|"QUANTUM SHOT" #590|
Link - Article by Ian Scott and Avi Abrams
No Whistling, Abandoned Hotels Fetish - and Some Very Well-Behaved Ladies
In many ways, I guess it was inevitable that everything in Korea was going to surprise me, because I knew so little about the country before I came here - after all, it's on the other side of the world from England, and we rarely get any news about it there.
Some of the odd, unusual and somewhat bewildering things that took me by surprise:
1) Koreans don't whistle. In fact, many Koreans can't whistle. When I asked my students why, they said that whistling was taboo. I'll have to look into that one a bit more.
2) Teachers must not correct books using a red pen! If you write someone's name in red, it means they are dead!
(an interesting sculpture found in Pyongyang, photo by Artemy Lebedev)
3) There is a TV channel devoted 24/7 to a board game called Paduk, which is a bit like chess. On-screen you see the board and hands occasionally moving pieces. I think that channel would slowly take over my life if it weren't for the other TV channels, which just show teenagers playing video games all day and night. In fact, it's the same video game all of the time and it's not even a very good one. I mean, if it were Age of Empires or something, at least it would look nice.
4) Commercial breaks are longer than the actual programmes. Sometimes, you'll just be getting into a Korean soap, and then a commercial break will start and go on and on and on and on. So, you wait, right? And what comes on after the commercial break? A completely different programme! So, you never do get to find out which one of those two guys she ended up with. I guess if you are watching the board game or video game channels, it doesn't really matter anyway.
5) There are loudspeakers everywhere. I have never heard so many loudspeakers in the streets anywhere else in the world. There are mobile shops (flatbed trucks) constantly cruising the streets, with loudspeakers turned up to maximum volume, advertising everything from onions to computers. The schools have even bigger and louder loudspeakers blaring out children's songs, physical-education instructions etc. not only to the whole school, but to the entire neighbourhood.
6) Palaces. Korea is really big on palaces. There are five different royal palaces in Seoul alone, and they are vast. It took me about two hours just to walk around one of them.
7) One of the tallest buildings in Korea (if not the tallest) is in North Korea! It's also the most grotesque:
The World's Largest Ruin? Ryugyong Hotel, The Pyongyang Ghost Tower - an unfinished hotel, looking very atmospheric early in the morning (a new haunt for Dracula, if he is still around):
(images credit: Artemy Lebedev)
Pyongyang officials do seem to realize how depressing this hotel looks, so they started to dress the outside of the hotel with glass, but this will hardly take care of the rotten core inside. However, you should not underestimate North Koreans, one day the Ryugyong Hotel might even look like this:
(image credit: Damien K.)
Another abandoned building, probably a hotel, nearby -
(image credit: Artemy Lebedev)
8) Koreans don't use knives. They cut meat, noodles and anything else that is inconveniently long with scissors. Sometimes in a restaurant a waitress will just lean over, with her pair of scissors, and helpfully snip a few pieces of food for you. The funny thing is, it makes sense! I realize now that the rest of the world has got it wrong. It's actually much easier to cut with scissors than with a knife.
9) Koreans invented printing. Forget all that Guttenburg press rubbish. The Koreans invented printing long before that - more info.
10) No Japanese cars. Korea must be the only country in the world where you don't see Japanese cars on the roads. In fact, you don't see any foreign cars on the roads. They are all Korean.
11) On Valentine's Day, February 14th, women give gifts of flowers and chocolates to men. And, no I haven't got that the wrong way round, but you may think they have.
12) Confusing street numbers. In most countries, when you are looking for a house you can follow the numbers on the buildings. They are arranged in a logical numbered sequence, right? Not in Korea. Next to House No. 1 could be house No. 88 or anything! House No. 2 will probably be half a mile away. Why? I wondered. Something to do with confusing the invading North Korean troops when they arrive, as somebody helpfully suggested? No. Apparently, they are numbered according to their age. So No. 1 will be the oldest house on the street. What happens if they tear it down and build a new one on the same spot, God only knows. Anyway, what it all means is that giving your address to a taxi driver is next-to-useless. You have to guide them every step of the way.
13) OK, I know you are expecting it, but the first time you see a dead dog, skinned, on a butcher's slab at the market, it does surprise you, believe me!
This photo was taken on Christmas Eve in front of the Fuck Club in downtown Daejeon, complete with smoking Santa. Note the little performing dog standing on its hind legs. It's a real, live dog (not eaten yet). Photo by Ian Scott
BONUS: Some Curious Imagery From North Korea
North Korean traffic lady (see her in action in this video) -
Apparently, there are no streetlights in Pyongyang, so these ladies take over in bossing around the few cars Pyongyang does have.
(images credit: Eric Lafforgue)
The blank, impersonal style of architecture is definitely intimidating:
(images credit: Eric Lafforgue, see more here)
Contrary to popular belief, North Korea can boast some color - take a look at these children out for a walk:
(photo by Kostya Rubakhin)
Colorful clothing on a group of workers attending the Kim Ir-sen's Mausoleum in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace:
(image credit: Sergey Dolya)
Same colors seem to be present in this visual joke:
North Korea Mass Dance Performances can include 100,000 dancers at once - here is a glimpse of one pretty girl dancer:
(images via 1, 2)
The mass parades can get pretty weird:
Beauty and propaganda are not too far apart:
Graveyard "night shift" must be somewhat spooky in these places:
Such a show of emotions! -
Cute-looking vintage buses in Pyongyang:
Life is Good! -
Looking to the future… with optimism!
(North Korean Pioneer Girl, photo by Artemy Lebedev)
Ian Scott is an Englishman who is trying to visit 100 countries and live in 20 of them. He is getting there: so far he's been to 94 and Oman is the eighteenth country he's lived and worked in. Other countries he's lived in recently include South Korea, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Romania. The name of his site, which started out as An Englishman in Korea, has changed accordingly. His blog includes his observations and photos of some of the more unusual aspects of these countries.
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