Sunday, December 20, 2009

The two COOLEST bars in Cheongju city!

Road King and MJ - if you're looking for a good time in Cheongju, these two names are all you need to know

Road King and MJ are in the hearts of each and every foreigner living in Cheongju, who are mostly adventurous English teachers. Of course there should be a few exceptions, since I don't know each and every foreigner living there, but still, if you get to go to both or either one of them a few times, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Before moving to Jinju, I lived in Cheongju for a whole year and these two wonderful Korean-owned foreign bars became my "everybody-knows-your-name" hangouts and the owners obviously became good friends of mine. Always thoughtful and kind to all their customers, Seung Woo (Road King) and Wonjae (MJ) are the coolest bar owners you'll ever meet in this country. They sure know how to get the fun started. 

Something really cool about these bars' location: Road King and MJ are actually located right next to each other, in the Chungbuk University area! So, you can pretty much jump back and forth as much as you like - it's great fun. I love these bars so much that at least once a month I try to take the 3-hour bus ride all the way there just to hang out with my Cheongju friends at the two coolest bars in the city and definitely two of the very coolest in Korea!

Now, check out these cool photos I took at two very busy nights at the bars:

-- MJ also threw a kick-ass halloween party, as always, but it was the night before this one, when I unfortunately couldn't come :(
                  The Road 'King': Seung Woo :)

Now, here's a video I made for you to see how this party rocked!

- Road King's owner Seung Woo is on Facebook: Road King




These are The Radio Grifters, from Texas! Check them out:

    MJ's awesome owner: Wonjae

- MJ Bar's Facebook group: MJ Bar
- MJ's owner Wonjae is also on Facebook: Cobra Lee 

LATEST: American singer SHAY BAILIFF freaking played at my b-day party at MJ Bar this year!
Here's a video I made of Shay playing The Galway Girl at my party - Dec 5, 2009:

Party shots:

                    Shay Bailiff, everyone!

Me and Shay :) Yay

              Friend Liz dancing to Shay's sound


PS. This was Shay's first performance in Cheongju city - but definitely not his last!
-- Shay lives in Seoul.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Korean troupe rocks out on garbage

Eco-friendly music: The socially-conscious Korean performance troupe Noridan plays all their music on all recycled material.

New York's got 'Stomp', Seoul's got 'Noridan'!

"We play, imagine and recycle" - That's the motto of this socially-conscious Korean performance troupe that has been going on since 2004 and is a good example of what social enterprising means in this country. Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which trade in goods or services for a social purpose. The profit from the business is used to support related or unrelated social aims. In November 2007, Noridan was awarded a social enterprise certificate by the government in recognition of its contribution towards society.

"Self-employment is a very important issue in Korea", says Hong Dae-ryong, a self-proclaimed eco-friendly performing artist and director of Noridan. Hong created and rides with open arms the troupe's "merry-go-round" in these pictures below. The vehicle is made of abandoned bicycles and barbed wire he cadged from a construction site.

The bicycles are connected in a circular formation by way of the barbed wire and a "roof", made from abandoned plastic sheeting, sits on top. The performers hang from the "merry-go-round" as it rotates, showing off their acrobatic skills.

Apart from the "merry-go-round", dozens of other recycled contraptions and instruments are used in the performance. There is a xylophone made of scrap aluminum and even a drum made of plastic pipes found at a dump.

Noridan is the combination of the Korean words 'nori' 노리 (play) and 'dan' 단 (group,team). Any object can become a musical instrument in the hands of these guys, who delight audiences at home and abroad. -- They have performed in countries like Russia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

The troupe has currently 86 members whose ages and occupations vary as much as the sounds they produce. The youngest seem to be in their teens, the oldest in their 50s. Jobs range from architect to writer, driver, composer, guitarist, actress,... To break down invisible barriers among members, the Noridan players call each other by nicknames, such as Hwi, Ting, Dori, Lemon, Haneul, Simba and Miya. Conversation is definitely a lot easier between people of the same age group, especially in a country like Korea; but Noridan's composition of diverse groups seems to generate a different kind of interaction between them.

"It’s our job to breathe new life into things that are thrown away and considered useless", says Hong. "We find joy in discovering possibilities for old materials. For us, there is no such thing as something useless. The best part is that anybody can play these instruments. That is why as we perform, we become one with our audience", the proud director adds.
I personally love this kind of performing art, which is creative to its most, inspiring, innovative and beautifully exotic, like off-Broadway's Stomp. Unlike Noridan (formed by Korean members alone),  however, Stomp obviously has members of all kinds of nationalities, including mine, Brazilian.
Hmm, could Noridan maybe develop into such kind of multiethnic performing group? I think I would  very much like to see that. How about you?

Now, watch CNN's Kristie Lu Stout's fun report on the Korean troupe at its workshop in Seoul:

Also, watch bits of their remarkable musical 'PingPangPong':

Check out Noridan's official website:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Not the average Korean car

The Spirra - Korea's first supercar means the auto industry in Korea has reached a new era

The Korean automobile industry is currently the fifth largest in the world in terms of production volume and the sixth largest in terms of export volume. While its initial operations were merely the assembling of parts imported from Japan and the United States, Korea is today among the most advanced automobile-producing countries in the world. And now, its first supercar Spirra is finally here to spice it all up.

The Spirra is Proto's first complete car. The body of the Spirra is lean and low, but it's also smaller than most supercars. This 500-horsepower car can simply go from 0 to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds. Its creator Han-chal Kim calls it his "baby".

-- Yes, this supercar is 100% Korean and built with Korean hands, which beautifully shows that Korea has a valuable contribution to make to the world auto-making market.

Now, watch CNN's Kyung Lah's great report on the car that is also known as "the tiger":

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Did you, for some reason, get bored with your job and 'found' yourself teaching English in Korea? This guy too!

A lot of people get bored with their jobs. They no longer find the job challenging or find the daily routine has become incredibly uninteresting, no matter how high-standard their jobs might be.

36-year-old Craig Markley, an outgoing guy who's been an English teacher in Seoul for about 3 years, was born and raised in the great city of Chicago, majored in journalism and worked in Los Angeles, California, at a public relations firm where he did hi-tech PR and Microsoft. Then, eventually, when he got bored with his other major job in banking where he worked for one of the largest Beverly Hills banks, he got clued into the opportunity of becoming a teacher in South Korea.

On his own YouTube channel (, Craig shares his experience, interviews his Korean girlfriend and shows his goal of improving the lives of expats (especially teachers) who come to Korea to have a great time or even build a future here.  This is especially true for newcomers!

Now, watch this casual interview with Craig at a coffee shop in Seoul where he talks about how he ended up here and shares a bit of how he interacts with Korean culture and people:
--Video posted on his YouTube channel in November, 2008.

PS. How about you? How did you end up teaching English in Korea? What brought you here? If you are interested in sharing your experiences on this blog, send me an e-mail: ;)
I hope to hear from you soon. Cheers and good luck in Korea!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Top 5 mistakes that Foreign guys make when meeting and dating Korean women

This is a guest post by dating consultant BlueMystery

Living in Korea is very challenging. Even more so, building a life is even more work, especially a dating life.

Unfortunately, foreigners who come here make big mistakes when it comes to meeting and dating Korean women. In fact, I’ve taken the time to write down what I’ve found to be the biggest mistakes that foreign men make, during years of living in Korea and professionally helping men date Asian women.

#5 Thinking that Korean women are easy
Before I came to Korea, I was very excited because I imagined that Korea was a lot like South East Asia: Just show up and women will be lining up to go on dates with you!


Korea, I soon found out once I arrived here, is on the opposite side of the dating spectrum. In fact, I’ll even say that foreigners have more hurdles to go through in Korea than anywhere else in Asia. This is especially true the darker you are. What can I say? Life’s tough for us (I’m darker skinned as well) but if you really want to find and date the ideal Korean woman for you, it’s definitely possible and we’ll make it happen!

#4 Forgetting that the East and the West are different

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Western women and Korean women look different. What does take an eternity for guys to figure out is that Western and Korean women think, act, and do different!

This is more than just about the women themselves, but also the society and culture in which they’ve grown up in.

Korean women think that the man is responsible for escalating the date into something more. Therefore they won’t necessarily give you any sign, clue, hint, or impression that they want you to escalate the interaction. If they find you not wanting to hold their hand, caress their hair, or even kiss them, they will assume that you are not interested, and will move on.

Another key note is that Korean women love knowing that they have control of the date. This is quite different from Western women who enjoy being on the saddle more and feeling like they are taking control of the interaction. So they will act like they don’t like things more, will throw comments about your choices, BUT ultimately they want you to be in control and are more comfortable with it as well.

Also, Korean culture is quite the land mine. Have you hung out with Korean women? How about co-workers? Do you get the stares? Sometimes. How about those moments when you don’t get the stares?

She’s getting them. Big time.

Now I won’t get into the ‘whys’ or the “it shouldn’t be that way” debates. I will get into how they need to be considered when you’re going out with a Korean woman. For them, being looked at negatively by an adjoshi (which means ‘uncle’ in Korean) who could be her own father with whom she’s probably living with, is painful.

You see, being with a foreigner is still very new and different for her, regardless of whether or not you’re a gyopo or not. You want to calibrate how much hand-holding, touching, and especially kissing when you’re with her.

This is even stronger for when you’re approaching a random woman at the bookstore, or coffee shop or even the subway. You want to assume that she will be shocked and even frightened when you are going up to talk to her. Even more so, you want to expect that she will feel uncomfortable with the situation. Be sure to calibrate how you’re talking to her based off of that, and make sure that she feels comfortable with talking to you first, before you escalate the interaction.

#3 Don’t take advantage of that first impression
Ever wondered why Italians and French were so successful at scoring dates with American or Canadian women? It’s because they take advantage of the first impression.
Have you ever met an Italian man? To other men, they look like a typical guy with dark features, a weird accent, a slightly aggressive vibe, and an edgy look. What do they look like to women? An adventure…

Unfortunately, when I ride the subway, take the bus, hang out in Itaewon I see too many foreigners who look the same! They don’t have a ‘look’ going for them. They look like English teachers who just got off of work and are about to go to a bar. In other words, they look generic. They remind me more of the typical businessman adjosshi than the exciting and mysterious foreigner.

Foreigners are seen as different and exotic., Then how about using that to our advantage? Take a step back and look at how you can separate yourself from the rest of the foreigners out here. How can you make yourself look different than the rest of us?
Think about your hobbies, passions, ethnicity, home country, and find your image that radiates from who you are.

Gyopos! This is even more important for you because otherwise you will just come across as an English-Speaking Korean. The reason why most Gyopos tend to be treated like Koreans who want to be foreigners is because they come across as Koreans who want to be foreigners. You need to make your distinction even stronger.
For example, I’m from Texas, am learning Korean as a hobby, and have lived in the Mediterranean. When I go out, I tend to wear a cowboy hat, a T-shirt with Hangul in it, and leave a rugged look, similar to an Italians’. Do you think that I stand out? You bet! Do women come up to me and start conversations with me? You bet! Am I different from the rest of the pack? You bet!

Show your unique self more aggressively, and allow that to make women and people, curious about who you are and wanting to learn more…

#2 Not wanting to learn about their world
One thing that just gets be cringing is how many foreigners I meet who have lived here for years and know nothing about the culture besides Chuseok and Chinese New Years vacation! Most foreigners here don’t even speak basic Korean! Most foreigners don’t even bother trying!
Think about it. Imagine foreigners coming to your home country and not speaking the language. Not even bothering to! This is a big mistake!

Learning Korean is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself even if you’re only staying here for a month! You see, it’s not that you speak the language that counts, it’s that you’re willing to learn about them and their world. This gets you lots of points when it comes to meeting and dating Korean women. I mean even reading Hangul was designed to be easy! And what a great skill to have when you go back home and share your adventures with your social circle.

#1 Not going out at all!
This is THE biggest mistake I see guys make, and yet it’s the easiest one to deal with. Most foreigners who come here choose to go from work or school to their homes and only go out to go shopping!

Granted, this might be because it’s intimidating to be a foreigner in this country, or they might have kept the habit from their home country.

Whatever the reason, this habit must go! And you don’t have to go to Hongdae, high-priced clubs or massive social events.
You can go to coffee shops, bookstores, parks (during this time of year it’s great), such as Namsan park. Personally, I like coffee shops as Korea has become a coffee-drinking country, which I am happy to see.

Thanks for reading my article and if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at
Also, visit:

Thank you for your expertise BlueMystery! :) 
Agatha Maia

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Seoul rocks underground

Korean pop (or K-pop) is great. Fun, creative and hugely entertaining with all the boy and girl bands' synchronized dancing. But (if you live here) there's a chance you might feel like you've been getting a little too much of it, am I right? Well, in Seoul, you can always 'run underground', because that's where Rolling Hall will be rocking, literally!

Advertising poster for Rolling Hall's special night tomorrow, Oct. 25th!

You're in Korea (anywhere here, seriously), you take a taxi, K-pop playing on the radio -- and it might not even be radio, but a cassette tape (a new one -- which I actually think is awesome)  :) --, you walk into a grocery store, a department store, a mall, a convenience store, a bar (Korean bar), a restaurant, a fast-food restaurant, a coffee shop, a beauty salon, etc etc and YES, there will be K-pop playing all over the place, most likely, yes. And yeah you will be hearing the same songs everywhere you go.

Being bombarded with K-pop is, pretty much, part of every foreigner's daily life in Korea, but as my ex-boyfriend (a British English teacher who's been here for almost 3 years) used to say, "from listening to it so much, you end up loving it" :). But if you're getting a bit sick of it and is craving some interesting 'rocky' change, get your kicks underground Seoul, at the Rolling Hall! -- Just a block away from Sangsu subway station's exit 1, right by a Family Mart, but underground -- It is THE place to go. You'll be amazed at how much high caliber rock will come out of fully Korean bands in that place!

The performing place opened in 1995 and I truly believe it's changed Seoul's nightlife forever...

A non-bar place, with just a stage, colored lights all over, lots of lined-up chairs, beautiful people and outstanding music, the Rolling Hall has become famous for various rock bands' showcases, first-rate weekly shows and monthly festivals, such as the recent Korea-Japan Rock Festival that took place just last August and featured the Japanese bands Kaneko and Zin-Sil.

Check out these cool photos I took of two Korean duos and a band on October 8th. -- That night also featured the remarkable American singer Shay Bailiff and his kick-ass Korean band (see previous post).
-- A simply awesome night. :)

Now, watch this video of American singer Shay Bailiff (see previous post) and his Korean band doing an exciting cover of The Calling's "Wherever you will go" for his Rolling Hall crowd's delight. :)  -- Video posted on YouTube January this year.
- His band is called Shay Band (셰이밴드).

You really gotta go there and feel that vibe! Koreans play awesome rock, you'll be impressed. And Shay is on his way to becoming a Korean legend.

PS. I've been in Korea for over a year and just found out about this place a few weeks ago. I had an awesome time there on the 8th and strongly recommend that you go and check it out the minute you have the chance to. Good time guaranteed. ;)

Rolling Hall hot info:
Tel. 82 (0)2 325 6071 (Seoul) 
Ticket prices range from 10,000 won to 30,000 won, weekly.

Friday, October 16, 2009

He sings in Korean, he has a Korean band, he is American

To really understand a culture, you have to speak the language. Well, this 22-year-old native Louisianian living in Seoul can not only speak Korean fluently, but sing in it professionally.

Shay Bailiff live at the Rolling Hall, Seoul on Oct. 8, 2009: A first-rate performance.

Tall, blond, athletic and in possession of a guitar, Shay Bailiff shines on Korean stages with his amazingly powerful voice and constant smart fun interaction with his crowd, in fluent Korean. Shay told me -- we got to meet :) -- that a good Korean friend of his back in Louisiana taught him Korean language. And I'm actually guessing that was the same friend who, 2 or 3 years ago, suggested he sang a Korean cover song and put it on the internet, which, according to one of his interviews, was how it all began. I don't know when he started learning Korean, but he's been living here for over 9 months now.

Shay's unique talent has recently been spotted by major Korean television networks SBS and Mnet (the "Korean MTV"), and out in the public eye. His very first appearance on Korean television seems to have been this of a casual solo street performance in a busy university district of Seoul, which aired on an SBS news show just last month. "A westerner singing (unknown songs*) in Korean? And this well? Wow!", I believe those were some of the thoughts that made dozens of Koreans stop to watch him at this street performance. Some even sat on the ground, delighted. Click right here and see for yourself. -- Just don't mind all the Korean. ;)

Seoul being the metropolitan capital it is, you wouldn't think people would look that amazed by his performance -- as shown in the SBS video above (link). But the thing is that this young talented singer is a pioneer, given the fact that no other foreigner in this country is doing what he is.

His most recent appearance on Korean television took place Sept. 26th on SBS's Star King. A mostly comic show Koreans watch religiously. Here's a bit of what happened when he was on the show. You gotta check this out:

*About the unknown songs I mentioned earlier, well, Shay's producer writes the Korean songs, while Shay writes their English versions, beautifully. Together with his producer - and guitarist in his band - 'KooPD' (his pseudonym), Shay released his first Korean single 'Odyssey (항해)' July last year. A beautiful song, with beautiful meaningful lyrics which I'll try and put up here later -- its English translation, as well, of course. ;)

Check out the 'KooPD with Shay' Odyssey video clip:
-- Oh, I almost forgot, KooPD owns the independent record label Digipop.

Now, in this touching casual acoustic live performance somewhere in Korea, Shay combined the two versions (Korean and English) of his single Odyssey, for the audience's delight.
Check it out:
-- I truly encourage you to watch it till the very end.

And guess what, the latest news on this young singer's career is pretty huge. Just last Thursday, the 8th, he announced on his twitter page that his Korean debut album 'Dreaming' had just been released all over Korea (at this site: click here). And just today, another huge announcement: they freaking got the album releasing around the world (at this site: click here)! The album features 5 songs in Korean and 1 in English.
And here's also the Mnet page for his album:

Also, you've gotta check out the official video clip of his Korean single Dreaming:
-- Another beautiful song -- awesome melody and lyrics.

What Shay has been doing is inspiring, exotic, daring, never done before such way. It is, I'd risk saying, groundbreaking, especially in such a particular country like South Korea that has "just" begun to open up more with the launch of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding agency in Seoul, January this year. At this present time, more than ever, Korea wants and needs foreigners for various reasons, and Shay has beautifully managed to make just the perfect connection between language and people/culture, through outstanding music with his kick-ass Korean band.

I leave you with more pictures I took of his live performance last Thursday (the 8th) at the Rolling Hall (, in Seoul. -- The guitarist on his left-hand side is his producer KooPD. The band is known as Shay Band (셰이밴드).
PS1. The Rolling Hall (just out of Sangsu subway station's exit 1) is an awesome place to go, if what you're looking for (and I truly think you might be) is a smart alternative to Korean pop, if you know what I mean. :)

Shay's links:

YouTube Channel:
Shay Band website:
Korean Fan Cafe:
Follow Shay on twitter:

PS2. Shay, of course, does remarkable covers, and so to wrap this all up in style, here's his cover of Sting's 'Shape of my heart' I personally love. :) Enjoy: