Thursday, January 31, 2008

선생님의 어려움

A student lost her cool in class today. She believed strongly that our teacher has neglected her learning needs and she was not afraid to show her disgust in class.

"I don't know what other students may think but I cannot understand what you are teaching. You are going so fast without explaining those difficult grammars using simpler examples. If you are not helping me to understand, it defeats the purpose of me paying to attend class."

Personally, I think our teacher is doing a great job in teaching. It is just unfortunate that the student is not seeing the fact that she is not at all ready for intermediate-level Korean despite putting in her best effort.

As a third party, it is quite obvious to me what is the cause of the problem and the best solution to it. I empathise with Korean teachers who have had bad experiences teaching Singaporeans especially when the social status of teachers in Singapore is not as high as what is accorded to teachers in Korea.

My belief is that teacher is always dedicated to teaching until proven otherwise. Money that I paid for lesson is for a learning opportunity and not for a training service. I value what my teacher teaches because I trust that my teacher knows the best. In class, I am much better off behaving like a student rather than a customer.

This is my first encounter of such unhappy incident though previously I have heard about cases of students walking out of class and demanding for refunds when their teacher is not whom they like or could not translate Korean to English. I always find such incidents regrettable.


In a crowded alley at Jong-no area after nightfall

I am not writing about anything today. Instead I would like to ask a question. Did you notice a Starbucks sign in the photo above? If not, try to look for the sign again. Hint: It is not that difficult to spot, provided you are not easily distracted. ^^

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

한 국기만 찾고 싶었다

Hundreds of national flags were fluttering in the wind - a majestic sight to behold in the Olympics Park. I walked along a semi-circle path, which was lined with flag poles on both sides, searching for only one flag. No prize for guessing which flag I was looking out for. I am proud of my country but equally critical about its shortcomings. For one, I dislike our government for over-regulating to the extent of stifling people's ingenuity and creativity. Next, I disagree that carrying placards and standing quietly at one corner of a busy street to express regret or unhappiness over issues close to one's heart can undermine social stability and investors' confidence. I also regret that people have to make to "swallow" the explanation that having two operators for MRT and bus services can lead to "competition" and hence better outcomes but only to realise later that travel fee is increased and frequency and bus routes are reduced. I see myself as a parent who is willing to take a cane and hit my child in the hope that he or she will change and become a better person. People are the parents of this country and not the government. So allow me to be critical about my country because I have a stake in its future. Parents who always think that their children are the best and chide anyone who dare to say otherwise are going to ruin their future.

Monday, January 28, 2008

서울역을 지나갔다

Since 2002, I have not walked past the Seoul Station. When I saw it this time, it was the new Seoul Station that I was seeing. The last time, I took my first train ride of my life from Seoul to Gyeong-ju without knowing a single word of Korean. It was an adventure that I have lived to treasure. It was kinda ironic to feel nostalgic in front of a new Seoul Station.

That evening, there was a performance of Andes Music in the open area just outside of the Seoul Station. A small crowd gathered around a group of five musicians of whom one was a Korean. The passionate beats of the Andes Music were so infectious that I found my body swinging with them. It was a free performance and a very enjoyable one.

The Seoul Station was a very busy station. People moved in and out of it in steady stream non-stop. The heartbeat of this city could be felt here. Not far away from the new Seoul Station stood the old Seoul Station. In a stark contrast to its replacement, time had stood still for the old station. Its days of glory is nothing but history now. Not forgetting, a part of its history has a bit of mine as well.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

서울에 있는 미술관

National Museum of Comtemporary Art Korea at Seoul Grand Park

Raemian Gallery sponsored by Samsung Coorporation at Angguk

SOMA (Seoul Olympics Museum of Art) Museum of Art at Olympics Park

KT Art Hall sponsored by Korean Telecom at Gwanghwamun

I am always inspired by art. Through art, Seoul has inspired me. Life will be an empty shell if all that matter is about making more money. Living in Singapore can be rather uninspiring as what matter most is about making more money so that we can upgrade everything from car to house to travel package. Quality of life may have gone up but not necessarily the quality of the people. Pardon me for looking somewhere else for the time-being as Singapore continues to find its foothold as a developed nation in this world.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Among the many cinemas found in Jong-no area, I still like Seoul Cinema the most. Simply because, this cinema has "character". The rest of the cinemas just look a carbon-copy of each other.

Compare Seoul Cinema with Daehan Cinema...

... or with Dansungsa Cinema and perhaps you will understand what I mean.

Friday, January 25, 2008

계획을 취소한다

Migliore shopping mall in Dongdaemun-gu (Nov 2007)

My plan to go Kyunghee for a 3-weeks intensive language course this March is now off. I have ascertained that it would be impossible for me to leave after looking very hard at my busy schedule. Its kinda pity but I am consoled by the fact that I still have my weekly Korean class to attend here. I am sorry to my friends whom I said I will meet in Seoul. Lacking of anything better to say, I shall say that there is always a next time. Anyway, I can almost see when I will be heading to Korea for my regular Korean language course now. I am planning to complete my Advanced 1 and 2 level in Korea after I have completed my Intermediate 2 level in Singapore this year. Yesterday, I met Min Seon Saeng Nim in SKS. She told me that she would be opening TOPIK Advanced class outside and asked if I am interested. 한번 해 볼 게요, I replied. I am ready to take up the challenge again. I don't think I can past TOPIK Advanced eventually but I am quite sure it will help me in my TOPIK Intermediate. I like the idea of being challenged as it brings with it improvement.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Being a repeat student has its advantage. I need not struggle to understand what are being taught in class. Instead, I can choose to pay special attention to things which I have not fully understood previously. My learning in Advanced 1 class has so far been quite fruitful. Here are just some of those interesting things which I learnt this week.

I wrote about 당근이지 not too long ago and it is a colloquial way of saying "of course" in Korean. During Tuesday lesson, our teacher spoke about the different ways of saying "of course" in Korean. Besides 물론이에요 and 당연해요, Koreans also use the expression - 당연이지. The interesting part about 당연이지 is its origin. 당연이지, which means "why not, of course!", actually originates from the Chinese words 当然可以. I was quite surprised by this connection. Immediately I conjectured that 당근이지 must have evolved from 당연이지. Perhaps 당근이지 is a cuter way of saying 당연이지. By the way, 당근 is carrot in Korean and it would be interesting to know how carrot replaces 당연. Nevertheless, I felt a natural sense of bliss when I discovered that I had reached a new level of understanding in something which I thought I knew.

There are still more reason for me to be happy. After a long time of trying to figure out what ~스럽다 means, I finally found my answer in Tuesday class. This was what I have learnt from our teacher's explanation. When a noun has 스럽다 attached to its back, it becomes an adjective. For example, 사랑(love) is a noun and 사랑스럽다 (lovely) is an adjective. When a thing is described by 사랑스럽다, it means that the thing has taken on the characteristics of love and that makes it lovely. Another example is 남성스러운 여자 (tomboy). When 남성스럽다 (like a man) is used to describe 여자(woman), it means the woman has taken on the characteristics of a man and that makes her a tomboy. The sudden realisation of the role which ~스럽다 plays in Korean grammar brought me instant happiness and I was smiling non-stop. [Note: ~스럽다 is used only for noun that ends with a consonant. When a noun ends with a vowel, ~럽다 should be used. For example, if the noun is 자유 (freedom), its adjective form shall be 자유럽다 (freely).]

Just one more new thing which I learnt during Tuesday class. It is about the usage of grammar ~(action verb)던. Since the last time I came across this grammar until this Tuesday, I did not really figure out when to use present tense and past tense for the action verb before 던. For example, I am not too sure when I should use 만나던 (만나다 in present tense) and when to use 만났던 (만나다 in past tense). I must give credit to our teacher. Her explanation was so precise that I understood immediately when each is used. This is how the explanation goes. 던 means recalling a previous experience. When I use 만나던 사람, it means that I am recalling a person whom I met regularly in the past. On the other hand, 만났던 사람 means that I am recalling a person whom I met only once in the past. Which tense to use for an action verb in ~(action verb)던 is thus dependent on the frequency of an action in the past. That's how easy it turned out to be after I have fully understood the grammar.

Learning Korean just makes me happy and I just like the feeling of happiness which is internally derived from a sense of fulfilment. This is a fulfilment from knowing that I finally know.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

한국어 구어

During Thursday Korean class, I asked my teacher two questions on colloquial Korean language. The first question is on the meaning of 아니거든요 and the application of ~거든요. The second question is about what do Koreans mean when they use the sentence ending ~고요 or 구요.

I picked up the phrase 아니거든요 after watching Le Grand Chef on Wednesday. I was taught sentence ending, ~거든요, is used when a person wants to provide a causal reason for an action or thing that happens earlier. But quite often, it doesn't seem to me that Koreans are using ~거든요 to give a casual reason. 아니거든요 is an example. My teacher explained that 아니거든요 means "no" in a defensive way. For example, someone accuses you of doing something you didn't, you can say 아니거든요. The "no" in 아니거든요 has a stronger tone than the "no" in 아니예요. But when 아니거든요 is being used in a questioning tone as in "아니거든요?", the speaker is trying to say something like you mean you didn't do it? I don't quite believe you.

I guess I was right that ~거든요 does have more uses in colloquial Korean than what I was taught in Korean class. However, when I tried to ask about its other uses, my teacher couldn't really give a good answer. Similarly for my question on the sentence ending ~고요 or 구요, she found it difficult explaining the nuance which ~고요 or 구요 gives to a sentence. The best she could afford was to say that she uses ~고요 or 구요 in a positive manner. I didn't quite understand what she meant by that but I can empathise her difficulty in trying to explain a language point which is so common and colloquial. It is just like asking me to explain the nuances of Singlish's "lah", "lor" and "leh" to foreigners. What appears simple and natural to me may actually be very difficult to explain because it never occurs to me that an explanation is ever needed.

Colloquial Korean is hardly taught in my Korean class in Singapore. Nevertheless, I am still quite interested in learning them. Sadly, I have very little success in this area. I try to recall all that I have learnt but only two words come out. 당근이지 and 그렇지 뭐. 당근이지 means "of course" and is the colloquial way of saying 물론이에요 or 당연해요. 그렇지 뭐 means "so be it" (to a suggestion) in a can't-be-bothered manner or when there is no other choice given. I hope I have explained the meaning correctly as colloquial Korean does not have dictionary's explanation.

Come to think of it, perhaps I should not allow my attention to be distracted. My Korean isn't that good yet. There is so much more thing to learn that colloquial Korean should be the least of my concern. I recall during a class gathering, one of my classmates asked our teacher where she could learn 사투리 or Korean dialects as she thought that they sounded rather interesting. For one moment, I thought she was "more distracted" than me. But then, her Korean is much better than me. Oh well, by my Korean standard, I think I better stay focus. ^^;;

Friday, January 18, 2008

그 카페 앞에서

I thought what this posting lack is a story. I was almost inspired to write a story but I think I better not because I don't have the time and ability to write a full-length story now. Nevertheless, my inspiration is "time-sealed" in the picture above.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

이유가 필요없은 기쁨

I know I am very tired. Give me a bed at the end of a day and I will probably knock out instantly. But this will only happen to me during a normal day. It will be a totally different scenario if I have Korean class in the evening. Despite feeling tired physically, I always sat through my lesson without feeling a sense of sleepiness. It is amazing how much energy I can draw from within my body when I am doing something I like. I have discovered that this energy does not just stay within my body, it can radiate out and affect the people around me and the environment that I am in. It may sound surreal but if you have at one point of your life done something which you really like, you will probably understand what all this means.

Today was a happy day. Guess what? Vic, the admin staff at SKS, told me that Advanced 3 will start next semester when I dropped by the admin office this evening. She was actually responding to my request which I made on the first day of this semester. Frankly, I wasn't expecting that she would take my request seriously when she said that she would try to ask for Advanced 3 class to be opened. For what she has done, I thought she was adorable today. Actually she is adorable most of the time. Err... maybe I should just say all the time. 발 없는 말이 천 리 간다라고 그런 말이 있잖아. 조심해야 하겠지 ^^;

Our Advanced 1 class attendance was at an all time low today. It started with 9 students. By the second lesson, there were only 7 students left after 2 students left for other classes. By the third lesson, only 5 students were left. Today was the fourth lesson and only 3 of us turned out. When I was thinking about the reducing class-size and the possibility that Advanced 2 may not have enough students to start next semester, I let off a soft sigh. Jang Seon Saeng Nim caught me by surprise when she turned around and asked me why I sighed. I was dumbfounded. Didn't I say she is a good teacher. She has such a sharp pair of ears that even my soft sigh cannot escape her notice. I wonder how she did it but I was rather impressed ^^b

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

빨리 와

Picture taken at the Tancheon stream which runs through Jeong-ja.

As day passes by, the time that I may be heading to Korea for regular language course is becoming clearer. I guess there is always a time to do something. It seems like the time is going to be Spring 2009. The timer has started to tick and I doubt I can look back now. All these can happen because I have allowed certainty and impossibility to switch place. What was once certain is now uncertain but what was once impossible is now possible.

잠깐만... 저

I have more or less concluded that when strangers approach me in Seoul, they are likely to be asking for direction. When strangers approach me in Beijing, they are likely to be asking for money. In Singapore, I am hardly approached by strangers.

My encounter with Seoulites asking for direction was so frequent that I was forced to come out with a few standard responses like 제가 한국인 아니에요, 제가 한국어를 못 해요, or simply, 몰아요. Frankly, I like being approached by strangers in Seoul even if I couldn't be of any help to them. It's that trust that they have in stranger to help them which I really like. For that, I never feel like I am a stranger in Seoul.

Besides the trust I get as a stranger, there are many other things which I like about Seoul. One of which is that food and drink are allowed in the subway station and the train. It gives much convenience to a fast-paced city life. I just enjoyed my time eating donuts and drinking coffee inside the train. By the way, the station and train are as clean as any station and train in Singapore, where there is a ban on food and drink.

Also, the Internet speed is "blindingly" fast when compared to what we get in Singapore. There is no such thing as slowing down during peak hour of Internet access. Furthermore, the rate is cheaper in Seoul. Actually, I don't mind paying more for Internet access in Singapore but what I don't like is that those Internet Service Providers kept giving all sort of excuses for not giving us the speed and bandwidth we pay for.

Just one more thing that I really like and that is the good quality sleep which I had in Seoul. The cold weather caused me to feel sleepy easily and when I knocked out, I slept uninterrupted throughout the night until the next morning. Nothing is as heavenly as a good night sleep if you can understand. I guess I wouldn't be writing this posting at this time of the day when I was in Seoul. I would already be somewhere deep inside my dreamland.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

맘이 나쁠 때

오늘 어떤 큰 일을 생겨서 마음이 나쁘게 됐어. 지금 예쁜 걸 보고 싶어. 서울에서 파는 케이크를 예쁘죠? 예쁜 케이크를 먹지 못 하는데 그냥 보고 속히 마음은 좋아지는 것 같태. 이런 마음은 좋아지게 하는 방법이 유효하더라고요. 한번 해 보세요. 아니면 한국어로 글을 써도 되요. ^^

Monday, January 14, 2008

은행이 익었을 때

Kaye said that for a few weeks in autumn, the air out in the street smell extremely awful. The culprit of the foul air is quite unexpectedly the ginkgo trees. I could not imagine how bad the smell was until I came across a heritage ginkgo tree beside Changdeokgung. Thousands of rotting ginkgoes were still hanging from the tree branches. The stench given off by the rotting ginkgoes ensure that I kept a safe distance from it. I was fortunate as there was only one of such tree in the area. Imagine the "knock-out punch" delivered by all the rotting ginkgoes in the streets during autumn. However, as a redemption for fouling up the air, ginkgo trees leave behind beautiful yellow fan-shaped leaves. Autumn in Korea will be very different without ginkgo trees.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

경복국의 풍수

In a small museum in Naksan, I came across a board which explained the fengshui of Gyeongbokgung (경복궁-景福宮). Gyeongbokgung is surrounded by four mountains. Bugaksan (북악산-北岳山, 342m) to the North, Mongmyeoksan or Namsan (목멱산/남산-木覓山/南山, 262m) to the South, Naksan (낙산-駱山, 125m) to the East and Imwangsan (인왕산-仁王山, 338m) to the West. The arrangment of these mountains are supposed to attribute Gyeongbokgung with a good fengshui.

The picture shows the disposition of the four mountains that surround Gyeongbokgung and which attribute it with a benign fengshui. In fengshui, there is a divine beast to represent each cardinal point. North is represented by Hyeonmu (현무-玄武). Hyeonmu is a black turtle with a snake coiled around it. South is Jujak (주작-朱雀) or red bird. East is Cheongnyong (청룡-靑龍) or green dragon. West is Baekho (백호-白虎) or white tiger.

However, when I look back into the history of Gyeongbokgung, it was not all that peaceful. The palace was first built in 1395 but 200 years later it was burnt down during the Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598. It was reconstructed in 1868 but about 40 years later, Korea lost its sovereignty and was annexed by Japan. Gyeongbokgung was again demolished by the Japanese. In 1911, the Japanese built its Japanese General Government Building over the site of the demolished palace. But less than 35 years later, the Japanese lost the war. The Japanese General Government Building was demolished completely by the Korean government in 1997 and a new Gyeongbokgung was rebuilt as a tourist attraction. The present Gyeongbokgung is in fact the third "reincarnation".

If we are to believe history, the site where Gyeongbokgung is built may not be all that "auspicious". The moral of the story is that the fortune of a country is still best relied on wise, honest, hardworking and forward-looking leaders and officials. Fengshui gives peace to the mind but cannot be depended upon solely for good fortune.

The mountain behind the palace is Bugaksan, the highest of the four mountains which surround Gyeongbokgung. This photo is taken in a Northerly direction in Gyeongbokgung.

The mountain at the far end is Imwangsan. This photo is taken in an Westerly direction in Gyeongbokgung.


Myeong-jin Hall. The history of Dongguk started in this building more than a century ago.

Dongguk University is the alma mater of my former Korean teacher. She used to speak fondly of her undergraduate days during lessons and that had sort of stirred up my curiosity about this university. She once described to me that there is a slope leading up to Dongguk University and during the peak of pro-demoncracy demonstrations in the 1980s, the riot police was ordered to set up road block at the slope to prevent students from entering and gathering in the campus. So when I got out from Dongdae station, I was expecting to see a slope and indeed there was one. In that instance, I found an image to her story. However, after a walk around the campus ... I saw the background to her stories. In my mind, her stories suddenly turned colourful.

Dongguk celebrated its 100th anniversary on 8 May 2006. To mark the occasion, a time capsule was sealed and only to be opened 100 years later on 8 May 2106.

An open-air cafe set under pinetree and maple tree inside Dongguk. I like the feeling of drinking hot coffee and watching maple leaves in a cold winter afternoon. The problem is that hot coffee becomes iced coffee in no time.

Dongguk is a university of Buddhism denomination. Elephants are divine creatures which are associated with Samantabhadra (Pu Xian) Bodhisattva.

Myeong-jin Hall, statue of Samantabhadra (Pu Xian) Bodhisattva and the divine elephants in a line.

Dongguk University at sunset with Namsan and N Seoul Tower as its background.

The main gate of Dongguk University. Going into campus is an uphill task while leaving campus is a downhill task. I thought even without a slope, the same feeling will still exist for many. ㅋㅋ

Saturday, January 12, 2008


On Thursday, while I was talking with my classmate in the SKS's canteen before our evening class, someone was waving frantically at the tail-end of my sight. When I finally turned my head over, I saw our cute 장선생님 waving both her hands up and down in an attempt to get our attention. After she was satisfied that she got our attention, she moved on smiling. I was pleasantly amused by our bubbly and fun-loving teacher.

The surprise didn't stop there that evening. When we went up to our classroom at level 3, we saw that our 장선생님 had prepared a nametag for everyone. We were required to pin our nametag onto our shirt during lesson time. For a moment, I felt as if I was in a kindergarten. The small tables and chairs and the kid-learning classroom setup further blew up in me that feeling of being a kid all over again. I think I will be getting younger with every lesson ^^;

Our 장선생님 enjoys chatting with students at every possible opportunity. She would chat on things like eye shadow, manicure, drama, movie and TVQX but somehow it didn't affect the pace of her teaching. It was quite apparent to me that she should have received some form of training in pedagogy. Her teaching style was quite systematic. She followed a pattern of teaching followed immediately by practice - a basic in effective training. Furthermore, she kept making us repeat after her in order to train our speaking. I have only one word to describe our 장선생님 - 최고.

By the second lesson, our class size has reduced to only seven after two students switched to lower-level class. I hope there won't be further attrition or Advanced 2 may not materialise next semester. I am keeping my finger crossed. While I was signing the attendance register, I noticed that there was supposed to be 12 students. Besides the two students who chose to be transferred out, three didn't turn out after registration. That's how the class ended up with seven students.

Perhaps I didn't mention this before. When I was deciding if I should repeat Advanced 1, Vic, an admin staff of SKS, told me that I would be joining a class with very good students. From my observation so far, I think she was right though I am still mad with her for insisting that I paid an extra of $10.70 (Goods and Services Tax included) for course registration fee because I discontinued my lesson last semester. Grrr...

Thursday, January 10, 2008


My Korean study plan 2008 got off smoothly on Tuesday. I was in the Advanced 1 class in the Singapore Korean School with eight other students and a new teacher. I have very good first impression of my class and teacher though there was only one person whom I really knew in the class. We were previously in the same group that went for the one-week Korean language immersion programme at Kyunghee. Through the exchanges I had with her in class, I also discovered that she will be starting Intermediate 1 course with me at NEX next month. I wonder if there will be more familiar faces I will meet next month. 궁금해... 기다릴게

The Advanced 1 class was all the way up at level 3 - the highest level in SKS building. Since joining SKS, I never had class at level higher than 1. But then, at least the classroom at level 3 was many times bigger than the classroom I used to be in. Besides a new classroom and new classmates, I also have a new teacher, 장선생님, a Ewha's graduate who has been living in Singapore for the past one year. She is those kind of teacher whom students will like to study with. Firstly, she has a pleasant disposition. Her words are very encouragingly. She also speaks very slowly and clearly. Finally, she won us over by sharing common interest with us like watching Korean drama. In fact, her eyes sparkled and her voice excited when she was talking about how much she liked about the 1st Shop of Coffee Prince - both the cafe and the drama.

Upon the request of 장선생님, the Tuesday evening started with us arranging the classroom tables and chairs into a circle (동그라미). After we had settled in our seat, we were handed a "self-intro" form to fill up. We were asked to answer frequently-asked-questions like where and for how long we have been studying Korean, the reason we study Korean and what we hope to gain through the course. We were also required to fill in our name, contact number and e-mail address. After we handed in our completed form, 장선생님 went one by one, round the circle, confirming the answers which we had written in the form. By doing so, I thought she was killing two birds with one stone. Not only were we made to give a self-introduction to the rest of the class, she was also assessing our language ability.

Among the many self-introductions which I heard, one left a deep impression in me. One student said that she started learning Korean in 2000 and because it was an "on-and-off-affair" so it took her almost seven years to reach Advanced 1. At the end of the lesson, she was having a second thought about continuing in Advanced 1 after discovering that her Korean standard had dropped after a long hiatus. Her experience strengthens my determination not to lapse in my study if I can help it. Studying a foreign language is always an uphill walk. I will not be able to pick up at the same point where I last left off. The longer the break, the greater the slide. This was the main reason why I finally decided to repeat Advanced 1 rather than to wait for another 3 months for Advanced 2 to start. Furthermore, studying Korean just makes me happy and no other reason is not needed.

With self-introduction taking almost an hour, we were left with only an hour for lesson proper. We started with chapter 5 of the Kyunghee's Exploring Korean Intermediate 1 textbook. The topic was about weather and its close relationship with daily life. Though I probably had the answers to all the questions in the textbook, I was still paying attention to new words and expressions. I wasn't disappointed. I picked up a few "new" adverbs to describe weather. Like,

세차게 - 바람이 세차게 불다. (The wind blows heavily)
주룩주룩 - 비가 주룩주룩 내렸다. (The rain fell heavily)
펑펑 - 눈이 펑펑 내린다. (The snow falls heavily)

The first lesson was a good start. Everything turned out much better than I thought. I hope thing will continue to stay in good shape. I am now looking forward to the next class, looking forward to learning new things. Life feels so much more interesting with something to look forward to everyday. 온고지신이라는 말이 있잖아... 공부할 수 있어서 행복해.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


The place I was standing at is Daehangno or University Road.

As a beginner, I used to romanise 대학로 (大學路-The University Road) as Daehakro. However, if I am to say "Daehakro", no Korean will understand me because the actual pronunciation is "Daehangno". This is just one of those difficulties of learning Korean. What you see and write in Hangeul is not necessary what you will say or hear. 대학로, when spoken, becomes [대항노] and its correct romanised form is Daehangno. This change follows the formula that when a preceding "ㄱ" meets with a following "ㄹ", "ㄱ" will change to "ㅇ" and "ㄹ" to "ㄴ". To give another example, 목련 (木蓮-Magnolia) is pronounced as [몽년] and romanised as "Mong-nyeong" instead of "Mok-ryeong". The reason for such change is about being natural. Daehangno and Mong-nyeong are naturally easier to pronounce than Daehakro or Mok-ryeong.

Pronunciation aside, Daehangno is so-called because there are a number of Korean universities located within its vicinity. Cafes, restaurants, shopping and entertainment outlets flourish and prosper wherever there are universities. Daehangno is similar to those happening streets at Ewha, Yonsei and Hongdae though with a distinct difference. It is a place where entertainment meets arts and culture.

The Seoul National University College of Medicine in Daehangno.

I could instantly feel that artistic atmosphere of Daehangno as I was exiting Hyehwa Station (혜화역-惠化驛). What greeted me was rows of theatrical performance posters. The uniqueness of Daehangno comes from the concentration of many art centres, exhibition halls and performing theatres within its vicinity. It was said that just small theatres (소극장-小劇場) alone, there are about 300 of them.

Colourful posters greeted me as I exited from Hyehwa Station.

About 300 small theatres like these can be found in Daehangno.

To know that there are so many stage for artistic expression in Daehangno, I couldn't help thinking how much we are deprived in Singapore. If only if there were many of such small theatres in Singapore, our society may well be very much different. We could be on our way to becoming a nation with more expressive, interesting and gracious people.

A walk in Daehangno was an inspiring experience. Besides the many posters of seemingly interesting performances that were pasted everywhere, many interesting sculptures could be seen along the roads. Some were functional, others were interactive and many were just nice to look at. The buildings in the immediate surrounding also inherited the artistic chic of the area and they looked nothing like Korean. As I walked along, I could feel that dormant creativity in me being constantly stimulated and on the verge of taking over my senses. Lack of any better words to describe, perhaps I may just say that I have kinda found my soul in Seoul.

One thing that is worth special mention is that I finally found the Daehangno branch of the Il Mare Cafe and Pasta. The name of the restuarant might give the impression that it is like any other Italian restaurants out there. But it isn't. It looked so high-class that I felt I was totally out of place. For that reason, I chose not to enter the restaurant though I could afford the steep menu price. Nevertheless, I was satisfied that I caught sight of "Il Mare" after a long time of searching.

Sculptures like these are a common sight along Daehangno.

Quaint and unique buildings seen around Daehangno.

Looking out at a sunny Daehangno from inside Holly's Coffee.

Finally found my Il Mare Cafe & Pasta in Daehangno.

Marronier Park, a place where young people gather, play and perform.

Marronier Park is the former campus of the Seoul National University.

Standing among the crowd as if I knew what the performer was saying.

At Daehangno, inanimate buildings and sculptures were not the only things that were interesting, even the crowd was interesting. There was this group of kids which looked as if they were on a group outing. Everyone came all dressed up in animal dress. I was pretty amused by what I saw. If given the opportunity to join their party, I would like to wear a polar bear outfit. ^^

Kids in animal dress seen holding hands and walking in Daehangno.