Interesting People & Curious Things

One of the things that I find most interesting when I visit other countries is the differences that exist between my culture and theirs. Often times what a Westerner thinks is odd or peculiar in another culture is completely normal or natural for them. I can just imagine the thoughts that must go through the minds of visitors to the United States when they see some of the things unique to us.

Since this interests me so much, I take a lot of pictures of those things that turn my head. Most just wind up in a file on my computer, but some of the most unusual ones I like to share. Understand that in posting these pictures I’m not making fun of, or ridiculing, Koreans in any way. Like I said, what seems odd to a Westerner is often very normal for them. I post them here just to show what I find to be unusual, through my Western eyes and the differences that exist between our cultures.

By the way, if you find this post interesting, keep coming back. I’ll add the odd and unusual here as I encounter it, acknowledging the fact that admitting what I view as “odd and unusual” may label me as “odd and unusual”!

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I see a lot of Koreans sleeping on the subway. This woman kept going to sleep and would lean on me.
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This elderly Korean noticed a tattoo on my Chaplain Assistant and started talking to him. He was all smiles and seemed very happy.
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I thought the rolling bag seemed more Western than would be expected here (and thought that my wife would like it…since it has flowers).
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This gentleman was eating lunch with a statue. It didn’t seem unusual to anyone else passing by.
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Koreans do like their Spam! It seems like they have an unusual attraction to it, even giving it as gifts.
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Another Korean falling asleep on the Subway…my Soldier took it like a trooper!
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I was surprised to find a Goodwill Store in Suwon.
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I found this sign funny. Koreans don’t strike me as being bowlers.
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Asleep again on the subway!
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A Korean cutting up fish on the street.
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An elderly Korean woman selling her wares on the street. It seems odd to me how many booths, kiosks and carts line the roads, often with many of the same things for sale.
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Many Koreans still move thins with manpower.
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Many of the foods Koreans eat I just don’t find palatable.
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My kids used to make sandwiches like these when they were little. I can’t believe they sell them here!
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And then there’s the strawberry sandwich…
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Instead of liquid soap dispensers in the public restrooms, many of them have bar soap, on a stick.
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Sorry, I found this mannequin creepy!
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On the way out-of-town on the train, I saw this woman sitting on a cardboard box. When she started looking through the garbage at the restaurant next store, I went to a convenience store and bought her a sandwich. I didn’t see her eat it, but she walked away with it.
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You can’t tell as well in the picture, but these fixtures are all miniature for children. It’s was in the Men’s room in the Yongsan Station.
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One of the Korean lunches I had. I really don’t like my fish looking at me when I eat it!
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At the district assembly of a Christian church, they used a locked ballot box for one of the elections. Is there really that kind of lack of trust among Christians?
Pyeongtaek-Hooters
This happens in a lot of countries. I’m sure many Americans are fooled by this “Hooters Snack Bar”!
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Nearly every convenience store sells squid in various forms. Yuck!
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A woman with her baby on her back at a Suwon bus stop. Seems like that baby is a bit big for that kind of carry…
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This one isn’t so unusual, but after I bought some of her art work, I asked if I could take a picture of her. She wanted it  in a good place in her shop, and posed appropriately.
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I found this amusing. This old couple was at the Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, with a beautiful scene right in front of them, but they were painting from photographs.
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Just a couple of puppies on the back of a scooter.
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I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like this in the U.S. but I’ve seen them a lot here. It gives you the ideal location to take a photograph.

8 May 2016 Update

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Many motorcycles have these racks on the back. Some have things stacked way over their heads.
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The way the ROK Soldiers at the JSA stood struck me as funny. It’s like a combination of “attention” and “parade rest” with clinched fists.
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Koreans have unusual candy flavor mixtures.
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Very unusual mixtures. This one is “chili nut” M&Ms!
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American Indians in Korea
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A group of Buddhist women taking a break between “performances” at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
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A group of Koreans in traditional dress at the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.
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A disabled man was pulling himself through town, while pushing a box. You can’t say that he just sat around waiting for a donation. I gave him a few thousand won but it never seems like enough.
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This scene struck me as funny. Two girls in traditional Korean dress tied to their cell phones.

14 May 2016 Update

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There are a lot of ethnic restaurants in Seoul. It seems like an extremely large amount…Here’s a Turkish restaurant with a Turkish man in traditional Turkish dress.
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Compared to American trucks, I find Korean trucks very unusual (their cows look the same, though).
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Riding on the subway is always interesting. As a large American, I have to squeeze into the smaller Korean-size seats. It’s also funny how so many people sit on the subway on their phones.
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A little Thai boy came and sat down on the subway and started talking to one of my Soldiers, asking all kinds of questions, with just a little occasional help from his mother. I was surprised at how well he spoke English, and how he knew to speak it to my Soldier.
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The escalators get packed after a subway opens its doors (the “down” side). Koreans don’t seem to mind being packed together like sardines.
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A large selection of snack foods, most of which I haven’t and likely won’t try. Sorry.
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These ladies struck me as interesting. When I think of “Roman Catholic” I think “Western.” It was unusual to see Korean women in dress I perceive as from a Western institution. I also found it intriguing to see them in very conservative dress surrounded by a woman with dark red lipstick on one side and short-shorts on the other…cultures colliding…

21 May 2016 Update

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There are homeless everyone (any country you go). This man was right outside the subway station in Suwon. It seems like giving a few dollars (or won) isn’t doing enough to help!
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It’s funny how job sites provide slippers for workers to wear inside a near-complete building so as not to damage the flooring. I don’t remember seeing this in the U.S. when I worked on construction sites.

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Suwon Mayor Addresses Our Group

The chaplains and assistants in the brigade run a command-emphasized program for Soldiers just arriving to the brigade to learn how to use the public transportation system, order and eat at a Korean restaurant and visit a Korean cultural site. You can read more about these trips here.

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress
One of the battalion chaplains talking about the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress we were visiting.

We usually run these trips twice a month with little fanfare or excitement, but this day, because Suwon was preparing for a big festival on the weekend, the mayor was in the area and asked to talk to us. This is pretty significant, realizing that Suwon is a city with a population of over 1 million.

Mayor Yeom Tae-Young talked about his appreciation for our presence and told us some of the history of Suwon and the fortress we were there to visit. He also asked to have a picture taken with us (which we also wanted with him), then encouraged us to have a great visit and to come back for the festival.

Suwon Mayor
The mayor of Suwon (in the blue jacket) speaks to our group.

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Suwon Mayor
One of the BN chaplains greeting the Suwon mayor.

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Suwon Mayor
Me with the Suwon mayor after he talked to our group.

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Buddhism in South Korea

In my post about religion in South Korea, I talk more about Christianity and other non-Buddhist traditions but since Buddhism is so ingrained in Korean life and culture I wanted to spend a bit more time on it … and … I have several pictures of Buddhist temples and statues that I’ve taken that I want to share!

Laughing Buddha Suwon
A traditional “laughing” Buddha statue at a shop in Suwon.

Buddhism came to Korea from China in 372, about 800 years after the death of the original Buddha. It has grown to nearly 11 million adherents. These 11 million worship at tens of thousands of Buddhist temples located in cities and countrysides all over South Korea. For example, the small area of Suwon that I visit with Soldiers and spend about an hour walking on each trip, have 3 Buddhist temples within about a 20-minute walk of each other.

Korean thinkers developed their version of Buddhism into a more distinct version, correcting what they saw as inconsistencies in Chinese-Buddhist traditions, though is derived primarily from Seon Buddhism with other variations followed to a lesser extent.

At least early in Buddhism in Korea, many temples were located in the mountains, as a result of a practical mixture of Buddhism with Shamanism that was present in Korea before 372. Shamanism taught that the mountains were home to the spirits, so it was natural to combine Buddhist and Shaman thought in the placement of Buddhist temples. In fact, the 3 primary spirits of Shamanism remained in most Korean-Buddhist teaching and hold a place of honor and many Buddhist shrines have a place for them.

During the 500+ years of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), Buddhism was forced to give way to a neo-Confucianism which grew in dominance until Buddhist monks were significant players in repelling  a Japanese invasion during the 7-year war in the late 16th century which caused Buddhist persecution to come to an end. Adherents to Buddhism increased until following World War Two when Christianity’s influence increased starting a rapid decline of Buddhism in South Korea to its present place of only about 20% of the population.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to drive long before you see a Buddhist temple or statue. Much of my walking and site-seeing has been in the Suwon area, however, so the pictures I have are of 3 Buddhist temples in that area.

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Suwon Buddhism
This picture was taken from the parking lot of the palace in Suwon and shows the prominence of some of the Buddhist statues.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This is the entrance to the temple that is home to the statue in the above picture. It’s above a number of small side-streets.
Suwon Buddhist temple
One of the buildings in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The statue in the center of the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Below the statue is a shrine for worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Like many Korean sites, there are slippers for you to change into before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view inside the shrine below the statue. Notice the banners hanging on the ceiling on the right and left which contain what looks like Nazi swastikas. “In Buddhism, the swastika signifies auspiciousness and good fortune as well as the Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart.”(1) This symbol was used in art and religion long before the Nazis used it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice to the right of the statue are notes left by worshipers.
Suwon Buddhist temple pagoda
A pagoda on the temple grounds
Suwon Buddhist temple
A number of small monuments on the hill above the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some type of oven on the temple grounds with small statues on it.
Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance/exit to the temple complex. Notice the bell on the tower. “Beomjong, as Buddhist bells are called in Korean, are one of the four Buddhist instruments…” (2)
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress bell
Here’s is a better picture of a Korean Buddhist bell though this one isn’t at a Buddhist temple but on top of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (you can ring it 3 times for ₩1000).

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Suwon Buddhist temple
The entrance to another Buddhist temple complex in Suwon
Suwon Buddhist Temple
This temple complex has more of an appearance of a vihara, or Buddhist monastery, with living and working areas.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Some of the temple complex was undergoing renovations so we couldn’t see it all. The sign on the structure above the steps is about praying for children’s testing for university attendance (a big deal in Korea).
Suwon Buddhist temple
The building housing a shrine in the temple complex.
Suwon Buddhist temple
Notice shoes sitting outside of the shrine. Shoes are always removed before entering.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A view of the inside of the shrine in the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
The inside of the entrance/exit gate of the temple complex.

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Suwon Buddhist Temple
Another Buddhist temple on the other side of the Suwon River from the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.
Suwon Buddhist temple
This temple is larger and uses modern architectural design in contrast to the ones above which use more traditional Korean architecture. However, there is an elaborate pagoda on top of the building.
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign on the temple building
Suwon Buddhist temple
A look inside the temple complex
Suwon Buddhist temple
A sign describing the temple complex

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(1) http://www.religionfacts.com/swastika/buddhism

(2) http://eng.templestay.com/upload/board/2013121810273680997.pdf

Some of the information for this post came from the online New World Encyclopedia.

All photos were taken by the author.

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Religion in South Korea

South Korea has a long history of religious observance. Buddhism was introduced in 372 and currently has nearly 11 million adherents worshiping in tens of thousands of temples. Confucianism became the state ideology during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392 to 1910 but while listed as a religion, is more of an ethical way of thinking and living (but has had profound influence on Korean society).

Roman Catholicism came to Korea in the late 18th century following the baptism of one of the “elite” on a visit to China. Catholics faced significant persecution during the Joseon Dynasty (making Korea the 4th largest contributor of saints) but grew rapidly following the end of the Korean War and now claims over 5 million members.

Protestant Christianity came to Korea with Christian missionaries from North America in the late 19th century. Much of the appeal of the Protestant Church in Korea came from significant investment in schools and hospitals. Today, Protestants comprise about 18% of the population of South Korea, nearly 9 million members.

Combining members of Protestantism and Catholicism nets a total of nearly 15 million members or over half of the population claiming religious adherence, making Christianity the largest faith group in South Korea.

South Korea religious preference
This graphs shows percentages of South Koreans who identify with a particular faith group. It does not include the nearly half of the population who say they are “non-religious.” Thus, percentages are of those who identify with some religion, not of the population as a whole.

 

 

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A short trip through nearly any part of Korea will reveal evidence of South Korea’s religious nature. Driving through most any town you’ll often see a steeple or gold Buddha. Here are a few pictures of some of the churches and temples I have seen in my travels:

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A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate
A large modern-Gothic church beside I-1 just inside the Seoul toll gate.
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu
A Christian church in Seoul near Yongsan-gu.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek
A Church of the Nazarene in Pyeongtaek.
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon
A large Presbyterian church in Suwon.

 

A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Christian church in Pyeongtaek.
A Buddhist Temple in Suwon.
A Buddhist Temple between businesses down a small street in Suwon.

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The religious preference chart and some of the information in this post came from  http://www.korea.net/AboutKorea/Korean-Life/Religion.

Some other information came from  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/08/why-catholicism-important-korea-201481717037383818.html.

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Lost in Translation (오역) or Korean Signs (한국어 표지판)

Sometimes driving in other countries is easy, sometimes not so much. One of the most difficult aspects are the road signs and sometimes the signs are so different from what we’re accustomed to that they’re difficult to understand. If you don’t know the language, you have to do your best to understand them based on the diagrams or pictures on the sign, context of their placement and what other cars are doing; but sometimes those translations can be pretty comical.

There many sign "banks" like these at intersections. The traffic lights just aren't long enough to read them all (even if I could read the language!).
There are many sign “banks” like these at intersections. The traffic lights just aren’t long enough to read them all (even if I could read the language!).
I assume this is a maximum and minimum speed limit sign, thinking wight has something to do with it...
I assume this is a maximum and minimum speed limit sign, thinking weight has something to do with it…
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Highway direction signs are pretty clear-cut, at least when they also have English.
...though those directions can get more complicated...
…though those directions can get more complicated…
...and sometimes, really complicated!
…and sometimes, really complicated (especially without English).
Others you can kind of figure out. While this seems to be each of the lanes, what each lane designation means is unknown to me.
Others you can kind of figure out. While this seems to be each of the lanes, what each lane designation means is unknown to me. That green arrow must mean something.
There's that green arrow again. It seems to correspond with lighted green arrows in the right lane, which sometimes have a red "X." Pretty clear that lane is sometimes usable, sometimes not.
There’s that green arrow again. It seems to correspond with lighted green arrows in the right lane, which sometimes have a red “X.” Pretty clear that lane is sometimes usable, sometimes not.
You need to be careful here. If you eat while you get gas you may need First Aid!
You need to be careful here. If you eat while you fuel your car, you may need First Aid!
Or worse, here, if you eat while you get gas, you'll get really bad gas!
Or worse, if you eat while you fuel your car here, you’ll get really bad gas which could distract other drivers!
This must be a popular site, the police enforce photography.
This must be a popular site, the police enforce photography.
I guess some of the policeman aren't that good. This area just has "average" speed enforcement.
I guess all Korean policeman aren’t stellar. In this area, their enforcement is just “average”!
This picture isn't very good, but it's a sad commentary on melting snowmen becoming rain.
This picture isn’t very good, but it’s a sad commentary on melting snowmen becoming rain.
It appears that you are required to unplug your car before traveling on this road.
It appears that you are required to unplug your car before traveling on this road.
Yellow cars are headed for the most excitement!
Yellow cars are headed for the most excitement!
Do not dress alike and smile...or you travelers are required to dress alike and be happy?
Do not dress alike and smile…or travelers are required to dress alike and be happy? Or it applies only if you wear green seat belts…
Not a sign, but I'd sure hate this job!
Not a sign, but I’d sure hate this job!
Wait, huh?
Wait, huh?
Oh, these guys aren't real...
Oh, these guys aren’t real…
Or are they?
Or are they?

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Do you have a better caption for any of these? Leave it in a comment!

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KATUSA Promotion Recognition

The U.S. forces in Korea have a large number of KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to U.S. Army) Soldiers working with us. The chaplain’s offices often have a KATUSA assigned to them. In my brigade, we have a KATUSA as part of the BDE UMT and one of our battalions also has a KATUSA. These KATUSAs are doing a 2-year tour of duty with about 18 months of it on assignment with us. They receive their rank based on time-in-service. My KATUSA was recently promoted to corporal and the battalion KATUSA was just promoted to sergeant. To help him celebrate his promotion, we went to Dino Prime Meat Bar in Pyeongtaek, a great meat buffet. Here’s some pictures:

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
Dino Prime Meat Bar in Pyeongtaek.

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
A large assortment of meats are in a refrigerated case where you select what you want then take to your table to cook.

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Dino Prime Meat BAr
A variety of raw cuts of beef and pork, some marinated (no dinosaur, though). All of it looks good (at least if you’re a carnivore)!

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
Each table has it’s own grill (and exhaust flue) and you’re brought a variety of “sides” to eat with your meat.

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
This particular Dino only has seating on the floor…not very comfortable for old guys like me! This is some of my chaplains and assistants.

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Dino Prime Meat Bar
Here’s another of my chaplains and 3 KATUSAs (also on the floor!).

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KATUSA Promotion
I gave the newly-promoted KATUSA a choice of a cross to wear around his neck or a cross on a key chain (both made and donated by my nephew).

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KATUSA Promotion
He chose the one with the leather string to wear so I “officially” presented it to him as congratulations for his promotion.

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Pyeongtaek street
Here’s a very Korean-looking street of Pyeongtaek on the way to Dino Prime Meat Bar

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A Stroll in the “Ville”

Spending the weekend at Camp Humphreys to spend time with my battalion chaplains and attend some of their events and worship services, I took some of my free time to go out the “walk-through” gate into the area of Pyeongtaek directly beside the base. I walked up the road in the area affectionately (or not so much) called by the Soldiers, “the Ville.” This is pretty much the main part of town that our Soldiers can get to easily and contains a combination of restaurants, bars and a variety of stores. Here’s a few pictures of my stroll in the “Ville”:

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A view down the main road of the "Ville"
A view down the main road of the “Ville”
Several tailors can be found any of the military posts in Korea to include Camp Humphrys. I think I'll go with the red one...
Several tailors can be found outside of any of the military posts in Korea to include Camp Humphrys. I think I’ll go with the red one…
Hooters Snack Bar Pyeongtaek
Looks like this used to be some kind of snack bar. I wonder why it didn’t survive. I don’t think it was the “Hooters” the Soldiers were expecting!
A view down one of the side roads...
A view down one of the side roads…
Royal Hotel Pyeongtaek
…and then you see this: The Royal Hotel.
Royal Hotel Pyeongtaek
The elaborate side of the Royal Hotel
Love Shop
One of the places Soldiers need to stay away from!
USA Military Surplus Pyeongtaek
There are several military surplus stores outside of Camp Humphreys in the “Ville.” Here’s one of the largest ones.
Pyeongtaek Fish Market
Stores of all kinds line the road in the “Ville.” Here’s a fish market.
Pyeongtaek Korean Oreos
Another market has a variety of food, some very familiar!
Korean Frosted Flakes
They’re Gr-r-reat!
Pyeongtaek market
I had to get a few snacks from this market.
Pyeongtaek
A view down another road in the “Ville.” No end to shops.
Korean Food Pyeongtaek
So you can find Korean Food in Korea!
Pyeongtaek alley
A “shady” looking alley in the “Ville.”
Pyeongtaek street art
Interesting street art. Looks like how many people drive!
Pyeongtaek snack bar
There’s never a shortage of food to eat. Not sure how safe some of the places are, though…
Pyeongtaek Restaurant Varieties
There’s also a variety of ethnic foods. Down this side road is Filipino and Thai restaurants.
Nazar Kebab Pyeongtaek
I decided to eat at Nazar Kebab, a Turkish restaurant my chaplains took me to last weekend.

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Small and large communities of businesses crop up outside of military bases all over the world and contain their share of nice places and not-so-nice places. The benefit of these business communities is that the military personnel have a place to shop and eat, offering a change from the common on-post establishments. In turn, money spent by these Service Members go into the local economy to help those who live and work in the area.

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