in Korea South
(5.0) (2 votes)
Seoul, Korea Rep
November 13th, 2003
Erica / Derek - forgive me for my crude interpretation of the culture.
Obviously this is just my experience.
I think that this was a good intro to Asia. It was amazing being
able to stay with Erica and Derek while I assimilated at my first
stop; before I had to navigate on my own. Wow, is the language barrier
ever isolating. But after a few days I was apt at charades and pointing
to places on maps. There are literally NO foreigners in Korea, even
in Seoul, except for U.S. military. And if there ARE a few white
girls walking together without a man, the Koreans assume you're
a prostitute.I guess there are quite a few "working girls"
that come from the Eastern block. The Koreans say "Roo-see-Ah,
Roo-see-Ah" ie. "Russians".
At first I thought that the people were really cold. But then I
realized (and Erica pointed out) that for the most part they were
just shy. Alot of them are just embarassed to try and speak English
(Even though they totally understand). As I would be, attempting
to stutter out any butchered Korean. Derek has actually picked up
Korean quite well (I was impressed anyway). Their kids are adorable
and speak fairly good English. And they are really young. Between
4-7. By age 10 most of them are going to school until like 11PM!
Regular school to language school to music school. It seems noone
in the country sleeps! Kids stay up until 1AM so they can see their
parents when they get home from work. Sounds like the music Biz.
Seoul was interesting. Damn! They have taken commercialism to a
whole new level. There are a few palaces here and there, but really,
all there is to do is shop. And the signs! Half the time I felt
like I was in Vegas. Sadly, just about anything with cultural significance
was destroyed in one of their many wars.
I did a tour of the DMZ (De-militarized Zone bewteen North and Korea South) Pretty intense place (went through some hardcore military
check points) but cool to see. So crazy to think that just over
the border the North Koreans are living a completely different oppressed
life. Not that life here is so free by any means... especially for
We even went into one of the tunnels that the north was trying to
dig into Korea South. The most recent one was only discovered in
1990. Apparently when the tunnels were found North Korea tried to
blame the South and said that Korea South was trying to dig into
the north, not vice/versa... pretty funny. Nice try guys. It was
strange to look across the valley and SEE North Korea. One of the
couples on the tour were there from North Dakota adopting a baby
boy. It was interesting to hear their story. Apparently Korea South
has the best and most legit adoption process in Asia.
We went to a local bathhouse which was pretty cool. I guess they
are a really big social place for families in the culture. It's
basically a gym, but with huge amazing jewel lined saunas and a
large room (one for each sex) with various temperatured pools and
tubs to float around in. Oh and everyone in the changerooms is buck
naked by the way. Pretty funny. Public displays of affection are
totally taboo (as is pre-marital sex), yet they hang out sprawled
around the bathouse - scrubbing, eating, talking - whatever, buck
naked? And when I say scrubbing, I mean scrubbing! Erica told me
about it beforehand, but it was another thing to actually see it.
The ladies would literally scrub their skin raw. We would spend
20 minutes in various pools and we'd come back to find the same
ladies scrubbing... And scrubbing EVERYTHING, ALL over, for extremely
long periods of time.
All in all, lots of fun. Especially to get caught up with Rick and
D. Then, on to Thailand...