Thursday, December 11, 2008

Stuff I won't miss about Korea

-Protectionism. I never pegged myself as a free-trader, but the protectionism here drives me crazy. Every western chain restaurant here is like double the price it is back home, except for good old McDonalds. Outrageous prices for computers (except Apple products, which are actually cheaper given the exchange rate), western-branded clothes ($150 for fucking Levi’s?) consumer electronics, cameras (having bought 5, I should know) and worst of all, airfare. The going rate for a round-trip flight from Seoul to Jeju, a Korean island, is $120, but the going rate for a flight to Fukuaka, Japan (equidistant from Seoul as Jeju) is $400! Seoul to Bangkok ($650) is about the same distance as Chicago to Vegas ($200). I know the international-ness plays a role, but not that much. Bangkok to Penang, also international and about the same distance as Seoul-Tokyo ($500) was 80 bucks.
-The won. I fucking hate the won right now. See Here. And it’s gotten worse since then.
-Points and stares from local kids... and adults.
-Confucianism
-The language. I don’t know it.
-Christianity. Korean Jesus freaks (and there’s a lot of them, way more than you’d think - The Christian vote won the last election) are insane.
-The general craziness much of the populace - as witnessed during the insane anti-American beef riots last summer. I mean, if you want to be pissed at America, we give you lots of good reasons to do so, but to almost overthrow the government over beef imports? Really?
-Overpriced or rare staples, such as ranch dressing. Yes, that’s a staple for me. Leave me alone.
-Music - mostly. I’ll admit, I like more shitty K-pop songs than I ever thought I would. But, when there’s a BIG HIT (like The Wonder Girls’ “Nobody”) I hear it in every bar and restaurant and coming from every store and it’s every kid’s ringtone. Yet, once the BIG HITS go away, they’re never heard from again. Ever.
-Covering secrets, or rather, brushing over past black marks that aren’t necesarily secrets because everybody knows about them. For example, the National Museum at Gyeoungju (a lovely town I was in last weekend) had a large time line of Korean history, explaining the various empires and dynasties that ran the peninsula over the past 3 or 4,000 years, finishing with the Republic of Korea from 1948 to now. Yet, they called the period between 1893 and 1948 the “Korean Empire.” Of course, this was the Japanese Occupation. This would be similar to a “Cherokee Empire” established by Andrew Jackson, or a “French Empire” started by Hitler in 1940.
-Also, traffic sucks, but traffic sucks everywhere, so whatever.

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