Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Postcard from Seoul (Part 4)

(Part 1 of this series can be found here.)

In addition to two of the royal palaces, I visited the National Museum briefly. It's housed in a massive structure (world's 6th largest museum) that looks like something I.M. Pei might design.

The land where the museum is situated is also of interest. It seems Korea has always been dominated by the world powers of the day, so to speak. Historically, Korea has a strong connection with northern China. See these knife-coins:

Compare with modern currency:

A thousand won is a bit less than a buck. To convert to US dollars, I simply lopped three zeros off. Close enough...

Traditionally, Korea has been under Chinese suzerainty for long periods. Tribute was paid. Then came the Japanese, who annexed the peninsula and managed to erase the royal palaces. And then came the United States. It's the 21st century, but bang in the middle of Seoul, a mega-metropolis (10 million inhabitants city, 25 million including environs), is a U.S. Army base. The museum is situated on what was formerly a U.S. Army golf course, returned recently to the Korean government. But the Yongsan U.S. Army base is still there situated on prime Seoul real estate.

On one of the weekend days that I was there, there was a big traffic jam. The cause was the deployment of literally thousands upon thousands of riot police with shields. These guys were bussed using hundreds of police buses, see picture below.

I have no idea what the protests were about. However, people around seemed to go about their normal business.

One final note. Since it was my first visit to Korea, I've often wondered how the food compares to those Korean restaurants around 35th Street in Manhattan, New York, informally known as K-town. I found the BBQ and Bulgogi weren't too different but I had one interesting experience at this restaurant:

Not being able to read, write or understand Korean, I wandered into this place and sat down. Food was plonked down in front of me, and hand signals were given on what goes with what.

I've never been in a restaurant where there was no menu (because one didn't exist), no need to order (everyone was served the same thing). There was soup base, tofu, chicken, and some dried fish in there too. A bowl of rice and cold soup accompanied the meal. After eating, I got up, and they showed me the price on a calculator. No language barrier.

Next morning, I pass by the restaurant. There was a line of people waiting to get in.

1 comment:

  1. Food looks VERY familiar, including the slippery metal chopsticks.