Sunday, July 12, 2015

Seoul Notes, 2015

Let's get back to blogging! TK visits Seoul nearly every year, and every year there is always something different and new, partly because Korea is a fast changing place, and partly because TK has never noticed them before. Some of the things he noticed in the last go around:

- Good beer is now completely mainstream. If anything, Korea's craft brew market is a little over-saturated at this point. Even the regular Korean beer has shown marked improvement.

- Things are expensive. Things in Seoul have been getting gradually more expensive over time, but now it is really beginning to hurt the wallet. To be sure, there are still plenty of cheap options if one decides to grunge it up. But the prices are high for items that are even slightly nice. For example, a casual lunch at a Chinese restaurant (not a hole-in-a-wall, but not a super fancy place either) located in the central business district, for three people, cost nearly US $100. This was not the case even a year ago.

- To make a broader point: income polarization is even more significant. Slightly nicer things are really expensive in Korea because Korea's upper middle class can afford them. On the other hand, cheap things are still very cheap because the rest of Korea relies on those products. It is as if there are two completely different economies within Korea. Not a great sign.

- When you ask for water in Korea, it is only a 50-50 proposition that you actually get water. In the other 50 percent, you would get some type of tea. If you don't like boricha, it's a tough place.

At the airport leaving Korea.
The sign below the attendant said: "Please take off your mask."
(source: TK's own)

- By the time TK got to Korea (end of June through early July,) there were no real public signs that people were truly concerned about MERS. There would be perhaps one mask-wearer in a given subway car. But there certainly was latent anxiety about it; people were talking about it.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Isn't there usually another sign around airport immigration that says "no photos"? :)

  2. I case I I need someone to write a paper on Seoul, I would ask anyone of people I see. No one but the Koreans does not know country from the inside. The thing that surprised me it’s their relation to the water you ask, thanks for information.

  3. There's water dispenser devices (정수기) at almost every corner of almost every building, why would you need asking for water?

    1. Considering TK paid $100 for three people at a 'not super fancy' Chinese place I'd say he's visiting rather upmarket restaurants that typically don't have a water machine in the corner. To me, $30 each is pretty damn expensive for a meal and it's not really my experience at all. You can get a meal at a decent Chinese restaurant for less than 15,000 won.


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