March 1 Movement Day (삼일절)

March 1 in Korea is March 1 Movement Day (삼일절, Sam-il Movement), and Tapgol Park is one of the best known symbols of the resistance against the Japanese occupation of Korea. It was here that the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly under the eight-sided Palgakjeong Pavilion. This sparked the historic March 1st Movement in 1919.

Tapgol Park (탑골 공원) is near Insadong. It contains bronze reliefs that tell the story of the March 1 Movement, has the Declaration of Independence posted in English, and honors those who led the movement with statues near the main entrance to the park. In the park is also the Wongaksa Pagoda, which is ten stories high, made of marble, and cconstructed in 1467 as part of Wongaksa temple.

We visited Tapgol Park twice during our fall 2017 visit to Seoul. The fall foliage in the park was beautiful. And the history nerd in me loved being in a place of such historical significance.

Manse! Manse! Manse! (만세)

Watch an Arirang TV report on the March 1 Movement:

Learn more about Yu Gwan-soon (유관순)

Learn more about Tapgol Park:


Three Kingdoms Living History

As we’ve continued our chronological study of history, we’ve been studying the Three Kingdoms period of Korea’s history. And as I was doing research I was thrilled to find that there are two places in Korea that celebrate these kingdoms.

Just two more places to add to my must-see lists for when we visit next time. I love visiting places that bring history to life!

Here are links for more information about the two I’ve found so far.

Silla Millennium Park

Baekje Cultural Land


Looking for a unique way to take in Korea during your visit? Consider Koreastay through Korea Toursim. It’s a homestay program in which you are staying with a Korean family during your visit.

This is definitely something our family would consider doing. What an interesting way to become immersed in Korean culture and life!

For more information you can visit:

Korean Textile Exhibit

If you’re in the San Francisco area, you might want to check out the Museum of Craft and Folk Art. Now through late October, they have on display an exhibit titled, “Wrapping Traditions: Korean Textiles Now.”

The exhibit features bojaki (보자기, pronounced bojahkee), which is a traditional Korean patchwork, and includes the work of 66 artists from around the world.

On Aug. 13, you can make your own patchwork wrapping cloth and even receive guides to help you make more patchwork at home.

You can learn more about the exhibit at the museum’s web site:

O’ngo Food Tours: A Cool Thing to Do in Seoul

OK, I just learned about this but it sounds really cool (the slang, dates me, doesn’t it?) so I had to share it with you. If you love Korean food, it’s certainly something you should check out.

The company is O’ngo Food Communications and they offer several culinary tours in Seoul, as well as cooking classes, consultation for companies, and more.

Here’s the link to the tour page, There’s a night tour that introduces you to Korea’s drinking culture (if that’s your thing), a taste tour during which you’ll stop at six places and have lunch over the course of those stops, a fish market tour, and private tours that you can customize. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Another cool aspect of this business is that it’s chief of marking and tours is a Korean adoptee who returned to Korea in 2004. His love of food also led him to start, a popular food blog.

I don’t know if our son would go for multiple hours spend only walking and eating, but it sounds like something the husband and I would love. Maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to take a babysitter with us on our next Korea trip so we can try this out.

Sarangchae at Cheong Wa Dae

I love finding new places that I want to visit. I just learned about Sarangchae at Cheong Wa Dae, a history/visitor’s center located on the grounds of the Blue House (presidential residence) in Seoul.

Sarangchae is a little of everything in once place. You’ll learn some Korean history, see an exhibit about the attractions located in Seoul, be introduced to the country’s traditional customs, and can even have a presidential experience. The Presidential Experience Hall really piqued my interest (I know, I’m a nerd). In this area you can take photos in a mock presidential office and get a photo with the Korean president and the first lady, via blue screen, of course.

Tours of the facilities are available in three different languages, including English, and take about an one hour. The center has only been open a little more than a year. Admission is free, but keep in mind the center is closed on Monday.

You can learn more here:

Seodaemun Prison

 You must be thinking, “Why would we want to visit a prison while visiting Korea?” Well because this prison played a huge role in Korea’s history of fighting for independence.

Seodaemin Prison barracks (from Wikipedia)

Tomorrow, March 1, marks 92 years since Koreans began fighting for their independence from Japan. (More on that in tomorrow’s post.) Upon arrest, many of these fighters were held without trial in Seodaemun Prison, often tortured and some killed.

In 1992, the site was dedicated as the Seodaemun Prison History Hall, part of Independence Park. Seven of the prison complex’s original fifteen buildings are preserved as historical monuments.

The prison serves as a reminder to all that freedom rarely comes without cost.

You can find more information about it at:

Philip Jaisohn

While researching one topic for this blog, I almost always come up with additional topics to share. That’s how this post came to be. Philip Jaisohn’s name came up while I was researching Korean American Day, and I thought his story was too interesting not to share.

The name Philip Jaisohn, or 서재필 (Seo Jae-pil), probably doesn’t ring any bells for most of you so you may be wondering why he’s important. Well, he’s important because in 1890 he was the first Korean to become naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

This statue of Jaisohn stands outside the South Korean Embassy in Washington, DC

Born on January 7, 1864 in Boseong County, Korea, Jae-pil had a bright future. He passed the civil service examine at age 18, one of the youngest to ever pass the exam, and a year later was sent to study in Japan. But only two years after beginning his career in government, Jae-pil, was involved in the Kapsin Coup, an attempt by reformist leader Kim Okgyun to establish equality among Korea’s people. Jae-pil was appointed vice minister of defense under the new government, but the coup was squashed on three days later when the China intervened.

Jae-pil was convicted of treason, and had to leave Korea to save his own life. That’s how his exile to the United States came to be.

Once here, Jae-pil continued his education and began using the name Philip Jaisohn. Two years after obtaining his citizenship, he was the first Korean to receive an American medical degree when he graduated from George Washington University. Then in 1894 he married Muriel Armstrong, who was the niece of former president James Buchanan and the daughter of the U.S. Postmaster General. The couple had two daughters. 

After his crime of treason was pardoned in Korea, Jaisohn returned to Korea in 1895. While there, he started a newspaper, The Independent, to help inform Korean citizens about their government and politics. He also started the Independence Club, which organized an open public forum to debate political issues. He talked about the importance of public education and modern industry.

But the messages weren’t what the political conversations in Korea wanted to hear. They accused Jaisohn and his Independence Club of trying to replace the monarchy with a republic, and asked him to leave Korea in 1898.

Back in the U.S., Jaisohn did medical research and started a printing business. But his passion was Korea’s independence, which he continued to work for from his home in Pennsylvania. He was able to return to Korea after its liberation from Japanese occupation in 1945, but he returned to the U.S. in 1948 and died in Pennsylvania in 1951.

Jaisohn Home in Media, Pennsylvania

The home where Jaisohn lived for more than 25 years is open to the public. The house is located at 100 East Lincoln Street in Media, Pennsylvania. I found a 2006 thesis written on the house and its historic interpretation here: It has some interesting information, if you’re interested.

And Wikipedia has a detailed time line of Jaisohn’s life. You’ll find it here:

I find Jaisohn’s story fascinating and now want to learn more. But that’s me, a curious lover of history.

Lotte World “Christmas Festival”

For the next week, Lotte World is holding its Christmas Festival, which started Nov. 5.

Included in the special celebration is the Happy Christmas Parade, featuring 15 large parade cars and 100 actors/actresses playing characters in Santa’s Village. Also part of the celebration are the Cinderella Christmas Party, the Ice Rink Band Show, and Bang Bang Band’s Christmas Carol Party.

Here’s a link to the page about the festival on Korea Tourism’s site:

Lotte World is located in Seoul. So if you’re in the area this week, you may want to check it out.

Los Angeles Korean Festival

If you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area in the this weekend, you might want to check out the Los Angeles Korean Festival. This is the 37th year the festival has been held.

This year’s opening ceremony will feature Kim Yuna, 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medalist. The concert on Saturday will feature the Wonder Girls and special performances by Kollaboration artists. And there will be a parade, food, and lots of vendors.

You’ll find the festivities in Seoul International Park in Koreatown (3250 South Marino Street).

Here is the address for the festival’s official site, but I must admit I didn’t find a lot of information there.

I found more information at this site: