The Bard & the Bears are now in Korea!
Good news, everyone! The Bard & the Bears now occupy space in two countries: South Korea and the USA. With Vincent holding down the fort in the Western front, I have been temporarily reassigned to serve in the Eastern hemisphere. Why? Well, one, to better acquaint myself with our Eastern compatriots as we will be venturing into their homes in a year or so time. And two, I need to fulfill my general electives requirements and it’s always more exciting to do so in a foreign country.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to drive from Mongolia to South Korea. The happy, prosperous, and not at all oppressive nation of North Korea apparently likes its privacy and would very much not like rally cars roaring through their North Korean roads. That and there’s a giant minefield separating the two countries.
Regardless, I feel that a travel spotlight is much deserved for this beautiful little country that had the great fortune to witness my birth. And so, without further ado here it is. Travel Spotlight: South Korea Edition
1. South Korean males must all serve in the military
The first one is not so much a cultural thing (well, maybe it might be?) as it is a “things that annoy me” thing. I am not yet an American citizen. That’s right. After 14 years of living as an American, going to college, and generally not being a nuisance to society I am still not legally American. Ha-ha! Immigration laws are working! And as a South Korean citizen there is one requirement that I have to fulfill. That particular requirement is a 2 year stint in the military. For those of you unaware of what my body looks like, it’s basically composed of four chopstick like limbs attached to a pouch of fat around my belly. Sexy? Definitely. Military material? Probably not.
2. Seoul is the bestest city in the whole wide world
Yes. I’m definitely not biased. Seoul just is the best city in the world. Sure, it’s sorta kinda crowded, littered with monolithic apartment structures, and a little dirty. But for all of its faults, it makes up for them by being absolutely fantastic in so many other ways. For instance, the McDonald’s here are 24/7. Now that’s nothing new. But did you know that they also deliver 24/7? Shazam! Seoul has also mastered the art of making subways that are not rat infested and reeking of urine. Take that, New York. You seriously don’t ever need a car in this city. More importantly, there’s something for everyone. You love partying, you say? Go to Hongdae and go clubbing to your heart’s desire. You love leisurely sightseeing? Go to the Chonggyecheon. You love food? There’s food everywhere. Everywhere. From orange tents on the street selling ddukbokki to the classiest of restaurants.
3. The Interwebs. They’ve got it. And oh boy, do they flaunt it.
South Korea has some of the fastest Internet bandwidth speeds in the world. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a relatively small country. After achieving global internet supremacy, South Korea has become a nation obsessed with the Interwebs and other computer-related paraphernalia. In fact, online gaming is a sport here with coverage of major gaming tournaments akin to ESPN covering college basketball. Internet addiction has also become a serious problem for the country. The number of internet addicts among teens was estimated to be a little under one million. The numbers among 20 to 30 year olds are also around the same figure. That’s nearly 2 million people in a country of only 50 million.
4. South Koreans eat weird things
Yes, we eat weird things. Delicious. But weird. Take for instance, Sannakji. Sannakji is live octopus cut into tiny little pieces for immediate consumption. The cut up body parts can actually be seen writhing on the plate. They’ve also proven to be the occasional chocking hazard due to the strong suction cups on octopus arms. We also have bundaegi, or roasted silkworm pupae. I ate a ton as a child but I don’t think I can handle it now. Finally, my personal favorite is sundae (pronounced soon-deh), or pig intestine stuffings. It sounds disgusting, I know. But trust me. Once you lay your hands on some sundae, you won’t stop eating. It’s freaking delicious.