The Dark Side of Seoul Tour

Beautiful things are all over Korea,  just waiting for the eye’s attraction. Style, fashion, beauty and tradition are mostly what Korean tourism is about. If pretty is what you desire, Korea is a lovely place no doubt, and glamour abounds. If  you’re looking for a little less glitter and a little more gruesome, there are things for you to see in Seoul fear not…or maybe fear a little.

I wasn't scared because I was with Jason of Take the Midnyte Tour. Considering new superhero name, "Toilet Man."

I wasn’t scared because I was with Jason of Take the Midnyte Tour. Considering new superhero name, “Toilet Man.”


Keeping it light amidst the scary stories.












I had the distinct pleasure of joining a group in Seoul who took “The Dark Side of Seoul Tour” to see and learn about Korea’s less pleasing, more infamous historical landmarks. It’s a walking tour, around two and a half hours of travel in and out of alleys, dark corridors and ominous doorsteps. The tour is led by a very knowledgeable host by the name of Joe McPherson, who has studied Korean history in school and compiled research for over a year before his tour began. He is also the owner and founder of Zen Kimchi, a website about awesome food and restaurants in Korea, but I digress.

To tell you all the gruesome stories would spoil future patrons from taking the tour, so allow me to share with you my top 3 tales of macabre Korean history.

A haunted road built by the Japanese to sever Gyeongbokgung Palace from the Jongmyo Royal Shrine.

A haunted road built by the Japanese to sever Gyeongbokgung Palace from the Jongmyo Royal Shrine.

#3) The Bloody Ghost

In the early 1920’s there was a restaurant in the Nagwon area of Seoul that became quite haunted. Legend has it that the restaurant was host to Japanese and Korean collaborators at the time of Japan’s rule over Korea. Suddenly in 1921 an angry ghost was said to have taken up new residence there. It seemed that any time a guest or the owner herself would look up to the ceiling, blood would fall on their face or clothes out of nowhere. This continued for a year and the police never found the source of the dripping blood. By the year’s end the restaurant was forced close due to lack of business and the owner went mad. She spent the rest of her days wandering the streets of Seoul, presumably never looking up.

#2) Yanghwagin Foreigners Cemetery 

In 1877, there was a man named Heungseon Doewongun who was the father of King Gojong, the 26th king of the Josen dynasty. He was always butting heads with the king’s wife, Queen Min (Empress Myeongseong) and her growing interest in western culture. At the peak of his dislike of all things western, he focused his anger on the influx of missionaries and new Christian ideals evolving in Korea. He rounded up 3,000 catholics, took them all up to the top of a mountain near the Han river and chopped their heads off. The river ran red with their blood and that mountain is called “headless mountain” to this day. That place of great massacre is said to be deeply haunted and has since become the Yanghwagin Foreigners Cemetery.

#1) Site of Gwanghyewon

Another site of horrific murder, this time by the Japanese-led Gapshin Revolt in late 1884. The Japanese revolted against the Joseon Dynasty in an effort to modernize the country. They brutally slaughtered all the officials in support of the dynasty and their families too. A whole strip of houses were filled with the stench of those murdered in their homes. A year later when diplomats and missionaries started to flock to the country, the king had nowhere to house them until his minister suggested the nearby homes of the dead. Due to cheap rent, the new arrivals took the offer and took over the newly-haunted houses. One of the people who moved in was the American missionary, Horace Allen who would go on to establish Korea’s first western hospital in his home. He moved into the former home of Korean official Hong Yong-Sik and later commented that one of the rooms in the house was absolutely covered with gore and the walls were thick with blood.

The lit-up Cheong-gye-cheon river, where we stopped to hear some stories.

The lit-up Cheong-gye-cheon river, where we stopped to hear some stories.

Gyeonghuigung Palace, said to be the most haunted palace in all of Korea.

Gyeonghuigung Palace, said to be the most haunted palace in all of Korea.











That is just a taste of the morbidly fascinating Dark Side of Seoul’s history you will hear on the tour. After two and half hours you’ll need a hug and some Disney movies to wash away the weight of your history lesson. There have been clairvoyants on the Dark Side Tour in the past and several have confirmed that at certain locations, ghosts are still there and walk with you as you pass, some even following the tour for a while.

For info on how to book your own tour, go to and look for the “food tours” tab, although this tour is more about food for your brain.

School Without Walls: The Future of University

Many people have asked which online university I attended to further my education and how at-home study works. Due to those inquires, I have decided to make a post about my university and how to get started. Keep in mind there are other accredited “open” universities around the world, however they are not mine and so this article will feature Athabasca University.

(*Note: this article is targeted mostly to Canadians but for others, this information is still a good point of reference for those considering online/at-home study.)

athabascau pretty

Who: Athabasca University is an accredited university based out of Athabasca, Alberta, a province in Canada. When looking into open universities, be sure to find out if the institution is accredited. Certain companies require an accredited university degree and overseas E2 Visas need this too.

What: Athabasca is an open university, specializing in at-home study. They offer over 900 courses and 50 undergraduate and graduate degree, diploma and certificate programs. You are provided with a professor who is in charge of the class and given their contact information for questions, guidance and submission of assignments.

Where: Although they are a fully functioning university based out of Alberta, Canada, they ship your course outline, textbooks and all reading materials right to your door, anywhere in the world.

Athabasca University campus in Alberta.

Athabasca University campus in Alberta.

When: All year. Most classes start at the beginning of each month, so you can enroll and get started anytime you feel ready. Note that your paperwork for registration must be submitted by the 10th of the month prior to begin the month you wish to start.

Why: Studying from home is a fraction of the cost of on-site university tuition fees. It also allows for learning at any age while still living an adult life. For those who can’t afford the time away from a job to attend university in person but still want to advance, this is for you. I obtained a 4 year degree in just under two and a half years while living on my own in Toronto and kept the bills paid while I learned.

Also, if you already have a diploma from elsewhere, you are eligible for transfer credits which will speed up your process. In my case, my previous diploma allowed me to walk in as a 3rd year student. (It helps if your previous field of education relates to the new program you aim to take.)

How: As for how long for each course, it depends if you are paying out of pocket or with financial assistance (like OSAP in Ontario for example). If you are paying on your own, students have 6 months to complete a regular 3 credit course and 12 months to complete a 6 credit course. If you’re paying with financial aid, your time is shortened to 4 months for a 3 credit course and 8 for a 6 credit course. Also note (Canadians) that if you are thinking of getting financial assistance, you must have “full-time” student status, which requires taking a minimum of 60% of a full course load, which equates to taking 3 classes at a time. It’s doable, because I did it, but prepare to calculate some serious time-management.

As for how to register, click here.

athabasca u

How much? For an idea, all fees are for a regular 3 credit course:

* Fees set from Sept. 2013 – Aug.31 2014

For Canadians in Alberta = $483

For Canadians outside of Alberta = $777

For seniors in Alberta = $427

For seniors outside of Alberta = $541

For outside of Canada = $997

I hope this helps to break down some of the intimidation of starting school again. As adults who are already finished school, many of us fear going back into the lifestyle of books, essays, no social life and for many – debt. For any of my Dear Readers who have always wanted to but didn’t know where to start, now you know.

Kimchi Making Day!

I had the pleasure of joining up with a tourism group called WinK (when in Korea) who set up this awesome kimchi making event.

The Kimchi making place was at a venue about 15 minutes walking distance from Dunchondon station on line 5 (the purple line).


We walked in to a big open room with a few Korean ajummas (term for a married woman) already going at their own batches of kimchi and a table set up so we could begin ours.

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Our WinK host was the lovely and talented Sunny, who graciously taught us the ancient Korean secrets to making good kimchi. Sunny taught us a very simple way of making kimchi, then she taught us her way. It’s really up to the person to choose what flavour they are going for. Some prefer more spice, while others prefer the garlic and some, the salt. There is also the option of adding vegetables like onions and carrots,  or adding anchovy oil and/or shrimp paste – all up to the cook to put in or leave out.


Once our tutorial was finished, we were told to try our hand at it!

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The time-consuming part of making kimchi is that you must soak the cabbage heads in salted water for 10 hours. Once that is accomplished, the art of mixing the spices to create the sauce and massaging it into the cabbage leaves is quite meditative. Women traditionally make the kimchi for the family and usually their extended family too, so if I had a big family to prepare for, it may not seem like such fun. Sunny told us that some women prepare 50-100 heads of cabbage into kimchi, but for those with smaller families, they only need to prepare about 10 heads. In our case, we prepared two halves, equal to one head each to take home.  I felt really happy and satisfied when I was finished, like I accomplished a real life skill that I will take with me in life.

Special thanks to WinK and to Sunny who was our amazing teacher and braved the task of tasting our first attempts to help us get the flavour ratios right. Couldn’t have done it without you Sunny! Cheers to a great day of learning and awesome food.

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