Friday, April 1, 2011

Korea Part 1

The one and only preview picture, just to wet your apetite. This one captures a scene from Jeju Island.

Last week me and three of my AKP friends went on a trip to South Korea as a part of our spring break. We visited the country's capital city, Seoul, and then made our way to its largest island, Jeju. From there we went to Pusan, the number two city and number one port in Korea, and to Kyeongju, Korea's oldest city. We also visited the famous Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, which marks the border between South and North Korea.

South Korea is Japan's closest neighbor, and just like Japan, over seventy percent of its territory consists of mountains. There are many other similarities between Japan and Korea. Korea's capital, Seoul, is the second largest metropolitan area in the world after Tokyo, with its roughly twenty million people comprising about half of the country's population. Korea is also a large producer of cars, ships, and modern electronics, and serves, just like Japan, as a large base for American troops in East Asia. Korean pop music is very popular in Japan, as are Korean food and alcohol. The two languages, despite having a different writing system and other differences, are related and many words are pronounced the same. However, there are also many differences between Japan and Korea.

First and foremost, Japan occupied Korea between 1910 and 1945, which causes occasional bitterness in the two countries' relations even now. Second, I noticed in Korea that there is an incredibly large military presence as compared to mainland Japan (not counting Okinawa with its many American bases). Literally, there are soldiers everywhere you go. Spending eleven percent of its GDP on the military and having a compulsory two year military enrollment for males, South Korea is one of the most militarized countries in the world. That is because, as hopefully most of you know, the Korean peninsula is divided into two parts, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the North (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South. This division was a result of the Korean War which reached a stalemate in 1953 but on paper, however, it never ended. The countries are divided at roughly the 38th paralel by a four kilometer wide line called the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, which is ironically the most militarized place on the planet (just like the DPRK is probably the least democratic place in the world). The North Korean side of the DMZ contains so much artillery that it could annihilate the city of Seoul within three minutes. The south Korean side hosts two million heavily armed soldiers and at least seven million land mines ready to defend the country from an invasion by the North. South Korea has about twice the population of North Korea, and a twenty times higher GDP per capita.

That is enough about Korea's history, now let me tell you what I did and what I found interesting about the country. Because my posts of late tend to be too long, I will give you bullet points to each place, just like I did in the case of Taiwan. However, because I have little time now as I have to catch a place to Okinawa, I will post those later. For now, enjoy this post.


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