South Korea - 3/95 Photos by Vance Cox Confessions of a surrogate traveler*

In the Spring of 1995 I went to Pusan, South Korea to photograph Kori 1, a nuclear power plant with Clay Walker. I met Clay while we were both working at Virginia Power in Richmond. Clay was a photographer too so I asked that he join me. I also worked with Clay on several other shoots as well. We had just wrapped a shoot at The Wolf Creek nuclear power plant close to Lawrence, Kansas and since we were part way to Korea, we spent a couple of days in Kansas City, resting up and visiting the local sites.

Vance (on left with George Segal's "Rush Hour") and distressed photo of Clay (on right with Claes Oldenburg's "Shuttlecock"}. At Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

And then on to Korea.

Clay Walker and Korean host, the esteemed Mr. Kim. Haeundae beach in background.
Lady on the Beach - Haeundae Beach

The Koreans do love their "raw fish". And there are restaurant signs with a variety of flashy fish portraits to prove their love.

A sampling of Fish signage outside of "Raw fish" restaurants
It's not always good to be a fish in Korea.
"Raw-Fish" restaurant suggested by Mr. Kim. The locals are very friendly. Clay found the idea of a "Raw fish" restaurant a bit overwhelming so we found a more mainstream Korean restaurant.

We stayed at a "Love" hotel a short commute from the plant. Basically a place for newly weds and businessmen seeking "special friends". This one was not too tarted up but was a fun place to stay. At a certain point of the trip Clay and I looked into another place to stay to save some money. Of course it was a Love hotel and even had a condom dispenser in the room. We stayed put.

Hangin' at the Love Hotel.

When we were getting situated at the plant we were told to go to a building. I asked who we should look for and I was told.

"Just ask for Mr. Kim".

He laughed and all his co-workers around laughed. This must be his standard joke for foreign contractors. A good portion of the population is named "Kim".

We had a day off so we took a car trip from Kori to Bulkuksa, a little bit north of Ulsan, a couple of hours away. We went to visit the Buddhist temple there.

But first a lunch with lots of plates. Clay had clearly had enough!

Bulkuksa (English:Temple of the Buddha Land)

Entrance to the Temple

Look up under the arch.

Insane cats, fish eating dragons. Then! The wasps came.
Nice knocker and Fish head Fish heads, Rolly polly Fish heads

We saw the sights and headed off for the hills on the way back to the Love Hotel. But first...more sightseeing.

Twin Burial Mounds
Korean Doggie
Guard dog earning his keep.

The following are some photos taken on food trips. I think this is when we found the McDonalds. After several days of Bulgoki restaurants, Clay was happy to find a bit of western culture. I should've taken pictures there!

Coastal beach, Pusan (maybe Haeundae)
Business party? Either that or they are really snappy dressers.
Entrance of the Pusan department store where I bought gifts. Especially Soju, the ubiquitous fire water of Korea for my father-in-law.

After a couple of weeks, we went back home, fully confident in our improved chopsticks skills. But seriously, I found the culture super respectful of others. The reverence in pouring drinks for a companion is one example.

I was given an expensive bottle of whiskey to give to our company sponsor, Mr. Ma, the even "more esteemed" than the esteemed Mr. Kim, our greeter. We were supposed to meet Mr. Ma, but never saw him. I eventually brought the bottle back to the states to give to my boss. One well traveled bottle!

All of the photos in this piece were taken by me, Vance Cox, with my trusty Canon F1 mechanical style 35mm camera using Ektachrome 400.

Please send inquiries to: vance.cox@gmail.com

* "Surrogate travel" was a photo documentary method, pre-dating "virtual reality" developed in the 80's by my previous boss, Steven Levin, along with encouragement from DARPA for anti terrorism purposes in response to the State Department's beefing up Embassy security. After Chernobyl and the US's 3 Mile Island debacles, the nuclear connection was kismet. I worked at ITC (Interactive Television Company) in Rosslyn, VA in the early 90's and moved to Catco, Inc. in Atlanta in the mid 90's where I did the same work for commercial nuclear power plants. I shot some 30 plants for a lifetime exposure of 10 Rem. Yes, I glow in the dark under the correct conditions ; ) It was fascinating and physically demanding work. I'm glad to have it in my rear view mirror.

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Vance Cox
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All photographs by Vance Cox.

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