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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Do Koreans Have a cookie named Binch?

The company Lotte, which is a very successful Korean company, owns many things such as Lotte Mall, Lotte World (amusement park), and Lotte Cinema (movie theater). It also sells various food products including one that has a very unique name: Binch chocolate biscuits.

Where did this "unique" (no, strange) name come from? Well first I looked at the urban dictionary. Then I got this answer:

So a softer version of the b-word? I'm pretty sure that's not what Koreans were intending. I'm certain that they wouldn't want to associate their cookies with bad language or the equivalent of a female dog. I decided look it up in a dictionary that is trusted by almost every Korean: Naver (Sidenote: Students should never use Naver as an English dictionary. Half of the time the meanings or translations are wrong). How did Naver define 'Binch'? Notice that they are both from urban dictionaries:

binch 출처: urbandictionary
French slang for beer. See bibine, binouze, rebiè, mousse, cervoise...
Binch 출처: urbandictionary
A mixture of a "bit" and a "bunch". a medium sized portion of something.

The first definition doesn't apply in this case unless it was a cookie made from beer. I can totally see the second one being discussed in a conference room during a marketing meeting. "How can we make this cookie sound cute? It's not too small but it's not too big. Let's call it a binch!" But where did that meaning even come from? Between "a bit" and "a bunch"? Is it cute? Definitely. Is it a good name for a cookie? Definitely not.

However, a couple of friends said that Koreans wanted to combine the words "biscuit + in + chocolate" and they came up with the word "binch". Now that's even funnier and bit more ridiculous. But hey, I'm not going to complain. They're really good and one of my favorite cookies. Call them whatever you like. Just don't stop selling them! Time to buy some binches!

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Friend Mark Kim Opens Up Burger Restaurant in Gangnam

A good friend of mine from church opened up a burger joint in the Gangnam area. His name is Mark Kim and his new restaurant is named New York Burger and Bagel (New York B&B for short). He's originally from New York and he wanted to bring that taste to Seoul. He is going through some experiments to find out what will appeal to the Korean and non-Korean population alike. Although his restaurant has officially opened, the real advertising and promoting of his restaurant won't begin until September. He has been "soft selling" in order to make sure all of his ingredients and all of the food tastes just right.

So what will you expect to see on his menu? How about an OG burger? It's a pizza burger. You'll get mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and a burger patty combined in one burger. It's really delicious!

He also offers a very solid chicken parmesan sandwich, which my friend Evan Bloom ordered. He said it was crispy and tasty. Mark said that these two are his favorites, so we went with these two for our first visit to his restaurant. We both ordered a half set of fries which came with a drink.

Here are some onion rings with a special sauce that Mr. Kim says is better than ranch dressing. My friend Evan enjoyed the sauce but I prefer my onion rings plain.

NY B&B also offers macaroni and cheese, an all-time favorite of mine. You can just get macaroni and cheese, mac and cheese with bacon, or mac and cheese with shrimp. I'm a huge bacon fan, so Evan and I decided to get the mac and cheese with bacon.

What I appreciate about my friend Mark is that he was open to suggestions since he wants his customers to be happy. I originally said that although the burgers were very good, I felt that they were cooked a bit too much. He said that Koreans prefer their burgers "medium well" and he noted on the menu that all of his burgers are served that way. I suggested to him that he should ask the customer how they want their burgers done and that would greatly increase burger sales. He is definitely going to consider doing that. 

Evan mentioned that the macaroni and cheese needed a bit more of a bite to it. Mark has been using pepper jack cheese but will plan to use sharp cheddar in the near future. The bacon on top was definitely a hit with me. Everything tastes great with bacon.

Other than that, the food is very good and his chef (a Korean American from Santa Barbara) has been cooking food since he was 13. Unfortunately, his name has escaped my brain at the moment. His server (Cathy) is a friendly Chinese woman that is an exchange student. 

You can find his Facebook page here: New York Burger & Bagel and the restaurant can also be found on Instagram. 


Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Can All Subway Commuters Sit in Seats Designated for Pregnant Women in Seoul?

As I take the subway everyday in Seoul, there has one thing that has baffled me. There are seats on the train that are clearly designated for pregnant women. However, I've seen people from both genders and all ages act very differently when they get on the train and approach  those designated seats even if there are no pregnant women on the train. Here are some various scenarios that I've seen:
  • If there are many seats available, pretty much no one chooses to sit in seats designated for pregnant women. 
  • If only one or two seats are available and one of those seats is the seat for pregnant women, most older people will take that seat.
  • Some younger ladies or younger men won't care at all and will just sit there using their phones. If someone has had too much to drink, they sit there anyway.
  • Some older people sit in seats designated for pregnant women but if another seat opens up, they move to that seat.
  • Others just avoid sitting in that seat all together and it doesn't matter on the age.
This is the first time that I've seen various reactions by Koreans and it seems as if no one knows the exact etiquette with regard to these kinds of seats. Personally when I see a seat that is all pink on the seat and pink on the floor in front of that seat, it makes me want to avoid it all together. First, I hate pink (laugh). Second, I don't like being at the center of attention. 

Therefore I did some research on the latest implementation to help pregnant women out. Here's an article that might help clear up the confusion:

Conclusion: I think it's okay to sit in seats designated for pregnant women if there are no women that are "expecting" on the train. And if this technology is used by those expecting mothers, it would make it quite obvious that people would need to give up their seats or look like a complete jerk. However, I probably won't sit in those seats at all (even though it may not be wrong if I do). If younger people are never allowed to sit in the older people's seats even if there are no older people on the train, then I feel like many Koreans will apply that same logic to these seats designated for pregnant women. Also, because I'm a non-Korean, people might think I'm being an "ugly foreigner" because I'm not following the laws (or perceived ones) of the land. Therefore, I'll just either stand or wait until another seat opens up for me. It's not worth getting stared. If I can't relax when I'm sitting down, then there's no point in sitting in that seat.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Third Stop of Hawaiian Honeymoon: AirBnB Stay in Kapaa, Kauai

After a great stay on the island of Oahu, my wife and I headed to Kauai for our second week of our honeymoon. We took a small Hawaiian airline called Island Air. Here's the plane we took:

Since we got to the airport (a very small one) early, they recommended us to take an earlier flight (11:00) since there weren't any restaurants to grab a bite to eat at there. Ironically only two of our three pieces of luggage made it on the earlier flight. One of our pieces of luggage was put on our original 12:30pm flight. More on that later. We ascended into the air and I got a great shot of Pearl Harbor right after we took off:

When we arrived in Lihue, Kauai, only two of our suitcases arrived. The Island Air staff told us that the last piece of luggage probably went on the original flight. If I had known that was going to happen then I would have just stuck with the original plan of taking the later flight since we weren't really in a hurry. But after that, we went straight to Hertz Rent-A-Car and for some reason my credit card got declined. It took me awhile to reach one of the operators from my credit union. Once I finally reached someone, the woman finally told me that my main account had insufficient funds. Due to that, my credit union had to move money from one account to the other. Because it took so long, we only had to wait 30 minutes for our original flight to arrive to retrieve one of our suitcases. It worked out in the end thankfully. I guess the Lord planned it just right.

After we got our car, we were off. We drove along highway 56 from Lihue to Kapaa on the east side of the island. It took about 30 minutes to arrive at our destination. When we arrived, we felt like it was going to be even better than our stay in Kailua. Here's a picture of the home we were about to stay in as we drove up the driveway:

Here's another view as we approached the side entrance after we went up the stairs:

Here's the balcony just outside the living room:

And finally, here's the living room which was next to the kitchen. Notice that it looked like a cabin in the mountains. It was very cozy and a relaxing place:

The owner emailed me and said I could go in and find the bedroom if she wasn't home. Since she wasn't, we then checked it out and thought it was comfortable and we unpacked our stuff. The only bad thing was that our bedroom was really hot when we arrived. However, thankfully we had a fan that kept our room cool at night and the bed was comfortable. An hour later, we met the owner. Her name was Taj and she was a yoga instructor. Although, not quite as laid back as Jordan in Kailua, Oahu, she was very nice and did her best to be accommodating. She definitely liked to have things done the way she liked but nothing was unreasonable.

That evening, we searched for a place to eat since we were so hungry. We found a Mexican food truck near the accommodation which served very good food.

The next night we followed the owner's advice and got excellent fish from a restaurant called The Kilauea Fish Market, which was about 10 minutes away by car. The wait was long but it was totally worth it as you can see from the pictures below. The fish was fresh, cooked to perfection, and very tasty:

Our stay in Kapaa was nice and if you do come across Taj, tell her I said hello. She is very friendly and will do her best to help you enjoy your stay.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Monday, August 15, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Living in South Korea

Since coming to South Korea in September 2003, I've experienced ups and downs while living here. Thankfully, there are more UPS than downs and there must be since I've lived in South Korea for almost a third of my life. Therefore, let me tell you my top 10 reasons why I love living here. You may not be too surprised with this list but if you disagree with any of them, let me know! Let's begin:

1. I enjoy the food. There are various kinds of food I enjoy here including stir-fried chicken (dalkgalbi or 닭갈비), grilled pork (also known as samgyupsal or 삼겹살), various soups, and even kimchi!) Also, you can eat reasonably priced food (even in Seoul, believe it or not) and you don't have to tip. Unfortunately, I can't eat Korean food everyday, so I need my Western food fix at least once a week. But if you ate Korean food consistently, you would save some money and you would eat fairly healthy as well.

2. The public transportation in Seoul helps me not to miss driving in my hometown of Los Angeles. I do love driving but the subways, buses, and taxis are all very convenient here and much cheaper than back in the U.S. I don't have to deal with oil changes, car insurance, parking, and dealing with traffic. I have yet to hear anyone complain of the public transportation here, except maybe during rush hour traffic when the subways and buses are cramped. But what do you expect when 52% of South Korea's population lives within the Seoul Capital Area.

3. It's generally safe. I've never gotten pickpocketed and guns are illegal in Korea. Of course this is easy to say as a man since it would be easier for me to go home at 1:00am by myself than a woman. But most ladies would generally agree that they feel safer at night here than they would in L.A., New York, Chicago, London, Sydney, etc. I would still advise women to not go home alone late at night alone unless they really had to. It's always best to lower the risk of danger in all aspects of life.

4. There are plenty of areas outside of Seoul to enjoy. You can enjoy the city of Busan, which has the beach and raw fish. You can enjoy the east coast for that as well in the cities of Gangneung, Sokcho, and JJeongdongjin. If you want to just get out of Seoul for a day trip, you can go to Paju, Pocheon, Chuncheon, and Gapyeong, which are all within striking distance of the city. If you happen to drive to any of these areas, avoid the holidays and you'll get there in three hours or less. If you're in Seoul, there are many things to do as well:

  • visit a palace (Changdeukgung Palacs is my favorite) 
  • visit various museums (The War Memorial Museum is free and a must see)
  • N Seoul Tower (a great view at night to see)
  • go to various parks such as Children's Grand Park and Olympic Park
  • walk around Myeongdong (shopping and street food)
  • walk through Insadong (drink some traditional tea and eat good Korean food)
  • enjoy the Korean Folk Village (located just outside of Seoul in Yongin to get a traditional Korean experience) 
  • go to a baseball game (the talent is not quite as good as MLB, but the atmosphere is much better)
5. Koreans come off as aloof and self-centered to strangers. And although they are very shy at first, once you get to know them, you'll realize that they are very friendly and kind. I've met a lot of nice Korean friends while living here.

6. You can travel to Asia within a short distance. China is within one or two hours and Japan is between an hour to two and a half hour flights. Flights to Southeast Asia are between one and a half hours (Taipei) to six-and a half hours (Bali).

7. I've enjoyed teaching all different kinds of people while living here. I've taught elementary, middle school, university students, and business people. I've learned a lot about the culture (eating, dating, working environment, ideas about education, etc.) while teaching those various age groups. It has helped me adapt nicely. If you teach kids, you can get free housing as well. If you teach adults, you'll get a decent salary, and if you're disciplined, you can save some money.

8. The Korean language is difficult. However, it is fun to learn and a lot easier to learn compared to Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Arabic. You can learn the alphabet within a month. If you study consistently (and I mean consistently), you can get better at it.

9. Things are very fast here: You get the fastest internet worldwide, you can get any food delivered to your house FAST (Korean food, pizza, and even McDonald's), and you can get your clothes cleaned within a couple of days.

10. Medical expenses are cheap. Five years ago, I had surgery on a ruptured left eardrum (it cost me approximately $600) and had my own private room. Last week, I walked into a dental clinic for the first time at 12:30pm, filled out a form, and had my teeth cleaned for about $14. I was done within 45 minutes and didn't pay an arm and a leg for my scaling.

For those of you that live in South Korea, what do you love about it? I'm very curious. Feel free to type in a comment below!

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Monday, August 8, 2016

Facebook group OinK (Only in Korea) And Its Controversial Ways

A few years ago, I had joined the Facebook page Only in Korea (OinK) to share in the humor of Korea but hoping that it would be balanced between cute and positive experiences and negative ones. OinK was created by Travis Hull who is on the radio in Seoul and has his own podcast. He talks about these issues and adds fuel to the fire by adding more negative stories on his Facebook page every other day. There's also light humor in the group and occasionally a positive story about Korea but not very often.

Unfortunately,  I felt that I needed to leave the group after a month because the group mainly focused on the negative situations (as mentioned earlier) and I could sense that there was bitterness and anger towards Koreans. Ironically, a lot of people in the group have been in Korea for at least five years or longer, which makes you wonder why the people stay in Korea if they hate it so much. They would argue that they love Korea but feel that the negative stories should be reported, so that this country could change for the better. That would make sense if a lot of the comments were helpful, encouraged change, beneficial to the well being of Korea, or intelligently thought out. Yet you will rarely find those comments. More often than that, people will troll the pictures and articles and make Korea the butt of their jokes.

It prompted me to begin the Facebook group Foreigners in Korea Who Love Living Here. My goal is not to promote my page. My goal is to let people know that if they don't want to hear the whining, moaning, and complaining about Korea on a consistent basis, they have another option to turn to.

Two months ago, I attended Barry Welsh's Seoul Book & Culture Club which hosted a live podcast featuring Korea He hosted Robert Koehler (Marmot's Hole), Colin Marshall (LARB Korea Blog), Chance Dorland and Travis Hull (Only in Korea) to discuss recent issues they covered on a Korea FM podcast episodes. Here's a picture that I took while I was there:

Travis Hull, Robert Koehler, Colin Marshall, and Chance Dorland pictured from left to right

They answered questions from the audience. One woman in the audience asked Travis why OinK was known for being so negative and a magnet for trolls He responded that he enjoyed living in Korea, he felt that the other side of Korea had to be told, and unfortunately the negativity did draw trolls, but there wasn't much he could do about it. Barry pointed me out in the audience because my group takes a different approach than OinK. However, I didn't really want to join the discussion since I didn't want to say too many negative things about OinK. I met Robert Koehler after the discussion was over and he was disappointed that I didn't raise my hand, stand up, and share my views on Korea during the podcast. I explained why I didn't but I did tell him that one of the reasons I started my own Facebook group was because I wanted people to know that there were non-Koreans in Korea that DO sincerely love living here.

I just recently re-joined the OinK group because there is one positive aspect of the group. I'm definitely informed about what annoys people about Korea. But the problem still exists: constant jabs at Korea and subtle insults directed at Koreans. Here are some recent headlines of stories that OinK couldn't wait to add to their collection:

"Smoker slaps woman with baby for asking him to stop puffing in no smoking area"
"Baby Dead After Pregnant Woman's One Night Stand"
"Over 1,200 Koreans behind bars abroad as of end of June"

The news stories don't bother me as much as the people that love to take pictures in Seoul in order to laugh at Koreans or shame them. These kinds of pictures get the most "likes" and comments and that will tell you what kind of people are fans of the group. People post about people being drunk on the street or try to shame Koreans by how they park their cars. Other pictures are funny but the pictures below went too far in my opinion:

Pictures like this make me consider me jumping out of the group. Who knows? Maybe, I'll get kicked out if the administrator of OinK sees my blog post. On the other hand, he might be happy that he's getting more exposure over the internet. Whatever the case may be, I feel like my opinion should be heard and I know that there are many others that probably feel the same way as I do. 

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy

Twitter: laseoulguy

Second Stop of Hawaiian Honeymoon: AirBnB in Kailua, Oahu

After my wife and I stayed at the beautiful, yet expensive Kahala Hotel in Honolulu, we were off to a more modest accommodation in our rental car. We headed up the east coast and made our way for Kailua. We were to stay at someone's home and rent a room there for two nights. The host's name was Jordan and he had a dog (a Great Dane named "Grateful"). He also lived with his girlfriend, who was a flight attendant for United Airlines. Before we look at his home, check out a couple of pictures that you will definitely only see in Hawaii....

First, he had his own banana tree in the garden....

If that doesn't impress you, how about his own papaya tree??

Here's his dog "Grateful" just resting in the living room.

He was very friendly. My wife is a big afraid of big dogs, so he snuck up on her a couple times as she was heading to the bathroom. She let out a couple of shrieks and I just laughed.

Here are two pictures of Jordan's living room and kitchen. The hardwood floors made it easier for them to keep their home pretty clean especially because they had a big dog to take care of.

I forgot to take a picture of the bedroom. It was nice but a bit small to our liking to be honest. However, we loved our stay nonetheless. Jordan was very laid back and a great host. My wife and I didn't feel like we were walking on eggshells to keep the him happy. I would say that I'd prefer to have my own apartment or hotel room compared to renting a room but Jordan made it very comfortable for us to stay at. We were also able to park our car in his driveway. Make sure to stay at his place if you're in the Kailua area.

The area of Kailua itself was very calm and had a lot less people compared to the tourist magnet of Waikiki, which we didn't stay at until our last night in Hawaii. You'll see some pictures of Waikiki in a later post. Here are a couple of pictures of how the residents live in Kailua. It almost felt like a retirement community combined with working class residents...

You gotta love the mailboxes! They totally have the Hawaiian feel to them.......

And for the main attraction of Kailua, here's the beach. The water was warm and very blue. The view of the mountains from the beach was stunning and as you can see, it wasn't overly crowded with tourists. It was fantastic.....

A tip for those considering Kailua: You might end up having to find someone to stay with since I had a hard time finding hotels or resorts in the area. It's mainly a residential area of Oahu, but be open-minded and compare prices on This actually concludes my honeymoon in Oahu. Next, I will post about my adventures on the Garden Island: Kauai!

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Koreans Are Serious Trend Followers

As I'm approaching my 13th year of living in South Korea, there is one thing that I always find amazing and still hasn't changed since I moved here in September 2003: Koreans LOVE to follow trends. When I first came to Ulsan, South Korea (southeast part of the country), a Korean female co-worker asked me what I liked to drink. I mentioned that I liked juice and coffee. When she heard that I liked coffee, she seemed shocked (as if it was like smoking crack). She mentioned to me, "Coffee isn't healthy for you. You should drink tea." Fast forward to August 2016 and now Koreans drink more coffee than they eat kimchi. If you don't believe me, here's an article for you!

Study: Koreans Drink More Coffee Than They Eat Kimchi

In January, the Korea Times reported that from a poll, eight out of 10 Koreans drink over one cup of coffee per day. You can read the article here.

But it's not just limited to coffee. Koreans are always up for trying something new. Restaurants are an example of that. Shake Shack (a burger chain from New York) just arrived on July 22 and lines have wrapped around the building every day since then.

For awhile cupcakes were a fad and were especially huge in Hongdae. Churros became a fad and surprisingly the fad has stuck (for now). Ice cream with honey chips on top became a fad and has slowly died down although there are still these kinds of places that exist. Honey Butter chips produced by Haitai-Calbee in early August 2014 created a huge trend among Koreans. Koreans couldn't stop buying them and if you were fortunate to find a bag, you would become best friends with a Korean immediately. The Honey Butter Chip Craze even spread to Japan. Now you can easily find 10 bags of them outside of E-Mart as you walk through the entrance.

For years I had been complaining that juice was never that popular in Korea. McDonald's stopped serving fresh juice at its locations in Korea when McMorning meals came into existence here five years ago. However they ditched the machines that made juice to just offering small cans of Minute Maid orange juice in the morning three years ago. But then a fad was created last year. People started to open up little juice shops that sold fresh juice including the famous "Juicy" franchise, which is now all over Seoul. Now more juice shops have popped up to compete with Juicy. Apparently Koreans started to realize that juice was indeed healthy for you and people started buying fresh juice for between W2,000 and W3,000. Hopefully, McDonald's will once again serve fresh orange juice in the morning. Until then, I'll just order an iced cafe latte instead.

What about honeymoons? Older generation Koreans went to Jeju Island but mostly because they couldn't really afford to travel abroad. However, since I've lived in Seoul, the group mentality has made various resort destinations popular. First it was Bali, then it was Cebu, a few years ago it was Laos, two years ago it was the Maldives, and now almost every Korean chooses to go to Hawaii for their honeymoon destination. I guess I'm one of those followers, since I also went to Hawaii. But being that I'm American I chose that destination because I could rent a car easily and I had been to Kauai before and loved it.

What about places to hang out in Seoul? Apgujeong Rodeo used to be the place to hang out for people in their 20s and 30s. It had a lot of restaurants and cafes. Even today, it's still a very nice place to hang out at, but because it's not trendy any more, you'll find it almost like a ghost town now. When I first came to Seoul in 2005, Koreans never went to Itaewon. They thought it was "dangerous" and just riddled with American soldiers. Granted, it was a lot different back then and it did seem more like Kaosan Road with a superfluous amount of street venders. For years, you would see a place where Koreans only represented 10% of the people that walked down the main road of Itaewon near the Hamilton Hotel and even less Koreans when you went to Haebongchon (HBC). However, last year a Korean TV program made it a hot spot and it became a very trendy place for restaurants, cafes, and clubs. When you go to Itaewon on weekends, you'll see a lot more Koreans. Ironically, Koreans have even reached HBC, where Koreans never used to venture out at. I guess Itaewon isn't perceived as dangerous any more to Koreans thanks to the TV program.

What about movies? Koreans are now talking about the movie Train to Busan. 12 of my students within the past three days have said they had seen it and they loved it. It's Korea's first zombie movie. Ironically, if you had mentioned zombie movies to Korea a few years ago, they would be disinterested and look bored. They did watch World War Z but they didn't really talk about it that much. Now zombie movies might really take off due to Train to Busan.

Koreans also follow trends when it comes to sports and exercise. Hot yoga used to be a thing and swimming became huge when Park Tae Hwan won a gold medal for Korea in the 2008 Beijing (summer) Olympics. When Team Korea won a gold medal in baseball during the same Olympics, people swarmed to Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) games and tickets became very hard to come by on weekends. Before that time, you could easily get nice seats at a reasonable price. Tickets are still fairly reasonable compared to MLB games but the ticket prices jumped after the Beijing Olympics.

Now I find that my students are enjoying a different kind of exercise: spinning. I had never heard of it until three of my students (including one spinning instructor) mentioned it recently. What is spinning? Here's a video for you to see for yourself!

Some of my friends contemplated opening various businesses in Korea However, if you want to start one in Korea, the good thing is that Koreans would probably jump at something new. But the hard part is making it last for a long time because the trends change so often. You must be aware of that if you consider opening up a cafe (probably too many to compete with now), a restaurant, or a bar. It better be good or it won't last very long.

Scott Worden (The L.A./Seoul Guy)
Instagram: laseoulguy
Twitter: laseoulguy