This week was our final week in Korea. I am writing this blog post from my home in America, and I miss Korea already. I will definitely be returning there at the first available opportunity. 

Excursions:

The week before leaving Korea, I tried to do something every single day after work.

On Monday evening, I went to visit Insadong and Gyeongbokgung Palace again. Everything was closed, but it was still nice to see it all at night. 

Figure 1: Me at Gyeongbokgung Palace at night.

On Wednesday evening, I went with my roommate Nadia to Namdaemun Market. Unfortunately, most of the stores were closed due COVID. Some were still open, however, and I managed to get some souvenirs for people back at home for cheap. If you choose to go here during the pandemic: most stores close before 5PM so try to make time to leave work early to visit here. 

On Thursday evening, I went to get dinner with one of my co-workers and afterwards got drinks at a rooftop cafe near Lotte Tower. It was quite gorgeous actually. 

Figure 2: My coworker, Lee Soomin (left), and I(right) at a rooftop cafe near Lotte Tower.

On Friday, my co-workers took me out for lunch as a going away party. They took me to a Vietnamese place. I’ve never eaten Vietnamese food but let me tell you, some of the best food I have ever eaten. I really appreciated them taking the time out of their day to take me out as a final goodbye. 

Figure 3: Vietnamese food I ate with my co-workers

After exchanging gifts and goodbyes, I left work for the last time. From then on, Busa and I both went to the airport to catch a flight to Jeju Island, where we planned to spend our final weekend in Korea. 

On our first day on Jeju Island, we paid for a bus tour that takes us to all the main attractions around the center of the city. This included the Iho Tewoo Horse Lighthouses and various markets and beaches. We visited the 5 day market — a market on Jeju island which is only open 5 days a month. They sold everything in the market: plants, clothes, live animals, dead animals, fresh food, and of course the oranges Jeju is known for. The second market sold mostly souvenirs for tourists. This included Jeju famous teas, candies, jelly candies, and orange chocolates. They also had various trinkets that are good as souvenirs. 

Figure 4: Me at the Iho Tewoo Horse Lighthouses on Jeju island.

We finished the day off by going out to get black pork barbeque, which Jeju is known for. Very good, I would definitely recommend trying it out.

Figure 5: The black pork barbeque we had on Jeju Island.

The following day, we paid for a taxi tour rather than a bus tour. The taxi tour was a great experience, and definitely worth the cost. The taxi driver was very experienced, and has lived on the island his whole life. He gave recommendations for spots to visit, planned out our route for us, and told us the recommended amount of time to spend at each stop. We visited a lot more places than we would have otherwise, and ended up saving money.

The first place we visited on the taxi tour was a beach where the ground is solidified magma. It was very cool.

Figure 6: Example of lava rocks on Jeju Island

Following that, we visited Hallim Park. This is a park with many greenhouses containing plants from all over the world. There we saw how Dragon Fruits and Durians grow. The park also contains 3 different large lava caves, which we were told are some of the only lava and limestone caves in the world.

Figure 7: View inside one of the caves in Hallim Park on Jeju Island

We got lunch from a local place based on our taxi driver’s recommendation. The food ended up being some of the best food I have eaten thus far in Korea, so I am thankful to the driver. 

We then visited Yakcheonsa Temple, which is the most intricately painted and largest temple I have ever seen. Within the temple, there are 3 huge golden Buddha statues. The entire temple is 3 stories tall, with each floor being accessible. Painted on the walls are various scenes from what I assume is Buddhist literature. This was definitely my favorite place to visit.

Figure 8: View of the central part of Yakcheonsa Temple on Jeju Island.

Our final visit was to Jeongbang Waterfall. This is a famous waterfall in Jeju, where the waterfall is large and leads directly into the ocean. Surrounding the waterfall were a lot of large boulders. The water at the bottom that fed into the ocean was cold. I found a lot of sea glass around there. 

Figure 9: Me in front of Jeongbang Waterfall on Jeju Island

The next morning we went back to Seoul as we had to go in to take a COVID test to be allowed back into America. At this point, we only had Monday evening and Tuesday left in Korea, with us leaving on Wednesday. We ended up carrying our luggage from Jeju around with us for the rest of the day as we tried to make the most of our remaining time. First, we visited the National Folk Museum of Korea. This museum was really cool! If you like visiting museums, I would recommend it. It probably takes 2-3 hours to get through, longer if you actually read everything. They also had free lockers at the entrance gate for us to put our luggage into. 

Figure 10: The National Folk Museum of Korea

We concluded the day by going through Namdaemun Market once more.

The final day (August 10) was the last day we would have a full day within Korea. We started it off by finding a place that has souffle pancakes, something I saw on the first day I had arrived in Korea but had not had the opportunity to try. I believe they originated in Japan. They were very fluffy and tasty! 

Figure 11: Souffle Pancakes in Seoul

We then went to the Lotte World Aquarium. We found Lotte World and Lotte World Aquarium combo tickets online for less than they would be individually. If you do this option just note: you will need to go to Lotte World to have your ticket printed out first, and then you can go to the aquarium with it. You can’t just print the QR code you are given. 

The aquarium was nice, all the animals seemed well cared for and had enough room. I was surprised at how large the aquarium was considering it was within the mall. It seemed to be endless though. There were crested geckos, penguins, and even a beluga whale. 

Figure 12: A beluga whale and I at the Lotte World Aquarium

We proceeded to head to Lotte World. Lotte World is really nifty. Half the park is indoors, and the other half is outdoors. During the winter seasons, they have a very large ice skating rink. I believe they have more roller coasters than in Everland, but I could be wrong. Each roller coaster was a lot of fun, they all had unique tricks to them that I have never experienced before. My favorite one was in the outdoors section, and was underground, and was called “The Comet Express.” If you like roller coasters, I recommend this theme park! 

Figure 13: The gang at Lotte World!

That evening we had a get together to celebrate our last night in Korea. We left for the airport rather early the next day. I spent a lot of time exploring the airport, both terminals are very nicely designed and decorated. Parts of it look like the inside of a spaceship. There are entire trees in the building, and a television that is taller than the trees. It was nice to explore around and get some exercise before going onto the 14 hour flight back to America. 

And that is it! We did as much as we possibly could have done within our 2 month stay in Korea. There is still a lot I would like to see in Korea; I will definitely be returning. Everyone is kind, and the country is beautiful.

Working in the Lab:

This week was the final week that I worked in the lab. During this week, I created a larger dataset for each object that had poor accuracy, mostly focusing on the White Rain Body Wash, and tried to update the code for generating merged object images. After adding in the new images and training the algorithm more, I managed to bring the accuracy up to ~64%. Finally, on the 2nd to last day of my working there, Viduu, the TA who was assisting me with my project, added a dataset of 150 images. These 150 images contain actual photos of multiple objects overlapping each other, not generated images like what I was using before. 

Figure 14: One of the new images used to train the YOLOv3 object detection algorithm, where the objects actually overlap rather than being generated to overlap.

All of these images have been manually segmented by other people for training up the algorithm. Viduu has over 50,000 of these types of images, but we only used 150. By adding these images and training the algorithm for another night, we managed to get the accuracy up to 77.76%! It was amazing seeing what such a small amount of manually segmented objects could do for increasing the accuracy. Adding more or training the algorithm up for even longer periods of time would increase the accuracy even more, but unfortunately my time working in the lab had come to an end. 

I loved working in the lab. Everyone was so kind, and explained everything so well. The environment was very welcoming and friendly, and people were always willing to listen to my ideas. I would definitely recommend someone to work here, and would work here again if given the opportunity. I hope to keep in touch with everyone in the lab and look forward to seeing what they complete in the future!

Figure 15: My coworkers and I at a rooftop cafe on my final day at work. On the left is Viduu, the TA who led me through and helped me out with my project. Next to him is Lee Soomin, a fellow intern who became a good friend to me. On the very right is my Mentor Lee Taeho, who taught me a lot and was very kind and welcoming to me in the lab. I will miss them all!