Friday, November 28, 2008

Chalk Portrait

Chalk Portrait
Drawn by costume designer and artist extraordinaire 이종행.

This is me in costume as Maxwell the Minotaur. Artistic license may have been taken on limb and body size...

Cranes in Shinsa

Flying Cranes HDR

Fly away from the rubbish my pretties... fly away!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Club U.N. classiest joint in Itaewon

On the way home today I noticed that Club U.N. (a delightful "foreigners" club in Itaewon) had adorned their entrance with some colourful posters designed to attract the more discerning of Itaewon's drinkers:

Fucked-up Party in Club UN

It's good to know that whoever runs Club U.N. has customers' best interests at heart and is willing to offer reasonably priced cocktails as well as free drinks for the ladies.

A closer look at the cut-price beverages on offer:


A Tequila Cuevo is very reasonably priced at 2000 won, but even more intriguing are the "Adios M. F***er" and "Adios Biatch" concoctions at only 5000 won apiece.

A quick google search brings up a number of recipes for Adios M. F***er, but nothing for Adios Biatch. I feel like I'm somehow missing out.

If you interested in recreating the Club U.N. experience at home then try the following:
Adios M. F***er Recipe

3 Parts Vodka
1 Splash Grenadine
3 Parts Triple Sec
0.5 Part Grand Marnier
3 Parts 151 Proof Rum
Mixing Instruction
Mix everything in a tumbler with a bit of seltzer, then pour into shot glasses., May sound kinda hairy, but they are surprisingly easy to drink and can instantly get a party rolling!

Guaranteed to give you a wonderful experience. Try one today!

(Disclaimer: Paul Ajosshi in no way, shape or form recommends you even go near this behemoth of a cocktail. Do so at your own risk and if possible send me pictures...)

Brian Lee and the lost royal family

Brian Lee reporter for the JoongAng Daily writes about the Korean royal family in today's paper. Focusing on Lee Won, a descendant of Lee Kang, the article sheds a very bleak light on the treatment of the royal family by the Korean government:

Considering how the country proudly advertises a history of 5,000 years and despite the fact that a tenth of that history belongs to the Joseon Dynasty, those who dream of restoring at least a fraction of the past glory are surprised by how little interest the government has shown for such efforts. “There are royal descendants still alive but nobody cares,” complained Koh Min-hui, an official of the Imperial House Culture Foundation. Lee Won said that he has been contacting government officials at the Culture Ministry but the reception his idea has received has been lukewarm at best.

What one Culture Ministry official said reflects the harsh reality that royal descendants are facing: “It would take a lot of time and money to establish some sort of centralized body. I don’t see that happening with so much other work at hand,” said the official, declining to be named.
Lee Won is trying to set up a "formal body under which the cultural contents of the royal house are preserved so that they can be passed down to other generations", but he seems to be fighting a one man battle with no help from the government. It is incredible that a country which uses its royal heritage to promote tourism, snubs royal descendants willing to offer their services.

Surely a meeting with a member of the royal family would brighten any foreign visitor's day and it would allow for some fantastic photo opportunities to improve Korea's tourism reputation. What other country offers a photo with royalty service? None, I tell you! None! I have a feeling that this could be the boost that Korea's economy needs in these dark days of depression.....

On a more serious note, Brian Lee delves into the Syngman Rhee goverment's treatment of the royal family in the 1950's:

In the 1950s, the Rhee administration attached possessions of the royal house to the National Treasury. Rhee, the first president of the republic, had ample time to cement power and viewed the royal house as a threat to such efforts. A special committee in charge of royal assets, which included vast swaths of real estate, sold the possessions under the pretext of securing funds to protect cultural assets. Scholars say that the government’s systematic approach left nothing.

“Land was very cheaply sold to people close to President Syngman Rhee and the following administrations were afraid that digging up such shady deals would open a Pandora’s box,” said Ahn Cheon, a history professor at Seoul National University of Education. A suspicious fire in 1960 at Changgyeong Palace, home of the special committee, erased all records of the royal assets, making it impossible to trace anything that still might be out there. The police failed to catch anyone connected to the fire.
And then goes on to describe the devastating blow that Chun Doo-hwan dealt in 1979:

For some time, royal descendants lived on government-provided stipends. Until the administration of Park Chung Hee, some descendants were even allowed to live in parts of the royal palace. However, in 1979, Chun Doo-hwan forced out all royals still living in the palaces after seizing power in a coup d’etat. It is thought that many moved abroad to the United States or South America, where they still live today.

“The military police came and shipped us out in trucks. Our last shred of dignity was taken away,” said Lee Seok, who still remembers that day vividly.

As a British citizen, I may not agree with how our royal family behaves or how much money they receive and what they choose to do with it, but I recognize their importance to our nation in terms of tourism and tabloid headlines. Without our beloved Queen and her curious offspring we would be a sadder, smaller country with less interesting markings on our currency. Just think, when the Queen dies (which she will at some point... though judging by the lifespan of the Queen Mother we may have to wait another twenty years...) all the pounds and pennies in circulation could be withdrawn and we would wind up with brand spanking new cash to wave around (or we just switch over to euros like everybody else). It's sad to think that Korea will never share the joys of monarchy again, the ups and downs, the affairs, scandals, racist comments and sham marriages that bring us all such delight.

On a more positive note, Lee Seok, who is only briefly mentioned in the article has a much more colourful career as a royal descendant. According to an International Herald Tribune article from May 2006:

After majoring in Spanish in college, Yi earned a living by singing. He became known as the Singing Prince, performing such songs as "Tonight" from "West Side Story" on U.S. military bases. He went to South Vietnam to entertain South Korean troops and suffered a shoulder injury, he said, when his convoy was attacked. Back home, his singing career reached its peak in 1967 with "Nest of Doves," a song about domestic bliss: "If you're as intimate as doves, then build the kind of home where you'll be entwined in love."

Known to this day by every South Korean, the song became a staple at weddings. Yi boasts that he has performed at 7,000 of them, though his success displeased his family. "A prince has become a clown," an aunt told Yi, who then gave up performing.

There's actually a video of Lee Seok performing "Nest of Doves online. You can find it here.
The article then goes onto mention Lee's short sojourn in California:

In Los Angeles, Yi Seok lived the ups and downs of an immigrant with few marketable skills. He worked as a gardener. He cleaned pools in Beverly Hills. In a marriage of convenience, he paid $15,000, he said, to a Korean-American woman for a Las Vegas wedding and a green card.

Together, they ran Eddy's Liquor Store, where Yi greeted customers with, "Gimme five, man!"

Lee returned to Korea in 1989 and moved around living in a temple, his car and various bath houses until 2003 when after a rather embarrasing article in The Weekly Chosun titled "Last Prince Yi Seok Sojourning in Chimchil-Bang", the city of Jeonju contacted him and has since employed him as a University lecturer. Lee Seok has gone on to publish a book about his family's ceremonial rites and has agreed to host a tv series on Korean royal history called "A personal view of Korea" (source). A slightly happier ending for one of the royal family. Hopefully the Korean government will come to its senses and realise how profitable cooperation with the remaining members of the royal family could be.