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First appeared on The Korea Blog: http://blog.korea.net/?p=22313
Visiting Suncheon wasn’t really part of my trip. One of my Korean friends sent me a Kakaotalk message and asked if I have made plans already in my upcoming travel to Korea. I was planning to just stay in Seoul most of the time. Then she suggested that I should visit Suncheon. I didn’t know that it was her hometown because I would usually meet her in Seoul during my previous Korea visits. I immediately said “yes” even though I was totally clueless on what to see there.
After almost 4 hours of bus travel, my Korean friend and I arrived in Suncheon around lunch time. We had a quick lunch and went right away to Naganeupseong Folk Village. The moment I saw it, I knew I made the right decision to do this sudden plan.
The place gives you a glimpse of what Korea was like centuries ago. Built during the Joseon Dynasty, the village is home to traditional-style stone houses with straw roofs. If you feel like these structures look familiar, it is because this compound is a popular filming location for TV dramas and movies.
I met an ahjumma (Korean word for an old woman) who had lots of Korean instruments. Watching her play thejanggu (a Korean traditional drum) was enough for me, but she approached me and gave me the drum. I initially declined since I’m not a musically inclined person but my Korean friend convinced me to give it a try.
It is actually tricky to play the janggu. The 2 sides of the drum produce different tones (due to the type of animal skin used) so it is important to know when to strike and what side to strike. For this practice, we used “Arirang,” a widely popular folk song in Korea. After learning the rhythm, she consequently sang the lyrics of the song.
The next house I visited made jipsin or traditional straw sandals. Binding the straws together was very challenging. The ahjussi (old man) taught me the technique of properly rolling them but I failed to make a twine. Nevertheless, he was very happy that I enthusiastically tried even though I was struggling.
Another interesting part of Naganeupseong Folk Village are the old punishment tools. Back in the ancient times, accused citizens are subjected to extreme kinds of torture until they admit to their crimes.
If these torture devices give you goosebumps, then it’s time to relax and enjoy around the village. Don’t miss trying these larger-than-life swings. While it looks easy, getting your momentum is actually difficult so prepare to test the power of your legs.
Always have your camera ready especially if you’re traveling with your family or friends. The village has vast spaces and picturesque backgrounds. You never know when will a picture-perfect moment happen so it pays to be alert at all times. I don’t know the little girl here but I was lucky to capture this free-spirited moment of her childhood.
And before you leave, you can bring a piece of the village by buying handmade ceramic cups and dishes like these.
We finished the Naganeupseong Folk Village tour at 4PM so that we can catch the sunset in Suncheonman Bay Ecological Park.
The moment I was in the field of reeds, the feeling was indescribable. It’s like getting lost in the middle of nowhere.
It roughly takes 30 to 40 minutes to go to the Yongsan observatory, the place where you can get the best view of Suncheon Bay. The trail was a breeze but hiking up the mountain was a whole different story. I wish I did a bit of body stretching and brought a liter of bottled water. But all of my tiredness was gone after seeing this breathtaking view.
It’s always a pleasure to escape the bustling noise of the city and just absorb the sounds of nature. So if you’re planning a trip to Korea, include Suncheon in your itinerary.
For more interesting stories about Korea, visit blog.korea.net, a portal managed by the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS).
Last April 2013, my Korean best friend was having his school break so he decided to take a vacation in his hometown Hoengsong (횡성) in Gangwondo (강원도). At that time, I really had a plan to go to Korea also because my ‘noona’ (누나, term for an older female friend/sister) was getting married in Ulsan (울산). So it was a good chance for me and my best friend to travel in Korea together especially that April is the start of spring!
The Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수목원) is located in Gapyeong (가평) in the province of Gyeonggido (경기) . From Heongsong, he drove to Gapyeong for about an hour. Yes, he’s a really fast driver. If you’ve been to the provinces of Korea, you can see how long and wide their expressways are so there’s not much heavy traffic when you travel from one area to another.
Even if it’s not spring, the botanical garden is still open from 8:30 AM to 6:20 PM. The entrance fee is KRW8,000 (about PHP300). They can admit people 1 hour before the closing time but it’s better to go there early so that you can enjoy the place. It’s really huge and there are are many sites for picture-taking.
In a month, I get at least 5 inquiries in my Facebook inbox about Korean visa application. I pretty much get the same questions from people so it’s better to have a blog post about it. As of this article’s writing, I’ve been to Korea 8 times for the past 4 years so I frequently visited the embassy.
1. Who’s the girl in the picture?
She’s just my friend. I just wanted to show how awesome your shots will be once you have your visa and travel to Korea. You’ll finally get to live your favorite Korean drama! (This is during fall in Seoul, btw.)
2. How much is the processing fee for a Korean visa application?
Zero. Nothing. Nada. Wala. It’s free if you plan to stay in Korea for 59 days or less. So go ahead and give it a try!
3. Is it hard to get a Korean visa?
This is a difficult question. In my opinion, if you have complete documents and you can sufficiently prove your capacity to travel, then there’s nothing to fear.
4. What are the requirements?
- An accomplished application form (You can print at home and fill it out or do it in the Korean Embassy. The application form is available in their website. Click HERE.)
- Original passport (Make sure it’s not about to expire.)
- Photocopy of the second page of your passport (Bio page)
- Passport size colored pictures (1 will be pasted in your application form. If I remember it right, you need another 1 and it will be attached together with your other documents when you submit. Just attach using a paper clip.)
- Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps of OECD member countries for the past 5 years (it says in their website that Korean visas do not count but I still include photocopies to be sure. For the complete list of OECD countries, click HERE.)
- Original Certificate of Employment (with contact number/s & address of company and date of issue. I also strongly advise that you inform your HR to include your date of start with the company and your monthly salary figure)
- Original Personal Bank Certificate (not Bank Statement)
- Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 (your HR should have this)
- Photocopy of company ID
– If personally invited by a Korean: invitation letter & copy of his/her passport
– If invited by a company in Korea: invitation letter & copy of the Korean company’s business permit
Visa requirements vary depending on the nature of your work, for the complete list, visit their official website HERE. When you submit your requirements, remove them from your envelope or folder. Just file and attach them using a paper clip. Put them together inside your passport. If some of your original visas are in your old passport, tie it together with your new passport using a rubber band.
5. Do you need to set an appointment?
No. Just go to the Korean Embassy in 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Visa application is from 9AM to 11AM only from Monday to Friday (excluding Philippine and Korean holidays.) Arrive early if you want to finish early. The area is not commute-friendly so it’s better to have a private car or go there by taxi.
6. Is there an interview during the application?
There is no formal interview but the consul may ask a few questions for clarification.
7. Can I ask someone else to process my application?
If (a) it will be your first time to go to Korea (b) you have a fresh passport with no stamps at all, or (c) you have an old passport that doesn’t have travel stamps from OECD countries, it’s better to apply personally.
8. I’m traveling with some friends. Can we apply as a batch?
This is possible if all of your passports will be processed in the same window. First time travelers or passport holders without any OECD stamps will be processed in Windows 1 or 2. Frequent travelers to Korea and OECD visa holders will be processed in Window 3. Make sure you segregate your application based on the window you’ll be lining up. If you’re confused, the front desk there will guide you accordingly.
9. How long does it take before you know the result?
3 working days (for those who have visas of OECD member countries) and 5 working days (for those who do not have visas of OECD member countries). A claim stub will be given to you when you can know the result of your application. Releasing is from 2PM to 4PM only from Monday to Friday (excluding Philippine and Korean holidays.)
10. Can I ask someone else to claim my passport on the release date?
This is possible. However, some people do not immediately get their visa because the consul might request for additional documents as proof. I had a friend who didn’t get her visa on the published release date because the consul wanted to have her ITR number certified/stamped. She was told to come back after a few days. After presenting the new ITR form, she was granted a visa. So it’s better to be present on the release date so that you can talk to the consul and clarify what he/she needs.
11. Does having a roundtrip ticket increase my chance of getting a visa?
Not really. Actually, the consul won’t even take a look at your airplane ticket so don’t bother printing and attaching it as part of your application. Like I said, there’s nothing to fear with your application if your documents are complete and sufficient.
12. If I get denied, can I apply again immediately?
Unfortunately, once you get denied, you can only apply after 6 months.
13. So should I avoid buying a ticket and make sure I have a visa first?
No. If you see a promo ticket going to Seoul or Busan, you should buy it. A normal roundtrip ticket costs at least PHP16,000 so if you see a good deal online, grab it. The first time I went to Korea in 2010, it was a PHP1,400 roundtrip ticket promo by an airline company which I booked 6 or 8 months prior to my flight date. My travel stamps were only Hong Kong and Macau. I was worried that they’ll deny me but I was approved! So don’t entertain negative thoughts and just submit your application.
Last 2013, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea held a video contest that had the theme “My Best/Favorite Korean Friend/Food is…” Fortunately for me, my Korean best friend Oh Hyun lives in Manila so I convinced him to join the contest. He was very eager about it because the grand prize was a Korean car.
I immediately contacted my 2 Filipino friends (hello, Jeb & Jojie!) from Crevin Media, a small but rising production company that makes awesome videos mostly for weddings (but they cater to other kinds of projects as well so go ahead, inquire about their services.) The requirement for the contest was a 3-minute video only but we had to do a whole day shoot around Manila, Tagaytay, and Laguna.
The study scene shot in Tootsie’s, Tagaytay. Heirloom Filipino dishes await if you dine in here.
Football scene in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Fortunately, there weren’t that much people that day but it rained so hard 10 or 15 minutes after we arrived.
Dinner scene in Manna Korean Garden Restaurant, Poblacion, Makati. Definitely one of the best Korean restos I’ve tried in Metro Manila.
We waited for 4 months and finally, November 2013, the announcement was made (official article HERE.) We didn’t win the car but we still got a Bronze recognition for our efforts. Not bad considering there were 464 entries from different countries around the world!
I attended the awarding ceremony in Arirang TV’s studio in Seoul, Korea last December 5, 2013. It was a memorable experience for me since it was my first time to appear in a Korean broadcasting program and I somehow got to represent the Philippines in an international platform.
Oh Hyun and I would like to thank our families and friends who supported us along the way. It’s definitely one of the best memories in our friendship so we’re very grateful that we’ve reached this far.
If you haven’t watched the video, here it is. Load it in HD quality. It’s much much much better. 감사합니다.
My Korean friend took me to Hwangryeong Mountain (황령산) by car. We arrived around 6PM and as the sky darkened, lights from various areas gradually illuminated Busan. Good thing I brought my tripod to make a long exposure for this night shot.
Autumn is probably my favorite season in Korea. The change of colors is simply magical. I’ll let the pictures I took do the talking.
Gyeongbukgong (경복궁), Seoul (서울)
Deoksugung (덕수궁), Seoul (서울)
Tongdosa (통도사), Yangsan (양산)