Seoul Takes Hardline Approach


Two big stories this week from Seoul showing the Park Geun-hye administration is sending a message that it’s their way or the highway.

Unprecedented Police Raid on Union HQ. Sunday morning some 600 police officers stormed the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions office, seeking to execute arrest warrants for senior members for carrying out what the government is calling a two-week illegal strike. So far, KORAIL service has dipped between 30-40% after workers left their posts over concern about the government’s proposed privatization of a new high-speed line. In the raid, the officers used pepper spray and force to enter the facility and were met by union workers resisting the breech. Ultimately the raid was ineffective, as no one the police were looking for was present. Despite the union repeatedly calling for dialog to resolve the situation (a move supported my many in the public as well), the government is drawing a hard line and is unwilling to compromise. Not addressing the concerns of the union is short sighted and repeats mistakes made by Park with her foreign policy. WATCH

New Election Probe? Over the past year, revelations about tampering efforts in Korea’s 2012 election have implicated the police, military, and national spy agency. As time passes, things appear worse and worse for the Saenuri Party and President Park Geun-hye. So much so that protests about the events here continue and there are reports of Korean Expats also protesting around the world. Leadership of the opposing political parties submitted a bill that would establish an independent council to investigate the matter. Unfortunately, for the bill to pass it needs a majority vote and the Saenuri Party holds 155 seats in the 300 seat body, making it unlikely. If the Saenuri Party blocks the vote, it will further appear as if they are covering things up and that they plotted to steal the election. Park’s approval rating has dropped below 50% and this could see if shoot down further. WATCH

The QiRanger Podcast is written and produced by Steve Miller and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

Korean Subway Toilet Vending Machine



Need a few things when going to the toilet? Well if so, then you’re in luck… at least in Seoul where you’ll often find a vending machine next to the public toilets. Just what will you find in the Korean subway toilet vending machines? Well aside from what you would normally expect, there are a few other things I find a bit odd, like candy bars.

Korean Costco Coffee



I was asked what kind of coffee they had at a Korean Costco. So while I was shopping there, I took a quick video. As you can see, it really is no different than any other Costco when it comes to coffee, for the most part. I think the only thing that is different is the inclusion of more mix based coffees.

Seoul’s Gusto Taco


Growing up in both Texas and Arizona, if there’s one type of food that I would call comforting, it would be Mexican. Since arriving in Korea almost five years ago, I’ve been pleased to see the number Mexican food restaurants rise. This week, Jo and I venture to Hongdae to Gusto Taco. Trip Advisor consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in Seoul, so I knew I couldn’t pass it up.

gusto taco sangsu hongdae seoul korea steve miller qiranger iphone 5s

The restaurant is located just around the corner from exit 1 of Sangsu Station (Line 6). A few buses do run in the area, but your best bet is to get there by taking the subway or walking. If you want to take a taxi there, just tell them to take you to the station.

It’s a fairly small restaurant divided into two floors. The first floor is nothing more than small window, where you can see the prep cook making Gusto Taco’s signature tortillas. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, they make their own here – and that is a very good thing. However, while we were there, they wouldn’t allow me to film. SAD PANDA

We made our way upstairs and found ourselves the very first customers of the day (or at least the only ones there at the moment. After settling down it was time to get our grub on. We ordered the following: 2 margaritas, 2 sets of chipotle pork tacos, and chipotle pork nachos. The total came to W40,400 ($38.33). That might seem like a lot, but for Western Food in Seoul, it isn’t.

gusto taco sangsu hongdae seoul korea steve miller qiranger iphone 5s

The margarita was… unique. It’s served in a rocker glass and despite asking for a frozen margarita it was simply a regular one placed in a glass with a ton of shaved ice. It tasted all right. I found it quite tart, but that’s the way I like them. All that being said, the margarita wasn’t anything special. For its price, I found it quite lacking and opted to purchase a 500ml San Miguel beer for an additional W6,000 ($5.70).

gusto taco sangsu hongdae seoul korea steve miller qiranger iphone 5s

Moving on to the nachos, I had some high hopes, since I know they make their own cheese sauce. Unfortunately, that’s the best thing about the dish. Seriously, it was so good, I used my fingers to scoop up the excess cheese. YUM However, that was the only thing special about the nachos. Gusto Tacos doesn’t make their own tortilla chips, as that would be “cost prohibitive.” While, there’s nothing wrong with that, kit’s also a shame, since that would make the dish extra-special.

gusto taco sangsu hongdae seoul korea steve miller qiranger iphone 5s

Now let’s talk tacos. Our chipotle pork tacos arrived hot and served wrapped in tin foil. No plates needed here and it reminded me of all the times I got tacos off the end of a truck when crossing the border years ago. The tortillas, as I’ve alluded to before, were amazing. The pork was tender and full of rich spices. When I took my first bite, savory juices dripped out its back end. It was a joyous taste explosion in my mouth and one I would pay for again and again.

While the margaritas and nachos weren’t anything beyond ordinary, the tacos were. Overall, this was a great place to come and eat. On a scale of one to five bottles of Awesomesauce, I’ll rate it a solid 4.

Bundang Line’s Suwon City Hall Station – QiRanger’s Walk and Talk #13



Hey everyone! This week on the Walk and Talk I’m taking you to Suwon and a fresh look at the Bundang Line’s new Suwon City Hall Station. The Bundang Line extension opened up two weeks ago, and this is the first chance I’ve been able to ride it.

Suwon City Hall Station is located halfway between Mangpo Station and Suwon Station on the Bundang Line. While it has 10 exits, it is a very small and vacant looking station. There’s only one store inside, and it’s not even a Storyway. Pretty disappointing when you think about it.

Heading up to the street level, you do find yourself in proximity to malls like the Galleria, HomePlus, and Hi-Mart. Trendy nightlife area Ingye-dong is also nearby.

All in all, Suwon City Hall Station is still getting its feet wet, but I guess you really don’t need a lot inside, where there is so much outside.

Cheorwon DMZ – Steve Miller’s EYE #10


I awoke before dawn and traveled north of Cheorwon, past military checkpoints into the controlled area of South Korea’s Demilitarized Zone. While I had been inside this tightly guarded zone many times, the heavy fog and eerie silence, coupled with a half dozen Korean soldiers standing nearby sent a chill up my spine unrelated to the weather.

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Walking over frozen rice paddies, I arrived at the Togyo Reservoir. It isn’t a place listed on my must-see travel itineraries, but local residents are proud because it’s the sight of several migratory geese and cranes. When the sun, which I couldn’t see, broke the horizon, waves of geese called out and took to the sky. Their calls were almost deafening to those of us on the ground.

As we continued through the DMZ, several Red-crowned cranes picked at bits of rice still in the field. These are the largest of the Asian cranes and are known to be a symbol of good luck, longevity, and fidelity.

The Cheorwon Peace Observatory is located atop a small mountain. Walking up the hill from the lower parking lot, I passed by the remnants of an old military bunker that dated back to when the area faced fierce fighting between North and South Korean armies. Moss grew in the fine crevices created by time and war, reminding me that nothing lasts forever. With thick fog still obscuring visibility, there wasn’t much to be seen; however, my thoughts drifted back to all those who had served here under similar conditions so many years ago and the terror they must have felt not knowing what lay in the mist.

Information

  • Address: 588-14, Junggang-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do / 강원 철원군 동송읍 중강리 588-14
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-455-8275, +82-70-4124-8275
  • Closed Tuesdays, Children’s Day, Chuseok, Seollal
  • Admission W2,000
  • Parking is available; however, one must contact the observatory in advance to gain access. To get there, take a taxi from the local Dongsong bus terminal.
  • Website

The last stop on the Gyeongwon rail line is Woljeongni station. It was the sight of intense fighting during the Korean war and while no longer in service, does show the remains of an old iron locomotive that once traveled into North Korea.

Information

  • Address: Hongwon-ri, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
    강원 철원군 철원읍 홍원리
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-450-5558/9, +82-33-450-5365
  • Closed Tuesdays, January 1st, Children’s Day, Chuseok, Seollal
  • Admission W4,000
  • Parking is available; however, this is located inside the DMZ. Usually a tour or special arrangements need to be made before traveling here. Cars and buses are allowed entry only at specific times. Contact the offices for complete information.
  • Website

The Taegukki, or Korean Flag flies high above Baekma Hill, a small piece of land that saw some of the fiercest fighting during the war. Over a period of ten days, North and South Korean forces battled back and forth for control 24 times. The landscape was virtually destroyed, making it look like a bare white horse. Towering twin spires rise into the sky remember those who have fallen, while the peace pavilion on top looks forward to North Korea.

choerwon-dmz-c100-steve-miller-qiranger

Dopian Temple isn’t anything out of the ordinary, despite dating back to the 9th century. However, that doesn’t mean it was devoid of charm or secrets to be found by those with observant eyes.

Information

  • Address: 450, Gwanu-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
    강원도 철원군 동송읍 도피동길 23 (동송읍)
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-455-2471
  • Directions:

From Suyu Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3, take Bus 36 to Yeoncheon Station.
* Bus schedule: 03:50-25:00, 7min intervals
From Yeoncheon Station, take Bus 39-2 and get off at Sintanri Station.
* Bus schedule: 06:30-22:10, 20min intervals
Transfer to Bus 39-3 and get off at Dopiansa Temple Station.
* Bus schedule: 07:00-23:30, 1hr intervals

 choerwon-dmz-c100-steve-miller-qiranger

This video was filmed with the Canon EOS C100 provided by Canon Korea.

Transportation and accommodations provided by the Korean Tourism Organization.

And now for some extra clips from the series…


Korean Bus Travel Tips


Throughout Korea you’ll find many bus terminals (버스터미널). While these are usually categorized into Express (고속터미널) and Intercity (시외버스터미널), the reality of the matter is that for the casual user, there really isn’t much difference. While the Express and Intercity Terminals will specialize in regions, very rarely will you find that you can’t travel from one location to the next.

Most locations have several buses running to each city every day. The number varies, based on what kind of terminal. For example, if in Seoul, there will be more buses departing for easterly locations from the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal than the Central City Terminal. This is because the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal specializes in easterly travel.

There are four bus classes. Jikhaeng (직행버스) buses are direct buses that may make one or two stops between the origin and destination. Mujeong (무정차) buses are non-stop buses from A to B. Gosok (고속), like the terminal name, includes express buses. Finally, we have Wudeung (우등버스) buses. These are the luxury buses. What makes them luxury? Rather than sitting four across like the other classes, the Wudeung buses are only three across, have larger seats, and more legroom. There is a price for this service, and most tickets will be at least W10,000 to W15,000 more than their counterparts. There is one more bus, the Shimya (심야버스). This bus runs overnight and can really be a lifesaver if you’re trying to make the most out of your weekend. Bus information can be obtain from the official website or by calling the Korean Tourism Information Line (1330).

Buses to depart when scheduled so make sure you’re on time. Also, It’s usually a good idea to check your bladder before you go. On trips shorter than two hours, there may not be a restroom break. On longer trips there will usually be at least one, but it is fairly short, only 10-15 minutes. This is long enough for you to get off, complete your business, grab a snack and get back on.

Traveling by bus is one of the best ways to navigate Korea and I highly recommend doing so.

Korean Food: Maeuntang



Korean food is typically thought of as being spicy. While I normally don’t think that Korean food is terribly spicy, I recently had the opportunity to try a dish of maeuntang (매운탕) – and let me tell you, it had some kick.

Maeuntang is a spicy fish and vegetable soup. It’s made by simmering red chili pepper paste, red chili flakes, and various vegetables. Popular fish used in this dish include red snapper, sea bass, cod fish, and others. In fact, it’s a popular dish at seafood markets, where you can actually choose your own fish for the meal.

If you love all things spicy and fish, then I’d really recommend trying it. Personally, I am not a big seafood eater, but I will admit, that on a cold day, I really did enjoy its hot flavor. The fish was extremely tender and our meal actually included tiny shrimp as well.

Super Cute Car and Snow



We recently had the fist snow in Dongtan that really took… until the sun came up and melted it all away. However, I did want to share it with you and a story that always comes to mind about snow and my birthday. Maybe my mother can clarify when it actually took place? I also stop by the 7-11 and show you the efforts being made to clean it up.

What’s your favorite snow story?

VLOG Question



In a little over two weeks, Jo and I will setting off for our SE Asia vacation. I’m going to do my best to continue to upload daily, but know that it might be a problem based on Internet connectivity. Since I won’t have great access (compared to Korea), I am curious how best to share videos when they are uploaded, so I need some help.

How do you find my new new videos?

Do you rely on the YouTube subscription module? Is it my Twitter feed? Facebook? Google Plus? Facebook? Something else? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Thanks for your help and I look forward to hearing from you!