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Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
To my humble opinion, the reputation of Korean cuisine should normally surpass that of Japanese cuisine within 15 to 20 years. Koreans clearly don't play in the same league and the Japanese know it (they adore Korean food). They can fool Westerners with their sense of presentation but as soon as the public tastes actual Korean cuisine, the game is over - for good. Unfortunately, up to now no Korean restaurant could really visually match their cuisine, but for some prestigious places embalmed in the cult of Tradition.
Gaon created the very much expected precedent, setting from the start the standards at the highest level. To me, Gaon is simply the very best Korean restaurant in the World* because it perfectly honours the great Art Culinaire of Korea. The chef manages to reinvent the classics and masters to the perfection each element (taste, flavor, color, texture, temperature...). And to make it even more sublime, each course is presented in a dish specially designed for it by a great master in ceramics.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Photo : "Sejongno Caricatures" (Copyright Stephane MOT 2006)
When I first came to Seoul, pedestrians were basically parasites tolerated in a city embracing the cult of Car Almighty. New cars kept piling up at the rate of 400 per day, and I would witness a major crash every other day. Needless to say I could spread thick traffic jam on my toast anytime, not only for breakfast.
Back then, Sejongno (downtown's central axis) was a highway paved with ugly monuments built during the Japanese occupation, but guarded by the statue of the local hero, Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Seoul Station, City Hall et al are still standing, but the country has mercifully removed the massive horror deliberately erected to hide the Gyeongbokgung and destroy the beautiful Bukansan perspective. The National Museum's great collections were offered a (slightly) better shell in Yongsan.
In a relatively near future, passers-by should be able to walk peacefully across the stream (right now, the safest way to survive the walk from one river to the other is to go through the underground maze). Traffic will be limited to two times two lanes ; I just saw the first drafts of restoration projects and I wonder when these brilliant architects will consider building things meant to last over a few years. For Gimchi's sake, something nice can be done at the core of this city. You want to enjoy your walk from the palaces to Insadong.
Our offices were next to the US Embassy* and if you like to see uniforms, that's the place to be. The most impressive line up of policemen I ever saw was for the visit of George H. W. Bush (the Elder, a.k.a. 41) : one man posted every meter for a couple of miles, all the way from the Gyeongbokgung to Samgakji Station. No wonder Dubya's Dad got a little bit dizzling later that day.
* at the Leema Building - the Economic Mission moved to Gangnam a few months later.
Jeollanam-do - Damyang-gun (담양군, 潭陽郡) - maeul
An almost deserted maeul just a couple of miles off Damyang.
We're welcomed by a scorching sun, a cripled dog and this old lady.
Only traditional houses - hay and bamboo sticking out of parched walls.
A her friends place, a traditional oven outside at floor level, and sesame grain drying up.
It definitely beats nearby Sunchang, a gochujang (red pepper paste) theme park. Damyang-gun markets itself as a bamboo county (you are surrounded by forests of them, you swim in it in spas, you even eat your rice in it). Quite a few cultural spots (better off season), including Soswaewon garden.
Photo "Open up sesame" (20040827 - copyright Stephane MOT)
Friday, June 22, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
20070621 (photo "Unequal access" copyright Stephane MOT 20040825)
Monday, June 18, 2007
- Sanggye-dong (10 dong)
- Junggye-dong (5 dong)
- Hagye-dong (2 dong)
- Wolgye-dong (4 dong)
- Gongneung-dong (3 dong)
|Sanggye, Nowon's biggest district, hosts two key hubs around Nowon and Sanggye stations :|
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Seoul Village 2007
Population : 619,509 inhabitants (2006)
Area : 35.44 km² (max 6 km W-E, max 9 km N-S)
City Hall and official website : http://english.nowon.seoul.kr/.
Photo : "Nowon noway" (2004 - Copyright Stephane MOT)
Nowon's main frontiers are :
- to the West, the Jungnangcheon. Part of the district (Wolgye-dong) lies on the other side of this confluent of the Han river which also separates Nowon from Dobong-gu.
- to the East, Buramsan and Suraksan mountains (and beyond, the city of Namyangju)
- to the North, the city of Uijongbu
- to the South, the district of Jungnang-gu (plus Seongbuk-gu for Wolgye-dong)
- Sanggye - North (10 dong)
- Junggye - Center East (5 dong)
- Hagye - Center South (2 dong)
- Wolgye - South West (4 dong)
- Gongneung - South East (3 dong)
History :Originally a quiet and flat valley of fields dotted with a few villages of farmers (some names do subsit - ie Madeul Station), Nowon was untill 1988 the Eastern part of Dobong-gu.
The new "gu" was meant to become a bed town for the booming population, mainly newly formed households who couldn't afford more central areas. Like in Jamsil, this massive development included from the start tens of blocs of 5 to 15 storey appartment buildings. But here, most appartments were small and remote from the new city centers.Yet, thanks to its strong internal / demographical dynamics, Nowon managed to grow from a cheap bed town into a major hub at the North of the capital, with a soul of its own and Nowon Station at its heart :
- transports : the crossroads of subway lines 4 and 7 will also welcome a major city air terminal bound to serve the North of Seoul and the neighboring cities. The old train terminal will be relocated in Namyangju and the Dobong driving center in a more remote area of the district).
- commerce : all businesses and national / international franchises, including a Lotte Department Store born a medium range Midopa Department Store in 1992 and now the most luxurious store in North East Seoul. The city air terminal will also host a major commercial center.
- services : the city hall, major corporations' local branches, plus all the district's motels are near the station.
- culture : the baby boomers turned teenagers boost the Dept Store's movie theaters, and the local cultural center regularily proposes foreign shows. A new stadium is under construction.
- environment : Sanggye's central area is getting greener. Closer thant the old mountain's regional parks : the Jungnangcheon's riverside park, the future central park, restoration of a smaller stream...
Sanggye New Town will totally reshape Danggogae Station area... destroying some of the few slums remaining after the completion of Seoul's circular highway 100. The remote Junggye maeul is also disappearing. I had the time to take a few pictures of both before realtors took the rest...Nowon was meant as a popular district, as in popular for the people. Traditionnaly spared by the real estate bubble, Nowon is now getting popular for investors as well, and many Gangnam-gu speculators have recently contributed to a dramatic rise in housing prices. Many blocks are being redevelopped and all the ingredients of a pleasant place are already there.
Stephane MOT 2006
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