17 December 2008

Korea Recap: Downtown Incheon

Finally, I get to upload my final batches of South Korean photos. This is the first of two batches - covering my downtown Incheon tour of Friday, December 12th. As Incheon is a port city serving the Seoul area, and has enjoyed easy access to China and the rest of the world, my sightseeing reflected that.

My first destination for the day, however, was Sudoguksan Museum of Housing and Living. It's dedicated to life in a South Korean shantytown. Sudoguksan (Water Works Hill) became a shantytown when Japanese colonization, urbanization, and the Korean War forced many rural peasants to crowd Incheon for job opportunities. Today, the shantytown is a nice apartment complex, but a museum remains to carry on the memories into the future.

Typical sight from a shantytown room. On the right is a boy's high school uniform from the 1960s, styled like the Japanese colonial era military uniforms. The schoolboy would've also had to shave his hair and wear a police-style cap. On the left, newsprints are being used as wallpapers; the newspaper is dated to 1969, and it looks like I can get a GoldStar black-and-white TV on a 7-month installment plan.

Living conditions at the shantytown typically consisted of a tiny shack, measuring about 120 square feet inside (the size of my dorm room in the college years), divided into two partitions, one each for a family, plus a shared kitchen for the two families. There was no running water, and electricity would've been a luxury - and illegally obtained by stealing power from utility lines.

Some personal documents dating from the 1950s and the 1960s.

The right are a pair of coal cartridge coupons. Due to the oil crisis in the 1970s, many people stockpiled coal cartridges in a panic, and supplies ran low, requiring rationing coupons for purchase.

The middle are provincial identification cards, the primary means of South Korean identification until 1968. The bottom left is the Resident Registration Card, a national card replacing the provincial cards; it is issued to every adult with South Korean nationality and current residency, and designed to make it easier to identify North Korean infiltrators. National IDs were prompted by a 1968 incident where 31 armed North Korean commandos almost reached the Presidential Blue House in an assassination attempt; 30 of them were killed, and one recanted and became a South Korean, though not until a number of South Koreans and Americans were also killed in gunfights.

The upper left identifies the holder as a neighborhood captain. Every month on the 25th, the captain must hold a neighborhood meeting - a provision that continues today.

As flash is prohibited, I had to take this photo in the dark.

The left asks residents to be vigilant. After all, North Korean infiltrators could be anywhere.

The middle promotes a healthy diet for a better body and a more prosperous future. Remember that well into the 1960s, starving due to the inability to afford food was quite common. Of course, now, South Koreans are overeating and getting overweight - though mercifully, they are still much healthier than Americans.

A coal cartridge delivery man preparing his load. Due to the very steep alleys of the shantytown (most shantytowns were on hilltops), delivery was always difficult at best. With the freezing winter weather, slippery conditions could've made the delivery outright treacherous.

Here's a neighborhood store featuring some snacks and toys.

At the end of this museum, I could find a gift shop that sold the exact replicas of toys that I could've found in 1960s South Korea, often at shantytown stores like this.

Two signs of the times. The left is a stack of Arirang cigarettes, popular in the 1960s but no longer produced today.

The right is an ad for Chilsung Cola and Chilsung Cider. The Chilsung (Seven Stars) brand is used by the Lotte Group, which now manufactures Pepsi products for South Korea; Chilsung Cola no longer exists, replaced by Pepsi, but Chilsung Cider is still around as a sweeter alternative to Sprite and 7-Up. (A "cider" always refers to lemon lime soft drink in South Korea and in Japan.) In the 1960s, soft drinks always came in glass bottles; while the glass bottles are still around today (and served at restaurants and recycled after use), modern stores always now stock them in cans and plastic bottles.

Another sign of the times. The northern Communists will never give up their desire to unify Korea by force, so vigilance is needed. This poster, dating back to the early to mid-1970s (as evidenced by the "Yushin" label, an early 1970s "restoration" by the military dictatorship for permanent rule), asks for the residents' help in identifying and capturing northern infiltrators.

Infiltrators and suspicious persons can always be reported to the nearest police station or military installation. If I am lucky enough to have a phone, I can also call 112 (police) or 113 (spy hotline). I may be rewarded up to 1 million won for turning in a spy, and up to 5 million won for turning in a spy in the act of entering South Korea; that's not much money today, but a fortune back then. (Modern reward amounts, by comparison, are 100 million and 150 million, respectively.)

If I am an infiltrator myself, or my immediate family member is, I am encouraged to surrender as well. The poster promises that I will escape punishment, and that I will be given assistance in adjusting to South Korean life.

As the shantytowns had no running water, water had to be obtained at wells like this. With crummy water pumps of the day, hills traditionally lacked running water - no wonder shantytowns liked to be on hilltops.

A number of different materials were used for water containers. Sheet metal was the most expensive, and easy to dent, so special care was required in handling them.

Typical communal outhouse. Again, there is no running water, so there is no flushing.

A typical scene would've involved long lines at outhouses every morning, and if one takes too much time inside, those in line would've complained mightily and loudly.

The floor of a living/bedroom, with a cutaway view. The floor has heating ducts under the surface - "ondol" in Korean. It's been the traditional method of heating Korean homes. Burning coal produces very hot air that can be piped into the ducts. After years of use, however, deposits build up in the ducts and reduce effectiveness of the heating; there were specialists doing deposit removals, and they made a good living. Modern South Korean housing units continue to use similar heating systems, though they are more likely to send hot water, heated by an oil/gas boiler at a central plant (especially at apartment complexes), into the ducts.

A shantytown kitchen, normally shared between two families. Sure, there was no water, but at least there was fire!

Two social campaign posters, produced by an association of Seoul National University students dedicated to a "new, moral life."

The left one says: "As Japanese pop music fills the air, our national spirit is corrupted."

The right one says: "Six billion hwan disappear into the smoke of imported cigarettes." Imported cigarettes were illegal until the 1980s, and the hwan was a unit of currency that was phased out in 1962 due to rampant inflation.

Lovely movie posters - more signs of the times. The middle one is Tarzan.

The right has two more slogans. The left: "Every household shall properly learn and realize proper moral etiquettes." The right: "Turn yourself in, claim freedom. Report spies, defend freedom."

Looks like just about any suspicious person should've been assumed to be a northern infiltrator. That's probably what the military dictatorship wanted anyway - to quell political opposition, keep the population in fear, and consolidate its grip on power.

This household is actually well-off enough to have electricity - and television. There are also other nice furnishing around; some include a telephone, a vanity, and a late-model AM/FM radio.

The TV is showing a boxing match - a very popular form of entertainment back then. South Korea produced many excellent boxers - and one of them died after injuries sustained in a high-profile Las Vegas match in 1981 - but as South Korea has now become very affluent, few men want to be boxers today.

On December 13th at 5PM, mousetraps will be set up in the neighborhood. Mice were a severe problem in South Korea at this time, as mice had plenty of places to breed in these primitive shacks. Of course, as the poison could harm children too, adults should take a clue and watch their children.

By now, I am using flash, even against regulations. Looks like the exhibits will not be damaged from light, and due to the dark shantytown alley recreations, I couldn't get adequate lighting otherwise. Nobody seemed to mind anyway.

A special announcement from several government ministers dated to March 1971. The gist is as follows:

The northern Communists are still more eager than ever to reunify Korea under their rule by force. Moreover, the Soviets continue their Asian expansion, and the belligerent Chinese are developing their military, while the United States is withdrawing from South Vietnam and reducing its South Korean presence. In these uncertain times, your vigilance is needed more than ever. To that effect, we declare this month as a special period for turning in northern infiltrators. Again, if you turn in an infiltrator, you will be rewarded. If you are an infiltrator yourself, please turn yourself in; you will be given amnesty, and will be part of the free, democratic South Korean society.

Seriously, in 1971, North Korea had more economic power, due to it taking most of Korea's industrial base; South Korea was little more than the breadbasket. And for that matter, the entire Communist Bloc was still doing quite well. The fear of a northern takeover by force was very real. Things improved dramatically over the next two decades, however, as South Korea built its own industrial base and wealth, the Communist Bloc dissolved, and North Korea became isolated and impoverished.

Nevertheless, I will never forget the fact that the fears of this period drove South Korea to send the Moonies to the US and start messing with its own democratic institutions. I will never forgive.

This poster details the ideology of the May 16, 1961 revolution, a military coup that ousted a democratic government and installed Park Chung-hee as the Supreme Commander of National Restoration. It's another sign of the times and certainly something of huge interest to me, as for better or for worse, Park played a decisive role in shaping South Korea for the next two decades.

The revolution, according to this poster, runs on six principles as follows:
  1. Anticommunism is the national ideology and policy. It had been little more than an empty slogan, but from now on, it will define everything.
  2. We will honor the UN Charter and international treaties, and will strengthen our ties to the United States-led alliance of free nations.
  3. We shall eradicate our society's old evils and corruption. To restore the national spirit, morality laws will be enforced.
  4. We shall do everything to bring hope to the people suffering from hunger and poverty. We will build a self-sufficient economy.
  5. To achieve the national wish, the unification of Korea, we shall do everything to develop the power and ability to keep up with the Communist forces.
  6. When our goals are accomplished, we shall cede power to honest, conscientious politicians, and return to our original duties.
Never mind that Park ended up staying in power for eighteen years and five presidential terms, cut short only due to assassination. His tendency to suck up to Japan and the US right-wingers did not serve the interests of South Koreans very well. But one thing is certain, however: Park did keep his promise of economic development, through ambitious, risky centralized planning that motivated big businesses to innovate (even against their own wishes). I will reap the benefits of that economic planning when I take delivery of a Hyundai automobile this weekend. I'll also be glad to know that South Korea is now affluent AND democratic (though the 2MB government is trying to severely damage democracy again).

I always tell people in South Korea, and in the US for that matter, that as impressive as Park's economics was, it will never be replicated by anyone again. During the Park era, the developed nations wanted to offer lots of aid and concessions to South Korea and build its economy, if only to keep South Korea firmly in the capitalist camp. But now that the Cold War is over, Third World economies are now seen only as sources of cheap labor to be exploited - and even South Korea itself sees its Asian neighbors that way. With less benevolence coming from the haves, the have-not nations are no longer able to develop South Korean-style.

Two more slogans. I can never get enough of these - as I love getting cultural insights into a bygone Cold War era. This is the capitalist counterpart to a strictly controlled communist society. Priceless!

The left: "Rotten people hit the entertainment districts. Patriots hit the workplace." Connotation: shut up and work. Entertainment is evil. (Seriously, entertainers never got respect in traditional Korean society until modern times.)

The right: "Flawless anticommunism and vigilance leads to prosperity for our nation." Courtesy of the Korean Anticommunism Union.

Here's a government public service announcement announcing a list of to-dos for the month, as follows:
  • If your child is of elementary school age, please register and enroll. You do not need to produce official identity/vital records. (However, enrollees into secondary schools must.)
  • Catch mice. Use mousetraps.
  • Prevent traffic accidents. Ensure your children don't play in the path of vehicular traffic. (Very few South Koreans understood automobiles then, so accidents were extremely common.)
The longtime terminology for elementary school, in South Korea, as seen here, was 국민학교 (nationals' school), dating back to similar Japanese-era names. It was a good name, but due to colonial connotations (including loyalty to the Japanese emperor), the 1990s saw the terminology change to 초등학교 (primary-grade school).

Yet two more slogans. The right one is the anti-foreign tobacco one that I had explained before.

The left one is interesting, however. "Destroy superstitions, let's achieve a scientific lifestyle. - Ministry of Health and Society" Superstitions would've included lots of indigenous beliefs, including shamanism and feng shui, which are today being revived as proud cultural heritage.

The crowded living conditions at the shantytown residences meant that academics, including high school students preparing for college entrance exams, had to often go to a study room like this, in order to find a better environment to study. Such study rooms were run by volunteers, and are thought to have existed primarily in the 1960s and the 1970s, based on testimonies from the residents who were teens during that era and named study rooms by actual names.

I was invited to leave feedback for the museum. I wrote something along the likes of this:

I was born in the 1970s, and was relatively affluent due to my father's employment with the US military. I left for the US in the 1980s without ever visiting a shantytown.

The lives of the working poor, and their neighborly community spirit, in the 1960s and 1970s in South Korea leave me a strong impression. I currently live in a car-based affluent suburb of Los Angeles, where the people, coming from different races, cultures, and religions, live in a constant state of mistrust.

Equally impressive were all the posters from the Park military dictatorship, showing its dedication to hardline anticommunism and social conservatism.

Behind me, there was a television screen showing some episodes of Daldongne, a 1980 TV drama. The drama humanized the shantytown life stories, and made sure that the term "daldongne" itself (달동네, which translates into "moonlight neighborhood" referring to the hilltops' ample moonshine) would be popularly used to refer to shantytowns. It didn't last long, due to it being produced by Tongyang Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), which had to shut down in December 1980 due to another military dictatorship (Chun Doo-hwan) and its crackdown on mass media. TBC, which was Channel 7 in Seoul, became the second, entertainment-oriented channel for the government broadcaster KBS, which it remains to this day.

Life in shantytowns involved lighting fire with matches. Needless to say, matches became a lifestyle and an art form. Incheon had major match manufacturers, as the first Korean town to be exposed to matches and their production. Today, matches are pretty much forgotten due to widespread use of cheap disposable lighters, but the museum had some special exhibits dedicated to matches, matchboxes, and their art, as seen above.

A poor shantytown child probably couldn't afford real toys. Matches provide excellent play value as toys in themselves; with them, it's possible to solve some puzzles and develop brain power. The above are four puzzles that I can try - though I have no way of solving them. The four puzzles are as follows:
  1. Turn these two equilateral triangles into eight equilateral triangles.
  2. There are four identically sized squares. Move three matches to turn them into three identically sized squares. Alternately, move four matches to make another set of three identically sized squares.
  3. This hexagon has six triangles inside. Move four matches to turn them into three triangles.
  4. Turn these four matches into nine. You may not break the matches.
I'm back outside. Another sign of the times: a 1964 movie poster. It's a very famous movie, "Red Muffler," shot in color and depicting life in South Korea's air force. It was directed by the renowned director Sang Okk Sheen, who was kidnapped by North Korea in 1978, escaped to the US in 1986, returned to South Korea in 1989, and passed away in 2006.

Sudoguksan is now home to these modern government-built apartments, now ten years old. The shantytown residents had protested loudly over these apartments, as proper compensation for eviction had not been given.

For that matter, the apartment residents today are complaining themselves - over Incheon's plans to put an elevated highway nearby.

A small section of the shantytown remains. But by shantytown standards, these homes are quite nice and big. Of course, there is no way I can bring a car and park here, but otherwise, it wouldn't be too bad to live here.

Two traditional markets with different fates. The near market has been promoted to a tourist zone, and is congratulating. The far market, on the other side of the thoroughfare, has been condemned by the Republicans to make way for the plaza for Dongincheon subway station; the storeowners there are not getting proper compensation, and are protesting fiercely over the destruction of Incheon's oldest market.

I am going through Dongincheon Station to look for a bus to Wolmido, to visit the emigration museum.

This poster informs me about participating in the Temple Stay program, run by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. The program is primarily for foreigners, but this poster is intended for the locals. For about 100,000 won, I can take a bullet train to Jikjisa (a stop on my road trip last month), and eat, live, and meditate like a monk for a night. Not bad!

Incheon's user-unfriendly bus system meant that I had to take the subway one more stop to Incheon Station, then walk a long distance to find a marked bus stop for the No. 15 bus to the museum. Incheon doesn't offer free transfers between subway and buses, and I ended up wasting another 900 won base fare as a result.

The museum is free, but even then, it's kind of out of the way and not visited much.

The museum is primarily intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Korean government sanctioned emigrants to a foreign land. Namely, they are the 102 people who left for Hawaii in 1903. Due to the Korean-American funding, most of this museum is about Korean-Americans.

Incheon at that time looked a lot like this. Wolmido, where I am, is the island on the lower left. Today, Wolmido is connected to the mainland and houses many ship docks.

This announcement, in Korean and English, was put out by a group of American missionaries looking for migrants to Hawaii. Sugar cane plantations in Hawaii needed lots of labor. Initially, native Hawaiians were employed, but they were difficult to control. The Chinese came next, but were banned by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Japanese followed, but they protested too much for the plantation owners' comfort. The Koreans ended up being the next choice.

In December 1902, the first party of 122 Koreans sailed from Incheon to Nagasaki, where the party was whittled down to 102 after a health check. The 102 then sailed on the USS Gaelic to Hawaii, arriving on January 13, 1903; of those, 16 had to return to Korea after failing the health checks, and only 86 settled in Hawaii.

Many of the migrants were recruited from Incheon area Protestant churches run by the missionaries. This gave the initial Korean-American community a strong Christian tint, and that continues into today.

Here is a passport from the imperial government issued to a migrant.

Over 7,000 Koreans moved to Hawaii until 1905, when the flow was cut off due to Japan assuming Korea's foreign relations that year.

A Korean man works the Hawaii sugar plantation. He would've been paid a monthly wage of $17. Women and children were paid 50 cents per day.

And a date chart to the left details the Korean-American milestones, running all the way up to January 13, 2006 as the Korean-American Day, the only such day in existence for an American immigrant demographic.

When an entire Korean family settled in Hawaii, it would've been given a spartan housing unit similar to the one above. Single male laborers lived in dormitories.

So many Korean migrants to Hawaii were single men, that eventually, they took in Korean picture brides, who were an average of 15 years younger than the husbands. Marrying a local was not possible due to interracial marriages being taboo/banned in the US.

The 1920 US Census counted a number of ethnic Koreans spread out over many states. The above map shows Korean population by state, with most of the population being in Hawaii and California.

After the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910, returning to Korea became a non-option for many, and some Koreans moved to California in search of more opportunities. Sizable Korean communities popped up in San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley. Los Angeles wouldn't pick up until much later, but today, it's Los Angeles that has all the Koreans.

Some documents belonging to early Korean-Americans. The left is a naturalization application, while the right shows a Social Security card.

Due to excessive costs and travel time, returning to Korea, even for a visit, was unthinkable. The best many Korean-Americans could do was to buy Korean records (ads on the left) and play them on phonographs like the one on the right. The middle has some records, but they are mainstream American rather than Korean.

The Korean-Americans also organized through their churches and pro-independence organizations, and worked toward ending Japanese rule in Korea.

A Korean-American classroom in Hawaii would've looked a lot like this. Textbooks are in Korean and English. This is where a young, second-generation or later Korean-American would've learned his/her ancestral culture and language.

After World War II and the Korean War, the Korean-American community grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to the war brides and the war orphans. And in 1965, US immigration laws were rewritten to allow more non-Europeans to settle in the US. Many professional South Koreans moved to the US in droves, and pretty soon, Los Angeles had a sizable Koreatown.

The photo above, from 1982, shows the City of Los Angeles recognizing Koreatown as an official district, and putting up a sign on Olympic Boulevard to identify Koreatown. Caltrans also put up Koreatown signs on the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) at the same time.

A brief history of Korean-Canadians also follows at a nearby exhibit. Very few Koreans went to Canada until the 1960s, and even then, they were more likely to be arriving after working in another foreign country (especially West Germany, home to many South Korean miners and nurses) rather than directly from Korea. Today, however, many affluent South Koreans move to Canada as a lifestyle choice, due to Canada's higher standards of living (even higher than the US) and excellent government services and infrastructure.

There is also some discussion of the Korean community in Mexico. Here, a Korean laborer works a henequén plantation under the scorching Yucatan sun.

Only a single boatload of Koreans went to Mexico, in 1905, under a fradulent immigration scheme that turned out to be four years of slavery. The migrants sailed from Jemulpo (Incheon) and arrived in Merida. After four years of slavery at henequén plantations, the Koreans were free, but being impoverished, were unable to return home. The community scattered due to internal unrest within Mexico, and through intermarriage with locals and lack of contact with Japanese-occupied Korea, lost their Korean identities.

Today, a Calle Chemulpo (an alternative spelling of Jemulpo, and the one that Spanish speakers will properly pronounce) in Merida is the only link to the Korean community that had once existed there. However, starting in the 1960s, South Koreans and Korean-Americans started settling in Mexico, primarily in search of business opportunities. There is a small, sizable Korean population scattered around major Mexican cities today.

A few hundred Korean-Mexicans, unable to survive the Mexican society, moved to Cuba in the early 1920s. They, too, married the locals and disappeared, especially after the 1959 Fidel Castro revolution cut off all contacts to both South Korea and the Korean-Americans. The Korean-Cubans did make some history, however. Some supported the Castro revolution, and one became Castro's right-hand man, while others opposed it, fled to Florida, and became leaders of the Cuban exile community there.

Other Latin American nations also saw significant Korean influx. Brazil and other South American nations were settled by South Koreans in the 1960s and later, lured by governments with plenty of land and resources but no population to develop them.

The above shows a South Korean passport and a land transfer document, from a Korean-Paraguayan. The land transfer document is interesting, as it is done in Spanish AND Korean.

A very interesting 1944 relic. The US Postal Service, in the midst of World War II, issued special postage stamps commemorating the flags of thirteen nations that had been overrun by Germany and Japan. The original series consisted of twelve nations, all European, but popular request demanded that a thirteenth, Korea, be added as well, as the only non-European nation.

I can wrap up my visit by finding out about Incheon-based Inha University. Inha stands for Incheon-Hawaii, and is a place for Korean-Americans to study their ancestral culture. I can also get brief profiles of nations with significant Korean populations, including China, Japan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Germany; for nations outside the Americas, that's as good as it gets, unfortunately. South Korean governmental estimates for Korean populations in all other nations of the world can also be found; even the most remote African nations have a dozen or so Koreans each, there probably for community service or business.

And in the above, I can write messages to the Korean diaspora abroad, and deposit it into the mailbox to the left. The right shows a list of Korean community organizations around the world.

I returned to Incheon Station. It's a sorry-looking building, honestly, as it's the end of a subway line rather than anything more major. It is set to be renovated into something much nicer over the next few years, however, as a number of other subway lines will terminate here by then. A monorail link to Wolmido and its emigration museum is also under construction.

Incheon Station sits across the street from the only real Chinatown in Korea. Also, this is the starting point for Incheon's bus tours. Three routes are offered: downtown, Incheon International Airport, and Ganghwa Island.

Incheon gained a Chinatown in the 1880s when trade with Manchu China opened, and it blossomed through the Japanese occupation. But the Cold War realities shut off Incheon's links to China, and the Park military government cracked down hard on the Chinese community. Most Chinese-Koreans have moved on to Taiwan or North America. Today's Chinatown is being revitalized as a tourist trap, partly to appeal to the Chinese who are now visiting Incheon again since 1992, when South Korea and Beijing established ties.

Dragon staircase with red streetlights. If this doesn't say Chinatown, nothing does.

It's still Chinatown, however - not China. There is no mistaking that fact, as there are as many Korean signs as Chinese ones.

One of three town gates adorning Incheon's Chinatown. Again, any respectable Chinatown must have a gate or two at least.

This is the only one that's presentable. A second one is undergoing renovations and is scaffolded, while a third one was torn down and won't be rebuilt until a Chinese city donates the new gate to Incheon.

Beyond this gate is Jayu (Freedom) Park, the first modern, Western-style urban park in Korea.

Before going there, however, I am making sure to eat Chinese food. I'm keeping it cheap: all the dishes above are costing me only 10,000 won total, while ordering a small portion of sweet and sour pork would've cost at least 15,000, and well over 20,000 for a decent portion.

The foreground is a Chinese dish that was created in Incheon, and can only be found at Korean-style Chinese restaurants. Its name is chia chiang mein in Chinese, and jjajangmyeon (짜장면) in Korean. It uses black bean sauce. I made sure to load up on as much of this stuff as possible during my stay in South Korea, as despite being "Chinese," it's native to Korea, and can only be found in the US at various Koreatowns, which I do not look forward to visiting anytime soon.

Jjajangmyeon was created in the 1880s as an inexpensive dish that the Chinese coolies settling Incheon could affordably eat. Unfortunately, much of the real circumstances surrounding its creation are undocumented folklore that cannot be reliably verified. The reputed inventing restaurant for the dish doesn't even exist anymore.

I'm paying only 3,000 won for the noodle! The bean curd rice in the back adds another 7,000 won. Great value.

Entering Freedom Park. In gratitude to the US for its Incheon Landing during the Korean War, the park gained its current name in the 1960s, and was developed as a monument to the American defense of South Korea.

The above monument dates to 1982, and commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 1882 document that established official diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Korean royal government. During the Cold War, South Korea developed the relationship into a strong military alliance, and South Korea has participated in many American wars, from Vietnam to Iraq. Unfortunately, the alliance between the two nations really serves the interests of the far right rather than the average people. I hope that the new Obama Presidency in the US will change that.

General Douglas MacArthur is remembered here too. This statue was erected in 1956. MacArthur looks over the very harbor where he commanded a massive amphibious attack on September 15, 1950. Due to the severe tides around Incheon (the only larger tides in the world are found in Nova Scotia at Bay of Fundy), an amphibious attack here was a Hail Mary at best. But it was the only option, as South Korea was headed for a certain defeat otherwise. The attack succeeded, the Allies recaptured Seoul two weeks later, all North Korean supply lines into South Korea were cut, and South Korea was restored.

The Allied attacks continued, capturing most of North Korea as well, and the US was looking forward to a unified, capitalist Korea by Christmas 1950. But the Chinese spoiled everything, and the war ended in 1953 as a stalemate, with negligible border changes. Millions of Koreans and tens of thousands of Allied foreign troops had died in vain.

Today, General MacArthur is overseeing some chess games, at least four by my count. All were played and kibitzed by elderly men.

Korean chess is always fun, even though serious strategy is usually played out through Go instead.

Another peculiarity in Korean chess... In Western chess, the king and queen are flanked by bishops, then by knights, then by rooks at the outermost position. In Korean chess, the elephant (the bishop) and the horse (the knight) may switch positions, so that the horse can be inside and the elephant outside. I am free to switch positions on just one horse-elephant pair, both pairs, or none at all. Once game starts, the switch can't happen, of course.

Another variation, according to Korean Wikipedia, also allows the wagon (the rook) to switch positions as well. But that rule is exclusively used in North Korea, and never seen in South Korea. And North Korean chess sets may also identify each piece in Korean rather than in Chinese, due to Chinese characters no longer being used in North Korea; South Korean sets are always in Chinese.

Last, but not the least, the Korean chess king is identified by a Chinese dynasty name. The green side, which is junior and moves first, is 楚 (Chou), an ancient kingdom that lost out to 漢 (Han), which is the red, senior side.

Here is a newer US Navy memorial to General MacArthur, as well as those American sailors and marines who did the actual landing at Incheon. It flanks MacArthur himself, which was erected by grateful South Koreans.

That's the harbor, now very hectic thanks to lots of fishing and cargo ships. Off of the left edge, passenger ferries also dock here, heading for South Korean islands as well as Chinese cities on the Yellow Sea coast.

In the distance is the Incheon Bridge, which will connect southern Incheon to the airport when it opens next year. It will augment the current Yeongjong Bridge, the only link from the airport to the rest of South Korea for now, and primarily serving Seoul-bound traffic.

It's also possible to spot some air traffic making the final approach into Incheon.

Romance of Three Kingdoms is a well-read Chinese book among many Koreans, especially men. As the story is the most prominent common cultural link between Korea and China, Incheon's Chinatown makes sure to devote 150 meters of a somewhat steep alley to several dozen scenes from it.

In the above, the smaller left pictures show the Yellow Turban Bandits rising to throw China into chaos, in the late 180s. At the same time, the Ten Eunuchs serving the Han Court are murdered, and the Han Dynasty ends. The large picture to the right shows one warlord, the honorable Liu Bei, pledging to restore order and the dynasty; he is swearing brotherhood with Guan Yu and Zhang Fei.

These scenes show the latter parts of the story. Guan Yu was captured by rival warlord Sun Quan, and was given the choice of serving Sun Quan or dying. Guan Yu chose death. His honor has now turned him into a deity in Chinese Taoism.

Neither Liu Bei nor Sun Quan won in the end. Their other rival, Cao Cao (therefore making up the "Three Kingdoms"), finally prevailed after almost a century, though by then, Cao Cao himself was long dead, and it was his relatives in the Sima family who were around to celebrate.

A tiny Chinese garden. A rare opportunity to visit a Chinese garden in Korea.

I'm leaving Chinatown and Incheon now. This building is the Korean-Chinese Cultural Center, which promotes Chinese culture in Incheon. Banners announce that there will soon be a contest measuring the Chinese proficiency of South Korean elementary and middle school students.

Visiting Incheon was a valuable opportunity to get in touch with South Korea under the Cold War industrialization, as well as my Chinese partial ancestry and my American present. I will remember for a long time.