Seek and you shall find, but when everything is right in your face and over the top, it’s not long before it finds you. In a society that’s associated with shopping, plastic surgery, K-pop and BBQ, Seoul definitely can overwhelm. It seems that South Koreans take a “good thing” and replicate it with gusto (the two block cut hairstyle, cafe every 50m, etc.). Perhaps, this ability to collectively drive in is what makes the country of 51 million poised to take over the world, with Samsung and the BTS pop idols leading the charge.
But Seoul is much deeper than its shiny later and Instagram worthy moments. People here are hard workers. Also if you stop for a minute and observe people interacting, especially around meals, there is a sense of joy, communion and mellowness. Their fondness for alcohol notwithstanding, their relish of food and bonding with colleagues, family and friends over a meal is heartwarming. Even the ubiquitous smartphones are put away during gatherings.
On a less upbeat note, South Korea has one of the highest rates of poverty amongst its elderly. It’s a disheartening and buried problem; people are living longer but are less well off. I had learned a little about this before our trip and I did catch sightings of seniors gathering cardboard for sale (they can expect ~1500-2000 KRW or 1.5-2 USD from a day’s work). This is not to turn anyone off from visiting this amazing city and country, but to highlight an aspect of South Korea’s struggle. Learn more.