한글날: King Sejong Museum, Calligraphy, and Trying Hanbok at Gwanghwamun Square (10/09/18) NSLI-Y Korean AY

10/09/18 Tuesday

October 9th in South Korea is Hangul Day (한글날) which celebrates the creation of the Korean Alphabet by King Sejong or Sejong the Great (세종대왕). I also learned this day that his real name is not actually 세종; it is 이도! (Learned that at his museum!) He is famous because the Korean alphabet changed the Korean people’s lives as it made it easier for the common people to learn how to read and write (Since Chinese characters proved to be too difficult).

To celebrate this day (we had no school today too), my host family and I visited 광화문 (Gwanghwamun) Square because there would be a festival and lots of activities and performances to see in honor of 한글날.

When we arrived at the square, we ended up going down to the museum first because there was a very loud protest going on in the streets. I couldn’t really understand any of what was being shouted, but I do believe that some people were protesting about THAAD.

My host mom told me that people often protest around 광화문 because of the wide-open space and how there are always lots of police officers, which couldn’t have been truer. While we were walking from the parking garage to the square, there were these huge police buses lined up alongside the streets. It seemed that the officers were all getting out of the buses while we were passing by the protest. I have never seen that many uniformed men in one place. The bus was huge so it wasn’t exactly a clown car situation, but I still didn’t expect to see that many all in one place.

At the museum, my host mom and brother stayed at the little children’s library while I walked around with my host sisters and host dad as they tried to complete a special scavenger hunt. I couldn’t really participate {except when they were doing the word search, I helped with the answer of one question!} so I read the information cards under the artifacts/drawings by myself to learn more about this part of Korean history.

After the museum, we went back out to the square to see that the protesting had stopped. We walked around a bit to find a place to eat but there were so many crowds and lines. We ended up eating at a Japanese restaurant. I had Udon noodles which were pretty good~ But I thoroughly enjoyed the yellow radish side dish. {단무지! I finally learned the name!}

hangul nal 6

Our bellies were stuffed and content, so we left the restaurant to do our next activity: calligraphy. Or really we wouldn’t be doing it so much as waiting in line for it. At the square, there were these booths set up for free calligraphy of proverbs and mottos. My host family has two in their home under the glass top of their kitchen table right now. I got to look through a big book of phrases and I immediately felt intimidated because I couldn’t understand the vast majority of statements in the book. Eventually, I picked out 꿈은 이루어진다 because I had just learned that phrase the other day from working on my presentation.

While waiting in line, something happened to me that some foreigners can be “lucky” (note the sarcasm) enough to experience: cult recruitment or swindlers. In Korean, {I later learned from my 하나고 friends} they call these religious cults or groups 사이비. Naver translates this word to pseudo. I assume that these groups are called pseudo because of the religions that they hide behind? I am not too sure; however, I would love to do more research on this topic because the stories I have heard have never been anything short of interesting.

These three female college students (?)  approached me and started asking me all these questions about what I am doing in Korea (both in Korean and English). They had their phones out and were trying to fill out this form of sorts. They kept asking for my name and I refused to give it to them so they stood there for like a minute pointing at the name question confused as to why I was not sharing that detail with them. They tried to make it seem that they were hosting a language exchange meet up at a church and wanted to invite me. They kept saying that the important meeting would be Saturday and I had to come if I wanted to join. Eventually, my host mom saw what was going on and she grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the girls. She started scolding them in Korean asking them what they were doing. This part was a bit scary as my host mom seemed very angry. My host mom tried to explain to me that those girls are part of a dangerous and bad group and that I should not talk to any people on the street like that. She said they try to trick foreigners. I realized then and there that I had just experienced what I have seen on Youtube– a cult trying to recruit foreigners in order to (usually) take their money.

After getting our calligraphy scrolls, I took some photos in 한복 with my host sisters at this booth set up for free pictures. We continued to walk around the square for a bit after taking photos in 한복. There were several booths set up behind the 세종 대왕 statue about the 세월 ferry disaster. Back in April of 2014, a ferry carrying mostly high school students sank on its way to 제주도 (Jeju Island) killing more than 300 people. It was a very tragic thing to happen to the Korean people and to this day it still leaves a mark on society. At the booths, there were pictures of every single person that passed away and a place where you could take off your shoes and kneel in respect. There was also a something you could sign (which I am not sure exactly what it was for…), which I did (along with the rest of my host family). If you are in Korea and you see a yellow ribbon emblem anywhere, it is most likely for the 세월 ferry disaster (and not cancer as some of my friends thought at first).

hangul nal 1

We got back home around 5 pm and I basically spent the rest of the night writing blog posts as I was a couple days behind. I also made a new Quizlet but did not practice it because my brain was not in the mood. (Yeah, I know– not very studious of me but we all have those days. Even NSLI-Y students. Actually, ESPECIALLY NSLI-Y students. For dinner, we ate fried chicken and fries. I came into the dinner expecting my family to eat the chicken with their chopsticks (because I have seen it before), but I never thought that I would witness people eating french fries with chopsticks… I just did not understand. I tried eating the fries with them too but it felt wrong in so many ways… I was going to go to bed early so that I could have a good night’s rest for school the following day but as soon as I got into bed, I started diving into my Youtube subscriptions: always a bad idea.

My host sisters and I also spent some time drawing each other. Here are two portraits of me done by two host sisters. It was cute to see how they chose to portray me (including the Pokemon Eevee in both for example) However, they also fought about my eye color (whether it was green or brown) To end the fighting, I told them that they are in fact green!~

That is all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed! Have any recommendations for what I should do in Korea? Let me know! Next week is Midterms at my school, so Katie and I are not obligated to attend (as we will not be taking the exams). We need things to do! Thank you! (Authors Note: Posting this more than two months later~ Funny how time flies! Yesterday marked 100 days in Korea!)

  • Emma 엠마

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