Media respond Covid19 – Korea vs. Switzerland
In this post you will read about the response to the Covid19 pandemic on a closer glance to the media response in Korea compared to Switzerland.
A short overview:
- background information about the start of the pandemic
- media and communication during covid19
- apps and notification usage during the pandemic
Korea and Switzerland – such different countries and therefore different ways to treat a pandemic. It is definitely hard to compare these two countries as we must understand, that also the culture and the history is so different
In the early phase of the pandemic, Korea was the country with the highest cases outside China. Within a short time, from around 40 positive tested people, the number increased quickly up to more than 900 cases. As fast as the numbers raised, as quickly was the respond of Korean government to contain the infections.
Korea already had a well-prepared plan to respond to such pandemics – did they plan it while they produced the film Train to Busan? – the health care system was well adaptable, the government had a clear communication, also they involved the private sector in facilitating responses to the virus and Korea had set up a thorough contact tracing system.
Switzerland was not as fast as Korea, but the pandemic wasn’t as fast either. The first infection in Switzerland was officially on the 25th of February 2020. Only in March, bars and restaurants started to reduce the number of clientele to a maximum amount. People were unsure and decided mostly by themselves if they want to go out or stay home. On the 15th of March 2020, the government has imposed the shutdown. Until then we were still working in the office and meeting our friends on one’s own responsibility. On the 16th of February we had to move all our staff from the office back home. We did not know enough about the pandemic yet and this was not communicated enough. But the government did a good job to decrease panic throughout the whole country.
Media /communication – Apps and notifications
The way I experienced the pandemic in Korea next to wearing a mask in the indoor, was quite interesting. As soon as I entered Korea, I received daily messages via phone in Korean. First thought in my mind was, that this must be some kind of advertisement. But thanks to Google translate, I shortly found out, that they send the Corona updates every day. Unlike Korea, Switzerland announced the figures via the media. If you did not follow the media, you did not know how many people were infected. In Switzerland we used an app called SwissCovid which was tracking us and gave information about how close we were to potential infected people. Not on a daily base, but mostly after the weekends we received some notifications.
Both countries anyway had a good communication in terms of media releases.
Conclusion: both countries had good solutions and did a good job. Especially the respond in terms of the government was highly rated in both countries.
not only a flag – Korea
Have you ever wondered what the meaning of the Korean flag is? To be honest I have never really thought about any meaning of any flag until I came to Korea. Because this flag looks like there must be a deeper thought behind. So dive into the behind the flag story with me.
In this post you will read about
- the history of the flag
- what the Korean flag means
- about the trigrams
The history of the Korean flag
Officially the flag was introduced after the country was divided into North and South Korea. But the colors existed already a lot earlier in the 19th century.
Some elements out of the flag, we can probably guess the meaning out of it. In the middle, the two colored circle shows the pattern of the Yin-Yang symbol known from the Chinese philosophy. In Korea they call the symbol Um and Yan. Um is the blue part, it is always on the bottom, and it manifests the negativity and Yang comes in the red color which represents all the positivity. I think it is important to mention, that the blue color, the negativity is not negative in the sense we would think of it, it is just a contrariety. The two-colored circle stands for the universe and the contrasts like light and dark, heaven and earth, warm and cold. It means, that there is a need for a balance in everything – For one to exist, there must also exist the opposite to one. The white background explains the Korean folk and their purity and peace. Important to say, that the south Koreans never started any war, they stand for peace.
Did you ever observe the four symbols on the outside more accurate? Then you must realize that there is not only four similar characters. They look different and there is a meaning for every single one. The way they are located is crucial because it symbolizes the cardinal directions, – but not only.
Himmel = Heaven, it means power, but also spring, east, metal, virtue
Wasser = Water, which says canyon, but also winter, north, moon and wisdom
Feuer = Fire, also gloss and autumn, south, sun and decency
Earth = the meaning of field and summer, west and justice
What is the meaning of the flag of your home country? I’m curious to read it in the comments.
The wearing a Hanbok in Korea. Yes, you read it write, Hanbok is a garment. It has a greatly history. These days, while clothes are more of a western style, the tradition is not forgotten and Hanboks are worn still for severe events.
The Hanbok is a traditional Korean costume.
About the Hanbok
The female hanbok contains mostly a:
- 저고리, jeogori (jacket)
- 치마, chima (skirt)
- 속치마, sokchima – Korean traditional underskirts worn by women. They are worn underneath the chima (skirt)
- 꽃신, kkotchshin – Shoes for females made of silk with flower patterns embroidered on them.
The male hanbok contains mostly a:
- 저고리, jeogori (jacket)
- 바지, baji (trousers)
- 갓신, gahtshin – Shoes for men and boys made of silk with Korean traditional patterns embroidered on them.
items for both men and women:
- 두루마기, dulumagi – Korean traditional outer coats. They are worn by both females and males. However, in the old days, men had to wear dulumagi year-round inside or outside whereas women only wore it when they went outside to warm themselves on a cold day or show courtesy.
- 버선, beoseon – Korean traditional socks.
History of Hanboks
Until around 100 years ago, the Hanbok was worn as normal clothes. The Korean dress has a history of over 2’000 years and it is still evolving. However, Hanboks are mostly associated with the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910). The collection of different Hanboks was huge, depending on the actual use from formal to informal ones. Also the different colors of the dresses had a meaning. The worn colors were choosen by the five elements of the chinese Yin-and-Yang theorie. White (metal), red (fire), blue (wood), black (water) and yellow (earth). Not only the colors but the accessories had different meaning in terms of the rank, martial status and the profession.
The colors and who wore which
The children wore mostly the bright colours and the middle-aged men and women had more subdued colors. Yellow jeogori and red chima was mostly for the unmarried women, while married women wore green and red. However, women with sons wore the colors of the Navy. The upper classes wore a variety of colours. Contrastingly, the working class were required to wear white. For special events, they yet dressed in shades of pale pink, light green, grey and charcoal.
Today, Hanboks still, are an important part of the Korean culture. The Hanboks are used for important events and celebrations like weddings, Lunar New Year, Chuseok holiday, ancestral rites and dol (a child’s first birthday) and especially to visit the temples in Korea which also tourists start to do. Old ladies on the landsite are still wearing their Hanboks.
When you rent a Hanbok, you can choose different types for differnt prices. Some are more traditional, the others are new stylished, more related to what a lot of people like these days. As I visited a temple with wearing a Hanbok twice, I tried both styles, both Hanboks I wear in the picture above are Joseon type of Hanboks. The modern types of hanbok you will more likely discover them in the K-Pop culture as BTS, Blackpink and other K-Pop bands invented some new styles.
To rent a Hanbok it costs about:
17k to 20k Won for 3 to 4 hours or
25k to 40k Won for the entire day
– the temples are free when you wear a Hanbok
– you can choose a cute bag in the store which is included in the price
– they make your hair at the Hanbok rental store – sometimes you would have to pay an additional fee
Where to rent a Hanbok
You will definitly find a lot of stores around the temples, so you can just go there or rent it online in advance. I always went directly to the shop, because there the shop owners also help you to choose the right colors. It was more of an experience for me, to meet with my new friends, walk to the shop and help each other choosing the right color for everyone, giving some tips and having good fun even before we actually wear the Hanboks.
Experience the Temples with a Hanbok
My friends and I we already had so much fun choosing the Hanboks, cheering each other up how beautiful we look, dancing around and waiting for everyone to have a beautiful hairstyle. After we already took a bunch of pictures we walked through the streets of Seoul towards the temple.
The first temple we visited was the Gyeongbokgung temple near Seoul city Hall (but do not missunderstand “near”, I’m Swiss, for me everything is such a close and nice walk away ;)).
The entrance of the temple was huge, we were so much impressed. We were walking through the areas where people used to live in the past and strolling through beautiful gardens with a cute lake in the middle. We took so many pictures and even some random guys asked us to take a picture with them.
Renting a Hanbok with friends and getting lost in temples is a good way to make good memories in Korea.Stefanie Ammann
Instant noodles 24/7
Unlike Switzerland, in Korea you find 24 hours stores on every corner. There is no fear of missing out on food.
Can you relate, you had a good night with friends, you stagger your way home and the only thing you can think about is food. Within 5 minutes you will find not only food, you can eat there immediatly.
The first time I entered a food store like 7eleven or CU, my mouth wasn’t closing for a while due to astonishment. You can buy your noodle box and immediatly prepare and eat it in the store. This should definitly become a thing in Switzerland too.
First, I was standing in front of the noodles and checked out on all the different tastes they provide. At the end, it wasn’t to hard to make a choice, as there is not a lot of vegetarian option – to be clear, most of the instant noodles contain either beef powder, chicken flavor or similar. So the vegetarian options were limited. Still, the one soup I can eat, I love so much – I don’t need another one.
Once you made your choice, you pay the soup and the adventure continues.
- open the soup until the stop sign
- pour the hot water in it
- wait for about 3-5 minutes
- add some more ingredients which are also in the packet
- mix the soup
- enjoy it
When you are in a new city, there are many different districts and places and sometimes all this areas feel so far away from each other. It helps definitely to get an overview of the city. And there is no better way than on the top of Namsan Tower.
Here we go with some facts about Namsan
- Hiking up the Namsan mountain is a must do in Seoul
- Namsan Tower is also known as Seoul Tower
- It is located on Nam mountain in the middle of Seoul
- The tower is 236 metres tall
- The mountain is 270 meters above sea level
- Seoul tower is the second highest point in Seoul
- different ways bring you to the top of the mountain
- The panoramic view is beautiful- best time is when the sun sets
- a ticket to the top of the N Seoul Tower costs around 16k Won
- there is plenty other things to do on the mountain
Different ways bring you to the top of the mountain. An easy and exciting way is probaly the cable car, but also a road was built where even busses drive up, taxis or you can also take your own car. A cute path with a lot of stairs (if you are going to count please let me know) is a way to go up within 30 to 60 minutes. I would definitly recommend you to walk up, cause on the way you already have nice stops to enjoy the view. If you are thirsty, drinkable water is provided at some stops.
Namsan Tower is also a good park to do some sport like running or cycling. and I even saw a badmington field on the way up. On a sunny Sunday, everyone is coming to enjoy nature in the middle of the city. When you are at the top of the mountain, you have a beautiful view over Seoul, you’ll see all the buildings standing close togehter and in the distance the beautiful mountains makes the scenery impressive. But before you are at the top you will definitly be impressed about the locks of love from Seoul. Since years, couples, friends or solo travellers attach a lock for the memories. They mostly write down their names, the date an a small anecdote. The colorful scenario let’s you linger for a bit of a time, at least it was for me, as i tried to find very old locks. But mostly the old ones lose the scripture. Still it give the mountain a feeling of pure love and joy.
What to do on top of the mountain. After enjoying the stunning view from every possible point of view, there is still so many things to do. In a korean traditional pavilion you can sit in the shadow, eat something, watch the people or enjoy the city wind by listening to a mantra. In Namsan Tower, a lot of things let you forget the time. Maybe the first thing you need is a drink, serve yourself a nice coffee, beer, or what ever you feel like – you can eighter sit inside or outside. Take some nice pictures for the memories – there are photo shops, where you can choose funny gadgets and take crazy photos, or enjoy 20 minutes of a great chair massage. But you can also play some games in a game shop. Make sure you walk through the first ever created OLED tunnel where you see under water scenery switching to universe. If you want to bring something back home to your friends, it is the time to do little bit of souvenir shopping or just enjoy a lunch in one of the many restaurants. For your way back to the city try one of the nice bubble teas from Gong Cha, and just enjoy the life.
Going to the Top, watching the sunset – this is one thing I highly recommend. You can buy your tickets at the ticket office or a selfservice shelter. It costs 16’000 Won for an adult and 12’000 Won for children. Sometimes you are lucky and there is basically no waiting time, if not, the waiting time is mentioned on screens. Waiting time can still be interesting as you already read about all the fun stuff you can do. And when you start your journey to the top of the mountain, it is clear that Korea never leaves you bored. The waiting room is like a digital art museum, you can enjoy yourself walking around and taking funny pictures before you enter the elevator going up to the top. In the lift, the roof changes and it looks like you are entering space – thank you digital age. The observation deck provides you with a 360° view. I bet you will take pictures from every possible angel. Fun fact, on every direction there is a city name on the window and the information about the airlines distance. Can you find your city? I found Bern, it reminded me of how far away I am from my home.
A Home in Seoul
In every city, there are different ways to find a home. All you have to know is what you are looking for. Do you want to have an apartment located near the city centre, size, price.. there so much to consider. But make sure, you really have a place to stay – not like me.
When I applied for the University via AsiaExchange, they organized an online meeting to provide the most important information before going to South Korea. One topic was about how to find a housing.(more…)
Do you know this kind of people who understand yes, when someone says no, and no when someone says yes? I know that type of people, it is me – nice to meet you. So, I somehow understood that it is recommended to start looking for a place when in Seoul. Which sounded perfect to me, one less thing to do prior to departure. I booked myself an Airbnb for the first week and told all friends and family that everyone does the same and it will be easy to find an apartment. In my defense, you can never know if you get scammed or not. So it made sense to me to first see what you get, other than pay for something you will not have at the end.
Introduction week HUFS part 2
Have you ever done an exchange semester abroad? It’s probably so different in every country. In Korea it was fast and well organized. Did you expect something else?
In Korea, the studies start on the 1st of September. It doesn’t matter, if it is Monday, Tuesday or what ever Day. So in 2022 the first of December was a Thursday. One week before, HUFS (Hunkuk University of Foreign Studies) organized an Welcome Day. But because of Covid19, there was a restriction for arrivals who came to Korea after the 20th of August had to participate online. All others were invited to the University. As I arrived on the 21st of August, I was only online on the welcoming day.
In some countries welcoming ceremonies are held and you get a first glimpse of the culture of the country. But in Korea it was more of an introduction with most important information about the university, the different clubs, Buddy programs, the registration card to extend the Visum and also about the second round of the course registration. We had the chance to ask questions, but the presenter did a very good job by making everything very clear from the beginning. this gave me a safe feeling for the upcoming semester. Hufs also provides a office for foreign students to ask questions and receive help.
It was a little bit frustrating, that there was not a huge welcoming program with events and cultural procedure. But it could have been due to Covid19. As I have been online I had my own cultural program by drinking an iced Latte in an Korean restaurant with a nice vegetarian rice ball lunch.
Now, let the studies begin.
Introduction week HUFS part 1
In Korea, everything is so different compared to Switzerland. Mostly, it is the small things, but they make a country unique. This makes me quite courious about the differences of the universities and the teaching methods. In this post I will share my first impression of the university on my first day.
Everything is so exciting and new. It is a warm summer day, but it is raining. In my preparing for Korea I read, that you always have to carry on an umbrella when in Korea, at least during summer. And I didn’t have to wait too long to get this experience. A little bit of rain is quite refreshing, because the Korean- summer is tropical. After enjoying my very first metro ride to the university, a new district of Seoul awaited me and with it new expressions, new discoverings and even more excitment. On my first day of university, it was all about the check-in, so there wasn’t any classes, nor any plan I had to follow, expect of being there and informing them that I arrived. I received my “Visiting Student card”, the certificate of the current enrollment and some documents for the ARC (Alien Registration Card) which I need for the visa extend.
After 10 minutes I was done. And I went to check out what you can eat as a vegetarian in this area. The only vegetarian option was not cold, but iced noodles. I really never heard about iced noodles being a thing. Iced Latte, yes totally, but noodles, this was a great first experience. After I tried to tell the cute old lady in the shop, that I do not eat meat (a nice Korean guy eventually helped me with the translation), the iced noodles were the only vegetarian options. Experience new and unknown things is what I crave for, so I was happy to find out about it – and it was delicous. It had a nice fresh taste of cucumber and they provide you mustard and a sort of vinegar to mix it with the noodles. It makes the taste unique. I was in food heaven. And while I tried to eat my noodles with the sticks, slowly the ice melted into a juicy cold soup.
Preparation for my semester abroad
When you prepare to leave, everything is quite done but you forgot about the Visa..
Ones who lived abroad for a while know, that there is a lot of preparation needed before you actually can leave. It depends if you go for work or study. In this post I will talk about my personal preparation, difficulties and things I would do differently on another time.
If you study and you have the possibility to do a semester abroad, I would highly recommend you to take all your courage and go for the experience.
Short list about my to does:
- In the beginning of the studies, every student was able to participate in an online session, where HWZ informed about studying abroad. Students exchanged their experiences
- Decide that you would like to go for an exchange semester
- Inform your university about your desire to study abroad
- Decide where you would like to go
- with our program director we had a meeting about the possibilities of studying in Asia – as I was planning to go to China
- due to covid19 it was not yet recommended to study in China, so I choose a different country
- I handed in a list to the person in charge for exchange semesters
- The university accepted my choice (which obviously was Korea) and handed me out some documents I had to fill out
- I applied via AsiaExchange and had to hand in some other documents (I will write another story about this)
- wait for AsiaExchange to confirm your application
- inform your employer about your plans and find a good solution
- Book a flight
- apply for Visa (for Korea I had to arrange an appointment in the embassy – be sure to set the date early enough)
- find an accomodation in Seoul – more insights here
- organize administrative and insurances (health insurance, non-occupational accident insurance, homeowner’s insurance)
- prepare your course list
- register for courses when it is the time to
- pack your stuff
- make sure you have minimum two different credit cards
- say goodbye to family and friends
For me, since I choose to leave and until I actually left, the time passed by so fast. At the end I felt a little bit like I had not enough time. But when you have to catch the flight, there is no other option than go. Still, I felt like I started to prepare myself to late. I could have done different things a lot earlier, like setting an appointment at the embassy in Bern, or the packing – the packing I did the evening before with my best friend – without her, it would have taken me years, I’m sure.
In May I got the definitive confirmation, that I am able to study in Seoul, at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, shortly after, I booked a one way flight to Seoul which was not too expensive (around CHF 700.-).
Thankfully the company Coople (Schweiz) AG, I work for, supported me with my decision and I was able to take a sabbatical of 6 months. I appreciate this possibility so much. I have a lot of security, don’t have to look for a new job, and I just didn’t wanted to leave such a good employer. So I had to prepare everything for my leaving also in the company, which was a little bit stressful, but also I learnd a lot. Also, I quite the flat I lived in for a long time, some stuff could be sold, all the other things are now at my parents home, waiting for me to move into a new home when back. With the insurences I was quite lucky and it was also easy. As I moved out of my home, my homeowner’s insurance consultant contacted me and asked me if I need a new one, and he actually prepared everything for me, so that I have an insurance while travelling. Also at the company, they gave me all the information for the non-occupational accident one, which I could fill out online. The health insurance I actually just left it the way it was as I am so well covered all over the world (that’s probably why it makes it so expensive ;)). I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about this too much.
What I could have done better was the way I got my Visa. As it is written in the embassy, that you should ask for Visa shortly before you leave, because it takes them excactly 10 working days to prepare it – and it also counts from that day, even if you leave directly or a month later. So I thought, that I do not need to stress about this too early, which I liked. But suddenly out of nothing, I had this thought in my brain, that I should probably still settle an appointment. Of course I was too late and all the dates were already fully booked. I had a shock and was close to overreact, but the Korean embassy is totally friendly. They asked me to hand in the confirmation of my flight and the one of my university and they will check if there is a possibility for me. So shortly after I handed in the documents, they provided me an extra day, which is not supposed to be a day for the visas, on the 5th of August in Bern. I got my Visa on the 19th of August and my flight was on the 20th. Again I’m so lucky. And of course the embassy is just so nice. The Visa I could just download and that’s it.
Back in August, It was still the time when we needed to have a negative Covid test to enter Korea – and believe me, after Streetparade, you cannot be sure. So, I was shacking again and hoping for the negative result – I was again lucky :).
Now, there is nothing which can hold me back from leaving. Everything is packed and I said goodbye to all my family and friends.
Have you been on an exchange semester or did you leave the country for a long time? Tell me about your experiences ⬇️
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Let’s experience a little bit of Nami Island with me.
- plan in advance
- How to get there and costs
- Experience Nami Island
As a spontaneous decision we thought about going to Nami Island. Let’s tell you how great a day outside Seoul is.
Facts about Nami Island:
- Nami Island or also Namiseom was built in 1944
- Nami Island is located in Chuncheon, in the Gangwon Province
- the Island is named after General Nami
- Nami Island is located in the middle of Han River
- you can go to Nami Island by Zip line or by ferry
- you can visit Nami Island all year round
When we arrived at Nami Island we were welcomed to Naminara Republic which we found a bit bizarre. Later I found out, that Namiseom is a self-declared micronation. Since 2006 Nami Island is independence from South Korea – the reason is simple: to attract more tourists. Even though I am more attracted about the beautiful nature and the cute animals wildly living on the island, it is a nice fun fact about Nami Island.
Namiseom was formed in the Han River as the result of the construction of a dam in 1943. The Island is named after Nam Yi, a general who died at age 28 after he was falesly accused of treason. The body is believed to be buried somewhere on the island, but it has not been found officially.
In my opinion train riding is always a great option – especially in south korea it is comfortable.
We booked a train ticket via Korail – from Gapyeong to Cheongnyangni. One way was around 40 minutes and the price is 5’700 Won. From Cheongnyangni you can either take the bus or a taxi to Nami Island Wharf – both is very economical and fast.
How to get to the Island:
Once you arrive at Nami Island Wharf you have two options to enter the Island:
1. via Zip line: costs 50k Won: price for the island and the ferry back is included (5-7 minutes ride – but be aware of waiting times)
2. via ferry: costs 13k Won: roundtrip and price for Island is included (5-7 minutes ride)
Experience Nami Island:
On this admirable island you can spend the whole day. There is so much to see and feel. The first thing we saw from the boat were the tiny rabbits. We were then walking through alleys and passing bridges – litterly we just turned left and got lost. There were different cute markets around the island, a lot of art is shown and the option of restaurants must also be honoured. You can also rent bicycles or take cute train rides. When the day is warm enough it invites you to have a nice picknick somewhere in the grass.
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