Thoughts on: South Korea's visual mixture

I went to South Korea for the first time in November 2015 and then, 2 years later in 2017, I came back to enjoy this place again. As I've had a chance to experience Seoul twice, it's high time I share my thoughts on this Asian capital with a wider audience. Also, I'd like to welcome you all to the very first post from the 'Thoughts on...' section of this blog!

Seoul and it's familiar visuals

One of the things I've noticed about Seoul in 2015 was that the newer & more developed parts of it looked a little bit like a ‘work in progress’ version of Tokyo. I've found Seoul to be very similar to the Japanese capital especially in terms of area planning. At the time, I thought it was a really interesting occurrence, especially knowing that South Korea aspires to overcome Japan, not only in terms of tech development, but also in terms of international cultural recognition.

On the left Seoul (Gangnam & Myeongdong), on the right Tokyo (Shinjuku & Ikebukuro)

But even despite all the similarities between those two Asian capitals, there was one thing that definitely differed Seoul from Tokyo for me - space. Seoul was visibly a lot more spacious than the Japanese capital. What stood out for me the most is that the streets and pedestrian pathways were noticeably wider. I've been later told that it was one of the signs of growing American influences on the city's infrastructure.

Futurism and a bit of culture

On top of that, parts of Seoul's architecture striked me as very futuristic looking. And by that I definitely don't mean modern or contemporary. If I had to compare it to something, I'd say that sometimes walking around Seoul I've felt like I'm on the set of 'The Jetsons'. I've also noticed that Korean design was very neat and aesthetically clean. It appeared that Koreans tend to favour quite quirky but frugal-looking (in a good way) combinations. Their design seemed to aim for the stuff that is more metaphorical in meaning, rather than simple and straight-forward. 

I was also amazed at how aware of current fashion trends and how to wear them South Koreans are. There was a lot of experimentation with textures of different textiles going on. However, their street fashion didn't seem to go as crazy and vibrant as Japanese one does. It definitely looked more Western (with an East Asian twist to it).

But I think that my favourite observation about South Korea was that, despite finding it way less organised than Japan, it was still very intact. As a European, I have to admit that most of our continent wouldn't make it anywhere near the top of the 'most organised nations' list (if such list ever existed... does it?). And that is probably why I still am, and probably will always be, ridiculously impressed by all the well organised places. I also really liked how street food seemed to be a very big thing in Korea, which was a great reminder that it is indeed an East Asian country. And pretty much everything was available in corn flavour. All hail the corn!

Myeongdong was that bit of Seoul that made me hum 'The Jetsons' intro

Amazing dumplings at the Gwangjang Market in Seoul

From Warsaw to Seoul?

The last (and the most important for me personally) thought I had on South Korea is how similar it turned out to be to Poland (for those who didn't know yet - yup, I'm Polish!). I was so surprised to notice how similar in social structure and people’s mindset those two nations are. Korea and Poland have very similar history and background of being repressed and occupied countries for many many years. I believe it's partially why both our nations feel more motivated to show the rest of the world that despite all we’ve been through we’ve been able to rise back again. Poles and Koreans are very proud of their ethnicity and are extremely patriotic (sometimes to a very unhelathy extent, unfortunately). Also, both of our countries seem to measure the level of our developement by the level of our Westernisation.

Polish sweets found in a corner shop, downtown Seoul

How about you guys? Have any of you been to South Korea before? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. I'd absolutely love to hear about your experiences! Safe travels!


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