Seoul: Arirang TV, a Buddhist Temple and Reporting from North Korea

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Arirang TV broadcasts internationally to promote South Korea’s culture and heritage. I used to watch its English-language programs, particularly the news, while I was an expat living in Seoul. I can still watch the network live via an iPhone and iPad app.

My study abroad group (a bunch of communication students and profs) was given a terrific tour of Arirang’s facilities. Their television and radio studios are quite impressive.

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After our tour, we set our sights back on Gangnam …

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… but not to make a return trip to COEX. Instead, we walked across the street and paid a visit to Bongeunsa Temple, which has been a place of worship and reflection for more than 1,200 years. The contrast is stark: these serene temple grounds, centuries old, are surrounded by Gangnam’s ultra-modern landscape.

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I used to work about a 10-minute walk from here, so I had some insider knowledge on where we could get some lunch nearby. I thought our group might like a little taste of home — but with a Korean twist — so I took them to one of my favorite places — Kyochon Chicken. We overtook the restaurant — literally. We filled every seat in the house.

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We destroyed numerous baskets of chicken. As the skies started looking like they would provide us with a little rain, we descended into Seoul’s metro system and reemerged at Insadong, a very popular shopping area for locals and visitors alike. You can find lots of traditional arts and crafts here, and a number of modern ones, too.

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By the time we wrapped up our exploration of Insadong, it was raining steadily and we were soaked. It did not deter us from our final appointment of the day, though. Tucked away in a neighborhood just one metro stop away from Insadong are the offices of DailyNK, an advocacy and media organization focusing on getting information out of North Korea and bringing it to a global audience. Thankfully, they didn’t mind that we were dripping water all over their office furniture. They spoke to us about their mission and some of the dangers involved in obtaining the type of information they want. One of those dangers is making sure your correspondents don’t get arrested by North Korean or Chinese authorities. Another involves cyber attacks on DailyNK’s website.

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It was almost surreal to be sitting in the same space where North Korean defectors have told their stories of survival and escape. It was yet another reminder that the conflict on the Korean peninsula is not just some abstract concept. It is real — almost tangible in some respects — and it has influenced Koreans’ lives for more than six decades.

Next post: our last days in Seoul and arriving in Tokyo.

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