Monday, 30 May 2011

Geoje POW Camp

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit the site of a POW camp on Geoje Island (very near to Busan). I was really disappointed with the site and wasn't sure whether to post about it or not. Since I have the pictures from it I've decided to voice my opinion on the place, and what I feel are it's bad points. Firstly let me say that I've come to realise how lucky us Europeans (Gasp a Briton referring to themselves as European, what would the Queen say!), how lucky we are. Despite being ravaged by war throughout history, many, many historical sites still exist and have been well kept or restored. In my experience in this part of Asia (China and Korea are my examples), places of historical importance or interest have been totally destroyed, and what now stands in their place are below par replicas. Case in point: Geoje POW Camp. Whilst we were there I got the feeling of it being in a similar vein to Auchwitz (which I have also visited). I know they are not the same as one housed soldiers and the other total innocents, but still there is a slight similarity as they both were held as prisoners. In Auschwitz you are confronted with the horror of the place and the exhibits show you exactly what went on there, in all it's gory details. This Korean camp was like being at a theme park. There was even a place for children to stick their heads through wooden screens and have their pictures taken as one of the prisoners. This area was called 'Photo Park'.

Around the main area there was nothing original still standing. Plastic figures showed you what camp life was like (there was even a modal of a guy squatting over the latrine). The captions below every picture or reconstruction inform you that 'conditions met with the Geneva convention rules'. This to me read like propaganda. I hazzard a guess that not every single guard knew the rules of the Geneva convention let alone followed them to the letter. Please don't water down my information. I want to know what actually happened in this place. Call me crazy but isn't it important to see where we went wrong so we can learn from it in the future?! For me as soon as I have 'look how good we were' shoved down my throat everything begins to lose it's authenticity. (another case in point; The museum to resist US aggression and aid Korea, Dandong, China. So biased I walked around the whole place godsmacked!). Here are two examples of the propaganda from the war on show there:

This reads: Where would you rather be? Blair Hall; Princeton University (above). If your parents had the money, you might be there instead of in Korea. University students get draft deferments. US Marines in Korea (below). Gaunt and tired after facing death on a night patrol. They couldn't go to college and got no draft deferments.

and this one says:

‘She’s happy because her husband is a POW and no longer risking his life on the front lines. She KNOWS he will go back to join her as soon as the armistice is signed.

What about you? You may be killed or maimed any minute. That’s why your mother, your wife or your sweetheart don’t know a moments peace from worry about you. Why don’t you ease their minds. Why don’t you make sure you too will go home.

The Koreans and Chinese are lenient with their prisoners. They guarantee your life, security and freedom for maltreatment.’

Anyway I digress. So after walking around the site, looking into empty tents and being shoved by Korean visitors who rushed around each exhibit, click, got a photo, and onto the next one, click, and on again, click click click. I felt really let down. We did manage to find a small area outside the main complex where the original buildings that are left were. These are merely shells of the guards quarters, but still they are the real parts of the camp. So my verdict? Not worth it, read about the place on the 'net if you're interested. Save your money and go to the DMZ instead.

See you again? Don't hold your breath.

A ride through the big tank.

Communists to the left of me, capitalists to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.


Camp life

Fights between the communists and anti-communists.

Ignorance breeds Ignorance.

Reconstructed camp.

Looks, here's me, pretending to be a Prisoner of war. What fun!

Another photo op.

Something interesting, I wish I could have read it: Kim Il-Sung's letter to Mao Zedong asking for assistance.

A big helmet

This is what the DMZ soldiers do.


Carrying away the sh*t.

People lined up to have their picture taken squatting behind him.

Check me out!

A little something I put together about Seoul!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

too many
Too many books...
Too many places...
What I'm reading now
Summer travels
Do you ever get those days when you feel like you have too many dreams, too many desires, there are too many books to read, too many places to travel to and discover, too much food to eat and you want to do them all at once? I'm having that kind of day today... 2 weeks in August is simply not long enough to discover the mekong region...

Sunday, 22 May 2011


 My first foray into cooking with my oven.

Roast potatoes! Pasta carbonara (which was made with pork because I bought the wrong meat)

Fairy Cakes

All the chocolate chunks sunk to the bottom

My new oven. G-market was difficult to navigate but I paid for it eventually!

They're not very pretty but they tasted good.

Cooking 3 - Pizza

My tiny workspace

Pizza base

Tomato sauce

Real cheese

...and as many toppings as we could fit on.

My cool oven glove



Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sometimes I've been sittin' on trains

From Seoul to where...

There's something romantic about travelling on the train. Beautiful countryside whizzing past. Alone with your thoughts. Smooth and traffic free. Sometimes there is a delay, but you never find yourself staring out at concrete and cars.

Eastern European trains

Korea as it flashes past

You're not restricted to your seat, you can wander to the food car, or just along the train. Sleeping in one overnight is an adventure. I've slept on trains from Italy to Austria, Kracow to Berlin, Shanghai to Hainan, Suzhou to Beijing, Chengdu to Hangzhou, Zagreb to Split... Some were more comfortable than others, and I certainly don't think that there is anything romantic about the toilets on Chinese trains...

But trains are magical and take you somewhere exciting, to experience new adventures.

Fast train from Shanghai to Suzhou. Same speeds as KTX.

The KTX in Korea is incredibly fast. It's basically the same as the fast train we used to get from Shanghai to Suzhou on a sunday morning at 6am after a night out, to save on hostel fees. I have taken the KTX quite a few times on my visits to Busan. I think it is brilliant! The seats are excellent. There is good leg room and when you want to recline, you don't have to worry about the person behind you, because the way it's designed doesn't affect them. The bottom of the seat slides forward giving you slightly less leg room, but not making anything different to the person behind. I always get person-behind-guilt if I push my chair back normally.

Luxury from Venice to Vienna

When all the seats are taken you are offered a 'free seat' ticket. On my way to Busan this weekend it meant, first come first served on 2 end carriages, but on the way back this meant you don't have a seat. When the train pulled away from Busan Station, I grabbed a free seat, but I knew this might only be free until the next station. Another woman had done the same, and every time we got to a station she stood up and waited to see if someone sat in the seat she had taken. No one did. I decided not to move, and sat with nervous anticipation every time we stopped. And I'd either chosen someone's seat who'd missed the train, or they saw a foreigner sitting in the seat and didn't want to have to try and get me to move. Either way I got a seat for the whole journey back!


One other thing to love about the KTX: The Services:

  • phone chargers
  • laptop plugs
  • nurse station
  • toilets (standard western)
  • vending machines
  • food trolley
  • TV (bring headphones)
  • Free water (first class only)
Yes this was a whole post on trains. :-P

I have been listening to this all day, and it's so relaxing!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Run rabbit run rabbit run run run

I just started running. After 26 years of never running. 26 years of hating running. I started running here at the gym, and for the first couple of times, it was hard but I did it. Then my body seemed to reject it. I’d begin running and then after about a minute and a half I’d have a really bad stitch The kind you get just below your lung and stops you from breathing. I’d force myself to continue but eventually the pain in my chest would defeat me. This was really disheartening, but I carried on and all it took in the end was better posture. So now I run like I have a pole rammed up my bum (lovely thought) but at least it works and I can run properly now! So far I have got myself to a (probably not  very impressive) 2km without walking. I am proud of myself and I will get myself to 5km without slowing down soon and then onwards from there. Slow and steady wins the race. I am going to the gym today, but I feel guilty because I haven’t been running for over a week. I still wouldn’t say I like running, and I still want to give up almost immediately. But the difference now is that I don’t and I feel I’m getting somewhere (odd as I’m on a treadmill).

Running. My new best (worst) friend (enemy).

FYI: My gym is 'Jamaica Fitness' on the 13th Floor of Egg Yellow building at Seoul National University Subway Station (line 2).