Gwangju Blog

Close up.

Close up


If you’ve lived in or around Gwangju over the past 6 weeks, there was mostly like ten days or so when your eyes were inundated with photos of small pinkish flowers like the ones shown above. While South Korea does not have as strong of a Hanami tradition as in Japan, admiration for the humble yet exotically-epherimal cherry blossom was most likely shoved down your visual gullet through Facebook or other social media feeds. However, here’s hoping that you’ve not quite gotten your fill. Perhaps, the photo blog’s delayed response in depicting the flower was well served by this photographers stubborn propensity to shoot film. Unlike shooting by digital means, working with 135mm film (or 35mm, for short) takes considerable more time before the images burned onto its chemical surface can make their way from paper to bytes. In the three weeks it took to fill the entire thirty-six frames, send it to the developer, then scanner, and back again, you just might have finished detoxing from your yearly bout of cherry-gluttony, and therefore not recoil in horror upon encountering the image above.

As most imported natural or artificial spectacles tend to be re-branded as couples holidays, the appreciation for cherry blossoms has not been spared this unfortunate malaise. However, this photograph was chosen in the hope that it could reveal an essence within whatever a flower truly is. Beyond branding, label, title or concept, what truly IS a flower? When encountering thousands of them in one concentrated area, what makes power makes us stop in our tracks? What draws us to them? (I recently read an article about how Neanderthals included with the corpse, different species of flowers as part of their burying rituals. Evidently, the ability to feel the power within the pedals is not limited to humans alone.) What emotions do memories of flowers evoke in us? What do those memories look like? Perhaps, the image above could attempt to do justice to those questions by not allowing us the certitude of ready-made answers. Rather, when seeing this photo, the feeling into which these flowers thrust me ultimately left little room for detached judgment. It reminded me that when we are truly with beauty, we know not of the past, nor the future. Only when exiting from that experience do we remember that it is beauty’s job to fade.

The close-up, and multi-layered nature of this image both bring us closer to the subject, yet also continually redefine what that subject is. As the lens nears the stamen, petals retreat to the periphery, and what was once subject in-and-of itself, now becomes negative space. On this occasion, the process of photographing became a continual process of discovery. Unsurprisingly, the act of shooting can reveal an attachment to the moment, to cling to the emotions therein, and to not let them grow dim. However, when we encounter an image which speaks to that part of ourselves which is content in that moment, we naturally allow the light to do what it does best; to burn.

[This photo is a multiple-exposure, consisting of 3 exposed images layered within the camera itself using fully mechanical means. Instead of advancing the film after each shot, a lever can be pressed and the shutter re-cocked without the film advancing to the next frame. All the photographer has to do is remember the composition of the first shot when framing the second, and so on. Additionally, the photo must be underexposed by 1 or 2 stops, so that the final result, if shooting 3 images, will be properly exposed. This photo was taken using my Nikon FE2 and shooting Kodak Portra 160, which is well known for its fine grain, and overall reddish-pinkish hue.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)




What to Do This Weekend: A Big Day South, Butterflies, and Landscapes

Hello Gwangju!

It’s time to see what’s happening during the final weekend of April!

Courtesy of Angle Magazine

Courtesy of Angle Magazine

This weekend’s big event is the Big Day South Festival sponsored by Angle Magazine. Every year the festival is held in a different city, and this year it’s coming to Gwangju on Saturday! What is the Big Day South Festival? It’s an audio an visual event that will feature national artists, as well as locals from Gwangju. It will be taking place at two different venues in the city: Barim Art Hall, and Club Nevermind. Activities during the day will take place at Barim, and then will move over to Club Nevermind at night. Among the local artists that will be featured are Jen Lee (from the Gwangju Blog), and punk rockers, Betty Ass. It will be a day of music and art that will showcase Gwangju, and other artists from Korea. A day pass for the events will cost 20,000 won. For more information about Big Day South, check out this address: . You can also check out the event page on Facebook.

The Hampyeong Butterfly Festival starts this Friday in Hampyeong, Jeollanamdo. As you can guess by the name, the festival is all about the ecology of the area, in particularly butterflies. There will be a number of butterfly themed events, displays, and performances. Since it’s a Korean festival you know there will be lots of great food and drink. The festival will run through the 8th of May. For more information about the Hampyeong Butterfly Festival, please click on this link.

Courtesy of the ACC

Courtesy of the ACC

This will be the last weekend for the  “Bom, Bom, Boom” spring festival. Get down to the ACC this weekend for your final chance to hear great bands, and see local art. I’ve already been a couple of times, and I hope the ACC brings it back next spring! For directions on how to get there, see our previous post here.

The Gwangju-Jeonnam chapter of KOTESOL will be having a special outreach this Saturday at Mokpo National University. These outreaches are held once, or twice a year for those members who may not be able to get to the regular meetings in Gwangju. It’s another great opportunity to meet up and network with fellow teachers. For more details you can check out this link, or you can also go to their Facebook event page.

A new teacher has joined the ranks of the Saturday art class at the GIC. Kim Flynn will hold a quick and simple course on landscaping painting . . . Canadian style. The best part is, you don’t need any painting experience! The price for the class is 8,000 won, and materials will be provided (you are of course free to bring your own). For directions to the GIC, please visit their website. For more details about the class, please go to the Facebook event page here.

We’re not quite done yet!

Courtesy of Loft 28

Courtesy of Loft 28

Haven’t been to Loft 28 yet? Trust me, you’re missing out on a great place to hang out! Another Saturday means another party. For more info, and directions, please visit their Facebook page.

It’s already time for more Amazing Races (that’s right, plural)! For more information about signing up for them, go to, or check out JD’s post from earlier this week!

People You Should Know in Gwangju: Daniel Choi

KakaoTalk_20160426_111022238Name: Daniel Choi (Choi, Sung Hyeok)

Occupation: Business Owner

Hometown: Gwangju

Length of time in Gwangju: I was born here!

My hometown is famous for . . . May 18, The big Democratic movement.

I have never been able to . . . go to the North pole.

My favorite sport to play is . . . baseball

On my days off I like to . . . spend time with my family.

My favorite movie is . . . The Transporter.

Do you belong to any clubs or community organizations in Gwangju?
I’m a member of Gwangju Citizens Association for Successful International Events

What is your surefire way to beat the blues when you are feeling homesick?
Playing games and eating nice food.

What is the oddest job you have ever had?
Subway construction

What is your favorite game to play?

What businesses do you run in Gwangju?
Korea MacPC Guys , Butlerskorea, Education Consulting

How long have your businesses been operating in Gwangju?
Since 2007KakaoTalk_20160426_112852291

How did your businesses begin?
Education Consulting was my first job when I came back from the States and later I added Korea Mac/PC Guys and Butlerskorea.

Why in Gwangju?
It’s my hometown and I like the atmosphere of Gwangju.

What is the best part of your day?
The moment that I step into my office, because my job is so much fun and very satisfying.

What can be the most difficult part of your day?
When foreigners call me with stories about difficulties or struggles they’ve encountered. But this is also the best part of my day because I enjoy helping others.

What is the thing you wish more people knew about your business?
The term “butler” means someone who brings you what you need and helps make life easier. In the same way, we help foreigners with any problems that they face while living in Korea because of language barriers. It’s not just about business. Our goal is to build our community by helping and supporting each other.

What is the best advice you can give to people who use your services?
Do not hesitate to ask for help with whatever you need. Our website is so simple to use—just fill out a help request form.

KakaoTalk_20160426_111020990What is the most useful thing your business does for the people in Gwangju?

We offer an easy way to solve your problems quickly. We don’t just work on a single problem, but almost everything from translation and visa facilitation to helping you find a place to live and purchase and transport things you might need. Need to get car insurance? We can help. Want to rent a new house? We do that too. Need someone to go with you to the immigration office or get a pizza delivered to your house? Just call us! We do weekly trips to Costco, organize many trips and events for foreigners. We’ve got enough experience to deal with almost everything. The goal is that you can go to one place for all your questions instead of looking around for many different people to help with every issue you might have.

How do you and your business fit into the community?
Butlers fits into the community by helping others to fit into the community. Both those new to Korea and long-time residents sometimes struggle to get what they need, and this is where we fit in. We strive to make everyone’s lives easier.

Do you have any volunteer or charity work you perform for the community?
I do help the local police station, and we will donate 5% of our total yearly income every year to support local orphanages or others in need.

Is there any personal code or motto you use to run your business?
Do your best and always be humble.

What are some future plans you have for your business?
I want to make my website a place where all talented foreigners can join and build together so that we will be able to offer all foreigners to have a best quality of service and living in Gwangju.

What advice would you have for people looking to start a business like yours?
They should spend enough time researching and knowing about the environment of the place where they want to start their business.

Are there any services you can recommend in Gwangju that a lot of folks don’t know about?
Butlers Korea is a new service geared towards helping foreigners with almost everything. We provide many services, such as trips to Costco, an online food market, food delivery, translation services, housing services, and more.

Butler’s Korea opened on September 1, 2015, and is a website to help and support foreigners with difficulties in Korea. You can find out more information about the services they provide on Facebook and their website.
38-1 yesul-gil ,dong-gu, Gwangju 61475


Where to Eat Wednesday: Ruen Thai

I confess, a lot of the newer restaurants I’ve been checking out as of late haven’t been due to proper exploration or anything fancy like that. Due to my schedule, a number of them have been coming to me through recommendations and informative postings on social media. While I can’t help but feel a little guilty for jumping onto such places, I can only hope that my own reviews and mediocre pictures are helpful to those who in need of more information.

I had heard through the grapevine that a new Thai restaurant called Ruen Thai had opened up in the Suwan area. Since both a good friend of mine and I work in the area, we thought it would be the perfect spot for our weekly lady date. Why? Because lady dates are awesome.


When we arrived, I was a little surprised to see signs offering both Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Since I was hungry for curry and spicy, tangy goodness, my mind was too focused on the Thai offerings to think too much of how good the Vietnamese food here could be. Once we went up the stairs and got ourselves a seat, I was quick to look through the large and varied menu that listed everything in Korean and English. There were also pictures available, just in case the names and descriptions in English just weren’t enough.


A number of the options available seemed quite tempting, and the prices made it difficult to go overboard as I usually do. Some of the selections I wanted to try included the Soft Shell Crab, Crispy Pork Belly and Red Curry Paste, Larb Beef Salad, Panang Curry for Beef, Pineapple Fried Rice, Pad Kee Mao, and of course, Pad Thai. Since I was just ordering for two people, we ended up getting the Tom Yum Soup, an order of Massaman Beef Curry, and the Pad See Eew. Even that seemed like a bit much, but we were hungry, and I definitely wanted both noodles and curry.

After we placed our orders, we first received some pickled sides. Before long, the first dish to arrive was the Pad See Eew, which was basically a stir-fried noodle dish made with pork and vegetables that came with a side of peanuts, dried peppers, and a lemon to to add acidity. The thick rice noodles had been stir-fried quite well, offering a touch of char without getting gummy or overcooked. The meat and vegetables were also nice, though seeing large pieces of carrots and other veggies I’m not used to seeing in my stir-fry did through me off a bit.

Pad See EewTom Yum Soup

The second dish we received was the Tom Yum Soup, which arrived piping hot. As expected, the soup was spicy and sour, just the way I liked it, and came with large prawns, an assortment of vegetables, and even a bed of rice noodles at the bottom. Though I can’t say I’ve ever had this soup with noodles, it was certainly a welcome addition. The soup did succeed in managing to satisfy my craving for bold flavors, but it seemed to be missing a little something compared to similar dishes I’ve had in the past. The flavors were about 75% of the way there, but the overall dish lacked a certain depth I found myself missing.

Massaman Beef CurrySnacks

Before we could finish the first two dishes, our Massaman Beef Curry arrived. Featuring beef and potatoes, I was excited to dive into a curry that I had consistently grown to enjoy at other restaurants. Unfortunately, I was less than thrilled with what I got. While everything tasted fine, and there was no shortage of beef or potatoes, my least favorite aspect of this dish was the curry itself. What I had hoped to be a rich combination of coconut milk and an aromatic blend of spices ended up arriving as a thin gravy-like sauce that made the entire dish resemble more of a stew than anything. If the dish was called anything else, I probably would have accepted it, but I don’t think I could ever see myself calling it curry.

Overall, our trip to Ruen Thai was fairly decent. The complimentary tea and snacks at the end were a welcome surprise. Though it wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for Thai food in Gwangju, it’s definitely nice to see that more options are popping up around the city. The restaurant is a little on the small side, so seating is definitely limited to smaller parties.

Address: 광주광역시 광산구 장덕동 1275 에덱스빌딩 2층 (a few blocks away from the Lotte Outlet Mall)
Phone: 062-962-2278
Hours: 10:00AM to 10:00PM (closed on Sundays)
Average Price Range: 14,000 to 20,000 per person

Essentials with JD # 226 ** MAKE SOME EXTRA MONEY IN MAY**


Looking to win loads of money early this May? GFN has loads of events on 5th and 7th where you could win your share of up to 2 million won in prizes. There is also another event involving pictures on 28th of May at Gokseong International Rose Festival. Remember everything is free – including transport, food and t-shirts.


First up is the 2nd Annual Amazing Race at the Wando Jangbogo Fishery Festival! Thursday, May 5th, Children’s Day, for a day full of aquatic fun!


In teams of 3-5 members, race to complete challenges around the festival, while learning about legendary Silla maritime leader and warrior Jangbogo and trying your hand at seaside activities- from catching fish to eating sashimi!


Best of all, the fastest teams will win some amazing prizes:   

1st Prize : 500,000 Won

2nd Prize: 200,000 Won

3rd Prize: 100,000 Won


Hurry! There are only spots for 20 teams, first come first served!

Register your teamNOW, at by sending your registration form to!


Download registration forms here:
amazing (1)

2nd Fest! Get your friends together and race to complete
challenges under the bamboo of the 18th Damyang Bamboo Festival.


Date: Saturday, May 7th.

Time: 13:00pm (pick up in Gwangju)- 5:00pm (drop off)

Location: Damyang Bamboo Park


Up to 1,000,000 won in prizes, and best of all, everything is FREE! GFN will provide transportation, lunch, beverages and goodies- all you have to do is register a group of 3-5 people !


Only 50 teams can register, first come first served!


Check out the GFN website to register and for more information.