Tour to Gyeongju and Andong Cities
for United States Ambassador Vershbow and his Family
December 27-29, 2005
Alexander Vershbow was appointed as the new American envoy
to Seoul in October 2005, and quickly made a name for himself.  
He had a kind of family reunion over the Christmas/NY holidays
and wanted to take all six of them on a 3-day trip to the ancient
capital city Gyeongju and Confucian bastion Andong.  Korea's
Ministry of Culture & Tourism's Ambassador of Tourism Dho
asked me to be their tour-guide for this, to ensure a high-quality
Above:  explaining the interior artwork
of Bulguk-sa's Main Hall, under the
watchful eye of a senior monk.

Right:  The Vershbows, their two
sons and I posing with Bulguk-sa's
Abbot and a senior monk in front
of the famous Dabo-tap, the 750 CE
"Pagoda of Many Treasures"
(a great national treasure).
A grand vegetarian luncheon in Bulguk-sa, hosted by the Abbot (with his collegues and staff on the
right side of the table).  In the center on the left side, in dark brown
hanbok, North Gyeongsang
Provincial Governor Lee Eui-geun is presenting the Vershbows (flanking him) with a replica of a
famous golden Shilla-Kingdom crown (a National Treasure in the National Museum).  I'm
applauding on the far left, and next to me in lovely light-brown
hanbok is the governor's wife.   
There were the usual semi-formal table-speeches about "the blood-forged alliance between our
nations" "generous hospitality" and "the splendor of this ancient temple" and such back-and-forth
-- so much for the secret quiet informal family vacation!  ;-)    I was not surprised by this, but the
family really was, noting that in four years as US Ambassador in Moscow and before that in
Brussels things like this had hardly happened at all.  But, as they learned, this is Korea....
In Andong's Hahoe traditional aristocratic Village, where I was explaining the Neo-
Confucian architecture of Joseon-Dynasty noble families.  Our host-in-Andong
Mrs. Dho is on the far left, and the Mayor of Andong Kim Hwi-dong is on the right.
In the Andong Mask-Dance Museum
gift shop with the leading security
guard, Mr. Lee of the Korean National
Police -- trained by the FBI, but really
a nice guy anyway...
In front of the main Hahoe aristocratic mansion, Mayor Kim, Mr. Kwon Jung-dal
(former political leader, President of the Korea Freedom League, Andong native and Dho's husband),
the Amb. Vershbow family, Dho, and myself caught in a strange smile...
experience; I considered it my honor to do so.  Everyone was in good moods, and very interested to learn about Korea and
Oriental religious cultures.  I took them through many of Gyeongju's major sites and they were fascinated, had a hundred
questions, wanted to know all about Korean history and its Buddhism -- they listened well to everything I cared to blab, were
quite appreciative and positive-on-Korea; I think they're going to enjoy their posting here, more than most such diplomats have.