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Posts Tagged ‘south korea’

There’s nothing like concentrating on something completely “other” to calm one down. Here, at the tension-filled demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, soldiers take a break to concentrate on ballet.

Kim Hong-Ji reports at Reuters the Wider Picture,”The 15 male ballet students groaned as they strained to do the splits and laughed with relief after their teacher counted to five and let them relax.

“Once a week, a group of South Korean soldiers near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula trade army boots for ballet shoes in a class intended to ease the stress of guarding the world’s most heavily fortified border.

” ‘There’s a lot of tension here since we live in the unit on the front line, which makes me feel insecure at times,’ said Kim Joo-hyeok, a 23-year-old sergeant doing his nearly two years of military service that is mandatory for South Korean men.

” ‘But through ballet, I am able to stay calm and find balance as well as build friendships with my fellow soldiers,’ said Kim, who is learning ballet for a second year and plans to continue when he is discharged from the army. …

” ‘Being in the army itself can be difficult, so I wasn’t sure what kind of help I can be here,’ said Lee Hyang-jo, a ballerina at the Korean National Ballet who visits the base once a week to train the soldiers.

” ‘But as the soldiers learn ballet little by little, they laugh more and have a great time and seeing that makes me think that coming here is worthwhile,’ she said.”

I suspect it is fun for her, too, in the same way that teaching English lit to a class of engineers was fun for one professor I heard about. The fresh perspectives of those who come from an entirely different discipline has to be rewarding for a teacher.

More at Reuters.

Photo: Reuters

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Here’s an interesting start-up by a couple of entrepreneurs who love to eat. The two women decided to build a business around helping travelers find truly authentic cooking.

According to Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence’s website, “Traveling Spoon believes in creating meaningful travel. We are passionate about food, and believe that by connecting people with authentic food experiences in people’s homes around the world we can help facilitate meaningful travel experiences for travelers and hosts worldwide.

“To help you experience local cuisine while traveling, Traveling Spoon offers in-home meals with our hosts. In addition, we also offer in-home cooking classes as well as market tours as an extra add-on to many of the meal experiences. All of our hosts have been vetted to ensure a safe and delightful culinary experience.

“Traveling Spoon currently offers home dining experiences in over 35 cities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, and more countries are coming soon!” More here.

I have no doubt that Traveling Spoon is also boosting international understanding. What a good way to use an MBA! Business school is not all about becoming an investment banker, as Suzanne and Erik would tell you.

Photo: Traveling Spoon
Traveling Spoon founders Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence met at the Haas School of Business.

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And speaking of Korea, the culture in the south might as well be on the other side of the world from North Korea.

My husband and I, lifetime fans of Broadway musicals, may sometimes feel concerned that the audiences are mostly old folks like us, but in South Korea, musicals are cool. Young people dig them.

Patrick Healy writes for the NY Times, “The packs of young women arrived 90 minutes early for the evening’s show: Murder Ballad, a rock musical that flopped off Broadway in July and then opened here four months later in an all-Korean production.

“They wanted time to shoot smartphone video of Seoul’s newest theater, built inside a shopping mall, and start scoring autographs: of actors, sure, but lighting operators and makeup artists too.

“Or anyone, really, working on American musicals, whose head-spinning popularity here has changed the game for New York producers looking to extend the lives of their shows.

“Seoul has become a boomtown for American musicals, with Korean and Broadway producers tapping into an audience of young women raised on the bombast of Korean pop and the histrionics of television soap operas.”

Bombast and histrionics? Now, wait just a minute, here! Hmmm. I guess musicals can be bombastic, like opera. But the kind I like are more thoughtful and quirky.

Recent shows we enjoyed were Side Show, which I talked about here, and
Brian Crawley and Andrew Lippa’s take on A Little Princess, a story by the author of the Secret Garden.

Come to think of it, both Side Show and A Little Princess had moments of bombast and histrionics. I guess I don’t notice that anymore.

Photo: Lim Hoon
Korean actors in the Seoul production of
Wicked.

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I know it’s hard to believe, but in South Korea, Spam is considered a holiday treat, one that inspires happy memories.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson had a story about it in September.

“South Korea,” she wrote, “is preparing for the annual lunar thanksgiving holiday, which is known as Chuseok.

“Locals celebrate the holiday by visiting relatives, paying respects to family ancestors as well as the giving and receiving of packaged cans of Spam.

“While that might sound odd, the tins of pre-cooked pork have become a staple of South Korean life.”

Brand manager Shin Hyo Eun explains, ” ‘Spam has a premium image in Korea. It’s probably the most desirable gift one could receive, and to help create the high-class image, we use famous actors in our commercials.’ …

“Spam was introduced to Korea by the US army during the Korean War, when food was scarce – and meat even scarcer. Back then, people used whatever they could find to make a meal.

“But the appeal of Spam lasted through the years of plenty and it’s now so much a part of South Korean food culture, that it’s the staple ingredient in one of the country’s favourite dishes: budae jigae or army stew.”

Ho Gi-suk runs a restaurant near a U.S. base.

” ‘Back then,’ she tells me, ‘there wasn’t a lot to eat. But I acquired some ham and sausages… the only way to get meat in those days was to smuggle it from the army base.’ …

“Army Stew is now well-established as part of South Korea’s culinary landscape — as traditional here as Spam gift-sets for thanksgiving.

” ‘It’s salty, and greasy, and goes very well with the spices,’ one customer told me. ‘Korean soup and American ham – it’s the perfect fusion food.’ ”

More.

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