Korean New Year (설날 / Seollal) @ Namsan Hanok Village (남산골 한옥마을)

Korean New Year is traditionally a really important day in the Korean Lunar calendar, with most people spending the 3 day celebration with their family. I’ve experienced a couple of Korean New Year’s over the past few years, and almost everything in the city is closed, but there is still a lot for you to do if you’re in Seoul on Korean New Year.

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One of the best ways to spend Seollal is to get involved with the many traditional celebrations happening around the city. One of the best places to get a hands-on experience of the traditional aspects of Korean New Year is at Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골 한옥마을).

Namsangol Hanok Village is located conveniently right outside Chungmuro subway station (line 4 & 3) and at the base of Namsan Mountain.

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Entry to the celebrations is free, and while you’re there you can learn about, and participate in a lot of different cultural activities such as  Charye (a memorial ritual for ancestors) and the making and slicing Garatteok (a type of rice cake).

You can dress up in traditional clothing called a Hanbok, try learning and singing  some folk songs or some dancing, as well as playing traditional games and musical instruments. There are also lots of performances on a big stage to enjoy.

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Some of the traditional games I really enjoyed playing at the Namsnangol Hanok Village were:

Yutnori – a game where you use wooden sticks to play.
Jegichagi – you make an object using a small metal ring, then wrap it with strips of paper, then kick it in the air similar to footbag.
Neoltwiggi – a see saw that you and another player stands on each end and take turns to jump high in the air (a lot harder to get the timing than it looks)

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There is such a nice and festive atmosphere at Namsangol Hanok Village during Seollal, it’s a great way to see the beautiful buildings and gardens of the Hanok Village as well as experiencing some traditional culture, for free – from there you can also hike up Namsan for a great view of Seoul!

buzzKorea Awards

The Buzz Korea awards are an annual event held by buzzKorea & the Korea Tourism Organization.

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The 2013 event was held at Fradia, an event hall located floating on the Han River in Gangnam, Seoul, with incredible views of the river and city.
The event was held to thank participants of the buzzKorea community for spreading their knowledge and experiences of Korea through blogging, SNS and other online communities.

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Ricky Kim MC’d the 2013 event, with special performances by two of Korea’s current hottest idol groups, Dal Shabet and ZE:A.

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The 2012 event was held at Beyond Museum in Gangnam. It was also MC’d by Ricky Kim, and featured awards presented to participants by kpop idol groups Miss A & 2PM as well as performances by both the idol grouops as well as Hwang Min Woo (the mini-PSY dancing kid from the Gangnam Style MV).

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Pro Baseball / KBO (프로야구)

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The korean word for Baseball is Yagu (야구), and It’s playoff season in the KBO! (Korean Baseball Organization) For the teams that made the finals it’s very exciting for their fans!
I’m an LG Twins fan, so in June this year i attended a couple of matches at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul.
Sport, especially baseball in Korea is so exciting, members of the crowd have many songs and cheers for each player and team! you can also bring in your own food and drinks! My favourite food to have while at the stadium is Chimaek (치맥)! which is Chicken (치킨) & Beer (맥주). You can also buy many other delicious snacks and drinks in the stadium! Korean baseball games are also quite unique…between innings’ the camera will find crowd members to participate in fun games, like Dance Time, Kiss Time and Beer drinking races! very funny and entertaining!

Tickets are quite cheap (ranging from about 10-15 dollars), which makes it a great and affordable evening with friends.

The official KBO website is http://www.koreabaseball.com/ you can follow your favourite teams news, results and statistics here! It’s quite hard to find information about KBO in English online, however i stumbled across this great website recently:http://www.mykbo.net/home Check it out for lots of team, player and game info! you can also get a link to watch games online from your country!

I also found an App in the Google Play store for Android called 프로야구 which is FREE and has all live scores, stats etc! very convenient for checking results quickly on your portable device!

무적엘지!!!

KoYonJeon & YonKoJeon (연고전과 고연전) / Korea University & Yonsei friendship games

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I was a student at Korea University (고려대학교 / KU) in Seoul, which along with Seoul National (서울대학교) and Yonsei Universities (연세대학교) make up SKY (Seoul Korea Yonsei), the 3 most prestigious universities in the country which a lot of high schoolers work extremely hard to try to attend.

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In another post I will talk about Korea University, but for now I want to introduce KoYonJeon (고연존) or YonKoJeon if you attend Yonsei University. As Yonsei and KU make up 2 of the 3 top school’s in Korea, and coming from opposite sides of Seoul, they have a fierce and competitive rivalry which stretches back many, many years – Even when meeting ex-KU or Yonsei students of all ages, the conversation would always somehow end up involving the friendly rivalry between the two universities. Throughout the schooling year, there are many festivals and events which both the universities attend, but the most significant and competitive event are the KU-Yonsei games.

Held in the beginning of the Fall semester, the KU-Yonsei friendship games consist of 5 sports; Rugby (럭비), Soccer (축구), Ice Hockey (아이스 하키), Basketball (농구) and Baseball (야구).
The festival stretches over two days, with thousands of students from both universities filling the stadiums to cheer on their team. I found it interesting, and definitely very enjoyable, that more energy is focused into the pre-rehearsed dancing and cheering by all the students rather than watching the games! Students danced and cheered until almost exhaustion for the entire duration of the games! I’ve posted a video below to show the kinds of singing and dancing involved.

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After the games are all over, and a winner of the festival is decided by the most sports events won, students and alumni of both universities, flock back to the area of the winning teams campus (Sinchon & Anam) to all eat, drink and celebrate the 2 universities together with dancing and yet more cheering in the streets until the very early (late) hours of the morning. This street cheering is called Georieungwon (거리응원) and became the most popular type of celebration for a huge sporting event like this after Korea’s success in the 2002 Soccer World Cup in Seoul.
KoYonJeon was such a new experience for me, and I really enjoyed seeing all the action of the sporting events up close, and the non-stop cheering for our school, but one thing that stood out to me that i particularly loved about the massive event was that even though the games and crowd cheerings are so competitive, at the end of the day, when it is all over, everybody from both Universities come together to enjoy the night of celebrations together.

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KoYonJeon was one of the most enjoyable days I had as a student in Korea, celebrating the pride of our own school, as well as the friendship with our rival school. I hope to attend again someday!

Seoul International Fireworks Festival (서울세계불꽃축제)

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The International Fireworks Festival is an annual event held each October in Seoul. The event presents fireworks displays from all around the world, which features teams from Italy, America, China and Korea, showcasing what their nations best pyrotechnics are capable of!
Each team’s display consists of 20 or so minutes of amazing fireworks synced with enjoyable music playing from their home country. It really is incredible!
Thousands of people line the Han River infront of the 63 Building in Seoul to witness the wonderful event for free on a warm fall night in Seoul!
Prior to the firework show, visitors are able to enjoy various musical performances and cultural programs along the banks of the Han River.

I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend who worked in the 63 building to watch from their office on the 40 somethingth floor. It was an incredible experience being at eye-level with fireworks right outside the windows.

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Each year the festival gets bigger and better, and i really recommend checking it out!

For more details, follow the links below! and enjoy my video of the display!

http://www.hanwhapyro.com/
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_2_1.jsp?cid=790394