Korean Air, excellence in flight?

I’m insanely lucky that my Korean wife is not only extremely pretty but she’s also cabin crew. This means I get to fly everywhere for about 20% of the price everyone else pays. We’ve just come back from Korea, using Korean Air.
‘Excellence in flight’ is a pretty big marketing slogan to use for an airline,especially when it isn’t quite accurate.  Asiana Airlines are rightly regarded as one of the best in the world and there is a world of difference between the two.
The staff – For a flight from London to Seoul, you’d expect the staff to speak English. Instead, I found it much easier talking in Korean as I was having to repeat every other word. Considering this flight is used by a large number of Brits, Aussies and Kiwis, it could be better.
Food – I spend my life thinking about food. I love it, it’s the only reason I go running, so I can eat more of it. There just isn’t anything special about the food with Korean Air. Asiana on the other hand, have the best airline food I’ve had had on an economy flight. Both their bibimbap and bulgogi are something special.
Service – This is crazy. The airline puts more value on making money from duty free than food service. We flew to the Philippines last week as a side trip and we didn’t get any food until the flight was nearly over as the first 90 minutes were spent promoting duty free. It may have something to do with the commission earned by cabin crew one according to my wife, the airline oracle.
Inflight entertainment – This is where they do pick up points. The best entertainment system bar none, especially on their A330 aircraft. An amazing selection of films, games and music kept me well entertained for four flights.

Really to sum up, Korean Air are nowhere near as good as Asiana. Working in marketing myself, using such a self promoting marketing slogan just opens you up for criticism. The airline definitely has work to do to actually prove they are ‘Excellence in flight’.

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The London Tube or the Seoul Metro?

Having lived in both cities in the last five years and commuted daily on both underground networks, I feel I’m well placed to comment on the difference between these two transportation systems. I thought of this as I received a notification from the Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO) about the new batch of trains to begin service.

They look amazing. Very spacious and futuristic (see below)

New Seoul Metro trains

Courtesy of: Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation

 I can’t wait to ride on these. Below is a quick review of both London and Seoul’s networks.

The London Underground

Tube

In 1863, London was the first city in the world to have an underground network. With 270 stations and about 400km of track, the Tub is the longest underground network in the world. Over a billion people travel annually, making it the third busiest network in Europe.

However, despite all of its history, the Tube is showing it’s age.  The platforms are narrow, a lot of stations are in need of some loving care and the trains themselves are small, basic and regularly have delays.

Transport For London (TFL) is combatting this however, not a weekend goes by when there aren’t closures for upgrades. This often causes inconvenience but in the long run will benefit us all.

The Seoul Metro

The first subway line in Korea started running in 1974 and during the 80’s and 90’s has undergone massive expansion. The stations are spacious and modern, just like the trains (particularly with the new trains mentioned above going into service). 5.6million people use the subway every day.

Some of the best views of Seoul are from the subway when it crosses the Han river on one of the numerous bridges that cross the river.

Due to the culture difference, you’ll find that people on the Seoul subway are much nicer and more likely to give up their seat for the elderly.

Comparison

Frequency - In London you rarely have to wait more than three minutes for a train. During rush hour, they come every minute.  Seoul has a good frequency on most lines but further out, you need to wait 8 or 9 minutes between trains. Winner = London
Price – At only 1,000 Won (6op) for a ticket, the Seoul subway win hands down. London prices start at £1.30 (2,100 Won) but do have the advantage of daily travelcards that limit the amount of money you have to spend. That’s no consolation considering the amount of distance you can cover for less money. Winner = Seoul
Comfort - The seats in London are much more comfortable with padding, which a lot os Seoul trains still don’t have. However, there are less of them as the carriage is smaller.  London does have a lot to learn in rush hour though as I’ve never seen so many people crammed into a tube in Seoul.  There’s literally not enough room to breath! For that reason… Winner = London
Delays – In two years on the Seoul underground, I never encountered a single closure of a line. I was lucky granted, as I often heard about closures due to suicides. By contrast, London has frequent delays and each line can expect some sort of delay or closure every few days. Winner = Seoul
Condition of the system - For the reasons listed above there’s no contest. Winner = Seoul
Crazy people – Seoul has a number of vendors, peddling their wares between stations. Beggars also frequent the trains. London doesn’t have these, however, I have encountered ‘The Tube Tapdancer’ and a number of people talking to themselves. Winner = Tie

Verdict – London 2 Seoul 3

I love both subway systems. They give me some great memories, London with it’s history and Seoul with the moderness and cleanliness. If I had to commute on one line twice a day for five days a week it would definitely be by using the system in Seoul.

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The Korean football (soccer) community in London

Obviously being a guy, and English, I’m a big fan of both watching and playing football. I played at primary school, secondary school and university. I’ve played in South Korea and now I’m in London, I’m playing here. The funny thing is, I play for a Korean team.

There are probably about ten Korean teams in London and a number of others around the country.

Our team is Regent FC, we play at Victoria Park every Saturday and in the Middlesex FA league structure in the middle of the week.  The majority of players are Korean students, with a few Korean workers and foreigners added into the mix.

Can you find me?!!

I started playing for them six months ago and I can definitely say that its some of the biggest fun I’ve had while playing football. That’s not just because we seem to win every tournament we play in, it’s more about the social side of the team. Everyone is so friendly, largely because they’re similar people all in the same boat (like when I was a foreigner in Korea).

However, as the token English guy, I do find myself helping everyone out with their problems in the UK. It usually amounts to a problem a week for someone in the team!

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My favourite Korean restaurant in London

Yumi Restaurant, New Malden
Yumi restaurant
Now this might have something to do with this being the hangout for my football team, but this is easily the friendliest Korean restaurant in London.
The restaurant is sandwiched betweena grocery store and a Korean bakery and isn’t much to look at but the insideof the restaurant is certainly much more Korean with the tables all divided into booths. The owners are clearly huge Manchester Utd fans as there are numerous photos of the owners with a lot of their players on the walls.  Park Ji Sung has even eaten here!
The staff are incredibly friendly and there’s always someone waiting to serve you.
My favourite food from is the jambong (spicy seafood soup). Plenty of seafood is in it and it’s great!

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My recipe for kimchi

Now I figure that no blog with the word ‘kimchi’ in its title would be complete without its very own recipe.

Yes, I do make my own kimchi! It’s not that it’s expensive in England, but making your own is extremely satisfying. It does still save you some money too as the total cost of the ingredients from tesco for one batch comes to about a pound. Anyway, here you go….

My kimchi recipe

kimchi

While traditional Baechu kimchi recipes call for the cabbage to be kept whole until serving, I prefer to cut it into bite size pieces when I make it to avoid the hassle later. That way, I can just dip into the fridge at any time to sneak a piece!!

Ingredients:
1 Chinese cabbage
5 tablespoons of salt
3 spring onions
1.5 litres of water
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
3cm of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 medium daikon radish
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 tablespoons Korean chilli powder
1 tablespoon rice flour
1 tablespoon sugar

Method:Remove the outermost leaves of the cabbage and cut into bite size pieces. Combine the water and the salt together in a large bowl and add the cabbage before placing a weight on top to keep the cabbage submerged. Soak for 3-4 hours.

The cabbage should now look floppy. Rinse in fresh weater to remove most of the salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the chilli powder with enough water to make a paste.
Add the paste, along with the rest of the ingredients to the cabbage and mix well before transferring to a zip lock container (make sure it’s a good one or your fridge will really smell!)

Leave the kimchi somewhere fairly warm for a couple of days until bubbles appear on the surface. This means the kimchi is starting to ferment. The kimchi is now ready to eat. Keep in the fridge to maintain freshness. I tend to keep ‘testing’ it as I can’t keep my hands out of the pot!

Enjoy!

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The British in the Korean War

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book called ‘To The Last Round’ by Andrew Salmond.  It’s about the British 29th Brigade at the Battle of Imjin where the Gloucesteshire regiment got decimated. Out of over 700 men, just 50 managed to escape from a massive Chinese onslaught.
It’s great to find a book about the British involvement in the Korean War as even though we had the second largest number of foreign troops (after the US), we rarely see anything about us written.

The account is pretty technical but filled with plenty of stories from the survivors. There are some hilarious anecdotes from some of the contributors which just shows that even through war, man never loses his sense of humour.

I can’t even imagine being one of those soldiers on that hilltop as the final assault came in from the Chinese. Odds of seven Chinese for every one British  soldier are beyond scary. I’d love to be in Korea one year for the memorial of that battle. The British embassy arrange it every year I believe.

If you know of any other good books about the British in Korea, let me know as I’d love to study it a little more.

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