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RePuNSeoul – by Alex

by on July 28, 2016

(We haven’t blogged about Beijing yet, but I’ll get caught up with Korea, and we’ll do Beijing later)

Yesterday, we did a city tour of Seoul. But first,the  internet here is insanely fast (75 mbs on shared connections, 100+ on private connections). A YouTube video can render about half way before the page loads. 

We started by going to a palace (no longer active as South Korea is a democracy, not a constitutional monarchy). There, we saw the changing of the guards which had a lot less people than Buckingham Palace, and the people wore very colorful outfits. We then looked around the palace which was very cool. There was a room for the queen, which had heating in 1/3 of the room! To be fair, it was as old as the State of California. 



We then went to an old neighborhood in Seoul with tiny streets. It would’ve been very hard to park any one of the extreme abundance of Hyundais on the streets that look like back alleyways (it is almost impossible to leave the hotel and NOT see a Hyundai). I took some photos that will be lots of fun to edit. 


Our next stop was the Korean War memorial and museum. This museum honors all the countries who fought in the Korean War (except for North Korea and China). It was very clear that South Korea wanted peaceful reunification, while it seemed that the North wanted forceful reunification. There were lots of statues as well that showed a peaceful reunification. A museum also explained what caused the war and what happened. The South almost completely lost before the U.S. came in. Before the invasion at Incheon, the south was pushed back to Busan. Here is an approximation of the Korean Peninsula (the shaded area was the South at the lowest point). The rest of the Peninsula to the current border with China and Russia was North Korea.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 8.36.52 PM

At the end of the day, we went to the NSeoul Tower. I can’t figure out how it is pronounced, but I think it is “En-Seoul”. It means “New”.  The tower was OK but Anna especially liked all the “love locks”.  I thought they were against the rules but I guess not.

Today, we did a DMZ tour. DMZ stands for De-militarized zone. As with everything that has anything to do with the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (North), there is a teensy bit of irony involved. Such as, the fact that it is the most heavily militarized zone in the world. 

We couldn’t go to Panmonjum because it is off limits due to military training.  But otherwise we got very close to DPRK.  We first went to the furthest north place you can go without government approval. There was not a lot there and it was super hazy the entire day, so we could barely see the North, especially from here. Next, we went into the army-controlled area which had some amazing farmland. We saw some military posts, including probably the one that Uncle Phil worked at, and we went to Tunnel 3. The tunnels were an attempt in the 1970s at sneaking into South Korea (allegedly… They deny it like everything else) created by the North. More information can be found here. It was in bedrock and tiny.  We didn’t fit well but we did walk all the way to the end, which is way under the DMZ and almost at the border.   (It was probably easy for the North Koreans because they were short due to famine.  According to a defector, in 2011 they got around 700 calories a day. )

We couldn’t take pictures in the tunnel but here we are coming back up.  Dad and I were glad to have helmets, we bumped our heads a lot.


We also went to a train station that is built to be able to go to to Pyongyang (I am not sure on the spelling, it is incredibly inconsistent), after reunification, but currently the South operates trains from Seoul to here and then they turn around.

Our last stop was very close to the border. Since there was haze it was hard to see North Korea, but we could barely see the very famous flag in Panmunjom.   It’s not in the picture but the hill is Norh Korea.


I wish we could’ve seen better. We also got our photo taken with a member of the ROK (South) army.


At the end of the day, we went to the Samsung D’light experience in the Samsung Headquarters in Gangnam. We started in the store and saw the amazing picture quality on the TVs. Next, we went up to an interactive experience that had a ton of technology for something that I would consider useless. If you would like to see some photos, you can go to http://bit.ly/2apEfar. It got more absurd as you went further up, ending with “here is a VR animation of the future of the house.” There was a cool rollercoaster VR game that had a motion chair, except it felt a little weird to not see my legs or arms. 


The bathrooms had Samsung toilets with a control panel with 20 buttons for the “digital bidet” and a user manual on how to get spray for womens’ bottoms or mens’ bottoms. I didn’t test the difference.  That was the first time I had seen a toilet with a “This is how to use the toilet” sign.

Here we are “Gagnam Style”.


Overall, I had a lot of fun in Seoul, an extremely modern city.

 

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