I like to say that Koreans are the Irish of Asia. Koreans like to drink. Oh hell yes they like to drink. Drinking culture in Korea is actually very fascinating and really sophisticated, so I wanted to write a few articles about drinking in Korea.
And what else could be a better candidate to start with than Soju?
Korea is well-known to be the central hub of online gaming. The nation of Starcraft, Diablo, Lineage, Maple Story... Although they don't exist as ubiquitous as they used to be, PC Cafes(Known as PC-Bangs in Korea), still dominate the entertainment industry for teens. Growing up in Korea until the end of middle school, the only form of entertainment we had was computer games, especially online games like Lineage, UO, and so on.
Here is my opinon. I could go on and on about this forever but to keep it short : It's not that Koreans are born with some sort of crazy instinct to play online games. It is because there are not much other forms of entertainment available for young people before the drinking age. (Drinking culture in Korea is immense and endless to describe, I'll get to them in another post). Take Seoul for example, 10 million people in one city. There are not enough space for people to go out and play sports and do outdoorsy things. So a lot of people turn to online games, and get addicted to it.
So check this out. Korean Government is planning to enforce this new legislation called "Shut-down law", which bars anyone under 16 from logging on to their gaming accounts from midnight to 6am. (Link in Korean: 게임 셧다운제)
Given the widespread addiction to online gaming in Korean society, I think there's got to be some sort of solution. But given the fact that minors in Korea have very limited forms of entertainment besides online gaming, this wouldn't really help. One might say, "hey, they could just get more sleep!", but I think most will just have to spend that time studying. As far as I know, most high schoolers in Korea do not go to sleep at midnight. Education in Korea is brutally competitive, and it's one and only priority students are supposed to have...
So instead of banning online games, they should be offering teens better after-school activities such as sports and music (besides piano). Something that teens can enjoy and the rest of the society can accept. But it seems like Korean society is still not ready accept such notion.
Translation : North Korea's re-education wasteland: "Have a shovel. Now you're on your own"
There are at least 480 political prisons and forced labor camps operating in North Korea.
There are 210 forced labor camps, 23 re-education camps, 5 refining camps, 27 assembly centers, and 6 political prisons, according to the findings released by North Korea Human Rights Record Center on the 26th. 13,000 North Korean defectors were asked to testify for this find.
North Korean detention facilities are similar to South Korean jails. These are located in every city, district, and borough of NK. Assembly centers and refining camps are legally justified detention facilities in NK. Since 2000, they are often used to detain citizens who tried to defect, usually without trial. Convicts who have gone through trials must serve time in re-education camps. The worst human rights violation happens in political prisons, and so far 6 have been identified. (More after jump)
If you missed the story, then this is what's been going on, in a nutshell.
Seo Taiji, back in my teen years, was the guy that started what is known as K-Pop today. Before H.O.T. and G.O.D. and all those guys. The group was known as Seo Taiji and Boys then (서태지와 아이들). And that... was back in the 90s.
Well, what's revealed on television a couple days ago was that Seo Taiji and Lee Jiah got married back in 1997, when she was 19. I've read stuff saying that Seo taiji followed her around since she was in Middle School. They got married in Nevada with different names, and moved to Arizona and Atlanta until they parted. Their parents didn't even know. Damn.
So the news would've been shocking enough to find out that Seo Taiji was married. but they had long divorced and they're still fighting over the lawsuit Lee jiah filed back in 2006. My childhood dreams, crushed.
Gamjatang(Pork Stew with potatoes, 감자탕) is one of my favorite Korean food in... pretty much the whole world. And I'm really craving a nice meal with Gamjatang and some soju.. So here it goes.
It is also the reason I gained about 10 pounds in the last few months of my college career.
Okay, it certainly does look like a giant bowl of heart-clogger, or a red soup of death (those were the first things my American friends said when I brought them out to a gamjatang restaurant).
Quoting Wikipedia: Gamjatang or pork bone soup is a spicy Korean soup made with pork spine, vegetables, green onions, hot peppers and ground wild sesame seeds. It is a matter of contention whether the name of the soup comes from the word for potato (감자; gamja) or not, because the soup is frequently served without potatoes.
Now, the history of Gamjatang apparently goes all the way back to the Three Kingdoms Era (4th~7th Century), and the word Gamja(감자) actually originates from Korean name of Pork Spine (Gamja-bone, 감자뼈). That is why the stew is called Gamjatang, not because of the potatoes, but because of the pork spines. Which makes sense, given the long history of the cousine and the fact that potato was not cheap enough to be available to everyone until recently in Korea. (Source: 감자탕의 감자는 밭에서 나는 감자가 아니고... )
Where to get it
Gamjatang, if you are anywhere in Korea, should not be difficult at all to find. In the States, it might be a different story. If you go to any Koreatowns, or any Korean restaurants, chances are that they might have Gamjatang. But from my own experiences, I would not recommend just going to any Korean restaurant for a full Gamjatang experience.
So, if you are in Southern California, especially in Los Angeles, I recommend Hamjipark (함지박). (Yelp)
There are two restaurants. One in the middle of LA Koreatown (6th and Catalina), and the original one near West LA (Pico and Crenshaw). The original Hamjipark is a small restaurant - 6 tables if I remember correctly. It's been there for quite a while, and has been run by the same ol' grandma (turns out that my mother actually knows her). She makes all the side dishes and food. The other one is run by her daughter (the sign has one extra word that means daughter in Korean - 딸) and is much nicer and clean. but they have the same food, I think.
If you ever go here, Gamjatang ain't the only good food... good pork ribs and other traditional Korean food that you won't regret. Just remember, one Gamjatang is about 16~18 dollars. Do not be fooled by the price. It can feed 3 people just fine.
Here's a link to the recipe on Naver. If it turns out that people actually want it in English (or people read this blog at all), then I'll put it up later. 감자탕 조리법
I made this blog to talk basically anything about Korea, especially food, movies, soap operas, K-pop, North Korea, etc... Anything about Korea that I think is important for people to know better will be posted here.