Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas in South Korea

By Anthony Vasquez

Christmas is almost here. In South Korea, where Christmas is a public holiday, the spirit of the season is being felt too.

According to an October 2009 report by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, half of South Korea’s 48 million people practice a religion. Of those, 49 percent identify themselves as Christians and 47 percent as Buddhists.

Because Western culture is relatively new to South Korea, there are some differences in how the holiday is celebrated. Churches do hold Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, but Christmas is less family-oriented than, say New Year’s Eve. In popular culture, it has become more like a couples’ holiday, as it has in Japan.

As for food? Some organizations and high-end hotels host Western-style Christmas dinners, turkey and all. Those that wish to have a formal dinner will have traditional Korean dishes such as sweet potato noodles, rice cake soup, barbecued beef, and kimchi, the national dish. Kimchi consists of pickled vegetables seasoned with garlic, ginger and red pepper.

People do exchange gifts and some put up Christmas trees and decorate with Christmas lights. Christmas cakes, famous for their fancy design and not necessarily for what is in them, are also popular.

In South Korea, the Christmas holiday has been given a special twist. See the Youtube video of a medley of Christmas songs in Korean and English!

Related Links+

Korean Tourism Organization
Christmas Celebrations in KoreaBy Seoul Magazine

Love to Know
Korean Christmas TraditionsVarious online contributors

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Teams know their opponents for 2010 World Cup

By Anthony Vasquez

East Asian teams will have uphill battles in advancing to the second round of the 2010 World Cup tournament in South Africa. Japan, South Korea, and North Korea, along with Australia represent Asia.

Last Friday in Cape Town, the draw to determine the eight groups of four teams each for the competition took place. The results give reason to expect an exciting first round next June.

In Group G, the so-called “group of death”, North Korea faces Portugal, Ivory Coast, and five-time champion Brazil in round-robin play.

Each team faces its opponent once. The top two in each group move on to the Round of 16. This is North Korea’s second appearance in the competition’s history. The last time was in England in 1966. North Korea is the 2010 World Cup’s second-weakest team.

“When I saw we got into Group G, I smiled a bitter smile,” North Korean midfielder An Yong-hak told “I had said before that I want to play against the big teams cause there are no weak teams in the World Cup. But I'm excited that we will play against Brazil, Portugal and Cote d'Ivoire. How can we play against these kinds of teams except at the World Cup?”

Japan, No. 2 in Asia, plays in Group E alongside Holland, Denmark, and Cameroon.

South Korea is in Group B against Argentina, Greece, and Nigeria. In the 2002 South Korea-Japan event, South Korea made it to the semifinals, but lost to Turkey in the third-place game.

Related links+
World Cup 2010: Group G Reactions - Experts Call the Draw
December 5, 2009

The Telegraph
World Cup 2010 draw: live
By Steve Wilson and Mike Norrish
December 4, 2009

Check out this video of K' Naan performing "Wavin' Flag," the anthom for the 2010 World Cup games. The Somali-born rapper grew up in Toronto.

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