Ten ways Seoul can improve itself in 2012

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

CNNGo.com/seoul is a news source I go to once in a while for interesting news in Korea, and the recently posted article 2012 New Year’s resolutions for Seoul really hit the mark! Some of the resolutions the writers suggest are things that have bothered foreigners (like me and the friends I met back in 2010) and natives for a long time–take the lack of public garbage cans, for instance, or the VERY over-priced coffee. My thoughts on the ten!

1. No more gargantuan cosmetic surgery ads

Yes, please! People say that you always know when you’re in the Apgujeong/Gangnam area, because the subway stops are plastered in creepy, huge plastic surgery adverts featuring extremely pale and inorganic, surgified (I made that word up) faces. The messages that these advertisements are sending are so deceptive and ingrained in Korean standards of beauty that Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world. Back in 2010 I mainly saw ads with pictures of slimmed down jawlines or double eyelids, but then when I went back in 2011 I saw breast-augmentation ads too. This was surprising to me because Koreans care more about facial features or being skinny than the chest area but I guess that’s changing…

2. Make coffee more affordable (and better-tasting)

There is a saying in Korean, which is ‘배보다 배꼽이 더 크다’ meaning ‘the belly button is bigger than the belly’. You would use this if you ate a meal and, upon ordering dessert, realize the dessert cost more than the main meal–or if the shipping and handling fee for a package costs more than what you’re sending to begin with. I would say this applies to the price of coffee at many chain stores as well–the coffee/drinks are 4,500 won and up when I can easily get meals for about that price or even cheaper.

3. Have more (I would say bigger, as well) public trashcans

Apparently there was so much trash on the streets maybe a decade ago? that trashcans on the streets were done away with, in the hopes that people would go elsewhere to throw away their garbage. But this is like going one step forward but two steps back, Seoul–wouldn’t it have been better to increase the size or number of trashcans instead of doing away with them?

4. Ban indoor smoking

I guess this doesn’t make that much of a different in a 고기집 (meat-house) because Koreans have those nifty sucker-upper-vents over every table/grill, but yeah it would be nice to not have my food taste like cigarette smoke/not poison myself for an extended period of time. Korea in general needs more anti-smoking campaigns but the topic of smoking is another can of worms (although this smartphone app to help you stop smoking, 나금자, is a good step forward. Read more about why the habit dies hard in South Korea, a proactive approach to decreasing smoking via the creation of non-smoking units in the Korean military and thegrandnarrative’s post on the gender politics of smoking).

5. Make better slogans (I would say improve the use of English in music lyrics, too)

While I worked for the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU) last summer, I definitely read my fair share of corny slogans (and grammatically incorrect ones, or misspelled ones); and if I were in Korea right now, I’m sure I could point out several real-life examples pretty quickly. I like the idea of having slogans, but I wonder if all of them are really necessary? Especially… if they’re not good…? Does America over-slogan everything too…?

6. Stop idolizing Myeongdong

Myeongdong is one of the shopping hotspots in Seoul, and since the UNESCO building is smack-dab in the middle of it, I got a lot of exposure to the area last summer. I don’t know what it was like before 2010, so I like it the way it is… but I can see the detriments of it becoming so tourist-y. The crowd is quite pushy, and the whole experience can be overwhelming.

7. Push for Korean fashion and brands

I agree, and on a side note I find it funny that Koreans like Forever 21 so much. Forever 21 is owned by Korean Americans and brought Korean fashion to the U.S., but now it seems F21 is popular in Korea because it is seen as American fashion. But if it is trendy because it was Korean-style fashion to begin with… then Koreans are buying Korean fashion thinking it’s American fashion when it actually is Korean fashion…?

8. Introduce carpool lanes/ Start 24-hour public transportation (or at least extend it until 3 am? Please?)

YES PLEASE. Seoul, COME ON. For being so awesome with public transportation you close around 1 am? No one sleeps anyway, keep the subway open…

9. Have consequences for discriminatory taxi drivers

YES. I remember the dart of fear passing through my heart when I was rejected by THREE taxi drivers in a row because my friend and I wanted a ride from Hongdae to Yonsei University. They all refused because the two locations are too close… but it was around 3:30 am and we had no other way home! It was in winter, too…

10. Be happy

🙂 A recommendation worthy of being made the world’s resolution, methinks. The depression and suicide rate in Korea (and Japan, for that matter) is unbelievably high, and is not a new issue in either country. And it’s not like it’s only happening within each country’s borders, either; U.S. born Asian American women, ages 18-24, have the highest suicide and depression rates compared to other groups.

I wonder what developments Seoul will make this year?

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