As I explore and play around Seoul, I like to share what’s going on through Caviar Creme’s Twitter. In case you have missed it, here is Seoul through my lens~
Just the name, Lord Sandwich, will intrigue you. Why such a honorific for such a basic meal? Bite into one and you will want more… I did!
At first I was attracted by the architecture, the cubic concrete structure and glass windows. When you step inside, you are greeted by a tiny deli-style counter for ordering and a bakery corner. Once upstairs, it is more chic with European monarchs’ portraits on the walls and classical music. During the warmer months, there is a nice outdoor space in the back to relax in the shade. I like the minimalist aesthetic, which reminds me of restaurants I liked back in Geneva and it’s perfect when I need my western food fix.
From the decor to the food, I really like going there with some friends for lunch. It is a bit on the pricier side, around 18,000~15,000 won for a nice meal, but it’s full of high quality ingredients and tummy satisfaction! My favorites are the Rucola pizza and the Jifoo sandwich, filled with delicious mushrooms… The ciabata bread is really good, the veggies plentiful, and the filling savory. The bread and croissants at the entrance are pretty yummy too.
Vegan note: if you get a salad or a vegetarian sandwich ask them not to add cream cheese.
Tel: 02 363 4554
120-160 Seoul, Seodaemun-gu, Daeshin-dong. map
Right next to the Korean Language Institute at Yonsei University and behind the Ewha University campus. Get there before 1pm to avoid the lunch rush of students and professors.
I am a big admirer of Karl Lagerfeld, from his work for Chanel to his dry sens of humor, so I was very excited to see his exhibition Work in Progress at the Daelim Museum in Seoul.
No, I’m not a French designer either. I’m from nowhere. I’m a European, old European is all I am.
Famous as the designer of Chanel since 1983, Karl Lagerfeld also forays into publication, film-making, architecture and photography. There is a huge cult behind the persona he has crafted for himself since the 80’s. The white hair, black frames and skinny tie are instantly recognizable. His silhouette itself has become a trademark, selling bags and t-shirts all over the world. He is incredibly knowledgeable and very opinionated about art and culture, but sounds like an alien most of the time. I love his sarcasm and how out-worldly he always is, with fashionistas around the world eating-up his quotes for breakfast.
However a lot of people are unfamiliar with his photography and the Daelim exposition was great to get into this perfectionist’s work. Of course he does a lot of fashion shots, for magazines and all the Chanel campaigns, but also shoots portraits, landscapes and abstract compositions. His pictures are both precise and dreamy integrating art and design in his work.
Some of the pictures I liked the most were the male nudes of Baptiste Giabiconi. It is rare to see male nudes shot with so much sensuality and beauty, reminding me of the Ancient Greek ideals of athletes and perfect bodies. In other series I loved how he created ethereal atmospheres, as in inhabited by mysterious beauties of the past with a 1920’s vibe of flapping dresses and Charleston.
He has a special instinct for creating an atmosphere, from the clothes to the expression of his models, which I particularly enjoyed in his retro-futuristic compositions and Roy Lichtenstein style portraits of Ziyi Zhang.
The Daelim exhibition also has a fun little Chanel photo-booth, the “Cocomaton”. For 5,000 won visitors can take their own souvenir shots just like in the Chanel ads. Films and clips of Karl Lagerfeld are also being projected. The museum is located close to Insadong, perfect for a cultural afternoon followed by a nice cup of tea or makkoli…
At the Daelim Museum
Karl Lagerfeld – Work in Progress
Until March 18th, 2012
When commuting in Seoul you are constantly reminded how having a good face 얼짱 is a major concern in Korea. Plastic surgery ads are plastered all over the subway with incredible before & after pictures, telling us there is a price to achieve perfection. Korean women don’t think twice: in 2009 one of every five women in Seoul between the ages of 19 and 49 said they had undergone plastic surgery at least once (Trend Monitor).
I always end-up staring at these pictures, looking for little clues in the skin or the shape of the face to check if really it is the same person before & after surgery. Because I often wonder if their own mother would recognize them. These total face make-over are pretty scary and the concept is in total opposition of the beauty values I heard while growing up.
“Love yourself for who you are”, “don’t be artificial”, “little imperfections make you unique”… These are probably things the average Korean kid never hears while growing up. Recently, I was shocked to hear one of my Korean language teachers say that her 10 year old daughter isn’t pretty. And after seeing her picture, I can vouch that she looks as cute as any other 10 year old!
As I already explained on this blog here the Korean obsession for beauty is the result of different tensions on society. First of all, the Confucian heritage translates into a culture that values oneness and homogeneity of the group. With it, comes the importance of keeping face which can be found all across Asia, encouraging conformism in countries such as Japan, China and Korea.
Secondly, the high number of college graduates who do not find employment creates tremendous pressure on Korean society. Also intertwined with the fear of losing face and bringing shame, getting a job in one of chaebol 재벌 companies (Korean conglomerates: Samsung, LG…) is the dream of thousands since middle school. The societal and individual pressures are such that it has become the #1 cause of suicide among young adults (as already discussed here). One of my Korean friends felt so ashamed to be unemployed, she basically became an hermit for a year, too embarrassed to be seen outside enjoying herself with friends when she was jobless. Ironically, now that she has a job, the long hours and over time keep her away from her friends too…
Thirdly, the image of women in Korean society is pulled in many directions by a multitude of contradictions. In 60 years, Korea has made a huge leap in its development to become a modern economy, however cultural values and mentalities take a lot longer to change and women are still at the bottom of the pyramid. Looking back at Joseon dynasty (beginning of a patriarchal Confucian era in Korea), women were subordinates to men with no freedom, literally forbidden outside of the home This era is often considered the dark age for women’s culture and Korean women in general.
Thankfully, contemporary Korea is more evolved, yet many of the issues regarding women and their emancipation can be traced back to Joseon times. Even today, openly criticizing women for their looks, telling them how to behave and live is quite acceptable. I remember this New Yorker in Seoul article, where a saleslady simply told her she was too fat 뚱뚱 for the clothes in that store.
Getting double eyelids or a slender nose are so last decade! Now all the rage is in getting a smaller face. Even Korean celebrities are getting the procedure done, to the disbelief of fans who see them reappear a few weeks post-surgery looking like a totally different person. “It could be easily assumed that 99 percent of South Korean celebrities got stuff done on their faces,” said to Dr. Park Sang- hoon, head of Seoul’s ID Hospital, which specializes in double-jaw surgery (Xinhuanet.com).
Along with the Hallyu wave in Asia, more and more fans, fixated by the beauty standards of Korean celebrities, are flying to Seoul for plastic surgery (see the short BBC report below). Medical tourism is all the hype in Gangnam and Apgujeong, both business and private clinic hubs and the most expensive areas in Korea. A lot of customers don’t think twice about spending 10 thousand dollars on a new face assured that it the returns are worth it. However, not all are happy with the results.
Leaving aside the possible psychological trauma of looking like someone else (or all looking the same…), a major issue is that plastic surgery in Korea is still widely unregulated. In the past decade the number of plastic surgeons in Korea has almost doubled to 1,500. Then how can 4,000 clinics offer cosmetic surgery? Well that’s easy… Psychiatrists or dentists can perform surgeries they have no qualifications to be performing because Korean law authorizes doctors to switch to this money making field.
According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the number of malpractice suites has increased from 1,901 cases in 2006 to 2,984 in 2010. Keeping in mind that double-jaw surgery is extremely invasive and that being put-under general anesthesia there are always unfortunate cases that don’t make it. In some cases the the consequences of a bad plastic suregery can be devastating. Last year a woman hanged herself “Every waking minute is hell,” she wrote in her diary of the pain following a bad double-jaw surgery (New York Times).
I have nothing against plastic surgery, on the contrary I find it fascinating and if it can make people feel good then all the better. However extremes are never healthy and altering one’s appearance to satisfy others can’t bring happiness. But according to Whang Sang-min, a psychologist at Yonsei University “in recent decades, cosmetic surgery has become a weapon in Koreans’ efforts to impress others, like buying an expensive handbag”.
Spent last evening at one of my favorite hangouts south of the Hangang river, Platoon Kunsthalle, for the Future Shorts Film Festival. This pop-up movie festival is quite unique, letting anyone, anywhere set-up their own screening event. Their aim is to create a big network of cinematic events and to form a community of film enthusiasts spread across all continents. The 2012 edition introduced 6 international award winning movies with over 140 screenings, in 30 countries and 60 cities!
The selection of films was really interesting, each so different and bringing so much to the viewer in such a short time. My favorite was definitely LUMINARIS, directed by Juan Pablo Zaramella (Argentina, 2011). Using stop motion and pixilation techniques he created a fictional world where “sunlight as a magnetic force” pulls people from their home to their job. The hero is an average Joe making light-bulbs by chewing on glass beads. But he has a big dream of freedom and an urge to see the world… I already am a big fan of stop motion and this film was perfect with its romantic story and beautiful images echoing art-deco. Winner of the Audience and Fipresci Award at Annecy 2011 International Animation Festival. A must watch!
If the director of THE EXTERNAL WORLD (Germany/Ireland, 2010), David O’Reilly, was not on acid when he created this lo-fi animation, then he must be pretty whacked! None the less, this was an amazing film, where the rules of logic and cohesion have no ground and the cutest characters are also the most corrupt. It was cynical and smart, made the audience both laugh and shiver all at once. Winner of Best Animation – Tampere Film Festival.
Going darker, DEEPER THAN YESTERDAY (Australia, 2010), directed by Ariel Kleiman, took us aboard a submarine with a Russian crew on the verge of turning into animals. Right away, the promiscuity and tight space in the ship makes the viewer feel claustrophobic and uneasy. Yet, there is hope in one crew-member who by protecting the corpse of a woman also somehow saves his shipmates from their own madness. Winner of International Short Filmmaking Award at Sundance.
INCIDENT BY A BANK- Dir: Ruben Östlund / Sweden / 2009 / 12 min.
DEEPER THAN YESTERDAY – Dir: Ariel Kleiman / Australia / 2010 / 20 min.
THE EXTERNAL WORLD – Dir: David O’Reilly / Germany, Ireland / 2010 / 17 min.
LUMINARIS – Dir: Juan Pablo Zaramella / Argentina / 2011 / 6 min.
THE EAGLEMAN STAG – Dir: Michael Please / UK / 2010 / 9 min.
GOD OF LOVE – Dir: Luke Matheny / US / 2010 / 19 min.
The crowd at Platoon Kunsthalle is always great for people watching. Last night had the usual suspects of hipsters, artists and pop-culture enthusiasts. Next Saturday is the monthly Night Flea Market, don’t forget to check it out if you are in town! It’s the perfect opportunity to mingle with the hip crowd, get some vintage accessories and check-out some special craft-work.