Switched to full text today.

A bit of meta-news here.

After reading up on the topic, I have officially switched my website to using full text in its RSS feeds. Simply put, if you have an RSS reader you needn’t visit the site to get the full text.

I am also giving anyone permission to post the text on their own website, regardless of whether it is commercial or not, as long as there is a link back to my own website. I will be getting an appropriate creative commons license setup done soon enough.

Seoul in a few lines

- Woke up at 12:30 PM

– Took the Subway to that Arab food place. Food was awesome. Proprietor was a Muslim Palestinian chap with some interesting things to say about the local muslims. Got some free kawaa from him too.
– Took the subway to a market. A half naked Korean man ran onboard screaming “Nanbu da!” or something. It was rather shocking. He had some kind of panda hat on his head.
– Had a blast at the markets of Dongdaemon. I bought a gift for Stam dunk (the ultimate dunk artist) and a few things here or there. They weren’t insanely cheap, but I managed to get a nice leather shoulderbag for myself for about 20$.

– Went back to Itaekwon to visit the mosque. I got some pictures of the inside.

– Had a meal at a fine Indian (Halal) restaurant. The owner gave me back 1000 won – sorta a “welcome to Korea” gift. Bought some stuff from the Muslim stores in the area.

In short:

People were a lot more talkative than I expected (after my sojourn in Tokyo anyway). People were genuinely curious where I came from and tended to wish me well, or give me stuff (like the old man at the korean kebab place who gave me a free pepsi when he heard I was in town for the first time). I couldn’t get the Korean national dress like i wanted to – a good one was about $400, which was more than I was willing to pay.

I will have pictures up tomorrow.

So I saw North Korea today..

Several interesting things happened today.

I had the chance to visit the border with North Korea, home of the original hustla Kim Jong Il. As I approached, there was a palpable sense of dread. Cars slowly disappear from the road, as patriotic advertisements become overwhelming. Barbed wire was our constant companion, being present all along the reunification highway.

Our tour guide regaled us with stories about how he was in the “rock marines” after being drafted and the kind of nightmarish orders he lived under, while keeping infiltrators out.
He talked about the sorts of nightmares the South Korean draftees went though; most of them hadn’t had enough to eat (in the 70s) and were told to shoot first and ask questions after. He talked about raids and counter-raids; how the North Koreans would venture into South Korean territory and kill a few soldiers and how the South Koreans would return the favour. He called it a game – a sick game, perhaps, but an inevitable part of being in the trenches. What surprised me most was the level of respect he showed towards NK soldiers; he said that they were superior in some ways to the ones in SK, because of their mandatory 10 years of military experience.
I managed to get a glimpse of North Korea across the bridge at Imjingak park. There is a bridge there that was used to pass POWs between the countries I also saw a Blackhawk helicopter overhead – grabbed a picture of it before it peeled off just at the brink of the North Korean border. (These will all be posted when I get back to Japan).

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to enter the DMZ itself. The result of rain and snow made the road treacherous – and as the tour guide said, it would be too easy to fall into a mine field and be killed. Our trip back to Seoul was complicated because a soldier had stolen a rifle from the armoury and was unaccounted for. Cars backed up for miles as soldiers did car-to-car checks to try to stop him from escaping. (Talk about surreal).

Incidentally, I met some interesting people on the tour. This included a swarmy French couple (who worked for the World Bank and insisted on telling us how much they loved Micheal Moore), a Canadian working for GM-Daewoo and a few guys who were living at my hostel. I also met Gary from Everything-Everywhere. I thought the pictures he showed in the car were awesome; I totally recommend checking out his home page.