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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

First Impressions

Well, it has taken me a while to get started with the blog, but here it is after a hectic two and a half weeks in Korea.

Simon's story: Heart and seoul for Lowick man

Well, it has taken me a while to get started with the blog, but here it is after a hectic two and a half weeks in Korea.

So what do you know about Korea? Mention Korea back home and there are usually only three comments that people make:

1. Didn’t they have the Olympics there and the World Cup?

2. Isn’t it dangerous there because they are at war?

3. They eat dog there, don’t they?

My intention with this blog is to show you a little about Korea, as I myself gradually learn more about this little-known and fascinating part of the world. I will, of course, be posting lots of images of the places, people, customs, food, architecture, markets and anything else that I turn my camera to over the coming year. I hope that you enjoy it.

So what has happened so far?

I landed in Incheon, Seoul, in South Korea on the 29 Jan, after transiting via Dubai where they have an incredible airport with palm trees and waterfalls in a terminal which is more shopping mall than airport! Seoul is the Capital city of South Korea and is where most of the population of the country lives.

I was weary and jet-lagged from the long journey, but was immediately taken out for my first Korean meal, shortly after landing and dropping my luggage off at my new home. We ate Bulgogi, which is beef which you fry yourself, at a charcoal fire set up in the middle of your table. It was fun to cook and very delicious. We then went to another place for yet more food and a milky-white drink called Makkoli, made from fermented rice. They claim that it has incredible health benefits and it certainly tastes good. It is served in a teapot and drunk out of bowls and is alcoholic with a tingly taste when you drink it – a bit like when you brush you teeth with toothpaste.

I finally managed to get to sleep for a few hours after all these new foods and drinks but was up early to photograph a wedding of an English man to a Korean Woman. The first part of the wedding was in a Catholic Church, which was then followed by a traditional Korean ceremony at a hotel. As you can imagine, the two parts of the wedding were very different indeed; a great contrast of cultures, religion and beliefs.

The rest of my time here, so far, has been spent sorting out administration and in getting to know the city a bit. I have a great apartment – it is a bedsit and conveniently located for me to catch the subway. It is also close to one of the main restaurant areas of the cities. Fortunately, it is surprisingly quiet, being situated at the end of a little side street. Admittedly, not quite as quiet as the fell side above Lowick where home is, but pretty amazingly quiet considering where I am living now. The only down side was that there were no curtains or blinds on the windows and the light pollution is quite amazing after being used to the dark nights we experience at home; I am pleased to say that I have also managed to get some curtains now and so the problem is solved.

I have also got used to travelling by the subway (the Seoul Mass Rapid Transport System – as it is known here). It is a bit like the London subway only bigger, faster and cleaner and more high tech. There are also way more people.

So how does life in Seoul compare to living in the Lake District? Where do I begin? You will probably get a better feel for this if I start with some statistics, to give you an idea about the differences in scale. I will try to begin by looking at the number of people living in the two regions and the comparative population densities. Here goes.

The population of Seoul city itself is well over 10 million and still growing. Contrast this with the population of our hamlet, near Lowick, where the population is currently 6 (after the recent addition of a new baby to one of our neighbours). So the population on the floor of the apartment block where I am living is about equal to that. But what if I venture out say just into the apartment block itself into the city? The population of Seoul is approximately about 42000 times that of the population of the parish of Lowick, or about 700 times the population of Ulverston. Even if we consider the population of the whole Lake District, this still only amounts to less than a twentieth of the population of Seoul city.

This is even more amazing when you consider the population of Greater Seoul Metropolitan area which includes the port region of Incheon and makes it the second most populous metropolitan area in the world after Tokyo. This area is home to 24.5 Million people, or to put it another way, this equates to about half the population of the whole of England!

To show this in another way; in terms of population density, the number of people living per square kilometre in the Lakes is about 50 per km², whereas in Seoul it is about 45,000 per km² – one of the highest in the world. So, all in all, there are lots of people here. That said, I can go the whole day without seeing another non Asian person, unless I go to the expat areas where you can see more. It is quite an overload to the senses still but I am gradually getting used to it.

That is probably enough for the first blog, complete with mind bending numbers. Next time, I will tell you about the New year that we just had here and why you are two years older when you come to Korea! Thanks for reading.

By James Hemsworth
Published: March 1, 2010

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