Life in Seoul is pretty fast paced and you may find yourself gasping for some fresh air from time to time. Why not take a class and learn something you may have never even considered before? Here are a few suggestions for those of you looking to take a new craft, whether it be making some delicious kimchi or breaking wood and performing roundhouse kicks that Chuck Norris would be proud of.
If images of Bruce Lee and the one inch punch are filling your head, sorry to disappoint but that’s not taekwondo. Think more like the guy who has one of his legs completely over his head, forming a T. Korea’s unique martial arts will have you kicking and punching your way out of any trouble you may run into. One of the many programs available is the Taekwondo Experience Program at Namsangol Hanok Village. This particular offering is run by the Seoul government, and teaches basic self defense techniques as well as how to properly break wood young grasshopper. Get your white belt to train and watch your inner strength and thighs grow exponentially from this discipline. Performances are also available for those of you who would prefer to watch from the bleachers but definitely make sure to try it out for yourself after. Hey, even if you don’t learn how to break wood at a Van Damme Dim Mac level you’ll have a great new Facebook profile picture to take away. By the way, kudos to you if you got that last reference.
Closest subway station: Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3 or 4) Exit 4
Tired of eating ramen at 김밥천국 (kimbab heaven) everyday? Do you play jenga with all the delivery boxes and trays scattered around your room? Try out some cooking classes at O’ngo Food Communications and make use of those pots and pans collecting dust in the kitchen. O’ngo has been providing top notch classes and corporate events for conglomerate giants and is one of the most informative experts regarding Korean cuisine, so you know you’re in good hands. They offer a range of classes to target different skill levels including beginner, intermediate, and professional. A special halal class is available as well so this is a legitimiate one stop venue for all your cooking aspirations. Cooking classes run for about 2 hours and is available in English and Japanese. Learn how to make Korean staples like samgyetang (삼계탕 – chicken soup with ginseng) or kimchijjigae (김치찌개 – kimchi and pork strew). Classes start from 65,000 won for the beginner session to the 200,000 range for the professional level. Your quest towards Iron Chef begins here.
Closest subway station: Anguk Station (Line 3)
If you’re planning to live in Korea for a while, why not learn some Korean and try to mingle with the locals. Admittedly that can be a hard proposal but at the very least your eyes will light up when you realize the taxi driver is trying to rip you off. Language exchange cafes are a pretty good place to start, but if you’re becoming frustrated with nodding your head at everything people say to you there are plenty of options out here. Korean language institutes are an excellent place to learn, as you will be in a class of around 10 people of the same ability after taking a placement test. Classes run for about 1.8 million for a 3 month session, and the best part is you’ll have the entire day free to hang out with classmates that are just as eager to explore the country as you are. Check out the programs at Yonsei and Sogang, as those two are generally regarded as the cream of the crop. Best of all, finish level 6 and you’ll get a certificate and participate in a graduation ceremony where you can bust out that hanbok (korean traditional clothing) without people gawking at you.
Closest subway station: Sinchon Station (Line 2)
Constructed back during King Wonseong’s reign in 794, the former Gyeonseongsa Temple is now a popular tourist attraction due to its heavy infusion of Buddhism. This terrific experience runs for 20,000 won on Thursdays from 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm. A two hour culmination of culture includes a temple tour, tea ceremony aka Dado, a lotus flower making session, and seon meditation with monks. Ever wanted to live like a monk for two days? Check out their temple stay option that includes a temple tour, tea ceremony, monastic meals, chanting services, making Buddhist rosaries, meditation, and the chance to enjoy some fragrant tea while chatting up a monk and asking him all sorts of bewildering questions. Bongeunsa is also the site of many annual cultural events and is definitely an attraction you want to check out. Some tips for visitors, the word sunim (스님) is used to address monks and sleeveless clothes are not allowed. That’s right, no board shorts or jerseys no matter how much you want to show off your new Kobe jersey to the monks.
Closest subway station: Samseong Station (Line 2, Exit 6)
If you even put kimchi on your pizza, check out the Seoul Kimchi Academy House Kimchi Making Program and learn how to make the dish for yourself. (But seriously, on pizza?). The kimchi making class costs 30,000 won for 5 one hour classes, and an additional 15,000 won scores you tteokbokki (spicy rice cake) making sessions as well. Hey, now you won’t have to go to the store to buy kimchi. Throw out those delivery kimchi packages you’ve been hoarding in the fridge and head down to the Academy to get down and dirty with some cabbage and spices.
Closest subway station: Myeongdong Station (Line 4) exit 6
Located near the culturally explosive Insadong area, visitors can try their hand at the art of calligraphy. The class is offered on Mondays from 10 am – noon or Tuesdays 7pm – 9pm for a mere 10,000 won per month. The great part is after finishing up the class, you can stroll around Insadong for some window shopping, taking pictures, or just breathing in that beautiful Korean culture. Be careful not to breathe in too much of that yellow dust during certain months, however.
Hosted by: The Korean Society of Calligraphic Arts
Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Korea House is well known for its deep cultural roots, and is conveniently located in the heart of Myeongdong and close to the beautiful Namsan Tower. They offer several classes as well as a wide variety of traditional dance and musical performances so you’ll definitely want to check that out. For those of you who just want to try out the food, there are several course meals available including a jaw-dropping 250,000 won Daejangum course. The program runs for about 1 1/2 hours and is available at 9 and 9:30 am or 2 and 2:30 if you feel the need to sleep in a bit. You’ll start off with cooking classes, learning how to make kimchi and then beating some sticky rice flour to a pulp like Rocky in order to make some delicious traditional rice cake. After that, you’ll learn how to use hanji (traditional Korean paper) to make a hand mirror because it’s a crime to have a bad hairday or style in Seoul. Then you’ll move on to making necklaces and a special face mask to rounding out arts and crafts time. But wait, you’re not done yet. Now, it’s martial arts time. The Korea House will take you through the steps of participating in samulnori by instructing you how to play traditional instruments, and then you can get your groove on with a fan dancing session. Limber up and test your reflexes with an introduction to taekyeon. No, not the taekwondo that’s on the top of this list. Don’t worry, you’ll learn the basic skills before being pitted up against an expert. Good luck, and hopefully all that kimchi you ate while no one was looking doesn’t come back to bite you.
Closest subway station: Chungmuro Station (Line 4)
Daniel Kang is a Korean-American from Los Angeles, California and currently enjoys living in Seoul. He is a diehard Laker fan and loves playing basketball, poker, and hanging out at the beach. Daniel is a passionate writer and has compiled pieces for Groove Korea and 10 Magazine. Check out his Lakers blog at lakerlinanalysis