Amazed by dynamism of Korea

Korea “Be Inspired!” is the new slogan chosen by Tourism Korea to describe their country.
My wife and I have been travelling about the city of Seoul for nine days. As an empire pre-dating the birth of Christ, the nation has faced centuries of war and those wars have created a great confidence in the nation.
My son, Adam, and his girlfriend, Meesun, have guided us. On our first day, they picked us up at our hotel and directed us to the subway system.
The first day of touring had us visiting two palaces that have been restored to grandeur. They are huge structures in the centre of bustling Seoul.
The palaces are architectural marvels, and housed governments overseeing 900,000 inhabitants before the 13th century.
It must have been quite the government with thousands of administrators and officials.
This city is filled with palaces and temples, and in many ways those temples today fill an important role of telling the history of the nation and serving as park space.
Museums of every description tell the stories of history, war, agriculture, art, and the country. Several palaces and temples have been named World Heritage Sites.
During our visit to the Korea War Museum, we met a gentleman who was 11 years of age when he watched the landing of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur from his house at Incheon.
For two hours he had our rapt attention as he recounted the battles of Korea while he led us through the museum.
We also spent half-a-day at the National Museum of Korea. It is a most striking building and we realize that as we leave Korea, we would need at least another full day to walk through the exhibits.
One of the most haunting museums is the Seodaemun Prison, which the Japanese forcibly built during their occupation of the country from 1907-45.
Many of the atrocities committed by the Japanese on Korean prisoners are visually shown. Overcrowding, starvation, and lack of heat took their toll on the prisoners and many perished.
It has been declared a national historic site and is being restored.
As you wander around the city, you can’t help but notice the proliferation of cranes building new skyscrapers and apartments. Areas of apartment buildings are given the same common name.
The difference comes in that each building has a different progressive number. The largest number of grouped apartments I saw was 143.
Ten years ago, to meet the growing population of Seoul, a new community to the northwest was created called Ilsan. Today, more than one million people reside there.
My son lives in the region of Paju, only a few miles away, as does his girlfriend. If you look to Google Maps, you will see only a forest. Yet today the city of Paju, less than five years old, has more than 100,000 people living there.
Just behind Adam’s home is a huge semi-conductor factory for LG. Not far away is another for Samsung.
One of the largest malls in the world, Co-Ex, sits as part of Asia’s largest convention centre, attracting conventions from across the globe. Yet you can wander off the major streets, with all the tall shiny buildings and stores, and fall back in a warren of alleyways selling everything imaginable.
It is quite a contrast.
Nine subway systems can connect you to anywhere in the city and I’m told if you know the bus system, it can be even faster. Trains run every 15-20 minutes to cities throughout the country.
When slogans were being considered, the eventual winner displaced “Dynamic Korea” and “Miracle on the Han.”
As we fly out of Incheon, we have been amazed by Seoul and the dynamism of the country.

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