South Korean capital, Seoul, has managed to shake off some of the global attention attracted by its vibrant K-pop culture and pop art galleries, and visitors can hike fortress walls tucked between skyscrapers, visit an aristocratic palace, and wander its winding backstreets filled with bars and restaurants that once garnered global notice.
It’s a modern metropolis.
Seoul has welcomed the global attention brought upon it by its prolific cultural output with open arms, indulging in lavish museums, galleries, and luxury hotels from Lotte to Four Seasons, reflecting global recognition and economic stressors in an otherwise vibrant metropolis.
The country is rapidly aging, with one of the lowest fertility rates among developed nations and increasing life expectancies, pushing its median age to 42. This demographic time bomb has created a division between liberals who support an accepting attitude towards North Korea and conservatives who fear giving too many concessions would undermine national pride.
Young Koreans educated by foreign workers are no longer as tied to blood and nation, yet still feel alienated by economic malaise in the country. Although they tend to tolerate foreign workers better than their elders, some remain wary about giving citizenship rights – fearing it may dilute culture.
To escape the infuriating urban sprawl, drive northeast to Gangwon Province for two hours. Situated near the Demilitarized Zone and often used as film locations such as “Okja,” featuring Bong Joon-Ho, Jeonju is an international center for culinary culture with some of its best restaurants and traditional Korean hanbok houses.
Start your explorations of this city’s rich heritage by touring its historic palaces, temples, and shrines before strolling tree-lined streets and visiting some of the many shops selling everything from ginseng root candy to kimchi condiments. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art to view works by both internationally acclaimed and local Korean artists who have attained worldwide renown. There’s also plenty of history here; national monuments burned during the Korean War were rebuilt with precision and accuracy to become national pride symbols. Additionally, K.C.I.A headquarters where tortured victims’ screams could once be heard echoing through corridors has since been torn down, while the site of the massacre at Yongpyong prison camp remains standing as well.
It’s a cultural hub.
South Korea’s cultural pull is at its strongest ever. K-pop superstars draw crowds larger than rock bands, and popular television series such as “Parasite” and “Crash Landing on You” gain global audiences. South Korea’s growing soft power hasn’t gone unnoticed outside Asia; The New York Times decided to move its Asia-based digital news operations from Hong Kong to Seoul this year. Robert Dunbar-Johnson from The Times International Edition spoke about what factors could lead to its success.
South Korea’s national identity is complex. At its core is an ideal of “yuk,” or goodness, instilled at birth and furthered during hard-won independence and war. Yet South Koreans bear scars of colonialism and unresolved grudges towards Japan for its 1910-1945 occupation that left bitter feelings; similarly, resentment towards America arose since Chun Doo Hwan’s junta killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in Gwangju.
Conservatives have recently taken advantage of liberals’ legacy through nationalism to call for a return to more traditional views of history and coddling North Korea while diminishing the U.S. alliance forged as part of the anti-Communist struggle. Current President, Lee Myung Bak, has pledged to reverse these policies, and his government has already taken an assertively conservative direction.
Within this dynamic mix, one can explore fortress walls nestled amidst skyscrapers, cycle past an LED screen overlooking a royal palace, or explore backstreets filled with bars and restaurants – all part of an experience to treasure forever! In short, Cairo embraces its past and constant reinvention with resilience – you won’t find anything immensely stimulating anywhere else in Egypt!
Travel is simple on foot or in public transit. However, for longer immersion experiences, hiring a local operator like Seoul-based Wow Corea or Remote Lands may be wiser, who can arrange temple and hanok stays and translate in rural areas where English may not be widely spoken. Self-driving is also possible on wide roads and modern highways, though an International Driving Permit must be presented upon entering Japan.
It’s a foodie’s paradise
The Capital City of South Korea, Seoul, offers a gastronome’s delight. Home to an expanding number of restaurants that push the limits of Korean cuisine, such as Jungsik – which opened just before Psy popularized Hallyu (Korean Wave of movies, music and art) worldwide – other restaurants like Atomix and Naro try to rediscover dishes dating back centuries; all while contributing towards modernity through rich culinary heritage while constantly reinvention.
Haebangchon, Seoul’s enclave of Haebangchon, is becoming an epicenter for food lovers across South Korea. From cozy cafes and roasteries to cocktail bars with long wait lines and cocktail offerings, Haebangchon’s vibrant dining scene is becoming more and more popular each weeknight – but for an enjoyable, stress-free dining experience, consider visiting on weekends when fewer people may be around and bring your beverages for a more relaxed visit.
South Korean government may have closed nightclubs and prohibited late-night restaurant dining, yet its hospitality industry remains resilient. Seoul hotels remain primarily open, with many offering discounts or free parking; Airbnb has become increasingly popular, and rental apartments can be found through this platform – though finding one in central city areas may prove challenging.
South Korea remains accessible during a pandemic, but you should be mindful of any associated risks or restrictions. Be sure to acquire an International Driving Permit before driving in South Korea, as its right-side driving makes getting around simple. At the same time, its highway system offers modernity – through rural areas can present obstacles.
If you want to explore the countryside, you have several options for travel arrangements: WOW Corea can arrange temple stays, and hanok stays; Remote Lands provides upmarket agency guides who have deep knowledge of Asian art and culture; self-driving can also be relatively safe – although Google Maps won’t work in Japan so be sure to download NaverMap beforehand for navigation purposes.
It’s a nature lover’s dream.
Seoul boasts no shortage of breathtaking cultural attractions, from sleek art galleries to K-pop festivals. But Seoul also makes an excellent home for nature enthusiasts thanks to its green spaces and majestic mountains. Once known as the Land of Morning Calm, South Korea was once known for its capital, Seoul, embodies both its past and its continuous reinvention with fortress walls nestled amid skyscrapers, cycling past an LED screen abutting the royal palace, getting lost among backstreets full of some of the best bars and restaurants; hiking fortress walls nestled amid skyscrapers – among many more activities – you name them all!
This week, South Korea was hit hard with flooding as torrential rain turned city streets into rushing rivers and submerged subway stations. Some districts had to close due to flooding, with images on social media depicting scenes similar to disaster movies with commuters wading through waist-deep water and cars abandoned in residential neighborhoods that have become inundated. These heavy downpours come amid a months-long rainfall season that has caused floods, landslides, and more evacuations in South Korea’s mountainous north and east regions, prompting more evacuations in addition to evacuations that might arise due to more evacuations due to flooding caused by heavy downpours triggered by rainy season this year than ever.
Escaping Seoul’s infuriating neo-Brutalist sprawl requires approximately two hours by car, driving across an undulating landscape of flat plains and eight surrounding guardian mountains. Gangwon in northern Korea makes an excellent first stop, not only because its scenic countryside was used as the setting for the 2017 film “Okja,” about an adorable mountaintop farm pig raised from birth, but also due to its proximity to the Demilitarized Zone which serves as a buffer zone between North and South Koreans.
If you want a trip off the beaten path, follow signs to Waryong Park and wander its lush pine trees and shrubbery. Ascend downhill towards low-slung homes that give an impression of exclusion behind an ancient wall; at its summit, enjoy refreshments like jujube tea and squash shaved ice at Suyeonsanbang’s hanok-style teahouse before returning into the city and contemplating what lies beyond its towering walls.