Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Another side of Korea and Seoul!

South Korea is a young democracy where its citizens have been working very hard to build up their country. This has resulted into the fact that they are now a member of the G20. The country has in this short period of time achieved massive goals, such as: great infrastructure, a blooming car-, shipbuilding-, electronic-, fashion- and so forth industry, top medical competences and much more.

Nevertheless, even if most of the people I meet don't want to hear about it, also the Republic of Korea has, as any other country, areas of improvement.
Regarding housing, we know that Seoul has been growing very fast the past decades and countless apartment buildings rose rapidly, which didn't enhance the architectural sight. But the metropolitan with it suburbs houses almost half of the countries inhabitants and logically the living places aren’t very large, but many people can live rather central.
10 minutes walking from the USAG Youngsan Base, which is situated in central Seoul, I found poor housing conditions and definitely an area of improvement, but maybe not a top priority for there are more pressing issues in need of development.


Some other major issues South Korea is working on are e.g.

Suicide is the fourth cause of death in South Korea; the high suicide rate is a reflection of changing and conflicting gender roles, economic hardship and domestic violence. WHO has estimated that 90 percent of all suicide victims have some kind of mental health condition, most commonly depression or substance of abuse. Social factors are contributing to the high suicide rates among students and gay men. 

Many employees, who aren’t fortunate enough to have a governmental – or large company as their employer, work 11 hours/day, six days/week with only four holidays per year.

Just as the democracy, the pension plan is relatively young. And the major part of elderly, who have reached pension age, can’t provide for themselves, which results into the fact that often the oldest child or son-in-law provides for them.

Equality between men and woman:
An issue I would like to learn more about, but from what I’ve seen and hear so far, here is also work needed. Young well educated woman don’t have the same job possibilities as men and when they get married they’re expected to become homemakers. Result: they marry late and the birthrate, even if it has been slightly increasing the passed two years, is among the lowest in the world.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Monday at the USS Blue Ridge

On wonderful initiative of LCDR Thomas Ehring we were invited to visit the USS Blue Ridge, who also was in the Navy Base in Busan, for participation of the ongoing exercise.
This command- and control ship for the 7th fleet Commander can be the working place and “home” for more than 1,300 people.  She’s over 40 years old and in fantastic shape. Her sister USS Mount Whitney, many of you might have seen in European waters.
We got a small sense of the 11 deck ship and met several crew members who all enjoyed being stationed on this ship.
The 7th fleet commander van Buskirk and his 300 staff members have their office on this ship. Although she is old (hmmm) the USS Blue Ridge spends most of her time at sea.
While Anders was going to the HMCS Ottawa for lunch, I was invited to stay for lunch on the Blue Ridge. Spoiled with good food and fabulous company, time flew. Thankful for Toms initiative and the time a lot of people took out of their busy schedule we had a fabulous day.

Anja in the Captains chair surrounded by LT Bochner and LCDRTomas Ehring

A new pearl is attached to my string of memories and I look forward to hearing and hopefully seeing everybody again.

Sailors thriving on deck of the ......................

We even had the opportunity to meet with the Commander of the 7th fleet VADM Scott van Buskirk, who had participated in the Wasa excercise for some years ago and therefor knew Captain (N) Bo Rask when he was flottila commander for the submarines.

From left to right; LCDR Ralston, LT Bochner, LCDRTomas Ehring, CAPT (N) Grieco, Anders and I gathered for a cup of coffee before it was time to say ........ (hopefully) so long!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

HMCS Ottawa visiting the Port of Busan.

This past weekend we felt “home” for the main focus was Navy. Now don’t get me wrong for we’re enjoying meeting with all the people from the different Defense Forces, but Navy has a special place in our hearths.

Anders' happiness increased when we, after travelling the 500 km in 2,5 hours with the KTX, arrived in Busan (pronounced: Pusan) and he could gaze over the sea again. The city is beautifully situated between the sea and mountains, in the South of Korea.
Busan is Koreas largest Port and hometown for a large part of the Korean Navy.
Friday evening we were invited to a reception on board of the HMCS Ottawa and the interaction with the Canadian sailors was wonderful. As always on a reception one gets the opportunity to meet with many interesting and nice people from many different nations.

Several speeches were held in focus of the many Nations co-operation with the ROKN and of cause the incidents that happened last year costing lives and a lot of suffering.

Anders, RADM Peter Ellis, I, RADM Gumatautau,
LCDR  Tomas Ehring
In  spite of the rain on Saturday, we enjoyed a stroll on Haeundae Beach, the most famous Beach in Korea. It was decorated with colorful umbrellas and floating rings. However, we got an idea how it can look when the sun is shining.

We enjoyed the views very much and the little light house, the mermaid and path rounding a small island was well worth getting wet for.

We had lunch with Captain Lee and afterwoods we took a walk  discovering the area around our hotel.

Captain Jeayeon Lee & Anders enjoying Korean dishes

In the evening we met up with Colonel and Mrs. Morneau, the Canadian attaché couple being the coming half year, the rotating member for United Nations Command, for dinner at a Thai Restaurant.  


Louise Morneau, Colonel Morneau, Anders & me (behind the camera)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Repatriation after heavy rain casualties by Mikael Johnsson

A small light in the dark with regard to inter-Korean relations is that they have managed to agree on a workable and worthy mechanism for repatriating mortal remains and people who accidentally found themselves on the wrong side of the border. Repatriation is carried out by the two country´s Red Cross, under military surveillance in Panmunjom, and NNSC observe them regularly. Last Friday night was repatriation for the four North Korean fishermen who one day earlier came in severe distress and was rescued by a South Korean patrol ship. Since they wanted to return to North Korea, the repatriation was carried out promptly.
Panmunjom, Mikael Johnsson Swedish Alternate to the NNSC

Just a few steps and the people have returned to North Korea (DPRK)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Gathering of delegates and family at the Swedish Camp in Panmunjom.

Anders waiting in front of the Swedish club for the two youngest members of our group while holding the balloons, I bought for them :)  

Now we’re all settled in at Youngsan Base and also the last two delegates have been “flying solo” for the past two weeks, at the DMZ.
It will be up to us all to have two interesting and giving years, including knowing why Sweden is here and therefore we all gathered at the DMZ, in the Swedish Camp.
The men made a program for us, spread from having the informational tour at Camp Bonifas, Conference Row to background information regarding the overall organization and tasks. They told us about their individual work and responsibilities and we discussed our expectations.
That it’s a complicated and bizarre situation, I believe is quite obvious to us all. The reason for a large military force on the peninsula is understanding for there still is no Peace Treaty between North- and South Korea.

Flags representing; ROK-US Combined Forces Command; United States Forces Korea; United Nations Command. 
UNC is represented with 16 sending States and the NNSC (Sweden, Switzerland and Poland) have the task to supervise the UNC.
For us that followed our husbands it’s important not only to understand what our spouses are doing up in the DMZ, but also to see to that we have a functional daily life.
I myself wasn’t prepared for the tuff climate this country has and that it’s hard to impossible to get a working permit. This of cause inclines that I have to make new plans in order to meet my expectations for the 30 month I’ll be living here.

Lieutenant Colonel Per Sandgren telling about his operational responsibilities 

Second day we all had the possibility to talk about our expectations; the entire group had very positive attitude and looked forward to the coming two years.

All eleven Swedish people gathered for lunch, we're from youngest (4yrs, being the one entertaining everyone :)) to oldest (53years,being the one holding the balloons) and only three with the female gender J

"Our" youngest member Erik "entertaining" at breakfast.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Navigating in Seoul; GPS by coordinates and 2 hours driving for 9.1 kilometer!

I really thought our life would become much easier when we got a car. Well, that isn’t the whole truth…………………….

First things first, if you want to drive a car in this immense city you definitely need a GPS. We being not Korean literate can NOT just download the English map; NO we have to buy a new GPS (only one available and distributed at two sites). Without having any other options it’s just to go ahead. If you now think it’s just to put your destination in, you’re mistaken again! Some sites are pre-programmed but let’s be honest you want to visit other places as well. Now one good option is that if you have been to a place you can put it into your favorites and then the next time you want to go there you can!

First trip on our own was to the golf club, but no sweat, we had been there already two times following a friend of ours. Wrong again! Traffic is quite a challenge, rules are there to be broken so it’s intense to drive and you look more in your side mirrors to see what’s going on than at road directions. One wrong exit and it took us 40 minutes to come back where we started.
Learning curve here is very steep so when we were invited to have dinner with Carmen and Jan von Feilitzen we prepared. GPS still didn’t accept the road name so we found the coordinates, very smart we thought! Just one small digit wrong and we were in the middle of the Buguk Tunnels and were instructed to take a 90 degree right turn and then: arriving!

Lots in the middle of a multi million city.................

Not to bore you with more details and new words I learned from Anders, we finally arrived one hour late, although we started one hour earlier! During this time we tried asking directions of taxi drivers and youngsters on the side walk (no one spoke English so no help) and luckily we received the correct coordinates of Jan and Carmen.
In spite our late arrival we had a wonderful evening and I can visit Carmen to celebrate her birthday this week for now we have it programmed!

Our navigating adventure ended with a wonderful evening with a couple we met on America's 4th of July celebration. Nice to be welcomed in a home "Off Base" and spoiled with nice conversation, foods and wines by Carmen and Jan.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Getting rid of unwanted bushes!

Due to the tuff situation in the American economy, cut downs are already noticeable here on Youngsan Base. Housing has no funds of doing the tasks they have been able to do before, so we (read I) organized it myself J
In the little garden in front of our house we had a double row of bushes leading to the door. However, 90% of them had died or looked awful, so I wanted them removed, taking them out wasn’t the major issue but getting them disposed is a totally different ballgame.
Gardeners were busy in our neighborhood so I went to them with my request. None of them talked any English…… Quickly I ran to my opposite neighbor woman who is Korean and dragged her out to translate my request.
“Not our responsibility” was the immediate answer! However, I had other means to convince them…………………………..

Almost done ........

Hot, humit and thursty ............. so a cold Coca Cola was very welcome !

And soon they were gone forever!

Learning the American Waltz.

Initiative was taken by Barbara to take private dancing lessons. And after her and my first conduct, I thought it was a brilliant idea that our husbands should be a part of it. Otherwise with whom should we dance when the opportunity arrived? Not so sure that this was appreciated by Allan and Anders.
Nevertheless, they joined us and I think they’re very happy we have such a dedicated teacher. The Koreans work with perfectionism, which meant we started with learning how to go down and that in dancing the leg is from your tow to your hip ;)

Basics of the American Waltz, bending your ankles :)

And my thought before starting the needed lessons was to quickly as possible swivel around the floor………
After explaining to her that we wouldn’t join the ballroom dancing competition we learned the first hour the basic steps. Our goal is to be able to dance this waltz on the first ball occurring in the fall.

Posture is an important feature in ballroom dancing!

Anders leading me up to dance................., although I think he rather would have watched the baskettball game which was going on one floor below.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Driving”Of Post”, destination; Sung Nam Golf Club & English Village.

It was high time to take the car for a spin “Of Post”. Our six cylinder car needed badly to exceed 20 miles per hour (40 km/h), which is the maximum speed on post.
Democratic driving scheduale; me from the Golf club home and to the Englsh Village, Anders the other way around.

Most of the people living on the American Base buy a so called “Base Car”, a designated car to only drive “On Post”. This combined with the strange laws Korea has if you get into an accident makes the inhabitants reluctant to drive outside the gates of Youngsan Base.
Not applicable for the “crazy-brave Swedes”. So this Saturday, when it finally was a rain-free day, we got up at five for a 9-hole golf round with Anne and John McDonnald and after that we cleaned ourselves up (hot & humid), we took off for a drive to the English Village. Although the traffic in Seoul was even early in the morning quite massive, we could speed up to triple the permitted speed on baseJ. Our little Mustang loved it and was spinning as a satisfied cat.
About 45 minutes drive from Seoul you'll find a typical English Village, set up to stimulate Koreans to learn English.

To make a long-distance call?

No! He found something much better, for what is an English Village without a pub!                                     

Everything but crowded, quite a nice change after roaming the streets of Seoul.

Where to go? Easy for we could for a change read the signs!