Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 4, 2014


” It is very important for me to express the following words: “YMCA – I love you!” said Mayor Park Won Soon of Seoul, Korea, to the Welcome Dinner at The International Press Centre in Seoul at the start of the 100 years anniversary of the National Council of YMCAs of Korea. I had dinner with the Mayor and shook hands with him, but unlike me, he had no time to eat, so the dinner took only a few minutes and then he was gone for another task to be attended to in his city of 10 million people, 20 if you count with the outskirts and regions around. So I decided to take a real close look at Mayor Park’s city, since he gave such a personal and warm congratulatory speech to the Korean YMCA!


Always start with the history, if you can, and preferably a short version to begin with. Below you see a photo from the king’s palace. And it take you only two minutes to be in the centre of modern history of Korea. One of the first things your guide will tell you, is that the Japanese destroyed the original palace of the Korean king, who ruled before the Japanese occupation. So there you are, at a very painful centre of the Korean history. This was the symbol of Korean independence and fighting spirit, and those symbols were important for the empire to try to destroy. Anyway, the YMCAs of Korea and Japan are working very intimately together as very good friends, and core to their cooperation, including China, is peace. The three countries are planning for a joint YMCA peace pilgrimage. I wish I could walk with them!


We hit Seoul on the right day! All the Magnolia trees and Cherry Blossom trees are in full blooming and it is a fantastic spectacle of spring all around us, and I try frenetically to get successful photos of the progressing spring. I am not quite sure that I succeed, but at least give me points for trying!


It is when you discover that the locals are photographing the trees around them that you understand that this is more than a daily routine. It is beautiful!

IMG_4245And this photo very much makes me think in terms of future eternity: “And there shall be a new earth and a new heaven.” Does it not look like something heavenly? It is Seoul in spring, Mayor Park’s city in full blooming.

IMG_4176Back to history again. Here is how the Koreans tried to invent a new way to measure time: A water clock! They tried to explain that to me, but they did not succeed. With the big bell hanging to the side there I wonder if the water clock was combined with Water Music in any way?


From history to modern architecture, of which it is a lot in Seoul. Not the least Samsung is a major builder in this city and in the whole country, and I could have mentioned a number of other household brands, which we know all of us, and these brands are very much represented in the brilliant or not so brilliant architecture  in this rather beautiful city.


Above you find architecture not linked to any of those global brands from Korea, it looks more like a mixture of products from bakers, jewelers and maybe sweets producers? With the additional work of gardeners it gives a very warm and hearty impression.


This is the old City Hall of Seoul being embraced more or less by the new City Hall. And now we are back to the Mayor again. I kind of like this WAVE of something, but a friend of mine from Seoul referred to it as the winner of the competition of the ugliest building in the city. What do you think?



Spring again, this time in yellow!


And spring in white.


Behind these two statues, one standing and one sitting, you can see the roof tops of the Presidential Palace. The Japanese occupation ended in 1945. “In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea which ended with Japan’s defeat in World War II in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel north in accordance with a United Nations arrangement, to be administered by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. The Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of two separate governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea. Eventually, following the Korean War, the two separate governments stabilized into the existing political entities of North and South Korea.” (Wikipedia) South Korea lived through decades of authoritarian political regimes, and the YMCA, together with other NGOs and Labour Unions played a very important role in working for democracy and civic society during those difficult years. The Mayor of Seoul comes from the civic society circles, and is a friend of many of the old YMCA leaders from those difficult days. His speech was a very impressive confirmation both of a difficult and painful modern history and of the important network of people and movements in civic society and the central role played by the YMCA in Korea. The history of Korea YMCA makes me proud to be a part of the same YMCA.


Back to not so modern history with some young and very smiling actors delivering examples of martial arts and folkloristic music.


Two good friends on their way together with Ingunn and me in a cable car away from the city centre and up to the TV tower with a spectacular view of Mayor Park’s city. This is James Ekow Rhule from Ghana, President of Africa Alliance of YMCAs and Dr Park, from Seoul,  former President of Asia&Pacific Alliance of YMCAs. (And he is not the Mayor of Seoul!)


A growing ecological problem for Seoul is air pollution blowing over from China, and the dust in the air is a serious health challenge and also a challenge for photographers, who would like to present impressive photos of downtown Seoul.


The mentioned cable car on its way to the top of the mountain, Seoul is surrounded by beautiful mountains.


A brilliant example of Korean design and at the side of this poster was the following declaration below:

IMG_4198And below examples of food design:


The first Korean lunch in Seoul.


That first lunch was taken together with our hostess from the National YMCA Office and the President of Korea YMCA, Dr. Ahn Jae Woong and James Ekow Rhule. More in my next blog post. Then the Prime Minister of Korea delivers his speech to the YMCA!


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