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Korea Day 1: More Thoughts on Seoul and the Black Tie Dinner

These are some notes that I wrote down the next day or so when I had some time to digest what happened at the dinner.

I think the dinner was an act of contrition. Here's a bit of history:

Way back in the day when DJN and HRD was still headquartered in Korea there were like 18 schools in Seoul in addition to the schools around the rest of the country. DJN was well known by the Korean government at the time and HRD was about to be adopted by the Korea government as the official martial art of the country. However, one of the big generals in the army called in a favor with the President and Tae Kwon Do was chosen as the official martial art of the country (which meant that it was taught to every person in the military and in Korea, military service is required). So, DJN got very upset and moved to the US taking the headquarters with him. Without the Founder there it slowly start dying in Korea. In the US, DJN found that Americans at the time didn't want to roll around on the ground so he removed grappling from the curriculum as a matter of survival. Fast forward to today, DJN still doesn't teach grappling but Master Lee is spreading it again through the art (I think it's just because DJN is getting much older and it's just difficult for him to start teaching it again now).

So, the black tie dinner was about recognizing the work of those people who are still teaching HRD in Korea, thanking them for their devotion and loyalty in that "we haven't forgotten about you" way. Also, Master Lee's demonstration was a grappling one, where he punished Will (one of his students) for a good 10 minutes. This was, in part, to show the Korean Masters that it hadn't been abandoned and that the roots are still strong.

One of the things I've noticed about Seoul in particular and the country as a whole is that they live in a state of war. The military and war play a huge part in daily life, it's very strange. We drove by several military installations (US and Korean) in Seoul alone. We also drove by a protest of the Iraq War, another thing that makes Korea feel more like home than an alien country.

An example is one of the museums we toured had a contingent of riot police who had all of their riot gear laid out.

Photo by Jenn

Another reminder was this road sign that we saw on our way up to the top of O Dae Mountain. Remember your tank is only allowed to go 30 km per hour.

Photo by Jenn

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