Monday, July 18, 2011

Quick Recap of the Korean's Visit to the Motherland

It has been about five years between the Korean's last trip to Korea and this one. A quick summary of some of the Korean's impressions are below.

Things about Korea that changed the most since the last visit:

- Coffee is still expensive in Korea, but good coffee is now widely available. At some locations, the coffee was as good as any.

- Golf is no longer a very rich person's sport. Even the Korean Grandmother's tiny little town had a driving range.

- Overall, Korea simply got a lot wealthier, even just five years. You can see it everywhere -- the cars are nicer, the streets are nicer, and people have more things. And there appears to be little effect of the financial crisis that has been decimating North America and Europe.

The changes that the Korean expected to see in Korea, but did not:

- Expected to see a lot more foreigners everywhere. Was not the case -- it was about the same as a few years ago.

- Expected to see a lot more fat Korean children. Did not see them, although there were more than before.

- Expected to see more colors on Korean road. Nope, everyone still drives mostly white or black cars.

- Expected to see a lot of old people spitting everywhere, based on the questions that the Korean received. Did not see them. If anything, spitting has been dramatically reduced compared to even five years ago.

One thing about Korea that the Korean never truly understood until this trip:

- The demands put upon Korean women are much more rigorous compared to those put on Korean men. The Korean always knew this, but never truly understood it until he saw the Korean Wife dealing with them.

The top foods eaten in Korea:

7.  Pisundae (blood sausages) at Nambusijang (Jeonju).
6.  Boshintang (dog meat soup) at Ssarijip (Seoul).
5.  Rice with ge'ujeot (게우젓, very rare sauce made with abalone innards) at Asahi Ilsik (Jeju).
4.  Pyeonyuk (steamed pork) at Sanbang Sikdang (Jeju).
3.  Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles) at Pildong Myeonok (Seoul).
2.  Hanjeongsik (grand course meal) at Pilkyeongjae (Seoul).
1.  Bibimbap at Seongmidang (Jeonju).

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

22 comments:

  1. Mmmm Bibimbap with guacamole, that would be number #1. Just kidding. Sorry you had to leave, but glad to have you back.

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  2. And you didn't even say hi... sniff sniff...

    Seriously, though - the waygooks are around, just more clustered around the usual suspects. It's too easy to go 24 hours without seeing a non-Korean face if you stay out of the tourist areas or the common haunts.

    As for the old people spitting part - they're still around, but slowly disappearing. Not because people are changing their habits - the older 'I don't give a f*ck' variety aren't walking the streets as much. The bigger issue (for most) is the general pushiness to be the first one on the bus, the push to get on the subway. It's not just ajumma anymore - the lack of courtesy and brainpower comes from a miniskirt in her twenties or a not-so-gentlemen in a business suit.

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  3. Interesting. I haven't thought about the sidewalk spitting ritual in a couple of years. I wasn't sure if I'd gotten used to it or if it was on the wane. Perhaps it's the latter.

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  4. Well, it may be true that there are driving ranges everywhere, but to actually play golf, you're looking at least 200,000 per person to play golf at a real golf course or 20-30,000 won per person for screen golf. (not to mention the usual betting that koreans often do while playing). Still not what I'd call a poor man's sport.

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  5. Mmmmm, Jeonju bibimbap! I was there last summer, and it was delicious! I miss Korea so much for a lot of reasons, but the food is definitely up there. ^_^

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  6. @Chris in South Korea: You're right about clustering, but I don't think it's age-related. This morning a man younger than I am - it's depressing for me to accept that there are people younger than me on this earth - spat very near to me. This happened at Gupo Station in Busan. Since I've been commuting this year to Gimhae, I've witnesses a lot more spitting and other behaviors I thought had disappeared. My wife calls it "country" behavior, and just avoids any part of Busan that services the countryside.

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  7. "Expected to see more colors on Korean road. Nope, everyone still drives mostly white or black cars."

    Haha, so I'm not the only one who noticed! Maybe one reason is that other colours already have a function: blue for the worker trucks, yellow for the the 어린이집 minibuses, etc. But I'd love to hear your take on this important issue.

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  8. Could you please elaborate more (preferably in a separate post dedicated solely to it) on the more rigorous demands put upon Korean women vs. men.

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  9. I noticed a similar thing as your third bullet item between my last two trips (2006 v. 2010). There wasn't anything in particular thing that symbolized it, but it seemed as if Korea had become "shinier", more polished. The streets were cleaner, traffic and people felt more orderly, and overall, things just felt more pleasant.

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  10. Korean,

    What demands that society places on women did your wife have to deal with?

    Long time no see - hope all is well.

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  11. The rigorous demands put on Korean Women! - I am so glad you pointed this out! Hallelujah!

    Can't wait to read a full post dedicated to this topic (w/ maybe a comment by TK's wife!)

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  12. Expected to see a lot more fat Korean children. Did not see them, although there were more than before.

    Can't fit out the door anymore.

    - Expected to see more colors on Korean road. Nope, everyone still drives mostly white or black cars.

    I think that's a bit of a universal problem.

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  13. Oooh Jeonju is my dad's hometown! I remember having bibimbap there in 2004..so long ago. I hope to visit again when I visit Korea in October of this year..but I'll be in Anyang (Seoul)..so I'd be a bit of a trip. Eek we'll see! Hope u had a great trip TK! :)

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  14. Thank you about your comment about the demands on Korean women. It would be interesting to see some research about gender inequality in Korea (not only from a personal point of view, but also some facts). I was always wondering about that.

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  15. vb,

    Harvard Business School actually did a study. Try googling for it.

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  16. The bigger issue (for most) is the general pushiness to be the first one on the bus, the push to get on the subway. It's not just ajumma anymore - the lack of courtesy and brainpower comes from a miniskirt in her twenties or a not-so-gentlemen in a business suit.



    Oh dear god S Korea has turned into Hong Kong..... and thats NOT a good thing!

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  17. Wealthier or more polarised and more M shaped? HK for example is extremely polarised so on the face of it, it looks rather wealthy. But walk a few blocks away and it turns into a mire of poverty. Sham Shui Po and Olympic are a mere 15 minute walk away and the wealth gap is an ocean.


    Back in 2009 I arrived in SokCho and took a few days to get to Seoul. I encountered a lot of homeless people in the outer regions of Seoul. It was hard to tell them apart since they were atypical of homeless in the UK and the rest of the world. I.e. they were neatly shaven and clean. I even managed to stay with a small group of them for a few days. (I mention this in my travel log). It was these sorts of experiences that made my trip memorable.

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  18. I'm also curious about why you wrote the line "demands put upon Korean women." I thought of my mother, who seldom puts on makeup when she goes out in the U.S., but always feels the need to dress better and look better when having an outing in Korea. I feel that women are expected to dress nicer and keep up with their outward appearance. But that might not have been what you were talking about.

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  19. If you've ever spent Ch'usŏk or Sŏllal at relatives' house, it's easy to see the wide discrepancy between what's expected of men and what's expected of women. :) That's one day, but it sort of represents the problem in a microcosm, and while men can actually choose to help out more around the house, I think there are some roles it's more difficult to take up, like trappings of the traditional daughter-in-law role.

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  20. I'm not too sure if you can say S Korea is not hit as hard by the financial crisis... I mean, I suppose people aren't losing jobs left right and center, but from my experience the general prices for food, clothes, etc had gone up, and there is the issue with the university cost tuitions. Or do you consider that a separate issue altogether?

    Places such as Gangnam, for instance, has become EXTREMELY fancier, even compared to three years ago, whereas I feel that other places are kind of the same. I do have a feeling that although the overall appearance is shiner and richer, the distribution may not be as equal as people would like it to be.

    I also agree on the incredible demands on women. I feel compelled to doll up much more in Korea than I would have in any other places.

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  21. Wow - I thought dog meat was not popular anymore...surprised to see it in your "Top 10"

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  22. American Kim,

    Long time no see. But please send your questions over the email, per policy. Thanks.

    sky-ami,

    Actually, that's exactly what the Korean is talking about, in part.

    Y's,

    Yup, separate issues. And the distribution of wealth is definitely a problem, but still Korea has become wealthier overall.

    worldshine06,

    It is not popular, but they are still around.

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