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Thread: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

  1. #1

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    Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    Howdy all,

    I will be travelling to the Seoul area in mid June for about a week (first time out of country!). I am traveling with a Seoul native, but non-photographer.
    I will be shooting digi and 6x9 for b&w. The trip is not strictly photographic, and I have not quite decided whether or not to lug a 4x5 kit across the pacific.

    More specifically, I am curious as to opinions on any must shoot locations or experiences in the Seoul area, and any areas reachable by train that are worth a day trip. And any watch-outs as well. I know some countries have very strict rules about photography in public, any experiences with this in Korea?


    Thanks much for any insights or suggestions

    Graeme

  2. #2
    Les
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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    My trip was bit circuitous, since I went to Jeju Island after I arrived at Incheon...worked my way to Seoraksan NP. This park is easily accessible from Seoul, as well, via express bus, but you'd likely need 2 days for that. The historic "village" not far from downtown is worth checking, tho it may not be as picturesque as other places. You could check DMZ line, since it's not all that far, but it requires reservation/s ahead....one thing that I didn't do while there. I've seen the cost (just now) per/pass from $75...& on up.

    Also, I do like the bridge on Rte 110 when departing from the airport, particularly for eve/night shot (or anytime). Not sure how you'd organize that, but one can take a subway to the airport and hire a cab to arrive at the water-view.....unless you'll rent a car ?

    One of my pet peeves was coffee, particularly for breakfast. Sure, you can find and spot Starbucks (not many), but I found this French Bakery one level lower from a street (on the way to subway)....not sure which stop. I'm mentioning this, since it's not a reg beverage that they serve....so there is that.

    Oh, you may want to check out Namsan Seoul Tower (on the hill) before it gets dark....expansive views from there.

    There is a concourse where festivals take place, US Embassy is there, several historic buildings and monuments. Really enjoyed folks wearing traditional attire (example). I was there for the Harvest Fest later in the year, 7yrs ago.

    Hope someone else chimes in. Don't forget to check out the "bean".
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Les

    On occasion I noticed there is real life outside the GG/viewfinder.

  3. #3

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    When we were living in Tokyo we made a few trips to SK. Spent time on Jeju/Cheju and it was quite nice. Biggest problem is that my wife was (and is) a Japanese citizen and she was hassled by officials every time we got on a flight. A couple of times they took her to a separate room and held her until the last minute so she had to run for the flight. Outside of tha, though, we had a good trip. One of the gentlemen I had worked with in Tokyo was promoted to president of IBM Korea and we had a chance to meet him and his family at their home while we were in Seoul. Food was great - but you HAVE TO like garlic. (We do.) We hired a cab for a day in Cheju and he took us to an interesting area where the houses and other buildings were cylindrical. We had lunch ln a largish circular stone building where there were small fires next to each seating area where you could cook your own beef strips. Really good (and did I say there was a lot of garlic.)

  4. #4

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    Thanks Les and Jim.
    Namsan Seoul Tower looks like a great thing to do whether photographically or not. What an expansive vista! There has been some talk of visiting the traditional market, it might be related to the concourse you mentioned, seems similar at the least. In further research, there are all sorts of interesting ancient places scattered around. There are lots of royal tombs scattered around town!

    There was a mention of an ancient village, I wonder if that might be the cylindrical houses, but the name escapes me at the moment.

    I always stuff my lettuce wraps with garlic- so looking forward to that!

  5. #5

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    Based on our experience it will take you about 3 days to "detox" after leaving. We went to a really nice restaurant with the heated floor (Called an Ondol IIRC) and they served several whole garlic heads (not just cloves) in cold water as an appetizer. We thought it was great.

    I thought the houses were round, but I might be wrong. Anyhow, this link looks about right.

    https://www.expatolife.com/seongeup-...d-south-korea/

  6. #6

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    I've lived in Seoul for years. Thinking of one of your questions

    "any watch-outs as well. I know some countries have very strict rules about photography in public, any experiences with this in Korea?"

    This is a good question. I'm not 100% on the exact legal standing, but in practical terms you have to be very careful about street photography if it takes in passers by. Just assume that you need permission to take someone's photo, and if it's not forthcoming don't take the photo. I think the exact situation is that you could be sued at a later date if you publish a photo, but street photography in itself is not illegal. However, it's frowned upon, and it's probably assumed that photography including passers by is at least a breach of etiquette, at worst...well, much worse. Hidden cameras in female public toilets is a big issue:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molka

    https://time.com/6154837/open-shutte...-spycam-molka/

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06d190x

    so some people will assume the worst if someone wanders about engaging in street photography that would be protected by law in most other countries.

    Thinking of June, it will be hot and humid and the best times of day for photography might present mosquito problems. I would probably not bring the 4x5 unless you really like urban photography.

    Seoul itself is a temple of urban sprawl. It does look best by night from a high vantage point - Seoul Tower (Namsan) is the obvious place that has already been mentioned. Failing that, some of the bridges on Han River by night could be good if you like neon nightscapes.

    If you need film while here, the best shop is in Chungmuro, close to Seoul Tower and Myung-dong (the biggest shopping area):

    https://www.saeki.co.kr/main

    Film isn't cheap though, I don't think anything photography related is cheap here in fact.

    I should probably be able to give better suggestions, but maybe I've become too familiar with the place. A DMZ tour might be interesting if you like military history, but remember that photography is forbidden in some of the sensitive areas.

    In Seoul itself, Insa-dong is a kind of touristy but cute place, near Gyeongbok palace and Deoksu Palace. That's all in walking distance from Gwanghwamun:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=gwan...&bih=625&dpr=1

    There might be a photo exhibition on there if you are lucky (I've seen touring exhibitions from Ansel Adams and Karsh in Gwanghwamun, and some other excellent exhibitions in Seoul Arts Center in the south of the city:

    https://www.sac.or.kr/site/eng/home

  7. #7

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    Thank you for the very detailed answer pjd! I was concerned about street photography etiquette, so I appreciate that specific point. I am also taking a trip to Gyeong-ju to see the historic area there. It's shapping up to be a lot packed into a single week!

  8. #8

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    Gyeongju is a good place to visit. If you like mountains, maybe you could consider a Bukhan mountain day hike while in Seoul:

    https://english.knps.or.kr/Experienc...rses&Fourth=01

    or a day trip to Seorak mountain:

    https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu...jsp?cid=264211

  9. #9
    Niels
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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    Quote Originally Posted by Graeme Hamilton View Post
    I will be travelling to the Seoul area in mid June for about a week (first time out of country!). I am traveling with a Seoul native, but non-photographer.
    I will be shooting digi and 6x9 for b&w. The trip is not strictly photographic, and I have not quite decided whether or not to lug a 4x5 kit across the pacific.
    Not the slightest expert on Seoul or South Korea. I have only been there once on a business trip around 10 years ago, but I have lived in Asia for several years and traveled the region extensively. So I'll just quickly give you my thoughts.

    Towards end of June it will likely be hot and and humid, nothing like the dry Texan heat - your sweat will not evaporate: you will want to travel light.

    I photographed with a DSLR in the Lotte World Shopping mall - probably prohibited, but nobody seem to care or notice me. Walking outside was uncomfortable but I could shoot in the street without people paying attention.

    There was a strange architectural "other-world" quality about Seoul that was different from other Asian cities I visited or lived in.
    Massive number of aged apartment building complexes that originated from the height of the boom years (which came later than in Tokyo, with which I am more familiar). The company logo of "Lotte" appeared on so many of the building and shops that it felt almost Orwellian somehow - like as if the city was owned by Lotte.
    I cannot say it was pretty - quite the opposite, but I do regret that I didn't try to capture that special feeling of the architecture photographically.
    I personally don't subscribe to exclusively seeking conventional beauty in my photography. I think that things representing a time and a place has its own beauty, even when not pretty - your milage will likely vary, of-course.
    ----
    Niels

  10. #10

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    Re: Any "Musts" is South Korea?

    My wife and I have been to South Korea twice. Our son moved there after graduating from college to teach English to elementary students and married a Korean girl at the same school. We went to the wedding that was in February and the second time was about 8 years ago in August. So my experiences with the weather is either freezing cold and extremely hot, it may be hot when you visit. South Korea has very good mass transit systems. It is good you will have a native Korean that will be able to help you get around in Seoul. In my opinion, one of the "Musts" are the old market areas with textile goods to food markets. The sights and sounds are astounding and a photographers delight. Have fun and enjoy the Kim Chi.

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