Duh-ruhnken Tiger

A while back I made a post about what Korean punk music I was listening too, and now it’s time to appreciate another genre: Korean hip hop.


This is Drunken Tiger.

Not only does he have an awesome band name and killer abs, but he’s also a bit of a badass. According to wikipedia, Drunken Tiger’s Korean debut in 1998 was controversial due to its sexy and anti-establishment lyrics. In 2000, he was under criminal investigation for drugs which led to being banned from public performances for 2 years.

But many of his current songs aren’t very controversial at all.

From “Monster”:

Crazy jiujitsu but a hapkido flow
You only throwin hands playin kai-bai-bo

Hapkido (합기도): a traditional Korean martial art that uses weapons like swords and short sticks.
kai-bai-bo: Korean for rock-paper-scissors, ridiculously popular with people of all ages to settle any manner of disputes. Rapping about rock-paper-scissors may seem strange, but anyone who has lived in Korea can tell you it really is that popular over here.

Many of his lyrics are about Korean culture:

Make hits, brung jewels that style perfects
Great swift like the Hangul alphabet
The chosen career, call me king Sejong

Sejong the Great: founder of hangul (the Korean alphabet) and one of the country’s most respected historical figures.

These excerpts are from the English version of “Monster.” Drunken Tiger grew up in Korea and LA and can rap in two languages. I can’t even rap in one, so I find that quite impressive.

“Because I’m a man”

Anyone’s whose spent some time in Korea would appreciate these lyrics:

some squid, red pepper paste, and
11 and 1/2 shots of alcohol
take away the pain
Some hot kimchi soup calms me down from a tough day

Talks about taking shots of soju (one shot (one shot)) and erasing all previous troubles in a friendship, no more betrayal

Kimchi and soju and red pepper paste and squid? All of the finest of Korean cuisine together like that almost seems like a cliche, and I’m not really sure if it’s celebrating the culture or poking fun at it. Although the “one shot! one shot!” mention seems to signal towards the latter. (For those not in the know and can’t figure it out, “one shot” would be shooting or chugging your drink, and is a common repetition among groups of drinking Koreans.) But whatever the intent, I can appreciate his lyrics because they remind me of all my good times English teaching in Korea.

Drunken Tiger

He’s got an English language site, check it out!

EPIK HIGH – Wannabe

EPIK High is my other favorite Korean hip hop group. Their song “Wannabe” criticizes the conformity among KPop bands and their listeners, and the video references the famous Korean horror movie The Host – both things I can appreciate.

The Host

They’ve apparently been on hiatus since 2009 when DJ Tukutz had to serve his mandatory military service. Another member, Mithra Jin, is also in the military until 2012. That compulsory military service can really get in the way of your plans, Rain would know.

If you’d like to see the conclusion of the drama from that first video, just watch this video for the song “Trot + high technology:”

Trot (pronounced “tuh-rot-tuh”) is the oldest form of Korean pop music, developed around WWII (wikipedia). It is traditionally sung by a woman in a sparkly dress and appreciated by ajummas at small festivals and on TV.

The lyric translation I found over here reminds me of many of my visits to noraebangs, with older people who always tend to bust out a super emotional pop number. I can only assume what they’re singing about reflects this sentiment:

my life crying with one glass of alcohol and smiling with one tune
my trot
no matter how much they look down at you or look straight at you
they’re all the same when they’re drunk waves in the stomach
every time they stir riding the glass
legs and arms swaggering holding onto the mic
ddan ddaraddaraddaddadada to the trot rhythm

now – chachacha row that boat jjakjjakjjak
as if you’re wearing sparkly clothes lalala
the intonation is shaky just like my lifestyle

my image reflected in the soju glass is pitiful and bleak
who’ll understand my heart
sing it out loud the life getting soaked in the booze

By the way, this is trot:

Burning in the New Year

Deaborum festival fireworks

Yesterday was the first full moon of the lunar new year, or 정월 대보금 (jeongwol daeborum – New Year Full Moon) as it’s known in Korean. The holiday has many traditions, like cracking peanut shells with your teeth and (possibly) drinking makkoli, Korean rice wine, in the morning for good health in the new year. But the best of the traditions involves a giant bonfire.

This fire, called a 달집 (dalchip – moon house), is supposed to burn away the bad luck from last year and usher in wishes for the new year. People write their wishes on paper and tie them to the firewood to be burned. Burning them sends them up into the heavens so they’ll come true.

dancing around the fire

There were several places in Ulsan holding events, and my friends and I opted to check out Ilsan Beach. Unfortunately the full moon was covered by clouds, but the festival was still on. We arrived in Ilsan to the sound of fireworks and the giant crackling bonfire. Apparently we were a little late, but we weren’t alone, as people kept charging the fire to throw in their wishes and be chased away by security.

dancing around the fire in funny white hats

After the fireworks, the drumming and dancing started. According to my friend, this was the favorite activity for many ajummas who had been drinking makkoli all day (for health). People in funny white hats led everyone dancing around the fire – including me and my friends. Some played traditional Korean drums while a group of women in hanbok sang a song praying for good fortune in the new year:

To me with my limited Korean ability, it sounded like they were singing something about potatoes (kamja, kamja!) but my native-speaking friend assured me that was not the case.

After dancing around the fire and throwing in their wishes, most people left the festival. Some stuck around to drink makkoli and eat kimchi and tofu and odeng. One guy was spinning a can full of fire around on a chain. According to wikipedia, this was originally done on farms to get rid of crop-destroying worms. On the beach, it’s done probably just to look cool. Which it really does! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures but it looked something like this:

From Discovering Korea

The biggest celebration in the country seems to be in Jeju, where I heard they light an entire field on fire, so I suppose if you have the opportunity you’d want to be there 15 days after the lunar new year. But no matter where you are in Korea, you’re bound to be near a giant bonfire. I think it’s a pretty fun way to start the ‘new’ year – or at least far more exciting than New Year’s Resolutions.

Jumping in Jecheon


What else is there to do on Thanksgiving weekend when you’re 6000 miles away from home and you can’t find any turkey or pumpkin pie?

It all began several months ago, when I was on an
Adventure Korea trip last spring. Taking a ferry across the beautiful, yellow-dusted waters of Chungju Lake, our peaceful journey was interrupted by terrified screams as we came across ChungPung Land’s bungee jump. I later discovered that this was the biggest jump in Korea at 62 meters (203 feet), which also makes it the third highest jump in Asia. And I immediately vowed not to leave the country until I had made the jump.

Unfortunately, ChungPung Land isn’t very close to Ulsan, and so it was another 6 months or so before I was able to make it back – just in time for the last jump of the season, and my last chance before leaving Korea.

Cheong Pung Land

ChungPung Land is in or just outside of Jecheon, a 4.5-hour, aggravatingly slow train ride from Ulsan. The website had suggested taking a local city bus out to the bungee jump, but other blogs reported the bus could take an hour, a highly unappealing prospect after just getting off the train. Instead we opted for the easy option and got a couple taxis, who probably ripped us off a bit charging 25,000 won, but at least it was quick.

The taxi ride out to the jump was adventurous in itself, down a narrow road with a daring taxi driver, passing in no-pass zones and rounding sharp curves recklessly. It was a good warm-up for the events to come!

When we got there it wasn’t very crowded, with only one other group of foreigners around. We bought tickets for the “big 3” which included an Ejection Seat, Giant Swing, and the bungee jump. The bungee itself was 40,000 won, and adding the other two for only 20,000 more seemed like a pretty good deal.

The ejection seat was up first. It didn’t look like much at first, but looks can be deceiving. The two-person seat is in a little metal frame suspended between two bungee cords, which is sling-shotted by a giant metal arm, launching you incredibly high into the air and spinning in circles before gradually making your way back to earth.

I felt very secure, with no details being spared in fastening us to the seat. We wore a safety belt and harness, something over our legs and they even had me cross my arms over my chest, harhar. According to my friends, there was a very likely danger of my boobs getting stretched, which I hadn’t found any backing evidence of on the internet but better safe than sorry!

Next we were suited up for the Big Swing, which seemingly required the help of 1-3 staff members per person. The staff was entirely university-aged Korean guys, of whom there seemed to be way more than necessary working for the slow customer-flow of that afternoon. Lucky for us, they spoke some English, which went something like this: “You, here. Step. Catch. Go. Now.” Where they learned this blunt manner of speaking, I have no idea.

As we headed over to the swing, a group of people had gathered to watch. To start, you were hooked in at the shoulder and ankle and suspended at a rather awkward angle as they finished securing everything. Then it was a slow, slow ascent, which suddenly (and terrifyingly) jerked to a halt at the top. But the scariest part was having to pull the release cable yourself to start your fall. Which required a bit more force than expected, and so there were several false starts of tugging and not falling. Quite terrifying. But also ridiculously fun! Although my description may not do the experience justice.

Finally, it was time for the bungee! We changed into bungee gear and were weighed, each of us getting a little card of a different color. We took a very tiny elevator up to the top of the crane, where there were already people waiting. It was a bit cold and windy at the top, and the view looking through the crane beneath our feet did nothing to comfort our nerves. Unfortunately, we had quite a while to wait for everyone in front of us to jump.

The color of our cards determined the order we could jump, which apparently meant I would go last. After watching so many people go, I was incredibly impatient for my turn to come. When it finally came time to strap the giant cables around my ankles, I wasn’t really nervous. It was exciting to finally be doing something I’d been looking forward to for so long. They led me to the edge of the platform, between some hand rails. Even then, I still felt quite secure and ready to go. Then they instructed me to put my feet halfway over the edge of the platform. Ok, no problem. And then I was told to look up. And take my hands off the handrails to hold them above my head while they counted to 5 for me to jump. Which is where the nerves kicked in.

As soon as I’d look away from my feet and took my hands off the handrails, I’d lose my sense of balance and it was as if my feet were on something as thin as a tightrope. Haphazardly flailing over the edge was not the way I wanted to go. After a lot of false starts of putting my hands up and back down, we eventually worked something out where I did a one-arm up kinda dive.

And. it. was. AWESOME!

Safe landing
Actually, as soon as I landed I felt like I forgot everything about what it felt like to bungee jump. And I wanted to go again. The fall was somehow less scary than the fall on the swing. The bouncing around part after the initial bit was strange, as you’re like a ragdoll at the end of the cable being snapped back and forth. But it was also ridiculously fun!

After a while, it got pretty annoying to be upside down. Especially because after you finish bouncing you get lowered very slowly down to the guy in the raft, whose been waiting for you in the ‘safety pool’ under the crane. It felt like I’d been upside down for far too long by the time I made it to the raft, but that was the only negative feeling of the whole experience.

The view from the jump
The calm view from the jump.

Besides Chungpung Land, the area around Chungju Lake is beautiful and must be amazing during the summer. Although it is very resort-y, with prices to match. We went to a cool-looking restaurant for some post-jump dinner where we found dalk kalbi for 20,000 won per serving! Which was a bit much, to me. The owner of the restaurant was a Korean man with impressive English speaking abilities and equally impressive long, wild gray hair – a rather unusual site in the country. He was curious about what we were doing in town and how we had found his restaurant, and then was incredibly considerate in having someone drive us back into town for free. I’d recommend his restaurant but I’ve forgotten the name. It’s the really cool looking place on the way to Jecheon though, and if you ever get the chance you should go.

We found a ridiculously cheap love motel (50,000 for two rooms!) near the train station and headed out in search of the local nightlife. And then we spent about an hour or so wandering around without any luck. There seemed to be a highly disproportionate number of shady-looking girly bars for such a small town, but I guess for the resort season. Eventually we found some young people in a trendy cafe who sent us to the part of town where all the bars were. From there we met some other foreigners who took us to a big party at “Foreigner Bar”, and our night was set.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any good close-ups of my bungee jump, which just means I’ll have to do it again! Perhaps in Macau