Something old, something new.

South Korea

Korea is a fascinating mix of the bang up-to-date and the resolutely traditional. I can only talk about what we’ve seen, but we’ve seen quite a bit.

In the land of Samsung, Hyundai and Kia, almost everyone is semi-permanently attached to their smartphone. Just take a metro journey and watch them all, immersed.

In this same country though, you’ll find dozens of little back street workshops where they’ll try and fix your failed toaster, or put a few stitches in your now just a little saggy bra.

On the one hand there are clever, highly qualified whizz-kids working away in their state-of-the-art studios. On the other there’s a little old lady squatting on the roadside with a handful of vegetables to sell, or an old man with a cart or bike amassing discarded cardboard.

On the one hand, there’s Starbucks, Dominos, MacDonald’s et al. On the other are little family food businesses feeding locals from tiny one room restaurants, street stalls, or places in the market. We all love the tasty traditional food they provide, but will they survive into the next generation? Who would want such a gruelling life for their child? The food sellers of today make sure their children are educated for different choices.

I could go on. High-rise living versus traditional hanok: those traditional homes, till recently the homes of the poorer classes are suddenly desirable again. Here in Gyeongju, new hanoks are going up, built of fine materials – quite state-of-the-art, right next to their shabbier antecedents.

I wonder how Korea will change its habits over the next generation or so?