If you want to do a bit of research before taking a trip in South Korea, don’t settle for the standard Google search or hastily read travel books.
Here are 21 cyber destinations covering Korean travel, history, society and language, targeting both tourists and expats. Non-Korean visitors ― and possibly many Koreans, too ― could find these sites surprisingly addictive as they discover online gateways to intriguing aspects of Korea.
The official website for Korean tourism, Visit Korea (www.visitkorea.or.kr) proudly introduces essential information on culture, travel, festivals and even recipes. The site is a great source for global citizens as the service is available in 11 languages. The friendly and welcoming site offers superb shopping reviews, festival news and travel highlights. Free language and culture lessons are available.
Searching for something out of the ordinary? Adventure Korea (www.adventurekorea.com) offers adrenaline junkies a range of short trips around the country. There are a variety of thrilling activities to choose from on the tour site. These include trips to Seoraksan hot springs, Hangang booze cruises, templestays and DMZ trips. Whether it is culture, camping, festivals or hiking, the site offers something for everyone.
Virtual Tourist (www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Asia/South_Korea) is a practical site offering reviews and comments posted by travelers themselves about destinations they have visited. It is a great gateway for travel enthusiasts wanting to read honest reviews and tips from people who have been there themselves. The site offers a chance to connect with over a million travelers around the world to ask questions and share experiences. There are over 7,000 tips and 15,000 photos available on Korea alone.
For those who want to experience Korean rural life, a Korean farm stay offers an unusual but memorable experience. The Korea WWOOF (http://koreawwoof.com) arranges farm stays for people who want to embrace the countryside and organic farming. Farm stay guests help with daily chores on the farm such as harvesting, preparing soil for planting, weeding, and seeding in exchange for food and lodging. One can also get to know rural life and culture while mingling with local people. Skimming through feedback from former Wwoofers on the website will give you a sense of what the program is about.
Restaurants, bars, entertainment, travel, shopping and fashion ― you name it, this site has it. Seoulstyle.com (www.seoulstyle.com) is an offbeat site for expats in Seoul or for travelers looking for something missing from normal travel guides. Some of the places or activities introduced on the site may not be too Korean. But the site serves the need of expats in Korea looking for both something of their own and something of Korea. You can download issues of the Korea-based English-language Groove magazine, featuring interesting articles on life in Korea observed by expats.
Korea Taste (www.koreataste.org) takes visitors on a comprehensive tour of Korean food. The Korean tour agency’s official food site features articles on concepts of Korean cuisine, food columns, information on restaurants and recipes in a well organized format with beautiful pictures of dishes and their ingredients.
Maangchi.com (www.maangchi.com) invites visitors to try cooking Korean food themselves in a quick and easy way, with video recipes. The recipes don’t require lengthy preparations and the author’s chirpy tone and witty captions in videos never bore. Kimchi-making is the most popular recipe, viewed over 400,000 times, prompting the site’s author to release a Kimchi app for the iPad in May, 2010.
Do you want to know how to make top secret Korean restaurant recipes? ZenKimchi.com (www.zenkimchi.com) covers food from recipes to restaurant reviews. This is a great website for food enthusiasts wishing to find the finest restaurants in Korea, with articles and reviews including coverage of international cuisine from Saudi Arabia, Italy, India and France. Food reviews are superb with descriptive opinions and ratings on the quality of food, price and ambiance of the restaurant. The blog is definitely worth a visit for its fun and honest comments.
Ongofood.com (www.ongofood.com) is a website promoting Korean food and culture to travelers from all over the world. Worth a visit for those interested in attending a “Korean night dining tour” or “Korean cooking class.” Otherwise, take a peek at Seouleats.com, a popular food blog run by the chief of marketing and tours for the O’ngo Food Communications. Seouleats.com has some entertaining restaurant reviews with tips for dining out in Korea which even native Koreans may find useful.
Soompi.com (www.soompi.com) is a home ground for Hallyu fans worldwide with 1.4 million visitors daily, most of them non-Koreans. It is the best organized K-pop website covering latest albums, music videos, TV dramas, celebrity gossips and photos. The site boasts the largest fan base through fan clubs and forums on the website, which enable ardent K-pop fans to mingle online and share news about their idols.
When it comes to K-pop, Allkpop.com (www.allkpop.com) is the fastest news breaker. Latest celebrity gossips and news draw over 3 million monthly readers worldwide and takes Hallyu to audiences beyond Asia. The easy-to-navigate photo section has glossy-style photos of K-pop stars.
Want the latest celebrity gossip? Then Kokokoreano.com (www.kokokoreano.com) is the place. An entertaining blog for Hallyu fans with the latest celebrity news, photos and fashion reviews, the site also features photo shoots from Korean magazines, designer fashion shows and celebrities’ street style and performance outfits.
Korean Drama Guide (www.korean-drama-guide.com) is an encyclopedia for Korean drama fans. This impressive site has a massive database on Korean dramas, synopsis and information on TV stars. Few websites can beat the Korean Drama Guide index.
Videos say more than words. Eatyourkimchi.com (www.eatyourkimchi.com) is run by a Canadian couple teaching English in Korea, recording glimpses of everyday life here. Martina and Simon fascinate with entertaining and useful videos on Korean culture, K-pop, teaching and ESL lesson materials, and everyday life.
The Marmot’s Hole (www.rjkoehler.com) is serious in tone compared to other expat blogs, but the posts dealing with Korean history, politics, North Korea, and U.S. troop presence in Korea draw a lot of readers. Run by 14-year-resident in Korea, Robert Koehler, the blog offers some interesting insights on Korea. The photos taken by Koehler capture the beauty of Korea.
Chrisinsouthkorea.com (www.chrisinsouthkorea.com) offers extensive features on travel and life as an expat in Korea. Chris frequently updates with event reviews, adventurous travel articles and helpful tips for newcomers.
Topics are covered with an honest humor, and include intriguing post titles ranging from “You know Korea is your home when … ” to “Destination: Dream Forest.” For a good laugh, read stories in the “Konglish” category.
History, Society and Language
The official international broadcasting station of South Korea KBS World Radio (http://world.kbs.co.kr) won’t disappoint. The station broadcasts news and information in eleven languages: Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesia, Arabic, Vietnamese, Russian, German, French and Spanish. Also, the site has great information on the locations, people, climate, culture and history of Korea. In addition, the site features several recipes for popular Korean dishes, and short language study options are available.
Koreanhistory.info (http://koreanhistory.info) is an excellent site on Korean history. Starting from Paleolithic period (B.C. 5,000-8,000), the site informs on each period of Korea’s history. In addition, the website provides Korean history videos, MP3 audio and photos of old Korea. The site has extensive resources including timelines and information on other major historical events in Korea. Its only drawback is the slightly drab and simple design.
Koreana (www.koreana.or.kr), a quarterly journal on Korean art and culture, helps readers better understand Korea. Sophisticated articles and images depict Korea’s arts, environment, literature, lifestyle and other themes. By clicking the current edition’s e-book, you can flip through the journal and see fascinating and attention-grabbing pictures.
Keen to learn Korean? Sogang University Korean Program (http://korean.sogang.ac.kr) provides extensive study materials for free on its website. By following the courses from introduction to novice and intermediate levels, non-Koreans can develop their Korean language skills. The module on pronunciation of the alphabet is available in audio files and examples of how to hand-write each character are also available.
An American man passes on his knowledge on Korean study at Learn Korean Language (www.learnkoreanlanguage.com). This useful site is run by Russell Holloway who calls himself a “hardcore fan” of the Korean language since he first learned it after meeting the love of his life, who is half-Korean.
By Lee Woo-young and Moon Ye-bin