South Korea trip report

 

South Korea



South Korea was a victim of external politics and Cold War manipulation and division. Since 1950, it pursued rapid modern modernisation as its path to foreign policy autonomy, resulting in the the westernised, turbo-capitalist country that it is today.

 

Seoul

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. You might even hear the word "K-Pop", it's definitely not a breakfast cereal, it's just short for for "Korean Pop".
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 four kilometre wide strip running across the border. It's known as the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ. Though this is a misnomer, as it's in actual fact the most militarized zone in the world. 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.



The maiden 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.