Writing my first magazine article – Visiting 5 cafes in Seoul, South Korea

I am so excited to finally be putting this all out into the world. About 2 months ago, I was asked by Coffee t&i Magazine if I could write about some speciality coffee cafes here in Seoul, South Korea. I of course jumped at the opportunity and got to work straight away… without realising just how difficult it would be to visit 5 cafes, take photographs, film clips for my YouTube channel, write the article and then gather all of the information for each cafe squeezed in over one weekend whilst working full time… But I have lived to tell the tale and I am so excited to be sharing it all with you today. If there was one thing I learned through all of this, it’s that bloggers, vloggers, writers and travel influencers definitely don’t have an easy job, they’re just great at making their craft look so simple.

Although this wasn’t a paid opportunity, writing and taking photos is something that I have always enjoyed for myself. My philosophy as a foreigner living in South Korea is that I should take any opportunities that come my way because it can only help me learn and grow. I have been accumulating skills in so many different areas because I have allowed myself to take on so many exciting projects this year and I know that someday my hard work will reward me… somehow… who knows!

The issue of the magazine was launched a few weeks ago but sadly, the online version is not currently available. I will insert all of the information about the cafes that I went to here as well as some images that I took on the day and images from the magazine! I hope that in the future I can write some more articles… or not. I can always just stick to my day job which is also pretty fun.

Cafe #1 Duke’s Coffee Showroom 

10 Eoulmadang-ro 2-gil, Dangin-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)

Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00 – 18:00 / Weekend 11:00 – 19:00

Cafe #2 Perception Coffee

16 Eoulmadang-ro 1-gil, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

Subway Station: Sangsu (Line 6)

Hours: 9:00 – 24:00 (Closed Tuesdays)

Cafe #3 Motif Coffee

46 Poeun-ro, Hapjeong-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Subway Station: Hapjeong (Line 2)

Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 (Closed Mondays)

Cafe #4 Scene Coffee

20 Yeonmujang 5(o)-gil, Seongsu 2(i)-ga 3(sam)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

Subway Station: Seongsu (Line 2)

Hours: Monday – Thursday and Sunday 8:00 – 23:00

Friday – Saturday 10:00 – 23:00

Cafe #5 Raw Coffee Stand

28-2 Wangsimniro 4(sa)-gil, Seongsu 1(il)-ga 2(i)-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea 

Subway Station: Ttukseom (Line 2)

Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00 – 18:00

Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 (Sunday closed)

The Magazine Issue!

Not enough content for your eyeballs? Well, it’s a good thing I filmed the whole experience and put it on the internet! You can watch my vlog down below. For all media inquiries, please visit the work with me page here on my blog or get in touch via Instagram.

Korean Skincare Review: VT Cosmetics Super Hyalon Range | Jo in South Korea

Hello Jo So Ko Reader, today I am happy to be sharing my first ever Korean skincare review! I was very kindly sent some products from the Super Hyalon range by VT Cosmetics and I have been asked to review them. Please enjoy my photos and words and, if you have some time, enjoy my latest YouTube video. I also filmed a daily makeup routine. I was completely honest about my first impressions and I hope you enjoy! Stay safe, stay inside and stay hydrated.

The Products I Tried

Step 1: Super Hyalon Booster – Helps with skin texture

Step 2: Super Hyalon Eye Mask – Adhesive sheet that gives hydration and moisture around the eyes

Step 3: Super Hyalon Emulsion – Gives the skin moisture moisture moisture

Step 4: Super Hyalon Ampoule – Highly concentrated serum that hydrates and is good for dry skin

Step 4: Super Hyalon Cream – Gel formula with blue capsules packed full of moisture

To hear my full review of the products, watch my latest YouTube video at the end of this blog post. I am still using the Booster, Cream and Eye Masks on a daily basis and absolutely love these products. I loved all of the products but my sensitive skin is not a huge fan of long skincare routines and changes to my daily routine!

What is G:H8?

For the purpose of this collaboration, I wanted to make sure that I knew a bit more about the products I was putting on my face. All of the products I tried had the ingredient G:H8 which sounded a little bit like a chemistry experiment. According to the VT Cosmetics website, the ‘G’ stands for ‘Polyglutamic Acid’ which is a ‘water soluble peptide derived from soybeans’ that can ‘retain five times the amount of moisture than hyaluronic acid’ (Reference).

The ‘H8’ stands for 8 different types of Hyaluronic Acid (I wasn’t aware there was more than one type). Hyaluronic acid supports healthy and supple skin by holding in moisture. This ingredient is found in a lot of skincare products on the market as it is good for a wide range of skin types and problems. For more information, I used this reference to learn more.

Everyday Makeup

At the end of the video, I did a short daily makeup look. Here are the products I use on a daily basis! (From Left to Right)

Nars Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette Mini, Hourglass Ambient Light Blush Luminous Flush, Morphe M139 Brush, Eco Tools Powder Brush, Ink Velvet 15 Lip Tint, Missha Over Lengthening Mascara, Klairs Illuminating Supple Blemish Cream SPF 40 PA ++

Hidden spots to see in Seoul

Hello Internet! This month’s Global Seoul Mate Challenge was based on three different categories: Colourful Seoul, Retro Seoul and 24 Hour Activities in Seoul. Here are my recommendations for this month’s challenges. Don’t forget to follow my Instagram and YouTube to keep up with my future GSM posts!

Colourful Seoul – The Cafes of Seongsu

Seongsu was one of the first places I went to in Seoul that felt grungy and dirty enough to almost be Melbourne. With so many cafes to explore, graffiti to be seen and shoes to be.. worn(?) – Seongsu is famous for shoes.

Retro Seoul – Style Nanda and Retail Interiors

Style Nanda is one of the many brands in South Korea that take Visual Merchandising to the level a little higher than extra. This flagship store in Myeongdong is the lovechild of Wes Anderson and Andy Warhol.

Other Korean brands that love their retro inspired VMing include Åland, Ader Error, Gentle Monster and Chuu. Can you think of more!?

24 Hour Activities in Seoul – Seoullo 7017

The Seoullo 7017 bridge at exit 2 of Seoul Station is a great spot to go any hour of the day or night! Have you seen this spot before? I hope Seoul continues to become greener and greener as it continues to grow and develop into the future city that we know and love.

360°VR Seoul with Cha Eun-woo

To see more of Seoul, enjoy these 360°VR Videos with Cha Eun-woo. For English subtitles, just click on the Closed Captions icon.

A day at the Lotte Aquarium, Seoul, South Korea

Hello Jo So Ko readers! I hope you all are doing well and becoming the best version of yourselves and remembering that it’s okay that you don’t get along with everyone, we can’t all be the Paul Rudd’s of the world. I wanted to post some images from July’s Global Seoul Mate challenge now that I have a little pocket of time and energy for blogging.

In July, we were asked to explore the area of Songpa in Seoul which is located right next to Gangnam. If you’re not familiar with the Geography of Seoul, Gangnam and Songpa are both ‘gu’s’ which basically means they are boroughs or districts of Seoul. We were first asked to go to the Songpa Tourist Information Center which overlooks Seokchon lake and is right next to Lotte World Tower (South Korea’s tallest building…for now).

At the Tourist Center, you can get all of the information you need about the Songpa area (home of Lotte World, Lotte Tower, Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Olympic Park and so many beautiful trails and open spaces). You can also take photos in front of a green screen and pretend you’ve travelled all over Korea in mere seconds. To print out the image, you can pay 1,000 won ($1) or just have the picture sent to you like we did.

For this month’s challenge, we could choose to explore the Lotte Aquarium or the Lotte Tower Sky Deck. They both seemed like great options but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to see some otters and jellyfish. I wanted to take this time to thank the Seoul Tourism Organisation for being so kind and hospitable throughout this year’s challenges. I was reluctant to do this challenge at first because it seemed like a lot of effort, but I really challenged myself to complete all of the tasks and I was grateful to be able to enjoy this new experience in Seoul.

If you are interested in becoming a Global Seoul Mate in 2021, go to their website and keep on the lookout for any updates about applications. From my memory, I applied for the 2020 program in January. You can also follow me on instagram to see future GSM posts and updates about the program. Keep scrolling to watch my YouTube video of the entire experience…or don’t watch it. I’m okay either way! Stay safe, wear a mask and have a great week ahead!

When the Customer Experience Gets Lost in Translation

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To treat myself in Seoul, I love going to different coffee shops and sitting there for hours on end. I love getting lost in my writing or drawing among crowds of people studying or catching up with friends old and new. I usually try to save my trips to cafes for the weekends as a way of saving money on coffee during the week.

Because of my infatuation with Korean coffee shops, I managed to perfect my Korean coffee-ordering skills and can now waltz into any cafe with ease. My heart no longer beats uncontrollably when it’s almost my turn to order and I’m not scared of making mistakes. These ordering interactions are also a way to improve my language skills should our coffee-ordering dialogue go off-kilter.

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‘So what does this have to do with customer experiences and translations?’ What a great question! Let’s discuss…

Occasionally, my Korean cafe trance is interrupted when a sales assistant at the other end of my aforementioned coffee-ordering dialogue responds to me… in English. Meaning: I’ve said ‘Korean Korean Korean’, only to then receive a response in English. ‘So’, I hear you ask, ‘what is so bad about this and why is it so concerning to you that you’ve written an entire dissertation (this blog post) about it?’

Living in a foreign country and sticking out like a sore Australian thumb has many challenges. I know that having people speak to me in English is a gesture of goodwill. I personally think that it is amazing that so many Korean people can speak English and are very willing to make foreigners feel at ease. However, pouring my heart out to someone by ordering a coffee in my very best Korean feels a little bit embarrassing when I am met with a response in English. This fuels the daily anxiety I feel as someone who has been living in Korea for over a year and has a rather long, never-ending way to go with their Korean language skills.

‘Okay, but where does the customer experience part come in? So what if you feel inadequate and angsty, we all do?’

As someone who slaved her university days as a customer service worker in both hospitality and retail, I am all too familiar with the language of good service. How to greet people, how to make people feel like they’re the most important customer in the world etc. It wasn’t a skill I was very good at, to begin with, but over time I improved my communication skills and my confidence in interacting with customers from all walks of life.

After several years of working jobs that I hated, I, in turn, became highly sensitive to customer service everywhere I went. Having experienced it myself, I became more aware of the struggles customer service workers face and gained a newfound respect for dish hands, Uber drivers, bartenders and everyone else in between. I started to show increasing respect to the workers who were kind and welcoming to me which made me want to be a regular customer.

With a bad experience, on the other hand, I would usually try and avoid ever going there again. That may sound petty, but living in Melbourne, there were plenty of places for me to buy a coffee, sandwich or a pair of shoes. Once you’ve worked the Christmas shifts in a retail shopping centre, you learn how to be polite to people with literally zero effort. It becomes a role that you must play to survive. It’s not that hard to be polite to someone who just wants a pair of jeans that won’t sag around her butt.

So, again… what does language have to do with your customer experience? Well, it’s not so much the use of English that I have a problem with, it’s the way the English is used that can dampen the experience.

Let’s say I ask for a hot latte in Korean (you always have to specify if you want a hot or cold drink in Korea which is a whole other blog post right there, the ‘assume hot unless otherwise stated’ rule doesn’t apply here). I’m standing there in front of the cash register, thinking my Korean skills are award-winning and I await a response from the sales assistant. If they then reply with a ‘hot?’, or a ‘take out?’, in English, this is where my fury ignites. Not only have I just spoken to them in Korean, and they have understood me, they feel it necessary to confirm my order in a different language. A language that they assume I speak because of the way I look.

I would be grateful for this as a traveller, but as somebody who now calls Korea their home, it feels disheartening. Furthermore, the English being used is usually formed as one or two-worded sentences. This can really negatively impact the customer experience, especially if you are like me and you are eagerly trying to improve your language skills. Let’s compare the English dialogue of a one to two worded sentence with a sentence used by customer service workers in a native English speaking country:

‘Hot?’ vs ‘Would you like that hot or cold?’

‘Take out?’ vs ‘Did you want that for here or to go?’

‘Membership?’ vs ‘Are you a member with us? Would you like to sign up?’

‘For here?’ vs ‘Whereabouts are you sitting? Did you want to have that here?’

‘Bag?’ vs ‘Do you need a bag? Will you be needing a bag?’

Korean is a complex language with many forms of honorifics, it is relatively easy to offend someone by accidentally talking down to them in casual form. As a language learner, I am taught to speak Korean politely in any given context. It’s the best way to avoid offending somebody because ‘when in doubt, be polite’.

English, on the other hand, does not have these same language rules. The nuances of being polite in English is something that can’t be taught easily with formulas or sentence patterns. When students learn English, they don’t learn levels of politeness the way learners of honorific languages such as Korean and Japanese do. Your teacher might correct you by simply saying ‘this way might sound a bit more polite’ or ‘that is considered rude in English’.

For example, when I was working as an English here in South Korea, I corrected my students any time they used words like ‘wanna’ and ‘gonna’. I told them they are not real words and they are only used by lazy people (I know, I’m literally the worst person but I wanted my students to annunciate, sue me). With younger students who simply yelled ‘teacher, bathroom’, I never let them go to the bathroom until the practiced saying ‘Teacher, may I go to the bathroom’. If you don’t try and break a student’s habit then and there, their cute language faux pas might stick around for the long run.

Considering this, imagine a Korean sales assistant simply saying ‘Hot?’ in Korean to a Korean customer. That customer would most likely be offended. This brash language translates as rude in English. If somebody simply said ‘hot?’ to me at a Melbourne cafe, I would probably respond with an affirmative grunt rather than give them a spoken response. Using single word responses is quite abrupt in any language. The language of customer service is very important in making the customer feel welcomed and valued for spending their $5 on a cup of hot milk.

This unnecessarily long blog post was inspired by an observation a friend and I made here in Seoul at a cafe. When she ordered her drink, they responded to her in English with one or two-word responses. When I ordered, they responded to me in Korean, which my friend overheard. She made the comment ‘wow, when they speak to you in Korean, it sounds so much more polite than when they speak to you in English’. She’s right, Korean customer service workers employ a very polite form of language because they must show respect to everybody. They wouldn’t even speak that politely to their own parents. My friend and I both shared very different experiences because of this one small language difference.

While I do appreciate people trying to speak to me in English, I always make a somewhat arrogant effort to respond in Korean. I am trying to integrate myself into this culture by speaking as much Korean as I can. I could simply respond to everyone in English because as a native speaker, it is the easier option. However, I would never improve my skills that way. I don’t want to become dependent on English and look back and wonder why I haven’t improved my language skills. I guess making such a conscious choice is the reason I am so passionate about this topic!

Furthermore, just because I am foreign, there really is no way of knowing if I speak English. South Korea attracts visitors and ex-pats from all over the world. Russia, France, Spain, Uzbekistan and America – nobody is immune to Korea fever. Are these scenarios I am describing any different from me trying to speak Chinese to an Asian-looking person in Melbourne as a cafe worker? If I did that in Melbourne, the customer would feel terrible, especially if it turned out that their mother tongue was Korean, Japanese or something not remotely similar to Chinese.

So I beg of you, if somebody, in any language or country, is trying their best to communicate with you in your native tongue, take it as an opportunity to help them, not belittle them. I have made so many mistakes from using only Korean, but those mistakes always help me grow and give me a funny story to tell my husband when I get home. Interacting in one or two words of English with somebody who is trying to learn Korean is not going to improve your English, nor will it improve their Korean. If you do want to speak English to your foreign customers, do the extra homework and improve your sentence structures. It doesn’t hurt to be too polite.

The places I do feel very grateful for English are places like immigration, hospitals, and sometimes banks. However, I recently successfully acquired a new credit card without using any English. Even if there is an opportunity to use English, I will always do my best to use Korean. I may stumble through conversations and get lost listening to native Korean, but I am always better off having tried. Having been put in that difficult position in the first place is a great way to learn, much like any other learning opportunity in life.

What do you think about this? Do you feel a little dead inside when somebody responds to your Korean in English? Or is it just me? I understand that this is quite a negative post, but I do acknowledge that many Koreans in customer service are able to communicate in English very politely. The fact that so many Koreans want to learn English and improve their skills is also somewhat miraculous. Australians should really follow suit. This was merely my observation as someone trying to call a different country their home and often feeling more and more like an alien than a local.

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48 hours in Jeju Island, South Korea

A few weeks ago, we took a short trip to Jeju Island, located at the south of the Korean Peninsula. While it is controversial to travel during this current pandemic, it was also crucial that we had a change of scenery from the routine of our 9-5’s. We were very safe while we travelled and always wore masks and washed our hands everywhere we went. The only dangerous part of the journey was the plane ride but the airport was well equipped with temperature monitoring and mask safety.
This trip was a quick glimpse at what life could be like in the near future. Hopefully that future includes people travelling and exploring more of the countries they inhabit rather than feeling the need to jet off far away each chance they get. Keep scrolling to the end to watch a video of our travels! I hoe you are staying safe and well. Feel free to follow my Instagram @jo_so_ko to keep up with all things life in South Korea.

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!

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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