Monday, June 11, 2012

First Week in Seoul

Downtown Gwangmyeong

Part of an ongoing series about my trip to and discovery of Seoul...

Well it's been nearly a week since I touched down in Seoul and while it is a little strange, I'm thrilled to finally be here.  I don't have much time so I'll give you the basics, I live in Gwangmyeong which is technically in Gyeonggi-do (the neighboring province that encircles metropolitan Seoul, but I am connected to the urban sprawl.  It's an okay neighbourhood, if a little rundown, and I have everything I need.  Job is going well and the school is very nice, food and phone were provided (though I will be upgrading to a better device when I get my Alien Registration Card).  I also get a free apartment but this I don't have too many great things to say about, it's functional and of course a little small but it's not very nice and I look forward to upgrading in the not too distant future but it'll do for the moment.

So what have I done since I've been here?  Quite a bit considering I've worked for 4 days and updated MKC a lot in that time.  On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking my first trip to the Korean Film Archive (KOFA), where I saw Kim Soo-young's wonderful Mist (1967) which was presented by Darcy Paquet (@darcypaquet), who gave a fascinating talk following the screening.  KOFA treated us to dinner afterwards and I also finally got to meet Jason Bechervaise (@koreanjase) who I've been in touch with for some time.  Was a great afternoon/evening and I look forward to more of the same!

Home sweet home...

Aside from that some of my main missions have been to track down a theater with English subtitles for local films and some Korean DVDs, specifically Cafe Noir which finally came out this week on DVD.  I attempt to do both on Wednesday, which was a holiday here, but failed quite miserably.  I looked for the theaters that are supped to have subtitles that were near me and made my way to Guro where I found the CGV on the fifth floor but after asking for 영어자막 (English subtitles) I was politely informed that they didn't have anything this week.  I scoured the department store for DVDs but also came away empty-handed.

I still had some time though so I thought I would head up to Yongsan and the huge iMall.  I was initially taken aback by the sheer size of the building but eventually found the CGV on the 6th floor, once again... no luck.  I then made my way through the 7-floor 'Electronics City' which was impressive but again yielded nothing.  I was a bit down on my way back but I treated myself to some Korean BBQ and suddenly everything was okay ;).

Korean BBQ with all the trimmings!

After two more days of training I was planning to head out Friday, I had two options but unfortunately both fell through due to poor planning, likely on my part!  I found myself in my apartment at 9 thinking what should I do know?  The answer was clear: dammit I'm going to find some Korean films!  I found out about a Kyobo bookstore (a chain that is apparently well-stocked) in Yeongdeungpo.  It was to close at 10 so I quickly made my way there.  I winded through a maze and the Lotte department store before crossing the street.  After a while I knew I needed to cross left to get to another mall but there were no street crossings, that's when I found the underground market... 

It is so easy to get lost in Seoul, I can't really stress this enough.  The labyrinthian undergrounds tunnels pull you in every direction and it is almost impossible to keep your compass, the trick seems to be the read the signs and know which exit you need to go to.  I got though the complex and into the Times Square mall but once again it was huge and I had no clue where to go but long story short, I did find the large bookstore and made my way to its DVD section which wasn't very big but did feature a Korean film section which I hungrily tore through just before closing time and walked away with five titles including the prized Cafe Noir and Pink, which I didn't even know had been released.

Haul #1: Scars (2011), Pink (2011), Himalaya, Where the Wind Dwells (2009),  Cafe Noir (2010), Dream (2008)
Haul #2: Like You Know It All (2009), M (2007), The DMZ (1965), Old Potter (1969), The Aggressives (2005)

Saturday, as I already mentioned, I went to KOFA and on my way back I did some exploring in Hongdae, which was a very vibrant neighbourhood though as they were fixing some pipes in the general vicinity of the subway the smell was not particularly pleasant.

Sunday I went around Gwangmyeong some more, the 4th time I've explored my local surroundings, and walked through the park.  Later I headed up to Jongno, by all accounts the heart of the city, and the first thing I did was go back to a Kyobo, this branch being the flagship, and picked up 5 more titles, including two KOFA releases and a Jeong Jae-eun film for only w3,300!  I walked around the area a lot and eventually found myself at the bottom of Namsan, a mountain in the heart of the city, naturally I was compelled to climb it and I do so with a steady trot, fan of hiking that I am!  The view was beautiful but the below picture does not really do it justice.  I plan to go back soon with my (charged) camera and take some more time to document what I see.

Well that's it for now!  Who knows what this coming week holds in store...

View from Namsan (not the greatest pic though, used temporary phone)

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