Hangul Day in Seoul
October 9, 2005
Happy Hangul Day from Seoul! I was chuffed to find that the people still recognize their unique linguistic heritage in their hearts, even if it’s no longer an official holiday (the South Koreans had too many and had to drop some).
I’ve been here (actually about to come home in the morning) on a week-long bus tour with my mom and Tim — because really, is there any better way to spend the most crucial week of your young startup’s life than on a bus tour of Korea with your mom? Seriously, this is my mom’s 60th birthday year, which is a big deal in Korea because it’s considered one full turn of 5 12-year astrological cycles. Children are supposed to give their parents lavish gifts on this birthday, and this is what my mom wanted… so here we are.
Plus, it gives me a chance for a little recreational detox since anything imported costs a freaking fortune here. Coffee is unbelievably expensive — like $4 – 8 for a (small) cup, depending on whether you’re at a Dunkin Donuts or a posh hotel. No refills either. And good booze is like $15 per shot. And I never saw a single diet soft drink, so I even had to give up the aspartame. On the other hand, I did develop a small flirtation with a type of Korean soft drink flavored with pine needles, which Tim found a bit too reminiscent of the stuff you use to mop your kitchen floor.
Korea and especially Seoul are completely different from the last time I was here, as a teenager. It’s a global Pacific Rim city now, like Los Angeles or Tokyo, and thus a lot more comfortable than it used to be for visitors. On the other hand, there was a certain unique charm to Seoul in my girlhood… heavy military presence, civil defense alarms, incessant tear gassings, noodle-delivery boys on bicycles, washerwomen who insisted on ironing your underwear, lack of hot water 18 hours a day, and total unavailability of imported goods. The only thing left over from those days seems to be the rock-hard mattresses.
Will upload photos when I get home tomorrow, if I can figure out how to sync my Treo on Linux. Otherwise, enjoy the last vestiges of the world’s only former linguistic holiday.