South Korea (/ˈsaʊθ kɒˌriə/ ( listen)), officially the Republic of Korea (ROK, Korean: 대한민국, pronounced [tɛːhanminɡuk̚] ( listen)) and sometimes referred to simply as Korea, is a country in East Asia, located on the … see full wiki
The Last Frontier of The Cold War is Worth a Look-See
Mar 15, 2007
Pros: Good food, modern accommodations.
Cons: Gray, gray, gray.
The Bottom Line: A Place I would like to see again, if only to see some color.
As luck would have it my first duty station in the U.S. Navy was Pearl Harbor Hawaii. I was young㬏 years old as a matter of factbut I was filled with the spirit of adventure. I had volunteered to ride submarine out of Pearl and one trip we laid over in Pusan (also known as Busan), South Korea with a broken propeller shaft. Pusan, is South Koreas largest port city and the countrys second largest metropolitan area with a population of some 3.65 million.
As it turned out Pusan was and is a favorite watering hole for sailors, where all sorts of leisurely activity can be pursued. We pulled into Pusan on a cold rainy day in late October and the most striking thing about the city was its lack of color; everything it seemed to me at the time was gray, even the grass and trees. That impression left a lasting imprint on my mental image of South Korea that lasts to this day.
Since my first visit to South Korea I have went back three times over my fifteen year Navy career and each time I left with the same impression; I have not wanted to go back. The last time I visited I flew into Seoul, the largest city in South Korea with a population of over ten million people. Located on the historic Han River in the far north of the country, Seoul is only some thirty miles south of the North Korean border and the now infamous and heavily mined Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
I remember the city as a bustling metropolis, but with a small rural feel. All matter of fresh food is to be found on the streets along with grilled meats of all description. This activity is juxtaposed against modern skyscrapers, four-star hotels, and all of the other trapping of modern human society; the contrast can be jarring.
I, of course ventured to the DMZ from Camp Bonifas the Army base on the southern side of the border. The last time I was there, the U.S. Army was still manning the post in full strength, but has since pulled a large number of troops back from the brink, so to speak. These positions along guard towers festoon with barbed/razor wire and antipersonnel trenches and steel cross beams, are now manned by the South Korean Army. Being so near to a place where violence could erupt at any moment was chilling to say the least. I couldnt escape the feeling of foreboding that seemed to creep into my breast and wrap its dark tendrils around it; the feeling didnt leave until I left the city by bus.
On all of my trips I made a point of travelinginsofar as possibleby car or bus; this way I was able to see the land close up. One each trip that same grayness that greeted me on my first trip still seemed to cling to everything like dust.
The food for the most part was decent, as were the various hotels I stayed at in Pusan and Seoul. The people are mostly homogeneous and didnt take well to outsiders, at least not in Pusan. I remember being stared at-a lot-and at one point while walking on the street in Pusan with a group of Black American friends a truck load of Korean soldiers drove by and shouted racial insults at us; that incident too stands out as a particularly unsavory memory of South Korea. Would I visit South Korea again? Yes, I would.
Now as a civilian I can finally go places that where heretofore off-limits to me and perhaps see the country in a whole new light so to speak.
Best Suited For: Friends Best Time to Travel Here: Jun - Aug