South Korea


This is a part of our 1½ months trip around the world in the winter of 2011 - visiting Baltimore [USA], Hawaii, Marshall Islands, Kosrae [Micronesia], Guam [USA], Saipan [Northern Marianas, USA], Palau, South Korea and Taiwan. We are Birgitte and Erik with our two children (5 and 7) - Johanne and Anders.

Continued from Palau

Saturday 12. March – Seoul

The first days here were like spring (16 degrees), and in Seoul Grand Children's Park, it seemed like half of the city was here - nice. The food is great, as is the French breakfast shop across the street where we buy too much pastry and latte's.

Grand Children's ParkGrand Children's park

Sunday 13. March – Seoul – Yoido Full Gospel Church

YoidoYong-gi Cho’s congregation is by far the largest in the world – supposedly 850.000 members, and when planning this trip, I had thought about a visit here.
We started out with late breakfast at one of the millions coffee shops around our hotel. It is a Paris pastry shop and we all agree that it is better than the baker at Kvickly at home.
The subway of Seoul is a bliss – easy and quick. Youido island in the middle of the river – a small Manhattan. The church has a block of buildings and when we were 4 blocks from the church, entering from the park, suddenly all roads were full of busses and cars. 4 policemen in every crossing and loads of people crossing. It was changing time from the 11 o’clock service to the 13 service. 20.000 people changing within half an hour. A car park with only busses behind (40 busses for this service?) Entering the church, 12:50, there was singing and we were guided up to the third floor of the dome, white clad helpers guiding us to the area assigned to people needing translations – translations into 7 languages. The dome was huge and everybody neatly seated with 7-8 people per row, the quire was in white robes with an added philharmonic orchestra and an opera singer; a pastor leading the singing flanked by swaying women. Pastor Yon-gi Cho was quietly seated behind until his sermon of about 45 minutes. He is now 70 and only has the 13:00 service, but he looked very well, and started with jokes about planning for the future now that we live an extra 25 years. The sermon was well made with a story line with bible texts explained and flavored with several stories from his life explaining the points. The service was in a way traditional, but also different in many ways, like the orchestra and some of the quire songs were reminding of some of the North Korea singings often seen (no offence). Another ‘strange’ thing was a minute where suddenly the translator stopped translating, but Yon-gi Cho was obviously still talking and everybody else also started talking/singing. Until I realized it was individual prayers / speaking in tongues. It was ended by a small bell chiming. So much for the charismatic part.
After the service, again changing time for the 15:00 service, and judging by the new people arriving, it must be more for the youth. It was a good experience, and again we marveled at the logistics of the changing.
A couple of links: Yoido Full Gospel Church: and Attendances statistics – take a look at:
We spent some time in the nearby Yoido park, had a coffee and a snack, before heading to the Namdaemun market (much like all markets in Asia). We took the cable car up to Namsan mountain at sunset with views over the city. We went up the N Seoul Tower, but is was too hazy to really see far. Heading home, we found one of the Korean barbeque shops where each table has a small barbeque – it was great, and everybody was happy.

Yongi-choYouido full gospel church busses
marketN Tower
N TowerKorea Barbeque

Monday 14.3

Now, just an update of some of the things we have seen in Seoul and South Korea. First, we were worried about the language - and that they spoke worse English than in Japan - and that says a lot. Well, we should not have worried - they can both ask 'here/to go?' and say 'hot/cold?' when buying a Café Latte... OK, but seriously, there are actually many who can say much more than that, surprisingly, and the Subway is working excellent and easy.

We have been to the Gyeongbokgung palace, where the children where very impressed with the guard (see picture), and the adjoining museum was quite interesting - also a 'children museum' where the children could try to be dressed up.

GyeongbokgungGyeongbokgungchildren museum

Tuesday 15.3

Tour to the DMZ - the Demilitarized Zone - the border to North Korea. The most interesting part is the Panmunjeom place where the two nations face each other directly - but children under 10 years cannot go there. So we could only go to other nearby places, like the unification bridge, the Dora observatory where we could look into North Korea. One thing that surprised me was that there was a town in DMZ with South Korea factories having North Korea labours (for much smaller wages).
We also visited the 3rd infiltration tunnel - one of the tunnels made by North Korea into the south. You go down with a small mono-rail to 73 meters underground and can go into the tunnel, quite close to the North Korea border.

North Korea

Wednesday 16.3

Subway to fish market – right off the station (the direction can be smelled). Very good with fish, shellfish, rays, crabs, lobsters, octopuses, squid and much more. Many of the sellers had learned to say ‘obster’ – probably what tourists would buy. A huge hall with many stalls. Upstairs you can have your fish prepared for lunch. The locker was not big enough for the one suitcase we had brought, so had to tag it along.
Subway further on for 45 minutes to the ‘suburb’ town of Suwon (900.000 inhabitants). A taxi to the hotel we had booked, and somehow we got the ‘royal suite’ for the twin room price. Very nice, with one of these old projector tv’s, where the picture is projected on a glass front plate. The only problem was that the room was icy cold and the only warmth was from a heater in the roof.
Suwon is known for it’s huge fortress walls surrounding the center of town – the king had at one time build this to move here from Seoul, but he died and the next king decided to stay in Seoul. We had a niced walk along the walled city and took the dragon train to the end station. Here one could try bow and arrow, and it was the highest wish of Anders - but he was not allowed, until all other spectators interferred - though he could only pull the strings, not shoot.

fish marketSuwonSuwon

Thursday 17. Everland

Everland is supposedly the 4th largest amusement park in the world. We took a bus from Suwon (ticket counter left of the station), 40 minutes. It was a good day to go; hardly any people, and no waiting time anywhere. It was quite large, but still ok to see ‘everything in a day. Surprised it should be among the biggest. Much of the things were Tivoli-like, that is rides of different kinds, but some of the things were quite good, like the 3D movie with moving effects and the ‘rolling hanted hause’ where turn around completely – it feels so, but in fact much of the turning is the walls, but it feels real. Our favorite was a ride through a haunted house with laser guns to shoot the ghosts and stuff. At the end, you all get a score (I won of course every time). There were many high-fives with the count letting us in when we returned. The park was spotless; lots of people, even on roller blades, picking up scraps and leaves. Several of the attractions were closed, like the steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. A amazon jungle ride down a stream made Johanne wet, but there were driers at the end. A popular safari ride was with a bus with tigers outside on the road, a small zoo and a sections with bears that were fed with biscuits making them stand up and do tricks to much amusement of the Koreans.
We took the local bus back to Suwon, costing nothing – it even passed the hotel, so we could get off there. Barbeque dinner at a restaurant next to the hotel, so much joy of us all. No English, so we didn’t get our beer until we had found a word for it in the guidebook.


Friday 18. Seoul

Subway back to the YMCA hotel in Seoul, sandwich at Subway next to the hotel, and next to the National Palace museum that was closed Monday. Many interesting things.
There is a nearby (to the hotel) opened part of the river and it was nice to take an evening stoll here (though cold). Dinner (again) at the good Italian restaurant near the hotel.


South Korea in a few words: North Face down jackets, coffe bars, smoking (but taking care and not in restaurants), hot pants even when freezing

Continue reading about Taiwan (comming soon)

Tips and trip planning

There relevant guide books are the following

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