Ilsan Lake Park

Following the worship service at Tree Planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Kim and his wife took me on a tour of the area. One of the sites we saw was Ilsan Lake Park, which is one of the largest man-made parks in Asia. “The park offers visitors a lot to see and do including the Riverside Square, artificial islands, a 4.7 km bike path, children’s play ground, natural experience site, musical fountain, 100 species of wild flowers and a dense forest with 200,000 trees.”

It was a beautiful day to walk through the park where there were many families enjoying the park and nice weather. Around the lake is a walk/bike path with several areas to enjoy as you walk. We didn’t walk around the whole 4.7 km path around the lake, but we saw much of the park. Here are some pictures of from our walk, the pictures that have me in the were taken by Pastor Kim’s wife (thanks!):

Ilsan Lake Park
Checking out a map of the area.

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

 

Ilsan Lake Park Ilsan Lake Park

John is showing me how to play Yutnori,  which is “a board dice with four wooden sticks, is one of the most popular traditional games of Korea and is usually played on the first day of the New Year by two players (or teams). Each player (or team of two players) takes turns throwing yut sticks. Each stick has two sides (round and flat), which makes the stick roll. Five combinations are possible with yut sticks: do, gae, geol, yut and mo. A player achieving a yut or mo is allowed to roll again. If a board piece lands on a space occupied by an opponent, it is returned to the start and the player goes again. If a piece lands on a space occupied by one’s own team, the pieces can go together (counting as one). The combinations determine how the board pieces are moved, and the team which moves all four pieces around the board first wins…”2

Ilsan Lake Park
I’m not sure how much longer this board would have held out!

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park
John and me by the Lake.
Ilsan Lake Park
This is part of the Rose Garden
Ilsan Lake Park
In the Rose Garden
Ilsan Lake Park
My wonderful hosts, Pastor Kim and his wife, at the entrance to the Rose Garden.

 

 

Ilsan Lake Park

 

Ilsan Lake Park
There are several pieces of art throughout the park. This one is a commentary on television.

Ilsan Lake Park

 

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park

One of the attractions of the park is a small cactus display in a nice greenhouse:

IMG_20160703_153330038 IMG_20160703_153345562_HDR IMG_20160703_153358268 IMG_20160703_153411865 IMG_20160703_153521052 IMG_20160703_153546062 IMG_20160703_153600172 IMG_20160703_153613072 IMG_20160703_153644007 IMG_20160703_153656433

Ilsan Lake Park
Me and John in the Cactus greenhouse.

Ilsan Lake Park

Ilsan Lake Park
They also had a large variety of cactuses (cacti?) that could be purchased.

 

https://chaplainnews.com/2016/07/05/worship-at-tree-planted-by-the-water-church-of-the-nazarene/

The stone lion statues have been regarded as symbols of power and dignity in China, so they used to be displayed in front of residences of the upper classes (above the 7th grade of feudal bureaucratic system) and government offices.

Among the common people, the statues were used to decorate incense burners, houses and pavilions. In order to expel devils and avoid misfortunes they are usually exhibited outside the gates with their majestic airs, as the sign of wealth and prosperity.

Stone lion statues are usually displayed in couples. The male lion steps on the ball by his right forefoot that symbolizes power, while the female lion sets her left forefoot on the small lion, that means prosperity of descendants and the fact that there must be a prominent leader among them.

These stone lion statues are presented for Koyang city from Binzhou Prefecture in People’s Government of China in commemoration of the World Flower Exhibition Koyang, Korea 1997.

Ilsan Lake Park

 

Ilsan Lake Park

The city of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang Province, People’s Republic of China, has constructed and is donating this Hakgoejeong (a traditional Chinese pavilion), to its sister sity of Goyang in Gyeonggi Province, Republic of Korea, to reinforce the friendly relationship and to celebrate the opening of the World Flower Exhibition Goyang 2000. “Hak” stands for Danjeonghak which is the city bird of Qiqihar, “Goe” stands for roses which are the city flowers of Goyang, and “Jeong” for a pavilion. This Northern Chinese traditional style pavilion represents the long history of cultural exchanges between Korea and China at the same time. The pavilion, situated in Lake Park surrounded by beautiful flowers, symbolizes wishes of peace, happiness, development and prosperity for the both cities of Qiqihar and Goyang. The granite stylobate of two steps shows the friendship of the two cities is as firm as a rock and the paintings of Danjeonghak and roses decorating its eaves amplify the splendor.

Ilsan Lake Park
A view of the Music Fountain, though not flowing at the time…
Ilsan Lake Park
A water fountain that the children can play in (which they seemed to be enjoying on this hot day).
Ilsan Lake Park
The fountains randomly turn on!
Ilsan Lake Park
One of several horse-drawn carriages beside the park.

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“Imagine Your Korea” website

Wikipedia, “Traditional Korean Games.”

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Unification Church in South Korea

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From left to right: Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and the Koran.

Out walking the other day, I passed a curious statute that I had to return to with my camera. What it turned out to be was part of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, better known as its name prior to 1994 when Rev. Sun Myung Moon consolidated his several organizations, Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity  or the Unification Church. Many non-Unificationists (as they prefer to be called) may know them best as “Moonies” though this is viewed as a derogatory term by adherents.

The founder, Rev. Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. Moon was raised a Presybeterian, but according to Moon, on Easter when he was 15, Jesus appeared to him commissioning him to complete the work that Jesus had started. In the 1950s, after being excommunicated from the Presbetyerian Church for his unorthodox beliefs, Moon founded his church which today boasts several hundred thousand adherents around the world.

Interestingly, Moon has had quite a bit of trouble with the law both in South Korea and the United States where he spent 13 months in prison for tax evasion.

The Unification Church views the apostle Paul as the founder of Christianity, who codified the teachings of Jesus into a formal religion. Hell is accepted as being present on Earth now, but in time will become Heaven on Earth. They also view Communism as an expression of Satan and link it with Cain, while viewing Democracy as the expression of God and link it with Abel.

They also believe that Eve had a sexual affair with Lucifer which caused the spiritual fall of humankind. Before she was married to Adam, she also had premarital sexual relations with him, causing the physical fall of humankind. Their marriage produced an imperfect family allowing Satan to have control of the world.

The remedy to this problem was for Jesus (the 2nd “Adam”) to form the perfect marriage to redeem humankind, but he was crucified before he could complete his mission. His spiritual resurrection did secure spiritual salvation for humankind, but because Jesus wasn’t able to complete his mission, physical salvation is not possible in this lifetime. Therefore, a third “Adam” is needed to provide complete salvation for humankind. According to the Resurrection Church, this 3rd Adam was born in Korea between 1917 and 1930 and his appearance will be recognized as the 2nd coming of Christ. This 3rd Adam will marry, producing the perfect family, enabling complete salvation for those who choose it.  Many Unificationists had viewed Rev. Moon and his wife Hak Ja Han (his 2nd) as this perfect family, the “true spiritual parents of humankind” but he died in 2012, having appointed his youngest son,  Hyung Jin Moon, his successor in 2008.

The Unification Church is known for their mass weddings. Many times, the couples do not know who they will marry until a month before the ceremony, sometimes not meeting them until that day. They can, however, not participate in the wedding without shame. The newlyweds do not consumate their marriage for 40 days, representing the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The church emphasizes the importance of the family and encourages times of family study and devotion.

Exact membership numbers are hard to determine but are said to be in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, with about 5,000 in the U.S. It appears that membership in South Korea is not significant enough to appear anywhere but in the “others” column of religious adherents.

Here are some pictures I took of Cheon Bok Gung Church of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in Seoul:

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Cheon Bok Gung Church Seoul
The announcement board outside of the Cheon Bok Gung Church in Seoul
Cheon Bok Gung Church
This view of the church building shows the symbol of the Unification Church designed by Sun Myung Moon the elements of which have these meanings: “The center circle symbolizes God, truth, life, and light, the four elements that reach out or radiate from this origin to the whole cosmos in 12 directions. The number 12 represents the 12 types of human character and that truth (the Principle) is able to spread out in 12 ways (such as in the 12 tribes and 12 disciples). According to Moon, the structure of the heavenly kingdom is also patterned after this system of 12. The outer circle represents the harmony of giving and receiving action, the principle of the cosmos. The square represents the four position foundation. The symbol is used on Blessing Ceremony rings, jewelry, on churches and in publications.” (RF site)
Cheon Bok Gung Church
This is the view that caught my eye on my walk…I thought that looked like Jesus on the right…

 

Cheon Bok Gung Church
As you walk in the main entrance, your eyes are drawn to a round room in the center surrounded by blocks and pillars.

Cheon Bok Gung Church

Cheon Bok Gung Church
To the right is a small cafe.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
To the left and behind are a number of personalized tiles.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
By the information desk at the entrance is a schedule of the services offered.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
The round room in the center is the “Jeongseong Room.” According to the sign in front of it, this room is an area for offering prayer and jeongseong in silence. Before entering, pray-ers are to remove their shoes and be careful not to fall into the water, which doesn’t have a cover.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On the left side of the Jeongseong Room is a picture of Buddha.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On the right side of the Jeongseong Room is a picture of Jesus.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
The Cheon Bok Gung Church is housed in a large building with space for worship, prayer. lectures, conferences and education.
Cheon Bok Gung Church
On an outside door of the building is a saying which found nearly anywhere might be a good one: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved…forever.”

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A brochure with the order of worship for the Cheon Bok Gung Church

 

 

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All photos were taken by the author. Information for this post was gathered from the following sites:

Religious Tolerance website, “The Unification Church…”

Religion Facts website, “Unification Church”

Family Federation for World Peace and Unification-USA

The Unification Church, “Rev. and Mrs. Moon”

Wikipedia, “Unification Church”

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Camp Humphreys, Korea

As a chaplain, when I visit a new post, the first things I like to visit are the chapels, followed by chaplain’s offices and work areas, then memorials and cemeteries, finally historical points of interest…that is, of course, after I visit my chaplains or accomplish the mission I’m there for. I state that first, to explain why the majority of pictures I’m going to share in this post are of those things.

Humphreys-CW2-Humphreys Memorial Plaque-croppedCamp Humphreys or United States Army Garrison (USAG) Humphreys, is a U.S. Army post near Pyeongtaek, beside Anjeong-ri. Humphreys is about 55 miles Southwest of Seoul (at least an hour and a half drive depending on traffic). What is now Camp Humphreys began as Pyeongteak Airfield in 1919 by the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. The Air Force rebuilt it during the Korean War and renamed it K-6, then in 1962 it was renamed Camp Humphreys in honor of CW2 Benjamin K. Humphreys of the 6th Transporation Company (Light Helicopter). Humphreys was killed in a helicopter accident on 13 November 1961 near Osan-Ni, Kyung-Gi Do, Korea. Camp Humphreys is home to Desiderio Army Airfield, said to be the busiest Army airfield in Asia.

Camp Humphreys is rapidly growing since it has been chosen as the new home for most of the nearly 30,000 U.S. Army troops in South Korea to include the headquarters of United States Forces Korea (USFK). By the time the move is complete, Camp Humphreys will spread over 3500 acres.

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Chapels

When building is complete, there will be a total of four chapels on Camp Humphreys. Here is a look at what’s been built so far and what is coming:

Camp Humphreys Main Post Chapel
Artist’s conception of the mid-size chapel being built in the Main Post area of Camp Humphreys. It is scheduled to be complete by December 2016 and will be called Freedom Family Life Chapel.

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Camp Humphreys Troop Chapel
When construction is complete there will be two of these troop chapels on Camp Humphreys. This one is expected to be named Pacific Victors Chapel, the other Indian Head Chapel.
Camp Humphreys Troop Chapel
Inside of one of the Troop Chapels on Camp Humphreys

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Camp Humphreys Chapel
This is what will be the main chapel on post when complete in August 2016. It’s located across the street from the Elementary School and is expected to be named Four Chaplains Memorial Chapel.

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Beacon Hill Park

Beacon Hill Park sits on a hill and covers about 42,900 square meters. It includes several picnic pavilions, a disc golf course, the USAG Humphreys Memorial Park and trails and walkways through a wooded area. Beacon Hill is also a protected area, having “potential buried cultural resources” from after the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). According to the sign on the hill:

The Beacon Hill area shall be preserved due to the presence of buried cultural resources. Several artifacts, such as a piece of bluish-gray celadon and a piece of white celadon, were detected at the ground surface. Also, many historical graves were scattered throughout an area 42,900 square meters (m2). Other cultural resources may be buried within the area that have so far [not] been unearthed. Developing the area should be minimized as much as possible…

Camp Humphreys Beacon Hill Park
The picnic pavilions in Beacon Hill Park were built in 1989 by 22nd KSC CO.
Camp Humphreys Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park has a nice wooded area.
USAG Humphreys Memorial Park
Located in Beacon Hill Part is the USAG Humphreys Memorial Park.

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Various Buildings

Even with over 3500 acres, space is at a premium as they build sufficient infrastructure and headquarters for the influx of troops and family members to Camp Humphreys. Many areas resemble the cities of Korea with high rise buildings and large above and below ground parking garages. Here are a few pictures of some of the buildings being built or already occupied on Camp Humphreys.

Camp Humphreys Family Housing
One of the family housing complexes. This is a cluster of three semi-high rises with underground parking.

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Camp Humphreys Barracks
Some of the semi-high rise barracks buildings
Camp Humphreys High Rise Barracks
A few more of the semi-high rise barracks buildings
Camp Humphreys Super Gym
The new Fitness Center, locally known as the “Super Gym.”
Camp Humphreys Picnic Pavilions
Picnic Pavilions outside of the Super Gym.

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BDE HQ Building
This building complex will be my new BDE HQ once completed. The taller building is for the BDE, the smaller one in front will be home to two of the BNs.

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Camp Humphreys HQ
Another one of the HQ buildings being built on Camp Humphreys…there’s a whole row of them!

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Camp Humphreys HQ
Another HQ on “Headquarters Row”

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Morning Calm Conference Center
In the distance is the Morning Calm Conference Center. Beside it is being built a large expansion of Humphreys Lodge.

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Army Aviation

As mentioned above, Desiderio Army Airfield is the busiest Army airfield in Asia. Here are a few unclassified pictures of Army aircraft.

Camp Humphreys
A couple of Kiowa Warriors
Camp Humphreys Chinooks
A group of Chinook helicopters parked on the airfield
Camp Humphreys Army Aviation
One of the fixed-wing planes operated by one of my BNs.
Camp Humphreys Army Aviation
A Kiowa Warrior taking off from the airfield.
Camp Humphreys Cobra
A mounted attack helicopter in front of a BN of the 2nd CAB.
Camp Humphreys helicopter
Another helicopter mounted in front of BN HQs of the 2nd CAB.

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Here’s a video produced by USAG Humphreys which shows much of Camp Humphreys from the air:

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There is still a lot of building taking place on Camp Humphreys, as well as in Pyeongtaek, which will provide more for Soldiers and families to do and make life both comfortable and enjoyable. Additionally, a fast-train line is being added to Pyeongtaek which will make travel to Seoul a lot quicker, providing even better access to more of what Korea has to offer.

It will be interesting to see Camp Humphreys in a few years when the transformation is complete.

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A Look at Suwon (수원)

Suwon is one of the Korean cities that I have visited most. It is the capital of Gyeonggi-do, which is South Korea’s most populous province. Suwon is located about 30 kilometers south of Seoul, South Korea’s capital, and has a population of over 1 million. Traditionally it was known as “The City of Filial Piety” and is home to the Hwaseong Fortress.

Hwaseong Fortress
One of the gates of Hwaseong Fortress

Hwaseong Fortress was built as part of a planned city constructed by King Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the southern gate of the capital city of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. Located in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, the area of Hwaseong Fortress served as a strategic site for military security as well as key site for commerce.

Today, Hwaseong Fortress is surrounded by many roads both small and large, in addition to the Gyeonggi Provincial Government Building, giving all the opportunity to view the scenic juxtaposition of old and modern architecture. For a quick and convenient way to visit a variety of attractions during your stay in Suwon, take a ride on the Suwon City Tour, operated by the city Government. Accompanied by guides who are proficient in English and Japanese, you’ll be able to ride in comfort as you discover some of the most celebrated treasures of the city.1

But there is much more to Suwon besides the fortress, including the Haenggung Palaces. Here are a few pictures of my walks around Suwon:

 Hwaseong Haenggung Palace
Main entrance to the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace
 Hwaseong Haenggung Palace
A view of the Seo Jandae (command post) on the hill over Hwaseong Haenggung Palace.
Hwaseong Haenggung Palace tree
This Zelkova tree in front of the Hwaseong Palace was designated a Protected Tree in 1982. It is said to be 350 years old and represents the meaning that the prime minister and two other ministers greet a benignant person under this tree so as to be engaged in right politics.
Hwaseong Haenggung Palace
A warrior demonstration in front of the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace

Suwon
One of the busy side-streets of Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

 

Suwon
An American collectibles shop in Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon
There’s a toy museum on the 2nd floor.

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon
A small traditional village museum
Suwon
A small traditional village museum
Suwon
A small traditional village museum
Suwon
A local artist who I bought some hand-painted magnets from
Suwon
One of the Buddhist temples on the weekend of Buddha’s birthday (thus, the paper lanterns).

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon

Suwon
The swastika was used before the Nazis adopted it. Here, it’s used as a symbol for Buddhism.
Suwon
In Buddhism, people eat a meal with their ancestors, rather in the “presence” of ancestors. This is a statue in Suwon where I noticed a man eating his lunch.

Suwon

Suwon
Notice the heads still on the chickens. Yum.

Suwon

Suwon

 

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1 http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_4_10_13.jsp

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Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival)

Friends from the service I worked in at Fort Leonard Wood showed up at my service in Yongsan (which was a nice surprise!) and invited me to go downtown with them to the Yeon Deung Hoe or Lotus Lantern Festival. This was the main weekend of a month-long celebration of the Buddha’s coming into the world (birthday). Attending the festival, at least for me, wasn’t an act of honoring or worshiping Buddha but rather of observing the cultural significance of Buddhism in Korea.

There were several downtown streets closed to vehicle traffic and lined with booths sponsored by different Buddhist orders. Much like many festivals in the U.S. there were crafts for children to make, teas to taste, temple foods to sample, and various causes to support.

There were large crowds everywhere. The smaller streets were more crowded.
There were large crowds everywhere. The smaller streets were more crowded.

The businesses and kiosks that normally line the streets were also open, providing a variety of Korean foods, arts and crafts, souvenirs and other special and routine products for sale.

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There was a main stage area in the center of the festivities where traditional Korean and, I assume, Buddhist performances were staged.

A Korean woman singing, with what resembled a conga line, though was probably supposed to be a dragon.
A Korean woman singing, with what resembled a conga line, though was probably supposed to be a dragon.

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Along the street, there were various ceremonies going on; some for people to watch, others for people to participate in.

Yeon Deung Hoe

Yeon Deung Hoe

Yeon Deung Hoe

And then there were street performers…

Yeon Deung Hoe
A couple of expats playing bluegrass.
Yeon Deung Hoe
This guy stands statute-still until someone puts money in his hat or approaches him.

There were also artists…

Yeon Deung Hoe

…and others needing assistance.

Yeon Deung Hoe

The festival was in the neighborhood of the large Jogye-sa Temple, which seemed to be a focal point of the festivities where people gathered in the temple to pray, participate in the Ceremony of Bathing Buddha and have their prayer requests attached to paper lanterns and hung over the Temple Square.

Yeon Deung Hoe
Decorations made of paper on the temple grounds
Jogye-sa temple
The Jogye-sa Temple
The Jogye-sa Temple
Inside the Jogye-sa Temple

The Jogye-sa Temple
Inside The Jogye-sa Temple
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Nice detailed painting on the outside of The Jogye-sa Temple
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Nice detailed painting on the outside of The Jogye-sa Temple
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Nice detailed painting on the outside of The Jogye-sa Temple
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Nice detailed painting on the outside of The Jogye-sa Temple

According to Buddhist, The Ceremony of Bathing Buddha is a ritual to improve happiness and peace of mind. The sign outside of the temple states the proper way of bathing Buddha is to fill the ladle and pour water over the small Buddha statue three times. While pouring the water, the participant is to say during the 1st wash, “May I eliminate all evil thoughts.” During the 2nd wash, “May I cultivate good deeds.” And during the 3rd wash, “May I help save all living beings.”

Jogye-sa Temple
A Buddhist adherent participating in the Ceremony of Bathing Buddha
Jogye-sa Temple
There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of lanterns hanging all over the temple grounds with prayer requests from Buddhist adherents (and they’re pretty…)
Yeon Deung Hoe
Some of the floats from the parade the night before, on the temple grounds.
Yeon Deung Hoe
Some of the floats from the parade the night before, on the temple grounds.

All over the festival area there were lanterns made of hanji, which is a traditional handmade Korean paper made from mulberry bark. Most were very unique and detailed, beautiful works of art which reminded me of the variety of kites in the U.S.

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All along the streets and booths were varied and plenteous food offerings.

Yeon Deung Hoe
We passed several Turkish Ice Cream stands.
Yeon Deung Hoe
The dipping and serving was very entertaining.
Yeon Deung Hoe
And it was good ice cream
Yeon Deung Hoe
I did NOT try the octopus on a stick!
Yeon Deung Hoe
I did try a hot dog on a stick…covered in potatoes.
Yeon Deung Hoe
Hot Dog and French Fries in one hand. A convenient walking food!

We ate lunch at a small Korean seafood restaurant where we had a good sampling of fish and pancakes.

I'm not sure of the name of the restaurant we ate at, it may say it here...
I’m not sure of the name of the restaurant we ate at, it may say it here…
... or here.
… or here.
Jamie and Robyn and their two children, a family I got to know at Ft. Leonard Wood who recently arrived at USAG Yongsan. We ate at a little restaurant down a few side streets near the festival.
Jamie and Robyn and their two children, a family I got to know at Ft. Leonard Wood who recently arrived at USAG Yongsan. We ate at a little restaurant down a few side streets near the festival.
We ordered 2 or 3 different fish and a seafood pancake which turned out to be octopus.
We ordered 2 or 3 different fish and a seafood pancake which turned out to be octopus.
Our meal also came with the usual variety of side dishes.
Our meal also came with the usual variety of side dishes.

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Part of the fun of going to a festival is what you bring home. Here are a few things I picked up while walking around the area:

Korean art on rice paper
A painting of a traditional Korean village scene painted on rice paper.
Korean Mother of Pearl Box
I picked up this box at the Temple Gift Shop. “Mother-of-Pearl (najeon or jagae in native Korean) is a highly intricate decorative technique whose tradition in Korea has been kept alive for more than a thousand years. Pearl oyster, conch, and abalone shells are filed to reveal the iridescent inner layers. Thin strips are then inlaid into a black lacquered surface. The whole thing is pained again, and then the excess lacquer is carefully filed away to reveal the brillian and translucent colors of different patterns. Thus the common expression ‘najeon chilgi,’ where ‘chil’ means ‘painting.’
          Najeon chilgi is not just about shiny shells. Shell’s brillian colors come alive because of the pitch-black lacquer. Its true beauty is revealed not under bright lights, but under dim candle light or delicate sunlight seepin through Korean traditional windows covered in Korean paper ‘Light etched into darkness.’ Najeon chilgi is a thousand-year-old light of nature, the most intricate and beautiful of traditional lacquer-ware, and an applied art that represents Korea’s beautiful traditional aesthetics.”
The Temple Gift Shop had these paper models of the Four Heavenly Kings for sale and one of the booths in the festival were giving them away. I got the free ones, though I came home with just 2 of the Four Heavenly Kings. According to Buddhism, The Four Heavenly Kings are “gods” who watch over the four cardinal directions of the world. They are said to be the protectors of the world who fight evil and able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma.
Four Heavenly Kings Jogye-sa Temple
A near life size stand up of one of The Four Heavenly Kings on the complex of Jogye-sa Temple.
Two of the Four Heavenly Kings at the Jogye-sa Temple complex.

 

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DMZ Visit

Since the Armistice Agreement was signed on 27 July 1953, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) running for 160 miles roughly along the 38th parallel from the East Sea to the Yellow Sea, has been one of the most unusual places on earth. Less than 35 miles from Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the 2  1/2 mile wide DMZ is centered on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), the political border, the violation of which could get you shot.

DMZ Guard Tower
There are guard towers all along sections of the DMZ.

Despite the name which seems to indicate a lesser degree of militarization, the DMZ is extremely militarized with the North and South facing off eyeball to eyeball as though the war which preceded the armistice is just paused. The agreement, however, prevents either side from introducing large weapons or large numbers of troops within the DMZ, which acts as a buffer zone between the two belligerent nations, who, ironically, do not recognize each other as legitimate governments.

My visit to the DMZ was to the area known as the Joint Security Area which originally was jointly governed by North and South Korea, but after soldiers from North Korea killed 2 American officers and 4 South Korean Soldiers with axes the U.N. Soldiers were using to remove limbs from a tree which was blocking visibility between guard posts in August 1976, the MDL was established, separating the two and leaving the only area of responsibility that overlap being Panmunjeom. Panmunjeom is an 800 meter area which is most famously home to the building where the armistice was signed.

Panmunjeom
Panmunjeom. The blue building on the left is where the Armistice Agreement was signed in July 1953. The large building in the back is Panmungak, in North Korea, used as a waiting are for North Korean visitors and guards. If you look closely, you can see a North Korean Soldier just left of center of Panmungak.
Panmunjeom Conference Building
Inside the Panmunjeom conference building. The center table sits on the line between North and South Korea and is where the military leaders signed the Armistice Agreement ending hostilities during the Korean War.

The battalion tasked with security of the area around the JSA, formally known as the United Nations Command Security Battalion, operates under the Armistice Agreement, reporting directly to United Nations Command. the UNCSB is one of the few purely joint-nation battalions composed of approximately 10% U.S. Soldiers and 90% ROK Soldiers. Together, they are responsible for monitoring the area around the JSA, protecting visitors to the area and those who work in the zone, and executing the education mission (which includes tours of the significant sites around the DMZ).

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North Korea has always been antaginistic toward the South and countries allied to them. For years, plans have been in the works to re-invade the South. In 1978, as a result of information received from a North Korean defector, a third infiltration tunnel was discovered. This tunnel is about a mile long and about 6 1/2 feet in diameter. Had this tunnel been used by the North for an invasion, 30,000 soldiers per hour could have traveled through it. It is said that there still could be 20 tunnels running under the DMZ which are yet to be discovered.

Tunnel #3
The entrance to Tunnel #3. There are no photographs permitted within the tunnel.

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Near the DMZ in Peju on Mt. Dora is the Dora Observatory where onlookers can view several sites in North Korea. There are tourist binaculars available, but to take a photograph toward the North, you have to stand behind a line well behind those binaculars. Without recording what you see, you get a great view of North Korea from this observatory, though I did take a few pictures before I was told we couldn’t.

Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory in Peju
Dora Observatory
A view of North Korea from the Dora Observatory
Dora Observatory
There is a small Buddhist shrine next to the Dora Observatory. On top is a traditional Buddhist bell
Dora Observatory
Inside the Buddhist shrine next to Dora Observatory.

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In 1953, following the signing of the Armistice Agreement, prisoners of war (POW) were exchanged over what became know as the “Bridge of No Return,” so named because once a POW returned to the North, they would not be permitted to come back to the South.

Bridge of No Return
Bridge of No Return within the DMZ

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In 1976, a group of United Nations Soldiers were trimming limbs from a large tree in the DMZ which was blocking the line of site between two guard posts when they were attacked by a group of North Korean soldiers. 2 U.S. officers and 4 South Korean Soldiers were killed. Today, there is a monument near where the attack took place which was near the Bridge of No Return.

DMZ Ax Murder Monument
The monument honoring the deaths of U.N. Soldiers killed with their axes by North Korean soldiers. The round base of the monument is the size of the tree the U.N. Soldiers were trimming.
DMZ Ax Murder Stump
The stump of the tree involved in the 1976 ax murders located in the museum at the JSA Visitor’s Center

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Gijeong-dong Village
A view of North Korea from an observation post near Panmunjeom. In the center of the picture is Gijeong-dong Village, built by the North for propaganda, but there are many things that indicated it is not lived in but rather a “fake” city housing only some soldiers. The tower holding the North Korean flag is said to be the world’s tallest flag tower.

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For several miles along Highway 77, between Seoul and Peju, there are double fences with barbed wire and guard posts every few hundred feet. A vivid reminder how close Korea is to war.
For several miles along Highway 77, between Seoul and Peju, there are double fences with barbed wire and guard towers every few hundred feet. A vivid reminder how close the people of Korea are to war.

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Additional References:

National Geographic website, Korea’s DMZ: Dangerous Divide.

Life in Korea website, Joint Security Area (Panmunjeom).

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Food Critic Korea: Braai Republic

Braai Republic

On a recent visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, I went with one of my battalion chaplains and a visiting chaplain into “The Ville” to eat lunch at a restaurant called Braai Republic (down the main road of “The Ville” a couple of blocks, on the left then go to the 2nd floor). The battalion chaplain who was our guide said that it appeals to Americans because it’s a “meat and potatoes” restaurant (which appeals to me!) though the entrees are prepared a special way.

Braai Republic
The Braai Republic in Pyeongtaek is on the 2nd floor of a building a couple of blocks from Camp Humphreys (“Visions” is another establishment on the 1st floor).

Braai Republic advertises itself as “A Taste of Africa,” serving “Traditional South African Food.” I’ve never been to any country in Africa or eaten at a fully African-themed restaurant, so I don’t have those comparisons to draw from,  but can evaluate the food on its own merits. Walking into the restaurant, it looks very African in color and decor. There are a variety of stuffed animal heads lending to the African feel.

Braai Republic

The menu has a good variety of meats: beef, lamb, chicken and pork. Many of the names are European in origin as well as uniquely South African and Zimbabwean. There are Lamb & Pork Chops, Pork Ribs, Bangers, Boerewors, Pap and Wors, Oxtail Stew and Potjie, Prawns, Biltong, Droewors and a variety of pies: Lamb, Chicken, Pork, Mixed Meat and Spinich & Potato. Also on the menu is Peri-Peri chicken, wholly roasted, in a sandwich and livers.

The sides are mainly common ones, though some with an ethnic twist: Potato Fries, Green Salad, Slaw, Creamy Spinach, Curried Green Beans, Garlic Potatoes, and carrots.

Braai Republic

Our group ordered a variety of entrees from the menu, realizing that each meat dish is prepared and cooked when it’s ordered. The first to order asked for the Chicken Pie, which was the last they had. Another ordered Lamb Chops which looked very good. Someone else ordered Peri-Peri Chicken (a marinated half-chicken). I ordered the Peri-Peri Chicken Sandwich with Potato Fries and the battalion chaplain, not having much time because of an appointment, just ordered Garlic Bread, which came with a number of toppings making it almost a meal on its own.

Our group enjoying lunch at Braai Republic in "The Ville."

Everyone spoke of their meals being good, but I can only speak to mine. First, the iced sweet tea came in a handled mason jar. It’s brewed fresh (with the tea bag still in the glass when it arrived). The taste was a bit different from “American” sweet tea, apparently being sweetened with honey.

I ordered my Peri-Peri Chicken Sandwich with Potato Fries instead of the Green Salad, not knowing what may be in the salad or what the dressings may be like. I wondered, with a name like “Potato Fries,” if they would be any different than American “French Fries” and discovered they weren’t, but they were very good, certainly better that fast-food French Fries.

Braai Republic

I’ve had Peri-Peri Chicken before, but at an Afro-Portuguese restaurant in Qatar, called Nando’s Peri-Peri. I assumed it would be similar, which it was. The sandwich came on a hoagie-type bun with shredded chicken marinated in the Peri-Peri spice. It had a thin white sauce along the top, though I’m not certain what that sauce was. While the type of bun was more bread than I would prefer, the taste of the sandwich -with the seasoning and sauces- was very, very good. It did remind me of the Peri-Peri chicken that I ate at Nando’s, which is a pleasant memory. There wasn’t a choice of levels of spicy (at Nando’s, I’d get “mild”) so had to take what I received. It was what I would label as medium-spicy. Spicy enough that I needed to get an additional glass of water but not so spicy that I couldn’t enjoy the flavor. The Peri-Peri Chicken Sandwich was a great choice, and one that I will make again…after I sample the other items on the menu which all also look great.

I would highly recommend Braai Republic if you’re looking for “meat and potatoes” with a bit of spice and good side dishes. And, I found out while writing this review that not only is there a Braai Republic near Camp Humphreys (where I ate), there is also one in Itaewon near USAG Yongsan (their website is here), so I’m looking forward to eating at Braai Republic again soon!

Additionally, I discovered that the same owners of the restaurant have a shop where a variety of sausages and cured and dried meats can be purchased. Here is a link to the store’s website, which also has good descriptions of the types of meat they sell at the store as well as serve in the restaurants: The Biltong Guy Shop.

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