As some of you may have noticed, TK has been in Korea for the last couple of weeks. One of the pleasures of visiting Korea is to observe the changes. Because Korea is such a fast-changing society, even one year in between the visits (as was the case with TK's) is enough to produce noticeable, interesting changes. Here are three things that TK noticed in his visit:
(1) Beer. Good beer is mainstream. Good beer is mainstream! In Korea! In the land of horse piss beer! Yes, it is true, good beer is available in Korea to a degree that has never been seen before. As TK previously predicted, the microbrewery movement in Korea is finally taking off. Even the big boys--i.e. Hite and OB--improved their default beer and came out with more drinkable stuff. Microbreweries are now opening their own restaurants and pubs all over Seoul; it will be a matter of time before they spread to other large cities of Korea.
(2) Public Bathrooms. Once upon a time--say, 10 years ago--using a public bathroom in Korea was a serious gamble. You had to avoid the dreaded "squat toilet" (and no, TK is not going to put up a picture here.) In about 90 percent of the times, there was no toilet paper. Cleanliness? Pfft, people tossed the dirty toilet paper into an open-faced trash can.
Not so any more. In no case was TK in any danger of not finding toilet paper in a public toilet. All of them were reasonably clean--even the ones in incredibly crowded subway stations. The bathrooms in the Gangnam station smelled less of urine than the elevator of the Penn Station subway stop in New York. This is true.
(3) Chinese people. There are more Chinese folks in Korea than ever. Tourist districts of Seoul have huge banners in Chinese. Thanks to a new investment visa, Jeju Island has a massive increase in Chinese folks in the last few years, to the point that Koreans are joking about how they need to learn Chinese if they want to retire in the island.
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