Gwangju Blog

What to do this Week: Recurring events in Gwangju, Summerus Calendarus Interruptus

Last one before September: Tuesday Night Zumba tonight July 28!

Photo courtesy of Cailin Noble.

Photo courtesy of Cailin Noble.

Cailin Noble leads regular Zumba classes at the GIC on Tuesdays and Saturdays. These classes are open to the public and there is a 5,000 won participation fee that goes to the GIC to cover costs for the space rental. There is a Tuesday class tonight from 7-8 P.M. Check out the Facebook events page for more info.

Last one ever: Male Nude Figure Drawing class

Photo courtesy of Mariya Haponenko.

Photo courtesy of Mariya Haponenko.

Mariya Haponenko has been holding a great series of regular art classes for a while now on Saturdays from 12:30-3 P.M. at the GIC. This week’s Aug.1 session is a male nude drawing class with a live model—the last one scheduled before Mariya leaves Korea. The cost is 10,000 won, and all materials will be provided. For more information check out the Facebook event page.

First and Last one ever: Mariya Haponenko Solo Exhibition

Mariya Haponenko’s opening for her first solo exhibition in Korea will be Aug. 1 at 6:30 P.M., and will also be her last before she leaves Korea. Come out and take a look at her “Lip to Lip” solo exhibition at the Jisan Dul Gallery near Chosun University. She will be displaying her series of mouth art, with several more pieces added just for this show. Check out her Facebook events page for more information and directions to the venue.

And . . . you just missed it . . .

The Gwangju International Center downtown weekly GIC Talk is on break for three weeks for summer! No meeting Aug. 1, 8, or 15.

Photo courtesy of Speakeasy.

Photo courtesy of Speakeasy.

No Speakeasy quiz this week, but . . . Speakeasy will be hosting an Classics Night Aug. 1, spinning tunes from the 50’s-80’s. Free admission, music starts at 9 and goes to 3 A.M. with drink specials all night. Check out the event page.

People You Should Know…in Gwangju: Travis Groves

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

If you like listening to music, you’re going to love getting to know this week’s person.  Another host of GFN, he’s spinning the records you love…even the ones you didn’t know you loved!  Yeah, he’s that good.  Here, in his own words, is Travis Groves…a person you should know in Gwangju.


How long have you been in Gwangju? 

I’ve been living in Gwangju since the beginning of 2012, so, three and a half years.


What do you do here in Gwangju?

I’m a Radio Producer / Writer / Host on ‘In the Mix’ (music program) at GFN 98.7 in Gwangju and 93.7FM in Yeosu.

Monday to Sunday
Listen online: GFN 98.7 FM  (if that doesn’t work, try here)

Tune-in for a taste of home, as my guests and I chat about the latest music news, music (rock, pop, indie, classic), festivals, and concerts in Korea. The only show FULLY produced by a foreigner in the country!

What did you do before you took up your current job?

I was a Reporter for Mnet Amercia, which is like the Korean version of MTV. I also worked in radio for TBS Efm in Seoul on several programs as a regular guest.

What has been your most rewarding achievement?

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Getting a job in the Marketing Department of Harrods Knightsbridge in London was exciting. Meeting a lot of celebrities including Georgio Armani, Kate Bosworth, Liam Ghallagher, amongst many others. But probably my most rewarding achievement was interviewing K-Pop group Girls Generation (Style Icon Awards, Seoul), Brad Pitt (during is Moneyball premier, Seoul) and Kenny G (Gwangju). Total name drop I know, but I get star struck I must admit.

What do you do for fun? 

Well, I recently got engaged, so I enjoy going for drives with my fiancé. Things like camping, BBQ, listening to tunes, watching shows (True Detective is back!), the movies, and when I have time DJ’ing and graphic design.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?

I went to the Middle East in 2010 to visit a good friend who I met in Seoul, 2008. We met up in Jordan, and went to the city of Petra (where Indiana Jones was filmed), slept under the stars in a Bedouin camp, played the Rababa, then crossed the Red Sea to Egypt, staying on the Sinai, before heading up to Israel. There, we visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and made our way into Palestine’s West Bank. It was such a cultural experience as it was Ramadan. I also love art, and got to see Banksy’s controversial street art throughout Palestine, in the flesh.

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Any family? Pets? 

My immediate family includes my mum, dad, two brothers, and of course now my fiancé . Plus, my nana & pop, many cousins, aunties & uncles. Love em’ all heaps! Had a dog growing up who past many years ago (always sad), definitively want another, but not while I’m living in an apartment.

What is something you wish you could do?

I have always wanted my own business, being your own boss would be the life!

Any embarrassing tales for public consumption?

Hmmmm….”public consumption”. Hehe. Ummm, yeah, I mentioned earlier about interviewing Brad Pitt. The writer of the show made me the WORST sign ever, saying “ATTENTION PLEASE” in pink, yellow, and blue. I had to hold that to get his attention on the red carpet, and the Producer wanted me to ask him what he thought about Korean food, not about the actual movie he was promoting! LOL. You only get one chance to interview someone like that. Let’s just say, I won’t be using that on my show reel, sadly.

Is there any person you admire?

My parents, for putting up with me as a kid! But seriously, if it weren’t for our parents, most of us expats couldn’t have had the platform we’ve been given to be educated and live abroad. So, I admire my parents hard work.

Any personal code you live by?

It’s often hard to stick by a code, but I would say make mistakes, it’s the only way us humans learn. Also, you only live once, so chase your dreams, but be wise about it.

What’s your “perfect” day in Gwangju?

In Australia, you can’t drink in public. So, honestly, sitting out front of a convenient store on a hot summer’s afternoon with a coupla’ coldies, and good company. 4 for 10. Expats know what I’m talkin’ about!

Is there any place in Gwangju you recommend?

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Photo Courtesy of Travis Groves

Mudeung Mountain is the obvious one. Been up there several times, and it’s beautiful. Otherwise, I live in Sangmu, and this end of the river is quite nice also.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their life?

Travel anywhere, by yourself, off the beaten path, at least once. It put’s you in a vulnerable state, and that’s when the best stuff happens. I went to 4 cities in Japan by myself, met new people, and had a great time!

Any advice you want to give the people of Gwangju?

It’s a small community, so, be careful! <Wink>.

Essentials with JD # 197 **TRAVEL INSURANCE**

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Summer vacation is here and people are ready to rest and relax. Relax enjoy without the worries of anything going wrong.

Someone once said : ‘If you can’t afford Travel insurance then you should not travel” So make sure you are covered before you leave. As this could save you in the long run.

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A great site to sign up for online insurance is World Nomads and you can check all the benefits below. You can also so your own quotes and customise it to your travel. You can also add some items that you wish to have extra coverage for. Check them out at which is pretty easy to navigate and it is all in English. Just make sure to pick South Korea as your country of residence. Also if you are travelling to the USA make sure to click Worldwide (including USA). (above is just a sample – there are more categories of coverage which are included – be sure to check them out)


Stay safe and have a great summer






Just Dance

Just Dance



It’s another week, and the kids are braving the darkening skies and returning to the park in full force. They weave in and out of the exercise machines and Jung-jas, simultaneously being chased, and themselves chasing some unknown force. In the end, it’s just life, raw, and an unbridled. I sit with the older men on a neighboring Jung-ja. Their faces turn towards the children every so often. They speak not a word. Just enjoying the subtle pre-storm breeze. Parents also seem to tired from the heat to keep up with their offspring, and retreat to benches on the periphery of the scene. We (all of us adults) seem equally defeated by the weather. In this case, only the kids themselves remain active within the park space.

Several young girls cease investing in their mini-drama of the moment, and take off on a tear following another girl, their friend it seems, who has just entered the park with her mother. The nearly run the circumference of the park, when one of them looks over at the Jung-ga where I sit. She stops. I’ve been spotted. Whispers whirl from the impromptu conference that emerges as a result of this exotic, long-haired, white-skinned ‘intruder’ to the scene. Their cautious advance turns to a gallop when the aforementioned newcomer heads the pack. Surrounded, their first question is, ‘Why are you here?’

Several minutes later, their questions answered to satisfaction. They see my camera (the Nikon d600) and break into preconditioned shenanigans. Some give the prerequisite ‘V for Victory’ (formerly known as ‘Peace’) sign, who the more uninhabited break into dance. At this, I smile. The old folks sitting nearby smile. The parents? Well, lets just assume that their smiling too. For at this point, I was reminded that we’re all pretty much doing the dance we can with the tune we wish to hear, or sing. Despite the heat, I choose the following:





(Photo and text by Marty Miller)



How to Eat in Gwangju: Cold Noodles

When suffering through the misery that is summer in South Korea, the idea hot meals over a fire don’t seem too tempting. Instead, it’s common to crave something cool and refreshing. Unfortunately, the older we get, the harder it is to treat ice cream and shaved ice as a stand alone meal. Many Koreans enjoy partaking in piping hot chicken soup to force themselves to sweat, causing them to cool down while consuming important nutrients. Me? I prefer to go with cold noodles.

Soup Naengmyeon

From what I’ve been told by many people I know, the concept of cold noodles is a little too unique to partake in. Sure, us Westerners have things like pasta salad, but cold noodles with soup is indeed a foreign concept to those who have never been exposed to such things. As a result, I tend to have difficulty finding people to enjoy these refreshing dishes with during hot summer days where I just don’t have it in me to cook. It makes me a little sad to see the lack of love for cold noodles, which are often pushed aside for more common Korean dishes. While I may not be able to change any minds that have already chosen to pass judgment on some of my favorite dishes, the least I can do is offer some information to those who may be interested.


물 냉면 (mulnaengmyeon): This is a dish that comes to mind when I think of summer. Considering how many restaurants that specialize in this stuff close down once the warm months are gone, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not alone in thinking this. This combination of extra chewy buckwheat noodles, iced and tangy beef soup, julienne cucumbers and radishes, and a hard boiled egg, this is one of my favorite ways to beat the heat. Some variations include Korean pear, red pepper paste, mustard, and even pieces of beef. It should be noted that the noodles in this dish are much chewier than one would expect. I actually hated eating this as a child, as I made the mistake of not chewing my noodles enough before swallowing. The addition of mustard and extra vinegar should be taken with caution, as it can be easy for the flavors of the delicious broth to go overboard.

비빔 냉면 (bibim naengmyeon): This is pretty much the previous dish, except with significantly less soup and a little more spice. Though cool and refreshing, this stuff can be quite spicy. It often comes with some cold broth on the side to help with the burn. Due to it mostly being a drier dish, the vegetables stay very crisp and go beautifully with the chewy noodles.

콩국수 (kongguksu): Often found at places serving the previous two noodle dishes, this stuff is in a world of it’s own. Served with wheat noodles, vegetables, a hard boiled egg, and a broth made of cold soy milk, it’s a dish that can take some time to warm up to. Due to the nature of soy milk, the broth is actually quite bland and can often leave a powdery residue. That being said, it has become one of my absolute favorite ways to eat noodles. One argument regarding this dish that has many Koreans torn is the debate on whether it should be eaten with sugar or salt, and many restaurants will simply bring out both. I’m personally a fan of adding salt, as I find that it highlights the flavor of the broth and adds a savory element that makes this bowl of noodle soup feel like an actual meal. Some variations have ground up sesame seeds added to the broth, which is something I also enjoy. To make things even better, this is one of the few meals in South Korea that’s vegan friendly!

쫄면 (jjolmyeon): One of the most popular mixed noodle dishes, this stuff is spicy. The noodles are slightly chewy from being made of wheat flour and starch, and they’re all mixed in with an assortment of vegetables and a spicy sauce made with spicy pepper paste, vinegar, sugar, and minced garlic. The name comes from the Korean term 쫄깃쫄깃 (jjolgit-jjolgit), which translates to chewy. Though these noodles aren’t quite as chewy as the stuff you’d find in 냉면, they hold up surprisingly well against bold flavors and crunchy vegetables. The combination of spicy, tangy, and sweet make this dish delicious and a little addictive.

Spicy Naengmyeon

Though there are other cold noodle dishes out there, the ones I’ve listed are the most common ones you’ll run into here in Gwangju. While the idea of slurping down a beef soup slushie may not sound like the most appetizing thing in the world, I highly recommend everyone to try it at least once. It definitely beats cooking over a hot stove. Considering how there’s still a fair amount of summer left, now would be the best time to go out and try some of these cold noodles before they’re no longer available. Many restaurants stop serving them sometime around September or October, which just means I have a few months to get my fix in for the year.