Archive for category General

Mar
12

Further reflections on Seoul

Posted by on Monday, 12 March, 2007

Namdemon market in Seoul, Korea
Seeing as I have been in Seoul for about a month now, I know have sufficient knowledge about Korean tradition, culture and society to make a complete comparative assessment of Seoul vs Tokyo in the 21st century…… Yeah, OK, so I am not an anthropological expert or anything and staying just a month here makes me nothing but sick of Kimchee, but I still want to take some time and give you my thoughts on Seoul as seen by the eyes of a westerner living in Japan.

Grab a cup of coffee and sit tight!

One of my first reflections when I arrived here was “wow, Seoul is so much more Asian than Tokyo,” a statement I now shall revise to “wow, Tokyo is so much less Asian than the rest of Asia.” Yes, when you think about it, South Korea is definitely a part of Asia and feels similar to cities in China or Malaysia whereas Tokyo and Japan has a completely different feel to it – it’s less Asian and just “Japanese”. It’s hard to describe in words.

As I said before, I was expecting Seoul to be sort of like Tokyo, because that is the impression you get by watching these darn Han-ryu dramas on Japanese TV. It’s all big flashy cars in modern looking cities and everyone’s rich and fabulous… Turns out – GASP – that these dramas are not so close to reality as one is made to believe! (The horror!) Seoul is a city that has grown at a tremendous speed over the last few years, and it kinda shows. There is tons of construction work going on everywhere, traffic is chaos, public transportation is crazy in rush hour and there are street markets even on the most modern and upscale street where old ladies are selling various kinds of fried foods. It’s a crazy mix of old and new and for the most part I think it’s pretty nice.

But you feel that the soul of Seoul (no pun intended) is not really in tune with the modern facade. Even though the city presents itself as a modern 21st century metropolis where money is made and spent, the “rural” poverty still shines through and it makes me kind of sad, because you see that this country is trying to evolve quicker than what is good for it. For instance, there are a lot of upscale neighborhoods here with nice department stores and boutiques that match those of Singapore or Tokyo, but take a closer look at areas such as Apgujeong, Myeong-dong or Gangnam, and what do you see? Well you see that the big department stores are filled with Chinese and Japanese tourists. You see that the streets are pretty deserted except for the ones lined with street vendors selling cheap knock-off products. You see the beggars sitting around reminding the onlookers of the tough economic reality. In an economically sound country, would you see 70-year old women sitting in the subway station selling packs of gum she bought in a store at a markup to survive? Do you see unemployed business men trying to sell brushes and whatnot on the subway train in Tokyo or Hong Kong?

One other thing that glares you in the face is what seems to be a total lack of city beautification. And I say beautification because I can’t think of a better word – what I mean is that the sidewalks, the roads, the parks, the public areas, the stations, etc. look pretty run down and are not well taken care of. It really doesn’t give the impression of strong economic growth. At the same time, property prices are skyrocketing and Seoul is becoming a city which is more expensive to live in than Tokyo. There is something that is definately bubbly about the current economic climate and it must be just a question of time before it bursts.

Photo by Min

Dec
01

Bill Watkins is my new hero

Posted by on Friday, 1 December, 2006

Bill Watkins (CEO of Seagate) just became my new hero. I just read the Fortune interview with him over at CNNMoney.com and some of his comments are already classics to live by:

You never ask board members what they think. You tell them what you’re going to do.

CEOs who whine about Sarbanes Oxley don’t belong in their jobs. Come on guys, get over it.

and the best one of them all:

Let’s face it, we’re not changing the world. We’re building a product that helps people buy more crap – and watch porn.

I agree especially with the Sarbanes Oxley quote, as it affects my daily work. People who complain about it have missed the big picture. I might come back to this issue in a separate post, because there is a lot of stuff to be said about it!

(via Valleywag)

Sep
04

Crocodile Hunter is dead

Posted by on Monday, 4 September, 2006

Well this is totally unrelated to anything I’ve ever written about, but I’m sad and shocked after reading that Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin is dead.

In a twist of fatal irony, while filming a documentary which aimed to demystify the stingray, he was killed by a barb from a stingray whcih went right through his chest into his heart.

I guess he died while doing what he did best and what he loved to do, and some may argue that it’s a miracle he stayed alive in such a high risk job for so long, but it’s still a huge tragedy.

Good Bye Steve, and thanks for all the great television memories.

(via: Waxy.org)

Aug
27

Posted some pictures from my wedding

Posted by on Sunday, 27 August, 2006

Horse Carriage

Yeah, I got married!

Sorry to spring it on you like this… But what was I supposed to do? Couldn’t very well post about it before, that would mean bad luck, and, worse, I would have to come up with an excuse why you weren’t invited! 😉

Anyway, I uploaded some pictures to Flickr, so go check them out here:

Johan’s and Hikaru’s Wedding

(UPDATE: I changed permissions on the photos so they are only visible to Friends and Family – so please sign up for a Flickr account to view them if you haven’t before)

Apr
07

Things I am ridiculously excited about

Posted by on Friday, 7 April, 2006

I yet again have to apologize for my inactivity lately – but it has been a hellish two weeks at work, and I have not been able to set off even a few minutes during the day (or even my lunch hour) to write anything. I have a few posts in the pipeline (i.e. in my aching head) which are due out within a few days, but in the meantime I’d like to share some links to great stuff I’ve read about recently and I can say I am ridiculously excited about!

  • ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkely, i.e. the Cee-lo/Danger Mouse cooperation which recently reached No.1 in the UK, the first ever Internet-only single to do so. I fell in love with the song instantly. It’s a smooth, catchy pop/dance number and Cee-Lo’s smooth voice adds just enough R&B flavor to it to make it friggin close to perfect. Best song of the year, so far! (via: Waxy.org)
  • Apple’s Bootcamp which is a dual-boot utility for the new Intel-based Macs. In short it enables you to install Windows on your (Intel-) Mac. This piece of news really surprised me, but it’s so great! Now finally, after many many years, I actually feel that buying a Mac is a viable option again. I like Mac OS X, but I do have software & games that requires Windows, so buying a Mac has never before entered my mind. When there are stationary Intel macs released (later this year?) I shall take them into serious consideration.