Postcards from Korea

Three Australian journalists, Myles Morgan (SBS), Phoebe Wearne (The West Australian), and Angela MacDonald-Smith (The Australian Financial Review), along with Walkleys multimedia manager Kate Golden are on exchange in the the land of kimchi and K-pop thanks to DFAT and the Australia-Korea Foundation. Photo courtesy of Phoebe Wearne.

Here are Golden’s snapshots of their adventures via Instagram. Above: Intepreter Jenny Yoo, Korea Press Foundation coordinator HaeJoo Kang, Golden, Morgan, Eunsol Lee, Mac-Donald-Smith and Wearne experience the very reason Jeju Island is a hotspot for wind energy research. “I think this is not much of a wind for Jeju people,” noted guide Yong-wan Go, who took the photo.

We normally leave food shots for the rest of Instagram, but it would be misleading to omit them from our Korea postcard series, since we ate basically all of the food in Korea (or at least that's how we felt, at times). The first thing you see when you exit airport immigration? A display on fermented bean pastes. The lead exhibit at the presidential museum? Entirely on fermented foods. This is radish kimchi for winter, or rather an extremely lifelike model of radish kimchi for winter. The models came with captions like “The eldest daughter-in-law of the clan … Kim’s countryside life was so hard that at an interview, she said, ‘one happy day, three weeping days’. However, now, unwittingly a smile comes to her lips when she sees the neatly weeded yard and well-fermented soybean curds.” It’s hard not to love a museum like this, at least if you secretly came to Korea for the kimchi like some of us did. It came with recipe cards, a virtual reality experience of a Korean back yard kimchi-making area, and it was presented with the aid of the World Institute of Kimchi, which has been doing research on the topic since 2010. More from the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, offered by the Walkleys with the Korea Press Foundation and DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation.

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Can we adopt this as the official Australian open records motto? (And for that matter, everywhere else too?) Headline spotted at a palace tour pamphlet in Seoul while on our Australia-Korea journalist exchange. Still not completely sure what government transparency had to do with anything, although it was somehow gratifying to see how much the chief exec of that time valued the written word … the palace's wooded "secret garden" is dotted with fancy little reading shacks. It also has a miniature rice paddy to help the king understand his subjects' lives: worrying about being out of touch with "regular people" is not only a modern concern, apparently. The exchange is offered jointly by the Walkleys, the Korea Press Foundation and DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation.

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On set at Korea's Education Broadcasting System, which is trying to address the education gap between city and rural kids (or rich and less well-off ones) by broadcasting lectures on the internet. They hire charismatic "celebrity" teachers (these are their clothes for the shows) — it's highly competitive. Kids watch them on the way to school. The Korean schooling system has developed to one where kids go to public school most of the day – and then they go to private school at great expense after that. That's where the gap comes in, because not everyone can afford the best private academies. So EBS is trying to level the playing field and even has a special scholarship for kids who get high marks on their college entrance exam purely through public school and internet lectures. More from the journalist exchange program offered jointly by the Korean Press Foundation, DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation and the Walkley Foundation.

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General take on the Australia-Korea journalist exchange so far. We should get one of these for the Walkley office.

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Aussie journos on the DMZ tour: no cameras in the tunnel, and the drawing happens while being hustled down. It's the Third Tunnel, third discovered by South Koreans in 1976. We're with a group of Chinese tourists who stop long enough just to take photos. Very few Koreans here, and our guide tells us he never visited as a kid. Sharp contrast to the official meetings we've had, in which everything that happens revolves around the existential threat North Korea poses — but what we hear over and over again is that many South Koreans, esp the younger ones, don't care, have no interest in dwelling on the history or the threat. It's hard for us foreigners to understand. The DMZ tour also includes a film summarising the war. Loud, triumphant music, fire effects used as a transition, narration from a macho-sounding guy … it's like watching an action movie. Then cut to herons flying over a lush green landscape: the DMZ's symbols of hope. Our last stop is a train station that in 2002 was touted as the last train stop before the north. It was never connected. It's a barren empty place now, a museum to the conflict. It's incredible to see how much effort went into this hopeful place, now abandoned. More from the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, presented jointly by the Walkleys, DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation and the Korea Press Foundation.

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Classic black journalist humour and a sense of vital purpose at the Presseum, the museum next to the DongA-Ilbo newspaper. The 1970s and 1980s were an age of demonstrations, sometimes violent, sometimes featuring petrol bombs set off by either police or protesters. This cartoon shows the essential gear kit for a photojournalist of the time — camera, short zoom, bag, motor drive, notepad … and gas mask, "safe trousers", "protection for vital spot" (the groin). The caption reads, roughly, as a manifesto: We're not greedy for power or money; we're a philosophical generation. We have a sense of duty to this job. We're going into danger, putting our lives at risk for it. #pressfreedom More from the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, presented jointly by the Walkleys, DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation and the Korea Press Foundation.

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A censor's enthusuastic-looking notes on a Korean newspaper from the early 20th-c. Japanese occupation of Korea: papers were heavily controlled. Redaction at that time was white, not the black we know worldwide today — and a few copies on display were almost entirely blank. When a Korean man won the 1936 Olympic marathon, he went to the podium with a Japanese flag. The newspaper DongA-Ilbo removed the flag from the photo. Japanese police officers arrested six journos, sacked the management and suspended the paper for 10 months. DongA-Ilbo weathered that and three other shutdowns, and it's one of the top papers in Korea today. #pressfreedom More from the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, presented jointly by the Walkleys, DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation and the Korea Press Foundation.

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A little Opera House on Korea's Jeju Island. We toured a startup incubator today and naturally there is a 3D printer. The center is a joint public-private project (including the social media giant Kakao) that's putting startups through a training program, running an international hackathon (theme: "Make Jeju Better"). Some "digital nomads" roam the coworking space, the conference room has a punching bag, they use English names to avoid Korean hierarchical honorifics, and one guy gets to the elevator on a skateboard. Very Silicon Valley. The idea is to cultivate homegrown innovation. More from the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, presented by the Walkleys, DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation and the Korea Press Foundation.

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Haenyeo – the women divers of Jeju Island, Korea, were the unintended consequence of a tax policy. In the 16th c., the government taxed the proceeds of the men who dived for shellfish, but women were exempt. So the men stopped diving and women started. They developed their own methods, cooperative community, songs, bathing suits, nets, and protective fishery regulations, and they worked like hell as there was little other way to make a living. They're known for toughness: one woman on a video said she dived until six, had her baby at eight. They still work well into old age. We saw them out today, orange buoys bobbing past the black rocks in 13-degree water. It used to be they dived out of necessity; now they choose to go, to stay busy. But their numbers are dwindling: 10k a decade ago, 4400 now, most old. We learned all this from an incredible museum all about the haenyeo. Tourist-land Jeju has museums dedicated to lightning, sex, teddy bears, shellfish, cars and Hello Kitty, but it is hard to imagine any of them outdoing the haenyeo one. Where this photo came from. From the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, offered by the Walkleys, the Korea Press Foundation and the Australia-Korea Foundation.

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Beyond dog, cat and sheep cafes: a *raccoon* cafe in Seoul. Aussie journalist @phoebewon and Walkleys' @meownderthal ventured into Hongdae for an experience that not even all the locals know about (our interpreter vowed to take her kids there). When you arrive you pay about $6, don slippers and stash anything shiny or stealable in lockers. Because if you don't it will be found out. Raccoons are mostly interested in playfighting with each other and stealing things. They bring new emphasis to the the idea of persistence. They have warm, dry little hands, they never stop moving, and they don't mind if you pick them up, as long as you're wearing something worth investigating. In this video, a staffer attempts to de-raccoon a fallen play structure so she can put it back up, with mixed results. Seoul has at least three such cafes. Not part of the official program, but maybe it should be? On the Australia-Korea journalist exchange, offered by the Walkleys with the Korea Press Foundation and DFAT's Australia-Korea Foundation.

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