Seodaemun Prison Excursion & Volunteering at a Halloween Festival {10/27/18} NSLI-Y Korean AY

10/27/18 Saturday

This Saturday Morning was our cultural activity for the month~ We technically had two this month, but that was because the September one was rescheduled so many times due to the rain—usually, we will only have one cultural activity every month. This cultural activity was one based on Korean history as we would be visiting 서대문감옥 (Seodaemun Prison) to learn more about the Japanese Occupation of Korea.

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Before heading to the prison and learning more about the events and things that occurred there, we sat in the Freedom Park and discussed what we already knew about that time period and what we learned from asking our host families or our high school friends. Everyone’s answers were pretty similar. We all mentioned that we all heavily learned about World War II but not much about Japan and the countries it occupied. There was maybe a sentence in our textbooks at most.

We then talked about Koreans’ attitudes toward Japanese people. Katie and I, during our conversation class, asked our friends and they seemed to agree that Koreans don’t hate the Japanese. They said if there are any hostile views or thoughts present today, it is mostly toward the government and how they handled the situation rather than on an individual level. Most people don’t showcase negative attitudes when connecting with Japanese people on an intrapersonal level; however, they did bring up that the same thing really can’t be said about the older generation—the people that lived through the time period. The students mentioned that because the event wasn’t that long ago, there are many people still alive who hold very negative and distasteful opinions on the Japanese and sometimes they pass that down. Though this is the case, the younger generation {as it often appears} is often more open-minded than the older generation.

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What a BEAUTIFUL Fall Day with Kaitlyn, Josh, & Jack

We talked about that for a bit, hearing from a bunch of different people, before heading into the museum. I didn’t take too many pictures because I really tried to read everything that was there and I also followed 주연쌤 and 민정쌤 around because they had more information to share about the many things we viewed.

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One thing that I thought was interesting was that they created new words in the Korean language that were given as titles to certain figures during the resistance. For example, There was a female student who was also the youngest female participating in the resistance. Because of everything she did, they added a title to her name. Her full name is Yu GwanSun (유관선) but she is often referred to as 유관순 열사.

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Photos of Fallen Resistors

Reading about all the torture methods was honestly really difficult but I do agree that it gives me more of a perspective of the atrocities that were committed then. I know wars always come with violence but knowing this, helped me see the occupation on another level. I won’t go into detail with those here because they are honestly quite disturbing; you can do some research if you’d like.

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We got to walk through the jail corridors and could even go inside many of the cells. We walked around the training fields and got to see where the prisoners would be executed. I learned from 민정쌤 that the training field was built in a fan shape to allow for there to be only one guard on duty and yet he would be able to see what every single prisoner is doing.

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There was also this really large tree right next to the execution building that was coined as a wailing tree because as the resistors would be dragged to their death by the Japanese guards, many of them would hold onto the tree and say their final goodbyes to the world. It was surreal to be able to stand in front of this tree.

 

After we finished walking around, learning more about Korea’s history, and taking some group photos, we went to have lunch together. We had 전주비빔밥 (Jeonju Bibimbap — very famous bibimbap–mixed rice with vegetables and beef!) in a stone pot. It was utterly delicious! I know some people can get sick of 비빔밥 when they come to Korea but I could never—but I also don’t eat it too often.

 

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Our official cultural activity was over once the last person put down their spoon. After that, we were free for the rest of the day. I signed up to do a volunteer activity with 5 other NSLI-Yians at this Halloween Festival put on by Mapo-gu Youth Center. I was very very surprised when we got there; I was expecting this small, little festival with a couple of tents and some good decorations but it was way more than I could have asked for. The only thing it lacked was true American Halloween Candy and everyone wearing costumes.

 

We arrived an hour early so before heading straight to the festival, we killed some time at Ediya’s Coffee to just chat, drink some warm lattes, and study a bit of Korean. When 3 pm rolled around, I called the woman in charge and tried to communicate to her where we were but it was so very difficult. My listening skills were not helping me out and talking on the phone in any language is hard when the reception isn’t good… eventually, she found us after a really awkward description by me about where we were.

 

She took us inside the center and explained to us what we would be doing: playing Go-Fish with kids and switching groups every 30 minutes. She also bought us Subway Sandwiches but we already ate so I felt bad for having them go to waste. Before we started the volunteering, we had our faces painted! We all got wounds (special effects makeup) put on our faces! It was fun having the prosthetic put on although my conversation with the guy doing my face was an EPIC fail. He asked me where I wanted the makeup and all I heard was where so as the self-conceited person I am, I assumed he was asking where we were from. I told him America before he said it again during which I realized how much of a fool I am! There was another incident shortly after with another face paint artist asking Shada to show her the stamp she got {guarantees payment} and then she tried to tell her she needs a stamp while we both thought she was asking if she wanted a stamp. {Granted this was a bit more understandable because we didn’t know how the “stamp system” worked here.} Eventually, I realized what they were getting it and I said that we were here today to volunteer and both her face painter and mine went “Ahhhhhhhh,” and that was the end of that conversation.

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Face Painting!

 

Jacquelyn, McKenzie, and Shada took the first shift so Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I just got to walk around and explore the booths. They had lots of food, face painting, nail painting, Halloween crafts, book readings, and this huge stage that was having a fashion show of all different types of costumes! It was so cool to see authentic Halloween costumes in Korea. We also found a booth selling Pickachu 돈까스 which was a bit frightening.

 

There were these two clowns on {those raised sticks? I cannot remember what they are called…} who were making balloons and I ran over to one and he immediately said I was pretty. I started to tell him that I wanted a balloon animal too but before I could finish my sentence, he shouted that he was surprised by how good I am at Korean. He let me cut the line {a big apology to those people waiting in line}, and he made me this yellow balloon flower rather than an animal. When being a foreigner gives you perks!

 

Eventually, Harmony, Kaitlyn, and I started our shift of board game playing with the little kids. Harmony held up a sign and would shout “play a board game” in Korean while Kaitlyn and I supervised or played with the kids. It was hard at first because I didn’t know how to explain the board game in Korean but eventually, I figured out which things made sense to the kids and what didn’t. A lot of them had trouble understanding when to say “Go Fish” so some of them would just say it during every turn—this was really cute!

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It got so cold that I was glad that the tent was blocking some of the wind. Later during the shift, my host family showed up to play some games. I told them about the festival the previous night and they really wanted to come! I got to teach my host sisters how to play Go-Fish and they were happy to receive prizes after winning.

When our volunteering shifts came to an end, the youth center coordinator had us come to the stage to watch some performances. It was so cold by this time that we were all cuddling trying to stay warm. Harmony’s arms made a nice scarf! We watched this hip hop performance that was pretty much boys against girls in the beginning and then at the end they joined together for an epic finale. The next performance {which the coordinator told us was somehow related to Better World} was these two groups of girls that did a cheerleading/Poms Routine? I’m not quite sure. The younger girls were dressed in sporty wear while the older ones looked like pirates? They were very fun though! I found myself bopping around and clapping along to the music.

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I was living for the gash on the side of my face!

After the festival, Kaitlyn and I got rid of our wounds in the subway’s bathroom {There was nooo way that we would ride the subway looking like that.} and went to 홍대 for dinner. We had 겨촌치킨. The original honey flavor~ It was delicious but we had a lot of leftovers.

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The rest of the night with Kaitlyn was spent walking around the streets populated by Buskers. They were all wearing Halloween costumes which were so nice to see! There was at least some Halloween spirit going on there. We eventually found this one group whose costumes were pretty lacking but their dancing was incredible. Though Kaitlyn and I found what happened surrounding the group the best part! Oh, who does not like people watching?

First, there was a guy wearing a long black padded coat and a mask dancing along awkwardly to the songs right next to the group. He was so funny and honestly more entertaining than the other dancers. Then, there were these two older ladies that screamed when one of the guys came over to her and she did this really ridiculous dance as a kind of dance face-off type thing—but it was great. She had some moves! Lastly, when these two girls danced, they pulled this really tall foreign guy into the circle and danced with him {in a pretty sexy way}. At first, he just stood there awkwardly but after the chorus played for a bit, he copied their movements and squatted on the ground with them. That was surely a sight to witness: I will say that.

After watching the Buskers for a bit, Kaitlyn and I went our separate ways to go home. I know when I came home I talked to my host family for a bit, but I don’t think I studied much if anything at all. I put on a Halloween movie and went to bed pretty early.

That’s all for this blog post~ I hope you enjoyed~ Stay tuned for more!

  • Emma 엠마

 

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