Anyone who’s ever read any of my blogs here knows what a proponent of
traveling I am. There’s so much we gain from leaving our everyday
environments…things that stories can’t begin to show us. I remember
interviewing Ghostface’s little homie, Trife Da God, years ago and
asking him to tell me about his first time leaving his Staten Island
‘hood. His face lit up as he described seeing the ocean, sunset and
palm trees of Miami…how inspired and free he felt at the time.
Needless to say, it was the highlight of the interview.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the chance to do a considerable
amount of traveling in my life (though I got nothing on the homie,
Passport Gord). Whether around North America or Europe, each time I go
somewhere, I learn something new both about the world, and myself.
Invaluable life lessons. Growing up, we’re told that America is the
“greatest place on earth!” It’s not. It’s just one of the most
developed and opportunity-laden ones (and nothing beats hearing what
others around the world really think of the land of the free).
Traveling with an open mind allows us to gain perspective and respect
the way others get down. Such was my recent experience in Asia – a
continent I’d never been to before…
Working with a small window of time, I tried to pack in as much as I
could in the Southeast. However, the biggest impression was left on me
during my time in Seoul, South Korea. I don’t know how much of a
destination spot South Korea is for most people, but I was curious to
check it out. Brief historical overview: Korea was occupied by Japan
in the early 1900s, until the end of WWII, when they surrendered to
Soviet and US forces who were occupying the northern and southern
regions (respectively). And as the US and Soviet Union became bitter
ex-lovers, Korea eventually divided into two. More invasions and war
ensued between North and South…leaders came and went and today,
though there’s still a question mark regarding the fate of the two
countries, it is, for the most part, business as usual.
History lesson aside, most of what we hear in the news about Korea is
often regarding the illusive “madman” from the North, known as Kim
Jong-il. What we don’t hear about is how amazing and advanced South
Korea is. They pretty much kick the world’s ass when is comes to
wireless technology and gadgetry. They got the goods and shit works
*everywhere*. Seoul is no joke. An immaculate subway system. Clean.
Modern buildings. Clean. All signs in Korean and English. And if you
want it, they got it (night life…eats…whatever). Clean. Something
along the lines of ‘east meets west’…less intense than say, Tokyo.
Amazing, was the one word that kept coming up.
With that said, I wouldn’t be third rail if I didn’t reflect on the
dichotomy of this wondrous modern city. The contrast between old and
new can be seen all around. Look to your right and you see the
glorious Bong Eun Sa temple, look to your left and you see the mammoth
COEX mall. I mean like literally across the street. On the subways,
the elderly run the show as they push and shove people to get in first
(yes, sneakers were stepped on) while the young are completely
engrossed in their various gadgets. This more or less goes for
everything else as well: old culture in a new world. Which brings me
to the last point…the old getting older and the young not
procreating (see: tricked out gadgetry and superior technology). The
population problem is serious enough that the government is trying to
find various incentives for couples to start making babies. This,
compounded with them having one of the world’s highest suicide rates,
shows the pressure that people are under. Trying to maintain
traditional values while adapting to and advancing with the times.
I left Seoul with a newfound sense of wonderment. So much to take in
during a short period of time. Some of the hardest working people,
with so much to offer the world…quietly forging their path,
sometimes at the risk of losing their young. And somewhere between its
beauty and vast contradictions, I just wish there would be more
attention given to the many remarkable and positive advancements, than
simply the threats of the man from the North.
by : third rail