South Korea has increasingly shown up in American media in the past few years, and it is not just because of their dangerous neighbor to the north. South Korean music, cosmetics, and television are all becoming increasingly popular in the United States and the rest of the world. Until recently, South Korea was not at the top of the list of “must see locations” in Asia like Japan and China, but the Hallyu wave has helped put South Korea on the map. According to the Korea Tourism Organization, in 2016, an estimated 17 million foreign tourists visited Korea, which is four million more than in 2015. Even though much of the draw for tourists may be due to the Hallyu movement, Korea isn’t all about Kpop and Kdramas. Korea is a country with a rich history, especially modern history in the past century. I recommend every tourist go see the palaces in Seoul, the War Memorial of Korea, and the Olympic Park to become more familiar with Korean history. Korea has become one of my favorite places that I have ever visited, and so far, I haven’t even ventured very far beyond Seoul!
I first traveled to South Korea in April of 2017. This was the first time I had ever been to a country outside of North America and Europe. I had chosen South Korea as my first Asian destination because my cousin and his family were living in Seoul at the same time that my college buddy in the U.S. Army was stationed in Korea. Coincidentally enough, I was also trying to learn Korean before I knew my friend was ever going to be stationed there (my bucket list for my twenties includes learning a new language, and I had chosen Korean). During this trip, I stayed in Seoul for five full days and the rest of my time was spent at my friend’s place in Pyeongtaek, where he is stationed.
Seoul is a beautiful city that is very densely populated. According to a quick Google search, it is inhabited by about ten million people (New York City, the most populated city in the United States, is only about 8.5 million), and it is only on about 605.25 km² of land (New York is about 784 km²). There are so many more people in less space! The largest city I had been to prior to Seoul was London (population 8.6 million and area of 1,579 km²). As populated as Seoul is, I never felt like just an ant in an anthill. There were only a few times that I was squished into a metro train or a bus like a sardine, and those were always around rush hour. I was amazed at how clean the city is for how populated it is. It was not dirty like other cities I have been to, like certain parts of Paris, London, Lisbon, and Washington D.C. A stark contrast to how clean the city is would be the air pollution. Seoul, like many Asian cities, almost always has a visible haze in the air. It was strange to see a haze in the air on a completely sunny day. This haze is visible in the pictures I have taken. Despite the pollution, Korea is a beautiful country, and I am looking forward to exploring it more in August!
For my second trip to Korea I have many things planned including a weekend trip to Jeju, day trips from Seoul, and even attending a music festival in Seoul! I have a huge list of things that I want to do in Korea now that I know more about Seoul and the country in general. I am really anticipating this trip! Look forward to my posts about crazy cafes, kmusic, shopping, and my short excursions!