Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fourth of July Abroad Edition: Having Good Ole American Fun (the Korean Way)

When holidays roll around, it can seem a bit lonely for the waygooks out yonder away from family and homeland. However, with a great foreign community here in South Korea, there's lots of pick-me-ups we can celebrate. And what a better time to enjoy the best of Korea than on America's Independence day?

In just a few weeks we celebrate the start of the United States, and really, Korea is a great place to celebrate it. Think about it! Barbecue, alcohol, beaches, and yes, we're thinking the same thing: fireworks!

So take out a pen and take down some notes. Here are a few suggestions to get your Independence Day rolling.

Option 1: Have a barbecue

Look at those delicious hotdogs, calling your name. Grab a grill and make it your own! Photo by Steven Depolo (CC 2.0)
Head to your favorite Samgyeopsal place and order at least 500 grams of delicious meat, otherwise it's just another night. Wear your American finest of red, white, and blue, and dine on the best Korea has to offer, and get a couple of those flavored soju bottles while you're at it to make it a real party (yellow is the best, and don't bother with red unless you like the taste of medicine).

Option 2: Movie Night

There are tons of American classics that can get your blue blood revved up. "Independence Day," anyone? Or how about "My Date with the President's Daughter" for another classic film. Photo by Janet (CC by-NC 2.0)
An oldie but a goodie. Get your friends together and split a huge cheap case of Korean beer and opt for a movie night. You can dress in themes for the movie, or come as your favorite American cinematic character (personal recommendation: come with an axe and shout, "Here's Johnny!" as your friend opens their door. They'll laugh then they stop crying). You can even go full patriot and watch both Captain America films, and if staring at Chris Evans for 5 hours isn't celebrating the best America has to offer, then apparently I'm Canadian.

Option 3: Get to the beach
The beach never fails. Head to Busan and enjoy the beach and nightlife for the summer holiday. Hurry, these guys are already ahead of you! Photo by Sarah J Black
Remember how fireworks are legal in South Korea? Make use of it by heading to the beach with your pals and spending a cheap 10,000W for several fireworks you can all set off together. Bring food to make it a potluck and sing "America the Beautiful" as you watch the beautiful gunpowder turn to sparkles above you.

And there you have it, make use of your time away from home to celebrate it all the more. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder, so they say. Enjoy the holiday, and to all ye who plan to celebrate the day, have fun!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to Play Yutnori (윷놀이)

Lunar New Year is over. Sad face.

Yet in Korea, games are forever. Centuries haven't diminished the importance of having fun in Korea, which is the only excuse you need to grab four popsicle sticks, one sheet of paper and a pen, and finally a couple coins to use as pawns for as many people who are playing, to create your own makeshift yutnori board game.

Make Your Board:

1. You'll need four popsicle sticks. Grab a marker and color only one side of each popsicle stick, so that one side is "white" and one side is "black" for each one.

2. Now take that sheet of paper and make a wide rectangle. Mark six large dots on all four sides, and five going diagonally each way, so your board should look like the one below.

3. Grab some pennies, or some 100W coins to use as pawns. That's it! Now let's get started on playing.

How to Play:

The goal of the game is to simply return your pawn to the starting point. It's simple, but the game requires many strategies and a decent amount of luck to win. Still game? Let's play.

1. Play left to right. Remember you have four sticks. Consider the "white" as "up," and the "black" side as "down."

2. Now, let's learn how to count. Nope, not Sino or Native Korean, a new kind. Do, Gae, Geul, Yut, and Mo. (You can remember then anyway you'd like. Personally, I opt for "Do--a deer, a female deer, Gae--a gop of golden gun. Geul, so cool, no I said 'geul,' Yut! then Mo bro I don't know!" But hey, I'm sure you can think of a cool way, too.)

3. Let's practice throwing those sticks. That's right, toss them in the air. Once they fall, you'll get a combination of ups and downs (no, not the emotional kind) when they land. Now those numbers come into play. If one stick is up and the other three are down, that's called "Do." This means you can move your pawn one space.

If you throw them and two are up and two are down, this is "Gae," and you can move two spaces.

If you throw them down and three are up and one is down, this is "Geul," and you move three spaces.

Then say all four are up, this is "Yut," and you can move four spaces. It is at times optional to include the rule that if you land a Yut, you can also have a second turn to throw the sticks. Remember though, it's optional, so establish that rule before you play. No honest player likes a random game changer. Ask Katniss.

Last one is "Mo," and this happens when all four sticks are faced down. You're probably thinking this is bad news, but remember, Koreans are the nicest people around, and they're not here to trick you. If you get all four sticks down, you actually get to move five spaces forward. Huzzah! You can also add the option to let the player throw one more time. Boy, Koreans sure are generous, neh?

4. Now you know how to move the pawns. But how do you get around the board, and what's the purpose of the diagonal dots?

Here we go: take a look at the corner dots. Those are special dots. Good dots. Nice Dots. If you land on one of those dots, on your next turn, you can chose the direction of your pawn.

So for example, if you land on the lower left dot after scoring first a "Gae," and then a "Geul," on your next turn you can choose to turn your pawn in the direction of the middle, basically taking a shortcut from having to go completely around the board. Cool right? So those outer dots and that one in the middle are your best friends. May you always find each other.

5. Add this challenge: if you want to make things difficult, when one player lands on the same spot as another, they get to send that first pawn back to the start! If you have too many friends, this is a great move to use to lose a few.

6. Play! You know all the rules to play yutnori. Seriously? Seriously. Have fun. Play with your Korean friends, play with any friends, and impress them with your DIY board game skills. Fighting!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

See Asia. Take Selfies. Break a monk out of prison.

People keep on coming up to me asking, "Hey Leif, I want to travel Asia but I don't know where to go." Korea is the perfect starting place for vacations. Why not do something unforgettable, and help to change someone's life in a positive way? I inevitably ask (in every conversation I have with anyone, ever), "Are you into social justice? I know guy in prison and I'd like to get him out. How do you feel about going to Thailand?" Sequoia Henning of has been waving a flag for Chet, an imprisoned Tibetan monk, for more than a decade now. I interviewed her in Rishikesh, India last spring.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Weekly Photo: Capturing the Cow

The reflections in this photo are the best. Seeing this man try to get the perfect picture of the cow was entertaining to watch. Spending time at the Farm Festival on Namhae Island was a visually beautiful experience.

For more information on our trip to Namhae check out Namhae Island with Adventure Korea


Ashley R Guerrero

Ashley R Guerrero, Editor-in-chief of Getting Past the White Tiger, lives, works and writes in South Korea. Since moving here from California, she has taught for public school and University. She has also been involved in numerous charity projects and currently facilitates a knitting circle. Read more.

Bungee Jumping in Gangwon-do

Wanna do something fun but don't want to spend the entire weekend doing it? Adventure Korea has these great one day trips. What did my friends and I do? We went Bungee Jumping!

What: Bungee jumping, Makeoli and tofu making
When: Whenever they decide to offer it, check out their website for more information. 
How to Get There: Easy. We booked the Bungee jumping, Makeoli and tofu making and were picked up at Hongik University Subway stop exit 1 and there was another pick up at the Express Bus Terminal exit 8.
Cost: Bungee Jumping was 35,000 won

So let me start off with the fact that this particular weekend, my friends and I made some terrible life choices. Even though we knew that we had to catch a 6:20 am bus we still decided to go party in Itaewon, especially around the infamous Homo Hill, until 3am. We were exhausted. 

So with less than 3 hours of sleep we caught the bus for BUNGEE JUMPING!!! It'd been raining all weekend and the big scare was that we wouldn't be able to go because of the rain. We get on the bus (I haven't seen that many white people for awhile!) and we're informed that... screw it! if we have to we are bungee jumping in the rain! YAY!...oh god, what have I gotten myself into?! Hungover bungee jumping in a downpour?!

As the rain pours down, the crew passes out until we arrive at the tallest bridge in South Korea (or at least it seemed like it to us). It stopped raining, but it was super cold! My friend Jason was one of the first to go because he was one of the heaviest (the group consisted of mostly tiny girls). Sabrina, Monica and I were the last ones to go.

This wasn't my first time bungee jumping (previously I went, about two years ago in Australia), but that doesn't mean I wasn't scared. The feeling of free falling is intensely exhilarating. For once your body isn't acting against another force, it's just going along with gravity. You're flying. :D

Well the coolest part of the day was done and I was totally down to go home and sleep at this point. But nope, we paid for war memorial/tofu and makoli making, so we had more to do. It was mundane, but free food and drink is always welcome. The war memorial was interesting, but honestly I was too tired to really appreciate the history behind everything.  Whatever, overall I had a good time!

I believe I can fly!!!!


Ashley R Guerrero

Ashley R Guerrero, Editor-in-chief of Getting Past the White Tiger, lives, works and writes in South Korea. Since moving here from California, she has taught for public school and University. She has also been involved in numerous charity projects and currently facilitates a knitting circle. Read more.

Kim Kwang-seok Street

             Something that’s consistently annoyed me for the relatively short time I’ve been in Korea is the lack of diversity in the average citizen's music collection. Odds are, when you’re getting your grub on at the local dakgalbi joint, or having a pint with some friends, you’ll hear a collection of the same 15-20 k-pop tracks that no one ever seems sick of and receives the same amount of enthusiasm be it the 1st or 15th time they've heard it that day. Exhibit A: I was forcefully made to jive it out to “Let it Go” 3 times during a 45-minute dinner a couple months ago, who played it like clockwork every 15 minutes. 
This is why my discovery of Kim Kwang-seok, a deceased yet still-celebrated hero of Korean folk rock, really caught my attention-- especially when I discovered that he's a native of Daegu. The gifted singer-songwriter died tragically in 1996. While the official story is that he committed suicide, many feel that his death was due to a murder plot by his wife, who was attempting to acquire the rights of his music rather than allowing his family to keep the royalties. Regardless, his death, which occurred a mere 16 days before his 32nd birthday, is still shrouded in mystery. That’s why the chance for me to see Daegu's not-so-secret downtown corridor, in which a shrine of street art is dedicated to him, was too sweet to pass up.
             At the beginning of the street, I was greeted by a gold statue of the man himself playing an acoustic guitar. I blended in with others who'd made the pilgrimage, and as we walked, I looked around and found my surroundings thrilling and vastly diverse. Toddlers strolled around, eating star-shaped sugar candies they'd just made themselves. Korean hipsters soaked in the lightly defaced murals. I ducked out of the way in the narrow alleyway for a couple in matching outfits to get by and headed to an gallery still under construction. A satisfied looking artist inside was covered in paint, offhandedly jamming out with the street buskers outside, who were trying to collect loose change by performing Kim Kwang-seok cover tunes. The only thing missing from the scene was an excess of foreigners.
The murals are interesting to say the least. While some seem to have nothing to do with Kim Kwang-seok, many are depictions of him describing stories and situations occurring in different songs. One of my favourites involved Gwang-seok in a “superband” with other music legends such as Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Kurt Cobain and Kenny G (this band was so legit, Cobain got demoted to drummer). Other than the murals, I saw a vast array of other music-themed art installations and statues, a cage covered in “Love Locks” (similar to the Pont des Arts and other bridges in France), a chalkboard where thousands of people have written out their bucket list wishes and a variety of tiny, hole-in-the-wall galleries and cafés.
Just outside of the artistic wonder and vibrancy of the area is a large market where you can find anything from clothes for kids, beer, crab legs, and gawking old people. I personally didn’t explore too much, but the place is shrouded in mystery and probably has more interesting wonders hidden beyond all the ajashis playing backgammon.

Directions: Thankfully, the place is super easy to find. Get off at Kyungpook University Hospital station on the Daegu Metro and take Exit 3. Walk straight for a couple blocks, once you pass a nutritional store with photos of Korean men with rippling muscles, you’ll know you’re near. The aforementioned statue can be found on your right. Happy exploring!

Watch Kim Kwang-seok's “Too Painful a Love Was Not Love”:


Shawn Noaman

Shawn Noaman is a low-life turned English teacher from St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada. He's a writer, comedian, poet, nomad, basketball enthusiast, and alternative health/wellness advocate (except when yangnyum chicken is involved). You can check out his blog at

Weekly Photo : Baby Frogs

   Fresh morning after a rain and baby frogs appeared everywhere around the house. 

Tour Guide -

What does the frog say? 
개굴 (ke-gul) is what the frog says.

Young-Gun Park

Young-Gun Park has been studying various forms of visual arts for more than a decade and has been involved in various community arts projects. He has been a writer and photographer for GPTWT for more than a year. His future portfolio projects include work in cinematography and graphic novels. Read more.


Do the Bongouse Bop (Burger)

What? Bongouse Bop Burger franchise
Where? All across Korea
Directions: If you can't find it, you're not looking hard enough!

Living abroad teaches you many things. There are new experiences around every corner. One of my favorite experiences comes in the form of new cuisine. Being here as long as I have, (four years and counting), I've come to believe that I've seen the many different foods Korea has to offer.
One of the most unique ideas I've seen to date is a characteristically Korean take on the hamburger called a bop burger (밥버거, or "rice burger"). This unique twist on an American favorite uses not bread but two patties of rice. In between the patties, you'll find any number of combinations: bulgogi and cheese, spam and egg or one of many other Korean favorites. One of my faves is the chicken mayo burger. As the name suggests, it's comprised of chicken mixed with soy sauce and mayonnaise, all smashed between two rice patties. While it's not the healthiest thing in the world, it's one of the most delicious things I've tried.
Happiness comes in a plastic and foil wrapper.
Remember to recycle!
Here in Gunsan we have an up-and-coming franchise that offers these rice burgers. In fact, they're the only thing on the menu at Bongouse, a small shop with several locations in our city and all across the country. The shop I’m in most often can be found on the corner of a street about halfway between Lotte Mart and Lotte Cinema. 
The bap burger joint makes your burger as you order it. The rice and meat is pre-cooked and your burger is ready within minutes of placing your order.
You can't miss it. It's the brightest building on the block.
So if you are looking for a quick lunch, stop in and try a rice burger. I like to make a meal of it with a little west-meets-east: chips and a coke.
Hangul translations:
Lay's "Po-Tae-Eee-To-Cheep"
Coca-Cola "Choi-Go-Yah"


Jessica Russell

Jessica is a writer and photographer who has lived and taught in Korea for long enough to earn a black belt in taekwondo. A true global pedestrian, Jessica loves to travel, her sights now set on places as diverse as Rio de Janeiro and Mt. Fuji. Her dream is to open a childcare center. Read more about our staff writers.


Korea Burn 2013

Who's going to Korea Burn 2014: Elements? We might not get the chance, but we did go last year, and it sure was something.

The theme of last year's Burning Man festival in Korea (KoreaBurn) was FLOW. GPWT traveled there with Sea-Saw Shisha by the Sea Shore, an exhibition for inhaling the good times, exhaling the bad vibes, and keeping it all in balance. Our group's theme camp was a giant chill-out tent with hookas generously supplied by Aladdin's Lamb and a homemade see-saw called stable enough. Here's what GPWT thought about the affair.


Love, love, love... I am flabbergasted by the amount of love that was in the air at Korea Burn. Before we get into the event itself I want to give a bit of background info on the event.

Korea Burn is a spin off event of Burning Man held in Nevada. This was only the second year it's been held but from what I understand, its been improved on greatly. Both Burning Man and Korea Burn are held to Ten Principles: 
1. Radical Inclusion - Everyone is invited
2. Gifting - The joy of giving (and the ability to receive without having to pay back)
3. Decommodification - NO MONEY! No ads, no sponsorships. Period.  
4. Radical Self-reliance - You can do it yourself. Find, use & strength your inner resources.
5. Radical Self-expression - Be yourself without fear of judgement, no one will stop you but yourself. 6. Communal Effort - We is greater than I! Work together to create something bigger than ourselves.
7. Civic Responsibility - No breaking the law. Take care of each other. 
8. Leaving No Trace - Mother Earth provides us everything we need, don't pay her back with moop (trash)
9. Participation - Don't just watch, join us!
10. Immediacy - Live in the moment for what else is there but now? 
Honestly I believe we should live our lives in this way, and with such a supportive community at Korea Burn it was easy to get lost in the freedom, acceptance, and love everyone had. This was my first Burn so I banged the traditional gong and was told, "Welcome Home"

Those words couldn't have been truer.


Whoa, what? You mean that wasn't just a crazy dream? Dang, now I have to go and recollect my thoughts on this one. I remember seeing jellyfish people, shoe jousting, a wandering mystic offering salvation, a pen full of upright-walking, talking animals and a giant creature with one big eye who I called a cyclops, but he corrected me, "Ahem, I am an observer."

We had a solid group: eight teachers, a multimedia pro and a DJ. We rolled in and set up camp right before a massive deluge swept through. That's right. We got SOAKED. In the afternoon, however, and for the rest of the weekend, we enjoyed sun, fun and some serious see-saw shisha action. DJ Tek stayed awake for the whole weekend. The rest of us, however, found a little time for sleep.

But I've left out the best part: the BURN! At night the poi dancers were out in full force (watch the video!) and this year's burning man statue, one side with arms up and another with arms down, was obliterated much more quickly than last year's. We were even able to do our own burn! While the mural was being incinerated, we added the see-saw to the mix.

With the man we burn all that which is keeping us down, and keeping us from loving ourselves, each other and the world we live in.

Happy burn, Korea!

Love, Leif.


Here's the Burning Man Festival through my eyes:


The Global Pedestrians.


Weekly Photo : Little Bamboo Woods

   I thought this was a pretty Asian-looking forest.
   But then a couple of caucasian children and an adult rode by on bikes.
   Made me think about how much of Korea is globalized.

   Tour Guide -

It's part of a hiking / walking trail around the beautiful lake that is Gunsan reservoir.
Depending on your preference of path, the trail can be either a two-hour hike, a four-hour stroll, or an hour by bicycle.

Young-Gun Park

Young-Gun Park has been studying various forms of visual arts for more than a decade and has been involved in various community arts projects. He has been a writer and photographer for GPTWT for more than a year. His future portfolio projects include work in cinematography and graphic novels. Read more.