Tuesday, March 31, 2009


*Just a short notice about recent happenings apart from my usual articles*

Yesterday Kim-sabomnim updated us about changes and news concerning us and the KBC. He told us that at the end of April they will announce the students who will get a scholarship. About 10 will get a scholarship and thus are enabled to stay longer in Korea to study Baduk. As we are only 15 students currently my chances are good to get a scholarship.

Additionally the most exciting thing however is that those scholarship students will probably become Yeongusaeng (Insei). So we will be participating the Insei-leagues and tournaments. Soooo exciting! Maybe from May on i will be a Yeongusaeng.

- adorable plum

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seoul Part 1

14-15th of March, Seoul: Part 1

As usual we woke at 7.00 am and quickly showered, usually I am first to shower as the other are a little too slow in the morning. More hot water for me! Breakfast is at 8.00 AM and usually we get toast marmelade, kimchi and other stuff accompanied by water, milk and coca cola as drinks. Shortly after that we left for Heongseong to fetch the bus to Seoul. The old men taking care of us were so kind to drive us there. In the small town we had a awful cup of coffee for which we luckily had not to pay. The bus however surprised me it was very comfortable with enough space, even for me. There is not much to say about the 1.5 hours to Seoul. Korea is still a huge constructionsite and our busdriver seemed to be very good as he even took more risks than the previous ones.
In Seoul Mr.Kim awaited us at the main busstation which is approximatly as big as Colognes main trainstation. A lot and I mean an awful lot people were fluttering through the station and streets we passed through. Everything is so colourful and lively and my memories of German towns seem deprived of colour and beauty. It looks like a dream. Three streets further there was a big subway-station. Mr. Kim showed us how to buy a subway-card, which is very comfortable to use. It works like a prepaid card. After buying it first for 9500 Won you have 7000 Won on it to use. It is surpringly easy to use the subway in Seoul. Basically each ride costs 900 Won which is not even half an Euro and after existing an line which is not connected to another line directly in the station the bus-transfer to it is free for 30 minutes. There are several main-lines, which are coloured and named differently which makes navigating easy. Stops are announced in Korean and English and shown on one of the many TV-screens in the subways. Using the subway is like checking in and out at work. You put the subway-card on a field prepared for it and the machine electronically deducts 900 Won from it at lets you pass after that, leaving the line you entered works the same except that it does not cost money. Very easy, smooth and especially inexpensive in contrary to Germany which's system cannot even be explained without writing an bigger essay.
Our first destination was the Hankuk Kiwon, the Korean Baduk Association, as we had a team participating in an amateur team tournament but not before eating lunch in an nice restaurant which served various fish and sushi menus. We had grilled fish and some kind of salad-rice-mix which was flavoured with a red and really spice sauce. The spice is not the problem but have you ever tried to eat a nicely grilled fish with chopsticks? It is hard to even pick up just a tiny bit. The fish was really lucky, if it had not been we would have killed it a couple dozen times. While the waitresses secretly laughed at our primitive attempts to eat our meal, Cho Hye-yeon joined us for a short while, promising to take us out for dinner in the evening.
For those who do not know her. Cho Hye-yeon is an 8dan professional player with an cheerful and kind attitude and perfect English and Japanese. So she is not only very strong at Baduk, probably currently the strongest Korean femal pro, but also talented in languages.
Lunch ended more or less satifying at we finally were going to the Hankuk Kiwon.
The building itself is rather plain but quite big. Greyish in colour and only the sign "Hankuk Kiwon" written in Hangul decorate the front. It is a multistories building with 5-6 stories. In the groundlevel is the reception, the shop and the Baduk TV studios. The 1st floor holds the main playing-room for the Insei and a few smaller rooms which were locked or empty. In the 2nd floor are the mainoffices which I did not see this visit. The 3rd floor has several smaller rooms with TV's and boards to play on for those who want to observe high-level matches in the titel-match room. 4-6th floor are professional-area with their main-playing and study rooms.
After arriving our attention immediatly fell on the tiny shop of the Hankuk Kiwon. It is stuffed with hundreds of books and magazines. There is just place for 2-3 persons to stand in and if you are not observing closely the shopkeeper is not even visible behind all the books. But for now we had not the time to dive and see through all the material there, we had to go to the opening ceremony of the tournament. It is rather boring to look like you are attentivly listening to the speeches even if the host was a very attractive woman in a shining red uniform consisting out of a blazer and a short skirt. Soon after the tournament started but sadly I was not strong enough to play for KBC so I just watched a few minutes and then intended to browse through what the shop had to offer but Mr. Kim had already other plans and was trying to organize a few professionals to play a teaching game with the lot of us who were not playing in the tournament but they would not do that free of charge of course so that idea was cut out fast. Mr. Kim was not out of ideas though and found five amateur players to play a friendly game with five of us. I was fast enough to raise my hand and thus allowed to play. Here I for the first time would have needed one of those cards which display your name and telefon number. I might have disappointed my opponent a little because I did not have one. I had to place a three stone handicap and we started to play. I had a solid game and was leading throughout the whole game but my opponent was not overplaying and still steadily was catching up little by little as I failed to kill his dumpling but at three stones such a thing is not game deciding. In the endgame I was leading by about 15 points and played an bad endgame move which should have given me 2 more points but I oversaw on thing and swiftly the strike came and killed half of my group and this I lost. It was close but no way to win anymore so I resigned. After a discussion of the game I asked him about his level of play and he said he is a Korean 5dan. Quite surprising as I deemed myself not so far away from his level of play. (Was he just kind?) Anyways our teams one female and one male team continued to get beaten or win one or two games while I finally found the time to wander through the building and buy some books. Mr. Kim helped me to choose a few and the shopkeeper swiftly supplied me with more similiar books. Additionally to those problem books I bought I bought some pocket-books for inseis which contain some easy and in higher volumes very hard and even harder problems. All in all I bought 11 books for just 68000 Won, very very cheap compared to the shops one usually buys in and the sortiment is much bigger than anything I have ever seen.
Meanwhile Cho-sabomnim (Cho Hye-yeon) joined us again after her meeting with a publisher. She wrote a problem book named "Creative Life and Death problems" which should be published in the next week. It ranges from simple dan-level problems up to cracking hard professional-level problems, so if you want challenge go and get that book. I am sure I will!
I returned into the main-playing room shortly after purchasing my books and suddenly was halted by Kim-sabomnim who shoved me to a Korean person I at first did not recognize but then I remembered it was the 5dan I played just an hour ago. He babbled some stuff on Korean, which of course I did not understand at all, until he muttered something like "Pro ku-dan" while pointing at a person in the room. He then pulled out a book out of his bag and gave it to me, signaling me to open it. It contained signature in Korean which dated back to 2005 and besides it was the photo of the professional who just stood a few meters away. "Well...?" I thought a bit puzzled as I did not know what to do or to say but the 5dan somehow made it clear the the book was a gift from him to me. A pretty cool gift I must say, not only is it signed by 9dan professional but also is a book about trickplays which I have been struggling with in the last days.

Perfect book! With signature! Hehe how lucky I am. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First days


Today two more students arrived in the morning and at breakfast-time they were introduced to us. For breakfast we had toast with strawberry-marmalade and milk, very western. It seems they are going easy on us food-wise.
Until 10.00 a.m. we had free time and visited the convienience store near by, however it was quickly was labelled nano-market as it was a really tiny and very lonely store. (I need to take photos of it.) A small selection of every daily-need items is offered so it suits our need as we get to visit Seoul soon enough.
Finally at 10.00 a.m. the "Welcoming ceremony" was held, the headmaster, the director of the hankuk kiwon, and the director of Kings Field held a speech each and our teachers were introduced. Kim Sung-Rae 4p our headteacher and headmaster, Kim Sung Ryong 9p a former titleholder and Hong Seul-ki 7dan a former insei will teach us from now on. Diana Koszegi is still in Europe and another 5dan teacher is busy in Seoul collecting another few students.
My speech went well and soon after the ceremony was over. The TV channel "KBS", which recorded everything, requested the 9p to play a simul game and that was my chance to play a professional for the first time in Korea. Needless to say that I lost easily on 5 handicap stones by 6 points. The review was very interesting even though the teacher does not speak English yet but Baduk players understand each other easily on the board though.
The daily routine started today with after breakfast studying Baduk problems and the starting our weekly league games. There are three leagues, A B and C, we play each opponent twice in one week and the best move up and the last move down. I am currently in league B and surely planning to move up next week of course.
After lunch our league games continued as the game reviews of them by our teachers. Then more study and finally around 17.00 pm the first language class. It taught us the basic Baduk terms we need for our visit in Seoul next weekend.
Except the occasional visits of the Korean TV reporters who eagerly questioned us and who will put us on nation-wide broadcast sometime next week.

The story about Seoul will follow later.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Photo update

Today only a short post to link all the photos i have made so far.


I have been busy cramming for the daily tests we are writing. Today is large avalanche and failing is not permitted! Gotta hurry to study it some more...

- adorable plum

Monday, March 9, 2009

Adventures in Kimchi-land 1

Adventures in Kimchi-land

Today I arrived 12.15 pm at the Incheon Airport in Korea, no special things happened on the flight. I talked with an Austrian who got interested in trying Baduk after I told him about my journey, so he gave me his card so I could contact him again. 10 hours and 15 minutes it took me to arrive in Korea and I was glad to be there. At first the jet-lag was not that bad but it got worse later. Mr. Hong Seul-ki awaited me with 6 other students at the exit-gate so it did not take long to find him after I passed the immigration-matters.
There were one Slovenian, one from Portugal, one from Czech Repulbic, two from Italia and another one from Peru i guess. And after we found the the three lost people even three Thais. Kingsbaduk had rented a small bus for us to get to Hoenggeosong (still can't spell it...).
so with 9 people we made our way slowly trough the Korean mountains. It seems that Korea in winter is a very dry wasteland as there is not much green or other colour than yellow-brownish prominent but what really strikes the eyes is that on every end, every small space, town or road there is building in progress. The whole of Korea is one building and constructionsite, everywhere even on a Sunday workes busily build streets, houses and other things. Even here at the academy there is building in progress, the academy seems not completly finished yet and the streets and bridges, houses around here all seem to be in a state of being renovated, newly build or planed.
Another cool thing is traffic in Korea. They for the high-way have a toll-system where you have to pay in order to go on. The streets on the other side are poorly maintained or evily planed. Every few minutes there is a bump in the road which shakes the car so that you can easily hit your head on the car if you do not watch out. We learned that rather quickly but I cannot ward of the feeling that those "badly" build roads are perfectly planed for that use.
What is missing when talking about traffic? Of course a trafficjam! And just 10 minutes from leaving the toll-gate of Incheon we hit one right on the head but wait trafficjams seem different here. Not stop'n'go as we know rather a smooth snail-like steady pace throughout the complete thing! I do not know if it was pleasant or not, as I was too busy taking all that input.
German drivers beware of Korea though, even if they have the same directions as we do, they are completly different. You drive there where you want at the pace you want, only switching the paths if there is someone as stubborn as you and slower than you. In the mountains, driving hard serpentines, small vehicles will try to overturn you at a incredible high-paces. Suicide you think? I do not think they think so.
Do Koreans love high cramped places? It seems so, everywhere on the way to KBC there were German Democratic Republic-style concrete building in process. All the very same, all everywhere grouping themselves together as close as they can. It looks interesting indeed A funny country it is, might have fallen in love with its uniqueness to me. Completly different than Germany.
At the KBC I am sharing a wooden log with two other students, Pedro and Gabriel. Pedro from Portugal and Gabriel from Peru, both nice and friendly guys. I think we will get along nicely
The log is really comfortable. It looks cute and adorable, cuddling with the mountains and the other logs. It has a bath, a kitchen and best of all a ground-heating. Soooo cozy!
Our TV swiftly was programmed and now air SkyBaduk as long as it runs. Even now while I am writing my diary here we have it turned it on. True, Gabriel already is sleeping and Pedro is writing his own diary, but we have it in the background. We probably all are quite tired and exhausted because of the flights and the jet-lag. Just two and half hours ago our teacher Hong Seul-ki gathered us in his log to play a Rengo with us. "Three vs three"we played and I had Seul-ki on my team. Seul-ki is his sur-name and he told us to call him like that and to view him as a friend and mentor rather than a real teacher. Also he told us that in Germany people always called him by his last name "Hong" because it was easier for them. But he did not like it that much he prefers Seul-ki and so we try to call him now, even though we still fail...
The game itself was funny, from 5kyu to 4dan our strengths are distributed and I made the game fail for my side as I kept napping of while waiting for my next turn. Luckily the others where not angry at me because they all are sleepy to. Seul-ki shortly reviewed the game and then dismissed our study-meeting for today. Next time we will bring snacks and beverages to spicy up the nice atmosphere even more. Just as we wanted to leave he called me though. Now I have to hold a speech at the opening ceremony now. Got to thank the sponsors and teachers for taking us in and saying how nice everything is. I wonder how I should say it. Now it is nearly 0.00 pm and soon I will fall asleep as I am so tired I even start to talk German to my room-mates.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My journey to Kimchi-land 3

Just 3 days left. I will leave Saturday 17.55 pm from Germany. I am packing my things, buying the still needed things and getting more and more excited as the time goes by.

So far everything is organized and settled and soon there will be the first pictures from Korea.

A little info for you guys:

There will be 15 foreign students and a few Korean students. Additionally Mr. Kim told me that the weather around this time in the Korean mountains.
And the coolest thing of all is we will get school-uniforms. That truly will be fun I guess as I never was required to wear something like that before.

- adorable plum