[GOING TO THE BLOGS]Korea: Hub of boredom?

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[GOING TO THE BLOGS]Korea: Hub of boredom?

With the North building underground missile bases, shots being fired across the DMZ and ongoing political and labor strife here in South Korea, a host of K-bloggers have this week been focusing on the vexing question: Is Korea boring? The kerfuffle began with a report in the Dong-A Ilbo citing some less than flattering assessments of Korea by foreign visitors. “There was nowhere to go except for the hotel and the airport,” carped 54-year-old Englishman Bill Wesley, before scuttling off to the departures desk.
James at “Lost Nomad” (http://www.lostnomad.org/) can see where he's coming from. “You have to work hard at making your own fun ... Korea can be a very interesting place but ... unfortunately, the government believes that ‘kimchi-making experience workshops’ or visiting the 14 Not-so-Famous Sights of Hick Village in One Day Bus Tours are activities that international visitors are interested in.”
“Korea is not a place where things to do just jump out at you,” retorts GI Korea (http://gikorea.net/BLOG/). Get a guidebook, he writes, familiarize yourself with the public transportation system, and above all, get to know the locals and their culture. “Once you make friends with Koreans, they are some of the best friends you will ever have.” In fact, for GI Korea, the big problem is that compared with its East Asian neighbors, “Korea ... does a very poor job promoting [itself], plus the wackiness of some of its citizens and the even wackier North Koreans that get broadcast on foreign television screens doesn’t help either.”
For “Dram Man” (http://dramman.blogspot.com/) it’s a simple question of ducats. “Even Koreans agree that a vacation here is either too expensive or too boring versus the alternatives ... I ask how far U.S. $1,000 gets you in Jeju in a week versus U.S. $1,000 in Phuket in a week. I also ask you, which one of those U.S. $1,000 vacations would you take, be honest. Or for that matter, all of you bloggers that played up Korea’s tourism attractions and advantages I ask you, ‘So where did you splurge on your last big vacation?’”
Robert at “The Marmot’s Hole” (http://www.rjkoehler.com), by contrast, is an unreconstructed fan, even offering a spirited defense of the concrete vortex that is Seoul. “Compared to other major cities, Seoul might seem drab and, well, ‘boring,’ although the city has been making great strides in this regard. But spend some time in the city and actually make the effort to get to know it, and its charm becomes apparent. Its back alleys, its unique neighborhoods, its little pieces of history tucked away here and there ... there’s so much to enjoy, as long as you’re willing to a) explore, and b) experience rather than sightsee.”

Disaster strikes
The aftermath of the occupation of Posco’s headquarters in Pohang has raised the hackles of a few K-bloggers, but for quite different reasons. “Who suffers?” asks Kevin at “Big Hominid’s Hairy Chasms” (http://bighominid.blogspot.com/) “The citizens of Pohang have to live with the shame brought upon them by this criminal activity. The municipal authorities and business leaders have to wonder whether they can persuade anyone to invest in their city. Posco itself has to worry about its international reputation, credit standing and all the rest. The selfish actions of a union may have put all this in jeopardy.”
Yet following the news last week that one protestor had died as a result of injuries sustained in a clash with police, Jamie at “Two Koreas” (http://twokoreas.blogspot.com/) thinks big questions must be asked of the riot police’s 1001 division. “It seems they are the ones who have inflicted the most violence on protestors, causing, in many cases, irreparable damage, even death. The South Korean media has also covered some of their tactics, such as sharpening metal shields, etc, and there have been inquiries before. I think it is time for a campaign to get rid of the 1001 itself, as well as the other quasi mafia-ish units that do similar work.”


by Niels Footman

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