MR is Going to Korea: Gangnam Style!

Tyler and I will both be in South Korea in early October for the Asian launch of Marginal Revolution University. Tyler will be speaking at the World Knowledge Forum (Oct. 9-11). The WKF is known as the Asian Davos. In addition to Tyler, the speakers include Paul Krugman, Daron Acemoglu, Malcolm Gladwell, Cass Sunstein, Dani Rodrik, a number of other well known economists and social scientists and a host of political and business leaders.

Coincidentally, Google invited me to speak in South Korea on Oct. 9. I will be speaking on Innovation at the Google Big Tent event in Gangnam! I will also be on several panels at the WKF on the 10th and 11th.

Neither Tyler nor I have been to Korea before so we are looking forward to the trip. Recommendations welcome in the comments.

We are committed to making MRU a global player in online education.


Tyler and I will both be in South Korea in early October for the Asian launch of Marginal Revolution University.

You guys are savvy businessmen. You know where the suckers are for these kinds of schemes.

hostess bars, baby!

Be sure to go hiking in Bukhansan while you're in Seoul

Jeju island. 'Nuff said.

I'm glad MRU is free, but I would pay money to see Tyler dance Gangnam Style with some Korean girl back-up dancers.

Prepare your livers! There is a lot of social drinking / toasting. Korean bbq meats are quite tasty (even tastier than the best korean bbq joints in SoCal's Ktown). Street foods (interesting permutations on the American hotdog, dukbokki, etc) should not be missed. In general, Korean food is very cheap and very good everywhere. I am jealous.

Per Wiki ( South Korea has the highest consumption of spirits in the world -- almost 50% higher than Russia, and vastly higher than other Asian countries. Since I don't know much about Korea, why does it have such a drinking culture?

There is a blog for that. They have a long lead time, so it may be a bit before we see Tyler on this site

Although the spirit they consume the most, Soju, is far weaker than Russian vodka.

Have a great and prosperous trip!

Misc. comments: English not widely spoken and hard to find English signs on street. Try both the high end imperial Korean cuisine and the very local Korean family restaurants. Services sector in general is quite inefficient due to extensive regulations; K-pop is a rare exception where the govt doesn't regulate. Some local designer fashions could be interesting.

Just to point out... virtually all major street signs contain Roman script and English is fairly widely spoken. I'm sure the people in your entourage will be more or less fluent. A 노래방 (norae bang--song room) with some soju at least once ;)

Virtually all major street signs contain Roman script, but it's a bit of a crap shoot whether that romanization will match the romanization on your pocket maps or other materials. For exampe, is it Jongno? Jongro? Chongno? Chongro? Street signs will probably say Jongno, but anything else? Could be anything!

It is also absolutely not true at all that English is widely spoken. Cabbies, receptionists at the head offices of major chaebol, shopkeepers, restauranteurs -- my experience is that basically none of these speak English, even in Seoul. I've even seen cases where a receptionist who had to deal with foreigners all the time (she was at Ministry of the Knowledge Economy) had a little cheat sheet of common English phrases with a Hangul pronunciation guide written out for each. If you talk to the elite, yes, most of them will have some English, and many of them will have been educated abroad in part. But street level, very few people speak English. Honestly, I am often surprised at how low English language penetration is.

Great news! Too bad I can't afford $3k for a ticket... Anyway should you don't have many options where to visit, make sure Buk-chon traditional house village to be included to yours. It's one of a few vestiges that display Seoul was such an old city.

Please please please record the speeches and put them on youtube (or functional equivalent).

'We are committed to making MRU a global player in online education.'
I could change just one name, and I think the accuracy would be enhanced.

Though I'm sure in the interest of the transparency the Internet is famous for, a nice 'about us' will be coming for MRU soon. As it is for now, the only (hyper)link for MRU itself is to the Mercatus Center. Even though the domain has been registered since March 7, 2001 - well, the great stagnation in online education seems to be ending, with a newly announced world player - World Bank and World Knowledge Forum announcements included.

By the way, an old girl friend recommends yukki mandu (English spelling varies widely - pronunciation actually doesn't, it seems) - it is what her housekeeper used to make the family when she was younger.

Did you catch the link about George Soros et. al. providing $75Million to help Stiglitz entangle economics and religion?

Nah, that was the Koch Brothers funding Mercatus.

"Seoul Sweet Seoul" is an excellent guidebook:

On Twitter, @GlobalAsianista (one of the book's authors) frequently posts interesting links about Korea. From an hour ago: "Great piece on growing up Gangnam Style by @euny".

Hi Alex, if you want to take a Gangnam style picture with the sign "Gangnam", there's a MRT station called "Gangnam" in the Gangnam area...

I recommend a small local 24 hour restaurant run/cooked by two old Korean ladies...very home made and nice...the address is in can click the pic in the link if you want to save it to show it to taxi driver. The place is near Itaewon ( and what we ate.

There are two kinds of cabs in and all other colors. Black ones are for foreigners, which means drivers can speak English (but not that good as well)...much more expensive...all other colors are cheaper but the drivers won't understand English.

The other restaurant I recommend is 土俗村蔘雞湯 TOSOKCHON HERBAL CHICKEN is near GYEONGBOKGUNG (the famous old palace in front of the president's office), MRT Line #5, 327 GYEONGBOKGUNG, Exit 2. (

Because it is quite hard to ask direction in English. So usually we will keep the pictures in the phones to show people when asking the places. Or we will request the hotel staff to help find the place and print out the map in Korean...and then show the map to the taxi driver.

Enjoy your trip!

"We are committed to making MRU a global player in online education."

Make your objective more aggressive:

"We are committed to making MRU a global player in education."

Eat a lot of BBQ

The DMZ, with the tunnel tour was a good trip. And you can step about ten feet into North Korea.

The Tripitaka Koreana is also in an amazing place; there's a mountain nearby to climb up.

The Gyeongju is a good place to see ruins.

Jeju island, if you have the time.

Depending on your time constraints, only the DMZ might be possible. The other places are further away from Seoul and travel will eat up a lot of time.

Uh Gyeongju is kind of dull in my opinion - the best thing to see in Korea (besides the great nightlife) is to do outdoors stuff like hiking up mountains.

The Secret Garden (Biwon) in the Changdok Palace. I took the tour in Japanese, which was fun because it was basically 100% K-drama oriented (e.g. do you remember the scene in _____ where _____ is running? That was shot right here!). I suspect the English version wouldn't be quite as entertaining, but it's still high on the list of tourist spots to take foreigners on their first visit to Seoul, for whatever reason.

I think Jongmyo, Buk-chon, the Daewongun's old mansion (right by Insadong) and Kyongbok Palace are all interesting cultural things to see. There's also, at the foot of Namsan (near the cable car up to Seoul Tower, if I recall correctly) a little park where a bunch of old traditional houses have been relocated. I think that's fun for a quick look too -- and different from what you can see in Bukchon. Street food (Tteokbokki, Hottok, etc.) is also good. If you have time for a quick jaunt out of Seoul proper, Hwasong Fortress in Suwon is also interesting, if you like that sort of thing (I do).

Old royal cuisine was recommended by someone else. Honestly, I don't care for it at all. Modern cuisine is better. Within modern cuisine Bulgogi is fine and all (I love it), but just ordering some Gukpap or Dwenjangjigae in one of those cheap restaurants by the side of the road is more entertaining since that's something you can do in Korea that you can't get a reasonable imitation of in the US. Also, would recommend you try Samgyeopsal, which is kind of like Bulgogi (you eat it in a vegetable ssam the same way), but it has a more popular/lowbrow feel to it.

Yeah! I live in SK for a year - fantastic place. The main thing to do in Seoul is to get black out drunk and pass out on the sidewalk. There's not much in terms of tourist attractions compared to other places but there's some interesting areas to walk around in like Insadong, Hongdae, or Myeongdong and lots of scenic hiking in the surrounding area.
Lots of great food - don't worry about picking somewhere specific since for Korean food the quality at most places is pretty solid - in fact I've never really found a Korean restaurant in North America that comes close to the taste of the real thing (although I've never been to LA Koreatown). Just be aware that most BBQ places tend to have a more limited menu in terms of type of meat then in the US where you can usually order a platter containing everything - but you get way more banchan in Korea.
Good street food.

You're going around the same time of year that I did. So you will want to have bi bim bap (possibly spelled wrong), which I believe translates to stone pot rice. It warms you up. Also, eat as much Korean bbq as possible.

The war museum in Seoul is interesting. It provides a history of constant invasion, if I recall correctly. At the end, you can shoot a gun (no bullets) at moving targets. It's definitely one of the most unique museums I've visited.

Never made it to the DMZ, but others told me to go if there's time. It can take a while to get there and back, which is why I didn't go.

Do prepare for cool weather. Travel safe.

The "stone pot" bibimbap is "dol-sot" bibimbap.

the the website "seoulitary confinement" for some good background.

check out myeongdong and, especially, insadong (both gangbuk, so you'll have to get across the han). find a sauna and some bbq. avoid riding in cars; get on a bus if you can't take the subway. if you're trapped in the south, you might as well see apkujeong. i'm torn on recommending itaewon. i mean, if you go with the proper sense of irony, or to see the mosque, it's acceptable for non-canadians/non-USAF to frequent.

You guys should go clubbing.

go and watch some starcraft. much better than chess, yo.

I did not expect to see Lim Yo Hwan mentioned on this site.
Anyway, on Thu, October 11, 6:10pm – 9:10pm there will be GSL (Global Starcraft League) Season 4 Code S Semifinals. No entry fee. Here are instructions how to get to venue
Make sure to sit close to english commentators so you have at least some idea of what is happening :)

Get a GPS and look at all the swastikas on the map to denote churches. I never got used to it.

I ate an octopus pancake; I'm not sure of the actual name. I didn't try the silkworms; I hear they are nasty. They smell terrible.

Everything starts with a "K" in Latin letters and everybody is named "Kim". The BBQ food is tasty albeit heavily seasoned with salt and spices. Kimchee of course--you'll not smell as much if you eat some like everybody else. And you have to sit cross-legged on the floor in a traditional if you're fat your pants will split. All in all, a 'good time' for the TC and his wild and crazy sidekick Alex.

A live taping of team Starcraft competitions is pretty close to a must see. Have assistants check into which malls have e-sports studios. Dried squid at an LG Twins game? And, obviously: BBQ, soju, Korean bath, DMZ.

Stay on the side of the river where you'll be presenting to avoid the incredible traffic jams. Park Hyatt is right in the middle of Gangnam, across the street from COEX, and is a great blend of Korean and Western styles.

I'd recommend seeing something distinctly Korean. Head to GOMTV studious and watch one Starcraft (an online strategy game) professional game. Korea practically has a national holiday equivalent to our Super Bowl for their big starcraft matches

I look forward to Tyler's post on how he tricked Alex into eating dog meat.

There's a new and amazing food option, a handful of restaurants that just offer what I call "Pumpkin Duck" (not sure what it is in Korean). It's a duck, baked inside of a pumpkin, and you eat it together with this mustard-ish sauce. There's also always a duck soup served with it, which is incredible. One of the best meals I've ever had. I went to a few of these, but I think the best one is out towards a village called "Pocheon". You'd have to drive.

Also, the top rated thing to do on tripadvisor, the food tour, is truly a lot of fun.

I recommend Bistro Seoul (Gangnum) and Doore (Insadong). Bistro Seoul is an upscale, westernized version of Korean food. Doore is traditional Korean.

I also recommend downloading an episode from the Kimchi Chronicles (public television show on food and culture in Korea). I would download "The Seoul Food Chronicles" episode which provides a summary of what the host recommends in Seoul.


Any meetup planned with your Seoul based fans?

I am totally agree with your thoughts. Keep doing these type of work.

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