Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World Students in Korea - 1st Camp of the very 1st batch of bloggers for the Presidential Council on Nation Branding

Last Thursday, the 23rd, I and 38 other students from 25 different countries (including my own, Brazil) split in groups on two buses in Seoul and headed to a life-changing 2-day trip around 3 of Korea's most important cities: Pohang, Gyeongju and Ulsan. Together we form the very first batch of bloggers selected by Korea's Presidential Council on Nation Branding - PCNB to work on helping raise overall standards in Korean society and improve the nation's image in the international community through our blogs. This trip marked our 1st Camp as World Students in Korea, which is the project's name.
First stop: Pohang city, where the PCNB's project's coordinators Mr. Wonkyu Im and Ms. Suhee-Park took us on a tour around POSCO, which is not only Korea's but the world's top steel making company. POSCO owns the biggest steel making plant in the world, plant #2, which we all got to go inside. They also took us inside plant #1 where we had the closest look possible at steel being melted in a gigantic melting pot with fire being spit high before our eyes. Beautiful, really. The steel though, is imported from Brazil (VALE) and from Australia. HYUNDAI Motors happens to be POSCO's 2nd major client - which I think is awesome.
The steel making monster founded in 1968 calls itself Green & Clean POSCO, due to its long-standing efforts to preserve and watch for the development and well-being of its community. "We do patriotic service through steel manufacturing", said the environmentally friendly company's presentation video played for us the moment we got there, in a Disney World ride looking room, where curtains are rolled up automatically showing a panoramic view of the company's colossal yard at the end of every video session.
Second stop: Gyeongju city, where, after a pretty long day, we stopped for checking in a nice hotel called Kolon. There, the coordinators of our project had booked a seminar room to give us a lecture on blogging. The lecture was amazingly well given (in English) and filled with informative presentations, especially by a Google Korea manager who was extremely helpful. It was one enlightening hour, which even included some photography hints and trials.
Time to relax and act silly now! =) After the lecture, a recreation couple of hours had been scheduled for us in the hotel. As it is defined by the Merriam-Webster, "recreation: refreshment of strength and spirits after work" was just what we all needed. We mixed up and danced with one another (there was even a professional DJ and an entertainer!), showed a little bit of each others' country's traditional dancing and sang Korean songs at a karaoke on the room's stage. Then, at the very end, we began circling around hugging one another and exchanging "cross-cultural" smiles. Right after this inspiring moment, the project's coordinator Mr. Wonkyu Im took the microphone and opened up his heart by saying, "If there is anyone that believes that boundaries and differences between nations and people cannot be overcome, then they have not experienced nights like this because tonight is the answer!" Well said and loudly applauded.
The next day, we headed to 2 of Korea's most important buddhist temples, the Sukgulam and the Bulguksa (still in Gyeongju city), where they provided us with outstanding guided tours, even though it was pouring rain and most of what there is to be seen in those temples is outdoors. Anyways, that was the historical bit of our 2-day trip, so that we could softly be reminded of this country's origins, of its people's beliefs and sacrifices throughout so many years. - That was my second time in both temples, by the way.
Well, and speaking of sacrifices, the next stop is all about this one person, this one remarkable Korean man who sacrificed everything to build a dream shipbuilding company. This company is now the world's largest shipyard, HYUNDAI Heavy Industries, in the city of Ulsan, capable of making 110 ships a year. Asan, a man ahead of his time who was once a rice delivery man on an old bicycle, built and founded the top shipbuilder in 1973 on a former quiet fishing village. Asan devoted his entire life to promoting industry and to rebuilding Korea. His hardwork and persistence on placing HYUNDAI (현대 in Korean, meaning "modern times") into the position of world's number one shipbuilder, turned Korea into the world's leading shipbuilding country. Not to mention that the world's 2nd, 3rd and 5th largest shipyards are also Korean: SAMSUNG, DAEWOO (DSME) and HANJIN, respectively.
After going on a guided tour around HYUNDAI shipyard, where we watched another impressive presentation video and were absolutely stunned by the company's size as well as by the size of its ships all around, we had one last scheduled visit to pay just near the shipyard, still in Ulsan... HYUNDAI Motors was our last stop. Founded in 1967, the company is a global leading automaker that finishes one car every 12 seconds. In 1999, HYUNDAI Motors and the also Korean KIA Motors became one company after HYUNDAI bought KIA which had gone bankrupt. However, they still use separate names for different cars (Kia is Kia and Hyundai is Hyundai). Although, since KIA is being manufactured under HYUNDAI subsidiary, they share a lot of parts in their cars. For example, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio are virtually same cars, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are virtually same cars, Hyundai SantaFe and Kia Sorento are virtually same cars, etc... I've got a question for you now: what do you think about this and which company would be your favorite??
The moment we got to the monstrous automaker, we were once again welcomed with a beautiful, this time more artistic, video about the company and its achievements throughout the years. Truly impressive what they have done in so little time... And so, to wrap up this amazing first experience with the World Students in Korea project, one of the HYUNDAI Motors' guide took us inside the plant where we all had a close look at how fast they make and assemble their
- Enjoy this fun clip of our recreation time at Kolon Hotel in Gyeongju city:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Already in Korea? Stay and get muddy next time! ;)

This year's Mud Festival roooocked!

But if you missed it... no worries, 'cause there's more next year ;)

Plan ahead with your friends in Korea and 

get muddy at the Boryeong City Mud Festival at Daecheon Beach!

This is the kind of thing you really cannot miss in this country!

Official site:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Have you heard of Oedo? And what about Haegeumgang?

Oedo - Botania
A small island that will leave you breathless.
Haegeumgang is just on the way...

Seven years have passed since I first set foot on Oedo. An idyllic island of Geoje City in Gyeongsangnam-do that is a must-see destination in Korea. The island is basically a marine western-style botanical garden located in Hallyeo Haesang National Park, and probably the most beautiful of its kind that you will ever see!
Back then, in a hot 2002 Korean summer, Oedo was already a hit among visitors who came from all over Korea and the world to usually spend just a couple of hours walking around the garden island, of which one can pretty much see everything in about an hour and a half. And now guess what, the island is even more beautiful and attractive to all kinds of visitors than it already was.
Late April this year, lovely Spring time in Korea, and there I am, on a ferry boat with my father (who's been living in Korea for many years, by the way) going to Oedo for the second time. And, as if seeing the garden island isn't already supposed to be the highlight of a person's day, on the way to Oedo (from Geoge City) the boat actually stops by this gorgeous rock island named Haegeumgang. Located 4 kilometers east of Samilpo Lake, Haegeumgang features an amazing scenery with breathtaking high rock columns in various shapes rising above the sea.
At the most exciting moment of the less-than-an-hour boat trip, the boat goes half way into a cave of the rocky island, drawing most of its passengers to the boat deck with their cameras ready and amazed-looking faces. Save your batteries though, because Oedo is near...

_ Gather your belongings... Paradise is here!

"Oedo, it's great to be back!", I said. "Oh dear, I have been here so many times", my father said bragging. "But I can never get enough of how gorgeous this place is", he then added. With a few new imposing Greek-looking constructions, relaxing music that is played on all corners of the botanical garden and tulips, in their various vibrant colors, that look as if they knew how breathtaking they are, the island is absolutely more fascinating than ever! And you just can't help but wonder how it all started... Well, I will guide you through it:

In the past, Oedo was just a barren island made of rocks. There were no facilities for electricity or telephone because of its isolated location. It was also quite inconvenient to access the island, since it lacked a dock in early times after Korea's independence. In 1963, the Korean couple Lee Changho and Choi Hosook started creating the whole garden. At first, they actually grew tangerines and bred swine. However, that ended up failing and the romantic couple came to think of building a botanical garden.
In 1976, their plan to cultivate a land of 1601235 ft2 (45,000 pyeong) was green lighted. Thanks to that, rare plant species such as agave americana, rose of sunshine, windmill palms and c. peruvianus (a kind of cactus) can be found all around the island which, by the way, remains as the first island in Korea ever to be owned and developed by an individual.
Oedo also features cultural spaces such as the sculpture park and art gallery, as well as a variety of amenities such as a coffee shop with an amazing view, a gift shop, a snack bar and a memorial hall.

As you walk around this small-great island, mesmerized, it doesn't take you long to feel the love of a husband and a wife who put their very hearts and souls into turning what was once an ordinary rocky island into an earthly paradise covered with more than a thousand subtropical plants.

Cool sites:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Farewell speech for the Cheongju University KGS students - By Agatha Maia

Korean language training - Cheongju University, Cheongju,

We are the 'mixed' world

How lucky are we to be here in this great country and to have shared classes together...
We are not the same people we were a year ago; we cannot be, because we are better. Our differences, cultures, beliefs, experiences and opinions have only enriched each others' lives and helped shape who we are now.
We've managed to do something great, never done before, in this city or maybe not even in Korea. Our various nationalities mixed into one big community as we rehearsed and gathered for our memorable performance in Seoul late last year. Our love and admiration for one another were made public and applauded by hundreds of people from all over the globe. Make no mistake, we inspired them with our union and mutual respect.
Guys, we are the living proof of the success of cultural tolerance. Throughout these months, we've lived together and learned quite a lot from our roommates, we've thrown surprise birthday parties for each other, shared and introduced each others' countries' traditional foods and customs, babies have been born, we've met Huguito (Hugo's baby), we've heard Biru's beautiful singing and seen his talent for mimics, we've cried together, we've laughed together and of course we've encouraged one another when studying Korean wasn't easy.
In the end, despite all the problems and disappointments, we have truly evolved. Because not only have we been awarded a scholarship that will open doors of opportunities in the future, but we have also been awarded a lifetime of cross-cultural knowledge that we'll hopefully carry with us for the rest of our lives.
We are special and I'd say we've already made history as we'll probably be remembered as the very first group of foreign scholarship students to have come to this university, which is still growing.
What we have here is beautiful and together with our 선생님s we form one diverse and unique kind of family.
We have definitely accomplished a lot in very little time, and this is just the beginning!

Good luck and success to all of us!
Let's keep it up!