South Korea trip report


South Korea

The first time I heard the word K-Pop, I thought it was a breakfast cereal. Turns out it's short for Korean Pop. And it's not just in the music charts that South Korea is killing it. A third world country in the 1950s, it went through such a rapid modernisation that it is now one of the most advanced nations in the world.



Seoul is one of the cleanest and most technologically advanced cities in the world. I stayed in Hongdae, the students area. There are countless anytime venues for eating, drinking, and all kinds of entertainment. Karaoke is the premier Korean entertainment. After entering a karaoke booth, we were escorted to a wildly pink room with flashing lights where you can sing with wild abandon. The songs were mostly Korean and working the control panel was very difficult.
Hongdae is not just for play, the cafés were filled with students deep into their books at any time of the day, even at 3AM. Koreans study very hard.
When getting your photo taken in Seoul, try to strike a Korean pose. A simple smile does not cut it. Make a peace sign with your fingers or a heart with your arms, show your claws or look surprised. The zanier the better.


Border with North Korea

North and South Korea are separated by a 4 kilometer wide strip running across the border. It's known as the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. Though this is a misnomer, as it's a heavily fortified border. You can't actually wander around in North Korea, but in the JSA {Joint Security Area} you can watch soldiers from North and South eyeball each other all day long. It's actually the American army who runs that section, if they happen to be doing military drills that day, you won't be able to visit the JSA. There's also a deep tunnel nearby that North Korean used back in the day to sneak into the South.


Korean love story

Koreans have a traditional notion of romance, and are not shy of showing it in very lofty and cheesy ways. Whilst walking through Hongdae, I came across a young maiden sat on a bench in front of a projector screen. The set-up was organised by her boyfriend, who was throwing her a surprise with a plot thicker than a Korean drama. Maybe he told her you're my Seoul-mate  the first time they met.

Korean Romeo is showing his beloved a photos slideshow of them together, with slow romantic Michael Bolton songs playing.

Romeo rips through the screen, making a dramatic and unexpected entrance. The emotions are ticking higher.

He starts crooning, quite badly and people laugh. But he shows unflinching temerity and carries on.

His beloved is overcome with emotions, and can't hold back the tears.

He kneels down before her like a knight to a queen, handing a bouquet of flowers.

The shower of gifts continues with a pair of white shoes.

She sits down, he puts the shoes on her, they then gaze into each other's eyes about to create a world full of love. The crowd goes wild and applauds.