Independence Day and Comfort Women

Hello all!  I know it’s been a while since my last post, but that’s because I’m back in the U.S. now.  My fun days of living abroad are over and now I’m back home in Indianapolis.  Although I miss Korea a ton, it’s good to be back home and getting ‘back on track’ with work and stuff.  I still plan on updating this blog with some of things I did that I didn’t have to talk about while I was there.  Also, I think I’ll keep it going with posts about stuff going on in Korea, Korean food, Korean stuff here, etc.  Maybe I’ll need to change my blog title now, eh?  I probably won’t do that, but it might confuse some people!  I’ll have this blog and also will probably move my real estate one over to wordpress too now that I’m more familiar with using this thing.

Anyway, two days ago (August 15th) was a national holiday in Korea- Independence Day of sorts.  It’s called Gwangbokjeol (광복절) which translates to “Restoration of Light”, but basically that day in 1945 signified the end of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea (aka pretty much the end of WWII).  In Korea, a lot of people wave about their national flag proudly, and there’s also a song about the liberation too.  The colonial rule lasted 35 years and during that time because so many of the Japanese men were fighting in the war, they forced Korean men to work in mines and factories (in both Korea and Japan) to kind of make up for all of the workers who were gone.  If Koreans were allowed to go to school, they were forced to speak and write in Japanese only.

During this time, many Korean women were forced to work as ‘comfort women’ in Japanese brothels.  Many of these women were poor, from the countryside, or even kidnapped.  Some were lured in with the promise of working at a restaurant or factory, and then when they got to Japan or certain areas in Korea, they found out what the real deal was.  To this day the Japanese government denies that this took place and so many are still outraged by this.  Every Wednesday at noon in Seoul, in from of the Japanese embassy (which doesn’t look like a very pretty building, compared to those surrounding it) comfort women who are still alive come and protest.  I decided to attend one of these and see what it’s like.  Surprisingly, there were a handful of foreigners who showed up and they even have a few pamphlets in English.  Every Wednesday they bring out extra security in case these ‘grandma’s get out of control or something, ha!  Most of these women live at a place called the House of Sharing, which is half house, half museum.  You can read the stories of some of the halmoni (translates to grandma) on their website.  Below are a few pictures I took while at the protest.

At the end of the whole thing, everyone bows down and thanks the halmonis for coming out and telling their stories.

Noraebangs and Tambourines

Last weekend a friend who is stationed in Japan right now came to Seoul for the weekend with some others.  We met up, had dinner at Korean BBQ, got some drinks, went to a jazz club (was okay), and then ended our night with a bang at a noraebang.  For those of you who aren’t enlightened, a noraebang (노래방) translates to singing-room, but basically is a karaoke place with private rooms that are open all hours of the night.  It’s not just going to a regular karaoke room that has an extra microphone.  These noraebangs feature several plasma flat screen tvs, different sized rooms depending on your party, great sound systems, food/drinks (at some you’re allowed to bring in stuff), sofas, tables, and most importantly… light-up tambourines!  I never knew that I would love on a tambourine so much, but get some soju in me and I won’t lay off it all night!  Case in point-

 We had several Koreans with us who sang Korean songs, but the Japanese and English song selection wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, there were a lot of newer songs to choose from.  Some of the shadier looking noraebangs, or ones out in more rural areas unfortunately don’t have all the new hits.  Anyway, you can rent out rooms by the hour and is a pretty inexpensive way to spend an evening with friends.  There are some nicer noraebangs that are decorated in themes too.  Nice plush couches and more have a hotel like feel in the rooms.

I hear there are noraebang busses that travel throughout Korea.  That would be a pretty fun way to get to some of the distant cities.  Wonder if the driver ever partakes in the fun.

Just an FYI, there are other types of ‘bangs’ (pronounce the “a” like “ah”) besides the noraebang.   There are PC bangs for playing computer games or surfing the web and also DVD bangs were people go to watch movies (sometimes some scandalous happenings go on there).  Several of each of these can be found in virtually every neighborhood here in Korea.  However the noraebang is by far my favorite.