A South Korean adventure

Fisherprice by comparison

So I’ve just got back from a 3 week trip to South Korea, it’s a fascinating country. Culturally its obviously very far removed from here and technology wise even further still. The conformism is crushing, to the point where even their frequent protests somehow feel staged and obedient. All cars virtually without exception are white or grey. I saw a car with a slightly navy hue once, I wondered what kind of outlaw sat behind the wheel.

WiFi is literally everywhere. On the tubes, in the dingy basement of a club, up the mountains and in the house of the old woman selling tea in the Hanok Village. Free WiFi is the norm which is fortunate as £6 per MB for cellular isn’t really the deal I’m looking for. It’s interesting to see how they’re ahead of the UK and Europe on the larger phone trend too, some are practically tablets. The most confusing thing I came across were the electronic toilets. A panel with an array of buttons blasts various things at various temperatures at your arse should you so wish. I’m sure I could’ve made more of this with a bit of instruction but miming the conversation to the hotel staff seemed a bit undignified.

I recently bought a GoPro Hero 5, it felt a bit like an impulse purchase but it’s an awesome piece of kit. After taking a few timelapses of Seoul I stitched them together using their app, it’s pretty impressive to think you can easily manipulate 4k video on your phone now without it ever touching a laptop. Anyway this is Seoul at speed:

Seoul timelapse from Jake Wells on Vimeo.

Seoul feels like a city built for the night with neon lights crowding most streets. Local beer is cheap and Soju is even cheaper. Some bars give you what is essentially a giant remote control with beers on, it’s an easy way to get drunk very quickly and I highly recommend it.

Not Seoul

The concentration of people and wealth in Seoul compared to the rest of the country is incredible. Something like 50% of the population live in the capital. As my sister and her boyfriend live on Jeju (an island off the South coast) I took a flight down to see her. An awesome couple of weeks, best described by this slightly cheesy compilation video:

South Korea – Jeju from Jake Wells on Vimeo.

North Korea and it’s fonts

There was of course no way I could go to South Korea and not go to the border with the North. It didn’t disappoint. This is a country where all operating systems bar one are illegal. Red Star is a distribution of Linux that all computers in the North are required to run. If you’re so inclined you can in fact download this from torrent sites though I’m sure the level of spywhere built in to it would make even the NSA blush. It’s full of fantastically dictatorial features like the piece of code that makes the names Kim Jong-un or Kim Jong-il appear in a slightly bigger font than everything else on the page.

The Joint Security Area is a tense place. After signing disclaimers we go to Freedom House (the blue building seen on news reports). The building straddles the border that separates the two countries. Inside is a desk in the middle has 3 microphones, this is where they hold the increasingly less frequent talks. The line the microphones form is technically the border running through the room. We are allowed to walk to the end of the building and therefore in to North Korea as this particular building is controlled by the South. Two stern looking South Korean guards that are clearly not to be fucked with stand at the door to North Korea. Their pose is aggressive, a clench-fisted stance that’s allegedly a modified Taikwondo position. We’re allowed 3 minutes to take photos before we’re quickly ushered back out and taken on to other parts of the DMZ.

A very weird place but definitely one of the highlights of the trip.


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