Friday, July 31, 2015

How to read the new Korean postal codes

Starting tomorrow, Korea will officially begin using a new 5-digit postal code system, replacing the older 6-digit ("3 dash 3" I used to call it) zip code system. Like the old system, the numbers that make up this 5-digit code have special geographic meaning. Today I'll show you how to make sense of the codes, so that you can have some idea of where is the physical location the code corresponds to.

Example of old 6-digit postal code vs. newer 5-digit code

Read more ...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mud Fest Poster Girl case

This week the KT reported on a woman who had sued the Boryeong Mud Festival organizers for her unauthorized appearance in promotional material.
The woman, surnamed Jeong, 33, attended the annual festival on three different occasions. In May 2013, she discovered that she appeared on the poster advertising that year's festival. The poster was used in a variety of places, including subway stations in Seoul and Boryeong city's Facebook page.
In the photo, she was pictured covered with mud and sitting on a man's shoulders.
The festival organizer also distributed the photo to the media as part of its press releases, and Jeong's image appeared on news websites and various blogs.
She won that case, but her claims against media companies that utilized the poster in good faith were thrown out:
In a related suit, a local court dismissed Jeong's demand for compensation from media companies that used the photo.
Jeong claimed the companies damaged her reputation, but the court said they were not responsible as they did not make the poster, rather they used the press releases that were distributed by the festival organizers. [Korea Times
I take that to mean there's no harm in sharing the photo, because a series of fortunate events brought me to it yesterday.

Reading this article, I was reminded of my own visits to Mud Fest many years ago. I came across a fantastic gallery on Flickr from one of the years I attended, 2008. No, sadly I didn't see myself in any of the photos, but I'm not exactly a real photogenic guy. The photographer must have had a pretty impressive camera though, because even though these photos are all seven years old now their high resolution looks better than 90% of the smartphone snaps coming out of there nowadays.

Anyway, Korean news channel JTBC reported on the case I mentioned above, and included a blurred version of the photo in their video report. Here's the still:

Source: JTBC
The woman on the left is identified in the report as the Korean woman, Ms. Jeong, who initiated the suit.

As I was browsing the Flickr gallery, guess what came up? That very photo. Here's the embedded version below:

Mud Fest 2008
Source: Hypnotica Studios

Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. This is hardly a compromising photo, especially compared to some of the other Mud Fest voyeurism photos out there. But I can see why she might be upset that the photo was used professionally and promotionally.

It's also an interesting case to me because it seems this was the largest and earliest version of the photo I could find (taken 2008:07:12 14:55:23 according to the image's EXIF info), which suggests that the Mud Fest organizers were not themselves the originators of the photo. According to Flickr, the photo is under Creative Commons allowing commercial reuse, so perhaps there's no foul here. But I wonder if the photographer is even aware of his work having been used in such a way. According to the KT article, Ms. Jeong only discovered its use in 2013, five years after it would have been taken. And she's Korean. It seems plausible that the original photographer, Shawn Perez from New Jersey according to his profile, might never have known about it being used as official promotional contents.

Actually, even though I found this photo in a pretty roundabout way, I wouldn't have had to work very hard to find it. It's right there on the festival's Wikipedia page.

All in all, an interesting case for considering the rights of a photographer, releasing his work under CC, of a woman perhaps only partially identifiable, and taken up by an official tourism-promotion group for what might be argued as financial gain for the organization (although in this case: The district court ruled against her, saying posting her picture was not for financial gain. [KT])

Korean portrait rights are an interesting topic, and  you can read more about that here, here, and here.

Now let's finish up with something light. Here are some of the photos I especially enjoyed from that Flickr gallery. Photos are original embeds, with captions added by me.

Mud Fest 2008
The "Regretting she came here with her Sunday afternoon language exchange partner"
The "M'lady"

Mud Fest 2008
The "Sex crime in 3... 2... 1..."
Mud Fest 2008
The "When the fun dies down, and you realize Mitch here thinks he has a 90% chance of scoring with you tonight, and one more beer will make you sort of OK with it"
Mud Fest 2008
The "God I feel so empty inside, what am I doing with my life?"
Mud Fest 2008
The "I bought this swimsuit in the 80s"
Mud Fest 2008
The "Shh... it will all be over soon..."
Mud Fest 2008
The "So close to nip slip, so very close..."
Mud Fest 2008
The "How much I enjoy Mud Fest now that I've been here damn near 10 years"

Hope you got a laugh out of that. Check out this great photographer's other work on Facebook and Flickr

Read more ...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Problem with KakaoTaxi

Here is my experience using KakaoTaxi. This is entirely true, but not meant to represent an overall picture of the service. It is my personal impression of it, and anyone is free to disagree. I encourage everyone to give it a try for themselves. 

Earlier this year, I wrote an opinion piece on this blog about what was then a hot topic: UberX being banned from operating in Korea. In that piece, I stated that I didn't really care about Uber itself being blocked, and suggested that a service like KakaoTaxi would suit me just fine, assuming the app was well designed and suitable for foreigners to use. 

Well, I finally got around to trying out KakaoTaxi for myself today. The experience was not great.  Basically, even though KakaoTaxi itself is a good app, the service suffered from the same kind of complaint I gave in that earlier blog post: drivers. 

Read on to see what I mean. 

Installing the App

At first, I was unable to install the app, getting the "Not available in your country" message. Strange, as this is a Korean KT phone registered under a Korean ID number. I think the phone's language being English had something to do with it. This was easily solved by visiting Google Play on my desktop, and installing the app remotely from the website. 

The app itself is still all in Korean, but its simplicity was amazing. I had no problems. A large button asked me to log-in with my Kakao account, which was then done automatically, and an SMS verification sent to my phone to verify the phone number. KakaoTaxi automatically received the verification code and proceeded to log-in. 

From there, two maps were shown: one for my current location, one for my destination.  I won't go into this too much, as there are other great illustrated guides out there you can check with. 

Hailing a Cab

Image: DaumKakao Corp
No problem here. I inputted my destination, and clicked Submit. Immediately a larger map popped up showing the car that had been dispatched to me, including his real-time updating location, an ETA, and the driver's name and photo. It took perhaps 40 seconds for him to arrive. Excellent. 

The Cab Ride

Here is were the KakaoTaxi service breaks down. The problem is: it still relies on those same questionable older male taxi drivers. I'm sure you know the type I mean.  

The driver clearly had his "KakaoTaxi: Driver" app out, which I could see had brought up a navigation map clearly detailing the best route to the location that I had sent (perhaps a fruit of their purchase of Kimgisa?). 

But the driver chose to ignore this, and proceeded to take an entirely different route. 

This led to some protesting, done over the sound the daytime television variety show playing from his in-dash navigation unit. But the driver assured us that yes, we could go the way we've always gone, a route that all mapping software and bus routes take, but don't worry, that's silly, he knows this area well, he knows the best route. We allowed him the benefit of the doubt, but it became clear that our route was diverging from where we wanted to go. The driver paid no attention to the navigational instructions clearly being displayed on his phone by his KakaoTaxi Driver app. 

We spoke up. An awkward argument ensued about what place we meant to go to, the driver saying he had been confused about which branch of our destination we had intended. True, the restaurant does have multiple branches in the area; this is why I made sure to specify the correct one on the map I sent. It is also, importantly, precisely why we chose to try KakaoTaxi this time. I wanted no confusion. No complaints of "oh well you didn't speak up clearly" or "oh well nobody ever goes to that one so I thought you wanted this other one." So there was no reason for this mistake. I specified exactly the location in KakaoTaxi and could see it flashing right on his phone as we drove. He never once looked at it. The only explanation I can think of is that he got the alert from KakaoTaxi Driver, hastily read the destination name, and then promptly ignored both the branch name (specified in the restaurant's title!) and the destination flashing on his map. 

Look, I'm not saying a taxi driver needs to have the precision and efficiency of a brain surgeon. But if you're not even going to try, what's the point? You know, there are some taxi drivers down on their luck, looking to make some cash until something better comes along. And there are some drivers who like the work. I guess, I don't know, I'm not a driver. But there are some who clearly just failed at life completely and this is the only work they can get that's not collecting cardboard. I can remember when I first got to Korea, my coworkers telling me dumb stories about how lots of taxi drivers are criminals and assault perps and rapists because taxi driving is one of the only jobs you can get after getting out of prison. Maybe I'm a jaded asshole, but sometimes, I see a piece of truth in what they're saying. But hey that's got noting to do with this. Back to the action.

Finally, as we arrived near our actual destination, the driver became again agitated, not knowing where the entrance was. His KakaoTaxi Driver app still, meanwhile, showed precisely the entrance we intended on, but still, for whatever reason, he refused to acknowledge this screen. We tried telling him that our intended destination is both there on the screen, and just up ahead to the left, but he feigned total ignorance. By this point our Korean friend in the car started admonishing the guy, who was clearly, somehow, bothered by this ordeal. He loudly protested that he has no idea where we want to go, stopped his cab at the curb, and asked if this was close enough. 

For us, by this point, it was. We would walk the additional 100 meters. 

The fare by this point was 13,000 won and nearly 20 minutes, for a trip that routinely costs $5 and takes 5 minutes. We gave him $5. He grumbled a protest, but I think even he was forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation. We paid a fair price. Any wasted fuel was his issue, not ours.

As soon as the door had closed behind us, he sped-out into an illegal U-turn, and off into the afternoon sun behind us.

We later discussed whether we should have paid anything at all, but I think we made the right call. Better to be legally in a good light then risk having yourself seem aggressive or antagonistic. Just in case. Who knows. 


KakaoTaxi quickly sent me a KakaoTalk message, presenting me with a free set of special KakaoTaxi-promotional emoticons as a "thank you" for my first completed trip. I declined the download. 

The app then brought up a 5-star rating opportunity, asking how was my experience with this driver. I leave it to you to imagine what rating I gave. 


As for the app itself, I was highly satisfied. It worked exactly as intended. With its simple interface, I don't think it will be much longer before it appears in English too. Unless they want to start running a "foreigner-only" service. 

The problem, of course, was getting the driver to actually use the app properly. Like I complained in my earlier post, the most annoying part of taking a taxi here is the random nature of drivers. Some are quiet professionals. Some are harmlessly chatty. Some have no business being behind a wheel. Now sure, that's probably true around the world. And ideally, the rating system would help to whittle down the system to those who are more reliable. And hey, I may have just been unlucky and gotten a bad driver. Other drivers seem to share my belief in the potential efficiency of the service:

"It's really convenient for us because we get the directions directly onto our navigation screen, and we don't have to ask exactly where it is, how long it takes and what road is the best for traffic." [Korea Times]

Now where was that driver when I needed him? Overall, the experience reminded me why I usally don't take taxis. I'll stick to the bus or train. You know where those are going. And if the driver isn't going to pay any attention to my submitted destination anyway, then for me, there's really no advantage to using KakaoTaxi over just standing at the curb and hailing a cab the old-fashioned way. 

So even though I anticipate KakaoTaxi to continue to grow, I don't think it solves the fundamental problem. A cab is not a self-driving computer system (...yet!). Sure, the app can connect you with a cab, but once you step inside, it's not the app that's running the system anymore. You're in the hands of the driver, and you'd better hope those hands are competent. 


Have you had any experiences, good or bad, with KakaoTaxi? Tell me about it in the comments. 
Read more ...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Feedly vs. Inoreader, Part 4: The End

This will likely be the last installment of a 4-part series I've done on the pros/cons of Feedly and Inoreader for my own personal needs. This is Part 4. You can also see Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 5 if you're interested

This week was a milestone week for me in my agony over whether to commit to Feedly or Inoreader. A few days ago, I cleaned out my Feedly account and deactivated it. Today, I signed-up as a paying customer with Inoreader, under their "Plus" plan ($29.99/year).

I don't even need all the features that accompany the Plus plan. I could have done with the Starter plan. But over the last few months, I've come to love Inoreader so that I wanted to support them with a higher payment plan. From someone as notoriously tight-fisted with money as me, let me tell you, there is no higher vote of confidence.

If you're reading this, you're probably wondering why exactly I finally made my choice to go with Inoreader. There were three main areas I considered:

Read more ...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Naver Indoor Maps (실내지도)

It looks like Naver will soon feature indoor imagery, much like Google Maps does with its Indoor Maps.

Naver has announced that they will be providing indoor maps for 328 major transportation and business facilities nationwide.
Using Naver indoor maps, one can get information on the location beforehand, avoiding the chaos occurring in crowded and complex areas. Users can find out where the nearest customer centers, elevators and washrooms are, and for certain buildings, a 360 degrees panoramic view of the inside is provided, allowing the user to see what it actually looks like. [Korea Bizwire]

That's great, but in fact I already find Naver's indoor mapping to be very useful. A quick Google search seems not to turn-up any info about this in English, so I'll tell you a bit about it now.

Read more ...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

360° YouTube videos in Korea

If you've never watched a 360-degree movie on YouTube, you should give it a try. You can move your Android phone all around and it acts as a window onto the scene-- you see what you'd see if you were looking in that direction. Some of the 360 videos I've seen out there are amazing.

UPDATE 2015-08
Well the word is out. There is now a fairly large number of 360° videos available that are set in Korea, and it is growing every day. I won't bother updating anymore with every single new item I find. Just search for yourself. Some of these are very cool, and if you have a Cardboard viewer (I picked one up for less than $4 on G-Market), are pretty immersive. I like the map below your feet on this tour of Changgyeonggung palace:
YouTube - Tour of Korea - Changgyeonggung Palace, Seoul [360 Video]

UPDATE 2015-07:
It seems even North Korea has gotten the 360° treatment!
YouTube - North Korea 360 Video ( Young Pioneer Tours - 2015 June Tour )
Additionally, big-name boy group Infinite have gotten on the 360 bandwagon.
YouTube - 인피니트(INFINITE) "Bad" Official MV (360 VR)

UPDATE 2015-06:
YouTube user 베레스트(Verest) 360 VR features several 360° videos of K-pop dance rehearsals (among other things), including videos from girl-group Bambino (밤비노, images slightly NSFW). Boy, we are just a step or two away from, well, you know. Here's one of the Bambino videos:

Verest seems to be a new-media contents group, so we might expect more such 360 videos from them. Watch their YouTube page and Facebook page for more. Hat Tip to /u/icecreammachine for posting this.

And, here are some examples from YouTuber LittleKing. One was taken at Herb Island, the other while wake-boarding near what appears to be Cheongdam Bridge (?) in Seoul. The quality on these aren't that great, but you can check them out here (links work best when opened on your Android phone):
YouTube - 360 Degree Video Korea Herb Island
YouTube - 360 Degree Video Korea Wakeboarding 

Another nice example here from inside the grounds of Changgyeonggung Palace:
YouTube - Tour of Korea - Changgyeonggung Palace, Seoul [360 Video]

All of these were found by keeping an eye on this YouTube search for "korea" filtering for "360°". I set-up a Google Alert for it.

There are loads of sites in Korea (palaces, temples, festivals) just waiting to get the full-on 360 treatment. So K-bloggers, get your special cameras out there! I'd love to be able to feature more such videos in the future, and if you do find any other 360° YouTube videos in Korea, let me know in the comments.

Read more ...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Typing in Korean in Chromium on Lubuntu

A quick Google search will show that Chrome/Chromium was having issues rendering Korean text on Ubuntu in the past. But I had a different problem. I use Lubuntu, and I couldn't type in Korean at all in Chromium. Korean typing worked fine in Firefox, and I could read Korean text in Chromium, no problem. The only problem was typing Korean in Chromium. My usual 한/영 key wouldn't work, and I could only type in English.

This isn't the best solution, but for me, it's a simple work-around: Install the Korean IME from the Chrome Web Store

Korean IME example from Chrome Web Store

It's a very light-weight Chrome/Chromium extension that lets you toggle English/Korean with just a click, and works well whether you have a physical Korean keyboard enabled or not. Great little piece of software, a real life lifesaver for me. Just wish it had a key toggle, as it's good for occasional Korean writing, but if you're switching back-and-forth between languages a lot, it gets bothersome having to click. 

Read more ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

KEB HanaCard Service Changes

For those in Korea who bank with KEB, which is probably a majority of expats here, here is some big news that will affect you this month. The KEB merger with Hana will disrupt some of your card use in July, so be sure to read this information carefully and note the dates/times. KEB posts so much useless information on their Facebook feed that this almost slid past me without my knowing, if a friend hadn't alerted me to it.

Here is their recent Facebook post, and I'll also reprint the full text of it below for your convenience:

KEB HanaCard - Service Changes

July 15, 2015 at 4:56pm
To prepare for the launch of an integrated IT system for KEB HanaCard on July 20, 2015, some KEB HanaCard services will be suspended in phases and others will be changed. Note: This message provides a translation of a recent Korean text message sent to Card customers.
Temporary Service Suspensions:
-- Card usage: July 20 from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
(Includes: certain transactions related to check cards, credit cards that also serve as check cards, online bill settlement, taxis, text messages).

-- Card usage on online shopping sites: July 20, from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m.

-- Changes to personal information: July 11 at 12 a.m. to July 20 at 9 a.m.

-- Issuing new cards: July 17 at 12 a.m. to July 20 at 6 a.m.

-- Automated Response System (ARS): July 18 at 12 a.m. to July 20 at 9 a.m.

-- Cash Advances: July 17 at 10 p.m. to July 20 at 5 a.m. (when provided by ATM: suspended from July 20 at 1 a.m.)

-- Card loans: July 17 at 9 p.m. to July 20 at 8 a.m.

-- Other services (enrolling in new card-related services): July 18 to July 20 at 9 a.m.

-- After the IT integration on July 20, some card services will be changed, including: standards for accruing/redeeming reward points, calculation of previous month's overseas spending, billing for transit cards/calculation of previous month's transit card usage, accrual of airline mileage; operation of membership/product services.


-- KEB HanaCard website:The website ( has provided English service to support the merger of KEB Card with Hana SK Card, which began in December 2014. On July 20, 2015, the website will be closed and integrated into Some English services, including information on card products and card usage, will be provided on the integrated site. Other services, such as inquiry of card spending and card limits, will be provided through the KEB HanaCard Foreign Customer Service Center (1544-3500).

For more information, please contact KEB HanaCard Customer Center at 1544-3500; hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday

It's a bit hard to stay up-to-date with news about KEB banking. Here are my two main complaints in that area:

  1. Their Facebook feed is usually just useless give-aways and event promotions, or daily conversion rates for the won.
  2. Their public news site and monthly newsletter site are those Korean-style message boards, with no RSS subscription option. Who is going to remember to 'check back' all the time?
It's not perfect, but here's one workaround that you might find useful. Although Facebook Pages no longer publish RSS feeds for each posts, you can still subscribe to a Page's "Notes" posts. Some Pages post the more important, long-form information as Notes, including the posting above from KEB. So one suggestion is to subscribe to the KEB Facebook Page's "Notes" feed, here:

Read more ...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

More default Wi-fi passwords in Korea

A friend shared this post on his Facebook wall, and it seems useful for people travelling in Korea. Lord knows I depend on any free wi-fi I can get when going abroad.

Some of these are still the same from my previous post, but there is some new information here.

7/11 convenience stores - 2127393302
McDonalds - 16005252 (the McDelivery phone number) 
CJ Internet Hello D & SO070VOIP & Hello Wireless- 534f4b4354
Starbucks - (branch telephone number; check receipt)
VIPS - ID: SKtelecom_tspot & Password: sktelecom
Tobis - 1234

SK - a123456789
SK T-spot - sktelecom
SK_WLAN - 987654321b 

myLGnet & myLG070 - 123456789a, 987654321a, 1234567890
U-Zone - a0123456789
LG Uplus - lguplus002 & lguplus100
U+100 - Terminal's serial number

Of course I can't guarantee that these will work. These are default passwords, so it's likely the owner has changed them, and I've noticed some are assigned new passwords upon installation. But as a test, I walked around my neighborhood and found three connections worked with these passwords, so you just might get lucky. Good information to keep in your back pocket on your Korean trip, anyway.

Read more ...


Here's a quick funny that gave me a chuckle when my friend posted it. The person is watching Titanic on their computer, and just at the moment when Rose goes "Jack, Jack, Jack, there's a ship!" and discovers Jack's dead, a Windows message pops-up saying "(A) Jack has been disconnected".


Jack has disconnected

Read more ...