Just concluded a week-long visit to Seoul, Korea. Certainly, a lot has changed since I lived here 20 years ago. The country has become truly an affluent, developed nation. People seem a bit more relaxed, courteous, without the constant chip on the shoulder like before.
The things that impressed me the most were:
- Food. Affluence brings lots of experimentations with the local cuisine, and on the most part, the food is excellent. Modern Korean food is more diverse, healthier and just plain fantastic.
- Infrastructure. Yes, the US is the biggest economy in the world, but it is also hampered by its shere size. The infrastructure in Seoul is generally superior with its modern subway systems, high-speed trains and better-engineered roads.
- The New Hip. I’ve heard Tokyo and Seoul were blazing fashion trends with more bold concepts than from Paris, New York and Milan. I didn’t believe it until revisiting. Lots of European concepts with Asian twists make for a serious fashion scene. Also, the Korean pop culture is dominating Asia, and moving into Latin America.
- New Technologies. Whether gaming, social media or mobile concepts, Korea is right there in innovations. I expect more innovations to come from Korea in coming years.
- Opportunistic. Koreans are have the largest foreign communities in Indonesia and Vietnam. They are the largest group of foreign students in China. They are gaining influence in future economic powers.
A few negative things:
- Pollution. I was in Seoul during the Yellow Dust Season (Chinese pollution clouds moving in). It was absolutely horrible.
- Lack of Diversity. Yes, I know more foreigners are embedded into the local culture (apparently there are 1 million of them living here). It certainly is more diverse than when I had lived there. Still, the country is still pretty homogeneous, which doesn’t work well for someone like myself.
- Height. I didn’t like so many of the young women being taller than me. It’s an ego thing.