On one hand, there reigns the secret, totalitarist, and the threats of a chubby braggart. On the other hand, consecrated companies, technological advancement and an impressive competitiveness.

If you see Korea (at least its southern half) today, you can not imagine that, shortly after World War II, this country, still without division, was one of the poorest in the world. Occupied by the Japanese since 1910, the peninsula was divided between Soviets and Americans, due to the explosion of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and consequent Japanese surrender.

Despite the ruined state the country was in, the government was firmly committed to maintaining (and even increasing) investment in education, along with the encouragement given to wealthier families to develop industrial conglomerates. Two stand out:

  • A company that sold dry fish and food products, known as Samsung;
  • A cosmetics company that offered mainly women’s face creams, called LG.

As we well know, both have changed, drastically, their branches of action.

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After growing up, crises, rulers with dictatorial posture and other problems, this little Asian Tiger roared, and today is one of the biggest economies in the world.

– Enough of this history class! I’m here to find out how life in Korea is. What do they eat, where do they live, how do they reproduce?

Firstly, let’s calm down!
I need to share one of the most beautiful flags of all.
Make no mistake about the Pepsi symbol in the center, it has a lot more to tell us than that.

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The circle symbolizes the Absolute, the essential unity of an entire being.

The top (red) represents the “Yang”, while the lower (blue) the “Yin”.
Originating in China, these two opposites express the eternal duality: day and night; fire and water; construction and destruction; male and female; more and less; life and death. Duality indicates the paradox of life and the inability to learn it fully (nor try).
The sets of lines at the ends can symbolize different aspects, from the four elements (Earth, Fire, Wind, Water), passing through the four seasons of the year, and can also express the four cardinal directions, or the four main virtues (senses of humanity, justice, intelligence and courtesy).
Last but not least, the white background color represents peace and purity.
Nice one, right?

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Seoul is definitely a mix of the ancient world with the modern.
Villages with their characteristic ceilings (Hanoks) stand out in the midst of towering skyscrapers.
Temples ask for passage along with gymnasium for games competitions.
Palaces share their space with giant electronics markets.
When entering a subway, you will hardly find someone who is not glazed on the cell phone screen. In certain streets it is even possible to see signs prohibiting the use of it.

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It amazes at the ease of identifying a Korean couple.
No!
It is not because of explicit affection. There is a tendency for both to wear similar clothing.
T-shirts with the same patterns, sneakers with the same color, caps used by the two, backpacks similar, some say that even the underwear must match.

The food in South Korea is based mostly on rice, vegetables and meats, all watered with doses, perhaps exaggerated to your taste, of spices. Believe me, the food may be spicier than that found in India.
Vegetarians go through a certain difficulty in these bands.
A traditional meal is marked by the large amount of small additional dishes, Kimchi (various fermented ingredients, mainly cabbage, spices, and a shrimp or oyster broth) being the main one. Each South Korean is estimated to consume approximately 18 kg of this mixture per year. Maybe that’s why they say that the infamous food prevents even cancer.
Restaurants have very low tables where their customers sit on the floor to share food, which is often prepared by themselves, in plates or hotplates located in the center of each table. The well known Korean barbecue is prepared by yourself. After grilling, place the meat and pepper on a lettuce leaf, toast with a glass of Soju (distilled drink made from rice) and share good times with your friends or family.

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Everyone’s favorite: Chimaek.
Simplified version of Chicken and Maekju, ie, fried chicken with beer.
Apparently Koreans do not spend much time cooking, as restaurants and street stalls are always crowded, and convenience stores thrive all over the place.

In some regions, consumption of seafood exceeds that of meat. Aquariums with live prey are in almost all establishments, guaranteeing quality fish and fresh, sometimes even too much.

San nakji! Remember this name.
Maybe to get away from it, if you do not feel very adventurous, because it is octopus, which is prepared alive and only killed when it reaches your table, causing the tentacles to continue to move while you struggle with the Hashi to put it in your mouth. It’s funny to see the suction cups clinging to your tongue, but watch out. Only swallow after you are completely still. There are cases of asphyxiation deaths.

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South Korea is a beautiful country, full of activities, events, markets and temples. It transpires its old and recent history, and has much to add, but not everything is flowers.

An everyday habit is to spit on the floor. But I am referring to a sound and delicious spit that cleans the depths of the throat. Let’s agree that it’s not very nice.
Garbage cans are almost impossible to find, and there is a reason for this: the Korean government wanted to collect money from the residences for its waste, so citizens had the brilliant idea of putting them in the urban rubbish dumps, and avoiding a payment. Consequently the bins were withdrawn from the whole region.

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An alarming and tragic fact is the country’s suicide rate (second largest in the world). Poisoning is one of the main methods practiced, and one difference to other countries is the high number of older people withdrawing their own lives. This is due to a high number of elders below the poverty line who prefer this destination to generate expenses for their families.

The social pressure for success is imense. You have to be the best in school, university, your job, everywhere, in a way that is not healthy, and generates some suicides too.
Fortunately, thanks to certain actions, the index has been decreasing, even if little, year by year.

As Dallas Tamaira from Fat Freddy’s Drop would say:

“well it’s hard to be happy
in a world that’s so cruel
where the weak just get weaker
where the powerful feud
where the children go hungry
while the soldiers stand by
lay down your weapons
take hold of your lives
and when will we learn
that it’s hate that breeds hate
only love is the cure
don’t leave it too late
get up, and feel it
the truth that won’t wait
if we choose to do nothing
then we take all the blame”

This entry was posted in Asia

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