We had been in Taiwan for almost two months. Our visas required us to leave and re-enter every 60 days. We considered all of the countries we could go to and Herbert mentioned Okinawa, Japan as a possibility. I had lived there for three years, but hadn't been back to visit for almost 20 years. I voted to go there, wanting to see how much it had changed. Herbert was leaning towards South Korea because there was business that we could do there. I had been to South Korea for one week on a trip with the Marine Corps. I had not enjoyed my time there. The only thing that I could really remember was that I had hated the food. However, I was now old enough and wise enough to know that I wasn't judging fairly, especially because I had never tried any of it. I only ate when I was on the Army bases. Herbert and I made the decision to go to Korea and I made the decision to be more adventurous.
I found that South Korea, and Seoul specifically, had changed quite a bit in 20 years. It had grown to become a bustling, modern city with history and customs nestled in like a teddy bear tucked under the arm of a child. And maybe, just maybe, it was me who had grown up. Maybe I had simply opened my eyes and my taste buds. There is a street in Seoul, in the It'aewon area, that's lined with American chain restaurants that cater to the U. S. military personnel. In Switzerland, the only American food we have is McDonald's and in Chungli, Taiwan we only had McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. It had been over six months since I had access to so much American comfort food.
Our first night in Seoul, we ate Bulgogi, or Korean barbeque - one of the most popular dishes in Korea. A very tender and flavorful beef rib is grilled on the table in front of you and then served with side dishes of kimchee and salads. I loved it. The next night we ate dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. It was good, but I found myself craving the beef and the spicy vegetables from the night before. (I still crave it now that we're back in Switzerland.) Other than one night at a Swiss restaurant in Seoul, we ended up focusing on Korean food for the rest of the week. I tried and enjoyed every dish that was presented to us.
We spent most of the week with Posalux’s agent in South Korea, Mr. H. B. Yim. He took us to see customers for meetings, lunches and dinners in the southern part of South Korea. And for our last day, he arranged a tour for us of the U. S. Army base in Seoul with one of his friends, Mrs. Yi, who works on the base as a computer specialist. The look and feel of an American military base was the only thing that didn’t seem to change in 20 years.
I’m grateful for everything that Mr. Yim did for us, grateful that we experienced so much of South Korea in one short week and grateful that I had matured enough to recognize how wonderful it is.
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|1 - This is me, as I was 20 years ago when I first went to South Korea, when I was still leery of anything that wasn't American.||2 - Herbert and I noticed, like many who to go to Korea, that although Seoul is a modern city, there are many signs of the past. The Namdaemun - or Great South Gate - standing against tall office buildings is one of four gates of an old city wall.||3 - The Namdaemun shopping district, one of the most popular in Seoul, was overwhelmingly crowded with people, colorful signs, things to buy (at relatively inexpensive prices), and smells of foods that we didn't always recognize.|
|4 - Ginseng is considered 'the human root' because it looks like a little old man. It is believed to stimulate sexual vitality in men, but is also thought of as good for overall vitality in both men and women.. It's one of Korea's larger exports, especially to China. It's sold all over Korea in markets like this one.||5 - Kimchee, the most well-known food from Korea, is spicy, fermented vegetables - mostly cabbage. This market stall sells many kinds, and to me, they all look good. (You have to try it. It sounds horrible, but it's delicious.)||6 - Here's another item you can buy in the market - one that doesn't sound good to me at all! What I really wonder is what are the styrofoam 'to-go' containers for? And why are the ears wrapped?|
|7 - We went to dinner one night with some of the customers from the Keoyang company, located near Pusan, in the southern part of South Korea. The 'restaurant' was more like a park with paths, statues and small dining rooms on water-lily covered ponds. Beautiful! This photo shows two of the rooms.||8 - The waitresses have a server's station along the path.||9 - The customers, sitting around the table in our little room. Notice that everyone sits on the floor and that there are many, many small dishes to choose from. The man on the far right is Mr. Yim, the agent for Posalux in Korea.|
|10 - Almost every night, we had Bulgogi for dinner and this evening was no different. Mr. Han from Keoyang (sitting next to Mr. Yim) is cooking for us.||11 - Here's proof that we were in Korea for business, not just pleasure.|