By Christopher Shaddock
In the beginning of the summer I went to South Korea with my friends, where we stayed in the city of Seoul. Seoul is a beautiful city with uniquely structured buildings, forest mountains on its outskirts and a glistening river cutting through it. It is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of 10 million people.
The district where we stayed in Seoul was called Itaewon. This is the foreign district, in which people from all over the world live. It was like a melting pot, full of different ethnic food and culture. The place was nice and reminded me of America a bit, but there were always people around trying to scam us into buying their poor-quality merchandise.
The most notable thing about Korean food is that it is spicy. No matter what I ate, there was never enough water to counter the burn. Their most popular food is kimchi, which is basically fermented cabbage mixed with spices. It may sound gross, but for anyone who likes spicy food it is worth a try. It has a juicy flavor and is served with basically every Korean dish. There is also Korean barbecue, in which meat is cooked in front of you on a grille. The meat is good, and it is satisfying to watch it cook; however, the portion sizes are usually small, so it may not be filling for some people.
Korea is one of the most overworked countries in the world, and most people on average work over 40 hours a week. Despite this, most Koreans were friendly and lighthearted. They spoke English well enough for us to communicate with them, and the people who did not still managed to have the patience to get their message through. A large part of Korean culture is drinking since the drinking age is only nineteen and alcohol is easily accessible. People usually use it as way to wind down after a long day of work or to socialize with people. While the people there drink a variety of alcohols, the most popular are beer and soju, which is a colorless drink made from rice.
There are some cool activities to do within the city. In PC bangs people can play videogames in a room with other people for a small fee. Then there are cat and dog cafes which are places where people can get a coffee and pet some dogs or cats. There are also plenty of areas to shop, the best being Common Ground, a trendy mall that looks like warehouse crates.
The best place to go in Seoul would be the Han River. It cuts through Seoul and can easily be found in any part of the city. It has two trails on both sides on which people can walk, bike and run. The whole river feels like one long park filled with gardens, art pieces and outdoor workout equipment. The 63 Building is also worth visiting. It has a great view of the river and city, as well as an aquarium and art exhibit within the building. There is also Gyeongbok Palace which is the most famous traditional palace in Korea. With mountains so close to the city there are plenty of places to hike. We hiked the Bukhan Mountian which was challenging, but had a great view of the wildlife.
Seoul was one of the best cities I have been to in my life. It is a shame that most people associate South Korea with either its insane neighbor North Korea, or the one-hit wonder “Gangnam Style.” It really is one of the most progressive countries, not just in Asia but in the whole world. With the atrocities that go on within North Korea, I hope the South remains a beacon of hope for the former.