Category Archives: Korea

Art Nouveau illuminated with Klimt Inside at S-Factory

Multicolored LED lights make up a maze-like room at the Klimt Inside exhibition at S-Factory in Seongsu-dong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

Seongsu-dong is an artsy district in Seoul — home to a number of interesting cafés, shops and pop-up art installations. One such space is S-Factory, a newly-established gallery space in the middle of a cold, industrial Seongsu side street. The gallery has now hosted its share of buzz-worthy art shows, including Klimt Inside, a multimedia homage to Viennese painter Gustav Klimt that ran through April 19.

The “Later Colors” section of Klimt Inside shows off the artist’s more chromatic works. SCREAMfmLondon

More like a light show than a traditional art exhibition, Klimt Inside pairs the artist’s works with LED screens, neon bulbs and bits of musical accompaniment.

A neon message incorporated into the Klimt Inside exhibit. SCREAMfmLondon

The first S-Factory room is completely dark except for the images projected onto the carpet showing the different philosophers and artists who influenced Klimt’s early work.

Projections on the floor at Klimt Inside. SCREAMfmLondon

The most popular room at the Klimt Inside exhibit was also its most disappointing. A long line forms out front as visitors wait patiently for the chance to enter a multicolored cube made of windows and neon lights. From the outside, it looks spacious and surrealistic. The wait to take a look inside took so long that I expected some sort of maze to explore, but inside it was only hot and crowded with people doing impromptu 15-minute-long Instagram photoshoots. I don’t even know what this had to do with Klimt, but I had to squeeze myself out after a few minutes.

The famous LED light room at Klimt Inside. SCREAMfmLondon

My favorite room of the exhibition shows Klimt’s body-drawing sketches projected in black and white on large, blank canvases. The projections change at regular intervals, displaying various nudes and portraits.

Klimt’s portraits projected onto canvases. SCREAMfmLondon

The final room before you exit into the gift shop is Klimt’s most famous piece, “The Kiss.” The painting is displayed at the end of a long, narrow tunnel lit with two yellow neon lights. An electric current running through the lights in never-ending circles represents the eternal quality of love.

Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” SCREAMfmLondon

The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Food: Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles in Hapjeong

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A large bowl of pho on a cold winter morning. SCREAMfmLondon

In the hipster enclave of Hapjeong, there are many hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafés and bars that serve interesting dishes and minimalist décor. One such spot is simply identified as “Pho.” This intimate restaurant can only seat a few parties but has nice hardwood tables, clean decorations and tasty Vietnamese food.

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Love the fresh vegetables in these rice paper-wrapped spring rolls. SCREAMfmLondon

We were sitting so close to the couple at the next table that I kept shooting glances at their delicious-looking food and ordering exactly what they had. We started by splitting an order of spring rolls. They’re rice paper stuffed with cabbage, carrots, cucumber and other fresh vegetables, served alongside a peanut dipping sauce.

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Chili shrimp stir-fried rice. SCREAMfmLondon

For my main course, I ordered the chili shrimp stir-fried rice. The stylish bowls make this dish look deceptively small, but it’s actually really filling. The rice is mixed with seafood like shrimp and baby octopus as well as a variety of vegetables. It’s not overpoweringly spicy but does pack a good punch. It also came with a nice, small bowl of soup on the side.

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Pho Vietnamese Rice Noodles. SCREAMfmLondon

But the trip would not have been a complete if we didn’t try the pho. This serving was also very generous, and the dish included a fair amount of meat. Perfect antidote for the freezing cold wind in Seoul these days.

My k-beauty picks: More of the best cushion compacts

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Cushion compacts from Clio, Moonshot, The Face Shop and Tony Moly. SCREAMfmLondon

It’s time for a sequel to my first list of the best Korean cushion compacts! I’m simply enamored with this beauty innovation, and I can’t imagine ever returning to clunky traditional foundations. Korean beauty brands release new formulas and new collaborations regularly, so I’m always experimenting with the next great products.

Here are four more of my favorite cushion compacts:

Clio Kill Cover Liquid Foundation Cushion

This Clio cushion is absolutely amazing if you’re looking for a super full-coverage foundation. The Kill Cover cushion has an incredibly high-coverage formula for such a lightweight compact, and it’s great to work with if you want a really long-lasting, flawless makeup look. This is my go-to cushion for fancy nights on the town because it’s smoothing, moisturizing and brightening, and it really doesn’t require any touchups. Definitely recommended if you like full coverage foundations. You’ll be impressed with Clio’s Kill Cover compact.

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Tony Moly’s Pikachu Mini Cover Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Tony Moly Pikachu Mini Cover Cushion

Pikachu is having a big moment in Korea right now, so you’ll find various Pokémon in all the shops, on all the fashion and in all the beauty products. As I am very easily swayed by adorable packaging, I had to pick up the Pikachu Mini Cover Cushion from Tony Moly’s latest beauty collaboration with Pokémon. The line includes all kinds of Pokémon products, from face masks and cleansers to nail polishes and lip tints. This cushion is smaller than your average compact, so it’s great for on-the-go spot treatment. Although it’s cute, the formula is actually quite decent, and it provides good coverage. But I’m mostly in love with the detailed packaging, including the Poké Ball-shaped applicator sponge.

The Face Shop Oil Control Water Cushion

Speaking of adorable packaging, The Face Shop is also stocking some super cute character compacts at the moment. They have a Disney collaboration featuring a Monsters, Inc. cushion and a Mickey Mouse one, but I’m much more drawn to the darling Kakao Friends collaborations. The Kakao Friends are various characters used as emoticons on the Korean messaging app KakaoTalk. My favorites are Frodo, the dog, and Ryan, the bear. So, I had no choice but to buy this cushion compact featuring one of the best Ryan illustrations (he’s cheering for you amidst a backdrop of confetti!). It’s a light-coverage formula, so it’s best for daytime wear. This particular cushion is designed for oil control and boasts sebum-minimizing powers. But, let’s be real: I bought it for the packaging, and I’d do it again.

Moonshot's Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot’s Microfit Cushion. SCREAMfmLondon

Moonshot Microfit Cushion

I briefly touched on this cushion in my review of the moonshot x BIGBANG10 LUCKYBOX. Moonshot is the beauty brand owned by YG Entertainment, Big Bang’s record label, so all of the products are endorsed and modeled by YG artists like G-Dragon and Blackpink. I just dream of having skin as luminous as GD’s, so I am very drawn to this product. I really love the formula, the semi-matte finish and brightness of the Microfit Cushion. My only complaints are with the design: the applicator sponge broke really quickly, and the sponge inside that holds the product has gotten weirdly off-centered. While I’m disappointed with the durability of the compact, I’m still really into the product and will continue to use it.

Food: Chocolate, blueberry and more great bingsu

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Blueberry cheesecake bingsu will always be one of my go-to orders. Love the fresh fruit, colorful shaved ice, and bites of rich cheesecake. SCREAMfmLondon

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Tried-and-true Sulbing bingsu. This is chocolate cheesecake with truffle bites and cocoa powder. We have to play rock-paper-scissors to see who gets to eat the chocolate decal on the top. SCREAMfmLondon

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This was a seasonal bingsu for the summer. Icy green grapes, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, jelly cubes and cream. Light and refreshing for hot, humid days. SCREAMfmLondon

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Yes, this blueberry cheesecake bingsu is everything. Ice cream, shaved ice, cheesecake bites, blueberries and blueberry syrup all join together in perfect harmony. SCREAMfmLondon

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A visit to Myeongdong brought this delicious treat: fresh, handmade grape juice served alongside a towering bowl of chocolate brownie bingsu. SCREAMfmLondon

For more bingsu, click here. Which one do you want to try?

Book review: ‘Nothing to Envy | Ordinary Lives in North Korea’

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Photo courtesy of Spiegel & Grau

Mi-ran and Jun-sang had known each other for 13 years and dated for nine. After three years, they began to cautiously hold hands under the cover of darkness once they’d walked a safe enough distance out of town. After six years, Jun-sang mustered up the courage to give Mi-ran an awkward kiss on the cheek, which she quickly rebuffed out of fear and shock.

When Mi-ran escaped with her family to South Korea, she couldn’t risk saying goodbye to Jun-sang. When he showed up one morning to find her family missing, he realized he’d been too late — too late to share with her the capitalist books he’d secretly been reading at university, the South Korean television signals he could faintly pick up at home and his hidden dream of running away with her to Seoul. She was already gone.

The two young lovers are the heart of Barbara Demick’s book, ‘Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea,’ which profiles six North Korean defectors hailing from an industrial town in the northeastern part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

‘Nothing to Envy’ is an enthralling read — a kind of novelization that follows its subjects through a fifteen-year period. From the death of Kim Il-sung to the horrific famine of the 1990s, ‘Nothing to Envy’ shows North Korea from the perspective of average citizens, far away from the carefully-constructed capital city Pyongyang and the state’s propaganda-filled press releases.

The book provides a quick but excellent background on how North Korea came to be what it is today. One of the book’s most memorable stories is the biography of Mi-ran’s father, which serves to explain her family’s low social status and “tainted blood.” A once popular and confident young man from a Southern farming area, Tae-woo was taken as a prisoner of war by the North and essentially trapped on the opposite side of the peninsula when a power struggle between the United States and Soviet Union resulted in the drawing of an arbitrary border across the map along the 38th parallel.

“Koreans were infuriated to be partitioned in the same way as the Germans. After all, they had not been aggressors in World War II, but victims. Koreans at the time described themselves with a self-deprecating expression, saying they were ‘shrimp among whales,’ crushed between the rivalries of the superpowers,” Demick writes.

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South Korea on the left and North Korea on the right, as seen from the Korean Demilitarized Zone. SCREAMfmLondon

‘Nothing to Envy’ follows its subjects as Kim Il-sung takes control of the DPRK with promises of an idyllic Communist state and, for the first few years, delivers on them. Then, readers see these people struggle to keep the faith after Kim Jong-il rises to power and the country’s economic crisis begins, resulting in the famine that ultimately killed around 3.5 million North Koreans.

Eventually, each of the subjects experiences a life-altering moment of final disillusionment which leads them to leave their country and, often, many loved ones, established careers and educations behind. For Jun-sang, the epiphany finally came when he was able to configure his television to pick up South Korean signals that told him news of the world and, for the first time, honest coverage of North Korea.

“Listening to South Korean television was like looking in the mirror for the first time in your life and realizing you were unattractive,” Demick writes. “North Koreans were always told theirs was the proudest country in the world, but the rest of the world considered it a pathetic, bankrupt regime.”

However, the defectors’ difficulties don’t end once they reach Seoul. The initial euphoria they experience often is short-lived, as they have to struggle to acclimate to modern society and start their lives over from scratch. Work experience and university degrees from the DPRK are useless, so the North Korean doctors and intellectuals we’ve gotten to know over the course of the book find themselves taking jobs as nannies and fast food delivery drivers.

‘Nothing to Envy’ concludes with an epilogue bringing the reader up-to-date with North Korea, briefly examining the first years of Kim Jong-un’s reign as Supreme Leader.

It’s an amazingly moving book, and it paints such a vivid picture of life inside North Korea for the past few decades. Not only is ‘Nothing to Envy’ a good primer on the Korean War and the politics surrounding it, but the personal stories within are so poignant they will stay with you long after reading.

The book’s conclusion is realistic and, therefore, inconclusive. The totalitarian regime in North Korea has already endured longer than anyone expected and continues to this day. Although many North Koreans manage to escape, so many are still living lives not unlike those depicted in the book — some are better off and some worse. And their stories are going untold.

‘Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea’
Barbara Demick
Release Date: Sept. 21, 2010
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Politics
Pages: 336
Grade: A

Click here to read about my visit to the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.

Scenes from Busan: Jagalchi Fish Market and more

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Busan’s famous Gamcheon Culture Village. Houses built on windy roadways on the foothills of a coastal mountain make this spot a must-see for tourists to South Korea’s second-largest city. The alleys are uniquely decorated with murals, sculptures and vibrant colors. SCREAMfmLondon

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Jagalchi is Korea’s largest seafood market. Vendors sell all types of fresh seafood throughout the market’s meandering corridors. SCREAMfmLondon

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Vendors at Jagalchi Market offer everything from live turtles and eels to dried fish and seaweed. SCREAMfmLondon

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Small restaurants found inside Jagalchi Market serve freshly-prepared fish dishes. SCREAMfmLondon

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Busan Gamcheon Culture Village at dusk. SCREAMfmLondon