Sunday, January 1, 2006

새해 큰福 누리세요! Happy New Year!

새해 福 많이 많이 받에세요. Happy New Year, one and all!

Usually at this time of year, I am visiting my family in Orange County, California, and we have driven up to Las Vegas, Nevada to visit my komo and her family (growing up, we were like one giant extended family). But this year, due to an excessive amount of work, I simply could not get away.

The last time I found myself in Seoul at New Year's was several years ago. My ex-fiancée had called me up out of the blue and asked me to be with her at midnight. The fireworks from Namsan, viewable from the terrace of the house I lived in then, was enough of a spark to rekindle our tumultuous on-again, off-again romance (what I've heard referred to a "lightbulb romance") for another few months.

I had dinner with the family of someone close who was also very tired, so when I then found myself alone again around 10:30 p.m., I decided to take advantage of being in Seoul and do what I had long thought about doing: going to Chonggak Station [Jonggak] and joining the sea of people there as they light off fireworks and then listen to the ancient bell at Poshin-gak Belfry [Bosingak].

People told me I was crazy, that it would be wall to wall people packed like sardines. But I figured I'd try anyway. After all, I live on the southern edge of what is considered "downtown Seoul," so I wouldn't have to worry about taking a taxi or public transportation (whose hours were extended for New Year's Eve) and if it got too crowded, I could always just turn back.

[photo: Poshingak Belfry by day, with a lot fewer people than on New Year's Eve.]

I passed Namdaemun Gate and there weren't that many people. By the time I got to City Hall Plaza, more people were milling around and admiring all the lights. I arrived at Ch´ŏnggye Plaza, at the "head" of the refurbished Ch´ŏnggyechŏn Stream [Jeonggyecheon], where there were a lot of people lighting off a lot of firecrackers and other incendiary devices, but it wasn't the morning-rush-hour-in-Sadang-Station that I was expecting.

Hundreds of people were lighting what looked like giant Pixie sticks which fired off streams of mini-fireworks in succession. Riot-control buses were blocking off most of the entrance to the area around Poshin-gak, but they had left an opening where people could stream in. It was then 11:53 p.m., so I decided to see if I could get in there. Even if I couldn't, if I could just hear the bell, I'd have been satisfied.

People were milling around and taking pictures with all form of camera phone and digital camera. Lots of families, lots of couples. And an awful lot of international residents and visitors. I could hear a lot of people speaking Japanese to each other. Just as midnight came there was a disjointed non-unison chorus of "Five, four, three, two, one!" (yes, in English; since New Year's is all about the future, and English is Korea's future, this seemed appropriate.).

When midnight came, it seemed everyone started firing off those mini-fireworks. The sky was filled with the sound of cracking boomettes and what I imagined a barrage of North Korean artillery would look like if Pyongyang ever made good on their frequent threat to "rain fire down on Seoul."

Over the cracking sounds and the cheering, I finally heard the low droning of the bell being rung. I don't know how many times it rang. I'm guessing it wasn't 2,006. Or 4,339 for that matter.

For those of you still stuck in 2005, here's some news from the future.
1. So far, the average temperature this year is much colder than the average temperature last year.
2. Hurricanes and typhoons are so far non-existent this year, apparently some kind of record.
3. I haven't changed my underwear all year.

My New Year's resolutions:
1. Clean up my damn apartment (especially the little room) so I can rent it out when I go to the States for school in September.
2. Finish everything I was supposed to do last year.

Anyway, here's wishing a wonderful Tangun Year 4339 to you! May it be even better than Tangun Year 4338!


  1. Wow, a personal post. I like it.

    새해 복 많이 받으세요!

  2. Just don't forget to keep posting here while you're at study away~

    Happy Merry New Year!

  3. Wow, a personal post. I like it.

    Look at me, I'm Space Nakji! ;)

    (I love here Christmas series).

  4. hey.
    after clicking on links after links
    i somehow landed on ur blog.
    wanted to say i enjoyed reading ur
    stuff on other people's blog
    and enjoyed ur own blog as well.
    have a happy new year. =)

  5. babo wrote:
    Happy new year!
    Right back at ya! :)

    By the way, People ring the
    Bosingak bell exactly 33 times in honor of 33 activists who fought for Korea's independence from Japanese colonial rule.

    Oh, duh! I knew that! How could I have forgotten that?!

    Thanks for the info, Babo. You indeed are no 바보. If I ever meet you in person, I owe you a drink at Starbuck's.


Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.