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3 things to know before going to Korea, you never known, not to mess your travel


You may learn about Korea through dramas, movies and musics. They are interesting enough to bring you to Korea, but Korea still has plenty of mystery to most people outside Korea. In this post, I’d like to let you know 3 things to know before going to Korea. Let’s start!


3 things to know before going to Korea


1. Cash is may not usable.

Cashless store sign on the wall.
A coffee shop posts a sign that indicates they’re cashless store.

Yes, I know, it’s shocking start for you. But it’s true and getting worse. Because of high labor costs.

Kiosks are literally everywhere now, it’s not strange to be faced machines instead of people first at shops. Kiosk is not a vending machine, mostly accept only cards or mobile payment methods. And there’s no contactless support, there must be an IC chip or magnetic reader on your card.

Shops recently built are pursuing no-cash policy, so cash will be unusable on these places. In fact, most young generations(20yrs-30yrs old) use only cards. Trending shops at hot place must have high turnover, cash may interrupt their workflows. Additionally, customers of trending shops are mostly young generations, businesses found a good excuse for reducing their labor costs.

Don’t be disappointing, cash is still usable for most shops. At old markets such as Gwangjang Market, they much prefer cash, you can get discount or good service with that.

You know what? All shops has walls and roof must accept cards in Korea unless illegal. There are only few exceptions, but probably not your case. Taxis also accept, subway ticket too.


2. Hot like Africa, Cold like North Pole.

What? Is it sounds terrible? That’s true.

Korea isn’t that extreme last decades, but getting hotter and colder as earth now. In summer, 37~40 celsius degree is not rare while -15~-20 celsius degree in winter. Fortunately, rain and snow are not that often. Koreans need huge closets for strongly colored four seasons.

If you are not familiar extreme climates, should be ready for it. Reduce walking in your plans, keep attention on your health. Prepare shoe spikes and padded coats for November – February, cool clothes and handy fans if needed for June – August. Get rid of something to wait in a line from your itinerary, it isn’t recommended for those months.

Additionally, most part of Korea isn’t good air quality. Air quality is best in summer, others are mostly unhealthy. Of course, sight isn’t clear too. South and east of Korea are better for air quality. Busan and Gangneung is easiest to breathe in Korea.

If you have any breathing problem or a health problem, I recommend you to not walking too long, keep distance from the driveway. Especially in Seoul.

You can check the air quality of Seoul and another part of Korea in this link.

https://aqicn.org/city/seoul/


3. Expensive than your expectation.

Korea grew rapidly, so still some people think Korea is cheap, budget travel destination.

Korea costs most likely Singapore and Hong Kong now. On the internet, most informations are outdated by COVID and wars. Cost in Korea is almost 50% increased in several years compare present to 2018, real estate isn’t exception.

$10 isn’t enough for a lunch, however fortunately we don’t have gratuities, tips. If you planned small budget travel, you should carefully redesign your plans. We locals also surprised by prices everyday.

Tteokbokki – $4 <
Bibimbap – $8 <
Samgyeopsal – $10 <

Most Korean dishes costs $8 or more for a person. About street foods, locals don’t buy foods from them. It’s too overpriced, feels like doubled price for its quality.

If you don’t want to get ripped off, franchised shops are best choice. their price are monitored and managed by the government, it can be considered reasonable. Trending shops and small shops, quality may not be satisfied for its price. Locals consider Myeongdong, Insadong, Samcheongdong as expensive tourist places.


These <3 things to know before going to Korea> are quite new, probably you couldn’t found in other articles. The world is changing fast, don’t let old articles mess your trip!

Why Koreans good at game?

Why koreans good at game? – Most of Korean guys play games long time everyday. Some of Koreans enjoy being good at games, not enjoy game itself.

Why Koreans good at game? Korea has the best player of League of Legends.

Why Koreans play game longer?

The answer is simple, video game is much popular in Korea compare to other countries.

Almost 100% of boys are playing video games.

It is ‘video game’ in English, but consoles such as PlayStation, Xbox are not popular in Korea. Much less than PC games and mobile games.

– Why only console games are not popular?

The answer is simple again, parent never buy a console device.

Yes, I know. PCs and smartphones cost like a console device, maybe more.

However, PC and smartphone are versatile, consoles are only for games. *modern consoles are also versatile, but parents never care about that ‘game machine.’

Kids found the easiest way to get one of game machines, smartphone. (PC, before the smartphone era.)

Back to the main,

according to data, Korean kids start to play games at 4.8 years old in average. (2012)

From then, they keep talking about games with friends for decades. 

The game which is playing influences who is you will be hanging out with, your tier of the game influences your position in your group. How important it is!

They talk about games all day, there are a lot of topics and variety of games talking about. *Mostly disputing who play better!

Gersang
This is Gersang, it was one of popular game when I was young.

In my childhood, there was only study at school and game at home everyday.

– Why Korean boys spend their free time only for games?

 Firstly, game is the best way for making friendship with friends. Game is the most popular hobby especially for male students, easier topic to start talking with someone.

Next, they don’t have enough time to have other hobbies. Game is easy to play and has short cycle.

For example, we need a playground for playing football, other activities are also not that different. Most activities require lots or equipments.

Most of Korean students have to attend more than 3 ‘Hagwon’ sequently, this only allows 30 minutes between each Hagwon. According to data, 78% of elementary, middle, high school students go to Hagwon in every weekdays.

If you never ever heard about Hagwon, please read wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagwon

They cannot get out of their daily routine, no time to go to playground. But the smartphone is always in their hands, that’s it!

We can see students playing basketball, riding bikes and other activities during weekends.

Lastly, why they are playing for being good at game instead of enjoying game itself?

Korea society is high competitive. Koreans consider everything competition. Avoiding competition means lose or being outsider. Being gosu is cool! who doesn’t want to be cool?

You can easily found koreans who stuck in their level because of lack of talents.

Fine dining with children in Seoul : 4 restaurants you can come with your lovely children.


Visiting fine dining with children in Seoul is challenging.

When I was visited to Bangkok on April, I wanted to visit Michelin starred restaurants with my daughter, it was very difficult due to lack of information. One most baddest thing for you, Bangkok is much kids friendly. In Korea, most restaurants has no-kids policies. I’d like to introduce Michelin starred restaurants I ever visited with my daughter.


LaYeon(라연)

LaYeon is 2-starred restaurant in Shilla hotel, Seoul. You can dine here with your baby, no age restriction. Of course, you should care your baby for comfort of other guests. They offer baby chairs and their finger snacks are made of natural ingredients, good to give it your baby.
I talked about LaYeon before, in another post. Follow the link if you’d like to know more about.

Kojacha(코자차)

Kojacha is 1-starred restaurant in Chengdam(part of Gangnam), Seoul. awarded on 2023. kojacha means Korea + Japan + China, which indicate what foods they serve. Chefs are from restaurants in Shilla hotel. Kojacha also accept children without an age restriction at lunch. They also have baby chairs, private rooms. You should contact them prior to visit, for best comfortable experience.
Steamed abalone with sauce, sashimi platter, seafood sampler, shark’s fin, lobster with cream sauce and jjambbong(seafoods soup noodle) with rice. You got a feel what they serve?

Steamed abalone from kojacha. kojacha is fine dining with children in Seoul.
Steamed abalone with sauce, one of their signature dish from Kojacha, Seoul.

Lunch : 130,000KRW, one course available.

Dinner : 250,000KRW, one course available.

https://www.catchtable.net/shop/kojacha

Jungsik(정식당)

Jungsik is famous Korean restaurant in NYC, awarded 2 stars from Michelin Guide. This is its Korea branch, also awarded 2 stars. Jungsik accepts children in a private room. You can ask to dine in a private room without extra charge, they offer baby cutleries and baby chairs.
Jungsik has iconic signature dish, called as ‘delicious gimbap’. Seasoned rice wrapped by gimbugak(deep fried seaweed), bulgogi and truffle inside, served with truffle aioli sauce. If you can’t find this menu on your course, you can order it as a-la-carte, 20,000KRW.

Delicious gimbap, signature dish of Jungsik. wrapped by gimbugak, served with truffle aioli sauce.
This is legendary dish of Jungsik. <Delicious gimbap>

Jungsik is considered as most famous Michelin starred restaurant in Korea, defined a new type of cuisine, ‘new Korean’.

Lunch : 185,000KRW, one course available.
Dinner : 280,000KRW, one course available.

https://www.jungsik.kr/

https://www.catchtable.net/shop/jungsik

Bicena(비채나)

Bicena is Korean cuisine, the most highest restaurant in Korea. It is placed on 81st floor of Lotte World Tower, highest building in Korea. It is ran by same company with Gaon, 3-starred restaurant.
You can enjoy traditional Korean dishes with stunning view of Seoul, must be unique and memorable moment for you. With a little modern touch like Gaon, also presentations are quite instagrammable.

Dining table with stunning view of Seoul.
Dine in observatory, Bicena is placed on 81st floor at highest building in Korea.

They offer baby chairs, baby cutlery also, request in advance.

Weekday : Lunch – 115,000KRW, Dinner – 200,000KRW

Weekend and holiday : Lunch – 140,000KRW, Dinner : 240,000KRW

https://www.bicena.com

Michelin Guide Seoul : Recommended 4 Best restaurants in Korea

Michelin Guide Seoul started since 2017, 35 restaurants received the stars in Michelin Guide Seoul 2023. Relative informations on internet are quite outdated, you probably need newly updated information. Let’s start from 3 stars.


3-Michelin starred restaurants in Michelin Guide Seoul

Gaon(가온)

Gaon awarded 3 stars since 2017 first year of Michelin Guide Seoul, still hold 3 stars. The only restaurant keep holding 3 stars now from start of Michelin Guide Seoul.
Gaon is Korean cuisine, but little bit of contemporary touch compare to LaYeon in Shilla Hotel. They serve French-like amuse-bouche, A Course contains Japanese inspired also.
Unfortunately, Gaon is no longer opening from last day of 2022. Staff told me it could be permanent. They told ‘currently closed’ on their Instagram. Follow them if you are looking for good news from them!

https://www.instagram.com/gaon_seoul/

Mosu(모수)

Mosu is one and only currently running 3 starred restaurant in Seoul. Head Chef Ahn worked at legendary restaurants such as The French Laundry in Napa, Benu in San Francisco. He opened Mosu at San Francisco on 2015, also awarded 1 star. But he came back to his home country left behind Michelin starred restaurant. He opened a restaurant in Seoul with same name. It awarded 1 star in Michelin Guide Seoul 2019, step up to 2 stars in Michelin Guide Seoul 2020. Finally, Mosu awarded 3 stars in Michelin Guide Seoul 2023!

Mosu has outstanding signature menus such as abalone taco, burdock tarte tatin, acorn truffle pasta. In my opinion, main dish isn’t great for the 3 stars, Hanwoo(Korean beef) is boring main dish in Korea. Koreans are not familiar with exotic meats like pigeon, deer, lamb. I think it is limiting their choice of ingredients. But still the best restaurant in Korea, no doubt. Wine pairing isn’t worth its price, way behind of other Michelin starred restaurants in Asia. But I fully agreed Mosu is refined enough for 3 stars.
Mosu is placed in Hannam, near Itawon and Yongsan. Hannam is technically center of the Seoul, easy to reach from any part of Seoul. But extremely hard to make a reservation.

Abalone taco with a burnt piece of lime served by Mosu, 3 starred in Michelin Guide Seoul.
Abalone taco with a burnt piece of lime by Mosu, Seoul. This is one of amuse-bouche.

Lunch : 210,000KRW, only one course available.
Dinner : 370,000KRW, only one course available.

https://mosuseoul.com/

https://www.catchtable.net/shop/mosuseoul


2-Michelin starred restaurants in Michelin Guide Seoul

LaYeon(라연)

LaYeon is restaurant placed in Shilla Hotel, Seoul. Shilla Hotel is considered as most luxurious, historical, iconic hotel in Korea. LaYeon had awarded 3 stars since start of Michelin Guide Seoul, but stepped down to 2 stars this year, 2023. LaYeon is serving most Korean foods what Koreans think, real traditional Korean cuisine.

Bugak(dried chip snack) is most unique start of fine dining course and main course is highlight of their courses. There are up to 4 choice of main, grilled sirloin, bulgogi, galbi jjim(braised short ribs), tteokgalbi(grilled short rib patties). They are so tender, melt in mouth texture, well balanced. Entrees are usually seafoods cooked variety ways, grilled, steamed, braised.

LaYeon is worth to visit, if you are curious about what Korean king was eating. They stepped down, but still good enough, no restaurant can substitute. LaYeon and Mango-Bingsu is best course I can recommend.

Yukhoe bibimbap by LaYeon at Shilla hotel, Seoul. 2 starred in Michelin Guide Seoul.
Yukhoe bibimbap by LaYeon at Shilla hotel, Seoul. Iconic dish of Korea.

Lunch : 185,000KRW, Vegan course available.
Dinner : 290,000KRW, Vegan course available.

https://www.shilla.net/seoul/dining/viewDining.do?contId=KRN


You can visit LaYeon with your kids. If you are with your kids, check more kids-friendly restaurants here.

Alla Prima

Now, we moved to Gangnam, richest town in Seoul. Alla Prima is placed at backstreet of Nonhyeon furniture street, Italian-Japanese cuisine. Alla Prima awarded a star since start of Michelin Guide Seoul, awarded 2 stars in Michelin Guide Seoul 2019. The chef has experience of Italian cuisine and Japanese cuisine, he combined them into Alla Prima.

Alla Prima serves many raw fishes. If you are not familiar with raw fish or not comfortable to eat them, you must contact the restaurant before making reservation. Most of course are changing every season, only one menu can be considered as its signature in my opinion. salt ice cream with olive oil, it has unique flavor and texture.
I can’t describe Alla Prima enough through the text, it is hard to define in words. If you are interested in, just make a reservation now!

Lunch : 150,000KRW, only one course available.
Dinner : 290,000KRW, only one course available.

https://www.allaprima.co.kr/

https://app.catchtable.co.kr/ct/shop/allaprima

Hot Topic : Korea murdering newborns; 12 newborns are killed cruelly.


Korea Murdering Newborns

Korea murdering newborns now. Police keep investigating, a lot of murdering have been unveiled.

Government started investigating cases that reported childbirth from hospitals, but still not reported and registered by parents. there are around 2000 cases of that, police picked only 1% of cases to investigate.

During this investigating, police caught a mother murdered her newborn and put corpse in fridge. After found one more new case of murdering, investigating is widely expanded. Now police is investigating around 780 cases. 12 cases have confirmed as murdering, these cases are spreading all around Korea.

Murder mothers claimed “Baby suddenly died, I didn’t know what should I do. I just buried.”. Difference individual, difference place, but they claimed same reasons. Unfortunately, police caught clues of murdering. All of them buried a dead body of their newborns in suburbs. 77% of parents are 10 to 29 years old.

Only few cases are finished investigating, a lot more murdering case will be unveiled during whole investigating. Approximately 5% of cases are murdering, 100 or more are murdering cases expected.

Korea is most lowest birth rate in the world, historical low on earth. We can see why, what’s the problem now. High cost proposal? expensive homes? high education cost? All of them are just excuses. People should learn respecting human and how to being humanity. Korea is kind of huge stadium, entire country is competing each others. They didn’t want to spend their money on their children instead of luxury bags, fine dining and abroad trip. As long as social media exist, Korea can’t be risen again.

As a civil-law country, only 3~5 years of imprisonment will be adjudicated. If judge care about public opinion, it can be increased, but not much.

* Updated on 8, July : 3 more found, total 15 newborns died.


A looking into hotels in Korea; top 3 awesome hotels recommendation.


Hotels in Korea

Korea is not that popular, famous tourist destination. Tokyo, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and other cities which you just recall now are more typical, traditional tourist destinations.

But following waves of K-culture, Korean tourism industry is getting bigger while a lot of hotels are built. One unique factor of Korean hotel industry is staycation of locals. It’s called as Hocance (Hotel + Vacance), people spend their holiday in a hotel whether luxury or not.

During the pandemic period which is the hardest time for most tourism industry, hocance was reliever for hotel industry. hotels which claimed themselves for tourist, business are mostly closed while luxury hotels turned to surplus through providing luxury experience for domestic customers.

Now, hocance is unique culture of Korea. 90% of customers of hotels are domestic, so hotels are sticking to their domestic customers more and more.


Reasons why you shouldn’t stay hotels in Korea.

Korea has weird labor market structure, customer ratio of hotels. These make Korean hotels difference from international hotels. You will be surprised with these facts. Let figure it out details.

Problems

  • Hard to book on weekends
    It’s normal for all hotels, but it’s more strongly found in Korean hotels. People usually spend their weekends in hotels. Price on weekends go double, but weekends are going to be fully booked mostly.
  • Extra charges
    Generally, amenities such as sauna, swimming pool are free to use for staying guests. It’s very common sense in hotel industry, but Korea isn’t. Most Hotels charge extra fees for using sauna, swimming pool and something else. The price ranged $20 – $40 per person.
  • Cleanliness
    It is biggest disappointment for most fans of Korea. Most hotels are lacking of cleanliness, you can feel uncomfortable. I found used stocking in closet, opened shampoo, empty body wash in bathroom. It was 5-star hotel which costs $500 per night. It happened in not only one hotel, but also several luxury hotels. In affordable price range, it must be worse. You should choose a brand carefully.
  • Service
    English skills of staff are not great no matter how luxury hotel is. It doesn’t mean you must get inconvenience to communicate, but still could be. Only few staffs can speak foreign language fluently, you should not expect English from all staffs. Their services are not professional even for domestic customers. They don’t meet global standard what you expected for its grade. I also surprised about their weird system, I never expect much for hotels in Korea.
  • Expensive
    Hotels in Korea have smaller room for the price following Tokyo. Restaurants in hotels, in-room dining are more expensive than Tokyo. It’s around 1.5 – 2 times of the price of Bangkok. Also mentioned above, there’s a lot of extra charges you should pay. Comprehensively, most hotels in Korea are overpriced. If you are looking for other cities in Korea, price for value will be greatly decreased. Koreans don’t like domestic travel because of ripping off.

Club lounge never satisfy you.

You will see how strange is Korean hotels system in this part. You have to book club lounge prior even you are staying in a club room including club lounge access. And you can use the lounge only limited time. Usually it’s capped by 1.5 – 2 hours per day. Some hotels don’t have a reservation system for the lounge, then you should wait in line front of lounge.

I won’t recommend you to use club lounge unless you got special reason for that. It’s also quite overpriced, you better reserve cheapest room in the hotel.

Views also cannot satisfy you.

If you are not living in a high population density city, you may expect breathtaking cityscape in Seoul. But Seoul’s skyline isn’t best, even for riverside. There was restrictions for building tall buildings along the riverside for last decade. So there’s only poor-looking relic apartments. One more crucial thing, air quality and smogs are ruining your clear view. It also make your shots unclear. Air quality is bad in more than half of a year.

If still you want to see cityscape, I can recommend some.


Best view hotels in Seoul
Signiel Seoul

Signiel Seoul is placed in tallest building in Korea, Lotte Tower. This hotel has city view, river view, partial river view. My favorite is west that can see Gangnam skyline and Han River in one window.

A view of three bridges cross Han river, bridges are illuminating lights.
View of Han river from the bathtub, Signiel Seoul.

https://www.lottehotel.com/seoul-signiel/ko.html

Four Seasons Seoul

Four Seasons Seoul is placed in Gwanghwamun, center of Seoul. Gwanghwamun is surrounded by historical places, a popular tourist destination. Four Seasons Seoul has palace view suite, you can see whole Gyeongbokgung palace through your window. It is most iconic view in Korea.

Bugak mountain, Gyeongbokgung palace through the window from the room of Four Seasons Seoul.
View from Four Seasons Seoul. You can see Gyeongbokgung palace and Bugak mountain.

https://www.fourseasons.com/en/seoul/

Park Hyatt Seoul

Park Hyatt Seoul is watchtower of COEX. Looking down COEX intersection, the view is so starry, energetic. COEX is heart of Gangnam area, you can enjoy shopping, dining, entertainments, everything in one place. Park Hyatt Seoul has best view in competitors.

View of Intercontinental Parnas, Parnas Tower, Trade Tower, COEX intersection.
Trade Tower, Parnas Tower, COEX intersection. Source – blog.naver.com/atelier_sucre/222983455087

https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/south-korea/park-hyatt-seoul/selph

Conclusion

Hotels should meet tourists’ expectation, following global standard. But Korean hotels are not good as global standard. They gave me weird experience many time, I disappointed a lot. I advise you to lower your expectation, don’t spend a lot of money on hotels. If you are satisfied with hotels in Korea, I’m happy to hear that.


More relative articles below.