The week that was…week 37: democracy, school and then…Korea

2013-09-02 12.50.43I started the week voting. At least we only have two Senate positions and I only had to count to 27.

It was then also off to see Zac at his Artist and Writers’ Festival Book Launch. The children took turns at coming and reading us their stories and talking about them. Andrew (who was doing godparent-equivalent duty) and I hears four or five different ones as well as Zac’s,



So much for Monday. Tuesday it was off to Korea.

2013-09-03 06.20.15Sunrise somewhere over Canberra.

2013-09-03 18.57.07 2013-09-03 19.45.05Sunset in Seoul.

I was in Seoul at the invitation of the Human Resource Development Service of Korea to speak at their conference. The conference opened on Wednesday morning.

2013-09-04 09.58.51I did have a chance for a walk in the morning to get my bearings. And to purchase a local fizzy caffeinated beverage.

2013-09-04 08.17.26 2013-09-04 13.56.47I had some pretty great views from my room on the 27th floor at the Hotel Intercontinental COEX.

I attended part of the conference and went to meetings during other bits – the conference was domestically focussed and so most of the sessions were in Korean with no translations. I did spent lunches and dinners talking more in depth about the Australian vocational education system, as well as giving my 80 minute presentation. Korea is introducing a competency-based system, seemingly in an attempt to change the entire relationship between skills, education and employment. It seems like a bold experiment and they are keen to see how a mature competency-based system works in order to be able to apply the lessons we have learned to the transition there. So much of my meal time was spent discussing these things. It is lucky I like to talk about the VET system in Australia. And when you get delicious lunches and dinners, it is not so hard either.

2013-09-05 13.13.15 2013-09-06 12.31.05I had a couple of meetings at the Australian Embassy – here is the view.

2013-09-06 15.10.47I finished my official duties about 3.30pm on the Friday, so had some time for sightseeing. As I had been at the Australian embassy, I took the chance to explore the things of interest in the vicinity.

I liked the idea of this King. He developed the Korean script in the 1400s or so, apparently, in recognition of the fact that his poorer subjects struggled with Chinese lettering and that literacy is important. Forward thinking.

2013-09-06 15.34.25I then went for a long walk around the Gyeongbokgung Palace. This place provoked a lot of thinking about authenticity for me.

2013-09-06 15.36.03

The Palace was originally built in the 1300s and then torn down the Japanese a couple of hundred years later and then rebuilt and then parts of it torn down or moved by the Japanese in the 1800s. There is rebuilding going on even now and apparently the rebuilding of aspects of it has been seen as a matter of national pride. Obviously it is not a functioning palace, but a landmark. It is being rebuilt in much the same design, but in some parts the newness of the materials are obvious. I guess the question is, in terms of historicity, what is authentic? When is it restoration/rebuilding/recreation/imitation. It brings to mind the great cathedrals of Europe which we see as authentic historical buildings with their grey stone. But if we were seeing them as they were at their hey day, they would be painted many colours in their interiors. Does rebuilding deny the history of destruction , or is it just another part of the story?

Anyway, I pondered these things as I wandered the grounds, until my feet got sore (I was wearing work shoes with small heels – but they were not the most inappropriate footwear I spotted) after a couple of hours and I retreated to Starbucks for refueling.

I then got to check out the shops of Insa-Dong (and make a few purchases) before meeting up with our Education Counsellor and his daughter for some bim-bim-bap.

Saturday I had entirely to myself. In the morning I explored the area around the hotel, starting with the Bongeunsa temple which is across the road. Unlike Gyeonbokung Palace, Bongeunsa is a working temple and there was obviously some kind of ceremony (or ceremonies) going on as I visited.

I then walked down to the park area I could see my room. This turned out to be the Seolleung and Jeongneung Tombs housed in a big park. Built from 1494, these are a World Heritage site. It was a lovely park too, heavily forested, with the little houses for the spirits to live in, as well as the tombs themselves.

After lunch I grabbed a cab to the other side of the Han (taxis are remarkably cheap in Seoul) to Bukchon Hanok village. This is a residential area with plenty of people living there, but is a traditional Korean style area with old new and in between houses built in the traditional Korean style. It is also very hilly. There are a range of traditional craft workshops around the area, but, fleeting as my sightseeing time was, I didn’t really have the time to visit them.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering back through parts of Seoul, seeing the old and the new. I even came across a gay marriage rally (I think).

After an evening watching the Australia channel and skyping home while discussing election results, it was up early and off to Manila.

All those hills in Bukchon – my calves were hurting like crazy. Anyway, feeling rather tired, once I got to the hotel it was massage, reading by the pool, swim, dinner in the hotel and early to bed.



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