Featured – Korea How http://www.koreahow.com The English teacher's guide to living, working, and traveling in Korea. Thu, 28 Nov 2013 13:24:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 10 Secrets to Landing a Korean University Job Teaching English http://www.koreahow.com/2012/12/10-secrets-to-landing-a-korean-university-job/ http://www.koreahow.com/2012/12/10-secrets-to-landing-a-korean-university-job/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2012 02:40:12 +0000 http://www.thenomadwithin.com/?p=604

Kim Yu-na, the famous figure skater, at her class at Korea University.

Teaching English at a Korean university is one of the best ESL jobs on the planet. With almost 400 colleges in the country, why aren’t you working at one?


Do you want to teach at a Korean university?

Find work at Profs Abroad!


If you’ve spent any time at all in Korea then you know that teaching at a university is the Holy Grail of ESL jobs. Why? How does 4 months or more of paid vacation sound to you? Not enough? Most university lecturers teach around 14 hours per week and get one or two days off per week, and you don’t have to desk-warm between classes.

Having loads of free time isn’t the only thing university jobs have going for them. The students are pretty cool to work with as well. Yes, it’s true that many Korean university students kick back and relax once they’ve made it into college. However, they are easier to deal with and more respectful than a class of 40 screaming primary school students.

Next, you won’t have a co-teacher. The class is yours. Yes, you will have a director or foreign teacher supervisor to answer to, but generally you are left alone to run your class as you like.

The best part is you can use your extra free time to pursue a hobby, further your education, or make some extra money. Many university teachers double or even triple their salary by teaching private classes on the side. Of course this is illegal in Korea (unless you marry a Korean) but everyone does it.

Job Description

Keep in mind that all university jobs are different. There is no standard. In general you can expect the following:

Teaching hours: 10-20 per week (the standard is around 14-16).

Salary: 1.8 to 2.8 million per month (around $25k or more after taxes), which varies depending on qualifications, experience, and school location.

Housing: many universities provide housing or a stipend of around 300,000 won per month.

Bonus: public universities provide an end-of-year bonus equivalent to one month’s salary, private universities usually don’t.

Pension & Health Care: all universities are required by law to provide a pension (about 10% of your yearly salary) and health care.

Contract Duration: usually for one year but sometimes 2. A few universities will force you out after 3 years.

Airfare reimbursement: occasionally a university will pay for your roundtrip airfare but it is rare.


Don’t you need an MA to teach at a university? No. Korean universities ask for a minimum of 2-years teaching experience if you have a Master’s degree (in any subject – does not have to be in TESOL or English related) or 4 years teaching experience if you don’t have a MA.

You also need to have a passport from either the UK, US, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand or Australia. You can’t have a criminal record.

You’re Hired

As you can imagine these jobs are highly competitive. Just look at anyone who has lived in Korea for some time. You’ll see that almost every “lifer” works at a university. So how do you get one of these jobs? Here are a few tips:

1. Know the Right People

The number one key to getting a job at a Korean university is to know someone on the inside. Korean culture is all about circles: personal relationships are key.

The best university jobs are rarely advertised on the Internet job boards. For every university job posting there are 100 public school or academy job offers. Why? When a position opens up the university usually knows about it far in advance. Instead of posting an ad on the Internet, the university will ask the foreign teachers at that school to recommend their friends.

One university I worked at had almost 30 foreign teachers. If each teacher recommends the job to 10 of their friends that means the school already has 300 applicants. Why should the school advertise on an Internet job board?

2. Join Professional Associations

So how do you network in Korea? First, get to know as many university teachers as possible. Anytime you meet a university teacher you should “friend” them on Facebook. Ask them questions about where they teach and what it is like. Let them know you are looking for a job.

Next, join a teaching association. The largest in Korea is KOTESOL. Find your local chapter. Join it. Go to the meetings and conferences. This is your number one place in Korea to network with English teachers. More importantly, it is a fantastic resource for your own professional development…and it looks good on your résumé. Another association for English teachers in Korea is ATEK.

3. Be Proactive in Your Job Hunt

You have to go after these jobs. You won’t find them on Korean university job boards like Profs Abroad. First, decide what city you want to live in. For example, if you want to live in Busan, then visit the city and grab a tourist map. You will see there are over 20 universities in Busan alone. Next, look up the schools on the Internet or get a Korean friend to find the phone number of the English department. Call and ask who is in charge of hiring new teachers. Introduce yourself, find out if they are hiring, and send your résumé.

4. Get Some Experience In Korea

Although it is possible to get a university job before you come to Korea, it’s quite difficult. Most employers want to see that you have at least one year of teaching experience (it doesn’t have to be at a university) in Korea. It can be at a public school or private academy.

5. Know the Hiring Seasons

The Korean school year starts with the spring semester in March. More teachers tend to get hired during the spring semester. The fall semester starts in September. Therefore, there are two main hiring seasons: November-December and May-June.

It is true that some universities do things at the last-minute and hire teachers a few weeks before the semester starts. However, you want to get your job search going in full swing during those prime hiring months.

6. Get Qualified

If you have an MA in TESOL or Linguistics then you shouldn’t have much trouble finding work. There are no guarantees but more and more university teachers are getting their MA these days.

A second cheaper and quicker option is to get a CELTA or TEFL certification.  CELTA courses take about one month and cost around $2,000. There are also many TEFL certification courses online that will certify you for under $300. Just be sure your course is at least 100 hours and that it states the number of hours on your certificate.

7. Make Your MA Work For You

When most people think of teaching abroad they assume they can only teach English. This is absolutely not the case in Korea. There is a huge demand for university professors with Masters degrees that can teach major subjects in English. This is a trend that is not going away and will only continue to get bigger in the future.

For instance, if you have an MBA you can teach business – in English of course – to Korean university students. Try contacting the department related to your area of study and ask them if they are hiring. These jobs often pay double or more of what you would make teaching English.

8. Look the Part

Koreans are highly image conscious. Got gray hair? Dye it. Is your suit a little old or out of style? Buy a new one. Was your photo on your resume taken at home on your couch? Get photo taken professionally and have it photoshopped. If you don’t wear a suit and tie or your best dress to your interview you might as well not show up.

9. Pay Your Dues

Korea has 4 tiers of universities according to competitiveness. At the top-tier you have the SKY universities (Seoul National, Korea Univ., and Yonsei Univ.). They are like American Ivy league universities. The 4th tier universities are the least competitive and similar to community colleges in the US.

The secret to getting your first uni job in, especially if you don’t have any university teaching experience, is to aim for the lower tier universities. More importantly, look for universities outside of major cities.

Most people who have been in Korea for some time prefer to live in the major cities like Seoul, Busan, or Daegu. As a result, universities that are far from major cities have a more difficult time finding qualified applicants.

For instance, there are only a handful of universities left in Seoul that don’t require an MA. However, there are plenty of universities in other parts of the country that will hire you with just a BA.

10. Beware of the Unigwan

Usually the want ad says you will teach 20-30 hours per week and have 2 weeks or less of vacation. You will probably be working in the university’s private language academy and teach everything from primary school kids to adults. The only university students you teach are the ones who come after class for extra help.

These are by no means bad jobs, and can actually lead to full time work in another university or department. However, if you have the qualifications to get a true university gig then don’t waste your time at a unigwan.

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Teach English at a Korean University | ProfsAbroad.com http://www.koreahow.com/2012/03/want-to-teach-at-a-korean-university-unijobskorea-com/ Thu, 15 Mar 2012 02:17:19 +0000 http://www.koreahow.com/?p=1256 Find work at a Korean university. Advance your career. See the world!  

Graduation Caps photo courtesy of John Walker.


Profs Abroad is the top source of jobs and information for university and college English language (ESL/EFL) faculty. 

Teaching at a university in Korea can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable jobs you’ll ever have. It has been for me. I’m sure it will be for you too.

I hope Uni Jobs Korea will help make your teach abroad dream a reality. You can get started by reading 7 Ways to Get a Korean University Job.


Pay It Forward: 6 Ways to Volunteer in Korea http://www.koreahow.com/2011/04/1208/ http://www.koreahow.com/2011/04/1208/#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2011 03:15:35 +0000 http://www.koreahow.com/?p=1208 Looking to do some good while you’re in Korea? From serving soup in Seoul to rescuing animals in Suncheon, Courtney “Coco” Tait shows us how to give back.

A student at the Sung Ae Won orphanage on Christmas Day. Photo by Courtney Tait.

Once you’ve explored the local temples, tried all your neighborhood barbecue joints, hiked a nearby mountain or three, disrobed at the spa, and sipped one too many pints of draft Cass, you may be itching for some fresh experiences on the expat path. Volunteering opportunities in Korea are vast, varied, and surprisingly easy to coordinate: anyone with a few spare hours could soon find themselves rescuing a dog, serving soup to the homeless, or screening films on the plight of North Koreans.  Here are six suggestions to get you started.

1. Campaign for North Korean refugees


Approximately 20,000 North Korean refugees live in South Korea, according to online news source Asian Correspondent, with the majority arriving after months or years hiding in China and a grueling detour through Burma, Thailand, or Vietnam.  Upon arrival, they face a multitude of challenges assimilating to South Korean culture, from battling mistrust and paranoia to job discrimination and difficulty communicating in a language embedded with American English slang.

Often malnourished and poorly educated, defectors struggle to adapt to the seemingly rich and increasingly globalized culture of South Korea, with many plagued by guilt for leaving family members in a country where citizens are conditioned to worship a ruthless dictator and forced to survive on minimal rations of food.

Whether you take part in a street campaign or teach English to refugees, there are many ways to help out the plight of North Koreans.

Several North Korean human rights groups based in Seoul require volunteers. Click on the following links for directions and details on how to get involved:

  • Every Saturday from 3-5pm, Rescue NK holds a street campaign in Insadong to raise awareness for the plight of North Koreans, including those who have defected and the millions who remain.  The group also organizes film screenings and benefits aimed toward assisting refugees and those in North Korea who wish to defect.
  • PSCORE coordinates a one-on-one English tutoring program for refugees, and provides advice on inherent challenges that arise when tutoring this unique demographic.
  • Helping Hands Korea, an organization dedicated to helping refugees escape by providing secret foster homes in China to North Korean children, and sending food to orphans and schoolchildren in North Korea – holds a weekly awareness-raising campaign every Tuesday evening from 7-9 pm, near Samgakji Station.

2. Help feed the homeless


According to a 2010 survey conducted by civic groups and the Korean Center for City and Environment Research, and estimated 1500 South Koreans live on the street. The majority–a population that is 95% male and centered mostly in Seoul–can be found in groups scattered around Seoul Station and at various subway stations throughout the city. Approximately 300 homeless reside in Busan and Daegu combined. Though these figures are relatively small in a country of 48.2 million, 1500 homeless means 1500 people who often go hungry while the rest of the population eats.

  • Helping feed Seoul’s homeless isPLUR, a philanthropic group committed to increasing peace and unity in Korea through volunteering.  The group assists at a soup kitchen every Friday, and on Sundays passes out food to the homeless in and around Seoul station.
  • In Busan, BIWA volunteers at Haeundae Soup Kitchen the second Tuesday of each month.  Contact pamela@alfresco.us for details.
  • Carita’s Nuns soup kitchen in Busan’s Suyoung area is also looking for volunteers, and can be reached at 051-544-1236.

3. Foster a furry four-legged creature (or just take one for a walk)


A volunteer helps out at the Asan animal shelter.

Missing the wag of your dog’s tail as you walk through the door or the sound of your cat’s purr before you drift to sleep?  According to Animal Rescue Korea (ARK), many city-run shelters follow a Korean policy that states stray animals can only be held for 10 days before euthanizing.  While not all shelters euthanize, and some are flexible on the 10-day rule, many animals aren’t rescued quickly enough for their life to be saved.



  • If you live in a pet-friendly place and are willing to prep the stray for a permanent home, you can apply to foster an animal in Korea, taking care of it while you or the shelter seeks a long-term caregiver.
  • Just want to brush fur or play fetch? Shelter animals also need grooming, exercise, and photos taken to help them find permanent homes.  Whether you visit once or several times, many shelters welcome the help of volunteers. Just find a shelter in your area to get started.

4. Support former Korean ‘Comfort Women’ at The House of Sharing


During WW2, the Japanese military forcibly recruited an estimated 200,000 women from various countries into sexual slavery.  Known as ‘Comfort Women,’ the majority were Korean, some still adolescents at the time of recruitment.

Located in Seoul, The House of Sharing is a safehouse for halmonis (a respectful term for grandmother) who are former Comfort Women, as well as a human rights museum opened in 1998 to educate visitors on the halmonis’experience and their fight for retribution from the Japanese Government, who to date has failed to take responsibility for the plight of the Comfort Women or issue a formal apology.

  • To join the Outreach Team, visit the House during one if its tours (held on weekends approximately once a month) after which you can apply to volunteer.  According to Korea4expats.com, a long-term commitment and free weekend days once a month are required, as well as some background knowledge of the issue. Volunteers for research, transcription and translation of the halmonis’ personal testimony are also needed. To reserve your place on a tour, email your name, number attending and phone number to: visits@houseofsharing.org
  • Want to support the former comfort women in their demands to the Japanese Government?  Started by the Korean Council in 1992, a demonstration is held every Wednesday from 12-1 pm in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.   The protests provide an opportunity to show the halmoni and the Japanese Government that the international community supports their fight for justice. See their website for more details.

5. Spend time with orphans and at-risk youth


Hundreds of orphanages exist throughout Korea, providing communal homes for children who often have little hope of being adopted.  The children living in them yearn for extra attention and affection, needs which are difficult to meet for staff members who provide basic daily care for every child.  Offering your time to play games and sports, coordinate art and craft activities, and be a positive role model for these kids diversifies their experiences and gives them the opportunity to receive individual attention.

  • Korean Kids & Orphange Outreach Mission (KKOOM) provides a list of orphanages throughout South Korea.  With the help of a bilingual translator, you can often set up your own volunteer times at an orphanage in your area.
  • In Seoul, the Itaewon/Hannam Global Village Center and PLURboth organize regular orphanage visits.
  • In Busan, ATEK Busan Volunteer–a group that coordinates various Busan-based volunteer opportunities–organizes monthly visits to Boys Town Orphanage near Nampodong.   The group also has coordinators working with three other Busan orphanages near Dayeondong, Oncheonjang, and Beomosa, and can set up weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly visits for interested volunteers.
  • ATEK Busan is also looking for a volunteer coordinator or organize activities for at-risk youth at an after-school program in Nampodong.  Created by Child-Fund Green Umbrella–an organization that receives government money to assist children whose parents are impoverished or absent–the facility is open from 2 pm to 6 pm Monday through Friday. *Note: This program is offered across Korea, with 120 locations.  ATEK Busan can connect volunteers at other locations near them.Send a message through ATEKBusanVolunteerto learn more about these opportunities.

6. Teach English to underprivileged Koreans


While expats spend hours each day teaching phonics and grammar to kids in pricey, privately-run hagwons or academies, countless Koreans who can’t afford English lessons are left unable to compete.  In a country whose government emphasizes the importance of learning the world’s leading language, disadvantaged Koreans can benefit from free lessons offered through several organizations–all of which require volunteers.

  • One of the largest volunteer-based organizations in Korea, Seoul-based HOPEpartners with several host centers to provide volunteers with a classroom location and group of underprivileged kids to teach.  Curriculum is flexible, with an emphasis on exposing kids to other cultures and developing familiarity with foreigners.  While HOPE requests that volunteers commit to at least three months teaching time, you can offer as little as one hour per week to as much time as you’d like to give.  HOPE also has centers in Gyungki and other Korean cities.
  • Mustard Seed coordinates teaching kids from low-income or single parent families, meeting twice monthly on Saturday afternoons near Sindaebang Station in Seoul. For details, email bradcurtin@hotmail.com.
  • ATEKBusanVolunteer is looking for committed volunteers to teach English on Saturdays at Women’s Shelters which house abused women and unwed mothers and their children.  Locations are in Geojaedong and Yeonsandong.
  • Also organized through ATEK Busan Volunteer are weekly English lessons at Asian Community School–a transitional school for children of migrant workers.  Teaching times are mornings, 10-1 pm, but volunteers can teach for as little as one hour or up to three. Send a message through ATEKBusanVolunteer to learn more about these and other opportunities.


Hailing from Victoria, Canada, Courtney Tait spent three years traversing Europe, the Middle East, S.E. Asia and Australia before returning home to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Journalism. Her passion for people, travel, art, music, and nature inspires stories and images featured on her blog, Coco Busan.  Currently based in South Korea, she works as a teacher and freelance writer.

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Korea’s 7 “Can’t Miss” Festivals http://www.koreahow.com/2011/02/korea%e2%80%99s-7-%e2%80%9ccan%e2%80%99t-miss%e2%80%9d-festivals/ http://www.koreahow.com/2011/02/korea%e2%80%99s-7-%e2%80%9ccan%e2%80%99t-miss%e2%80%9d-festivals/#comments Sun, 13 Feb 2011 05:58:18 +0000 http://www.koreahow.com/?p=1175 Photos and story by Ed Provencher

Skip it or day-trip it? Korea’s festivals are numerous, but how do you know which ones are worth going to? Travel blogger Ed Provencher makes it easy for us.

Forget what your Mama told you and play in the mud at Boryeong. Getting dirty was never this much fun.

Are you new to Korea?  Are you wondering which, of the many Korean festivals, are the ones that you shouldn’t miss?  In order to help you sort them all out, I’ve compiled a list of the top 7.  They are all BIG in one way or another and should add to your Korean experience if you go.

#1 Boryeong Mud Festival

At the top of the list is the Boryeong Mud Festival held at Daecheon Beach.  It is a signature event that has been held every year in July for the past 13 years.  This festival attracts millions of people from across the country.  The event was created to celebrate the cosmetic properties of a special mud that is found in the region.  But that’s not the real draw.  The actual mud used at the beach is trucked in and used in all sorts of fun ways, that’s the real reason people go there in droves.  Giant mud slides, mud pools, mud wrestling, a mud prison, performances… the list goes on.  People are so happy walking around there that it’s almost unbelievable.  Mud does that to us.  It turns us back into kids.  Why would you want to miss that?

#2 Andong International Maskdance Festival

Another signature event that draws equally large numbers of visitors is the Andong International Maskdance Festival held every September/October.  It’s second on my list of must visit festivals in Korea.  It is a truly international cultural event, drawing performers from all across Asia and even Mexico.  Korea itself has a long tradition of maskdance performances, and even has one (Kwanno) designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.  Andong is famous for a couple of other things as well, which make attending this festival even more attractive.  One of those things is the Andong Hahoe Folk Village (UNESCO), a beautiful folk village in the countryside, surrounded on three sides by the Nakdong River.  The other attraction is Andong soju, a traditional alcohol (45%) that is designated an intangible treasure.  All these things combine to make the Andong International Maskdance Festival something I look forward to every year.  You should too.

See two things on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list in one day at the mask dance festival.

#3 Gangneung Danoje Festival

The Gangneung Danoje Festival (May/June) makes it onto the list at number three.  This festival is about a 1000 year old tradition of praying to mountain deities for a healthy and prosperous year for the community.  It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage event, and a heck of a good time.  Daily performances of a UNESCO designated mask dance called Kwanno are held along with performances of traditional Korean farmers’ music, guest performances by groups from other countries, and spooky shaman performances might give you performance overload if you’re not ready for it.  Every year, they make heaps of traditional rice alcohol that is used to appease the tutelary spirit of the mountain, but you can get your hands on some of it for a fair price and appease your own spirit as well.

#4 Seollal Ssireum Wrestling Championship & Chuseok Ssireum Wrestling Championship

Coming in at number four on the list of notable events are the Seollal Ssireum Wrestling Championship and the Chuseok Ssireum Wrestling Championship.  Actually, there are several of these wrestling tournaments held each year, but the two biggest are held during the two biggest Korean holidays: Seollal Lunar New Year (January/February), and Chuseok Fall Harvest Festival (usually September).  This ancient sport offers spectators a chance to watch some big guys (over 105kg in the heavy weight class) do some serious pushing, pulling, and throwing.  The athletes are all Koreans, but the emotions expressed and the drama that unfolds inside the sand pit wrestling arena are universal and understood by all.  Ssireum is as authentic and uniquely Korean as anything and yet so easy to identify with.  Modern gladiators.  Ancient game.  Don’t miss it.

Move over Sumo. This is wrestling the K-way and it's called Sireum.

#5 Jinhae Cherry Blossoms Festival

While there are many cherry blossom festivals in Korea, what may be called the “Mecca” of cherry blossom festivals, the Jinhae Cherry Blossoms Festival, makes it on my list at number five.  Jinhae is located on the south coast of Korea and so is among the first places to see these gorgeous flowers and thus gives Koreans a reason to throw a big party.  The flowers can bloom anywhere from the last week of February to the first or second week of April.  Every year is different as the flowers bloom according to the weather.  Event planners have delayed the festival the past to accommodate cold springs, so you’ll need to pay attention to the weather.  The best thing to do is to call the Korea Tourism information hotline (055 1330) when the festival nears and ask them if the flowers are in bloom or not.  If you are looking to enjoy a more peaceful place to enjoy cherry blossoms, I can recommend heading to Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju.  At any rate, you need to get out and see some cherry blossoms.

#6 Jeongweol Daeboreum Festival

Number six on my list of biggie Korean festivals is the Jeongweol Daeboreum Festival.  The name of this festival basically means, “First full moon of the lunar calendar” and is usually celebrated in February.  It’s a time when locals get together to build giant bonfires called daljip, or “moon houses” which they burn along with wishes for a successful year that visitors have written on paper and tied to the daljip.  People all across the country from Seoul to Jeju Island participate in local events.  The most popular of the events is held on Jeju Island, but other biggies include events in Gangneung and Samcheok.  Now you know that full moons aren’t just for howling at, so when the time comes, think about your new year wishes and head out to a Jeongweol Daeboreum Festival to set them on fire.  Nevertheless, you can still howl if you want to.

#7 Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival

Rounding out this list at number seven is the Cheongdo Bullfighting Festival (March), the largest bullfighting event in Korea.  Korean bullfighting is a tradition that goes back a 1,000 years.  It is nothing like the better known Spanish version where bulls are stabbed repeatedly until they die.  Korean bullfighting is done between two bulls and doesn’t end when one of them dies, but rather ends when one of the bulls decides to run away.  It amounts to a pushing match done with the bulls’ heads.  This event is a good one to bring a Korean friend with because they can help translate what the announcers are saying.  That’s helpful because the announcers will give you play-by-play fight commentary as well as important details about the bulls which are fighting such as their win-loss record, important rivalries, and championships won.  My favorite thing to do is to make bets with my companions to decide who buys the next round of beers.  Gambling at bullfighting is legal, so don’t worry.  Just have fun.


Ed Provencher

Tigers & Magpies travel editor, Eddie Provencher, is an American citizen who first came to the Korean peninsula in September 2006 to teach English, learn Korean, and to have a cultural experience. Since coming to Korea Eddie has grown to love teaching English, has learned Korean up to a low-intermediate level, and has had many deep cultural experiences. In the spring of 2009 Eddie took a 3 month break from teaching English to travel in Korea.

Through this experience, Eddie developed a sincere appreciation for the natural beauty of the landscape, for the culinary tastes of the nation, and for the warmth and kindness of the Korean people.

Looking for a new place or event to discover in Korea? Be sure to check out Eddie’s fantastic site Tigers & Magpies. It’s full of great photos and helpful information that even the most knowledgeable Koreaphile will find useful.

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How to Learn Korean Online For FREE! http://www.koreahow.com/2011/01/learn-korean-online-for-free/ http://www.koreahow.com/2011/01/learn-korean-online-for-free/#comments Wed, 19 Jan 2011 14:37:56 +0000 http://www.koreahow.com/?p=1152 These are the only websites you’ll ever need to learn Korean.

Koreans bow to a statue of Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, on Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul. King Sejong introduced Hangul, the 28-letter Korean alphabet, to Koreans in 1446. Photo: Peter DeMarco

Have you just arrived in Korea and can’t read a single item on a restaurant menu? Or have you been here for years and are ready to improve your language skills beyond “mekju juseyo!” If so, start learning Korean from one of the many great websites available online…for FREE:

1. Korean Class 101

  • This is hands down the “fastest, easiest, and most fun way to learn Korean,” as they advertise on their site. There are FREE podcasts every week for all levels. Each podcast is around 10 minutes long. Just search for it on iTunes. You can also upgrade your account for a fee to get lots of cool extras. Visit the site for more details.

2. Learn Korean Online

  • Rob Julien, a teacher of Korean to foreigners in Korea, has put together a site where you can watch over 4 hours of class video for FREE. Even better, you can email him a question and he might discuss it in his next video class. His site is definitely worth a look.

3. Let’s Speak Korean

  • Some years ago, Stephen Revere – the author of Survival Korean and current managing editor of 10 Magazine, hosted a show on Arirang TV called Let’s Speak Korean. Today you can view well over a hundred episodes online for FREE. What is interesting about the show is that each episode is only 10 minutes long. It’s short, simple, and to the point.

4. Sogang Korean Program

  • The Korean Language Education Center at Sogang University has put together an excellent FREE site full of information and exercises to help you learn Korean.

5. Korean Multimedia Dictionary

  • Indiana University made an outstanding FREE site for learning Korean vocabulary. What’s great about it is that you can learn vocabulary by categories. For example, click on “fruits” and a screen will pop up with pictures of an apple, watermelon, pear, etc.. Next, click on the fruit and you will not only see the word spelled in Hangul, but you will hear the Korean pronunciation of it. Amazing!

6. Korean Alphabet

  • Another fantastic FREE site from Indiana University that will teach you the Korean alphabet.
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Busan by Night | A Travel Photo Essay http://www.koreahow.com/2011/01/busan-korea-by-night-a-travel-photo-essay/ http://www.koreahow.com/2011/01/busan-korea-by-night-a-travel-photo-essay/#comments Sat, 15 Jan 2011 09:09:13 +0000 http://www.koreahow.com/?p=1085 Photos by Ju-seok Oh. Words by Peter DeMarco.

See Korea’s most “dynamic” city at her best – when the sun goes down.

BUSAN - Kwangan Bridge

Busan is on the Southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula and only a short ride by ferry from Japan.

Busan, Seoul’s little sister to the south, is one of the best kept secrets in Asia. How can a city almost as big as Los Angeles be practically unknown outside of Korea? Not only was it a host city of the 2002 World Cup and Asian games, it’s the home of the largest department store in the world, one of Asia’s biggest film festivals, the fifth largest port in the world, and soon to be home of one of the tallest buildings in the world. As if that was not enough, this city by the sea is bidding for the 2020 Olympic games.

It takes much more than a bunch of superlatives for a city to capture the minds and hearts of travelers. By day, Busan looks like any other big Korean city: block after block of apartment and office towers covered in signs. Once the sun begins to set though, the city takes on a dreamy quality that is distinctly Busan.

From bold to brash, blissful to beautiful, Busan photographer Ju-seok Oh shows us his home town as you’ve never seen it before.


A visit to Sam Kwang Temple during Buddha's birthday when the monks hang hundreds of lanterns is a must. Buddhism has been in Korea since AD 370. The Jogye sect makes up about 90% of Korean Buddhists.

BUSAN - Firework festival

Diamond Bridge, as seen from Mt. Jang, is one of Busan's most iconic structures.

BUSAN - Haedong Yonggung temple

Let the rhythmic sound of the crashing waves put you into a trance-like state. Meditate under the stars at Haedong Yonggeung Temple, arguably Korea's most beautiful temple by the sea.

BUSAN - Uam2dong

The city's port is the 5th largest in the world.

BUSAN - Haeundae

Busan, formerly spelled Pusan, is the second largest city in Korea with over 3.6 million people.

BUSAN - Haeundae

If all goes according to plan, Busan will be home to the third tallest building in the world. The 110 floor (510 meters) Lotte Super Tower is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

BUSAN - Firework festival

Around 1.5 million people show up from around Korea and Asia for the Busan Fireworks Festival every year in October.


Getting there:

Busan is very accessible from any point in Korea.

  • By plane, you can fly into Gimhae International Airport. There are direct flights to many cities around Korea and Asia. Airport buses are available from Gimhae to Busan Station and the Haeundae hotels.
  • By train, Korea’s high-speed KTX makes the trip from Seoul Station to Busan Station in just under 3 hours for about 50,000 Won one way.
  • By boat, there is daily ferry service to/from Busan to Jeju Island and Fukuoka, Japan.

Where to stay:

  • Zen Backpackers (010-8722-1530, www.zenbackpackers.com): With it’s central location in Seomyeon, this hostel in the heart of the city has great access to the subway lines, shopping, and restaurants.
  • Westin Chosun Busan (051-749-7000): What could be better than looking down on Haeundae beach from your hotel room? And the Westin’s brunch is one of the best in the city. Rooms start around 250,000 Won. Keep an eye out for their monthly specials.

What to do:


Busan photographer Ju-seok Oh. Photo: Peter DeMarco.

Biography: Ju Seok-oh is a native of Busan and one of Korea’s best amateur photographers. Although he does not actively promote his work, he has been published in international travel magazines, newspapers, and more. He is about to graduate from Inje University with a major in System Management Engineering.

Photo Blog: Check out Ju-seok’s award-winning blog which includes photos of his travels to Australia, America, China, Japan and beyond.

Photos on Flickr: J’s Favorite Things

]]> http://www.koreahow.com/2011/01/busan-korea-by-night-a-travel-photo-essay/feed/ 4 Sumatra & Java, Indonesia | A Travel Photo Essay http://www.koreahow.com/2010/12/12-photos-a-travel-essay-sumatra-java-indonesia/ http://www.koreahow.com/2010/12/12-photos-a-travel-essay-sumatra-java-indonesia/#comments Sun, 26 Dec 2010 23:36:04 +0000 http://www.thenomadwithin.com/?p=887 Photos and words by Shawn “Flash” Parker.

From sunrise over an active volcano on Java, to the rice paddies of Sumatra, join intrepid travel photojournalist Shawn “Flash” Parker in Indonesia as he shows you around his favorite county.

Indonesia is a complex land of scattered islands, epic landscapes, fascinating people, heartbreaking history and beguiling customs. At once we were frustrated by, and fell in love with, the pace of life and rugged countryside of Sumatra. The hustle and bustle and jumbled mass of humanity that is Java does not lack for charm or grace, though you have to dig a little to find it.

I used to tell people that Cambodia was my favourite country in the world; after a month in the fertile hills of Indo, there is a new champion.

Mount Penanjakan view of Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia.

Bright and early, just before the light shines bright view of Mount Bromo, Mount Semeru and Mount Batok, with ample rolling fog and an epic eruption for good measure.

We climbed Mount Penanjakan in our Toyota 4×4 pre-dawn in the headlights of some 1,200 other vehicles. Once at the viewpoint Megs and I decided against the same shooting vantage as everyone else – all 3,000 tourists, gah – and climbed down the hill for a better look (and a few square feet to dig in our tripods). As soon as the sun started to shine and illuminate the volcanoes in the distance, all the nuisance and discomfort of the day, all the pain and suffering associated with actually making the trip to Bromo, it vanished. We spent the next hour shooting one of the most incredible sunrises I have ever witnessed.

Ancient Stupas, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia.

I could have and should have done more with the morning mist at Borobudur. Instead, we raced to the monument’s zenith to take it in before the rest of the hordes clamored up. By the time we made our way back down to the 4th level the light and the mist had changed, leaving me with this single, hastily made frame.

Western Shore, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Life slowed down while we were making these frames on the sparsely inhabited western shore. Here the karamba – floating net cages – are few and far between, the landscape is rugged, the roads rough and the water calm. This lone fisherman was the only person we saw during our time on the west side.

Highlands Lookout, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

The magnificent architectural designs of the Minangkabau. Touring Indonesia is a lesson in epic, ancient building styles. You can keep your gothic revival and Victorian and whatever else it is that the Europeans can dish out; for my money, Sumatra is more impressive.

Maninjau Village, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

This, my friends, is a Maninjau tako, and it is better than any taco you have had anywhere, at any time, in your life. It is stuffed to the brim with ground beef, grilled vegetables, eggs and spices. It is oven baked. It is succulent. It is savory. It is $1.25.

Long live the tako!

Basin Rice Paddies, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

I have had this frame in the back of my mind since the day I landed in Asia. It took me two and a half years and nearly a dozen new countries to find it.

I made hundreds of frames in the hour we trekked through these paddies yet it is this one, the first frame, that I return to. It captures so much of what I love about Sumatra without saying much at all beyond what is captured. I like that.

Tuk Tuk, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia.

This elderly lady was sorting her fruit and veggies when she spied Megs and I wandering about. She called me over to check out my camera and quiz me on goings on. She even decided to try her hand at shooting portraits of me. I was more than happy to return the favour.

I look back at these Indo portraits fondly; not once was I turned down when asking for photos and more often than not I was asked to shoot before throwing the question out myself. More importantly, I was able to share some genuinely fantastic moments with incredibly interesting people. It makes the experience of the road that much sweeter.

Tuk Tuk, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Like every other destination in the world (save maybe Iraq, I guess?) Lake Toba has a fair share of tourist traps and gift shops selling assorted mass-produced crap. Off the beaten path, however, there are some fantastic shops selling really beautiful stuff.

We stocked up on hand-carved masks, as we are prone to do in every country we stop. What I really wanted, though, was this chess set; pieces eight inches high and a game board, carved into the table, four feet squared. Sadly, with my underwater camera and flash equipment, my suitcase was already a little bulbous. Plus, I’m not much of a souvenir guy; I’ll collect a little sand, a little bottle of water and the aforementioned masks, but other than that I take nothing more than photographs.

Buddhist Statue, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia.

A Buddhist statue faces South on the cardinal compass (if my records are correct). My research indicates that this statue is in the Vara mudra group and represents benevolence and alms giving – as noted by the position of the hands. Mario might be able to tell us more about this. I, on the other hand, am a man of simple pleasures, and spend the days contemplating eternity in a position similar to this.

Mauro Beach, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Another look at the gorgeous sunset over Lake Maninjau, one of the finest I have ever been witness to in my life. I can’t comment on sunrise, as each time I woke up prior to the 5:45am sunburst it was pouring down. So, for the sake of this argument, I will say that sunset is superior. Ha!

These karambas belong to the family that owned our villa and our wonderful hosts would head on down to the water each evening after we ordered dinner and pluck out a slippery footless delight for supper. I have a few frames of our fisherman/chef diving, spear in hand, after these fish. Not a bad way to get on.

Oh, the best part of all this, of course, is that I didn’t experience the Mudd Butt at Maninjau. Not at all!

Bromo Rim, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia.

This wild stallion understands a little something about epicality, as you can plainly see. Rolling fog in a volcanic valley is the new softbox.

The Bird Market, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

I wonder if you can tell why Megan loved the Bird Market? It’s hard to imagine, really. Seems like such a brutal, viscous place, with multi-coloured chicks running amok and whatnot.

Alas, she left disappointed; I could not in good conscience let her buy a dozen of these. She hasn’t spoken to me since.


  • How to get there from Korea: A number of airlines make the 7 hour flight from Seoul’s Incheon Airport to Jakarta for around 700,000 – 900,000 won (depending on the time of year).
  • How to save money on your flight: China Southern Airlines has some of the most economical flights you will find to Jakarta from Korea. The flight time is longer since you have to transfer planes in China, but the cost reduction may make it worth your while. China Southern also offers service to/from six Korean cities.

*You might be wondering how Shawn got some of those dreamscape-like images. Learn how to add colors to your photos by reading Shawn’s Basic Filter Guide.

**You can also find more great tips in these articles by other photographers.


Shawn "Flash" Parker

Biography: Flash is a writer and photographer originally from Toronto, Canada, and spent two years living in Osan, Korea (2008-2010). He is a screenwriter (film credits include Wireless and I Hate Dating) and author (Night Has Fallen, 2008) and travels extensively on assignment as a photojournalist. In 2010 Flash has had articles and photographs published in Conde Nast Traveler, American Way Magazine, CNN Traveler Magazine, Groove Magazine, SE Asia Backpacker Magazine, Eloquence Magazine, 10 Magazine and more. He has been nominated for a 2011 PATA Gold Award in destination journalism.

Blog: Flash Parker: Love The Light

Flickr Photostream: Flash Parker

Book: The Ubiquitos Kimchi (Korean Food and Culture)

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Take Better Pictures: 5 Korean Photo Blogs You Should Follow http://www.koreahow.com/2010/12/take-better-pictures-5-korean-photo-blogs-you-should-follow/ http://www.koreahow.com/2010/12/take-better-pictures-5-korean-photo-blogs-you-should-follow/#comments Thu, 16 Dec 2010 15:55:51 +0000 http://www.thenomadwithin.com/?p=673 Whether you want to become the next Ansel Adams, or just learn how to take better pictures to post on Facebook, these blogs will help you get there.

Photography in Korea is like a national sport. Photo by P. DeMarco

So you want to improve your photographic skills? Someone once said that success leaves clues. Given the load of photographic talent here in Korea, you don’t have to look far for hints.

There’s a large group of skilled foreign photographers living in Korea who are sharing their knowledge for free on the web. It is true that there are many amazing photography/travel blogs by foreigners in Korea. But only a few actually teach you how to get better as a photographer.

The following sites have the best tips, tricks, and stories about photography. And you might even see some amazing images of Korea and the world as well.

Here are the best of the best in no particular order:

The Information Specialist

Dylan’s site is a fantastic resource for photo tutorials and videos. One of my favorite features of his site is when he “deconstructs” some of his more complex and stylized (think Photoshop) images. Hopefully, he will hold another Strobist Seminar again so I can learn how to use my flash.

Two helpful posts:

1. Want to take pics of your friends playing in the snow but can’t figure out how to photography snowflakes? Check out Quick Tip: Flashing in the Snow.

2. Another helpful post is Shooting Portraits.

The Traveling Photojournalist

Are you dreaming about becoming a travel writer and/or photographer and looking for some inspiration? Shawn “Flash” Parker was working in Korea for some time and has since set out on a global tour shooting and writing about places from Brunei to New York. He is also a wedding, engagement, and portrait photographer. Check out his photo travel blog on Flickr as well.

Two helpful posts:

1. Learn how to use filters with the Basic Filter Guide.

2. So you just published some of your photos and you want to upload them to your blog/website. But alas, the editor sent you a PDF file of your published work and you can’t upload PDFs to your site. Check out Published! for learning about how to convert PDF files to JPEG files…for free!

The Connector

In addition to being a great writer and photographer, Gregory Curley is like the connector described in Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point; he links his readers to the world. His “Weekly Snapshots” posts always showcase the best of what is happening in the Korean photographic world and beyond. You can also find some informative photo tutorials and Korean travel articles.

Two helpful posts:

1. Go to Weekly Snapshots | 12.10.10. Next, click on the link “What Yeonpyeong looks like post-shelling” for some chilling images of the island bombared by North Korea.

2. Can you name one Korean photographer? You can’t. Check out this post: Kim Jung-man | Korea’s Ace Photographer.

The Learner

Jason Teale writes his blog from Ulsan, Korea. He’ll tell you that he is always learning, but he’s also always sharing some awesome information too. As his site says, his blog is full of stories, tips, and photos from around Korea. Jason has made a name for himself, especially in the realm of HDR photography. If you don’t know what HDR is or do and love it, then YOU GOTTA CHECK OUT Stuck In Customs.

Two helpful posts:

1. Can’t think of any new ideas? Check out the post Creativity.

2. Learn how to get your work in front of more eyes by reading Getting Published.

The Persistent Photographer

Jay Boyle is taking his photography to the next level and he is taking you along for the ride. Follow him as he tries to complete his 365 Project (taking 1 photo every day of the year for one year). Although Jay only recently started his blog and hasn’t published as much stuff as some of the other photographers on this list, he still has some good info to share. Not to mention his persistence is inspiring.

Two helpful posts:

1. Your photographs can make a difference in someone’s life. Yes, yours. Don’t believe me? Read Help Portrait 2010.

2. Check out Jay’s useful review of a recent photo workshop held in Seoul called Learning Curve: SPC Lighting Seminar.

The Columnist

Okay, I lied. There are actually 5 blogs AND 1 newspaper column that will help you improve your photographic skills. Even though it is not a blog, Aaron Raisey ran a column for the Korea Herald called “In Focus” that is worth mentioning. Aaron and other photographers living in Korea wrote the articles. Today you can still find over 20 articles that will help you improve your photographic skills. Aaron also runs the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.

Two helpful posts:

1. Learn where to be and when to be there if you want take great pictures with Mario Taradan’s article Be at the right place, at the right time.

2. Or check out Aaron’s article on how to Improve Your Composition.

*This is not a complete list and I’m sure I left out some excellent blogs. However, shameless promotion of your photography blog is highly encouraged – be it based in Korea or abroad. Be sure to add a link in the comments section below.

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Korea Changes E2 Visa Process: FBI Background Check How To http://www.koreahow.com/2010/12/korea-changes-e2-visa-process-fbi-background-check-how-to/ http://www.koreahow.com/2010/12/korea-changes-e2-visa-process-fbi-background-check-how-to/#comments Mon, 13 Dec 2010 23:11:22 +0000 http://www.thenomadwithin.com/?p=633

Even though this guy looks like a wimpy college student, he was trained how to kill in Tae Kwon Do, slept in the snow at the DMZ, and ate worms for breakfast. He will kick your ass if you don't get comply with the new visa regulations.

Calling all criminals teaching English in Korea. The game is over. The Korean government is on to your scam. I say that jokingly but actually it is kind of true.

In the past, all you needed to prove you didn’t have a criminal record was a background check from your local police department or state. The problem with state background checks is someone can be charged with a crime in Maine for instance, but it will not show up on a record check for say Iowa.

Staring January 1st, 2011, all foreigners teaching English in Korea will need to submit a federal background check when applying for a job or renewing a contract. If you are American, that means you have to get a background check from the FBI. Again, anyone who is applying for an E2 visa OR extending his or her E2 visa must submit a federal background check.

Here is the unofficial guide to the FBI check in 5 easy steps:

1. Complete the application form.

  • It takes just a minute.

2. Submit your fingerprints.

  • This is a little more complicated – especially if you are living in Korea. First, print out the official fingerprint card (you might want to print out a few extra copies if you mess up).
  • Next, if you are in the US you can take the form to your local police station. Most offer a fingerprinting service for about $10. Call ahead for pricing and hours.
  • If you are in Korea, go to the biggest police station in your city. These are the “gu” stations or main city police stations. Be sure to bring your form with you.
  • Can’t find a police station that will do it for you? Call the Korean Police English Hotline at 313-0842.
  • NOTE: Be sure to check that you were fingerprinted properly. Compare the prints on your form to page 2 of the fingerprint form that talks about “obtaining classifiable fingerprints.” Your request will be rejected if the prints are not done properly.

3. Submit the $18 payment.

4. Review the checklist.

5. Mail the required items here:

  • FBI CJIS Division – Record Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, WV 26306

It can take up to 12 weeks to process your request.

Visit the FBI site to download the forms and get the official instructions.

DISCLAIMER: Immigration rules are always changing. For the latest information, please contact your local Korean Office of Immigration. Furthermore, feel free to post here if you have info on getting a background check in other countries.

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Date With an Exorcist: Korean Shamanism Unveiled http://www.koreahow.com/2010/11/date-with-an-exorcist-korean-shamanism-unveiled/ http://www.koreahow.com/2010/11/date-with-an-exorcist-korean-shamanism-unveiled/#comments Wed, 24 Nov 2010 10:51:45 +0000 http://nomadwithin.wordpress.com/?p=364

A Korean shaman holds up a dead pig during a ceremony. Photo P. DeMarco


[View slide show here.]

I knew things were going to get out of control when the Shaman stuck a pitchfork in the belly of the dead pig. She picked it up with the help of two other shamans. The pig was resting limp and lifeless at the top of the pole. She started chanting while the other shaman poured a huge bowl of makoli, a fermented Korean rice wine, over the back of the pig.

Next they put over $100 in bills on the pig’s back. The wind blew through the dry fall leaves. Light from a full moon broke through the tree branches. More chanting ensued.

I looked over at Brian Jenkins, a buddy of mine who I’m making a short documentary about shamanism with, and he had this look of disbelief on his face. He shook his head and whispered “what?” We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It was by far one of the strangest and most amazing things I have seen in Korea, or my travels for that matter.

First Encounter

Last August I was hiking down a mountain here in Busan with friend and photographer extraordinaire Simon Bond, when we came across the shamans. They were performing some ceremony in what looked like a small Buddhist temple. They were as curious about us as we were of them. They eventually invited us in.

Before we knew it, the shaman or ‘mudang’ in Korean wanted us to take part in the ceremony. First, she had me pull some different colored flags from her hand. She then read my future according to the color of the flags I picked. For instance, the gold flag represents money.

Next it was Simon’s turn. According to the shaman, he had the ghost of a dead relative inside him. It needed to be exorcised (see video). We were both caught off guard but couldn’t believe they let us in to see the ceremony or even take part in it.

Shamanism in Korea Today

Although Shamanism was Korea’s first “religion,” most Korean’s are not familiar with the practice. Moreover, many Korean’s won’t even tell their friends if they go to a shaman. When I told my Korean friends I went to a ceremony they all said they have never seen one and don’t know what happens during one. However, the Koreans we met at the shaman’s temple swear by them.

What I find most interesting is how shamans were an integral part of Korean society for millennium but now looked at almost like quacks and thieves by the masses. Even still, many Korean people such as politicians, businessman, the sick, and newly weds still visit shamans.

From Wikipedia:

Belief in a world inhabited by spirits is probably the oldest form of Korean religious life, dating back to prehistoric times.

Shamanism has its roots in ancient, land-based cultures, dating at least as far back as 40,000 years. The shaman was known as “magician, medicine man, psychopomp, mystic and poet” (Eliade, 1974). What set him apart from other healers or priests was his ability to move at will into trance states. During a trance, the shaman’s soul left his body and travelled to other realms, where helping spirits guided him in his work.

The shaman provided healing on many levels; physical, psychological and spiritual. The work of the shaman was based on the holistic model, which took into consideration, not only the whole person, but that person’s interaction with his world, both inner and outer. The soul was considered the place of life breath, where essence resided, and any physical illness was inextricably linked with sickness of the soul. Illness of the mind had to do with soul loss, intrusion, possession.

Photographing the Ceremony

Since then I have been to two different ceremonies. Each time we were allowed to take photos and video. The photos in the accompanying slide show are from a good luck ceremony or ‘gut’ in Korean. There is a woman in the photos wearing a black shirt and red vest. She came all the way from Seoul just to meet this shaman. We had her permission to take photos during the ceremony.

Many of the pics are out of focus – sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. There was a lot of movement in these ceremonies and I wanted to convey that. At times the shamans look like mystical whirling dervishes, jumping up and down, stabbing the air with their knives and swords. Many pictures were blurred to convey that sense of motion and mysticism.

On the other hand, I’m still learning about photography so some of the pics were too out of focus. Also, I had to go with a high ISO which made many of the pics even blurrier and caused some burning around the lights. I think I pushed my camera and lenses to the limit in a low-light situation, but I’m sure there is more I could learn to improve the quality. Any tips are appreciated.

For More Info About Korean Shamanism

Kim Soo-nam, a Korean press photographer, spent 30 years documenting Shamanistic rituals around Asia. He passed away in 2006. You can see some of his photos and read a great article about his life and work here.

Dirk Schlottmann, a German ethnologist and photojournalist currently living in South Korea did is doctoral thesis on Korean shamanism. He has some fantastic photos of shamanistic rituals on Flickr. He also has three galleries (1, 2, 3) on a German website.

The New York Times published a great article called Shamanism Enjoys Revival in Techo-Savvy South Korea.

Finally, if you have any information about the topic please post in the comments below.

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