Work has once again returned me to one of my favorite places, South Korea, the Land of the Morning Calm. What I’m doing here is neither dangerous nor particularly exciting, but it’s necessary, somebody has to do it, and this time, it’s me.
Anyhow, it’s nice to be back again, though I wish the Lovely Wife and Above-Average Kids could be with me. When I talk to them about Korea, I get this endearing puppy-dog head tilt from the whole bunch, and I have to admit there’s no way you can really understand what it’s like here without experiencing it yourself.
I’m lodging in Daegu, South Korea’s third-largest city (about 2.5 million people) and much farther south in the country than I’ve been before. It’s nice to experience some change of scenery and have a few more kilometers between me and the trigger-happy folk north of the DMZ. Daegu will be hosting the IAAF World Track and Field Championships later this year, and the city is dotted with signs, posters, and other urban art celebrating the event. The little guy with the rainbow dreads pictured here is “Sarbi,” the official mascot. C’mon, you can’t have an international sporting event without a mascot. The name is derived from a local breed of dog believed to ward off bad luck. He certainly radiates confidence.
Daegu is a nice city, as cities go. Like most urban areas in Korea, there’s a lot of brand-new construction, including some spectacular skyscrapers, adjoining older buildings and storefronts that are showing their age. The public areas are clean and well-maintained, and there’s light, video, and neon everywhere, making an evening’s walk along the main boulevards a fun, energizing experience. The city is fairly sedate during the day, but everyone comes out when the sun goes down, and the atmosphere is lively and pleasant. I was struck by how many young families were out strolling, not just the usual teens and college students, and there were quite a few unattended children walking home from Tae Kwan Do class, blasting around on bicycles, or bouncing soccer balls as they transited the crosswalks. Police are unobtrusive, but always nearby and politely watchful.
Public transportation is excellent, with a modern subway that reaches all four quadrants of town, plus plenty of buses and taxis. A new monorail route is also under construction. If you prefer walking, like me, Daegu’s very pedestrian-friendly–just keep your eyes open for the occasional motorist or scooter darting onto the street from a narrow alley or parking garage.
I’m still exploring, so watch this space for additional travelogue and some photos over the next couple of weeks.