Mark James Russell

Books, blog and other blather

Month: May 2012

And Not in the R-O-K Again

That was a fast couple of weeks. I cannot believe my trip to Korea is over already. But at least I was able to travel to a lot of places and see a lot of people that I had long wanted to, but had not. Even was able to take in a couple of concerts in between all the running around.

It was great being able to see Korea with fresh eyes. Having lived there for so long, there was a lot I took for granted and many changes that had happened that I did not notice because I was in the middle of them. It really is amazing how much and fast Korea is constantly changing — from the new subway cars (very nice) to the new high rises and developments, the great Wifi everywhere (whatever happened to DMB?), and so much more. Even Itaewon continues to grow nicer and classier, which just boggles the mind.


I did make it to a few shows during my trip and do some music-related interviews. I talked about Telepathy and an FF show I went to here, if you are interested. Of course, I went to Gopchang Jeongol a couple of times, as well as a very fun oldies bar in Apgujeong that was quite similar (I think it was called Electric Shoes, but I’m not sure). Oh, and at Electric Shoes, I was drinking with the singer of, which was terribly good fun. I was also able to meet Brad, the drummer from Busker Busker, along with his girlfriend Dani, both of whom had a whole bunch of fascinating stories. Best of all, I managed to meet Kim Choo-ja, perhaps the best singer of the 1970s — I could hardly believe that meeting.


Sometimes I get embarrassed by the many cool places around Korea that I never visited. Luckily, this trip helped put that right. I was able to visit the Boseong tea fields, down in Jeolla Province, which really is ridiculously beautiful.

I also went to a great traditional makkeolli brewery in North Chungcheong province called Sewang Jujo. I’m not a big makkeolli fan, but this stuff was some of the best I’ve ever had. And the owner took a lot of time out to talk to my friend and I about the building and his brewing methods and the like.

But, dear lord, what a ridiculously huge city. It’s amazing anything gets done, there, as it takes so long to get around. They really need some more high-speed, express train lines (like the No. 9 subway).

Anyhow … overall, a really good trip. Surprisingly free of “micro aggressions“, but filled with micro and macro niceties. Oodles of great food (thanks in no small part to the wife’s mom).

Back in the R-O-K

It is good to be back in Korea for the first time in a couple of years. Having lived here for so long, I was often too immersed in the culture to notice the changes going on, but after being gone for a couple of years, it is much easier to see them.

My first thought, upon arriving at the airport and taking the new(ish) train into Seoul was: Wow, is Spain a dump. I mean, there is a lot I love about Spain, but to see the clean, cool trains, with wifi everywhere, the difference was rather jarring. Great, though, to be able to take a train into Seoul, especially during rush hour when the bus would have been a nightmare.

Here in Seoul, the bizarro City Hall building is nearly finished now. A lot of people like it (“It looks like a tsunami rushing over the colonial era City Hall,” said one friend), but I’m not one of them. The new Gwanghwamun plaza is rather nice, and I think makes better use of the space than the old plaza. Looking forward to checking out an Imax movie or two while I am here, plus seeing all the other changes.

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