-
sistant editor Sally Bilski and the other members of
the arirang team.
Comments, suggestions, and contributions are
always welcome. Please feel free to contact me at
Happy reading!
North and South Korea combine to
form the shape of a tiger.
Suzanne Crowder-Han

Fall 2010

Suzanne Crowder-Han

Sally Bilski

arirang is published by the

American Women’s Club of Korea by

All rights to any material in arirang are

held by the writer except the right to reprint.
That is held by the magazine and may be
The photo on the cover was taken by requested by writing to:
David A. Mason.
Suzanne Crowder-Han, Arirang Editor,
Chongmaek Prince Ville #201,
Each nation has its popular folk songs. They are Shindang 2-dong 432-1695,
the most basic expression of a people, a pulse of Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea 100-835.
sorts of the country's joy and sorrow. In Korea, the
best-known folk song is "Arirang," which tells of two arirang is dedicated to:
lovers parting at Arirang Pass. In addition to its wide introducing Korea to expatriate women;
popularity, the lyrics have been woven into the tap- promoting cultural exchanges;
estry of Korea's national history as a symbol of Ko- and keeping a historical record of the
rean culture. foreigner’s perspective of living in Korea.
The origin of the song is unknown, though there
are a multitude of theories. In fact, there is no one AMERICAN WOMEN’S CLUB
universal "Arirang," but many renditions with vary- Member of Federation of American Women’s Clubs
ing melodies, each with different rhythm and lyrics Overseas (FAWCO)
indigenous to a province or region of Korea.
One explanation of the lyrics is that they tell the
story of Arang, the beautiful daughter of a govern-
ment official living in Milyang, who died at the hands
of the lover she had rejected. This version is also
told in reverse, being the maiden's lament at being
abandoned by her insensitive sweetheart. Another
explanation is that the words refer to a farmer's di-
lemma in meeting the deadline for paying taxes. The
refrain "A-ri-rang, a-ra-ri-o" is a meaningless melis-
ma of the fa-la-la type. It is said to have originated
when the Taewon-gun, or Prince Regent, the father
of King Kojong (r. 1863-1907), was rebuilding Kyo-
ngbok Palace, court officers sent out to solicit funds
for the building project were cynically received with
the phrase a-i-rong, "my ears are deaf."
Transformed by time and mood, the song has
meant many things to many people Under foreign
occupation and domination, it was sung surrepti-
tiously as a balm and as a promise and in later times
as a rallying song. Because the song captures the
essence of the Korean people's sentiment about their
nation and is identified with the art of storytelling The beauty of South Korea is reflected in
about Korea, its name seems an appropriate title for the many temples found in remote moun-
a magazine dedicated to helping readers learn about tain areas.
Korea and enjoy their time in the country.

Fall 2010

The Art of Harmonious Well-Being
By Jung Misoo

Do you spend all day and sometimes all night too ing yourself (humankind) and to preserve nature by
in a whirlwind of thoughts? What should I fix for din- knowing and loving it.
ner, what tasks do I need to do today, what am I go- Seon culture aims to pursue a community, by way
ing to say in my upcoming meeting? Do you neglect of meditation and well-being living, where human
time for yourself? beings, nature, and the universe coexist harmoni-
Let’s put our thinking and busy minds to rest and ously. It originated from ancient East Asia, and it
try this ancient exercise and breathing meditation was already a life tradition of the people and a state
program which will get your body and mind back into ideology during the period of Gochosun over 5,000
shape. You will then learn how to cultivate your mind years ago. Seon culture was formed during the Go-
and body so you will obtain the power to live the life chosun period and has been with the Korean people
you want to live. from that time to the present.

History of Seon Meditation What is Seon meditation?

Seon Do is Korea's several thou- Seon meditation is mainly de-
sand-year-old meditation culture. signed for balancing your body
Before Buddhism and Confucian- and mind through five elements
ism in Korea, there was Seon. Seon exercises and Danjeon
Despite its long history, it has not breathing.
been popularly known to the out-
side world. The Korean word "Seon" Five elements exercises
is a combination of two words--
man and mountain. The mountain In Asian culture, the five ele-
symbolizes nature as well as the ments (Tree, Fire, Soil, Metal,
universe. Do (pronounced Doh) and Water) describe interactions
means the road, the way, the path. and relationships between phe-
Seon’s goal is, in short, to attain nomena and represent all things
peace by fully knowing and lov- in the world, e.g., the seasons,

Fall 2010
people, sounds, and movement. Five elements Seon of the body. Slow movements are helpful to strength-
exercise is an exercise program that relaxes muscles ening and smoothing the flow of internal energy.
and joints through motions such as shaking, tap- But exercise itself is not enough. The body is an
ping, rubbing, extending or pulling. This exercise energy system. It's composed of 20% matter and
also stimulates acupoints in the body and makes the 80% mind. We need to find fundamental mental
circulation of blood and energy flow smoothly. While comfort to balance the body.
Western styles of physical exercise have developed So the effects of Seon exercise doubles when you
by focusing on the movements of muscles and joints, perform these exercises with Danjeon breathing.
five elements energy exercises have developed with When you practice Danjeon breathing, vital energy
an emphasis on how to establish control and accu- is accumulated in the body. The accumulated energy
mulate invisible vital energy. makes each movement powerful, and thus slow dy-
The principles of five elements exercises are based namic exercises will bring much more desirable re-
on the understanding of the human body in the field sults when properly combined with Danjeon breath-
of traditional oriental medicine. In traditional orien- ing.
tal medicine, there are 12 meridian channels in the
body. Human organs and body parts interact with What is Danjeon Breathing?
one another through these channels.
For example, the stomach is connected to the There are three kinds of breathing: chest breath-
thighs and knees through the meridian channel. So ing which concentrates on the chest area, abdomi-
to improve the functions of the stomach one should nal breathing which extends our lungs, and Danjeon
do energy exercises which strengthen the thighs breathing which focuses on the area three inches
and knees. The heart is linked to the forearms and below the belly button. Newborn babies breathe
elbows through the energy channels, thus exercis- through their Danjeon.
es that make the forearms and elbows strong will East Asian culture believes that the Danjeon is
strengthen the heart. And the effects are immediate! shaped like a pottery vase and that its function is
However these movements are not aimed at mus- to gather vital energy while you meditate. Breath-
cular strength but at vital energy. That is why these ing from the Danjeon pulls in 5-6 times more oxy-
exercises are composed of slow movements of parts

Jung Misoo, Director

Fall 2010
gen and regenerates aging cells. It helps you to have You will experience complete rest and peace within
natural healing power. Danjeon breathing can also you. You will feel joy in everyday living.
change one’s brain waves.
Seon meditation is the art of harmonious well-be-
Benefits of Seon Meditation ing. Breathe deeply and make every day a creative
journey, not a guided tour.
Meditation not only controls our emotions but
changes our brain waves. Various medical studies in
America have shown that 10 minutes of meditation
can produce alpha waves in the brain. Why are alpha
waves important? Alpha waves produce the natural
healing ability of the body, provide relaxation, and Jung Misoo worked as a plant project manager in the
enhance innate creativity. Meditation taps into these
Middle East for 8 years. Five years ago she returned to Seoul
alpha waves which is why it’s so important. One can
relax, sleep, feel less tension and emotional stress
and changed her life direction to meditation. She is Director
when these waves are sustained by Danjeon breath- of the Suseonjae Health and Meditation Center, Foreigner’s
ing throughout the day. branch, and also an instructor at the Center. Suseonjae pro-
Through Seon meditation, you will find your body’s vides meditation and breathing programs designed to pro-
and mind’s natural balance. This is the starting point mote health, well-being, internal strength and will-power
to control yourself and realize your own creativity. and eventually lead to that special self within you.

Members in a meditation pose.

Fall 2010
Examples of a few of the five elements exercises: (for additional exercises and additional
information go to:

Bouncing on Heels (Minister Fire/ Shoulder Ups (Fire/Heart) Toe smacking (Soil, Minister fire/
Nerve, Immune system) Stomach, nervous system)

Place both legs shoulder-width apart With legs shoulder-width apart, lift the In a seated position, stretch your legs
and lift your heels up and down shoulders up and down. forward as far as possible and smack
without touching the floor; at the them together.
same time breathe down your body Good for stiff shoulders.
and out your feet. Good for sleep disorders.

Releases toxics and makes the body


Create a calm and peaceful environment before you begin.

Fall 2010


By Peggy Edersheim Kalb

In mid-November the 20 leaders of the most eco- footing. The Framework for Strong and Sustainable
nomically powerful countries in the world will meet Growth, agreed to at the Pittsburgh Summit, has be-
in Seoul at the fifth Group of 20 (G20) Leaders Sum- come an oft-repeated mantra for the G20. Reform of
mit. In the days during, before and after, the city the financial regulatory and supervisory systems—to
will play host to their finance ministers and central spot another crisis before it becomes a crisis, and
bank governors, heads of some of the world’s most reform of international financial institutions—will
influential international organizations, including the also be on the agenda; both are moving along ac-
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as cording to timelines agreed to at earlier summits.
well as countless members of the diplomatic delega- The recent debt crisis in Greece and subsequent fall-
tions and thousands of journalists. out for the other euro zone countries, has lead to a
Although the leaders of the Group of 20 countries greater emphasis on fiscal sustainability as well, with
have been meeting regularly since 2008, it was only the G20 now calling for “growth friendly policies in
last year that they decided to hold annual meetings a framework of fiscal sustainability.” At the Toronto
going forward, cementing the role of the G20 Sum- Summit in June, governments agreed to significantly
mit as an informal steering committee for the world
economy. And the November Seoul Summit marks
the first G20 Leaders Summit in a country that isn’t
traditionally considered a member of the advanced
countries (the G8: United States, United Kingdom,
Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Russia).
For Korea in general and Seoul in particular, this
is an unparalleled opportunity to show how far the
city and the country have come as a country that
only recently evolved from being an aid recipient to
an aid donor. Now, as Chair of the Summit for 2010,
the Korean government has been producing issue
papers, drafting communiqués and helping to coor-
dinate agreements through all the meetings leading
up to the Summit itself. At the top of the agenda
for the Seoul Summit: ensuring that the less-than-
robust global economic recovery gets on a firmer Delegates from 2009 G20

Fall 2010

decrease debt by 2013. Korea has added two initia- weeks, the G20 presidential committee will launch
tives to the G20 agenda, both reflecting its unique its English language website, offering insight and up-
position as a bridge between the so-called developed dates on G20 activities, as well as a guide for tourists
countries and the emerging countries. Having just in town for the occasion.
recently joined the OECD (Organization for Econom-
ic Cooperation and Development), Koreans bring a
different perspective to developing infrastructure
and markets. By introducing the concept of a global
safety net, Korea is hoping to minimize the spillover
effect when large financial institutions overseas run
into trouble. For example, a large bank in a devel-
oped country goes under; panicked investors pull liq-
uid assets from a perceived riskier investment, often
in emerging markets, leading to a liquidity crisis in
relatively small countries far from the original prob-
Ideally, Korea would also like to see the G20 de-
vote more resources to building a lasting economic
infrastructure in developing countries, replacing the
traditional aid-based paradigm. The poorer countries
would be better able to sustain their own growth,
and the potential growth of developing economies
could boost global growth.
Finally, a hundred or so CEOs will be in town just
before the Seoul Summit, to attend a Korea led Busi-
ness Summit. President Lee Myeung-bak has made Students prepare to welcome G20
it clear that a strong recovery will have to be led by Summit delegates.
the private sector; the Business Summit has been
designed to figure out ways to shift from a govern- Peggy Edersheim Kalb is a writer based in Seoul. She is
ment led recovery to a private sector led recovery. currently Chief Editor for the Presidential Committee for the
If you have family or friends who want to come to G20 and has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York
town in November, you might want to suggest they Magazine and Smart Money, among other publications. She
come before or after. Hotels are likely to be fully is also the former producer of CNN’s Moneyline and Busi-
booked and traffic—during the two days of the ac-
ness Morning and co-authored a book on international in-
tual Summit—could be tough. It will be a good time
to get to know the subway system. In the coming
vesting with her husband, Scott Kalb.
Fall 2010

A Little Slice of Pleasure
By Jimalee Sowell

Anmyeondo is a mid-size island (according to sta-

tistics, it is Korea’s sixth largest) in Taean-gun Coun-
ty in Chungcheongnam-do Province on Korea’s west
coast. If you look at a map of Korea, it’s at about
the midpoint of the country. It was once a peninsula
attached to the mainland, but it was cut off to make
a canal during the late Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910)
and was bridged in 1970. But what you really need to
know about Anmyeondo is why you should go there.
Go to Anmyeondo for the fresh air, the picturesque
green rolling hills and fields dotted with orange and
blue rooftops. Go to Anmyeondo to walk among the
pine trees. Go to Anmyeondo to see some of Ko-
rea’s famous sunset beaches. Go to Anmyeondo to
see lots of green. Go to Anmyeondo to do some fly-
ing. Go to Anmyeondo to enjoy sensual spa treat-
ments. But mostly go to Anmyeondo to get away for
a while. Anmyeondo is a resort area, and making you
feel that you are away from it all—even for a short
while—is what it does best.

Where to go/What to do there

Visit famous sunset places/west coast beaches.
There are many swimming beaches on the west coast
of Anmyeondo. Hae-soo-yoke-jang means swimming
beach and will likely be indicated on maps with para-
sols. These beaches are also known for beautiful sun-
sets: KKotchi Beach, possibly ranking as the most
well-known, with Bangpo Beach and Sambong Beach Anmyeondo Recreational Forest
being close runners-up. Keep in mind, though, that
Fall 2010
while these beaches are called swimming beaches, also rent a log cabin in the forest for a very reason-
they may not be what you would expect in a swim- able price, and large groups are accommodated. Call
ming beach. Rather than seeing lots of bikini-clad 041-674-5019 (only in Korean) far in advance for
sunbathers, you’re more likely to see Koreans with reservations or make a reservation online at http://
their trowels and buckets digging up shellfish and (only in Korean).
crabs when the tide is low. KKotchi Beach is known Go fly a plane. Really! For those of you who have
for two rock formations lovingly called Grandmother always had that fantasy about being in the cockpit—
Rock and Grandfather Rock that jut out from the sea here’s your chance. I’m not kidding, yes, without a
and are completely exposed during low tide. A quick pilot’s license, you can enjoy the thrill of flight. Aero
Internet search on Anmyeondo will let you know this Tour operates a flight school on Anmyeondo, and this
is the beach to visit and photograph. is where you can learn to man the controls of a light
sports plane. For information about how to make a
Walk through a recreational forest. The Anmyeondo reservation with Aero Tour and other details, go to
Recreational Forest, pronounced Ja-yeon Hyoo-yang- (in Eng-
rim, on Anmyeondo is a must-see place. It is known lish).
for its rare red pine trees called Anmyeonsong that Take a cruise. If you’re up for a cruise, you can
have reportedly been growing on the island since the choose from the inner cruise that will take you along
Joseon Dynasty. Take a walk among the trees. Feel the east coast of the island or the outer cruise that
small again while you breathe the fresh pine-scented will take you along the west coast. For the inner
air. There are several well-mapped trails with cours- cruise, call 041-675-5220 (only in Korean). For the
es for every fitness level ranging from one kilome- outer cruise, call 041-674-1603 (only in Korean).
ter to three kilometers. There’s also a small museum
that provides information about the trees, plants,
animals, and insects that live in the forest. Outside
the museum is a zoo—well, a cage really—of exotic
birds (peacocks) and not-so-exotic birds (chickens).
The recreational forest is a great place to visit for
those cutting back on entertainment expenditures as
the entrance fee is only 1,000 KRW per adult and
a mere 400 to 800 KRW for children depending on
age. If you’re up for sleeping in the woods, you can

KKotchi Beach is perfect for beachcombers. Hunt for clams at low tide
or wander down the beach in search of shells.

Fall 2010
Food Aquaworld Resort where you can indulge yourself
in indoor and outdoor sulfur spas and mud baths.
Like most islands and coastal areas, the specialty Contact the resort at 041-671-7000 or check out
food in Anmyeondo is fresh seafood. In particular, their website at
Anmyeondo is known for prawn and blue crab. You’ll info_01.html (in English and Korean).
find the best seafood restaurants near the beaches.
But if you’re not a seafood fan, you can find a rela-
tively good selection of Korean restaurants as well as Transportation
chicken and pizza places in the downtown area.
There are always plenty of taxis near the Taean
When to go Bus Terminal (041-674-2009, in Korean only), and
there’s a bus stop for local buses near the terminal.
Anmyeondo is a nice place to visit any time of year,
but keep in mind that the rainy season is in June and
July. Although this might mean just light afternoon How to get there
showers, a heavy downpour could prevent you from
From Seoul, you can take a public bus for Tae-
getting good sunset pictures and being able to fly.
an from the Express Bus Terminal (subway line 3).
Travel time is approximately two and a half hours
Where to stay and tickets from Seoul are 10,000 KRW. Buses from
Seoul to Taean run every 20 minutes from 6:30 am
You’ll have no trouble finding a place to stay as to 7:10 pm.
the island is literally filled with accommodations for If you prefer to drive, there are three routes from
visitors, and there’s something to suit every taste Seoul to choose from and it usually takes between
and budget. The hotels near the bus terminal are in two and three hours depending on the route. The
a great location for getting to the recreational for- three routes are:
est and KKotchi Beach. The first four websites below • Seoul>Seohaean Expressway>Seosan IC or
have extensive lists of pensions. A pension is a fan- Haemi IC>Taean (2 hours)
cier sort of accommodation that is more homey than • SeoulGyeongbu Expressway>Pyeongtak>Sapgy-
a motel and usually equipped with a kitchen, and ocheon>Dangjin>Seosan>Taean (2 hours 30 min-
other accommodations, albeit in Korean. If you’re in utes)
the mood for a spa treatment, try the Ocean Castle • Seoul>Cheonan>Onyang>Yesan(Deoksan)>
Seosan>Taean (3 hours)

Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks are easily hiked at low tide and are lovely in their
isolation when the tide is high.

You can find information about Anmyeondo at

these (Korean); www. Jimalee Sowell has lived in Korea since 1999. She worked at (Korean); (Ko- a language school for a year and a half, at Daelim College for
rean); (Korean);www.taean. eight years, and is now working at Seoul National University. (English);
rea/chungcheongnam-do.htm (English)
Fall 2010

On the Baekdu-Daegan Trail, the Spine of Korea
By David Mason

The world has around two dozen long-distance

hiking-trails, including famous tracts like America’s
Appalachian Trail and New Zealand’s Milford Track,
and there is now a fresh addition to the list right
here in South Korea. Many of the international resi-
dents here may not have heard of the Baekdu-dae-
gan Trail, as it has just recently been burgeoning into
the public consciousness of outdoors-loving Koreans
themselves. Ask your Korean friends and co-work-
ers, and you’ll find they probably have at least heard
of it—and maybe are surprised that an international
resident is asking about it.
All of the long-distance trails around the globe offer
their trekkers spectacular vistas and intimate experi-
ences of deep wilderness. The Baekdu-daegan Trail
has plenty of that, but is nearly unique in the amount
of traditional cultural sites that are also found along
the way. A remarkably-high percentage of aspects of
Korea’s history, religious culture and folk-tales are on
display in hundreds of sites on or close to the trail.
Exploring the Baekdu-daegan becomes a powerful
discovery of this nation’s energetic Buddhist, Sha-
manistic, Confucian, Nationalist and Christian beliefs, The Baekdu-daegan or “White-head
which emanate their reverence from the hundreds Great-ridge” is a 1,400-kilometer moun-
of temples, shrines, doltap cairns (pagodas of oiled tain-system.
stones), ancient and modern monuments, stone- are eager to show you their culture and lifestyle and
carved buddhas, churches and altars that decorate explain the significance of the sites. Shamans, farm-
the ridgeline, slopes and valleys. The friendly Kore- ers, herb-gatherers and fellow hikers, are eager to
ans you will meet along the way, including monks, show you their culture and lifestyle and explain the
shamans, farmers, herb-gatherers and fellow hikers, significance of the sites.
Fall 2010
The Baekdu-daegan or “White-head Great-ridge” Korea, becoming what is called the Sobaek (Smaller
is a 1,400-kilometer mountain-system that forms White) Range, and when it reaches the middle of this
the backbone of the Korean Peninsula. It starts on nation it turns back south until it ends at South Ko-
the peninsula’s highest feature and fount of mytholo- rea’s highest mainland peak, the Cheonwang-bong
gy, Mt. Baekdu-san, which is a dormant volcano with of Jiri-san National Park.
a gigantic crater-lake that sits on the current bor- This ridgeline is genuine in that it never crosses
der between China and North Korea. From there the water, and is therefore the origin and disperser of all
range-line runs south down the east coast of North streams and rivers along the peninsula. Assisting
Korea, becoming what is called the Taebaek (Grand the Baekdu-daegan with water-management are 14
White) Range, entering South Korea through the subsidiary-ranges known as jeong-maek that chan-
barb-wired frontier of the DMZ just north of Seor- nel all of Korea’s major rivers into its flanking seas.
ak-san National Park, and then staying close to the The Baekdu-daegan’s geographical territory there-
coast all the way down to mystic Taebaek-san on the fore includes most of Korea’s highest peaks, many
border between the Gangwon and North Gyeongsang of which have been regarded as holy places since
provinces. It then turns west toward central South ancient times. The sacred virtues of the mountains
of Korea were historically recorded by early Korean
scholars and Buddhists more than a thousand years
ago, and the topography of this nation is recognized
as a living entity consisting of mountains that pro-
vide the water that sustains our lives. This has been
a constant theme in Korea’s cultural development
and the sense of itself as a single nation.
The idea of hiking along the crest-line of the Baek-
du-daegan seems to have developed only as recently
as the 1980s, as South Korea’s modern hiking-cul-
ture flourished. It has become a very popular activity
among the many public and private mountain-hiking
associations (sanak-hoi), with strong patriotic over-
tones. Most people seem to begin down at Jiri-san
and hike northward, both for keeping the sun gener-
ally behind you for better viewing and for the con-
cept of trekking toward Mt. Baekdu, reluctantly stop-
ping at the DMZ, in a gesture of desire for national
Within South Korea there is now a trail, well-es-
tablished and marked in some parts and still rather
wild in others, extending for 735 kilometers. It pass-
es through seven national parks and four provincial
parks, although some of its crest-line sections in the
national parks have been temporarily closed for na-
ture preservation concerns (alternative pathways
can be used). Some parts of this trail are quite dif-
ficult, repeatedly climbing up and down rough rocky
peaks, but others feature gentler terrain with long
winding ridges that anyone in good shape can enjoy.
There are many Buddhist temples to be found on
the slopes beneath the trail, some of which are grand
monasteries offering the popular Temple-Stay pro-
gram. This creates an opportunity to combine trek-
king with overnight stays learning about Korea’s
Buddhist culture—a new kind of pilgrimage.
The best times of the year to walk on the Baekdu-
daegan Trail are April through June and September
through November—winters are too cold and snowy,
while summers are too hot, humid and rainy for most
people to endure.
Stunning views are the reward for the Most of us don’t have the freedom or energy to
often strenuous climbs on the remote do the whole thing at once in a grand two-month
mountain spines.

Fall 2010
trek. Fortunately, it’s easy to accomplish sections of Guidebooks and maps in Korean are widely avail-
it on weekends and holidays, and most of the Korean able, and the more popular sections of the trail en-
Baekdu-daegan hiking-associations are employing joy increasingly better signage in both Korean and
that strategy, their members committing to complet- English, often posted by the local governments or
ing the great trail within about three years. Interna- the Korea Forest Service. There is now one detailed
tional residents can just enjoy hiking short parts of guidebook in English, written by my two partners
it, wherever interests them most. with my assistance, and a website in English devot-
Trailheads for entering and leaving the range-line ed to this mountain range and its trail—see www.
are found at the more than two dozen passes that
national and provincial highways run over, easily ac- For international residents of Korea, hiking in the
cessible from the bus terminals or train stations of Baekdu-daegan region offers some of the best op-
rural towns. Some sections of the trail are relatively portunities to experience some of the best parts of
remote wilderness, where you can see some of Ko- the nation outside of the big cities, featuring some of
rea’s rare wild animals but you won’t find many of its most-interesting cultural sites and nicest people.
the comforts of civilization. Other parts of the trail It's also a very low-cost and health-promoting way
run past or through villages that contain restaurants to spend some of your free time. You can experi-
and tea houses for the hikers, and plenty of minbak ence amazing views, spiritual shrines, shy wildlife,
rooms to sleep in (a minbak is a countryside house colorful mountain-spirit paintings, delicious hard-
that rents its extra rooms to travellers, at fairly low earned meals, lofty peaks and waterfall-filled gorges
rates; the owners rarely speak English). There are all along the Baekdu-daegan long-distance trail. And
often rest areas including markets and restaurants much still remains to be discovered out there.
up on the passes, and usually yeogwan (motels)
nearby down the road.

David A. Mason is a Professor of Korean Tourism at

Seoul’s Kyung Hee University, and researcher on the re-
ligious characteristics of Korea's mountains. He has au-
thored six books on Korean culture and tourism; see his
Roger Shepherd, David A. Mason, Andrew Douch
Fall 2010

Christmas Markets and Roasted Chestnuts,
Cultural Events and No Crowds
By Lynette Hinings-Marshall

I fell in love with Italy when I saw Fellini’s “La Dol- marks the location of a nail from Christ’s cross that
ce Vita” and have visited several times in summer has been kept safely in this spot since 1461.
since. I have fond memories of sipping chianti ac- The Duomo is only one highlight of the Piazza del
companied by antipasti of local salamis and crostini, Duomo and on the left perimeter is the elegant Galle-
but as there were also long queues and shoulder to ria Vittoria Emmanuele II. This iron and glass-domed
shoulder crowds I decided to discover what Italy was atrium houses elegant arcades of cafes, shops and
like in winter. the famous Milanese restaurant, Savini. We started
Teatro La Scala in Milan was the starting point be- one evening with a Campari at Zucca in the Galleria
cause here the opera season opens December 7, the where this Italian cocktail was created in the late
feast day of Saint Ambrogio. Some older Milanese 1800s. Directly opposite the Duomo is Teatro La Sca-
still call themselves Ambrogians and the Basilica la and we spent some evenings, rugged up against
Saint Ambrogio, built in A.D. 379, and named after the cold, just gazing upon these three magnificent
this patron saint of Milan, was on our must-see list. I architectural monuments. The Duomo in particular
had secured excellent box seats via La Scala’s online when brilliantly lit against the deep blue night sky is
booking and I particularly wanted to see the 35-year- radiant and resplendent.
old British conductor Daniel Harding because reviews Milan is a small city and one day we started at the
about him are so mixed. After experiencing his inter- medieval Castello Sforzesco, walked to Leonardo da
pretation of Stravinsky I am definitely a fan. Vinci’s Last Supper (tickets need to be booked well
What is Italy without cathedrals? My favorite was in advance) then on to Saint Ambrogio. As we were
the Milan Duomo, the third largest church in the now in the fashionable Navigli district we stopped
world. It’s mixture of styles from the first level ba- frequently at attractive bars and restaurants. It was
roque to the neo-Gothic windows and spires have here I learned that Italians stand at counters to drink
come about because it was started in 1386, conse- their espresso because sitting at a table incurs a €2
crated in 1418 but not completed until Napoleon was surcharge. The pedestrian quarter of Brera is the
crowned King of Italy in the 19th century. We walked other main entertainment district. Mid-afternoon we
through the entrance immediately upon arrival and visited Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery to view the
after viewing the beautiful nativity scene followed masters including Raphael and Caravaggio so that
the guide book’s directions through this magnificent we could remain in the Brera district for dinner. Many
edifice to the vault above the choir. Here, a red light restaurants in this pedestrian quarter lure patrons

Fall 2010
with an American-style happy hour offering two-for- ing tourist season. The owner welcomed us with a
one drinks and large platters of complimentary food bottle of Italian champagne and a beautifully pack-
but we chose Trattoria Il Molo that specializes in sea- aged Panettone. My favorite legend about the origin
food and has occupied the same premises for more of Panettone is how Ughetta, a young nun celebrated
than 70 years. We did drop into the Jamaica café in Christmas by adding sugar, butter, candied fruit and
Brera for a drink and salad one day and after attend- raisins (in Milanese dialect the word for raisin hap-
ing the performance at La Scala went to the Victoria pens to be ughetta) to the dough, then made the
Café. After a few days sightseeing and dining it was sign of the cross on the top to bless it. The owner
time for fashion. of our apartment had also booked both Christmas
I had visited Prada in the Galleria but no woman Eve dinner and Christmas Day luncheon for us as
could leave Milan without visiting the famous fash- we wanted somewhere traditional and authentic.
ion street of Via Montenapoleone. We started at the When we arrived the apartment owner patiently ex-
crowded counter in the historic Cova for our un caffe plained how to get to both Lake Como and Bergamo
and un cornetto then ventured into Versace, Gucci, by public transport and even helped with taxi book-
Dolce & Gabbana and several other designer bou- ings to the restaurants. The Christmas day luncheon
tiques. After experiencing serious sticker shock my was the highlight of our trip even though the local
husband was visibly relieved when I told him I was families who did not speak English stared at us as if
only checking the prices because the Serravalle de- unaccustomed to strangers at their annual ritual. But
signer outlet stores offer the major designers’ prod- they made us feel welcome and the memory of the
ucts at substantial discounts. Getting to Serravalle Sardinian style mouth-watering food and delicious
was easy because their coach departs daily from wines that kept appearing on our table for more than
downtown Milan and is worth a visit if you have a four hours still lingers.
day to spare and enjoy brand-name shopping. Bergamo, the sixth century town at the foothills
We took advantage of travelling off season by rent- of the Alps, was our first full day excursion and we
ing via the online site a large visited during the Saint Lucia Fair which is a family
two-storey, two-bedroom apartment in the heart of event. Following the crowd along the Sentierone, we
the city for the same cost as a tiny hotel room dur- ate polenta taragna (polenta sprinkled with grated
Bitto cheese and covered with melted butter)and
our first roasted chestnuts. The traditional Christmas
market in Lower Bergamo was tempting as so many
of the items, particularly the wooden toys and pup-
pets, were hand-made. We next visited Donizetti’s
house then took the funicular to Upper Bergamo.
When we hopped off at the Piazza Mercato delle
Scarpe we were immediately immersed in a magical
atmosphere. Pastry shop windows filled with ginger-
bread houses, fashionable wine bars, several tavo-
la caldas (cafeteria-style restaurants) with a huge
variety of both savory and sweet snacks lined the
cobblestone medieval alleyways, but kept walking to
ensure enough time at the Monastery of Saint Agos-
tine and Colleoni Chapel. Our lunch of Risotto alla
Milanese (risotto made with chopped onion flavored
with saffron and grated Parmesan cheese) was at a
restaurant that clung to the side of the mountain and
this magnificent view of Bergamo, along with excel-
lent food made it difficult to leave. We ended our
day at the Palazzo della Ragione and finally the San
Vigilio Castle before heading back down to the train
station at Lower Bergamo for our one hour journey
back to Milan.
The Lakes District is also only an hour from Mi-
lan and we had decided upon Lake Como. After we
passed through several tunnels the bright sunlight
sparkled on the snow-capped mountains and the
lake seemed larger without a flurry of boats and peo-
ple, the summer scene I remembered. We arrived at
Varenna and took a ferry to Bellagio which was quiet
Milan offers a spectacular shopping experience,
Versace, and so much more. and shuttered for the winter. We found a pleasant
café for lunch then caught the local bus to Como.
Fall 2010

The elegant Galleria Vittoria Emmanuele II. This iron and glass-domed atrium
houses elegant arcades of cafes and shops.

This bus ride for less than €2 was a highlight because but I was more interested in Via de’ Tornabuoni’s
the route took us within meters of the lake for the designer stores with an emphasis on shoes as this is
entire journey. The main streets of the villages en the site of Ferragamo’s Shoe Museum. We spent the
route were barely wider than the bus, which stopped remainder of the afternoon walking through the area
for passengers, who obviously used the service for of town that houses the church of San Lorenzo, the
their daily needs. After sightseeing in Como we had Medici’s Tombs, the Duomo and the Baptistery.
an interesting dinner of rabbit stew and pumpkin Next day, with a promise of sun, we boarded the
flowers before boarding the train back to Milan. train to Siena. Having previously experienced the
It was time to head south and as we had now dense and jostling summer crowds in Siena it was
learned that Italian trains are well below par by most a welcome relief to stroll with space on the cobble-
Western standards we booked a Euro Star high- stone streets to sightsee and window shop. On our
speed service to take us to Florence. Our plan was to way to Piazza del Campo we stopped to buy coffee
set up a base in Florence and visit Tuscany. Because beans from Café A. Naninni where we enjoyed un
every site in Florence is accessible by walking and caffe and of course the famous torta garfagnana
trains and buses are frequent within Tuscany we pre- (tarts and cakes). Close by the Piazza del Campo we
ferred not to hire a car. Drizzling rain fell during our enjoyed a lunch of salt cod soup and another bot-
first day in Florence so we visited the Palazzo Vec- tle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano before walking
chio where the copy of Michelangelo’s David stands. to the Duomo. We then climbed the tower around
Around the corner we visited the Uffizi, the oldest the corner to view the Piazza del Campo from above
gallery in the world and spent hours awestruck by and photographed a magnificent 360 degree view of
the art by Titan, Botticelli, Michelangelo and the fa- Siena and the surrounding countryside before board-
mous Piero della Francesca’s panels, recognized as ing a bus to San Gimingnano.
the first true Renaissance portraits. Friends suggest- San Gimignano is known as “the city of beautiful
ed a visit to the Pitti Gola e Cantinia wine bar and as towers” and is one of the best-preserved medieval
the village of Montepulciano was not on our itinerary towns in Tuscany. The towers that welcomed pilgrims
it was at this bar that we first sampled Vino Nobile as far back as the 13th century still stand today. The
wines. These were accompanied by a dish of ravioli Piazza del Duomo was our starting point and as we
with pecorino and pears and crostini which we later had by now visited many cathedrals, galleries and
walked off starting at the Ponte Vecchio. It was fun medieval towers we chose to just enjoy the small
to window shop all the jewelers that line the bridge shops and sights until darkness fell and we settled

Fall 2010
into a cozy restaurant we had booked in advance.
Against all my instincts, I was pleased that I tried
the pasta and pigeon sauce served on creamy mush-
Our Italian winter holiday was drawing to a close
and I spent an entire day walking the markets of
Florence shopping for souvenirs and buying shoes
along Via del Corso while my husband took a recom-
mended tour of Renaissance Florence. On our final
day we took the train to Western Tuscany to see the
iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. There were people mill-
ing about the grounds but fortunately no queues to
enter it, so we were able to tour immediately. We
then boarded another train to Northern Tuscany to
visit the popular beach resort of Viareggio which is
famous for its Art Nouveau villas and hotels of the
1920s. We strolled along Viareggio’s promenade and
then enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch at Da Oliviera
so we could try their Cacciucco alla Viareggina (sea-
food stew). This bright sunny Sunday was the per-
fect arrivederci to Italy and next day we flew home
happy and relaxed.
We had been able to see so much more during this
visit as we never had to wait in line, and we spent
more time strolling because we weren’t constantly
buffeted by tourists along the narrow streets. It was
also less expensive than previous trips because ac-
commodations and meals were considerably less
than during tourist season. Winter touring is not for
everybody but it worked well for us and if you are
prepared for a little inclement weather it can work
well for you too.

Lynette Hinings-Marshall has travelled abroad every

year since her 19th birthday and has lived for long peri-
ods in Australia, Cyprus, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Unit-
ed States, Mexico and Malaysia. She has a Diploma One of the many wonders of Western
in Professional Writing and Editing and is currently Tuscany is the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
writing a textbook for the tour guiding profession.

The sky above Siena’s Piazza del Campo brings the warm tones of the
skyline into a sharp focus.

Fall 2010

Ordinary Lives in North Korea
By Barbara Demick

Reviewed by Jimalee Sowell

If you only read one book on North Korea, read

Nothing to Envy. Of course, we all have heard of
the inhumane conditions average North Koreans
endure—the starvation, the prison camps, the ex-
tensive torture for even the smallest infractions. We
have read horrific stories about North Korea in the
news, and we have seen the heartbreaking photos
of starving adults and malnourished children with
heads too big for their bodies. We know conditions
are bad in North Korea, but nothing will give you an
appreciation for what life is like for the average North
Korean like Nothing to Envy. And the reality of life
in North Korea is far worse than is imaginable. This
book will disturb you. It will haunt you. It will make
you question how such a regime can still exist. But it
is an important book. At the risk of being cliché, it is
a must-read for anyone interested in North or South
Korea, for anyone at all interested in human rights.
Author Barbara Demick had been to North Korea, South Korean), and her secret lover Jun-sang, born
but discovered that North Koreans are masters of to a respectable, politically upper-class family; Dr.
disguise and that a trip to North Korea gets you no Kim, a dedicated medical doctor who is extremely
closer to knowing about the regime than not see- loyal to the Workers’ Party; Hyuck, a cunning orphan
ing it, so she tells the story of North Korea through who from childhood learns how to hustle to survive;
the eyes of six defectors she interviewed in South Mrs. Song, a model communist who whole-heartedly
Korea. The book follows them from a relatively embraces North Korean propaganda in spite of the
healthy North Korea to a famine-ravaged North Ko- increasing deaths around her including the deaths of
rea through their defections and into their lives in family members; and Oak-hee, Mrs. Song’s daugh-
South Korea, skillfully intertwining their stories. We ter who has a streak of utilitarian rebelliousness that
meet Mi-ran, born of tainted blood (her father was ultimately might be what saves her and her mother’s

Fall 2010
We read about how North Koreans eat bark soup,
rotten fruit, and grass to survive; how they have be-
come immune to dead bodies in the streets; how a
man was killed publically by a firing squad because
he had stolen copper wire to buy food; how patients
are required to bring their own beer bottles to hos-
pitals for their IVs; how in less than a year a kinder-
garten class shrinks from fifty to fifteen students.
These are just some of the unfathomable horrors of
North Korea.
Demick’s choice of setting for Nothing to Envy is
important for getting an accurate glimpse of what
life is like for the majority of average North Koreans.
Instead of setting Nothing to Envy in Pyongyang,
the nation’s capital, Demick has chosen Chongjin, a
once-thriving industrial city in the country’s northern
area. While efforts have been made to keep Pyong-
yang presentable to the outside world, Chongjin, like
most of North Korea, has been allowed to fall into a
pitiful state of dilapidation.
Nothing to Envy gives us a good appreciation of
what life is like for a defector living in the South.
While North Korean defectors no longer face the hor-
rors of daily starvation and the fear of imprisonment
for speaking out against the regime, their lives are
certainly not without struggle. North Koreans in the
South find themselves in an alien world of modern
conveniences such as ATMs and broadband Internet.
They don’t really fit in. They don’t dress like South
Koreans; they don’t speak English; and their North
Korean education is of little value in the South. Inevi-
tably defectors also must deal with crushing feelings
of guilt for having left behind relatives very likely A small boy poses in front of “Dear
imprisoned for their crime of defecting. Leader” in Chongjin.

The title of the book comes from a song called

“We have nothing to envy in the world” that children
learn in school. North Koreans are taught that their
country is paradise and that they have nothing to
envy of other nations, and North Koreans sheltered
from the outside world wholeheartedly embrace this
propaganda; those who question the regime must
never speak out.
Nothing to Envy opens with the stark image of a
country that seems not to exist if you see it at night
from a satellite photograph. While surrounding coun-
tries are lit up and bright, North Korea seems to be
an empty abyss. North Korea is a country like no
other, and Nothing to Envy is a book like no other.
When I went to get a second copy of this book at a
popular South Korean bookstore just a few months
after its release, it was already sold out. That says
Chongjin school poster praising more about this book than I ever can. Read it.
North Korean leaders.
Jimalee Sowell has lived in Korea since 1999. She worked
at a language school for a year and a half, at Daelim Col-
lege for eight years, and is now working at Seoul National
Fall 2010


Hantaek Botanical Garden
by Sally Bilski

Hantaek Botanical Garden’s development began in

the late 1970s when there were no botanical gardens
in Korea and the country’s wild plants were being
neglected. The motto of the garden founders is “the
garden is not a private property but must be shared
among those who love plants.” Today the garden
boasts over 30 theme gardens and approximately
8,000 plant species. At the plant research center,
which is located on the garden’s property, research-
ers perform many functions such as restoring wild
plant habitats, breeding endangered plants and de-
veloping medicinal herbs.
A meandering pathway leads visitors to the garden
areas. Along this pathway one sees lush trees and
foliage, waterfalls, ponds, and numerous plants and
flowers. Various types of butterflies and insects are
attracted to the garden’s colorful flowers. The garden
is a nature-lover’s paradise and can be enjoyed in
any season.

Fall 2010

Hantaek Botanical Garden is southeast of Osan off highway 17.

Address: San 153-1, Oksan-ri, Baekam-myon, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi do
The following is a link in English to information about the garden, including driving directions and infor-
mation about getting there by public transportation:
The garden’s website (in Korean) is:

Fall 2010


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