Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Happy New Year to my friends, family, and readers both near and far! Lunar new year is only a couple of weeks away, but here in the United States we're celebrating with the solar calendar.

2011 was a great year full of challenges, surprises, new friends, big moves, new jobs/internships, and more. It had its fair share of ups and downs. I learned lessons in patience and gratitude. As I look back and learn from the past, I'm ready to jump into the new year full force!

There is so much more to come in 2012. Many of my friends faced new challenges and endured many hardships. We only look forward to growing in 2012 and living a more full life.  I do not yet know entirely what the next year holds, though I know it's going to be pretty epic.  Hopefully it includes a few travels and maybe even a few more exciting blog posts.

I am happy to announce that I'm on for another year of blogging with The Korea Blog. After the first few busy weeks of the month, I hope to devote more time to updating this blog. I moved to San Diego for volunteer/internship work and in the meantime will be looking for more opportunities to explore the Korean communities and learn Korean while down there.

Since the inception of this blog less than three years ago, I went from South Korea to a small shigol town in central California (where I'm currently spending the holiday with my family) to San Diego, a large diverse city. There may be more moves in the future. However, along the way I'll be sure to take my love for Korea and explore the local culture. Thank you for following me on this journey.

Happy new year to all of you! May you be blessed and filled with joy as you welcome 2012.

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Pepero Day

Hello, everyone! It's Pepero Day in Korea. (빼빼로 데이) Even better, it's Millennium Pepero Day. A once in a millennium occurrence of all ones and three 11's lining up with each other on the same day.

I love numbers!  Isn't this line up beautiful? Wouldn't it be more beautiful if that line up of numbers represented some sweet treats melting in your mouth?


What is this crazy Pepero Day? On this day much like Valentine's Day, school children and couples exchange pepero [aka pocky in Japan and America] with each other. The cute little cookie sticks made by Lotto are dipped in chocolate and other delicious flavors or treats. Often, individuals give pepero to the people they like. It has grown into another very romantic holiday. Not that Korea needs another one.

Since it's inception in the 90s, the holiday has grown to epic proportions. Large boxes of peperos and even cute gift boxes are among the many gifts. Other companies have their own line of products they try to sell in mass on this day. Products range from cute toys, gifts, stationary, cards, etc.  Advertisers, marketers, and business owners swear they did not create the holiday for sales purposes. However, this year they coined the Millennium Pepero Day term. It makes one wonder. That aside, it's always nice to enjoy some sweet treats, toys, and maybe even a nice little date with a loved one.

Although we do not have much pepero in the regular American stores, I still enjoy looking at pepero and thinking about the taste in my mouth. Thanks to Google I found a few images of my favorite pepero.  No need to explain. Let the mind and salivary glands go wild.  What are your favorite peperos?

almond pepero - I like the crunch
colorful pepero

yummy assorted pepero.
This is plain awesome. A pepero cake. Too beautiful to eat.

[EDIT} It is not millennium pepero day if you consider the many other days. It is century pepero day. Because the next century will be 2111, it will not be the year '11 in this Millennium. If you get too far into the technicalities you could go crazy. The real year 11 occurred 2,000 years ago. Before many (I hope) of you were born.  Regardless, I hope you enjoyed your very crazy pepero day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

San Diego Asian Film Festival (SDAFF)

Looking for something to do this month? Check out the San Diego Asian Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals in the nation. Join others to watch films from around the globe representing many genres and forms from our friends across Asia.

Check out the website:

You just might find me there peaking into a few Korean films.  It is said that some hit films will be screened at the festival. Michael Kang's new romantic comedy "Knots" will be showing on October 21st while on Saturday the 22nd, Nancy Kwan is said to be receiving a lifetime achievement award.
Check out the event!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A mini tour of Korean Culture at the LA Korean Cultural Festival

Would you like a taste of Korea in America? I know I sure do. You're about to get a mini whirlwind tour of Korean culture.

Last Saturday I set out with a friend on my very first trip to K-Town LA to catch a bit of the Los Angeles Korean Festival. This annual week-long cultural festival seeks to promote understanding and cultural enrichment to Koreans that grew up in America as well as promote the sharing of cultures with those of other diverse cultural backgrounds.  The festival consists of food (yes, I love food), vendors of all sorts, art-like fun, cultural presentations, performances, and shows. I only caught a couple of hours at the festival since I do not live in LA, but it was well worth the momentary feeling of being in Korea again.  If you have been in Korea, the festival and the market-like atmosphere have a Namdaemun Market-esque feel to them.

The day started out a little gloomy weather-wise. The overcast clouds are not your typical southern California sunny weather. Eventually the sun brought in a small heat wave midday.  The overcast weather reminded me of the hazy, somewhat cloud-covered skies of Korean summers.  However, no humidity and little rain kept my brain grounded here in California.  Asia is known for it's monsoons and thankfully we haven't had much of that in California.

On the ride up I had the opportunity to read  this months KoreAm magazine while my friend took charge of the wheel knowing her way around the streets and highways of southern California.  A little Tim Kang, a Korean American actor on the show called The Mentalist, eye candy and some insight into the work the wonderful NGO known as Mercy Corps does in North Korea kept my eyes busy.  Both the actor and NGO do some pretty cool work. Check them out if you have a spare minute.

We eventually arrived in K Town and headed straight for the festival.  Since I had never been to Korea Town or in the heart of LA for that matter, I had a grandeur image of what K Town might look like. I half expected lights, high rise buildings, and lots of fun things to do. I also partially expected  unpleasant street-side activities as friends warn the importance of personal safety in K Town and LA. K Town was not short of interesting things to do, but it wasn't the same as walking the streets of Seoul. A few people said their first experiences in Korea were similar to walking the streets of K Town. Seoul is definitely one-of-a-kind. You will have to visit yourself.  Nevertheless, there were enough similarities such as the flood of Koreans walking by speaking rapid-fire Korean and the Galleria department store that put me at ease.  Not to mention, the festival itself redeemed any strange feelings. It was a great place to get lost in a sea of Koreans and cultural fun.

What did I do for less than five hours in K Town? Come and take the whirlwind tour with me.

There were many vendors, booths, and activities to observe and interact with. I started by visiting some booths I was familiar with and others that were new to me.

Checking out the market.

I love tea! The containers are cute, too!

Ready for business. She happily modeled for me, ready to sell her teeth cleaning kit and supplies.
Korean pear (or Asian pear) is undoubtedly the sweetest tastiest pear ever. Try some!  
A little overcast weather didn't bother anyone. 
Rice cake snack.
I explored a little more.  It was rest time for this couple and a great time to eat some delicious food! 

The next stop was the Koean Cultural Center of Los Angeles (KCCLA) booth. No official representative of the center were available to speak with me, but I found some cool materials and crafty things to do nearby.

The awesome post cards!

Next to the KCCLA table I observed the art of making Korean rice cake (떡 or tteok). Korean rice cake is a snack eaten in many forms and often found during celebrations or holidays. Some of its well known forms are found in tteok guk, a soup eaten on New Year's Day, and in a sweet covered eaten during birthdays or other celebrations.  Songpyeon, the sweet colorful shaped rice cake eaten during Chuseok, is also a formed type of this tteok or rice cake.  How do they make it? 
Pound and pound. Then knead and pound some more.  Watch out for his fingers!

Roll it up and shape it. 

Cover it up in something tasty and shape it some more. 

Then onto the art of origami: 

And my favorite stop at the Korean festival was at the hand made lantern table.  I spent a good hour   (yes, that's at least 1/5th of my whole time at the festival) observing the lanterns and creating a mini lotus flower lantern of my own. 

My turn:
The making of the lotus flower lantern. 

The final product and its reflection. 

After the fun arts and crafts I went on a few more ventures....

Water purifiers. These are in most homes in Korea.

Woman dressed in traditional wear and selling traditional souvenir gifts.  The traditional hanbok is beautiful.
Wood carving.

Many performances including the traditional salmunori were held on this stage. 
Finally,  it was parade time! The two hour parade consisted of local marching bands, representatives from Korean businesses and professionals, military men, clubs, and more. 

Even Ronald made an appearance!  

Live tae kwon do action!
When the parade drew to a close, I visited the Hanmi bank booth and won a signed baseball. I honestly have no clue who signed it, so if you know, please tell me!

I concluded my day in the streets of the Korean Cultural Festival by visiting a few more booths and eating some delicious Korean rice dishes. I also purchased a special gift at the hand made souvenir/gift table for my mother's birthday!  Overall, I enjoyed being surrounded by Koreans trying to make me take their fliers, taste their food, and buy their goods. That's what I came to do!  My ears were happy hearing Korean and my senses were satisfied with the taste of Korea all around. It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend after a year away from Korea.  

There you have my whirlwind mini tour of Korean culture during the Los Angeles Korean Cultural Festival in Korea Town, Los Angeles, California, USA.   Thank you for joining me!  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Korean Cultural Center of LA

On one of my first trips to LA and Ktown this weekend I attended the Korean festival for a few short hours and attempted to catch up with the KCCLA (Korean Cultural Center of LA).  Unfortunately, I missed meeting any of the staff on site. They seemed to take a long break the day I was visiting. Instead, I collected some colorful post cards promoting the KCCLA and met a fun volunteer maintaining the booth but shy of the camera.

Briefly, the Korean Cultural Center of LA promotes Korean culture and heritage in LA while opening up its doors to the public welcoming individuals to come and learn about the rich culture and traditions of Korea. Their facilities include a museum, auditorium, art gallery, and library full of Korea related materials. The center offers many programs from Korean language learning groups to cultural workshops and film viewing nights.  I haven't had the opportunity to tour their facilities since I'm rarely in the area but that day may come!  Please check out the cultural center if you are in LA or have time to catch some of their events.

For more information see their website listed here:

Here are some pics of the KCCLA booth and the post cards I collected at the Korean Cultural Festival!

The booth lacking the cute volunteer in the pic.

The reverse of each card is different. These were some of my favorites!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fun with food: Seaweed and egg wraps.

What do you get with little money, few food options, few cooking utensils, a large appetite, and a bit of creativity? Possibly some scrumptious food.

I rarely do very personal posts, but here's a fun food post just for the heck of it. I recently moved to the southern most city in California for a year of volunteer service with a pretty cool NGO. As a result, I'm on a tight budget and also in the process of looking for a place to live, getting resettled, collecting items, etc. Since I didn't bring more than my suitcases on this new adventure, I've had to cut a few corners in the food department. Thankfully there are a few things at my current residence.

The past several days I've been craving seaweed and kimbap (rice and good fixings wrapped in seaweed) for a take-to-work lunch meal.  I didn't have any kimbap makings, but there happened to be some small seasoned seaweed package and tuna I purchased the previous week. My mission was clear: I had to to put these food items to use and satisfy the kimbap craving senses of my tongue. I snatched them up taking the the egg and carrot along with them. Usually you would never use the small seaweed or seasoned seaweed for these wraps, but what can I say. I was fairly desperate.

So I took to the kitchen and had some fun.  Here's what my hunger and creativity came up with for my lunch the next day and for my evening meal!

The makings of my lunch for tomorrow: seasoned seaweed pieces, tuna, minute rice, carrot, and egg.
I scrambled the egg and fried it in a frying pan. I was very satisfied with the flat pancake of an egg.  

Cute little kimbap rolls for tomorrow's lunch.  Crossing my fingers this will turn out and not be too soggy.
A few more to come.  Half of them landed in my mouth before making it into the container. : (

The leftovers... 

...became my dinner.

wallah.  Egg wrap sandwich. 

After eating my little dinner, I thought of omurice. It never dawned on me how similar this is to omurice. I think I'll have to venture into the omurice recipe world on the net and come back again very soon. Although it is more of a Japanese food and name, omurice is very popular in Korea!  

Yesterday I popped into the Korean festival in LA for a few hours.  I'll be sure to post a few pics within the next 24 hours. Be sure to look out for them! Have a great day. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


On September 12th Koreans celebrated Chuseok. This is Korea's Autumn Harvest/Thanksgiving holiday! Koreans usually leave the city to gather with their relatives that often live in the shigol or countryside. Together they share delicious food as they celebrate this time of harvest while paying respect to their ancestors and enjoying family time. They eat a sticky rice cake type of food called songpyeon.

Photo courtesy of:

For the Chinese/Taiwanese and Vietnamese, they celebrate the Mooncake or mid-Autumn Festival on the same day (the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar).  Their food of choice is the mooncake!

Photo courtesy of:

I hope you enjoyed your holidays and are happy back at work today! Oh joy, yes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nanta tickets.

I use the Nanta tickets as place-markers and finally decided to retire them to a photo album in order to organize and save space. Notice I saw the show almost exactly a year apart.