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Last updated : Nov 2009
Visiting in Korea South
Rating: (5.0) (2 votes)

Seoul, Korea Rep
November 13th, 2003

Pros: None
Cons: Language barriers

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 women.

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...