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5 of the Best Smartphone Apps for Foreigners in Korea

If you are anything like me you are probably glued to your smartphone more than you should be! The problem I have with it is that I use it for practically everything meaning it rarely ever leaves my side! However, I have good reason to carry it with me everywhere…

… you see, living in Korea used to be so much harder but now with the list of readily available smartphone apps designed for foreigners living in Korea and locals alike, getting around and finding things has become SO much easier. Thus, without my smartphone I am literally naked and feel I am justified for being on it more often than not.

Here is a list of the top 5 apps I use and think will help you too. Hopefully I can come back to this post and edit it to include even more as time goes on!

1. Kakao Talk

kakao talk korean smartphone appLet’s start with the absolute must have. Kakao Talk is the Korean equivalent of sending a text message – but it’s free. Every Korean person has Kakao Talk and use it every hour of the day to send messages to their friends and co workers. It’s a fantastic app that allows you to call people for free, send photos and videos and has a really wide array of fantastically funny emoticons! Your phone contacts automatically get added to your Kakao Talk contacts but you can also manually add any contacts from home too.

Perhaps the best feature of the Kakao Talk app is the group conversations – you can add as many of your friends as you like and all have a little conversation together on the go. When you arrive in Korea, forget everything else and install Kakao Talk on your smartphone… that’s how important it is!

Download: Apple Devices / Android Devices

2. Jiyachul

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Jiyachul is the Korean word for subway and, as you can probably guess, is an app designed to help people navigate Korea’s extensive subway system. It not only shows the most up to date subway maps for all the metropolitan cities in Korea, it also allows you to view train times and transfer detail making this one of the most widely used apps in Korea.

The big bonus for us is that it is available in English!

Download: Apple Devices / Android Devices

3. Visit Korea

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Visit Korea is an app from the Korean Tourism Office and is actually very, very good indeed. It includes information about popular things to do and see in all areas of Korea in English as well as showing route maps on how to get to places the quickest. If you are planning to travel around the country during your stay this will throw up lots of great ideas you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Download: Apple Devices / Android Devices

4. Naver Maps

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Naver (and to an extent Daum) has the monopoly on the interactive smartphone / website map apps in Korea. Google is used but it doesn’t pull up as many of the results that naver does. The thing you need to keep in mind is that you’ll get more accurate results in Naver / Daum by typing in Korean which we know may not be possible but something to keep in mind if you can.

It’s straightforward and if you’ve ever used Google you will have no problem using Naver or Daum.

Download: Apple Devices / Android Devices

5. Google Translate

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Okay, yeah, you probably know about this one. I went for the longest time without this one until one day it clicked and I installed it. Instantly better! I now use it in restaurants, taxis, at the store and in the street. Without it I was nothing but a stammering wreck with people just sniggering as I tried to ask a question. In other words, just install it and you’ll use it every day!

Download: Apple Devices / Android Devices

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I hope you find the above list of smartphone apps for foreigners in Korea useful. I know they certainly help me in my day to day life! If you have any other smartphone apps you think would be useful for foreigners to know about, please list them in the comments section below and we’ll be eternally grateful!

Hansik

5 Ways to Make Settling into Korean Life a Breeze!

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Passport – check! Money – check! Sense of adventure – check!

Moving to Korea for the first time is SUPER exciting but one of the things new teachers preparing to make the move don’t give enough thought to is the fact that life in Korea is drastically different from life in the West. It’s great to let your mind wander and dream of all the new places you’ll visit, friends you’ll meet and experiences you’ll have but it’s also important to understand that settling into Korean life is not as easy as you may think.

Follow these 5 tips on how to make settling into Korean life much easier and allow yourself to bypass many of the problems many others have as they fail to take them into consideration! Read more

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5 Awesome Things You Can Only do in Korea!

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Korea is a mind blowing, fascinating, scintillating country where you’ll be bowled off your feet the minute you  arrive. Neon lit streets, skyscrapers that go for miles, technology, public transport. Contrasted by old ladies pushing cardboard carts along the side of the street, food tents that remind you of yesteryear and public toilets that still use squatters. It’s the ultimate mix of old and new and that means you are treated to the best of both worlds as you live out your adventure.

Here are 5 awesome things you can only do in Korea that will have your friends and family back home looking at you with envy; Read more

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Korea Through The Lens: Haebyeongil (해변길) – From Yeongmok to Kkotji via Hwangpo-hang – 29KM

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Haebyeongil, which literally means the trail beside the coast, is a 100km long trail system situated in the Taean Shoreline National Park.

The trail system is divided into 7 sections; 3 in the north and 4 in the south. Today I’m going to introduce 2 trails from the southern section; 바람길 (Balamgil) which start from Yeongmok, a small fishing town at the most southern tip of Anmyeondo to Hwangpo-hang and 샛별길 (Saetbyeolgil), which starts at Hwangpo-hang to Kkotji, one of the most famous places to see the sun set into the west sea. Read more

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Snoop Dogg and Psy Hangover Video + Why I LOVE Korea!

Okay, so if you haven’t seen the new Snoop Dogg and Psy Hangover video yet then I’m guessing you’ve been living in a cave such is the storm it has caused on social media. Psy has again caused controversy with his new song “Hangover” and whilst I’m not getting into what other people think of Psy’s new attempt – I personally LOVE IT! So there!

I’ll tell you why below but for those who have missed this latest “Psynomonon” here is the video:

Now onto why I love it so much. You see, those who live in or who have lived in Korea will be familiar with certain activities that are ONLY done in Korea. This video pretty much hits on all of those activities and thus tugs on my heartstrings. It makes me get all sentimental as hell and quite sad that I no longer live in the country that formed such a huge part of my life. Let me explain some of the things seen in the video; Read more

Korea Through The Lens; Introducing Jackson Hung + Catching the Sunset at Baekhwasan

We love seeing pictures of Korea and we are sure you will love seeing pictures of Korea too! That’s why we’ve teamed up with the excellent photographer Jackson Hung who will be bringing Say Kimchi News readers bi-weekly “Korea Through The Lens” posts. These posts will feature awesome photographs of Korea from different perspectives and be coupled with a short summary of where, when and how they were taken. Jackson’s photographs are absolutely stunning so please sit back and enjoy the first series from Baekhwa Mountain!

korea through the lens with jackson chungA Few Words From Jackson

Hello everyone, my name is Jackson Hung and I am an English teacher at a middle school in Taean Gun, Chungcheongnam-do. Photography is one of the things that I am very passionate about and given that I live next to a National Park, I do try to go out and take photos when I get the chance. “Korea Through The Lens” will be a series about my photography adventures here in the land of the morning calm.

Please stay tuned for updates and check out my website at http://www.jacksonhung.ca  

Catching the Sunset at Baekhwasan

JKH_5104 Baekhwasan is a small mountain located right next to downtown Taean. It is one of the few places in town where you can get the panoramic view of the downtown area, and if you arrive in time, you’ll also be able to watch the sun slowly set into the yellow sea. It takes roughly around 40 minutes to an hour to hike up the mountain depending on which trail you take. I took the rocky trail which started east of the mountain near Taean High School and made my way up. This trail goes along the ridge of the mountain and there are several areas where you will need to climb ropes to continue. Although it might be a tough hike for beginners, the view from the top is defiantly worth it; JKH_5085 JKH_5089 JKH_5092 JKH_5098 JKH_5102

Attention Canadians; Changes to Criminal Background Check Applications

An important change is due to kick in on July 1st 2014 for Canadians applying for an RCMP criminal background check for Korea. The RCMP will no longer accept paper submissions and will require all applications to be done electronically via an accredited organization.

canadian criminal background check korea changesIf you reside in Canada, it should make things much easier and much quicker! Simply use one of the accredited companies who will take your fingerprints and submit them digitally for you!

If you reside outwith Canada, things may get a bit trickier. You will have to use one of the listed organizations and ask them to turn your paper fingerprints into digital fingerprints and then submit them electronically to the RCMP.

For full details of these changes and organizations able to submit digital fingerprints, please see This Page on the RCMP website.

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Buddah’s Birthday Trip – Exploring the Gorgeous Pyochungsa Temple

– Written by Hilary Mitchell.
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There are many random national holidays in Korea but for me the most interesting has to be Buddha’s birthday! It fell on May 6th this year, a Tuesday which meant we got the day off work to do as we pleased… so our close group of friends decided to explore the country and head to Pyochungsa Temple just outside of Miryang City (in Gyeongsannam Do.)

The temple itself sits high in the mountains and is quite hard to reach. Firstly you need to get to Miryang itself which is easily enough done with the great inter city bus network in Korea. Once in Miryang, you need to take the local bus up the mountains to the temple itself which proved to be quite challenging. In my research, I found there were 12 daily buses starting at 7.30am with the last one back down being around 8pm.

Before heading up the mountains, we decided to eat at a local Korean BBQ restaurant where we were treated to the usual array of meat and side dishes you come to expect from these establishments. Delicious – even though we had to sit on the floor…
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With our stomachs full of meat and lined with a mixture of soju and beer, we merrily headed off for the bus terminal to embark on the trip to Pyochungsa temple. The trip itself took only around 25 minutes with a bus packed full of people paying homage to the great Buddha himself!

We quickly made our way through the specially erected lantern lined entrance and into the temple itself which was simply mind blowing in it’s beauty.

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These intimidating warrior type figures greeted us on entrance. I heard they are there to guard off any bad spirits…

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And then we were greeted with some fantastic views of inside the temple grounds surrounded by gorgeous mountains and clear blue skies…

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After an hour of so of wandering around and taking in all the sights and people praying to Buddha, we decided to take part in what was described as the “traditional Korean culture” of preparing and eating a bowl of Bibimbap (mixed rice and vegetables.) We were led to a section of the temple grounds where all the ingredients were waiting for us and with the help of some locals, dived right into to creating our delicious meal…

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After eating our bibimbap, we were told that it was customary to fill your bowl with water and drink from your bowl before finally cleaning your bowl for the next person to use. So it was off to the cleaning stations…

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After our meal we just aimlessly meandered through the temple gardens taking in the wonderful views and people watching the families all out celebrating this special day. I had a “moment” where everything in the world fell into it’s place, where everything just seemed right with the world. It was tranquil and peaceful and a million miles away from life in a Korean city.

I’ll leave you with one final image that will hopefully result in you getting out about more in Korea on special holiday days off…

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Justin & Britney, America; Placed in Seoul

Coming to Korea was something I put an incredible amount of thought into, as should everyone who eventually makes the plunge into the land of kimchi. Two year’s worth of thought to be exact, while I impatiently waited for my travel companion to finish up her undergrad courses…

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This did allow me plenty of time to study up on everything Korea, from the schools to the food and from the shopping to the culture. I purchased many travel guides, learned how to read Hangul, and attempted to pick up what I could of the language, something I wish I would have committed myself to far more seriously (while it is easy to get by in Korea knowing next to nothing of the language, I feel that I miss out on a lot of amazing opportunities to create deeper connections with people and places had I something more to rely on than hesitant words in broken sentences and frantic hand gestures).

By far, the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to preparing for this opportunity of a lifetime, is taking the time to sift through a sea of recruiters and finding one you can actually trust–I mean, we are talking about your hopes and dreams here. Trust me, there is no shortage of recruiters out there. I easily encountered at least a few hundred in my two-year period of extensive research. I have learned that there are a lot of bad ones out there, a significantly smaller amount of decent ones, and a handful of good ones.

Then there is SayKimchi. Luckily, I happened upon their website early in my search, and it immediately made a lasting impression on me. Spend even just a little time reading their blog or viewing their videos and pictures and you will undoubtedly find that their mission comes from a place of passion, experience, and love for the places they will assist in sending you to. The people of SayKimchi lived out their own Korean adventures and know everything we want and hope for ourselves. Even though I continued to look into others, I knew SayKimchi would be the one I would depend on to get me there. Even before applying with them, they would promptly answer any inquiries I emailed to them, and always took the time to provide helpful, informational feedback.

After I completed the application process, I worked with Anne, who is completely wonderful and awesome. She was always kind when she returned the last of the dozen of daily emails I sent her featuring every mundane or minuscule question I could muster. Beyond being kind, Anne was always insightful, swift in her responses, utterly open and honest, reassuring when I voiced my doubts, and also brought a ton of experience and knowledge to the conversations. I am slightly cynical by nature, and when everything began to seem too good to be true, I did have some reservations. But with SayKimchi, there is really no need for reservations, because when they make a promise, they will definitely deliver.

Britney and I are quickly coming up on our third month in Seoul. While we have had our minor frustrations and confusions, the transition into this new life of ours has been exciting and fulfilling. Seoul is always convenient, always exhilarating, and always full of compassionate people. The love that Koreans possess for each other is well known. I have discovered that this love is also extended as well to the travelers, the foreigners, and the strangers that visit their land. I have witnessed this love in the stranger taking the time to search us out after he accidentally gave us the wrong directions, and again when he accompanied us to our correct destination, making himself almost certainly late for his job. I have witnessed this love in our director and co-teachers when they constantly worry about how much money we spend and especially when they took us to the hospital when we became sick and payed for everything.

And I have witnessed this love in the hugs of our students, the smiles of restaurant workers when they suggest delicious food, and in passerby’s as they stop to point us in the right direction when we are looking hopelessly lost.

By far, the best part of being here is getting to witness daily the kindness of Koreans. We have SayKimchi to thank for that.

Justin & Britney

3 Things To Know Before Teaching English in Korea

Teaching English in Korea

Teaching English in Korea is an amazing opportunity that will change your life and future outlook on life drastically – in fact, I’d comfortably say it will be the best thing you will ever do! All of us here at Say Kimchi! have worked in Korea (some for 1 year and others for over 5) and we all agree that we just couldn’t imagine what our lives would be like had we never took the leap of faith and embarked upon an adventure that took us to the other side of the world!

Having so much experience with living and working in the country, we thought it would be cool to put together a list of 3 things you need to know before teaching English in Korea. We resisted focusing on the usual “bow when you meet someone” or “accept things with both hands” that you’ve likely heard before… instead we have focused on more intricate details of the culture that we feel are very important in helping people have a positive year in Korea.

1. “Saving Face” Is The MOST Important Thing For Korean People.

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If there is one thing you absolutely must know about Korea it’s this notion of “saving face.” It all boils down to this: you should never put someone in a position where you make them appear to be wrong or embarrassed.

Results of causing someone to lose face are usually carried out passive aggressively – you won’t know you’ve done it at the time until you realize the person you’ve offended no longer treats you the same as before.  If you unwittingly cause someone to “lose face” then it could take a long time to repair the damage such is the affect it has on people in Korea. The good news is that many Koreans allow us foreigners lots of leeway with things like this, especially the more traveled ones. However, most people expect you to abide by their rules so knowing about this is extremely important.

Here’s a good example;

You are in class with a Korean co teacher and you realize she makes a mistake with her English grammar. You automatically correct her and say something like “actually, we don’t quite say it like that. Here’s how to do it _________” She smiles and you get on with your class. In the coming days and weeks you realize that the small chocolate cookie that used to appear on your desk is no longer there. The invites out for coffee after work have stopped. Your co teacher isn’t being quite as friendly as they once were.  You want to renew your contract? There might suddenly be a few students who no longer like you. You have caused your co teacher to lose face in front of her students who now think she doesn’t know what she is doing…

Be conscious of making people lose face or of embarrassing people in Korea. It’s probably the worst thing you could do.

2. Korea is NOT Home. You CANNOT Change Their Culture.

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There. I said it! It’s really difficult to move to the other side of the world and away from everything you are used to and familiar with. However, if you aren’t ready for some seriously different ways of doing things, some serious adventure and some serious times where you’ll be wondering what the heck is going on around you then this may not be the right choice for you.

Lots of people come to Korea and underestimate just how different it is from Western countries. The biggest frustration is always the “last minute” surprises; where nothing seems planned and you don’t know what is going on until 5 minutes after it has supposed to happen! Rest assured you aren’t being kept in the dark and no one else knows what’s going on either. You’ll notice large periods of time where nothing is happening and then a period of time where everyone is running around like headless chickens trying to get things done that should have been well planned out in advance. To us, we just can’t fathom why they don’t plan in advance. To Koreans, it’s just the way they’ve always done things.

If you try and change the way Koreans think or show your frustration at the way they do things, the locals may become offended that you are “looking down your nose at them” and you’ll get off on the wrong foot. Just go with the flow. SAP. Smile And Proceed. You’ll get used to it real quick.

3. A Band of Brothers / Sisters. (Try To Break Into It.)

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Korea might just be the most homogeneous country in the world; the people see themselves as one entity. “Hanguk Saram” or “Korean People” are like one big “Band of Brothers.” More interestingly, within that big band of brothers exists smaller bands; same age, same university, same surname, same favorite sports team, same hometown. Some people refer to these bands as herds!

As a result of this, you may find people in Korea to be very stand offish at first. This is because they have their “band of brothers” and are quite reluctant to let outsiders into it. You also may experience Korean people who ask you very personal questions on the first time of meeting; are you married? children? do you like beer? how much money do you earn? how much was your watch?

They ask this to see if you are part of their band or not. If you aren’t don’t be surprised if the person isn’t interested in you. If you are, welcome to the party! These so called bands of brothers look after each other extremely well. Need money? No problem! Want to eat out tonight? Sure, your band will meet you and the oldest will undoubtedly foot the bill. Need help to translate a website so you can book train tickets? Consider the tickets booked and paid for by one of your brothers.

The worst thing you can do if you move to Korea is to focus solely on your Western friends. As interesting as they are, making friends with Koreans is the only way you will experience the culture for real and it would be a great shame if you missed out being part of a “band” as it makes the time in Korea much more enjoyable. You’ll need to put much more effort into your friendships with Korean people but trust me, it’s more than worth it.