Labor Strikes in Seoul

This wasn’t what I expected to come across today when I decided to go work from a cafe, but definitely worth documenting.

Apparently, thousands of unionized workers are striking against government plans to reform the pension system for public servants and introduce a more flexible labor market. These photos and videos below are of the massive crowd in Seoul Plaza, just outside Seoul City Hall.

According to the Korean Yonhap News Agency, about 260,000 unionized workers joined the one-day walkout launched in 2,829 work places across the country, including 60,000 government employees and 10,000 teachers.

It was incredible to watch the crowds and hear them chanting in unison. You can imagine that police were out in full force, too. Thousands of riot police standing by, ready to handle out-of-control crowds. They’re everywhere, on every sidewalk and street corner. They’ve blocked off streets and have formed blockades with the police buses. I hear they’re expecting more protests over the weekend, and people here seem to love protesting/demonstrating things in general anyway, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this.

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Hiking in Style at Namhansanseong Fortress

To clarify, Will and I were not the ones hiking in style! But as soon as you reach Sanseong Station and get on the bus, you feel like you didn’t get the memo on what to wear. It’s quite the sight. Everyone around us was dressed head to toe in bright, colorful hiking gear. The pants, jackets, boots, hats, walking poles, backpacks, canteens — the whole works! (If you look closely, you can kind of see what I’m talking about in the photos.) You’d think you’re going to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, not Namhansanseong Fortress.

Namhansanseong Fortress is located southeast of Seoul, took us about an hour, hour and a half to get there via train and bus. Its miles and miles of walls and gates were built in the 17th century in response to the introduction of gunpowder weapons to East Asia, according to my guide book. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site just last year. There are various shrines, temples and pavilions you can explore in the area, but we mainly wanted to walk along the wall, so we didn’t check out any of those. Keep in mind, it’s a large place — it takes 3-4 hours to walk the entire wall, roughly 12km.

We started at the South Fortress Gate, or Nammun Gate, and walked east from there. I wouldn’t call this an arduous hike, but be prepared to go up many steps and, well, do a lot of walking. The weather was nice when we went, but the views could’ve been better. It was just a lot of brown hillside. I didn’t mind too much, since it was cool just to see the wall, to see it stretching and winding for miles and miles over the mountains. Here are some photo highlights below, or you can visit my full gallery here.

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Candid shots of Seoul this week

Having a relative visit us here in Seoul has (thankfully) forced me out of the apartment this week. Here are a few candid shots from the last few days I thought you might enjoy:

Hadn’t seen this part of Incheon International Airport before. Pretty futuristic looking. 

Incheon International Airport

Came across this demonstration on the one-year anniversary of the deadly Sewol ferry disaster (must watch video — so many people!).

Demonstrations 2


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Osaka’s Sea Creatures, Cherry Blossoms & Castle Views

We hadn’t planned on visiting the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, but we had some time to kill after returning from Nara. The aquarium is located in the Tempozan Harbor Village in the Port of Osaka, basically a mall with shops and eateries and a large ferris wheel.

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The Magnificent Temples of Kyoto & Nara, Part 2

I wasn’t sure what to expect of Nara. Will had told me it had probably his favorite temple in Japan, ok. But I hadn’t heard much about this city, didn’t know much about it.

We woke to some spring showers that day, grabbed our umbrellas and headed off. Thankfully the rain made for fewer tourists out and about. As we walked toward Nara Park, Will started speaking cryptically:

“I wonder if they’ll still be there, with the rain….”

Me: “Who?”

Will: “They’re usually walking around….”

Me: “….Like, park rangers?”

Will: “Yeah … something like that. You’ll see.”

It didn’t take long to discover what he was talking about. As soon as we turned into the park…. Continue reading The Magnificent Temples of Kyoto & Nara, Part 2

The Magnificent Temples of Kyoto & Nara, Part 1

I didn’t know this until recently, but Kyoto is the former imperial capital of Japan (794-1868). Having been the country’s capital and the emperor’s home for more than 1,000 years, it is home to many important temples and shrines.

Our day in Kyoto was quite the adventure! Mainly trying to figure out which buses to take — it’s a fairly big city, roughly 1.5 million people, and the temples are spread out all over the city — but Will did a great job getting us where we needed to go. (Starting at the main bus depot at Kyoto Station, across from Kyoto Tower Hotel, which you can see below.)

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Train ride from Osaka to Kyoto, not bad at all.
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Spring Showers & Flowers in Japan

I’m glad we went back to Japan. Our previous trip in February was fun, and we got to see much of Tokyo, but this time we got to experience springtime in Japan (including the beautiful cherry blossoms) and I was able to visit Osaka, Kyoto and Nara for the first time. Truly a trip to remember! Not to mention our smooth ride on the Shinkansen bullet train.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I have many photos to share with you, so I’ll split this into a couple posts and try to keep them brief — unlike last time!

First, we had a day in Tokyo (well, I did. Will had to work.) I revisited the Imperial Palace grounds, including the Imperial Palace East Gardens, where I got my first glimpse of Japan’s world-renowned cherry blossoms. It was late March, so it was still fairly early in the season, but I lucked out and managed to see numerous trees that were slightly full. The weather was great for a stroll.

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