A Visit to Seoul, South Korea

For Golden Week, my family and I spent several days visiting the nearby city of Seoul in South Korea. We visited the following famous places and attractions:

  • Deoksugung Palace – was originally the home of King Seongjong’s elder brother, Prince Wolsan. After all the palaces were burned down in the Japanese invasion of 1592, Deoksugung was used as a temporary palace
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace – served as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and rebuilt in 1868 during King Gojong’s reign by the order of the Prince Regent
  • Cheongdam – referred to as “Fashion and Art Street” which has 50 shops for imported foreign brands, local fashion designers’ shops, and 30 galleries near the upscale Galleria Department Store
  • Dongdaemun Market – the largest shopping center in South Korea, has 26 shopping malls situated over 10 blocks, 30,000 speciality shops, and 50,000 manufacturers. The market sells goods ranging from just about everything but notably silks, clothes, shoes and leather goods, sporting goods, plumbing and electronics, office supplies, fortune tellers, toys and food areas
  • Myeongdong – one of Seoul’s main shopping districts featuring mid to high priced retail stores and international brand outlets. It is a popular area for particularly young people as a center for fashion and nightlife. Myeongdong is also the ninth most expensive street in the world in terms of floorspace rents
  • Namdaemun Market – one of the oldest continually running markets in South Korea, and it is the largest retail market in Seoul
  • Lotte World – is the world’s largest indoor theme park offering rides, attractions, shopping, restaurants, games, museum, shows and a skating rink
  • DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) – an area where weapons are prohibited. After the Korean War and based on the Armistice Agreement between the UN Forces and the North Korean Army, the Military Demarcation Line was established. From this line, 2 km towards each side of the divided nation, a 4 km wide DMZ was formed
  • National Folk Museum – is located on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace and was built during the Joseon period (1392-1910)
  • Seoul Tower – is a communications tower which stands on top of Mt. Namsan constructed in 1969

Here is a picture of Gyeonghoeru in Gyeongbokgung Palace, an open two story pavilion used for royal banquets. More pictures (7 albums of about 60 pictures each) are posted on my Facebook.

We were impressed by how tourist friendly Seoul was. For example, in the palaces we visited, they offered guard costume for you to try on (free, no charge), take pictures and pose with the guards. Also, the guards were very patient and accommodating to allow people to take pictures. In a traditional martial arts exhibition at Seoul Tower, the performers took time after to take pictures with the tourists. The only place where there were strict picture restrictions was in the DMZ, for security reasons.

As we are now living in Tokyo, we continually compared Japan with South Korea during the trip, and below are a few of our personal observations:

  • Food portions were larger and heartier (Koreans certainly love to eat) with more meat dishes and of course, kimchi was served during every meal
  • Seoul, South Korea is less expensive than Tokyo, Japan – food, shopping, transportation (taxis and subways were very cheap), etc.
  • More casual wear (more westernized), jeans and sneakers were common
  • People seem to talk louder and also talk more in public places including subways (in Tokyo subways, you rarely see anyone talking on their cell phones)
  • Less packaging – if you want a bag to put your purchases, it will cost you extra
  • Virtually every Korean can understand and speak English

Finally, no tipping is common to both countries.

6 thoughts on “A Visit to Seoul, South Korea

  1. “Virtually every Korean can understand and speak English”

    Nice trip report, but I can assure you this is definitely not true. It’s about the same as Japan, actually, or maybe even a little less common to meet Koreans who speak _any_ English.

    However, Koreans are incredibly friendly and helpful for the most part, so you can get pretty with a dictionary.

  2. >> It’s about the same as Japan, actually.

    Admittedly, my observation may be flawed since we have been living in Tokyo for almost a year and visited Seoul for only 5 days so it may not be an appropriate comparison.

    But our own personal experience was pretty clear than most of the Koreans we met during our visit there knew some form of English, while in Tokyo, I would say we have encountered many Japanese who knew no English at all.

  3. I guess it depends…

    The slight difference btw Korean and Japanese might be that Koreans are more interested in learning English…

    These Asians do not seem to be people of English fluency in comparison to Europeans.

    • Thank you visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I checked your blog and it looks like you work in Seoul as a columnist – though it seems you haven’t updated your blog since 2007.

  4. Pingback: Year In Review: Asian Trips « Konnichiwa

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