tours of Seoul's less traveled roads:
Canadian expat guides visitors to city's spooky corners and dark secrets
(a description of his tours)
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.
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.
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?
Hamnyongjon: Kojong's sad retreat was patriotic rallying point
The Hamnyongjon, in Toksu palace, is where the dream of an independent
And it is where the dream of an independent Korea was reborn.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
haetae: Guardians shield historic palace from elemental forces
There is a popular misconception - one might say a myth - that haetae
are not actually alive.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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
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,"
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
[In my view]
Another alarming report on wife abuse has appeared. It ruined a perfectly
rainy day to read about it in the Philippine Daily Inquire