How my Irish driver’s license got “discarded” by Seoul Global Centre.

This is the story. I went to Seoul Global Centre (S.G.C.) in 2011 and exchanged my Irish license for a Korean one.The Korean license is valid for 10 years, until 2021. Great, brilliant. I was told that to get the Irish one back, I simply had to return to the SGC and exchange it. Lovely.

I’ve been happily motoring around in Korea for 4 years. Never once in that 4 years have I got an email or letter or anything to say that any time period was up or that a deadline was approaching or whatever. Now that I’m returning to Ireland, I went back yesterday to exchange the license only to be informed that this wasn’t possible. Obviously, I asked why and was told that everyone who gets a Korean license signs the paper that says that it will be discarded after 3 years unless you come to pick it up.This has seemingly always been the policy. Do I have recollection of signing this paper? No, it was years ago! Were they able to show me the papers I signed in 2011? No.

I tried talking my way into getting it back. Since I’m leaving Korea no one would know if she just opened the safe (where I’m certain it still is) and gave it back to me. She was having none of it.

I thought about crying which I am just too positive to do.

I thought about sitting on the chair and refusing to move until she gave me the damn license. This was ruled out based on the amount of security hanging around. No one wants to get arrested before they leave a country.

I thought about jumping over the desk and just pulling the safe open and getting it forcibly but that was disregarded because I don’t have a desire to cause a scene or get arrested.

So, I left and went to my embassy to ask them what I can do. I just have to do what I did when I came here. Go to the  Korean Embassy in Ireland to get it verified and then follow the directions on this very helpful website;  http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/motoring_1/driver_licensing/exchanging_foreign_driving_permit.html

I did call Seoul Global Centre this morning to ask whose policy it was and they said that it was a Government policy. I also asked why it was 3 years as opposed to 10 or 5 and she said that she didn’t know herself.  I can’t find any more information about it online.

While the situation is obviously not desirable, it was caused by my own ignorance. The very bright part of this story is that my Irish license is expiring in September anyway and now my Korean one is good until 2021 so all good on that front! I am certain that they still have it in the safe and that they haven’t actually thrown it away but “discarded” is the term for not giving it back to you.

The lesson is that to anyone who has got a Korean license by swapping over, GO BACK AND GET IT WITHIN 3 YEARS! I don’t know if you can then reapply to keep the Korean license for longer or how it works so if anyone knows, please leave a comment below.

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Get involved with Irish music in Seoul!

Lately, I’ve had a lot of messages and emails from people interested in getting involved in Irish music in Seoul. I definitely won’t complain about this. It’s great to see the progress that Irish music is making here. When I started playing in Seoul, we were hard set to find a place that would hold a session. Now, we literally don’t have enough time or people to keep up with the demand.

If you play Irish music, sing or dance, you’re always welcome at one of the many sessions that happen in and around Seoul. Your first port of call should be the “Irish music in Korea” Facebook page. Request to join the group and then you’ll be up to date on the sessions that are happening.

Generally, every second Friday night, there is the Tulip Session in Myeongdong.

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Once a month, we have a session in Dublin Terrace in Gangnam.

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Finally, we have the weekly Sunday Session in the Wolfhound Bar in Itaewon. It starts around 4pm and ends around 8pm. This is my favourite session for so many reasons. Some of the best sessions I’ve ever had were in the Wolfhound.

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As with the nature of these sessions, we do extra sessions, we do less depending on the time of year and so on. If you have any questions about Irish music in Korea, feel free to email me or go to this website http://www.ceoltoirisoul.com/

*This information was correct at time of posting (June 2015)

ONDA Salmon – a review

If I had a tonne of money, I’d eat salmon every day. Unfortunately, I don’t so when my friend suggested we should try a salmon restaurant for her birthday, I was all ears.

ONDA Salmon is located in the Hongik area of Seoul. I hear that ONDA is from a Spanish word meaning “wave”.

The location of ONDA Salmon is a little difficult to get to if you’re not familiar with the area. The closest station is Sangsu and it’s about a 5 minute walk from there. If you follow this link, there will be a map, http://www.koreanetwork.com/listing/onda-salmon-%EC%98%A8%EB%8B%A4%EC%82%B4%EB%AA%AC

The restaurant has two opening times, 1pm to 3pm and again from 5pm (or perhaps 5.30pm) to 11pm. Luckily we had a made a reservation as there was a queue forming when we arrived in time for the second opening. The interior is not that large with perhaps 10 or 12 tables in total. We were a party of just 5 people so it was very comfortable for us.

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Naturally, everything on the menu centers around Salmon. The dishes are a little pricey but worth it. For three dishes, four Sangrias and a soft drink the cost was 115,000 won.  The salmon was fresh and tasty and possibly the best I’ve tasted in Korea so far. Service was fast and the waiter spoke English. Portion size was ok. It could have been larger. One member of our group ate virtually nothing and the rest of us cleared everything but I felt that a little extra would have gone a long way.

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I’d go back here again for sure but can’t see myself regularly frequenting the restaurant. As ever, if you have questions, please leave them below!

Burns Night 2015

A few months ago I was asked to give the reply from the lassies at Burns night. Dinner in the Hyatt was mentioned so naturally I agreed. It was as easy as it sounded to write the reply but I did my best.

For those night familiar, Burns night is an annual, international celebration of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns. Poems are recited, songs are sung and general craic is had.In Seoul, we celebrated the night in the Hyatt Hotel.  We had a piper, Garret,  and the whisky was flowing so it was all very Scottish.

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A group of my friends came along and it was nice to be able to dress up and go out!

 

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In my research for the speech, I found Burns to be an interesting character. He fathered 12 children by 4 different women. He was so fascinated by women that he had couldn’t choose just one and had several relationships with different women. He credits the ladies with his abilities as a poet. He wrote some beautiful poetry, my favourite being;

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!

 

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We were treated to an amazing address to the Haggis. I’ve seen this done 3 times now, but this was the first time I’ve seen a woman do it. She nailed it  and I think it added a bit of flavour to the Haggis!

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That was followed by some recitations and song singing.

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Eventually, it was battle of the sexes as the Toast to the lassies and Reply from the lassies were made. In the toast to the lassies, Scott had everyone in stitches as he quoted some amazing dating tips from koreadatingtips.com. Check out this link http://www.korea-dating-tips.com/how-to-talk-to-girls.html Super funny stuff.

After all the speeches it was off home. Great event made better by the people who were there.

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Registering for a race in Korea

I LOVE doing races in Korea but registration is usually in Korean so I thought I’d do a blog with some vocabulary and instructions.

 

1. First, decided which race you want to do. Head over to marathon.pe.kr. You should see this home page;

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2. Across the top, you’ll see the different tabs. You should press the second from the left. It’s called 대회일정 (tournament schedule). Then you’ll see this;

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3. Now you should choose the location you want. Races happen all over Korea. Personally, I stick to the ones in Seoul and there are always a tonne in 여의도 (Yeouido). Choose your own and click on the link to be brought to this;

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4. Near the bottom of that page, you’ll see a link. That brings you to the home page which is where you need to go. The home page might look something like this;

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5. Now you have to look for the registration are. Some home pages make it really easy and others make it a mission.  Look for 참ㄱㅏ신청 (Application for registration). When you click on it, you’ll probably see some of the following;

개인: Individual

단체: Group/team

신청조회: Inquiry

Click the one that suits you and then you’ll see a registration form maybe like this;

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Here is the vocabulary you need to know;

ㅇㅣ름: Name

생년월일: Date of birth. ARC first 6 numbers

성별/남/여: Gender/male/female

주소: Address

연락쳐: Contact number

ㅇㅣ메일: Email

참가종목: The race you’re doing. Half, full, 10km etc

기념품: Gear

사이즈: Size

쿠폰입력: Coupon details

입금ㅈㅏ명: Name of person who will send the money

비밀번호: Password

비밀번호확인: Retype password

확인/최소하기 : Enter/cancel

Once you click “enter”, you’re done. Just transfer the money into the bank account. You’ll find the bank details on the home page of the race.

About a week or so before the race, you’ll get your package with your gear, number and chip.

 

Apologies if there are mistakes in the Korean. Any questions, just ask!

 

We Run Seoul 2014

The Nike “We Run Seoul” race is one of the most hotly anticipated races in the city. So much so, that registration only opens 2 weeks before the event. On that day, Koreans everywhere sit beside their computers to get a place. The race only has 2 divisions, 10km and 21km. There are 20,000 spaces for the 10km and 10,000 for the 21km.

While I wasn’t exactly sitting and waiting for the registration to open, I did try that day and failed to get a place. My Korean friend, however, got a place and couldn’t do it so she gave it to me!

The gear arrived the week before the race and the pack was a simple Nike t shirt, a plastic bag (for storing your gear on the day), the number and a voucher. The chips were already glued to the back of the number so that made it more convenient than usual.

The race itself was a bit of a let down. First, it is important to show up early, as your gear must go into the lorries before 2pm. Since the start and finish points are different, the lorries go ahead of the runners and you can collect your stuff at the finish line. The race doesn’t actually start until 3pm. That leaves lots of time for lunch, coffee, stretching, whatever. Runners are divided into 4 categories, A,B,C,D.A & B are the long distance runners and they leave first.

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Hanging out in Gwanghwamun before the race.

 

 

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It looked like this for all 10km……..

I was group D and despite doing my best to get close to the top I couldn’t and ended up a long way back. I could hear the M.C. talking to the crowd and if I heard the “Just do it” slogan one more time, I would gladly have jumped up and shoved the microphone down his neck. A lot of people looked like they were there to try out for Nike models and looked fit to do anything BUT run.

Eventually the C group left and since there were just so many of us we got to leave together. Because the stage was by the start line and the M.C. was some famous guy, everyone wanted a picture which slowed the whole thing down.

The race started in Gwanghwamun and finished in Yeouido and it was lovely to see people either side of the road cheering you on.  The sheer volume of people made it close to impossible to run. I initially thought it was space out after the first few kilometres but it didn’t. A kilometer 5 there was a band playing and of course people just stopped up for pictures creating another pile up. Just as we were almost finished, the road narrowed and there was a bottle neck of runners. After that though, the sprint to the finish line was clear.

All in all it’s always good to do a race and it was great to see so many people getting out and involved. If you’re a serious runner I recommend you do the 21km. I can’t see myself do that particular race again but getting to run through the city was really nice.

 

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My friend and I at the finish!

 

 

Left Coast burger~ a review

When I heard we would be dining at a burger joint, I had my doubts. I mean a burger is a burger, right?

With an ideally convenient location and a great menu, Left Coast Burger in Itaewon can count me as a fan.

Location;
Itaewon Station (line 6) Exit 4. Turn left. Walk about 100 metres. The restaurant is on the 2nd floor.

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Ambiance: It looks like you need to be a cool kid to get a job here. Even the chefs looked uber cool. They all speak perfect English and it’s quite a relaxed feeling in the restaurant.

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This was when we arrived but by the time we were leaving, the place was packed.

If I could add one negative thing it would be the music. It was so loud that we had to raise our voices to hear each other.

Food: The menu has something for everyone. It’s not just regular burgers, you can get.mini combinations and lots of sides, salads, a veggie option, quite a variety.

The size of the portion is a little on the small side. Usually, I can’t finish an entire burger in a restaurant but I wiped the plate here. The burger was the perfect size for me but for those with a larger appetite, I fear they might be left wanting more.

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Price: Side dishes were 5 or 6,000won with the mains being 11,000won upwards. I thought the pricing was fair for the portions you got so definitely no complaints.

Staff: They know their stuff. They were super helpful in explaining the menu, made recommendations and were attentive. Almost too attentive. We were a group and the staff might as well have joined us for there was barely a second when they weren’t topping up the water or clearing the dishes. Personally, I would have preferred a little space but they were still great.

Bathrooms: The great door sign was enough;

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The bathroom was large, clean, had plenty of tissue and soap and I had no complaints.

Overall opinion: I will definitely eat here again. It’s a clean, well run restaurant. The food is great, the atmosphere is relaxed, it’s reasonably priced AND it’s in Itaewon.

7/10.

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Tips for surviving your first year in Korea

Two of my friends are getting ready to come to Korea. They asked me to write a blog on how to survive your first year here. It’s been a while since it was my first year so I took to Facebook to ask my friends. I was astonished at the replies I got back. There are so many things that nobody tells you before you come here. Hopefully we can sort some of that in this blog.

1. Language: Although English is widely taught and spoken by some people here, you should learn Hangeul. You simply won’t survive without it. And the best thing is that so many words are the same in English and Korean, you just need to be able to read out the Korean to understand.  You can learn your letters and a few basic words before you arrive. Although it looks super complicated, you can learn your letters in a number of hours. Here are some useful websites;

http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/

http://rki.kbs.co.kr/learn_korean/lessons/e_index.htm 

2. Culture: Know what’s expected of you in the workplace, when you visit someone, greeting people etc. A simple Google search will provide plenty of articles to read on this issue.

3. Supermarkets: The good news is that there are small supermarkets everywhere but for the bigger things there are two big supermarkets Emart and Homeplus (in Korean). You can buy everything from clothes to household items in these two places.

A tip is to buy with your card. I don’t know the ins and outs with this but it’s preferred to avoid the taxman.

Other tips from my friends include;

“You need to get stickers on your fruit on veg bag before you go to the register” (talking about loose items)

“Know the seasonal fruit and vegtables”

3. Transport: The bus, subway and train system here are excellent.

Subway;To make it easier for you, it’s a good idea to download the jihachul app so you can navigate the subway. system. You can figure out running time and waiting times for subways on this app. And yes, it’s in English.

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For those not living in Seoul, remember that the subway finishes well before midnight so if you live outside the city and you stay out, you should consider alternative transport home.

There is a jingle at transfer stations and end of line stations.

A Tmoney card is the name of the transport card in the Seoul and surrounding area. You can buy them for a few thousand won in most 7-11 and convenience stores. Then use the machines at the subway systems to load them with money or at a convenience store. The average cost of a journey can be calculated approximately using the jihachul app.

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Buses: There are different colour buses depending on where their destination is. Here is a site that explains just about everything transport related, http://www.kias.re.kr/sub06/sub06_06.jsp

You can also download the Seoul Bus app. Unfortunately, it’s in Korean but if you know the bus number you can check where on the route the bus actually is.

You can use your T Money card on the buses also or pay in small cash or coins.

Taxis; Taxis are EVERYWHERE. The regular ones are silver or orange. The should have a meter and the drivers information visible.

The black ones are more expensive. Supposedly they are more luxurious.

In Seoul, you can use your T Money card or a bank card to pay for the fare. You can also get a receipt. Outside of Seoul depending on the place, you can’t use a T Money card. You should have some cash to pay for the journey.

Here’s a nice little article on the whole thing, http://www.visitseoul.net/en/article/article.do?_method=view&m=0004007002011&p=07&art_id=39543&lang=en

4. Banks 

Everyone wants a bank account straight away because they come loaded with money. It’s always preferable to wait until you get an Alien Registration Card to do this. The main banks in Korea are;

Nong Hyup

Shinan

KB*B

KEB

Woori Bank

Some schools make you open an account in a particular banl to avoid transfer fees etc.

Banks are opened from 9-4 Monday to Friday. The exception are the expat banks like KEB who have branches open on Sundays for certain hours.  You should consider this if you have a 9-5 job.

At least 2 of these banks have excellent expat services (KEB and Shinan). You can set up internet banking and download an app on your phone to check your balance etc.

Most banks have someone that speaks English especially the ones with expat services so don’t fear going in alone to set it up.

KEB also have an account called an Easy One that will lodge money straight to your overseas account.

* I should note that other banks potentially offer the same service but I have my account with KEB. You should bring all the details of your home account for registration.

Bank Transfers; You can transfer money from your account to another Korean account  by using either online banking or going to a bank machine. It’s very easy and the machine has English language so you can’t go wrong.

Paying your billshttps://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/pay-your-bills-at-the-bank-machine-in-korea/

Insurance: Should you need car insurance, travel insurance, health insurance etc, you can contact the Samsung Insurance rep who can speak with you in English. You can reach him at byung625@gmail.com and his name is Byung. I have my car insurance with him and travel insurance and it’s always great value and he speaks perfect English.

5. Apartments; Apartments here are generally a one room or two room for single people. Unless you really luck out in which case you’ll have a few rooms.

You will have a washing machine and  heating to navigate in Korean but fear not, I already have blogs done on how to use them.

https://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/use-a-korean-washing-machine/

https://whatawaygook.wordpress.com/how-to/use-the-heating-in-a-korean-apartment/

6.Rubbish disposal; This is a tricky one. Every place and every housing complex has a different system. If you live in a huge housing complex, they have one day a week where everyone leaves out their rubbish. This rubbish is separated by recycling, food and other.

If you live in a random apartment this is how it usually works;

1. Go to the supermarket or local shop and buy the rubbish bags. The yellow ones are for food rubbish. The bigger ones (blue in my area) are for general waste. Then I also have recycling. I leave recycling out in a box or a paper bag.

2. Look on the street for other rubbish that is waiting to be picked up. Leave your rubbish here and it’ll get collected.

If you have a bigger item like a chair that you want to get rid of you can either 1) Leave it out and let someone else take it and use it or 2) Go to the supermarket and get a sticker for it. Put the sticker on it and leave it outside with your rubbish.

7. Post Office: The postal system here is extremely efficient and safe. If you wish to send something in country then just put the senders details on the top left corner and the receivers details in the middle. Then send it either the quick way or the regular way. It’s pretty cheap.

If you want to send something home, there are two options 1. Land 2. Air.

Land will take between 3-6 months to reach it’s destination. It’s cheaper than sending it by air and it’s good to send home clothes and other items that you don’t want but are in no great rush for.

Air takes only 7 or so days to get to the destination. It’s the fastest way to send things home.

The Korea Post website is in English so you can go ahead and check the rates and fees etc…..http://www.koreapost.go.kr/eng/sub/subpage.jsp?contId=e1010601

The post office is open from 9am-6pm .

8. Alien Registration Card

Your alien registration card is the card you get when you become officially registered with immigration. You will need this card for the following;

  1. Visit to the hospital
  2. Visit to the dentist
  3. If you’re stopped by the police
  4. Entering and leaving the country
  5. Opening a bank account
  6. Making a loyalty card
  7. Getting a phone contract

It’s so important. If you lose your ARC you must immediately report it missing with the police and then go to immigration and apply for another.

9. Expat websites and finding groups

There are some seriously useful websites out there for expats. I’ll list a few here;

http://seoul.angloinfo.com/

http://www.korea4expats.com/

http://www.iherb.com/

http://global.gmarket.co.kr/Home/Main

http://english.11st.co.kr/html/en/main.html

http://www.thearrivalstore.com/

For the teachers among us……

http://www.waygook.org/index.php?wwwRedirect

For the Irish;

http://iak.co.kr/

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

https://sites.google.com/site/busangaa/home

https://www.facebook.com/daegu.fianna.3

Also USE FACEBOOK! So many areas have their own Facebook pages. In my area we have Geumchon Crew, Ilsan have their own page and so on. You get the drift. Google it or Facebook it and you’re bound to find some groups.

10. Random tips;

You have the option on taking over a phone contract from someone who is already here. Keep that in mind before going off and starting one of your own.

Olive Young sells lots of foreign brand cosmetics.

Don’t open your gas valve all the way. Open it just enough so the meter turns otherwise you’ll have a big bill.

Bring a huge towel with you.

Go to cineinkorea to find out what movies are showing in a theatre near you.

Just go with the flow if you have no idea what’s happening.

You can call the tourist information people on 021330 if you need some help.

In the deep winter, don’t leave your heating completely off if you leave for over a week. If your pipes freeze and burst, your entire floor will have to be taken up and replaced. No one wants that………..

Never trust the green light when crossing the street. Pedestrian crossings are out in the stupidest of places so always look left when crossing and don’t take the chance if it’s a bus approaching.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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*If you want to add something to this list, leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An afternoon around Shanghai

sh2Last weekend, I found myself in Shanghai to play in a football tournament. Arriving Friday afternoon, I just had a few hours to dedicate to tourism.  Since I was staying in the Jing’An Temple area, I first headed to People’s square.

This area, once a racecourse, is now home to Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Urban planning and exhibition hall and the grand theater. While these were all great to see, the square was all about the people. People were sitting out on their work breaks, some were waiting for their friends, some were meditating, feeding the birds giving it a great vibe.

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After the square, the original plan was to walk through East Nanjing Road, a shopping street, to the Bund. However, I got completely distracted when I saw the Bund in the distance and just walked in that general direction. Although this method took me through some side streets and had the locals looking at me funny, it made for a true Shanghai experience.

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Finally, I made it to the Bund……..

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This whole area features beautiful architecture and the boardwalk is the perfect place to relax and see the area at your leisure.

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I did manage to find Nanjing Road on the way back…..

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Feeling a bit hungry, I followed some locals into this food alley and using charades, bought a delicious vegetable pancake…

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East Nanjing Road had so many stores, this would be a day trip in itself

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My final destination before leaving was the area around my hotel. This is the Jing’An temple area. It looks great during the day but is at it’s best at night.

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All things beauty.

If my mother taught me three things about taking care of my skin it was cleanse, tone and moisturise. That was it. That’s what would make my skin great and for the years I was living in Ireland, it worked.

When I moved to Korea however, that all changed. There were stores every few metres selling products I’ve never heard of.  For me “essence” was a word that proceeded vanilla, “serum” was the cure for a random disease and although I had no idea what “emulsion” was, I would have guessed it had something to do with paint.

After reading an article on the uses of all these products by the author of The Wanderlust Project, I decided I would try a more Korean approach to skincare.

Skincare products in stores like Etude House, The Faceshop and Missha are extremely affordable so I figured there wasn’t much to lose.

Now my skincare regime goes like this;

1. Wash face with a cleanser.

2. Cleanse (using a cream cleanser)

3. Tone.

4. Apply Serum. A serum has a specific function more than what a moisturiser can achieve. For example brightening, whitening etc.

5. Apply Emulsion. An emulsion is a very light, thin moisturiser.

6. Apply moisturiser.

7. Apply sunscreen. If your moisturiser has an spf, this isn’t necessary.

8. Primer. Prepares your skin for makeup.

9. BB or CC cream. Here are some of the ones I use;

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10. The rest of the makeup. However, if you’re just going for a normal day the CC and BB might suffice depending on the type of skin you have.

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It’s slightly exhausting to do it all the time and frankly it’s a little time consuming. I’m sure I’ve actually skipped some steps because I’m lazy so don’t take the above as the gospel of using Korean beauty products.

Has this new regime actually improved my skin?

I’ve always been really lucky to have good skin. There has been a definite decrease in breakouts (possible due to the higher level of attention I pay my skin) and my skin feels more moisturised.

Disclaimer; All opinions here are my own. All products shown are simply personal preferances and no commission has been received.