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5 things about korea for outsiders

October 29, 2009

1. The whole place is filled with mountains

The official sport of korea is tae kwon do, but it really is hiking (or the ability to have the most unnecessary hiking gear and accessories with you on the mountain).  Much of Seoul is hills and mountain spliced between large packs of high rises.  Certain times of the year, like cherry blossom time and the changing of the leaves in fall can accumulate waiting while hiking to a point I could never imagine for a leisurely “sport”.  Even though it can be crowded here sometimes (all the time), being at the top of a mountain in the middle of a big city is amazing because you get a small grasp on the scope of the city.

2. Koreans drink as much as any people I have seen

They pass out on sidewalks, benched, cars, door steps, outside restaurants, houses, apartments, inside restaurants, bars, cabs, and gutters.  They drink as much as anybody else with half the tolerance.  Alcoholism is a huge problem here that barely gets a mention because it is tinged with cultural values of male hierarchy and modern business practice.  It is common to go out drinking with coworkers and it is expected that you get a bit wasted.  The bars and restaurants don’t really close, and you can drink pretty much anywhere you want.  Soju is cheaper than soda and the preferred korean drink, but there are a few others, like makali and domestic beer that play a large role as well.

3. The largest christian church in the world is here and the followers are everywhere and can get in your face sometimes.  Koreans are veeeeeerrrrrryyyy religious, I cannot get away from it no matter how hard I try.  If you go to the top of a building you could be there all night counting the crosses on top of the surrounding structures.  Buddhism was pushed out of the cities long ago and  what gained ground was christianity, the modern push coming from missionaries.  This was made possible by the korean history of the 20th century which included colonization by Japan and the Korean War in just the first half of the 100 years.  This led to a desensitized nation trying to get some semblance of its culture back. In comes God’s army who lets the korean know that they have clothes, food and bibles ready and the message spread as strong as anywhere in the world.  Some people remember the group of koreans what were kidnapped in afghanistan a few years back, but what was less publicized was that they were christians looking to change the makeup of the middle east through conversion.  They tried to go to Iraq and do the same thing but were turned away.  Korean christians have no qualms about spreading their faith and its apparent by my weekly response to the question of whether or not i believe in jesus christ as my personal savior.  Its an unfortunate side to this country, not the religion (maybe a little) but the way they push it like crack.

4. Soju is a rice wine drunk here by almost everybody that has a similar following to Guiness in Ireland.  It is 20% alcohol and is known as a blackout drink cuz it catches up to you if you drink to much in ways you dont expect it too.

5. Bboys and break dancing are a recent fad that has taken the nation by storm.  They are in parks, on sidestreets, in mainstream movies, music videos, outside malls, and in their own stage shows billed like broadway musicals.  They even do well in international competitions.  I just wonder why here and there is never a good explanation

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