When the time of leaving Japan was coming, we contacted our Korean friend, asking for details of his family address and they way we would keep in touch in Korea. He said then, that at the Korean flag should be wi-fi sign, as free internet is there everywhere! It is true that usually without problems we can catch wi-fi by big buildings, banks, cafes or even toilets by the road. For me, this is the symbol of economy growth but also division of the country at its different levels as I felt weird catching wi-fi by a building while cycling kilometers of bike path through fields, farms and greenhouses.
The whole world knows that to the north of wi-fi blossom country is another land, that is a problem and danger; it is also the main subject of Korean politics. And people here are not happy with politics; for us these were single talks about Korean government that doesn’t follow the economy development and appearing social challenges. At the beginning of our stay in Korea, we cycled many kilometers through agricultural areas and little towns. No young people live there, in the fields only eldery people work; in my head there is already the picture of deformed women who work hard all the day long, half-bent and running years don’t allow them to straighten up.
The mentioned picture I put together with working and learning mechanisms in Korea. Children and teenagers after school have additional classes at so called ‘academy’, which results in very long hours they spent learning and they come back home after 10 pm, even on Saturdays! It happens because lessons at school are not at enough high level to ensure further education, so they fill that gap in the evening, having no time to develop their hobbies. Anwsering the question what is my hobby, they listen with disbelief that I might have time for handmade work or picture developing in the dark room. Everyone is focused on the best test results, pushed by career pressure.
For women pregnancy is disqualification from the job matket actually, and finding job here is not easy. Our friend for instance, would never say a word about his 6-month bike trip in the US and Europe during a job interview. Isn’t it an assest to be a brave person who learned and saw a real piece of the world? Employers hate creativity and days off here. Entering Korea, still in the Busan port, we rushed with our bikes through the customs. The lady officer taking my finger prints and checking my passport asked me suspiciously about my work, what I do, if I will work, why I was three months in Japan, how long I am going to stay in Korea and so on. Her eyes were becoming bigger and my face more and more pale as I though she questioned my stay in Korea. But at the end she just said: “I envy you, I cannot have holidays” and she put a stamp into my passport.
I have a feeling that Korea is torn between Korean peninsula division and negative attitude towards Japan. It must be really absorbing, especially when they are trying to be the world technological power. These are my thoughts and observations after almost a month here and they may change, but I cannot think in a different way when I see LG toothpaste in a shop, catch wi-fi between a cowshed and a greenhouse, factory workers drive CEO cars and people are unhappy as they have no time for themselves and claim living in Korea is hard.
High price of economical comfort. Still, for us there is a capital city ahead, stylish teenagers and thousands kilometers of thoughts.