If your cafe isn’t on Naver, is it really a cafe? An important essay by Jo So Ko

Hello world, welcome to this important essay titled ‘Never not gonna Naver’. I actually just made that up and it kind of almost doesn’t make any sense. I’m currently getting my sweat on at the gym and thought ‘hmmm…perhaps I should write an important blog post about the positive correlation between a Korean cafe’s Naver presence and its interior design/aesthetic value’. The person who sweat all over this germ-infested bike before me really gave me that extra push of inspiration that I needed tonight.

Let me set the scene for you: it’s 8am, you’ve just awoken from a night of soju drinking in a new place and you realise that you’ve overpayed on your hotel based on the kink the $10 sandbox pilow has left in your neck. You’re disoriented, dehydrated and in desperate need of caffeine. Alas, the last thing you need is one of Korea’s chain coffee stores to so much as toy with the idea of trying cure your current discombobulated state. No no no. You need a real cafe. With real chairs. With a unique cafe concept. That’s what you need.

This is where the Naver part comes in (thank you for bearing with me on this strange journey, my bike has just ticked over the 15 minute mark and I have useless essay ideas aplenty right now). Naver, for you monolingual troglodytes out there, is Koreans answer to Google. Why did Korea need an answer to a question nobody else dare ask? Homogeneity. That’s why. (Naver have a search engine, a maps service, a WebToon website, they own ‘Line’ which is a messaging platform more commonly used in Japan as well as ‘Snow’ which is a popular camera app here in Korea (along with many other services)).

Anyway… so, my husband and I both embarked on the 30-second long task to try and find a cafe to schlep ourselves to. We searched ‘cafe’ in Korean and both decided that the best place for us to go was one with a beautiful range of pastries and bread. Not 20 minutes later were we ready and out the door, without a shadow of doubt blocking our decision’s limelight. Despite having to drive 20 minutes to the cafe, our 30 second decision did not alter along the way. 

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Here is the first page of a Naver search for ‘Jeju cafe’. I will note that this search is based on your location, so this is a search I did today in Seoul. Wherever you are, if you type ‘카페’ into Naver, it will show the closest cafes to you.

Note the hierarchy of information: Naver puts a big emphasis on the image size and quality. Giving each search result a lettered label makes it much easier to see where the cafe is and remember which search result you liked the most. Next to the letter for each cafe is the name of the cafe, followed by a short description such as ‘A beautiful dessert cafe with a view of the sea in Jeju’ and then the number of reviews customers have left on their Naver Blog.

The information Google favours is a star rating out of 5 and a price range. The photos are slightly smaller with only 1.5 images showing up in the search result. This Naver comparison with a Google search result really shows just how much Koreans value beautiful images and customer reviews.

How beautiful your cafe is and the presentation of your food and coffee is the difference between someone making a 30 second decision to visit your cafe and somebody scrolling right past, without considering your cafe as a worthy contender for their business.

Well, that was an overly complicated way of explaining something quite simple. All you need to do to figure this trend out is to search the hashtag ‘카페스크그렘’ (cafestagram) on Instagram and see for your own eyeballs just how serious this cafe interior trend is among Koreans!

Here are some images of the aforementioned cafe and, really, the protagonist of this essay. It is located in Jeju Island and I have, contrary to the objective of this entire post, not linked it’s Naver details. Here is the Instagram page.

Happy cafe hopping, friends! Does anyone else sweat between their forearms and biceps when writing compelling phone essays while exercising? Food for thought xx

 

Öpuff x Pizplz, 오퍼프 x 피플 

Jeju Island, South Korea

 

Osulloc Tea Museum, Jeju Island

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Hello internet, it’s Jo So Ko here, your friendly neighbourhood Korea travel blogger, ready to give you all of the scoops on travel in Korea. Not really. I actually always leave it up to my husband to organise things when we travel. I’m just happy to walk around a new place, take photos and eat yummy food.

We recently travelled over an actual sea to go to Jeju Island! It was crazy to fly over an ocean, during these strange and uncertain times. In this post, I wanted to highlight one of the spots we went to on our trip which was the Osulloc Tea Museum!

Osulloc is a big tea company in South Korea owned by the Amore Pacific group, who have a  monopoly on the health and beauty industry in Korea. You might have heard of some of their previous Kbeauty films such as Innisfree, Etude House, Laneige and Primera.

The tea museum in Jeju consists of a large building with some tea history and a tea store, as well as the famous Osulloc Cafe. There are two cafes outside, one of which houses an Innisfree store. There are a lot of other things that I could tell you about if I was a better travel blog. Outside is the main star of the show: the beautiful green tea fields. You can frolic about and pretend to be a green tea farmer, but in reality, there are so many bugs that it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Just look at the pictures, I’m no good with words these days.

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Directions

The museum is open from 9am – 7pm every day and has no entry fee

 

A day in Seoul, South Korea

Hello, Seoul/Korea lovers from near and afar! As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am currently a Global Seoul Mate which is basically an ambassador for all things Seoul 2020. So far, this year has been… trying, to say the least.

Our challenges up until now have mostly been related to home life and staying indoors. That changed this month when the theme was announced as ‘A Seoul Itinerary’. I had to challenge myself to put together a one-day itinerary for a trip to Seoul! (I actually cheated and did this over several days because I am quite busy these days… and I also technically don’t live in Seoul, I just work there!) Here is my itinerary for your next trip to Seoul (providing things go well around the world and international borders resume as somewhat normal!)

This itinerary is best for someone coming to the Gangnam area of Seoul for business or a conference. I spend most of my time in the Gangnam/Seocho area of Seoul as my office is located there!

Before you embark on your one-day journey in Seoul, be sure to have the following apps downloaded:

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Naver Maps (English)

Google Maps works better in Korea nowadays but the best way to get exact public transport directions, times and travel durations is to download this app.

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Subway Map App

To get around the Seoul subway, download a map of the Seoul Subway network. I’m sure that there are more apps to download, but I don’t think it’s necessary. If you have a phone in Korea, you will be okay. There is a lot of free wifi in Korea, so It’s not always necessary to purchase internet for your trip… or maybe I’m just old fashioned… Okay, let’s start the itinerary!

 

7:30 am – Yangjae Flower Market

The Yangjae flower market is a great thing to do early in the morning in Seoul. The greenhouses are cool and fresh and there are so many flowers and plants to look at. If you or someone you are travelling with are a big fan of plants, this might be a great way to start off your morning!

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Directions: Take the Shinbundang line to Yangjae Citizen’s Forest, exit via exit 4 and keep walking straight until you see the colourful lego building!

 

8:00 am – Walk along a stream in Seoul

There are so many streams in Seoul, you’re sure to find one on your journey here. My favourite one to walk along is near the flower market and is called ‘Yangjae Cheon’. The stream is peaceful and a great way to get some exercise in before you start a day of… well… walking a lot and exercising!

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9:00 am – Drink some coffee at any cute hidden cafe, the scone is optional

Hint: Yes, there are lots of great chain cafes that will charge you $5 for a watered down cup of coffee milk… or you could search the area you are in for an independent cafe and enjoy a unique experience. Independent cafes (i.e. not Starbucks, Holly’s etc) are usually cheaper and less crowded!

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11:00 am – Find a view of Namsan Tower, it’s beautiful from any angle

My favourite place to see the tower from is Hannam. But it’s also great to go and climb the mountain! I would also recommend taking a bus when going to Namsan areas because you can get a great view of the houses, the tower and the things that are going on! Use Naver maps to find the best route.

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1:00 pm – Time for lunch…Gimbap Heaven

There are gimbap stores all over Korea that sell a huge list of Korean dishes at a very low price. They are usually called ‘Kimbap Country’ or ‘Kimbap Heaven’. Here is what the places usually look like on the outside:

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I  know, it looks intimidating, but the food is cheap, the service is fast and the gimbap is usually amazing! Note: The above is not owned by me.

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2:00 pm – Head across the river to the DDP

If you’re an architecture and design lover, the DDP is a must see location on your Seoul itinerary. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) houses exhibitions, restaurants and small design markets all year round. The exhibitions are always design related and often require the purchase of a ticket. When I first came to Seoul in 2017, I stayed in an Air Bnb that overlooked the DDP and it was design heaven.

There is also a lot to do in this area but this district is most famous for its textiles and cheap shopping!

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6:00 pm – Dinner Time ~ The best sashimi in Seoul!

My favourite place in Seoul for sashimi is ‘Yangjae Chobap’. Which means Yangjae sushi. It is the best sashimi I have had in Korea….You will have to go back to the Gangnam area for this stuff…and it’s a tiny little restaurant in a tiny little alley way but it is SO GOOD.

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Yangjae Chobap (양재초밥)

 

8:00 pm – Coex Starfield Library and Bongeunsa Temple

Okay, so after your day of travel, it’s time to head back to the are where your hotel is… which might be in close proximity to CoEx mall if you are here on business. Currently, there is an incredible public art billboard called ‘The Wave’ displaying at CoEx near SM Town. After you have watched ‘The Wave’, you can wander inside the mall and see the amazing Starfield library. There is always an art installation in the centre of the library that changes regularly. A really great way to wind down at night, find a light meal with a coffee and just enjoy some quiet.

If that’s not quiet enough, cross over the road to go to Bongeunsa Temple; a beautiful temple in the middle of the city.  It is so nice to walk around there at night, especially on a hot Summer’s day!

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Jo So Ko Instagram

Here are the posts for this month’s mission! Be sure to follow my Instagram for all things South Korea!

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9:00 am ~ A walk along a stream followed by coffee and scones at an independent cafe! There are so many streams and rivers in Seoul that give you a quiet and cool break from the bustling city. I personally love the stream near my office (양재천) because it's leafy green and full of surprises! ☕ Chain cafes like Starbucks and Holly's are great, but to get a more unique experience in Seoul, it's best to try and find a smaller cafe tucked away behind busy roads. You don't have to lool to hard to find a cute place to have your morning coffee! ☀️ #globalseoulmate #gsm2020 #visitseoul #seoulguide #myseoul #seoulsearching#mykoreanadventure#seoul#southkorea#koreablogger#expatlife#koreanearandfar#일상#데일리#사진스타그램#양재#양재카페

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Picnic with the Parks

You can’t help but feel the sense of impermanence when looking down a road lined with cherry blossoms. They have bloomed quite early here in South Korea but they have been more than welcome given the current state of the world.

In the world of social media, it feels as though you have to capture the very best picture in your very best spring outfit before all of the flowers flutter down to the ground.

Don’t forget to take time to reflect on where 2020 has taken you so far and where you want it to lead going forward. If you don’t have the chance to get fresh air this week, make it a priority to get outside in the afternoon to soak in some sun and enjoy the April spring weather before the cherry blossoms disappear!

My husband and I had a yummy picnic along the stream near our house yesterday. Who knows when these beautiful flowers will disappear. Even though I was in a blahhh mood, picking myself off the floor, literally because I couldn’t find anything to wear and had a melt down over it, and going out was a great remedy. Don’t let a bad mood stop you from doing things that will help you look outside yourself. Getting caught up in your head is a bad way to be. When all else fails, stare at some sleeping geese in the sunshine!

Global Seoul Mate 2020

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as a Global Seoul Mate this year. This means I will be using my social media platforms to be a tourism ambassador for Seoul, South Korea. I am so excited to begin my monthly missions and share more of this beautiful city that I have been writing about for almost 3 years.

This month’s mission begins from home due to the current outbreak of coronavirus. My heart goes out to anybody facing hardship at this time, wherever you may be in the world. I am currently working and have to continue using public transport and going to my jobs. Unfortunately, this means I can’t be in isolation all the time. However, when I do go out, I wear a mask, sometimes gloves and always make sure to use hand sanitiser or wash my hands when possible.

I hope you are keeping safe, staying healthy and keeping an eye out for your loved ones during this difficult time. We can all get through this together if we follow our leaders and take necessary safety precautions.

I didn’t want to put a damper on my exciting news, but the theme for this month’s GSM mission is ‘Stay home, but travel tomorrow’. We can reignite our travel bugs at a later date! Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel, follow my Instagram and follow my blog to keep up to date with my GSM2020 experience throughout the year.

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Global Seoul Mate has officially started! As an official #gsm2020 I support #StayHome #ButTravelTomorrow

Sushi and Cherry Blossoms

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Today was a day of sushi and cherry blossoms. The flowers are a’blooming and the birds are a’chirping because spring is a’coming people. The cherry blossoms are nature’s way of saying, ‘hey guys, everything will be okay’.

Cherry blossoms are like the training wheels of nature, they make us feel safe and sound before we summon the confidence to do life with only 2 wheels. After they’re gone, we forget they were even there! Before you know, we’ve smoothly made the winter to summer, heatech to humidity transition.

WHAT AM I SAYING? It was my first back working every day this week and my brain is a little soggy. All of this quarantine has made me lose the humorous edge that helped crown Jo So Ko as the internet’s best travel blog 12 years running.

Time to get some rest, but first, here is a video I made about my work life in Seoul! Check it out if you have nothing better to do 🙂

Exploring Cafes in Seongsu, Seoul, South Korea

Amore, Seongsu

This is an amazing concept store in Seongsu that houses all of Amore Pacific beauty brands and a rooftop cafe. There are lots of skincare and makeup samples to try, but I was more excited by the vintage graphic design and the actual design of the building.

I am still a bit confused about the whole concept but they have a lot of things to offer. I would just love to sit down with the design team for a second to figure out their intentions and perhaps make it a bit more English friendly ~~ but that’s the designer in me. We then went to the cafe on the rooftop, which only really sells green tea flavoured things… so if that’s not yo speed, you’re going have a tricky time up there! However, I think the drinks looked better than they tasted 😦 I would recommend you hold off from going to the cafe and just go to a better one nearby like Cafe Onion (keep scrolling for more!)

Visit the website for more info

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How cute is their branding (from their site)

Cafe Onion, Seongsu

Just down the street from Amore Seongsu (or up the street, depending on which way you walk. Sorry, I’m not a map) is Cafe Onion. It is quite a famous spot here in Seoul and they have multiple cafes around the city. I have been wanting to try their bread for a long time! The coffee and bread is not that different from your local Korean bakery but it has a really nice vibe in the cafe!

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Wifi password on the wet tissue = genius

20200318_182148If you’re curious to see more from these places, be sure to watch the weekly vlog I made last week! Have a great week and stay safe xxx

My Korean husband cooks Jjapaguri from the movie ‘Parasite’

parasite-jjapaguri-sceneIf you fell in love with Bong Joon Ho’s latest film ‘Parasite’, you might be curious about some of the food that was featured in the Oscar-winning movie. At a very tense moment in the movie, the newly appointed maid to the Park family is asked to make a dish called ‘Jjapaguri’. The English translation is ‘Ram-don’ but the Korean name comes from the two different types of instant noodles that are used in the dish. To make Jjapaguri, you need these two types of instant noodles that you can buy from your local Korean supermarket:

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Jjapaghetti and Neoguri

I was curious to try the dish for myself and I’m lucky enough to have a Korean husband who knew exactly how to make it! We live in Korea so these ingredients are readily available. We wanted to keep the recipe as similar to the dish made in the film so we even added beef! (Beef is a very expensive ingredient here in South Korea! Pork is usually the favoured meat). Here is how our meal turned out, it was surprisingly delicious and I think I may even like it more than I like Jjapaghetti by itself:

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The soju is optional!

Feeling too uncool to be at Arco Cafe, Seongsu-dong, Seoul

If you’ve been feeling a little bit too cool with all of this staying home in your pyjamas business, then head to Seongsu to level out your ego a little bit. The customers at this new cafe, ‘Arco’, looked like they were stopping by for coffee on their way to far cooler, far more important fashion-related things. It was such a lovely cafe with a gallery/concept store on the second floor and a cafe on the ground floor. I really enjoyed our apple crumble and delicious strawberry croissant situation.

I’ve made it my goal for 2020 to make more of an effort to get some friends in this crazy city we live in. Being a foreigner in South Korea, or in any country, can get a little bit overwhelming. Besides, everyone needs to have a good old gossip over a $6 flat white from time to time. I have been so inspired and amazed by the internet community I have found here in South Korea and I hope to meet each and every human I have had an interaction with on Instagram, YouTube and here on my blog!

If you are living in a foreign country, what are some ways you like to meet new friends? Also, if you live in Seoul, and you’re reading these words, I would love to explore an area of Seoul with you? I could honestly have a meaningful conversation with a forest, so don’t worry if you’re a shy/introverted human! I don’t discriminate. Also, upon reflection, maybe telling people I want to meet up with them on the internet is a bit creepy and I totally understand if nobody ever responds to this post…

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This is a mural that was featured in Goblin (the K-drama!!)

 

 

Hwaseong Fortress: UNESCO World Heritage Site in South Korea

There are fourteen listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites here in South Korea, and one of them is only a 15-minute drive from my home. Hwaseong Fortress is located in the Gyeonggi Province city of Suwon. Suwon is also home to some of Korea’s biggest tech company HQs like Samsung and LG.

The fortress was built in the 18th century by King Jeongjo for defensive and political purposes. It was also built to house the tomb of the King’s father. The Suwoncheon stream runs through the centre of the fortress which you can see in images below. UNESCO’s website state the following about the incredible features of the fortress:

‘The walls incorporate a number of defensive features, most of which are intact. These include floodgates, observation towers, command posts, multiple arrow launcher towers, firearm bastions, angle towers, secret gates, beacon towers, bastions and bunkers’.

Information Source

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to explore that is just outside of Seoul, I would highly recommend visiting the Hwaseong Fortress. People were starting to set up picnics along the stream now that the weather is warming up here. The site boasts gorgeous views of Suwon and is a great way to get in a mini-hike on the weekend. There are also lots of beautiful modern cafes juxtaposed against traditional architecture and the surrounding fortress. Here is the cafe we visited. Scroll to the end of the images to find out how to get there.

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How to Get There

Train and Bus

Take the Line 1 train to Suwon Station and catch the 66 Bus to the fortress

Embroidering a face mask and talking about coronavirus in South Korea

IMG_0047Hey, internet! Hope you are healthy and cool. Last week, I decided to embroider a face mask while talking about coronavirus and upload it on the internet! Why do I do these things? We will never know. The video didn’t go as planned because I couldn’t quite figure out how to talk, think and embroider at the same time.

Nevertheless, I put a video together and uploaded it. I love the process of thinking of a video idea, filming, uploading footage, editing a video and uploading it. I like that the final product has an ending and it doesn’t sit in limbo forever like some of my other creative projects…

The purpose of this video was to put a positive spin on the worldwide health issue and talk about my perspective as a foreigner in South Korea. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires some positive thinking in your day! Thank you for stopping by and don’t forget to subscribe or follow my Instagram or blog!

You can download my pattern if you are feeling inspired and want to embroider your own mask. Click this link to get the PDF! Face Mask Pattern Jo So Ko

정지영커피: Korean Cafe that overlooks the Suwon Fortress

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If you’re located in the Suwon/Yongin area in Korea, visiting the Suwon Fortress is an alternative travel plan to braving the Seoul Subway system to explore Gyeongbokkung and the surrounding Hanok Village. The neighbourhoods surrounding the huge fortress, that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are super trendy yet quiet. The combination of the early spring weather and the lack of customers due to coronavirus made us feel like we were on a mini-vacation. We had a hard time choosing which amazing cafe to go to, but 정지영커피 was our final choice! There were two other couples waiting to go inside when we arrived. The interiors were simple, yet industrial and modern. We had a delicious coffee each and enjoyed the view of the Suwon Fortress from the rooftop while soaking up the afternoon March sun. We were also able to plan our route along the fortress while enjoying our coffee.

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Jung Jiyoung Coffee Roasters

Follow me on Instagram to see more (edited) photos and story updates. I would also love to hear your Korean cafe recommendations, I am always on the lookout for new places to go but they usually just stay saved in my phone for several months before I get there. Wishing you a happy and healthy week ahead!

 

How to start planning a career overseas during a pandemic

Hello Internet and loyal Jo So Ko blog followers. I thought I would never sit down to type on my blog again, but I’m back in full swing today with a YouTube video. Last week while filming a day in the life video for my channel, I asked my Instagram followers to send me any questions about my work life in Korea… most of them were ‘starting your career overseas’ related so I thought I would make an entire video about it. You can watch it if you keep scrolling!

I categorised each of the stages of planning a career overseas into the following four categories:

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How to wear spring on your face

Hello, let me tell you a story about how I ordered a pizza, cut out the pizza box and ended up with a handmade face mask. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy wherever you are in this crazy wide world. Let’s go!

First I cut out a shape from a pizza box to make the shape of the mask. I used a face mask I already had for sizing and copied the shape from the internet. DON’T FORGET TO ADD A SEAM ALLOWANCE ~ I forgot to oopsie
Trace pizza box shape four times onto some embroidery fabric.
Cut out shapes and sew together down the longest line (wow you can tell I’m not a pattern maker) do this twice, one for the outer and one for the lining. TIP: DON’T CUT OUT SHAPES BEFORE EMBROIDERING LIKE I DID, EMBROIDER WITHIN THE LINES USING A HOOP AND THEN CUT. I WAS TOO EXCITED!
Stitch together
Marking out my embroidery pattern with a dissolvable marker
Start embroidering ~ I obviously have a hectic social calendar and several friends
So I sort of stopped taking progress pictures after this…. sew the two pieces together and add some kind of string
Make a mess of your bed and find needles among your sheets weeks later
Viola! A pizza box spring face mask
I can’t believe it’s not better

The secret is out, folks. After 5 years of design school, I still make things without planning them properly and have to deal with the consequences ~ it’s just that when I have an idea, I get so excited and want to make it right away! Happy stitching and finger poking! Show me your projects by leaving a link or sending an email! Do people still email strangers? Have a good day and take vitamins! Xxx