Gwangju Blog





On a road behind a church, behind Gwangju station, sat this newer model Samsung. The heat had been oppressive by nine a.m this Sunday morning. Still, this did little to discourage the faithful. I watched the last few stragglers eager to enter the sanctuary. On such days, this air-conditioned room likely lives up to its etymological roots. With this in mind, I myself was considering the benefits of conversion when continuing around to the rear of the building. When there, parked along a side street adjacent to the primary lot was the car you see above. In it lay one soul braver than I. Untempted by the air-conditioning or eternal salvation nearby, he seemed content while reclining within his own personal sanctuary.


The photo above shows the relaxed nature with which some enjoy their lazy summer Sunday mornings. Sure, the viewers can project conditions and emotions onto this scene as to why he remains alone in his car with sweet chilling relief just a stones-throw away. However, at its core, the scene shows someone simply doing their best to relax given their circumstances. Window down with feel up, and extending into the open air; this scene reminds me of the position my own father took on our regular road-trips as a child. While I doubt our 1977 Ford Granada even came with air conditioning, the position itself implies a relief from the discomfort which even the coolest of Freon-infused air could not provide. For me, as a cultural and ethnic outsider within this place, witnessing such a position connects my adopted home with the one of my youth. It may even show that dispute cultural norms, windows are there partially for feet to extrude from. It is just what humans do. At that moment, and now, looking at the image, I find sanctuary in these thoughts. It is the truest sort I know.


[Image taken with a Hasselblad 503cxi shooting Kodak Tri-x 400 pushed 1 stop.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)



What to Do This Weekend: The ACC, Gwangju Live, and Cricket!

Hello Gwangju!

I hope everyone you are all enjoying the last weeks of summer. Let’s see what you can do in town this weekend!

Friday, August 18th

Courtesy of Loft 28

Courtesy of Loft 28

Loft 28’s Open Mic Night is a great way to hear local talent, and it takes place every Friday. If you are interested in performing, all you have to do is bring your own instrument and Loft will provide the rest. If you need another reason to perform, then I got one for you. All participants will receive a free drink! Make sure you get down there before open mic begins, and try some of their delicious homemade food. The reviews of their menu have been very good. If you need more details, then you can go to Loft’s Facebook page. Open mic night will begin at 10 p.m.

Courtesy of Tequilaz

Courtesy of Tequilaz

If you’re downtown then Tequilaz has become the place to be on Friday nights this summer. The bottomless drinks special has become very popular with thre thirsty locals. For only 12,000 (cash only) you can enjoy all the draft beers you want. If you don’t enjoy beer then they also have bottomless rail cocktails (again, cash only) for 20,000. Add tequilaz’s delicious Mexican food and you got a great night out! If you need more information simply go to their Facebook page.

Saturday, August 19th

 Courtesy of the ACC

Courtesy of the ACC

Summertime is always a great time to visit the ACC. Right now there is a solo exhibit by acclaimed artist Tomas Saraceno called Interplanetary Bodies. There is also an exhibit by a Korean artist, Hwang, Young-sung. The show features work from a period of almost fifty years. When the sun starts to go down outside, then you can walk around the beautiful grounds of the ACC. Also, on the weekends you can check out the Bridge Market, where local artists sell their works. You can also enjoy a nice iced coffee at the market as well. For all the info you need about the ACC (In English and Korean), please go to their website,

Don’t forget, you still have today and tomorrow to enjoy the water park at Gwangju Citizen’s Forest. For more details, check out last week’s post.

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Courtesy of Speakeasy

Gwangju Live is taking over Speakeasy on Saturday with a return performance by Jimmy Harris and Joel Klimas. I’ve seen this duo perform many times so I know it’s going to be a good show. Both Jimmy and Joel are veterans of the music scene in Gwangju. Along with the great drinks, and Speakeasy’s friendly staff, it is guaranteed to be a great way to spend your Saturday night. Football fans will want to arrive their at 8:30 to watch Manchester United take on Swansea in EPL action! For more details about tonight, please go to their Facebook page.

Sunday, August 20th

The final match of the Gwangju Premier Cricket League will be taking place this Sunday at Chonnam National University. For the time of the game, and other information, please check out the Gwangju page on Facebook.


Tons of great things happening in Gwangju next week and also in the first week of September so check them out and mark your Calendars.


World Music Festival 25 & 26 August 

Free Movie at City hall – Taxi Driver 21st –  9th 

Sound Park Festival at Sajik Park 2nd and 3rd September 

GIC Info Day – 9th September 









Turning The Page: Kelsey Rivers and Her Major Contributions to Gwangju News


Anyone who has been in town for longer than a few weeks has, more likely than not, found themselves flipping through a copy of Gwangju News. The free publication is issued monthly, and has churned out coverage of local and regional issues since 2001. Through a revolving door of writers, the magazine serves as an integral part of the English speaking population here with an insightful, and often times eclectic, range of topics. However, behind the scenes of everything you read in Gwangju News, is a team of individuals who put in the extra hours on top of their full-time jobs to create relevant and informative articles. One key member of this team, Kelsey Rivers, is ending her time as a Managing Editor at GN, but her take on the experience there, and Korea in general, is a story within itself.

What is your writing background? Did you study it? Any genres or styles that you specialize in?

I never studied writing formally, in the sense of being a Journalism or Creative Writing major. My majors were Anthropology and Linguistics, so I got really good at writing in that terribly superior-sounding register of the academic paper. In my opinion though, the best ethnographies and anthropological writings are usually in a narrative non-fiction style, which as a writer is my favorite genre. The articles I have found to be the most rewarding to write (for example, the feature story for our July issue, about the life of a Nepali shipyard worker in Samho) have always been in this style. I love stories; when I ‘m presenting real-life, real facts, I want to frame it as a story.

How long have you been in Korea? What brought you here?

I’ve been in Korea for about 3 years now, although it feels shorter. Where’d all my time go?

As I mentioned before, I studied Anthropology and Linguistics, and my interest in Linguistics over time became centered on second-language acquisition. So, when I had the opportunity to come to Korea for an internship (teaching at summer English camps in Gokseong and Damyang), I jumped at it. That experience was rewarding, and I fell in love with the students and teaching so much that I decided to apply for a fulltime JLP position after graduation. I’ve been in Mokpo ever since.


When did you start writing for GN? How has it changed since then?

I actually started out only as a copy-editor, about 2 and a half years ago. After a year of copy-editing, I moved into the Chief Proofreader position, and that’s when I began writing for Gwangju News. The thing about being a staff member for GN is that we often end up picking up articles that are assigned last minute, or that our writer pool didn’t pick up. I began writing for GN for that reason, because I had to. I honestly needed that push, to get me from only doing behind-the-scenes work to writing. I think I write less now than when I first started as staff, since there are more writers expressing an interest in writing. These days, there’s very little left for me to write. I have mixed emotions – I’m happy that so many writers want to help out, but disappointed that there are fewer opportunities for me to write, unless I specifically decide to take an article for myself.

What are your philosophies to journalism and/or writing in general?

I feel that since I’m just a baby writer, I don’t have a philosophy surrounding writing or journalism, I’m still figuring things out myself. As an editor, however, I have a more developed approach. For me, when I edit, I want to change the article as little as possible. Obviously I’ll fix blatant mistakes, and I’ll adjust an article to fit the standards of the publication and for clarity’s sake. But I ultimately want the article to speak for itself. I’ve thought about this especially in the context of how to edit a non-native speaker of English’s article. Some copy-editors want to not only fix all of the mistakes, but also re-write things to sound more natural, native speaker-like, even if the original turn of phrase employed isn’t necessarily wrong, or unclear. I don’t edit this way. I don’t want to edit their language out of the piece. I love what non-native speakers can do with English, the interesting and creative uses they can make of the language that native-speakers are too entrenched in the “natural” way to see.

Kelsey Rivers, courtesy of Gwangju News

Kelsey Rivers, courtesy of Gwangju News

In what ways have you grown as a writer/editor?

Since my role with GN has so strongly been associated with the editing, behind-the-scenes aspect of the magazine, I feel as a writer I have not grown so much. If anything, I never saw myself as a writer at all. GN has brought this out of me, I’ve just gotten my feet wet, I’m just beginning. It is only now that I want to see where writing takes me, what I could do with it.

Any favorite articles or moments from GN that stick out?

It’s not a particular moment per se that sticks out, but watching how GN has changed over time, from when I first started as Managing Editor a year ago, to now. Due to staff changes and personality clashes, GN was going through… difficult times, which is what I inherited from the previous Managing Editor. For a while, we had a lot of issues finding writers, getting the magazine out on time… It was stressful. But leaving the magazine now, the state of GN is so different. I think it is a much stronger publication now than it was a year ago, we have better writers, and our staff is working together as team. Thinking about these changes is very striking to me.

Are there any other writing endeavors that you have outside of GN?

To be honest, I don’t do much writing outside of GN. Between traveling, meeting friends, having a full-time job, volunteer work, and doing so much for the magazine, when I have free time I only want to read a good book, not write one.

What occupies your time when you are not putting together the next issue?

About 6 months after I arrived in Korea, when I was feeling a little isolated, disconnected, I had a sudden impulse to try everything, to worm my way into the community, somehow. My involvement with GN arose out of that, as well as tutoring at a local children’s home, getting involved with the Kona organization in Gwangju, becoming a regular member at KOTESOL, a discussion leader for the Mokpo language exchange, and a founding member of the Mokpo book club. It’s by joining all of these different organizations, and networking with all of these different people, that has helped me feel the most connected with and a part of the Mokpo/Gwangju community. These activities might keep me a little too busy, however.

My downtime mostly consists of reading and walking/hiking.

Plans for the future?

In the short term, I’m finishing up my time in Jeollanam-do and preparing for a three month trip around Southeast Asia, as well as looking forward to being home for a while for the first time in years. After that, my plans are a bit hazy. I have the intention to come back to Korea in the near future and do intensive Korean study in Seoul, to see if that’ll help push my language ability to the next level. And since the poor student life doesn’t exactly agree with me, I’ll be looking for another teaching position, hopefully in or near Seoul as well. I’m interested to see what journalistic/writing opportunities are available in Seoul, and where that may take me.





The doldrums, rainy days of summer, the end of the monsoons, the heat, all collude towards a slowing of life. In turn, we hominids tend to retreat into interior spaces. Not unlike the dead of winter, the ecosystem dictates our behavior if ways we may not have predicted just several weeks before. The weather is constant with its predictable summer rains and increased temperatures. However, within this predictability lays not only the realities of a warming climate, of which Gwangju and southern Jeolla Province is no exception, but rather the irrational hope that somehow this year might be different. For, when imagining the heat of August while enduring February chills, this time of year may seem not only preferable, but also not nearly as oppressive as it inevitably turns out to be. Therefore, each summer brings with it the initial joys of the suns rays, soaking into hardened skin, but also the necessary realization that we may yet again be no match for what the earth has to offer.

The photo above poignantly captures this simple act of retreat and the emotions it engenders. It is yet another rainy day, as the wetted windows clearly show. Behind their blurred panes, subtle textures of branches and leaves can be seen. Buttressed against a suburban mountain park, this scene is both indicative of Gwangju proper, but also could have been captured in countless locations on the peninsula.

These blinds half-cocked, rested haphazardly against the spines of books left unread; we have likely experienced a similar setting in our lives around Gwangju this summer. The lack of color also adds to the emotional impact of the image above. Its monochrome tones exude subtle hints of nostalgia for those times when we we thus stuck indoors with only our books and they visions they will undoubtedly implant.

At times, photos need not overwhelm the senses. In fact, as this photo shows, the opposite can often be true. Their power to underwhelm can open the looker to the more opaque, yet potentially instrumental emotions which define our experience of a particular location. It is these images which when we look at in our later years, can more sufficiently connect the emotions within our past with what we call the present. Perhaps such inner retreats are necessary to reflect on our experiences in this way. For that, this photographer gives a slight nod to the forces outside his window, all-the-while dreaming of the coolness to come.

[Image captured with a Contax T2 shooting Tri-x 400.]


(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)