Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dear Korean Tourism Organization,

I've seen your KOREA SPARKLING ad campaign and read that you hope to attract 10 million tourists to South Korea by 2010. You're quickly approaching that deadline, so I have some suggestions for making South Korea a bit more tourist-friendly.

Don't get me wrong, South Korea is a beautiful country. The geography alone is stunning. The traditional architecture and Buddhist temples are fascinating. Korea has a rich history and culture, which are well-documented at various museums and monuments throughout the country. I hear the shopping is fantastic, although that's not really "a cup of my tea." And, not to be ignored, Korea has a flair for the quirky: penis parks, museums dedicated to random collections (i.e. the Edison & Gramophone Museum in Gangnueng), odd theme restaurants and bars (like the odd metal spaceship-esque bar here in Sokcho), etc.

However, there are a few things you could do to clean up Korea a bit and make it, um, sparkle more.

1. Put in public garbage cans (AKA rubbish bins). There is a dearth of places to throw away trash in public areas. (Bus stops are the exception.) As a result, there is garbage everywhere. The other day, my family was riding the gatbae across Lake Cheungcho. An elderly woman finished her yogurt drink and tossed the plastic container into the lake. The city playground near my apartment is always covered in trash, including broken soju bottles. Conveniently placed garbage cans would alleviate this unsightly issue.

2. Replace more of the squat toilets. Squat toilets are the bane of my existence here in Korea. I'm sure many foreigners (especially of the female gender) feel the same way. Some restrooms, such as the one at our local intercity bus terminal, have a stall marked "Foreigners Only" with a Western-style toilet. However, this stall is often occupied by Koreans, so obviously the local people also prefer not having to hunker down on their haunches to relieve themselves.

3. Educate people about the proper care of pets, dogs in particular. Puppies are cute and entertaining, but they do grow up. Adult dogs need to be bathed and walked. Westerners do not like to see beautiful, but filthy, dogs tied up on 2 foot ropes. Seeing dogs ill-treated reminds us that some Koreans still eat dog, and we know that you want the world to forget that.

None of these changes detract from the Korean experience, but instead allow Korea to truly sparkle.

Kind regards,
Legal alien #******-666****
(That's really part of my ID number. I can't make this stuff up.)


4 Responses to “KOREA SPARKLING!”
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Good points in a reasonable tone.

I wonder about the lack of garbage cans, though. a friend of mine refuses to buy the proper garbage bags (for those outside of Korea: buying the bag is a kind of garbage tax - collection of household garbage is daily) and instead uses whatever bag is handy.

I have seen, very infrequently, people using public garbage cans for household garbage. I guess they didn't have a bag handy or missed the pickup in the morning - it's hard to imagine they were saving money -the bags are cheap enough.

I have seen the same thing in Canada; I worked at a recreation centre and for several weeks some local builder used our dumpster for his commercial trash - broken drywall, lumber and the like.

Are the garbage cans missing because they were abused?

penis parks? What? I havent heard of those.

There's "Love Land" on Jeju Island (which isn't just penises), a Penis Park south of Samcheok, and a totem pole park near Gongju that's supposed to feature some phallic symbols.
The only one I've actually been to is "Love Land."

That video was beautiful and hilarious. Beautiful, because Korea is beautiful (and it made me homesick), and hilarious because so much of a video meant for broadcast outside of Korea is chock-a-block with exclusively Korean subtitles. I bet there were 5 Korean subtitles for one English subtitle, which is, um, not the wisest marketing tool to use with people who can't read 한글. Sparkling, indeed.

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