Accepting Grace

“Grace abounds and walks around the edges of our everyday experience.” –Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel I’ve always heard that Korean people are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, something that my Korean friends throughout high school and college have very much proven true. Here, now, I am once again reminded of this overwhelming kindness. Ana has already mentioned the generous hospitality of the shop owner in the market who not only invited a bunch of us foreigners inside to warm up, but also provided hot beverages for us to hold and drink. She truly was a gracious hostess, approaching strangers in English, a strange tongue to her, and going out of her way to make us comfortable. The chief planning officer of Samsung extended us grace when we, after a delayed departure and some trouble maneuvering the subway and buses with 30+ people, were late for his lecture. The significance and magnitude of this grace has only become greater to me as we have seen and experienced first-hand the timeliness and punctuality of the Koreans. The people at the Bank of Korea extended graciousness through generosity and gifts, going above and beyond the anticipated tour and lecture. Even the director general carved out ten minutes of his busy day for us. The general public has offered grace to us, a large group of boisterous Americans, blundering our way down the streets and clogging public transportation. They have forgiven our cluelessness, often with smiles and gentle amusement, which help ease the tensions and our nerves. The people of South Korea have been nothing but gracious hosts to us, the strangers. It is our job, then, to be gracious guests – to do our best to honor our hosts, their customs, and this culture. This is hard, though, when we are unaware of or unaccustomed to these ways. It’s hard, too, because I’ve always struggled to accept gifts, wrestling with the feeling of indebtedness. But I know that I will forever be indebted to the Koreans for this experience, for the lessons they have already taught me and the ones that I know will continue in the next two weeks. I know, too, that I will continue to struggle to accept the Korean kindnesses and hospitality, given that I can barely say “thank you” in their native tongue and have no way to reciprocate. But this is grace, and I’m beyond grateful for it.

Jan 12 – Bank of Korea and the Samsung Innovation Museum

We were off to the subway at 9am, on our way to the Bank of Korea.  We were meeting Dr. Dosoung Choi, a former member of the 7-person policy board for the Bank of Korea (similar to the US open market committee of the Federal Reserve), at 10:20.  Along with Dosoung Choi, Dr Lee, the Director General of the Monetary Policy Committee Secretariat, Bank of Korea.  After introductions, the students were given a tour of the monetary museum, followed by a lecture by Moon Hyoung Lee about the operations at the Bank of Korea. Lunch was quick as we had to be ready for a bus to pick us up at a certain place and time in the downtown area.  The bus brought us to the Samsung Innovation Museum (SIM).  SIM is an outstanding look at and display of the innovations that brought us to the current level of phones, tablets, and everyday electronics that we use everyday.  It was a very enjoyable experience! After the museum tour, the bus brought us back to our residence and students were free to find their own food for supper.  Tomorrow we leave early in the morning on a chartered bus that will take us to Handong University in the Pohang area (south-east part of Korea).

Technological Innovation in South Korea

20160112_155803 20160112_155749 Wow...oh my goodness...amazing...were my reactions to the tour of Samsung Innovation Museum (SIM) and information shared in Mr. Kim's lecture. From Mr. Kim's lecture, I learned that Samsung's business organization is extremely detailed, efficient, organized, and controlled. Additionally, Samsung has been existence for approximately 100 years. The original founder experienced with many types of businesses before becoming the successful company it is today. One of Samsung's primary goals is to scale up and become successful in their investments. Right now, the company's largest asset and global market is geared toward real estate. The advice that Mr. Kim gave during his lecture was helpful, especially when I am preparing to enter the "real world" beyond college. According to Mr. Kim, it is important to keep everything concise when providing information for the interviewer and management team. Furthermore, visiting SIM provided our class the opportunity to learn, experience, and see technology history and Samsung's future plans. Right now, I cannot imagine a world where cars are self-automated, vitals are screened through a mirror, and houses are cleaned by robots. When thinking about future technological innovations, the 2004 film I, Robot, starring Will Smith, often comes to mind. Even though these future technological innovations will bring convenience into our lives, I wonder if these products will be available and accessible to the general public or just the "elite few." Despite the questions that are raised with these technological innovations, I am excited to see the potential benefits these products will bring and the plans God has for us in the future.  

No Disrespect, Just a Cultural Norm

View of a part of Seoul from Seoul Tower
In Korea, one cultural practice that is very different from the United States is mannerism. In the United States, we learn to show manners at a young age.  Our teachers and parents teach us to say "thank you" when receiving something  or "excuse me" when someone is in our way. Everyone is treated equally with manners whether young or old. However, in Korea the meaning and practice of manners is a bit different. "Manners" in Korea is seen more of as respect to the elders. For example, when you greet someone older than you, you have to bow and say "안녕하세요" (ahn-nyeong-ha-seh-yo) which is the formal way of saying hello. On the subway or bus, if there is an elder standing, a younger person would give their seat to the elder. Also, in Korea, when people get in your way, they do not say "excuse me." Instead, they just push their way through or wait until the person in front of them moves out of the way. It may seem rude to foreigners when Koreans act this way, but because it is such a cultural norm, it is not seen as a disrespectful action.   There is another really interesting cultural practice that Koreans use. I like to call it "cars before people." In America, when pedestrians are about to cross the street, the drivers usually slow down and wait until they are done crossing. You would call this "people before cars." However, in Korea, unless there is a red stoplight and a green pedestrian light, the drivers will not stop their cars. So you have to be careful when crossing the streets in Korea. Although there are many different practices that Koreans and Americans have, I think it is important to respect and learn about them. It doesn't mean you have to fully adapt into it and believe that they are correct, but have a good cultural discernment and awareness.
Jump Shot outside of the Namsan Tower (30 minutes before I sprained my ankle)

My New Seoul

Annyeonghaseyo!! (say it like "onion casserole) My name is Logan and I'm one of the many on this trip exploring South Korea and absorbing the culture. We have been here for 5 whole days and we have already seen so much, but so little at the same time. On the 18+ hour flight to South Korea last Wednesday, I watched some of the News Channels on the small 8' screens on the back of the head rest of the seat in front of me. The topic of the week was North Korea's testing of their Hydrogen Bomb. Living in the US my whole life, I have heard all about North Korea and the feud between North and South. I have lived through the death of Kim Jong-il and the transfer of power to his son Kim Jong-Un. What I'm saying is, with the close relationship the US has with South Korea, I have heard about the trouble North Korea likes to get themselves into. So with the recent test of the H-bomb, we have seen first hand how the South Koreans respond to it. On our first day here, we toured the city of Seoul. We walked around the government buildings and there were police stationed at every corner and every 20 ft or so. The city was crawling with police. They just stood there stoic and on guard. In the US, we almost rarely see police stationed like that. We see them in a cop car on the side of the road. So it was shocking to me, but in a sense, it made me feel safe to go on without worry. I talked to a local that day and he said that they don't really worry about North Korea too much. They are up to no good, but they come up with a new threatening bomb or scheme every month or so. Living with North Korea shenanigans is just a part of being a South Korean. This also affected our plans for our Saturday. We were supposed to travel to the DMZ that day but as it is in high security mode right now, all tours were canceled. But how does South Korea respond to this? They blast K-pop over loud speakers towards North Korea (North Korea censors their citizens and hates Westernization). It just made me laugh because South Korea is all about their K-pop stars and singers. It is quite the way to react to an H-bomb test.

Jan 11 – Seoul National University and MBC Broadcast Tour

After breakfast, the group's first task was to navigate the public transportation system to get us down to the Seoul National University.  After a long subway trip, we exited the station to find a nearby bus stop.  Unfortunately, many others wanted the same bus and so it wasn't until the 3rd and 4th buses arrived that we were all able to get to the campus. After arriving, we entered a lecture hall and spent an hour listening to Young Dae Kim, a person who has worked with many large companies including Samsung and IBM.  The students had lots of questions and he was able to offer lots of wise advice to the students looking at their future careers.  After the lecture and discussion, the group had lunch in one of the campus cafeterias.  That was followed by a walking tour of the campus. Our next stop was the headquarters of the MBC broadcasting company.  They have a very interesting "theme park" which is focused on giving visitors an experience with the television industry.  The students had a lot of fun trying things out.  After returning to our guesthouse area, the students went out in groups to find some supper. Tomorrow we visit the Bank of Korea and the Samsung Innovation Museum.  It should be another interesting day! Some fun videos to watch... P1010769 P1010770 News1


안녕하세요 제 이름은 애나 입니다.... In case you can't read Korean, the phrase above says: Hello, my name is Ana, or in Korean pronunciation, "annyeonghaseyo je ileum-eun Ana ibnida". That's about the only Korean I know, but hey, we've been here for less than a week 🙂 I am a senior at Calvin studying Accounting and I'm from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This is my first trip to Asia, and Korea has definitely given me a good first impression. We've been staying in Seoul, a city of 10 million. It's technically bigger than New York city, but in my opinion it feels a little less crowded. This might be due to the fact that Seoul is a very organized and clean city. I find that people are very pleasant and cordial; some are curious about us (imagine 30+ loud people from the U.S. flooding a restaurant or subway) and sometimes they go out of their way to help us. The other day, for instance, we all visited a local market and some of us gathered in front of a fabric store to catch our breath and warm up for a bit (it's very cold here!). Suddenly, the owner of the store came out and offered us all coffee and tea and asked us where we were from. We chatted with her for a bit, and met other friendly people like her who let us try the food they were selling. Like her, we've met many others who are eager to help us experience South Korea. I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit this beautiful country and learn from its culture and history! -Ana IMG_1311 dried fish in the back and traditional snacks (rice cakes) in the front. IMG_1309 fresh produce IMG_1308 IMG_1306 eating dried persimmon

Jan 10 – Seoul National Museum and Onnuri Church

Today was a bit of a day of rest for the group.  After breakfast and a short meeting around 11am, we left for the train station.  Our first stop was a good distance away and the train was our best option.  The Seoul National Museum was our first stop.  The museum is free (we love that!!) and covers the history of the Korean peninsula up to the end of the Joseon Dynasty (1910 when the Japanese occupied Korea).  The museum also has art collections and histories of other nearby nations.  We found lunch near the museum.  Our hope was to also see the Korean War Museum, but it was too far away to fit in. After the museum visit, we walked to the Onnuri Church.   This church has approximately 75,000 members globally and has many remote sites.  We were thankful that the 4:00pm service was in English!   After the service the group split up to go different directions and explore other parts of the city.  Some of us found an excellent Korean restaurant near our guesthouse. Tomorrow we visit the Seoul National University and one of the Korean television broadcasters.

Jan 9 – Naminara Republic and One of the Seoul Markets

Everyone woke up feeling like they had a great night's sleep.  The group was ready to explore.  The original plan was that we would take a bus to the DMZ area and visit several of the sights near and in the DMZ.  However, thanks to the North Korea leader Kim Jung-Un and his H-bomb testing, the DMZ has been closed to all visitors. n comes Plan B, and Plan B is a good plan!  Take a bus to Naminara Republic (the Nami Island) which if found about 75 minute east and a bit north from Seoul.  The island is a bit like a Disney park with lots of things to do, but the island is much more natural in appearance.  After a ferry ride from the side of the Han River, we arrived and had a few hours to explore the island.  This included ice sculptures, food vendors, etc.  With the sun shining and the temps hovering around 30 degrees, it turned out to be a nice day. After a lunch at a Korean barbecue restaurant near the ferry docks, we headed back to Seoul and stopped at one of the large city market areas.  Vendors lined the streets with food and wares.  Many tried out some of the food being sold.  From the market we took the Seoul subway to meet up with some nearby Calvin College alumni working int the area.  The buffet of Korean food was great and many alumni came to talk with the students.   Overall, a great day, but a very busy and tiring day. Tomorrow we visit some museums and attend an afternoon church service.

Jan 8 – Exploring Seoul

We slept in a bit before beginning a full-day tour of Seoul.  We began the tour by looking around the area where the Korean government buildings are located in the northern part of Seoul.  This included the "Blue House", the equivalent of the White House in the USA.  We visited one of the ancient palaces which is nearby and we walked through an old Seoul neighborhood.  Lunch was in the Insa-Dong area which included a walk down the main street in the area, famous for its artistic shops.  After that, we took a walk along side a river with a final stop at the Seoul Tower.  The Tower gives the visitor an amazing view of the Seoul area, home to tens of millions of people. For supper, a large portion of the group ate at a traditional Korean Barbeque restaurant.  Each person grills their own meats and vegetables (including squid and intestine!) on a small grill built into the table you eat at.  Very good!

Korea Interim 2016