Dongpirang village in Tongyeong (photo source: Monkey Boy Goes)
"Dongpirang was once on the verge of being destroyed due to redevelopment plans, but thanks to the “Paint the Streets of Dongpirang With Colors and Sketches” campaign, university art majors and others helped decorate the old walls, fences, stairs, chimneys and even water tanks with various paintings." (source)
July 27, 1953: The Korean War Armistice is Signed
On this day in 1953, hostilities ceased in the Korean Peninsula. After three years of fighting, the UN, North Korea, and China signed an armistice agreement. South Korea, outraged that a cease-fire had come without the unification of Korea, refused to sign, but agreed to abide by its terms.
The armistice established a committee that decided the fate of POWs as well as developed a new border between North and South Korea. Both sides withdrew two kilometers (about 1.3 miles) from the border, creating the Demilitarized Zone that is patrolled to this day.
The three years of war had killed an estimated 3 million Koreans, most of them civilians, and made an estimated 5 million refugees. Losses to foreign forces were also immense: nearly 1 million Chinese troops, 33,700 U.S. troops, and a few thousand troops from 15 UN member-states died in the fighting.
Learn more about the Korean War armistice agreement.
Photo: (1) General W. K. Harrison, Jr., signs armistice ending 3-year Korean conflict. Genearl Harrison, left table, and North Korean General Nam Il, right table, sign documents.1953 (2) Armistice agreement signed July 27, 1953 (National Archives)
Let’s shake the earth with this music
Let’s sing this song a little louder
Virtual supermarkets are popping up in subway stations in South Korea, where commuters can virtually shop for items while waiting for the train to come. Customers simply scan an item’s QR code using the free “Homeplus” app and can have it delivered to their doorstep before they even get home. Ranked as the 2nd most hard-working country in the world to Japan, South Korea is rewarding its workers with this timesaving gem.
I know this may seem very long to read, but anyone interested in Korean culture or history should read about this person. I believe, knowing King Sejong is a “must” for anyone whose favorite country is Korea. If you decide to reblog this post you can remove my note :)
Sejong the Great (세종대왕)
(May 15, 1397 – April 8, 1450)
Sejong is one of only two Korean rulers posthumously honored with the appellation “the Great”, the other being Gwanggaeto the Great of Goguryeo.
Sejong was the fourth king of Joseon. Born with family name Yi (이; 李), given name Do (도; 祹). He is the third son between King Taejong and Queen-Consort Min. As a young prince, Sejong excelled in various studies and was favored by King Taejong over his two older brothers. Sejong’s ascension to the throne was different from those of most other kings. Taejong’s eldest son, Yangnyeong (양녕대군), viewing himself as lacking in the requisite skills for kingship, believed that his younger brother Sejong was destined to become king. As he believed it was his duty to see the better-qualified Sejong placed as king, he intentionally behaved rudely in court and was soon banished from Seoul. His efforts ultimately brought Sejong to the throne. The eldest prince became a wandering traveler and lived in the mountains. The second son Grand Prince Hyo-Ryung, understanding his older brother’s intentions and sharing his views, traveled to a Buddhist temple and became a monk. In August 1418 Sejong ascended the throne. However, Taejong still retained certain powers at court, particularly regarding military matters, until he died in 1422. Taejong consolidated the power of monarchs by eliminating founding contributors and purging potential claimants to the throne. For this reason he even executed Sejong’s father-in-law, Shim Ohn, and his close associates. This allowed Sejong to be an unchallenged political authority during his reign.
King Sejong revolutionized government by appointing people throughout different social classes to civil servants. Furthermore, he encouraged people to behave according to Confucianism and performed official government events according to it, at the same time he suppressed Buddhism. As a result, Confucianism became social norm. But later he alleviated his action by building temples and accepting Buddhism by making a test to become a monk (Seung-gwa). In 1420 Sejong established the Hall of Worthies (집현전; 集賢殿; Jiphyeonjeon) at the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It consisted of scholars selected by the king. The Hall participated in various scholarly endeavors, of which the best known may be the compilation of the Hunmin Jeongeum.
King Sejong was an effective military planner. He created various military regulations to strengthen the safety of his kingdom, supported the advancement of Korean military technology, including cannon development. Different kinds of mortars and fire arrows were tested as well as the use of gunpowder. In relationship with Ming, he made some successful agreement that benefitted joseon. He kept good relationship with Japan by opening three ports and allowing trading with them. But he also invaded Tsushima island with military forces in order to stop pirating in South Sea(East China Sea) since Tsushima island was a base for pirates. In 1433, Sejong sent Kim Jong-seo, a prominent general, north to destroy the Manchu. Kim’s military campaign captured several castles, pushed north, and restored Korean territory, to the Songhua River. Four forts and six posts were established to safeguard the people from Jurchen nomads.
Sejong depended on the agricultural produce of Joseon’s farmers, so he allowed them to pay more or less tax according to fluctuations of economic prosperity or hard times. Once the palace had a significant surplus of food, he distributed food to poor peasants or farmers who needed it. Because Sejong wanted to help farmers he created a farmer’s handbook in 1429. The book—the Nongsa jikseol (농사직설)—contained information about the different farming techniques that he told scientists to gather in different regions of Korea.
Sejong is credited with technological advances during his reign. During his rule, Jang Yeong-sil (hangul: 장영실) became known as a prominent inventor. Naturally creative and smart thinker Jang was at the bottom of the social class. Taejong, the father of Sejong, noticed Jang’s skill and immediately called him to his court in Seoul. Upon giving Jang a government position and funding for his inventions, officials protested, believing a person from the lower classes should not rise to power among nobles. Sejong instead believed in his ability and truly, Jang created new significant designs for water clocks, armillary spheres, and sundials. However, his most impressive invention came in 1442, the world’s first rain gauge, named Cheugugi; unfortunately, this model has not survived.
Sejong also wanted to reform the Korean calendar system, which was at the time based upon the longitude of the Chinese capital. So for the first time in Korean history astronomers created a calendar with the Korean capital of Seoul as the primary meridian. This new system allowed Korean astronomers to accurately predict the timing of solar and lunar eclipses.
In the realm of traditional Korean medicine, two important treatises were written during the reign of Sejong. These were the Hyangyak jipseongbang and the Euibang yuchwi, which historian Kim Yongsik says represents ‘Koreans’ efforts to develop their own system of medical knowledge, distinct from that of China.’
Sejong supported literature, and encouraged high class officials and scholars to study at the court. King Sejong created the written language of hangul and announced it to the Korean people in the Hunminjeongeum (Hangul:훈민정음, Hanja: 訓民正音), meaning ‘The verbally right sounds meant to teach the people.’ Before the creation of Hangul, only members of the highest class were literate (hanja was typically used to write Korean by using adapted Chinese characters, while Hanmun was sometimes used to write court documents in classical Chinese). One would have to learn the quite complex hanja characters in order to read and write Korean. Further, despite modifications to the Chinese characters, hanja could prove cumbersome when transcribing the Korean language, due to considerable differences in grammar and sentence order.
King Sejong presided over the introduction of the 28-letter Korean alphabet, with the explicit goal being that Koreans from all classes would read and write. Each hangul letter is based on a simplified diagram of the patterns made by the mouth, tongue and teeth when making the sound related to the character. Morphemes are built by writing the characters in syllabic blocks. His intention was to establish a cultural identity for Korea through its unique script. The blocks of letters are then strung together linearly. First published in 1446, anyone could learn Hangul in a matter of days. Persons previously unfamiliar with Hangul can typically pronounce Korean script accurately after only a few hours study. Although most government officials and aristocrats opposed usage of hangul, lower classes embraced it, became literate, and were able to communicate with one another in writing.
Sejong’s personal writings are also highly regarded. He composed the famous Yongbi Eocheon Ga (“Songs of Flying Dragons”, 1445), Seokbo Sangjeol (“Episodes from the Life of Buddha”, July 1447), Worin Cheon-gang Jigok (“Songs of the Moon Shining on a Thousand Rivers”, July 1447), and the reference Dongguk Jeong-un (“Dictionary of Proper Sino-Korean Pronunciation”, September 1447)..
Sejong was blinded years later by diabetes complications that eventually took his life in 1450. He was buried at the Yeong Mausoleum(영릉; 英陵). His successor was his first son, Munjong. Sejong judged that his sickly son Munjong was unlikely to live long and on his deathbed asked the Hall of Worthies scholars to look after his young grandson Danjong. As predicted, Munjong died two years after his accession, and political stability enjoyed under Sejong disintegrated when Danjong became the sixth king of Joseon at the age of twelve. Eventually, Sejong’s second son Sejo usurped the throne from Danjong in 1455. When six martyred ministers were implicated in a plot to restore Danjong to throne, Sejo abolished the Hall of Worthies and executed Danjong and many ministers who served during Sejong’s reign.
Shinan Tulip Festival is held annually in Sinan-gun, the tulip capital of Korea. The sixth Shinan Tulip Festival is taking place at Daegwang Beach on Imja Island, Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province), from April 19 to 28. Imja Island boasts the largest tulip-growing area in Korea with a total size of eleven hectares. At this time of year, Imja Island is in bloom with five million tulip bulbs in 43 different tulip species. Programs include making flowerpots, walking through rape flower fields, and riding horses and bicycles.
One of the most moving sites I’ve ever visited in South Korea was the May 18th National Cemetery in Gwangju. It’s dedicated to the participants of the city’s May 1980 pro-democracy uprising, which was crushed by the South Korean army, resulting in heavy casualties. The crackdown was ordered by Chun Doo-hwan, the army general (and future president) who had seized power in a military coup following the 1979 assassination of President Park Chung-hee (the father of the current president, Park Geun-hye).
The multimedia exhibits in the cemetery’s museum provide a vivid account of the brutality of the army and the courageous defiance of the protestors, in stark contrast to the years when frank, public discussion of the uprising wasn’t possible. I’d urge you to consider a visit. To place South Korean democracy in the proper historical context, you have to understand the events that transpired in Gwangju.
White Day is a romantic holiday celebrated in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. The holiday falls on March 14, one month exactly after Valentine’s Day. Tradition in these countries holds that women are supposed to give men romantic gifts on Valentine’s Day, while men are supposed to return the favor on White Day. Gifts given on White Day often exceed the simple presents of Valentine’s Day. Presents to lovers and wives are supposed to be expensive, such as lingerie or jewelry. Men also conform to giri-choco, returning the favor to female co-workers out of obligation. This can occasionally lead to confusion, as romantic gifts can be mistaken for obligatory ones and vice-versa.