Saturday, October 4, 2008

14th ARDF WC in Hwaseong City, South Korea

Having been in South Korea and seen the 14th WORLD ARDF (Amateur Radio Direction Finding)CHAMPIONSHIPS, there is now a time to drop a few lines after having reconsidered the impressions. Firstly, the participation was initially sparked off by the fact that Asia is an exotic place for our ‘fox hunters’ that is worth visiting just for the sake of exploring the world. Secondly, Olav’s (ES6RGY) reminder on history also added fuel to the fire: we had missed last year the 50 years’ (1957) anniversary of the birth of Estonian fox hunting as a sport (ARDF), when the first Estonians went to the East – to the Soviet Union championships in Izmailovo park, Moscow. This historical event had to be celebrated somehow in a sporting manner, and what could better make for it than another campaign towards the East. Besides, all the fox hunters remember Margus Meitus’s 3rd place of socialist countries cup, achieved on the soil of North Korea, that encouraged us because the soil of South Korea doesn’t differ much from that of North Korea and it also suits the Nordic men. So there was enough of motivation and reason to go there. But in reality, things went their own way.

The arrival there took place in two groups. Me as the representative of the team departed Estonia on Sunday, Andres and Kalle came on Monday by the same plane. It remained my task to control, that everything would be ready for the arrival of our forces and to test by using a human experiment, whether one allows to enter the plane with the gadgets or not, as theory and talk are one thing and reality always something other. Well, it worked out. No-one said anything, and nothing was to be demonstrated either. The gadgets did not pose a security threat.

1. September

The flight went smoothly. Airbus A340-300 was new and had broad spaces between the seats that enabled me to sit in a way that the previous seat didn’t press against feet. It was also good to doze off under the window because you could lean the head against the wall, though it wasn’t very comfortable to stretch the feet there. When returning, I was situated next to the aisle and so I could stretch the feet into the free space and this was good indeed. Almost as if in business class. In the plane I had to fill in a minor form of customs formalities, that was then done by using the pencil of my neighbour. At that the official turned up his nose, for one was still supposed to do this by using a ballpoint pen (I had left one in my briefcase). The flight went over Russia and as an initial surprise, not by using the direct route over the Arctic Ocean but from Helsinki to Moscow and from there over Irkutsk. Then came the surpassing of Beijing and the flight across the Yellow Sea clear of North Korea. We landed at the Incheon airport that is located on an island of the Yellow Sea. The island, where the airport is located, is connected with the mainland by a bridge, under which even ships move. Occasionally, the seabed was visible during the ebb. The weather was poor when arriving: 23 degrees Celsius but it was raining hard. Initially, I had had the information that the hosts were only going to organise transport on 2 September and for this reason I had carefully studied at home the different possibilities of transport in the neighbourhood of Seoul. At the Helsinki airport I had tried to get a travelers’ guide, but as the price was pretty high (35 €), I had thought it better to rather waste this sum on tripping, than to give it to the trader. Before stepping into the plane, I had noticed the Hungarian team that were also on their way to the World Championships. Thus I had at least one ‘landmark’, on which to reckon when arriving in Seoul. The person who had lent me a pen when on the plane, turned out to be a female student called Sol, who was studying tourism in France. She was very helpful at the airport as well, guiding me where I had to go, so that I could reach there on my own. Unfortunately I had to give up her services, because at the pass control I had managed to reach Jan Palmqvist from the Swedish team. He was familiar for me due to the Nordic championship in Finland, and it also turned out that in addition to me and the Swedish team there were also representatives of four other countries (the Norwegians, Danish, Hungarians and an American) in the plane. Thus it was clear that we had to hold together and wish all the best to Sol, since it was likely that the Koreans had sent someone to receive us. The inner feeling was not wrong, although there was no-one at the gate, we waited for 5 minutes nearby and then an amateur appeared and asked us to wait a moment until the bus arrived. 2 hours later we were indeed in a hotel doing the check-in. Surprisingly, though we were driving on arterial highways, there were numerous traffic jams, that were slowing down the speed. The first major surprise was that I was not able to talk by my mobile phone while at the airport. It turned out that of all the mobile phones sold in Estonia, only 3,5 G was functioning there. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this one. I might have rented a phone that would had worked there for 3000 Wons a day, but for this purpose a credit card (that I principally don’t use) was necessary or a cash pledge of 200 000 Wons. I thought that I’d survive without a phone and would not make the trouble with renting.

Having reached the hotel La Vie D’or in Hwaseong at the outskirts of Suwon, I decided to familiarize myself with the neighbourhood. The tour came to an end a kilometre away from the hotel, as the pavement ended and one could go further only by car. Due to rain I didn’t go further on foot and didn’t dare to enter a bus, since there were no signs in Latin alphabet anywhere.
I decided to return to the hotel and started the struggle with the time-lag, that meant then sleeping. Before going to doze off I discovered that the hosts had arranged an Internet room where we could keep in touch with the news in the mother tongue throughout the contest. I slept till morning with almost one fit. In fact I had been vigil all the night before the trip and now I had to get even, so this procedure did not cause much trouble.


I woke up half past eight in the morning. The weather was great, sunny, temperature 25 degrees C. In the lobby it proved that the Seoul excursion was starting 9 o’clock. Thus I had to have a small breakfast and catch the photo camera from the 15th floor (in reality this was 13th). The operation succeeded and so the journey to Seoul started, with a purse 50$ thinner.
In a hotel there is such a thing that – as Estonian journalist Vahur Kersna claimed five years ago in an overview of fishermen’s World Championship in South Korea –that the floors with numbers 4 and 13 are missing. 13 is just the number of bad luck and 4 was said to be too similar to the word ‘death’, if I remember correctly. Similarly, all the floors missed rooms number 4 and 13. Our 13th floor thus had 15 as the number of the floor and of the room numbers we had 1514 just next to the room 1512 and our room was followed by the room number 1515.

In Seoul we were first shown the residence of the president – the Blue House and already a kilometre before its location the guide forbade us making photos through the bus window. Walking alone on the last day, I was not allowed to film, but making photos was OK. The first guards on the street leading to the residence were policemen with shields
and over 1 metre truncheons. Buses were their nests from where apparently exchange officers came. The road was picked with white-collar people, who talked by radio sender from time to time.

Then we went to see one of the many wooden castles that remind of the feudal past: Changdeokgung (Changdeok Palace), , that seemed to be not older than 200 years. But some buildings were indeed older, according to Wikipedia. At the same time it gave an impression on how things had looked like at the time. Despite the novel appearance, the castle has been listed in the UNESCO world heritage list thanks to some 15th century buildings. But the royal castle was surrounded by modern environment that mostly consisted of buildings with more than 10 floors. The Norwegians recognised in the UNESCO world heritage symbol their Norwegian fox hunting badge, that has been created around 1990, and in connection with this the question arose, which of them was plagiarism: the UNESCO emblem or the Norwegians’ badge. Drawing on the example of that castle the yammer of our Estonian architects on the ‘Viru Son’ (additional building of the Hotel Viru on design) with the argument that Tallinn (capital of Estonia) might fall out of the UNESCO world heritage list if Viru Son will be build, is plain and simple bluff. If Viru Son would cause such disastrous consequences then the castle concerned would not have reached the world heritage list.

The lunch took place in a business downtown restaurant specialising at catering for the American military personnel, there I got my first experience of eating with metal rice branches in Korea. Meat was laid on a gas grill at the centre of the table and was grilled under our eyes.

route further led to the television tower where the men’s toilet is located, of which the whole city is proud. The ‘easier thing’ can be done directly watching the city, without turning the view away from the city houses and the surrounding mountains.

The last attraction for us was visiting the local market street where trading with all kinds of stuff that suited to airing the pockets of the tourists took place.

Then we hurtled back to hotel, where I found Kalle and Andres who had just finished with that I had done on the first day: had a rest of the travel. Then I really understood why the only matter of the first day on a trip from Estonia to Korea is going to hotel. Evidently the time difference and weariness of the trip can’t be survived otherwise.

So we accomplished the procedures of registration and put our equipment in order since training was scheduled for the next day.


In the morning the arrangements started. 10 buses had been pushed here and all the people were arranged based on countries. Then we drove (staying in traffic jams in between) to the firing range facility that dated back to the 1988 Olympics shooting gallery complex. Near the facility on top of a hill took place a trial of the gadgets and sightseeing of the local forest in a 27 C heat.
The forest consisted of thick hollyhock bush (that is actually the national flower of Korea) and an esker of 30–40 metres. Steep slopes did not make for running on the contour line and the bush rendered this completely impossible. But as it proved later in the contest, that was still rather comfortable landscape.

In any case, I couldn’t hear 1 fox with a 2 m gadget and when later consulting with the author of the gadget, this simply had to be credited to the use of earmuffs that had wrong resistance. On the last day, this mistake also got rectified but it was already too late. The peculiarity of the local forest was that during day time some insects were (local locust maybe) chirping so loudly that at times their sound was louder than the beeping of the ‚fox’ in the earmuff.

The representatives of the local media were present at the training and the show went on in full swing. When watching telly at the hotel, I could count more than 50 television stations broadcasting in the local language. It seemed that some of those had then come to make an overview of the contest. In this respect it is interesting that the area of South Korea is only twice that of Estonia, whereas there are around 33 times more inhabitants. In case of such a size of population, there are enough watchers for the 50+ local TV channels.

Going back went more smoothly, since the organisers had arranged an effectively functioning police escort in order to keep to the timetable and save us from traffic jams. After the lunch the opening ceremony took place in the conditioned hall of the Suwon University where it was very pleasantly cool.
The opening ceremony with all the speeches and performers and the fireworks lasted around 2 and a half hours which had a pleasant and enduring impression. So large-scale a ceremony had not been seen in the ARDF contests before. This was a real surprise from the organisers to the participants and it showed that the event took place at a very high level. Also, nice girls and active break-dancers were there at the opening. Besides, girls could even play the violin and national percussion instruments and pipes. It seemed to me that it was a live performance, without imitation (though I won’t bet of course).

Mr. Kim Moon-soo, the governor of Gyeonggi-do was also present at the ceremony, and declared the World Championship open. Photo by Ken Harker WM5R

At the same time, this province is more like one big city where there are rice paddies and mountains in between the city districts.

Kalle and Andres decided to spend the evening walking in Suwoni and with the assistance of local advisers they managed indeed to move between the hotel and the city by local students bus, ticket of which cost 800 Wons (8 Estonian Kroons).

Dinner took place outdoors in the hotel garden. The mayors of Suwon and Hwaseong who had also been at the opening ceremony, were present at the dinner and held short pre-dinner speeches. We ate a lot during the contest. The only trouble was digesting all the stuff, as the fish dishes coupled with egg dishes tended to cause constipation.

What was very characteristic of Korea was that you had to consume plenty of water, since warm climate and mild wind made the water quickly evaporate out of the body and in order to be able to take a piss in the toilet you had to drink a lot of water.

Numerically there were 411 participants of whom some 340 sportsmen from 31 countries went to forests.


The start. In the morning a packet of food was delivered and we moved in the direction of forests in the North. 1 and a half hours of drive and then we were somewhere beyond Seoul.

No 173 - Andres. Photo by Lee (HL1DK)

Next to the road, only rice paddies were to be seen and the mountains in between. The map of the track was unusual, since much was different there from what really was in the landscape (there were tracks on the map that are not added to the map at ours and at the same time some tracks and open fields were absent that really existed in nature).

Kalle. Photo by Lee (HL1DK)

As the previous information kindly allowed us to run across rice paddies, I did think that there weren’t any of these on the way but having reached the track I was amazed that there were hog-backs obliquely across the map and there were rice paddies in between. My first attempt to clear the rice paddy failed because the clay ground grasped my right boot and I had to dig there around 3 minutes in the depth of 20 cm before I could touch anything resembling a boot. After that I decided to avoid paddies which however was a failure since this way I only managed to run 19.3 km instead of 8–9 and also exceeded the control time limit by 5 seconds which, then, was not of much importance since I had made a lot of mistakes and a great place was gone.

Tarmo pärast võsa rammimist Foto autor: HL1DKTarmo after having rammed the bush. Photo by Lee (HL1DK)

With the benefit of hindsight it was still much easier a landscape compared with that of the next day of competition, so that achieving the best result would have been possible here, but 29 degrees Celsius didn’t give me much chances for that. This was 7–8 degrees more than what I would have been able to stand effectively. Additionally, the time factor must be introduced to the substantiation of my mistakes. In Estonian time, the competition took place at night that precisely didn’t let the head to make the right decisions (due to one such critical moment I lost at least 30 minutes). More practice with the gadget would have probably made up for this, but we hadn’t had such an opportunity in Estonia.

Andres. The Photo by Lee (HL1DK)

Analysing afterwards for the sake of next competitions, we decided that we have to acquire from the Chinese transmitter sets for both bands with the cost of 15 thousand Kroons so that one could organise track practices in Estonia as well. Now only a source of money is needed. The Chinese surprised us positively with the offers of technologies. Sure enough nothing can be said of the susceptibility of those transmitters, since we haven’t had the opportunity yet to test the gadgets bought there.

As has become customary, in sum the best part for us was effectively the 2m contest, 80m proved to be a general stumbling block, although Kalle surprised us with a relatively good outcome there.

So the results of our men are such:
( Source : ):


aL. Tarmo Gede EST 140'05 6 :( Баранка - "zero")


17. Kalle Kuusik EST 101'35 5

23. Andres Viira EST 109'23 5

M40 as a Team

10. Kalle Kuusik EST 101'35 5 210'58 10

Andres Viira EST 109'23 5


A day of relaxation. An excursion in the city of Hwaseongi and a Samsung factory. Hwaseong we saw a renovated fortress wall and the royal palace inside, that was built in 1789 and in which the sole original thing was a wooden house from the year 1903. In the fortress wall, the Janganmun gate has also remained and apparently a part of the wall, since this fortification building is also in the UNESCO list of world heritage. We also came to know the panorama of Hwaseong as seen from the top of a hill at the centre of Hwaseong; it didn’t differ much from the view from the Seoul television station, since here also only one big dwelling block of 15 floor buildings was seen. Well, Suwon does have more than one million inhabitants. Near the royal palace we were entertained by a spectacular performance of royal soldiers and the demostration of their martial arts. Such spectacles were also noticeable near the royal palaces in Seoul, meant to be entertaining to tourists and to attract people to go visit the palaces. Though the individual tickets for adults were 1000-3000 Wons, depending on the palace, they evidently still weren’t a hindrance for anyone, who had just enough time.

In the Samsung factory, the most interesting sight was the toilet that after finishing with the ‘bigger distress’ by a push on the operating button also washed the butt and then dried one with a drier so that there was no need to use paper ;) It was also interesting to hear of the Samsung vision on the future development of the electronics industry. One important thing was that computer memory cards are going to take over the functions of hard disk drives in the near future and Samsung is seeking the share of computer telephones similar to the iPod and believes that this is going to be a "cash cow" of the years to come.

We sacrificed the visit of kings’ tomb to seeing the Suwon downtown and trade center. The organisers called us a taxi and saw us off. The bill was merely 9000 Wons. This cost made us a bit too careless when seeking a taxi on our own, but of this the reader will learn below.

In the Suwon downtown we did shopping. I provided myself with a memory stick since the old 1G one had already been fulfilled. Due to inexpensive prices I bought a 8G SDHC card on which you could store trip photos ad nauseam. The price was merely 45 000 Won, the same price that I had paid at home for a fast-speed 1G USB memory card (and memory stick). Life is developing quickly.

We returned to the hotel by the university bus that diminished the money in purse á 800 Won.

Dinner once again took place in the garden, because the hotel apparently would have not been able to serve the hungry people with the necessary exuberance. But in the garden it was possible to set up bigger buffets where all the people got their share quickly.


The last day of competition. The temperature was 30 degrees Celsius. The arrival was short and fast but even before the bus arrived at the starting-place, you could anticipate that the day was going to be rough. Everywhere where you could look, there were summits of around 200 metres’ relative height and the horizon was bordered from each side by high mountain slopes. There was still hope, though, that the map was laid somewhere in between the mountains, but this hope failed. In case of the optimal track, the sum of the metres of ascent was at least 500 metres, which was already 2 times more than what I could endure. In reality, I ascended over 650 metres because when taking those ascents, my pulse went too high and took away my perception of height and distance when moving in the thicket on the slopes.

No 172 - Kalle. Photo by Lee (HL1DK)

Because of the false estimation of location I gained lots of additional meters of ascent and waste of time and then also some choices of track that proved to generate additional meters of ascent.

No 172 - Kalle. Photo by Lee (HL1DK)

The latter decisions were in fact partially due to poor audibility of the ‘foxes’ that forced me to seek areas of better propagation but as it became clear in the finish, the poor audibility was due to wrong earmuffs. Incredible that the mountains had had such a bad impact on my transmitter set. I wasn’t quite prepared for this. Eventually I understood that it was more reasonable rather to leave one fox in the forest than to risk again with failing the check time and to be satisfied with half the baranka in the final protocol instead of the full baranka. Kalle managed to get in difficult conditions the 15th place in M40 class and Andres had to agree with a baranka this time because he himself couldn’t understand, what he had done before the last fox on the top of the mountain.

In the finish, I made gadget business with Velikanov and obtained another 3.5MHz transmitter that he had left and would have been taken by Moldavians and I brought it to Estonia.

After the competition we went quickly to the hotel and from there by a hotel transfer to Seoul. I had the goal of visiting the local electronic market where the prices were said to be even more favourable than in Japan. I noticed quite a many things there, for example video cameras 50% cheaper than in Estonia (the same models of course) and as the problem of backing up the trip photos arose due to the large memory card, then I bought a nearly 320 GB pocket USB hard disk (2,5“), that cost some 110 000 Won.

On our way back we stepped on the first taxi at hand and asked to drive us to the hotel. During the conversation that was conducted in sign language, the guy once showed three fingers and we interpreted this as denoting 3 passengers. Later when he didn’t start the taximeter, it came out that he had meant 30 000 Wons. After futile bargaining we agreed with the situation and let the guy move us to the hotel for such a sum. We learnt of this and on Sunday we were already smarter and we managed to catch a taxi that took us for a drive for 20 000 Wons. Now it became clear why tourists are advised not to take taxis on their own in Korea. As you remember, the organisers had managed to call us a taxi that covered the same distance for 9000 Wons...

At least we reached the hotel by the time of closure ceremony. At the closure we were given a pie, the contents of which were made of… rice. I had never before tasted anything like that.

The results ( Source: ):


33. Tarmo Gede EST 126'56 5 ( 0,5 Баранки - "0,5 of zero")


15. Kalle Kuusik EST 94'11 5

aL. Andres Viira EST 157'30 5 ( Баранка - "zero")

Since in order to get a team account, 2 results must fit in the time limit, we didn’t get a team credit and we hadn’t had an obligation to acquire this, either.


After breakfast, we were again dispatched to Seoul by transfer. This time then we intended to go for a sightseeing walk in the downtown. Metro (the entrance of which was shown to us by Russian ladies, who were also in the bus; they had reach there on their own account) was an aid when moving in the city. We first checked yet another royal palace where also were a stone house built already in 1900 and a guesthouse built around the same time by an architect from Saint Petersburg. At the gate a colourful changing of guard ceremony took place that ended up with tourists posing near the guards and against the background of them. With regard to taking photos, the Koreans related kindly and this kindness was actively taken use of by all the tourists. After positioning ourselves, we walked to the local tourist information point where we provided ourselves with city maps. Then we had a quick lunch at a downtown restaurant and tasted local dishes. Interestingly, the menu of this place had been branded on a wooden board and as I understood it, the whole menu was situated on one board. After that we visited the Blue House and had us photographed by a local policewoman and then we moved to the market street so as to familiarize ourselves with street trading and listened to a concert free of charge. Having satisfied our curiosity, we visited once more the electronics market so as to provide us with this and that and then went back to Suwon. We had dinner in a Suwon dining place where grilling was done by using a gas grill at the very dining table. After that we made friends with locals on the street and were hosted with local liqueur and mollusk dishes. The taxi drive back to hotel was cheaper than on the previous day as we were a bit smarter this time. If you know the local language a bit, then you could probably drive with normal costs. ;)