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

 

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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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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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

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 🙂