When I was still in university, I lived in a student residence. I was young, I was having a lot of fun and I was also almost always broke. My neighbourhood was full of English language schools for young South Korean students. Essentially their parents would ship them to the Philippines during their summer breaks to spend two miserable scorching hot and humid months in Manila to learn English. I needed to earn extra cash but I had no marketable skills other than my ability to speak English so I applied for a teaching job.
My students were in grade school. They didn’t speak a word of English and I didn’t speak a word of Korean. We had to use a lot of sign language. To cut the story short, I didn’t last very long as a teacher but I managed to retain my love of Korean food and my fascination with Korean culture. This was around 2005 and it was the beginning of the Hallyu wave. By the time I moved to Canada in 2006, the Philippines and other countries in Asia have all been swept off their feet by Korean drama and K-Pop.
Fast-forward to 2014. I’ve just come back from Spain and I was jet lagged as hell. I couldn’t sleep so I switched from one movie to another until I ended up watching a South Korean TV show called “Coffee Prince”. It is essentially a Cinderella story except the handsome prince thought his Cinderella was a man. After that, I watched “My Love from the Star”, a story of a 500 year old alien and a temperamental actress. They can’t even touch and he has difficulty staying on the same dimensional plane as her but nevertheless they still fell in love. I guess you’re sensing a pattern here. Yes, I have peculiar tastes when it comes to TV. A whole new world of entertainment opened up to me. It causes me a great deal of shame and humiliation to admit it but I was and still am hooked. KDrama has done mermaids, time travel, vampires, goblins, ghosts, nine tailed foxes and the list goes on. I’m seriously waiting for them to come up with a show that has dragons, wait that’s Game of Thrones. Anyway, moving on.
My husband teased me to death when I told him I was going to Seoul. I guess my trip was a pilgrimage of sorts. Roaming the streets of Seoul and walking the streets of KDramaland was an exciting experience, an extension of suspended animation if you will. I guess I must have watched too many of them but it was strange how familiar and normal it felt to walk along the same streets and go to the same cafes and restaurants where KDramas were filmed. I found no movie stars and cameras but normal ordinary people living their lives. Well that and other crazy KDrama fanatics checking out the locations where their favourite KDramas were filmed.
KDramas aside, Seoul was a true feast for the senses. I found a modern city with a long and fascinating history that runs at clockwork efficiency. Modern technology pervades every aspect of life and happily co-exist with ancient customs and traditions. I was only there for six full days. I’m well aware that I barely scratched the surface but I really liked what I saw. I have a feeling it won’t be my my first and last trip provided the cantankerous Northern neighbour doesn’t do anything drastic.
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