Dog on Ulleung-do Island Photo Bombs Street View Mapping Software

Ulleung-do is one of my favorite places in South Korea, but unfortunately the last time I was there I did not get my own personal guide dog:

Oftentimes, the best way to describe directions to someone is to explain using street view technology, so you can use notable landmarks as cues for turns and stops. While Google Maps has been pretty good at covering a large part of the world, it’s certainly missing one useful component: a helpful guide dog who photobombs every shot along the way.

At least that’s one competitive advantage for Daum, a Kakao-owned web portal, for its coverage in Ulleung-gun, Gyeongbuk, South Korea. Map services often employ human photographers to capture off-road images, and it appears this very good dog has decided to accompany just about every shot along the trail on this little South Korean island.

Need help finding that lookout point over the beautiful blue ocean? Sure, follow doggo up the stairs and hang when you’ve found the area with the wooden benches.  [The Verge via Reddit Korea]

You can read more at the link, but looking at the pictures this dog is actually on the neighboring island of Jukdo and not Ulleongdo.

Cable Car Approved for Construction that Would Take Tourists to Summit of Mt. Sorak

It looks like the cable car from Osaek to near the summit of Mt. Sorak is now going to be come a reality:

Picture of Seorak Mountain’s summit with the lodge in the foreground.

A government arbitration commission on Thursday ruled in favor of a county in Gangwon province that has been planning to set up a cable car on a popular mountain range near the nation’s eastern coast.

In the ruling, the Central Administration Appeal Commission under the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission called for the Cultural Heritage Administration to allow Yangyang County to build a cable car system on Mount Seorak.

The project calls for a 3.5-kilometer-long cable car system to be built in the southern region of Mount Seorak in Yangyang, some 215 kilometers east of Seoul, providing a means of convenient transportation all the way up to the peak of the Osaek area hiking course.

The cable car project has been a controversial issue among environmentalists here, who have argued that the mountain’s natural environment must be preserved.  [Yonhap]

I have not supportive of this cable car because of how the summit of the mountain is already over crowded with tourists leaving trash every where.  There are so many hikers already accessing the mountain that a lodge has been constructed to house them in near the summit.  Now there is going to be a cable car station to bring more tourists up the mountain which means that restaurants and shops will need to be constructed to service them as well.  The summit of the mountain is basically going to turn into the craziness that is Sorak-dong at the base of the mountain.

Korean Court Rules In Favor of Severance Pay for Foreign English Teachers

Here is a win in the courts for the foreign English teacher community in South Korea:

A court has recognized foreign tutors at a private language institute as “employees” entitled to severance pay, rejecting the institute’s claim that they were self-employed.

Judge Oh Sang-yong of the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of five native English teachers at an unidentified private language institute in Seoul, Monday.

He ordered the institute to offer them 180 million won in severance pay and other unpaid allowances.

The institute had claimed the tutors were”self-employed” teachers paid by the hour so they were not entitled to severance pay. But the court ruled that the five were “employees” who had to act upon their contracts regulating their working hours, curriculum and other details. [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but I would think the hagwons in South Korea will just modify the contracts in some way to get around this court ruling.

Large Wildfire Burns on Mt. Surak in Northern Seoul

Mt. Surak is the large mountain that rises above Camp Stanley.  This fire though appears to be burning on the northern Seoul area of the mountain opposite from the camp:

A big fire broke out on Mount Surak in northern Seoul Thursday, firefighters said, with no casualties having been reported so far.

Firefighters said they were struggling to contain the fire that started at around 9:08 p.m., with a long ribbon of fire forming near the top of a ridge.

The exact cause of the wind-fed forest fire is not yet known, but the size of the blaze is quite large, they added.   [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Chung Yoo-ra Returns to South Korea and Denies Any Knowledge of Mom’s Alleged Criminal Activity

Look who is finally back home:

Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s close friend, speaks at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on May 31, 2017, after being extradited from Denmark a day earlier. The 21-year-old Chung, who had been held at a detention center in the northern Danish city of Aalborg since January, was taken to the prosecutors’ office in Seoul for questioning over allegations she received undue academic and financial favors based on her mother Choi Soon-sil’s ties with the former president. (Yonhap)

The daughter of former President Park Geun-hye’s close friend involved in a corruption scandal returned to South Korea on Wednesday after she was extradited from Denmark where she was in custody for five months.

Chung Yoo-ra, the 21-year-old daughter of Choi Soon-sil, arrived at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, at around 2:40 p.m. She was arrested by local authorities on a flight from Amsterdam where she transferred.

She denied any knowledge of the allegations against her, including inappropriate academic favors and financial support, during a brief news conference at a security area at the airport.

“I don’t know anything about what happened between my mother and the former president but on my personal level, I feel that it is unfair,” she said.

“(People) say that I received all this special treatment, but there isn’t much that I know,” she said. “I keep trying to put the puzzle pieces together, but it does not work all the time.”  [Yonhap]

Here is my favorite line from her interview with the media:

Regarding the university’s decision to revoke her admission, Chung said she “understandably accepts” it.

“I don’t even know what my major is and I never really wanted to go to university, so I don’t have much to say about the nullification of admission,” she said.

It seems the school is really the one at fault here not Chung.  If they were willing to let in Chung based on who her mom is that is the university’s problem.  As far as the alleged criminal activity her mom is accused of I have yet to see any evidence that Chung was in on it.  This all seems like a show to parade her around to the public in handcuffs.  I would not be surprised if later she is quietly released after the media attention dies down.

The Story of How Korea’s First National Park Was Established

It is pretty amazing that South Korea only established their first national park 50 years ago and it was the actions of local residents that made it happen:

Left: Woo Du-seong, 65, president of a conservationist association for Mount Jiri. Right: Members of Yeonhaban, a hiking group of residents of Gurye, South Jeolla, gather around. After multiple appeals to the National Assembly, Mount Jiri was designated the first national park of Korea in 1967 due to their efforts. [OH JONG-CHAN, WOO DU-SEONG]

No matter where you are in Korea, a mountain is likely to be somewhere in the vicinity. There are over 45 million visits to Korea’s national parks in any given year. Jirisan National Park itself accounts for nearly 3 million visits. However, just 50 years ago, Mount Jiri, the second-tallest mountain in South Korea, was the site of rapacious deforestation and likely would have continued to be without the initiative of one local hiking association.Born around Mount Jiri, 65-year-old Woo Du-seong, the president of a conservationist association for Mount Jiri, spoke on Monday as he recollected the events that took place in his youth. It is now 50 years since Mount Jiri was designated the first national park in Korea on December 1967.

“We collected 100,000 won from 10,000 households paying 10 won each,” said Woo. “In 1963, the money could have bought a house in this neighborhood.”

National parks were nonexistent at the time and the first to embark on conservation originated from the bottom-up by Gurye, South Jeolla, residents, including Woo’s father, Woo Jong-su (now deceased).

“According to residents in the area in the early 1960s, in just Gurye alone there were 250 trucks carrying loads on the streets daily. Portable sawmills with circular saws connected to the top of military-grade truck engines were everywhere in valleys.”

Feeling the hurt more than anyone else were the residents of Gurye who had spent their entire lives under the majesty of Mount Jiri. Among them, members of Yeonhaban, a local recreational hiking club, were especially indignant at the sight of these brazen sawmills.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but today Korea’s National Park system is really impressive with many great trails and facilities that began with the establishment Jirisan National Park fifty years ago.