So I have now been in Seoul for two exhausting, confusing, overwhelming and exhilarating days. I have barely seen anything of the city thus far—none of the tourist or historical sites, certainly—but I have seen enough at this point to realize that Seoul is vast—mind-bendingly so. And a pretty darn fascinating place to roam with camera in tow.
I have found Seoul—at least thus far—surprisingly like America in some of the worst of ways, such as ugly utilitarian architecture, a love of pop culture and exuberant consumerism, celebrity fascination, hip youth, and a focus on personal beauty (i.e. signs on the subway for cosmetic surgery). Luckily, there are also bits of a fascinating East that manage to peek through here and there in the form of ubiquitous old-fashioned food stalls, zipping motor bikes strapped down with mysterious goods, the occasional evocatively tiled roof, and a certain difficult-to-put-your-finger-on something.
Most of all, what I have seen thus far reminds me of a much less dystopic version of Blade Runner (though the fact that its been raining since I arrived might have somethingto do with that…)
Here is a bit of what I have seen so far, with explanatory captions; please click on image to see larger versions:
This is the map for the writers residency space I am staying in. Called Seoul Art Space Yeonhui,
it is a lovely natural oasis in the heart of a very urban and forgettable district of mini-marts,
car repair shops, and cheap restaurants. One of the Kimchi displays at the amazing Lotte Mart.
Lotte Mart had happy employees manning every booth. People here are very friendly,
even with my complete lack of Korean.
A kit for a loved on on the upcoming Korean Thanksgiving Day.
Meat is very popular here!
On the subway…
A rainy day in a more idyllic version Blade Runner.
A subway scene.
An advertisement for cosmetic surgery on the subway.
Can’t tell if the look they are going for is Western or Anime….
Click on this image to see what I mean.
Gas mask dispenser in the subway.
Detail of the gas mask dispenser in the subway.
At the tourist bureau today. I had been told that Korea is a hotspot for cosmetic sugary medical tourism…
And here is one of the pamphlets available there, to prove it.
Food stalls in the rain.
And one more.