Category Archives: Cities

Religion in Andong

Religion is a central part of life in Andong. In addition to the Hahoe folk village, Andong is known for its vast number of Buddhist temples and Confucian schools of thought. Buddhism and Confucianism were both introduced to Korea by the Chinese during the Three Kingdoms period. Because of the strong intellectualism behind each of these religions, Andong became both the spiritual and educational center of Korea.

The doorway to a Confucian School of thought (Courtesy of New World Encyclopedia)


History of Korean Buddhism

Andong Brochure

Korean Confucianism

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Cities, History



Andong is the spiritual capital of Korea; it provides an array of Buddhist and Confusion temples and rituals.  A still thriving testament to the religious roots of the city can be seen at the Hahoe folk village, a traditional village that has retained its original architecture and rituals since the Joseon dynasty (the longest lasting period in Korean history, lasting from 1392-1897). One very popular tradition is the Hahoe mask dance, an interactive drama that has been around since early Korea. It was originally created by lower class Koreans to poke fun at the higher classes, which included royalty, religious leaders, and the wealthy. This event clearly displays the strong cultural ties that Andong still has today. In addition to being the religious center of Korea, Andong is known for their chicken based dishes. Throughout most of Korean history, Buddhism prevented the consumption of beef. And even after Confucianism was introduced in Korea, beef was only eaten after proper rituals had taken place. Beef wasn’t actually a recreational food in Korea until the mid 1900’s. So it makes sense that Andong, being the strong religious city that it is, would have meat dishes that mostly contain chicken. Andong is by far the most actively cultural of all the cities I have researched.

The Hahoe Folk Village in Andong, Korea (Courtesy of VisitKorea)


Wikipedia – Hahoe Folk Village

Andong International Maskdance Festival

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Chicken Chronicles

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Beef Chronicles


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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Cities



Haenyo, or female deep sea divers, are a tradition on the island of Jeju. As I stated in a previous post, this tradition is slowly dying out, as more and more haenyo are encouraging their daughters to get an education. Although their are a few documentaries on the subject, many of them are inaccessible to the public. So instead of gathering information on haenyo from a non-fiction film, I decided to see what I could find out from watching a fictional film about the daughter of a haenyo called “My Mother the Mermaid”.

My Mother the Mermaidis a 2004 South Korean film drama about a dysfunctional family living on Korea’s mainland. The daughter of the family is sick of her vile mother who only cares about money and feels immense sympathy for her overly considerate father, who is constantly bashed by her mother. The daughter works at a post office and plans on taking a trip to New Zealand, when suddenly her father disappears. The mother doesn’t care that the husband has disappeared, so the daughter gives up her trip to New Zealand to find her father.

The movie poster for the 2004 film “My Mother the Mermaid” (Courtesy of Hancinema)


When she arrives on the island where she thinks her father has run away to, she lapses into this dreamlike state where she actually meets her mother as a child on the island. As the title suggests, her mother was a haenyo. She is illiterate and supporting her brother so that he may go to school. This matriarchal family structure was very typical of haenyo. Even when they were married, they tended to be the breadwinners of the household. You can even see this in the relationship between the mother and father once they move off the island. Her domineering attitude towards her husband suggests that she is the leader of her new household as well. The movie also provides actual footage of diving, which suggests the amount of risk and skill in the profession. The divers would have to find dislodge shellfish from the ocean floor, meaning that they would have be able to hold their breaths for long periods of time.

Although this is the extent to which being a haenyo is explored during the film, it provides a fantastic visualization of what being a haenyo entails and how it influences other aspects of their lives. This is a beautifully made film, and although the subtitles are a little strange at some points, I think everyone should watch it.

Additional Resources:

The haenyo divers: Korea’s women of the sea

Korean island women carry on diving tradition

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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Cities, History


Jeju Island

The island of Jeju is considered the Hawaii of Korea. Located miles off the coast of the southernmost tip of South Korea, Jeju provides a mix of tourism and traditionalism. Most of the land is arable, making agriculture a huge part of island life. Besides being known as the Korean island paradise, Jeju is famous for the tradition of Haenyo, or female divers. Haenyo became common in the late 1900’s when diving for fish became too low paying of a job for men to take; women were not subjected to the work taxes that men were, making the job more profitable for Haenyo. Given Jeju’s mass exportation of seafood to Japan during this period, Haenyo became the breadwinners of the family. Although this tradition is slowly fading away, a significant number of women still work as Haenyo today. Seafood, Haenyo, and agriculture make up the essence of this struggling-to-stay-traditional island.

An aerial view of Jeju Island (Courtesy of Global Geopark)


The Kimchi Chronicles: The Jeju Chronicles

Wikipedia – Haenyo

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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Cities, History



Seoul is the home of contemporary Korean cuisine. From bibimbap to beef bulgogi, this Korean metropolis provides a taste of the more commonly known Korean dishes. The area that makes up modern day Seoul has been the capital of Korea since the late 1300’s. But more interestingly, Seoul has gone from a desolate battlefield during the Korean War to becoming the technological epicenter of the world. Besides being the first in East Asia to obtain telephones and other electronic devices, Korea has become a leader in modern technological advancements such as high speed wireless communication. Their technological infrastructure is rated as one of the top in the nation, ranging from best wireless transmission to some of the most efficient transportation in the world. Now that their technological infrastructure is so advanced, Seoul is dedicated to developing their green technology. According to the Huffington Post, Seoul’s government set a goal in 2010 to reduce energy usage 15% and greenhouse gases 25% by the year 2020. Because of all this, Seoul is a clear representation of modern Korean culture.

Seoul in the midst of the Korean War


Samsung building in Seoul


Wikipedia – Seoul

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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Cities


Seafood and Fish Markets

Korea’s vast amount of coastal access makes fish a central part of the Korean diet. Their fish markets are thus some of the most distinguished in the world. Noryangjin Fish Market in is the 2nd biggest fish market in Korea. Located in Seoul, this fish market contains 700,000 square feet of fish stalls. Wholesale auctions, where grocers and retailers bid on vast amounts of fish, start in the wee hours of the morning. However, general shoppers go to the less intense parts of the fish market where stall owners sell individual fresh fish that can be taken to restaurants within Noryangjin market. What makes Noryangjin and other Korean fish markets unique is that the shop owners will clean, fillet, and portion your fish, saving you a ton of work when you get home to cook. Additionally, the seller will give you the bones and trimmings to keep, as they are seen as a great source of nutrients. For example, the Gomjangeo Restaurant on the Busan peninsula gives you a fresh, semi-portioned fish to grill at your table, expecting you to leave the bones in the fish until after it has cooked through. If there is one thing to know about Korean food besides what kimchi is, it’s that fish is important in understanding Korean food.

Haemul Soon Doobu (Seafood, Tofu, and Vegetable Soup courtesy of The High Tea)


The Kimchi Chronicles: The Fish Chronicles

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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Cities, Food



Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and the fifth largest port city in the world. Since the port’s opening in 1876, Busan has become South Korea’s center for international trade. Busan became the temporary capital after a large influx of Koreans took place during the Korean War. Now, Busan is home to approximately 3.6 million Korean citizens and its coastal access has made it the main exporter of the rice produced within the country. Its coastal location also makes Busan famous for its seafood and fish markets.  In fact, Busan has the largest seafood market in South Korea:  Jagalchi Market (자갈치시장). You may think that there are only so many varieties of edible seafood, but the Jagalchi Market shows that this record is in fact a great feat. Located near the Busan harbor, this market houses many varieties of both dried and fresh seafood. And by fresh, I mean that you will see your fish beheaded, have its scales removed, and chopped up right in front of you (but I digress). Every year, a festival is held in October to honor the market. This is seen as one of the major cultural festivals that take place in Busan, as many of the performances have cultural roots. Busan is arguably the most “balanced” city in South Korea in that it intertwines the modern, touristic aspects of the city into its cultural roots.

Jagalchi Fish Market

Two Jagalchi ajummas selling fresh fish in the outer part of the Jagalchi Fish Market (Courtesy of CityKnown)


Korea Inspiring – Busan

Asia Rooms – Jagalchi Fish Market

Dynamic Busan

Kimchi Chronicles – Busan

The Kimchi Chronicles: The Fish Chronicles

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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Cities