Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Goodbye Gwangju, hello Hanam

Careful readers of this blog may have noticed that we are more than a little behind in our posts, well I say ours, Sophie is still keeping going, I haven't posted anything in so long that I barely remember it's existence! Well there is a reason that we got so far behind, and to understand why you have to cast your mind back to a lovely spring day back in March this year...

Everything was planned out for for the next year, we'd decided to stay at our schools, which despite their idiosyncrasies weren't bad places, we were used to the curriculum, we'd built up good relationships with the students and teachers and were generally looking forward to doing another year. Then it all fell apart. Sophie got called down to the office at her school one morning to discover that her school wasn't going to be able to renew her contract. It seems that the organisation which runs the foreign teacher's program (called GEPIK) had decided that it was going to "streamline" it's hiring process to make it more "efficient"  - bywords for money saving job cuts if ever I've heard them! So their decision was that there would only be two periods a year when foreign teachers could be hired (in September and March) and there would be no hiring outside of these months. Unfortunately for us, we were hired in May (outside of the hiring months) and missed the cut off date for the new rule being introduced by five days!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Seoul Museums: Part 3 - War Memorial of Korea

Our third museum outing in Seoul was to the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan-dong. Despite being called a memorial it's really more like a museum and a huge one at that. It first opened in 1994 and it is apparently the biggest landmark of its kind in the world. The museum documents Korean military history with all kinds of artefacts on display ranging from stone arrowheads from prehistoric times to modern guns, tanks, helicopters and planes. 

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The War Memorial museum of Korea. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Seoul Museums: Part 2 - Seodaemun Prison History Hall

On a clear, cold day in late March we visited our next museum in Seoul. This time it was the sombre, imposing Seodaemun Prison History Hall in northern Seoul near Inwangsan mountain and Dongnimmun subway station. This former prison stands as a symbol of the bravery of the Korean Independence activists and as a grim reminder of the cruelties committed by Colonial Japanese forces during its occupation of Korea. 

One of the red brick buildings of Seodaemun prison against the backdrop of modern apartments buildings in Seoul.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Seoul Museums: Part 1 - National Museum of Korea

Over several rather chilly weekends in March and early April we visited three of Seoul's major museums. We hadn't really looked at any of Seoul's museums up until this point despite having been in Korea for 10 months or more as we'd decided to save them up as a fun activity to do in the bitterly cold winter months. Obviously we must have got a bit distracted as we didn't make it until the very end of Winter/ beginning of Spring but, hey, the best laid plans and all that...

The first museum we visited was the National Museum of Korea which houses an astonishing number of important artefacts and relics (over 220,00 according to Wikipedia) that tell the story of Korea's history. It's a huge, beautiful building and very new, having only opened in 2005 after 8 years of construction. Apparently, it's the sixth biggest museum in the world and according to Wikipedia "the main building was built to withstand a magnitude 6.0 Richter Scale earthquake" though Korea thankfully doesn't get too many of those (most quakes here are well below 3.0 and pass unnoticed just like back home in England). 

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Outside the National Museum of Korea (from Wikipedia).