Picture of the Week

14 December 2013

Week 49: Seoul

Filed under: — Administrator @ 08:42

I spent the entire week in Seoul, attending a meeting of the TM5–the world’s five most important trademark registration offices: EU’s OHIM (where I work), the USPTO, the Japan Patent Office, the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and the Korean Intellectual Property Office who were hosting the event this year. It was KIPO’s first time as host, since they only joined TM5 as a full member in 2011, and they really pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable visit for us. I have set up a proper gallery here; this blog focuses more on the people I met during the trip.

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I flew to Seoul via Rome. For at least 3-4 hours (out of 11) we were flying over this totally desolate landscape, first Siberia and then northern China:
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I arrived at the Imperial Palace Hotel in Seoul around 7 p.m. Monday, having left Europe Sunday afternoon. As one often does after a long trip, the first order of business was to use the toilet; when it was time to flush, I could find no button or handle. Instead, there was this control unit. I had truly arrived in a technologically advanced country:
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I had been reading the Lonely Planet guide on the plane, and based on this, I decided to have dinner in the Kwangjang market. It is a place that functions as a general open-air market (albeit with a roof) during the day and morphs into a street food market in the evening. Just my kind of thing, I thought, and although it took almost 45 minutes to get there on the metro, I was not disappointed. Especially when this bunch invited me to join them for some udong noodles in spicy broth and a few glasses of the local version of sake. The man in blue on the left is Heungjae Lee, who celebrated his 46th birthday with his friends that evening:
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The udong lady:
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After saying goodbye to my newfound friends, I wandered around the market some more. This lady was very proud of having appeared on the cover of a travel magazine:
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Tuesday I had my first official engagement, lecture at a conference organised by KIPO. But in the evening I had some free time again, and I went to the Myeong-dong district to buy some Korean cosmetics my daughter had requested. On the way, I snuck this picture of an old lady on the metro who made herself really comfortable:
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Even though Myeong-dong is all about glitz and neon lights and modernity, when you get hungry, traditional street food is also available:
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Christmas is a big deal in Korea. Here, the decorations outside my hotel are being set up:
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Rose and beer, next to my hotel:
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Wednesday was an “in-between” day for me. I had the lecture on Tuesday, which is why I had to arrive Monday evening, but the rest of our delegation arrived only on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, since our meetings with the other IP offices were Thursday and Friday. So on Wednesday, KIPO arranged a bus tour for us of some temples and the Bukchon village-within-the-city where one can still see hanok, the traditional Korean houses. Here is our lovely guide who spoke excellent English and had an encyclopedic knowledge of her country’s culture and history:
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Monks entering a temple:
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Shoes are removed before entering temples and traditional Korean homes:
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Our guide explains Korean religion (about equal parts Buddhism and Christianity):
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Outside the restaurant where we had lunch, a rose with graffiti:
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Traditional Korean lunch. The main dish is bibimbap, rice with vegetables and and egg. It sounds pedestrian but it is delicious:
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Wednesday night I went back to the Kwangjang market with a colleague who had arrived that morning and wanted to see the market. I did not mind acting as a guide 🙂
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Thursday morning it was time to get to work:
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My colleague Inge:
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Inge renews an acquaintance. While there is a certain amount of turnover in the delegations, many of the faces we see are familiar ones:
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On Thursday evening, KIPO invited all the delegations to an amazing 11-course banquet at a traditional and famous restaurant called SamcheongGak. The restaurant has in the past hosted important diplomatic dinners and negotiations, so we were truly in high places here. This is our master of ceremonies from KIPO:
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KIPO Commissioner Kim Young-min gives the opening address:
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We get a brief performance of traditional pansori music. It is an amazing art form, ballads sung with a powerful voice, accompanied only by a single drum:
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Steamed rice, soup and kimchi. Kimchi can probably be considered Korea’s national dish. It is fermented cabbage or radish, and I found it delicious (and I brought a 1 kg jar of the stuff home with me):
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The SamcheongGak restaurant:
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Friday was another full day of meetings, held at the business centre of our large and comfortable hotel. There was a nice gym which I visited a couple of times, and even a driving range on the roof of the 9th floor:
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On Friday evening we visited Samsung’s headquarters, where this lady demonstrated some of their new technologies:
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The big screen. If you look closely, you will see me with members of the US delegation and some other colleagues:
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Another big screen. If you place yourself in the right spot, you can see yourself in various action sequences, controlled by movements of the body. Of course I ended up crashing the motorcycle on the screen:
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A more tranquil big screen. The resolution was amazing:
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After the Samsung visit, we had dinner at the restaurant high up on the Seoul Tower. The base of the tower is a popular place for couples:
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Saturday was the final day of the programme. We had another bus tour, this time to visit the Gyeongbokgung palace, where Korea’s kings lived until the monarchy was abolished in the early 20th century by the invading Japanese. Today the castle is a historical monument, situated at the end of a long, wide boulevard named after the 15th century King Sejong who is said to have invented the Korean alphabet in the 1440s:
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Chestnuts outside the palace, a universal pleasure in the winter cold:
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Young photographer:
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One of our Japanese friends takes a picture:
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DO NOT ENTER:
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DO NOT EAT, DO NOT LIE DOWN. To a European, these prohibitions seemed strange, but my Japanese colleagues found them entirely normal:
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A classic scene from the Gyeongbokgung compound:
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Finally, around 4 p.m. we came back to the hotel, from where a car was going to take me to the airport at 8 p.m. for the long flight to Amsterdam and then on to Alicante. I used those few hours to do some last-minute shopping and to enjoy the sunset at the Han river. A setting sun makes even drab apartment buildings look nice:
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My last picture from Korea–workers laying final touches on Christmas decorations at Seoul airport:
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