Do you ever wonder why milk tastes different in Korea? It has to do with the pasteurization method. North America uses the HTST method (high temperature, short time), while Korea has, for the most part, used the UHT method (ultra high temperature).

HTST kills spoilage microorganisms, and consists of heating the milk to 74°C for 10-20 seconds. With correct cooling, and chilled distribution, it has a shelf life of 1-2 weeks.

UHT kills microorganisms AND spores in milk, giving it a shelf life of 6-9 months (until opened) without refrigeration or preservatives. UHT consists of heating the milk to 138° C for 2-3 seconds.

For regular style HTST milk, you have two choices in Korea: 상하목장(Sangha Farms) or 파스퇴르 (Pasteur). Pasteur has a more typical taste, while Sangha Farms uses Batch Pasteurization which consists of an even lower temperature of 63° C for 30 minutes as well as a micro-filter process that I believe gives it a “tinny” taste.

If you can read Hangul, you’ll also be able to choose the fat content, but beware: there are no industry standards of what is considered “low-fat.”

Good to know:

Pasteur (파스퇴르) brand:
후레쉬 (Fresh): 2% (blue)
저지방 (low fat): 1% (green)
무지방 (no fat): 0% (pink)

Sangha Farms (상하목장):
Standard (no specification): Whole milk (blue)
저지방 (low fat): 2% (green)

지방 = fat
저 = low
무 = none
저지방 = low fat
무지방 = no fat

(Information from Joe Zellers. Feel free to share this information, just as long as he is credited.)

Getting your drivers license in Busan, Korea

I recently went through the stressful experience of obtaining a drivers license in Busan, without trading in my US driver’s license. If you want to trade in your driver’s license, that process is explained on another blog.

If the DMV is one of the most hated places in the US, the Nambu driving center (남부운전면허시험장) near Kyungsung University is one of the most hated places in Korea. No one spoke English and hardly anyone was kind or patient with me. I’m going to provide you with as much information as possible, in hopes that it helps someone, because it definitely would have helped me.

I tried calling beforehand to make an appointment, but they told me that wasn’t possible and that there would be no English service available for me. They told me to arrive at 9:20 a.m. on any weekday to start the process. Bring 60,000₩ in cash and three smaller than passport size photos.

I walked there from KSU, exit 5, following directions on my iPhone. It took about 20 minutes, and the only tricky part was taking a left at this GS25.

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Or, you could just take a taxi from the KSU subway.

You’ll get dropped off here:

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Enter the first building on your left.

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Start filling out some papers in Korean at 9:20 a.m. Glue two smaller than passport size photos onto your paperwork. Someone may help you in Korean.

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Pay 5,000₩ to take an eye exam.

Then, go to the second floor and fill out another form. You’ll scan your left thumb into a machine. You’ll be given a plastic card with a number. Go to the room on your left and sit it in the desk with your number. Then, an employee will come into the room and have you go scan your card and left thumb into a machine, like so:

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A safety video will start around 9:45 a.m. with no English subtitles. Another employee will lecture in Korean after the video finishes. You’ll be directed to scan your thumb once more and then turn in your plastic card. They will give you a form to take to the next building.

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Be sure to grab a number for the left side of the lines.

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Once your number is called, they’ll take your form and put some more stamps on it. You’ll pay 7,500₩ and then proceed to the PC room on the third floor for a written test in poorly translated, broken English.

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You’ll have 50 minutes to answer 40 questions. I had absolutely no idea how to answer questions regarding the penalty point system, “invisible” children, or stopping involving the metric system. Lots of leeway for incorrect answers. I recommend just picking the no-brainer safe answers and you’ll probably pass.

Then, go back to the first floor and take a number on the left side again. I was here around 11:45 a.m. and they scheduled an appointment for my driving test at 1 p.m. that day. It cost 18,5000₩.

So, walk outside to another building where you hand someone your paper. They’ll tell you a number in Korean. Mine was 22.

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Watch another safety video. Then, take a driving test on the designated course.

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This is a bit stressful, as there is no one in the car with you, and the directions are in Korean. Basically, the speakers in the car talk to you, directing to you do a number of things, such as turn on the lights, use your blinkers, drive, stop, use the emergency brake, etc. You’ll have to do them within 5 seconds after the car directs you to do so in Korean.

Finally, go back into the building to get another number, and then talk to booth three. Pay 3,500₩. Then, pay 25,000₩ for the on-road driving test. These may be scheduled later in the day, if you’re lucky, or the next week.

Keep in mind that you can amuse yourself by charging your phone:

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…or consuming liquid confidence from the vending machine:

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I recommend arriving to the on-road driving test earlier than they tell you to, as they always seem to start the safety video early. This one has English subtitles though! And, they detail the driving test and the four possible courses you could experience. Go to this room by the bathroom:

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After the safety video, you’ll get in a car with the employee and one or two other people taking the driving test. When it’s your turn to drive, the employee will sit in the front with you, but the car speakers will direct you where to drive. Testing will include completing a U-turn and parallel parking. Don’t feel bad if you don’t pass the first or even second time, as I have been told that that is common in Korea. You’ll pay 25,000₩ to retake the test.

I had points deducted on my test for not putting the car in neutral when it was idling, using my turn signal too frequently (such as for changing lanes), and waiting too long to complete a U-turn. Seemed kind of silly to me, as I have been driving without incident in the US for ten years, but I’ll laugh it off. Now, I have my Korean drivers license for ten years!

Jirisan National Park (지리산국립공원), May 3-6, 2014

This year the holidays, Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday, occurred quite conveniently to award us in Korea with a four-day weekend. My boyfriend and I decided to camp for four days and three nights in Jirisan National Park (지리산국립공원).

One can catch a bus from the Sasang Bus Terminal in Busan to several different spots, but we decided to camp closest to the highest peak at the Jungsan-ri Camping Area (중산리야영장).

The bus that leaves directly for Jungsan (중산정류장) from Busan doesn’t leave very often, but it’s not difficult to go from Busan to Jinju (진주시외버스터미널), and then buy a ticket there to Jungsan. A one-way trip costs approximately 13,600₩ (Busan to Jungsan).

Once you arrive in Jungsan, you can hail a taxi to the camping grounds for 5,000₩. Camping costs 2,000₩ a person. Yeah, that’s right, I said 2,000₩ a person. Reservations cannot be made in advance; first come, first serve. We arrived on the Saturday afternoon of a four-day weekend and had no trouble finding ample room for our tent and hammock.

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This campground is great. It has lots of trees and a creek nearby. There are clean restrooms and water facilities. There were signs warning of snakes, but I didn’t see any. There are also signs advising no campfires, but people still have campfires at night. Do it at your own risk.

There is food a short walk from the campground, but the selection is limited (e.g. samgyeopsal and kimchi jigae) and expensive. There are also marts that sell all Korean camping necessities at an inflated price, such as ramen, Pocari Sweat, and makgeolli. My boyfriend made the smart decision of bringing a lot of our own food, including bread, jam, peanut butter, pasta, hot dogs, cheese, eggs, butter, fruit, tuna, drinks, and fancy foil packets.

We had a really, really good time. If you’re comfortable without showers, one could stay for a long period of time. Or you could rent a pension (or minbak), as there are many around, but I don’t know how much they are or what they look like inside.

Once you’re ready to leave, take a taxi back down to the bus terminal for 5,000₩. You can buy bus tickets at the mart.

The bus leaves for Jinju 14 times a day, from 6:10 am - 7:40 pm. The bus leaves less frequently for Busan, during the same hours, just eight times a day. There is a bus schedule under the covered area where the bus picks you up.

Finally got out to Jongmyo Shrine (종묘) in Seoul. Kind of silly not to visit as it’s located in central Seoul and is within walking distance of Insadong.

It was built by the first king and founding father of the Joseon Dynasty, Lee Seong Gye (1335-1408). It was a primary place of worship for kings throughout the Joseon Dynasty and has been registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site for its well-preserved ancient customs such as memorial services and traditional music. I think it’d be really impressive to visit during one of its grand festivities with hundreds of people dancing and performing.

If you want to visit Jongmyo, the English tours are at 10am, noon, 2pm, and 4pm (but closed on Tuesdays). On Saturdays, you can visit the shrine without a guided tour. The entrance fee is 1,000₩ for adults, and free on certain holidays (such as Lunar New Year).

Directions: A ten minute walk from

If you live in Cheonan and you need a health check done at a hospital for employment in Korea, I recommend going to Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital (순천향대학교천안병원). They start health checks at 8 a.m. on weekdays. I recommend going early, as there was already a full room of people by the time I got there at 7:55 a.m. At this time they only do health checks for employment on weekdays.

You can make an appointment by calling 041-570-3600 (and, yes, someone speaks English). An appointment isn’t required if you’re going early.

Health checks cost 72,970₩ (cash). It includes a chest x-ray, dental, sight, blood, and urine tests. They suggest fasting for two hours prior to the exam. The test may take up to two hours to complete, but it only took me 45 minutes. You’ll have to return in 8-9 days to pick up your paperwork. Bring two passport sized photos and identitication (i.e. ARC) for your paperwork.

Directions: Bus 2, 30, 92, 97, 911, 12, 31, 94, or 910 will get you there. Get off at the 쌍용패션거리 bus stop. A taxi from the Ssangyong-dong Lotte-Mart will cost you 3,500₩.

As my photos show, take a right onto the street between the Nike and Olleh stores. Walk down for quite a while, past the head of Hippocrates. The Health Promotion Center (견건증진센터) will be on your right. Enter the large waiting room on the right. Take a number.

Made a late January trip to Beartree Park (베어트리파크), made popular by Korean drama, My Princess. I was eager to see the cute moon (or Manchurian black) bears, but found myself wandering the park for at least an hour looking at the botanical gardens, unique (often bear) statues, and non-bear creatures (e.g. koi, white peacocks, beagles, deer).

First, I saw the baby moon bears. Oh, they were so cute! And so close! I was really tempted to reach down and pet them, as only a wall of glass (maybe six feet high) and thin electric wire separated us. There were no employees around to stop me, but envisioning a baby bear (accidentally?) mauling my arm squelched any desire I had to pet one.

As I walked through the park, ignoring unavoidable goat bleats, I wondered what the bears were being raised for. Hopefully not to be someone’s dinner, as I have heard that one can purchase and consume bear meat in Korea. I saw more pits of bears, the bears getting older and bigger the further I walked. I’m sad to say that the pits seemed overstocked with roughly 20-30 bears in each. Their pits seemed bare with very little replication of what their habitats would be like in the wild.

The bears do seem healthy though. I really enjoyed being able to see them so up-close. I heard one can pay extra in the spring for an “animal experience” (동물체험) to walk baby bears, but it’s really only for children.

Tickets in months November to March are 8,000₩ for adults. April to October has different prices depending on the days. It’s 10,000₩ during the week and 13,000₩ for admission on weekends and holidays. Place opens at 9 AM and closes at sunset.

How to get there: Take a bus or Mugungwha train to Jochiwon (조치원역). I took the train from Cheonan for 2600₩. Exit the main doors and take a left along Jochiwonro Road. Turn right at the first four-way intersection and take bus 960 in front of Sejong Post Office Bus Stop. Get off at Beartree Park Bus Stop. Or take a taxi from the station for around 12,000₩. Be careful leaving because the buses stop running before the park closes. If that happens to you —like it happened to me— an employee might be nice enough to drive you to a bus stop that is running.

Address:
217 Sinsong-ro Jeondong-myeon , Sejong-si
세종특별자치시 전동면 신송로 217

Phone number: 866-7766

Hey guys, baseball is back in Korea! Fortunately, I live in the city with the best baseball fans in Korea. Baseball is so much fun in Korea, and the best place to experience it is with the Lotte Giants in Busan. The stadium is big and provies you with a city view of tall apartment complexes and mountains.

The fans really are the best. Whether the team is winning or losing, you’ll experience the loud singing and cheering. After a few innings (and drinks), you might even make some new friends.

You can bring in outside drinks and food. They’ll check your bag at the door for glass, so purchase drinks in plastic containers only. There are a lot of savvy older Korean people who will approach you on your walk to the stadium, selling things such as chicken, kimbap, pork, pizza, beer, soju, soda, etc. Prices inside the stadium are not unreasonable as well.

As for tickets, you have four options:

  1. You can purchase them at a Busan Bank (as a customer) the day before a game.
  2. Use Internet Explorer and go to giantsclub.com. The website is in Korean and you will be required to type in your ARC card number. I’ve never successfully gotten this to work…
  3. Buy tickets at the box office on game days (my most preferred option). The box office opens 3 hours before the game. I’d recommend going early on weekends.
  4. Buy tickets from scalpers. They’re usually near the box office. Look at the tickets to make sure they’re the correct date.

Ticket prices are 7,500₩ for outfield or upper-deck seats. Seats on the 1st or 3rd base line are around 10-15,000₩. Seats in better spots are around 25,000₩.

Check out the schedule from Busan Haps here.

Directions to the stadium: Take Metro Line 3 to Sajik, exit 1. Walk out and turn right. Box office will be up the ramp.

In early April, I went to the 52nd annual Jinhae Gunhangje Festival (진해군항제) also known as the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. I don’t mind crowds and always have a good time at festivals in Korea, but surprisingly, I’ve never been to this festival before. It was great!

The city boasts that they have the most cherry blossom trees in the world. There are apparently 360,000 trees blossoming at once, if you’re curious.

Friends were discouraging me from going to the festival. Before I went to Jinhae, people were telling me that it would be too crowded (“everyone will be in your pictures” and “it’ll be so difficult to get there and back”), that the flowers had blossomed too early, and that it would rain. I still went, and I’m happy I did.

There were a ton of people there, but again, I don’t mind crowds. Probably less people there than usual, because it did rain for a short period of time. We just sought refuge from the rain in a tent, drinking makgeolli. Not a big deal.

The view of the trees around the stream was beautiful, and I also really enjoyed the view of the city from Jinhae Tower. The city was very easy to walk. I’ve been told foreigners can rent city bikes there for 1,000₩ with your ARC.

We opted to stand on the one hour bus ride between Jinhae and Busan both ways, so we only had to wait 15 minutes to leave. Bus rides between Jinhae and Busan (Sasang Bus Terminal) are totally reasonable at 5,100₩. We opted to stand, but we actually sat on the steps of the bus (not too uncomfortable) and then on our way back, we sat on the floor of the back of bus (much more uncomfortable). But, meh, we had a good time. 

In Korea, it’s common practice that the female does the gifting on Valentine’s Day (and males return the favor on White Day [March 14]). This year, I treated my boyfriend to a holiday in neighboring city, Daejeon.

After thoughtful reconnaissance behind the Daejeon bus terminal, we found the best love motel, MS Motel (엠에스모텔). Granted, the name isn’t particularly clever and the outside decor isn’t the most awe-inspiring, but I promise you it was the best inside. We popped in and out of several motel rooms —and this was the best by far.

I suggest getting the best room (60,000₩ a night), which has two extremely comfortable queen sized beds, three showers, one bathtub, and a 3D TV. If you ask nicely, the employees will help you order delivery, and you’ll have food straight to your room (a major plus in my eyes).

Busan Tower (부산타워) in Yongdusan Park (용두산공원) is a must-see destination for visitors to Busan. I suggest going to the observatory at the top (designed after the baldaquin of Dabotap Pagoda in Bulguksa Temple) where one can see a 360 degree view of the entire city. For a few dollars more, one can check out the modest musical instrument museum and cultural relic exhibit hall in the same vicinity.

It’s not very tall. It stands at 120 meters tall, compared to the N Seoul Tower’s 237 meters, but on a clear day, I find the view much more impressive.

Directions: Nampo Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 7. Go 350m on Gwangbok-ro Street towards Yongdusan Park. You’ll need to go up the line of escalators on the right.

Operating Hours: 09:00-22:00