Seoul, Korea – Day 34, April 27

Rush hour is busy in big cities, and Seoul is no exception, so I again, didn’t rush out this morning. I’m eating breakfast in my room most days. Granola, fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and tea round out the meal, and sometimes I’ll have a can of coffee or pastry that I purchased the day before.

I thought I’d better aim for the trifecta of tall towers on my trip and headed out to Seoul’s tower. It won’t win any awards for height or elevator speed, but it in was a nice location in a huge park called Namsam. The neighborhood I started in was called Myeongdong. It’s the center of the beauty culture of Korea. There were entire shops of hair scrunchies and many that sold facial masks, makeup, and skin creams. There was some sort of festival and in my pictures, you’ll see the very sexy K-pop singers, with emphasis on sexy. People all over the world are learning Korean just so they can understand the lyrics to BTS and other K-pop songs.

The sheer number of love locks attached to the fences at the base of the tower was incredible. Why didn’t we all invest in the company that makes Master Locks?

I hustled back to Insadong for my art class. We were carving a chop with our name on it. We were given a stone chop and a carving knife. We had to press really hard on the knife but it was totally possible to carve the stone. We practiced making lines and turning them into trees. then we used pencil and paper to design our name. I chose to use English letters but the other ladies in the class all had the teacher translate their names into Korean.

Chops are very important in Asia. Everyone has a chop and over the course of their lifetimes, they might have three or four carved as they reach various life stages. Then all important documents are signed and affixed with a person’s personal chop. Think about buying a house or signing a marriage certificate.

After the class, I walked back to my hotel and took a rest. Then I made a sketchy decision to go to Seoul Station at rush hour for grocery shopping. It was fine, just really crowded. I stopped for beef noodle soup for dinner.

It’s been interesting to watch TV here in Asia, especially since the Taiwanese head of state was in Washington while I was in Taiwan and the ROK head of state was in Washington while I am here in Korea. In the US, you might hear this as passing news or pay mild attention to the menu at the state dinner. In small, threatened countries, these visits are of paramount importance to their security and well-being. Every move and speech is covered in depth both in the local language and in English. How much attention is given to the leader is a sign of support and future protection. The schedule of the leader is communicated in detail and they follow up on how each event transpired. They even had a social media reporter tell us how well President Yoon is doing on Twitter, especially after he sang American Pie.

In all three countries, there are math and English language lessons on TV. There are upbeat children’s programs and in-depth paragraph analyses for advanced speakers. Popular shows include infomercials about rice cookers, singing competitions, eating contests, and game shows. They seem to really like rating and commenting on various videos. There are police dramas and fake-looking shows about teenagers. The news is a little different with presenters sitting at several little tables and desks. Sometimes there is a panel that seems to break away to discuss the news in a more casual setting. There are lots of channels with just Asian baseball on them. Same for fishing and golf. They like basketball and pool too.

The Japanese in general seem fond of uniforms. Even business people seem to wear a uniform of a black suit with a white shirt. Some school kids wear uniforms here, but not all. The Taiwanese kids all had matching team sports uniforms and sweatsuits that they traveled home from school on the subway. All young Japanese women were very concerned that their bangs looked just right. They spent a lot of time in bathrooms and looking at themselves on their phones checking their appearance. Taiwanese ladies wear their bangs in a single curler out in public. I can’t tell if it’s a style in itself or they are getting their bangs ready for a meeting with someone else. Men in Asia carry shoulder bags. It’s an item that I’ve only ever seen women carry, so I am still a little taken aback when I see it.

Below you will notice some photos depicting some of the safety equipment available for emergencies. No one messes with the items and it shows me how a functioning government works.