This issue - Korea
This week we look at Korea. We have tracked down the best information available on both North Korea (DPRK) and South Korea, since they have a common history and people. Links open in a separate window so that you do not lose this newsletter while browsing.
Don't forget you can easily find cheap air fares from any starting point to any destination, using the Travel Select Fare Finder. And even better if your journey happens to start from, or pass through, the UK because there are special offers for flights originating in the UK. For accommodation, you can find real bargains in good hotels if you book with Precision Reservations.
So now, on with our review of the web sites we have reviewed for this issue:
A thorough coverage of the history of Korea, from its beginnings to the present, with lots of suggestions for further reading. Personally, I hated history at school but this account is so packed full of information that everyone will find something of interest. The history is broken down into the following periods:
Regrettably, this excellent resource, which used to be located at http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~korea/history.html seems to have disappeared since I orgonally wrote this newsletter. However, I have found an excellent replacement site at the Korean History Project, entitled Korea in the Eye of the Tiger. The introduction states: ... an epic story of proud, resilient and spirited people, people who have long endured life in a harsh environment not of their own making and lived a history largely beyond their control.
This is a story of kingdoms and dynasties ... chieftains and warlords ... emperors and kings ... wisdom and benevolence, decadence and aristocratic glory, diplomacy, politics and factionalism.
Finally, it's a story of bureaucrats, brigands, warriors, princes, peasants and slaves and the rebellions and deadly wars that forever altered East Asia.
It's a well written and extensive site and a worthy replacement for the original newsletter item.
You can find it at:
Korea in the Eye of the Tiger
"Koreans use their own unique alphabet called Hangeul. It is considered to be one of the most efficient alphabets in the world and has garnered unanimous praise from language experts for its scientific design and excellence."
That came as rather a surprise, but as you read the article you will see that the claim has some merit. Up to the 15th century the educated elite used the Chinese character system but the common people had no way to express themselves in writing. King Sejong, considered one of the greatest rulers in the history of Korea, envisioned a set of letters that was uniquely Korean and easily learnable, rendering it accessible and usable for the common people. He proclaimed "Being of foreign origin, Chinese characters are incapable of capturing uniquely Korean meanings. Therefore, many common people have no way to express their thoughts and feelings. Out of my sympathy for their difficulties, I have created a set of 28 letters. The letters are very easy to learn, and it is my fervent hope that they improve the quality of life of all people."
As a result of King Sejong's ideas, illiteracy is virtually nonexistent in Korea, and astonishingly the logical construction of the language is very suitable for mechanisation.
Thoroughly recommended at:
Hangeul: Korean Alphabet
This could be a really great site, as it contains a lot of neutrally presented information and a wealth of excellent pictures. Unfortunately the author has chosen to present his text in dark blue on a black background. This is not the easiest thing to read and I recommend that you drag your mouse (with the left button pressed) over the text to make it easier to read (the text turns white on a blue background, which is excellent).
It's an interestingly written piece which contains some thought-provoking observations. For example, I thought it was a rather sad reflection on "progress" to read:
"From our room in the Yangakdo Hotel we have a nice view over the city of Pyongyang. Unlike my home in Shanghai it is very quiet and peaceful. In the night it is even possible to see the starry sky. No noise or bright advertisement disturbs the atmosphere."
Are we really creating a planet where to be able to see the stars is a luxury?
However, in this particular case the price seems to be compulsory attendance at a number of places that might not be universally regarded as great tourist attractions. It depends on your taste.
You can make up your own mind at:
An Introduction to North Korea
Here you have all the useful information for tourists, such as tour companies, visa requirements, customs etc. plus a good description of the various tourist attractions that you might want to see. The site is well organised, and the tourist attractions section is always available at the right hand side of the page. The attractions are broken down into:
I have always loved the English saying "like the 13th chime of the clock, it casts doubt on all that has gone before", but the 13th chime meant little in Pyongyang where the huge bell rang 28 times at 10pm and 33 times at 4am.
This interesting information and much more at:
Tourism in North Korea
The "Travel Korea Clickable Map" is like a kind of magic magnifying glass that allows you to zoom in ever closer to the map, finally revealing an enormous wealth of well written material on the particular area you have zoomed in on. At first it seems that all you are ever going to see is more and more detailed maps, but persevere and you will be rewarded with an exceptional information resource.
The english at times can be a little unusual ("We are doing our best to adorn our city to become the wordly cultural tourists city which breathe with human and nature all together") but that only helps to add to the flavour.
Definitely a good way to visit South Korea without travelling further than:
Life in Korea presents travel information for over 350 destinations and attractions throughout South Korea. In addition there are sections on food & drink, shopping, night-life, sports and culture. Well presented and easy to navigate, a useful reference site when finally planning your trip to South Korea.
There is also a fascinating section on Sports and Games.
From bull fighting (bull vs bull), through Korean Chess and Kite Flying to a rather agressive sounding see-saw game for ladies, there is something here to keep everyone amused:
Life in South Korea
For useful books on travel, you will find a comprehensive listing with prices and reviews on my books page (with links to buy direct from Amazon.com) on:
Hotel accommodation in Asia is plentiful and using a reputable agent can secure you substantial discounts. Precision Reservations can usually find you a good deal and you can check their availability here:
Back issues of this newsletter are available. You can find them on:
The countries covered in other issues are:
Far East Air Fare deals from Travel Select
For flights originating anywhere in the world use this Travel Select link
And if your flight originates in the UK there are some special deals on this special UK page
Other Useful Links
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