Walking tours of Seoul's less traveled roads:
Canadian expat guides visitors to city's spooky corners and dark secrets (a description of his tours)


Wandering, the perfect exercise

This is an introductory article in a series of articles about places to explore on foot in Korea, especially By Stephen Roney Contributing writer I was 5 or 6 when I started wandering. First only to the end of the block, where the witches' house was. Later, though, I sometimes wouldn't come home for supper, and I'd wonder where I'd gone.

Seoul shrine honors Korea's 'Helen'

She must have been one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. That, or her life was saved by miracles. Or, quite likely, both.

Score is rams 4, tigers 4 at Yi tombs

If you were to decorate a tomb, where would you want to put the stone rams and tigers?

The Hamnyongjon: Kojong's sad retreat was patriotic rallying point

The Hamnyongjon, in Toksu palace, is where the dream of an independent Korea died.
And it is where the dream of an independent Korea was reborn.

Hard truth: Seoul's philosophical rocks

They seem, on one hand, the deadest of all dead things: cold, hard, unmoving. Yet, on the other, they have always fascinated us softer, transitory beings. The standing stones of Western Europe, many legends claim, dance and bathe in rivers when the sober are not looking.

At home with God in Insa-dong

There is no telling when or where God may choose to intersect with the human world. Suun Hall is like that. It sits on the edge of Insa-dong like a steam calliope left behind by some great Victorian exhibition.

Beware Korea's 'broken-heart' trail:
Feng shui, not female ghosts, to blame for failed romances

There is a beautiful walk just south of Toksu Palace, winding and wooded, which would make a perfect place to stroll aimlessly with the one you love.

Western paradise gardens served as places of refuge for heads of state

It looks like a little Versailles: stone Neo-Classical palace, perfectly geometrical garden, fountain of spouting seals. But it is meant to be Paradise.

Privy incident led to renowned poet Po U's exile from Seoul, death

Few privies in any country are listed as national monuments. This is no doubt a significant oversight. By the sheer law of averages, many great ideas and momentous thoughts must have occurred in such places.

A monument to Kim Tae-gon, Hermit Kingdom's first Catholic martyr

Kim Tae-gon was brought to the execution ground in the usual way. Stripped to his underwear, face smeared white, arrows run vertically through his ears, he was paraded through the curious crowd on poles run under his armpits.

Kwanghwamun haetae: Guardians shield historic palace from elemental forces

There is a popular misconception - one might say a myth - that haetae are not actually alive.

The woman who wasn't there Buddha's mother lives on at temples nationwide

It isn't easy being the saviour's mother. Mary is sometimes known as the Mother of Sorrows - Mater Dolorosa. But Buddha's mother, Mahamaya, had it worse. She died seven days after he was born.

A cup of Dharma: Sipping away stress at Insadong's traditional tea houses

Tea, that miraculous plant, is said to have miraculous beginnings. Bodhidharma - "Dharma" in Korean - the Indian monk who brought Zen to China, sought to meditate without stopping for sleep. So he cut off his eyelids.

Changing faces of the White Goddess Mythical figure appears throughout history in many nations, cultures

Imagine arriving unexpectedly, on a full-moon night, the valley deep with snow. She's 30 feet tall, chest to crown, luminous white with glints of gold in the reflected light. She seems something from another world.

Chijang: patron saint of wandering

One day in 753, a Korean monk left his home to wander. He became one of the most famous Koreans who ever lived.

Day trip to the crying Mary of Naju

It's getting to be a bit of an embarrassment, really. She's been popping up everywhere. Those who want reconciliation with Protestants would prefer she were more demure.

The old empire on the Han

When Caesar conquered and Christ rose from the dead, there was a great city in the East called Wirye. It spread a bracelet of 22 colonies through the Far East, bringing writing, timekeeping, building and Buddhist wisdom: Japan, the East Coast of China, Pacific islands now unknown

The four kings of all under heaven

King Faisal of Egypt remarked with rue that soon there would be only four kings left: the King of Hearts, the King of Diamonds, the King of Clubs and the King of Spades

A trip to the haunted wedding hall

What could be more romantic than to be married in a palace? The Korean idea, after all, is that bride and groom are king and queen for a day; the traditional bridal costume resembles that of a royal. It is also why Toksu-gung and Kyongbuk-kung are choked with brides in white posing for photos.

Open a certain doorway in the wall in Insa-dong to go 'Back to Heaven'

H.G. Wells tells of a man who once found a door in a wall in a busy city street. He opened the door, and inside found paradise. There is a door like that in Insa-dong

The twilight palace of the damned
All great houses are haunted. Every British castle hosts at least one ghost. So too in Korea. Traditional Korean conception of hell (left) and Mulberry Palace Why? Who knows? Perhaps the deeds needed to become great are deeds that stir Furies. Perhaps the gods become jealous.


[Seoul Exposure]

Horned 'tokaebi' haunt peninsula's darkest corners, ready to pounce

Wandering is not a sport for the faint of heart. Besides the clear and present dangers of foot blisters and oncoming "Tico," one really never knows when one might turn a fateful corner and come face to face with a "tokaebi.

A stroll thru Koryo's lower depths; Hwagye temple carvings offer glimpses of fiery afterlife

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. But as you enter, note the two fierce guardians, the Inwang, with raised fists. Carved a thousand years ago by the Koryo sculptor Naong, they are here to battle evil influences, perhaps including you.

Strongman Park Chung Hee's last ride

This, certainly, is a hearse of a different color. Intricately adorned with hand-painted golden chrysanthemums, so finely wrought, you lean and squint to see they are not real.

Someone is watching you

Someone you have probably never noticed was there. He perches on rooftops, where he sees all. His name is Sonogong. He is king of monkeys, and his status in heaven is higher than that of all the gods.

Sungkyunkwan: The old school

Hermann Hesse, in Narcissus and Goldmund, compares schools to trees: they blossom and bear their fruits in season, for general benefit, but themselves stay rooted, ready for next year and the next generation. That is truer of Seoul's Sungkyunkwan than of most schools.

[Letters to the Editor]

Korea, not the only divided nation

In an article on Yosu's bid for Expo 2010 ("Korea designates Yosu for 2010 World
Expo bid," Dec. 7) Lee Kyung-woo refers to "the two Koreas" as "the world's only
divided nation."

Surprise those foreigners

Jose Maria writes that the foreign husbands of Koreans get a notice each year that
warns them not to overstay their visas. ("Matter of law," Aug. 3).

A very bad taste

My friends and I visited Magoksa Temple on July 22. The temple is a wonderful thing, an example of the best Korea has to offer to foreign tourists.

[In my view]

Damned lies

Another alarming report on wife abuse has appeared. It ruined a perfectly rainy day to read about it in the Philippine Daily Inquire

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