The Marmot's Hole

Korea... in Blog Format

Author: sanshinseon (page 1 of 8)

Using ‘Gangnam Style’ to attract Stylish Tourists to Gangnam…

hey folks, the Seoul Tourism Organization made a new PR video to promote visits to Seoul called, “What is Gangnam Style?”
See what you think of it:

There’s a contest to enter after watching it, offering 2 tix to Seoul + some Amazon gift cards — but it ends on Dec 12th.
Post opinions of this vid in the Comments…

And as long as I have you here, a few more personal announcements: I’ll be interviewed on TBS radio at 1130 on this coming Tuesday the 11th, talking about the prospects of my campaign for getting Korea’s most sacred mountains registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I’ll be teaching a course on traditional Korean Buddhist art at Dongguk University for their winter semester Dec21 ~ Jan 18, if anybody would like to register for that. And, I have put a very valuable matched-pair of paintings from my Korean folk-art collection up for sale, See: if interested, if you are a serious collector or know somebody who is.

Arirang TV interview on Korea’s mountains and their spirits

Just to let you all know, i will be the guest on the 1-hour “Heart to Heart” interview-show of Arirang TV tomorrow (Monday 22nd), broadcast at 9am, 3pm & 9pm (and once more at 3am Tuesday — all are Korea time zone of course). It’s a wide-ranging discussion of my research on the Sanshin Mountain-spirits, the sacred mountains of Korea, my advocacy of UNESCO designation of them as World Heritage Sites, and the improved promotion of Korean Tourism — and a little personal stuff. See this page of their site.

If you miss those broadcasts and still want to see it, or if you want to show it to somebody else, a few days later it will be in their VOD service (video-on-demand archives) in the Heart to Heart section. You can watch it anytime there; have to register but that’s free.

Maybe, this bit of publicity will help me get a new full-time job :-)

2nd Wonhyo Pilgrimage Trek Launches on Saturday Sept 1st

The second trial-run of the Wonhyo Pilgrimage Trail will kick-off with a dinner in Gyeongju Friday evening, and an early-morning start from Bunhwang-sa on Saturday — finishing that day’s trek at Gogul-sa and then pressing onward north then west. This is a religious-tourism project a few of us woiguks have been planning & pushing since 2007, with support from some Korean friends. This time the pilgrims will be making a pro-quality video as they go, recording the landscapes, temples & villages along the way, and interviewing monks about Wonhyo’s philosophy & other Buddhist ideas. Should be some adventurous fun, again!

Here is Tony’s recent press-release:
Second Wonhyo pilgrimage aims to re-enact Korean saint’s journey of 1,300 years ago

SEOUL – On September 1 a group of seven pilgrims will leave Bunwhang-sa temple in Gyeonju to re-enact the famous journey the Korean Buddhist saint Wonhyo made from Gyeongju to the area of Gaya-san Wonhyo-bong near the west coast port of Dangjin, more than 1,300 years ago.

This is the second Wonhyo pilgrimage. The first one, an exploratory trip, took place in December of last year. In that journey, the pilgrims covered just shy of 500 km, much of which was walked along back roads and mountain tracks. The journey took them from Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Korean Shilla kingdom, to what is known as Wonhyo’s cave near Dangjin, on the west coast of South Chungcheong Province. The second pilgrimage is expected to finish in the same place.

Tony MacGregor, one of the organizers of the pilgrimage, said the first journey was an inspiring experience. “We saw a side of Korea that is usually hidden – a wonderful kindness, and a profound spiritual culture that is very open. In fact, we were so impressed that this time we decided to make a documentary film of our journey, interview the monks we meet on the way and record their way of life.”

Wonhyo’s journey resulted in his enlightenment. Legend has it that he and fellow spiritual seeker Uisang, took shelter from a storm in an old tomb they thought was a cave. During the night Wonhyo became thirsty and began searching on the ground for a gourd of water. He found one and picked it up and drank deeply from it. The water was sweet and refreshing and he slept deeply until dawn. In the morning he discovered that the vessel he had drunk from was not a gourd but a human skull. It was not filled with sweet, clean water but instead was full of dirty rainwater, rotting meat and maggots. He was so revolted by what he had drank that he fell on his knees and vomited. At that moment, the question came to his mind “Why? Why was the water so sweet and refreshing in the night and yet so revolting in the day?” The answer came to him that it was his mind that determined the difference between the water at night time and in daytime, not the water itself. He realized that truth is created by the mind. At that moment, he attained enlightenment.

On the first pilgrimage, after their arrival at Wonhyo’s cave on December 18, the pilgrims celebrated the saint’s enlightenment by drinking pure spring water from vessels they took to the cave during a brief ceremony. “It was a wonderful way to finish what had been a series of incredible hikes from temple to temple to minbak (family inn) across the Korean Peninsula,” said Tony MacGregor, who conceived the idea of the pilgrimage in 2007 when he was working in Korea as a journalist. “We plan to do the same thing at the end of this second pilgrimage.”

The cave, he said, is an unpretentious place, a dark hole gouged into a huge rock, a good place to shelter from rain but not a comfortable place to spend a night. It was once venerated as the home of a mountain spirit before Wonhyo meditated in it , after which it became a Buddhist shrine honoring him. The cave provided a symbolic end to the journey, he said, and was not the actual tomb where Wonhyo attained enlightenment, a spot about which there is no consensus.

MacGregor said the pilgrimage was a joint effort between him and his friends and was inspired by the kindness and goodwill from Koreans that he and his friends had experienced during their stays in Korea. “We wanted to say thank you to Korea and Koreans in a special way, and what better way than through a pilgrimage to honor Korea’s most beloved and respected Buddhist saint, Wonhyo.”

MacGregor thanks the Templestay Program and the Jogye Order for their help and cooperation with the project.

More information about the pilgrimage can be found at

Media attention and any othe support or interest is welcome!
CONTACTS:     Tony MacGregor, 010-8694-1250.        Chris McCarthy,
David A. Mason, 82-10-9734-9753, in Seoul

Photos from the launch of the first trek last December.
I’ll post the schedule in the comments…

Low-Cost Riverside Bicycle-Camping with KTO

On the June 2-3 weekend,  the Korea Tourism Org is hosting a “Bike Camp” at Ipobo camping village, Yeoju-gun County, Gyeonggi Province. 40 bus seats are available departing from KTO’s Jongno building at 9am June 2nd.  For 20,000 you can get a seat and free access to bikes, horse rides, kayaking, water rafting and a BBQ meal.  You must bring your own camping gear or rent it at the site.  There is probably space under the coach to bring your own bikes and ride them back to Seoul along the Han River the next day if you want to.  Bus departs for return to Seoul at 12pm on Sunday.  “Families and fun people” are warmly invited, they do say.  Please contact Roger Shepherd if you’d like to attend or find out more.  This is part of the Four Rivers Bike-Trails project.

Park Tae-joon Passes On

Quite a coincidence really, i was just at dinner with some K friends and we started talking about the old days, and because they were of the older generation so I knew that they would know what I was speaking of, I told them of how I used to work for POSCO back in the dramatic year 1987, and met Park Tae-joon several times in various adventures; had not told those stories in years, it just came-up. Then I come home and find out that he died today at 84…. R.I.P.

I consider him one of the great men of Korea’s late-20th-Century industrial development, accomplished something truly amazing, with few peers (include POSTECH in that, too). He got involved in politics in the early 90s, probably never should have; but it doesn’t really tarnish his legacy. I admired him, felt honored to have worked there, still think of him as one of the really good leaders of that era. Don’t think i’m anywhere near alone on that…

If there is a tomb by next spring, I will visit it.

Alan Heyman’s 80th Birthday

Just a social note for all of us current and former expats: the guy who is, as far as I know, the “senior” among all western expats in Korea, just turned 80 years old — a month after being honored with a prestigious national medal for his lifelong service to Korean music and dance.

Also one of my mentors and a decades-long friend. No non-Korean has ever known more about, or done as much of and for, Korean Shamanism and all its related art-forms. A varied bunch of his associates held a dinner-party at his house, hosted by his kind wife and daughter, and we were quite pleased to be able to honor him fittingly, in his sunset era.

Retired long ago as professor, still active in translating texts — the sort that few others could tackle.   He is now working on his autobiography, with assistance by members of the National Folklore Museum; should be a hellova good read when it comes out.

Some photos of the party are here on my site.

International Mountain Day Commemoration in Seoul

A few things of interest:

I have photos up of the Unveiling Ceremony of the biseok stone memorial monument for cultural-preservation hero “Horay” Zo Zayong that i attended this past November 14th — see here.

UC Santa Barbara Prof. Hyung-il Pai, expert researcher on Korean’s changing images of their selves / nation / history, is giving a lecture in English at SNU this Thursday that looks pretty interesting, tourism-related:  “Nostalgic Journeys and Representations of “Korea”:  The Modern Tourist Industry and the Making of Must-See Destinations”.  Kyujangak Reseach Building 103-dong, Room 112, Dec 9th 4-6 pm.  Contact: 880-5827.

And then the main topic:  A bunch of us are celebrating the United Nations International Mountain Day (officially Dec 11th, this year’s theme is “Biodiversity”) for the fifth year in a row — these events just get bigger & better every time.  This year we’re able to do it on the exact day, this coming Saturday afternoon 1-6 pm, and it’ll be on my own campus (Kyung Hee Univ).   There will be some interesting speakers, presentations, videos and performances, all mountain-related.  As always it’s held by the Korean Mountain Preservation League, and full info is on this page of their site.  It should be a very nice time with a crowd of good people…   Post in comments here if you have any questions.

Zo biseok-raising, SIWA lectures, Choe Chi-won Seminar, Buddhism Book

A few announcements from my little corner of Korea:

An association of those who respect the memory of Dr Zo Zayong (Jo Ja-yong, d.2000), the famous collector, preserver and researcher of korea’s traditional folk-art, will gather down at his tomb in the southern area of Sogni-san National Park, on this coming Sunday the 14th (starting at 10am), to raise a biseok (standing-stone memorial-monument) inscribed with his biography and accomplishments, with a traditional ceremony including some shamanism.  All friends and interested onlookers are invited along!See: for more info, location & photos of his tomb, some of the artworks he saved, etc.   If you are able, I would strongly recommend going down there on Saturday and enjoying other parts of that park, surely one of the most beautiful and culturally-rich in the nation, and staying overnight in one of the motels in a nice tourist-village outside of Beobju-sa…

Tomorrow (Monday) morning i’m beginning a series of nine lectures: “3000 Years of Korea’s Cultural Evolution“, for the Seoul International Women’s Association (SIWA), 10:00 am to noon on Mondays and Fridays into December, near City Hall metro station.  Subtitle is “From Dan-gun to Lee Myeong-bak”, and emphasis is on religious developments.  These are always fun to do, and every year there’s a new audience requesting it be held again.  Sorry for the late notice, but if you’re interested in attending and have those mornings free, and can pay the modest tuition, contact me directly or else look on the SIWA webpage; you don’t have to be a member to attend, and it would be OK to start with the second one.

A bunch of us are holding a daylong seminar on “Footprints of Choe Chi-won in Chungcheong-namdo” — with presentations in both Korean and English about this Confucianist hero of Korean Daoism, one of my favorite figures of Korean history (857 – ?) — at Hanseo University on the slopes of Gaya-san in Haemi-myeon within Seosan City — on Saturday Nov 27th.  If you’re on facebook, this event is posted on the page here.

Hiking season is starting to wind down for everyone but the hardiest, maybe just a few good weekends left.  Our Baekdu-Daegan Trail Guidebook has been selling well, and some of the copies signed by all four authors are still remaining for sale.  It makes a good Christmas gift for anyone who loves hiking in Korea!

Just Friday I finally finished editing my new book (typical Korean last-minute rush!), the compilation of those 30 articles on the Greatest Icons of Korean Buddhism that appeared in the Korea Times every Friday for most of this year.  I re-wrote and expanded many of the articles, and plenty of lovely color photos were appended to each article.  Thousands of these books are going to be distributed for free at the G-20 Summit to the visiting international participants (political and economic types, journalists, etc).  I am supposed to eventually be given a stack of them to distribute to interested non-Koreans myself, and if any of you M-Holers really want one you can just send me your mailing address in an e-mail, postage is on me.  We might do 30 more of these articles next year, then compile all 60 into a bigger book to be sold commercially.

AND, our annual commemoration of United Nations International Mountains Day will be on the afternoon of Saturday, December 11th this year, with many presentations and a good crowd of peak-lovin’ folks, central downtown Seoul.  For more info as it develops, contact me or watch the KMPL site for a further announcement…

Baekdu-daegan Interview on Arirang TV tonite

Korea-trekker-extraordinaire Roger Shepherd is the guest on the “Heart to Heart” interview program of Arirang TV, tonight (Tuesday) at 9:30 PM.  Of course he’ll be talking about our new book, the Baekdu-daegan Trail Guidebook.   Nice to get some more coverage.  Afterwards, this episode will be available on the VOD (video on demand) service of Arirang TV’s website.

This coming Sunday he’ll arrive at Sogni-san (National Park) to finish his weeks-long slog through the humidity all the way up the Geumbuk-jeongmaek Range, from the West Coast to the center of South Korea.  I understand that some videographers or photographers will be waiting for him there, to record the achievement.  How he does it in this kinda weather, I’ll never know…

Baekdu-daegan Guidebook Feedback

Our new Baekdu-daegan Trail Hiking Guidebook is doing well at the outset, with good sales and responses. I’ve started a page of reviews, interviews and quoted comments to collect them in one place, which is here. If you know of another media-sighting of it, or have one and are willing to have your feedback posted, please send to me at mtnwolf at gmail dot com. Any problems or mistakes you find, or suggestions for the 2nd Edition, pass along or post in the comments here.

We still have plenty of copies signed by all us creators, so get one while they last if you haven’t. Please help us spread the word about this breakthrough in the globalization of mountain-hiking knowledge about Korea, to all that might be interested… Post these links on any blogs, sites etc related to Korea that would be appropriate — and tell your friends — Thanks!

By the way — the “Seoul Book of Everything” was published by the STO & etc, a pretty stylish & useful intro to what’s worthwile to know-about & do in this megalopolis — not at all a rival to Robert K’s wonderful Seoul Guide, but kinda complimentary to it. And it’s free from some tourism info-outlets! The covers and my two blurbs in it are posted here. I gamely picked the Top-5 Buddhist Temples and Top-5 mountains of Seoul — go ahead and dispute my choices / suggest your own in the Comments here.

And hey — a Buddhist Sanshin with the Daoist Eight Immortals Painting! New and Weird. AND, an antique Yongho-do Dragon-Tiger / Mountain-Water 8-panel folding-screen Painting! How i spend my rainy Saturdays…

Baekdu-daegan Trail Guidebook: Hiking Korea’s Mountain Spine

Well, our new book on exploring Korea’s spectacular topography and profound cultural heratige is finally out!!!  The Baekdu-daegan Trail Guidebook: Hiking Korea’s Mountain Spine — with plenty of maps, photos and short tales of long trails, adventures in sacred sites. First publication on this topic in English!  Published by Seoul Selection, available from their stores and site, other bookstores; a limited number of author-signed copies available from my sites.  See info and sample pages HERE.

Mungyeong Baekdu-daegan Event Photos

I finally have photos up from that KFRI outdoor public Seminar and tourism-publicity-event on the Baekdu-daegan, the mountainous “Spine of Korea”, its cultural history and natural ecology, and its Trail, that we held on June 10th — with poet Ko Un, and video of my speech — take a look here.

And related — the new Baekdu-daegan Hiking Guidebook by my friends Roger & Andrew, with my assistance, looks sure to be finally published within the coming week!   I’ll post a real announcement when it is…

Baekdu-daegan Event at Mungyeong 6/10

What might turn out to be a pleasant, interesting and spectacular sortta Event, for those into the mountains and their history / culture, is being held by the Korea Forest Research Institute on Thursday June 10th, with some after-activities the next day.  It will be an outdoor public Seminar and tourism-publicity-event about the Baekdu-daegan, the gigantic mountain-system “Spine of Korea”, its cultural history and natural ecology, and the Trail now running 735 km along its crest within the ROK (from Jiri-san up past Seorak-san).  Free of cost, including RT transport from Seoul.

This will be held under the open sky up at the Jo-ryeong Pass Third Gate in Mungyeong-Saejae Provincial Park, right on the crest!   Way up-there, with fantastic views.  They have gotten a great response of interest, and are now expecting hundreds of people to attend, with some amount of media coverage.  Overall theme: “Historical Significance and Traditional Knowledge of the Baekdu-daegan”.  Early-afternoon speakers besides myself will include the famed poet Ko Un and Director-General Shin of the Korea Forest Research Institute.  Eco-biology-oriented activities will follow.

The KFRI will provide buses for everyone, leaving from their HQ in Dongdaemun-gu (between Kyung Hee and Korea Universities), leaving at 8:30am, and then back to Seoul afterwards, arriving back by 9pm or so.  Lunch provided for all, and there is no cost.

If you want to go, write to my gmail dot com address mtnwolf, ASAP.  Post any Qs in responses here, and i’ll post more details.

Some core participants will stay overnight in the Suanbo Hot Springs, and tour cool locales of Yecheon County on Friday, before returning to Seoul.  Let me know if you’re interested in this option.

Journalists, whether pro or part-timers, are most-especially welcome.

Shortly after this event, the Baekdu-daegan Trail Hiking Guidebook (by Roger Shepherd & Andrew Douch, with me) will at last be published by Seoul Selection, after 3.5 years work.  Watch our sites for announcements and ordering details.  The Mungyeong event will be a good opportunity to promote it in advance, and network with all kinds of mountain-lovers here.

Another note from my little corner of the K  — the 2010 “World Tea Festival” Exposition opens at COEX this Thursday the 3rd, and runs until Sun the 6th.  Great chance to observe aspects of Han-guk Chado (and plenty from China & etc, too) and stock-up on high-quality green, yellow, red and herbal teas — and bowls, tea-sets, tables and other traditional tea-wares.  The site in Korean… and English here.

TBS chat, Essay on Songgwang-sa

This noon I was interviewed on TBS FM radio, about my RAS lecture “The Sacred Sites of Korea: Criteria, Listings and Tourism” — which went quite well, thanks, and no it wasn’t video-recorded — and the 15-min clip can be heard near the end of the Fri March 26th “Soul of Asia” show here.  Still tryin’ to scare-up some interest in Spiritual / Pilgrimage Tourism here…

And, my 5th article in the KT Greatest Icons of Korean Buddhism Series “Songgwang Temple Spreads the Monastic Jewel” is now online.    Index of Links for them all so-far.    Jes’ keepin’ busy…

KT articles on Icons of Korean Buddhism

I’ve just started a new weekly series in the Korea Times, every Friday, on the 30 greatest Icons (artworks, temples, masters, whatever) of Korean Buddhism, sponsored by the Jogye Order — to be collectively published as a book that’ll be distributed at the Seoul G-20 Summit in November (plenty of journalists will be there, hungry for stories?). Hopefully, this’ll add to the quality-upgrading that the KT has been trying to attain…  However, i won’t be writing all 30 of these essays — other writers will be recruited for some of the more esoteric topics.

The first of my articles, “Seokgur-am: Korea’s Supreme Grotto” is now online here.    The second one, on the Tripitaka Koreana this time, is printed in today’s edition (run, run! there may be a copy left at yer local 24-super!) and up on the KT site here.  Worthy subjects as the first two choices, eh?

If you find and mistakes, omissions or mis-interpretations, i’d be pleased to discuss them in the comments here.  These essays are not “complete”, as the KT only wanted 800 words on each, and i went 50% over on these two so far — sheesh, a thick book could be written about Seokgur-am alone…

By the way, i never did post here last November, Newsweek Korea had their 20th-Anniv Issue, and there was a feature-series (in Korean) on “Expats Who Have Gotten Off the Boat and Totally Lost Their Minds”  — at least i think that’s the translation, you more-fluent-than-i can check it.  Some of the pages (on me and some of mah homies) were posted on my site.  Only mystery here is, WHY wasn’t Sir Marmot included in this?  Maybe “too obvious a choice”…??

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