In late July it was passed on to me that there was a song sweeping the nation (of Korea). Upon watching “Gangnam Style” I noticed that it had nearly 80 million views. It is almost totally in Korean, but BreeAnn and I really enjoyed it because we recognized so many of the things in the video from Korean culture. And it seemed like the artist Psy was evening making fun of them. To me, popular Korean music, or K-Pop, takes themselves all too seriously. Imagine if the boybands and girlbands of the 90’s would have continued to be popular in America. That’s K-Pop. They are clean cut, put together, well groomed, men and women who have been trained since they were young by large corporations for one thing. Be popular. Along came Psy and puts out this hit that is not only playing on every street in Korea, but has risen to #1 in the itunes most downloaded songs in America. By Korean standards he is old, overweight, and not attractive. But he’s done what no other K-Pop artist has been able to do: Breakthrough to the American market. Not only does he have nearly 300 million hits on youtube, but he’s been signed by Justin Bieber’s music company.
This last weekend we traveled to Seoul to see the Broadway musical Wicked. And since we were staying in Seoul, we decided to stay in the best known part of Seoul known as Gangnam. Yes, “Gangnam Style” Gangnam. BreeAnn explained to me that these 15 square miles are worth more than the entire city of Busan, Korea’s second largest city. It is home to Korea’s largest corporations such as Samsung.
I think one of the most memorable and special moments of the weekend was Saturday night’s dinner. Originally we had planned eating at On the Border, an American chain that offers unlimited chips and salsa, which is pretty normal in the states and somewhat unheard of in Korea. When they see us coming they have to be thinking, “Okay guys, we’ve got some American’s coming. Do we have enough chips and salsa?” Like I said, that was our original plan, but it turns out that there was a thirty-minute wait that we just couldn’t afford to do at this point.
Go to the performance hall, get our tickets, and search for a restaurant close by. Upon arriving it turned out that there were four choices. 1. A chocolate store: Delicious but unfulfilling. 2. A Chinese restaurant: Looks great but $50 dollars a plate. 3. An Italian place: Perfect! But a twenty minute wait. Can’t do it. 4. A convenience store: Last resort. It appeared that this performance hall was the only place in Korea with nothing around it. Usually we can find something in walking distance. But nothing.
As time drew closer to go to our seats we realized our last resort of the convenience store would have to do. I bought a cup of ramen and a bag of pretzels, and BreeAnn bought a sandwich and a bag of pretzels. It was uncomfortably hot, as Koreans usually choose not to turn on the air-conditioning unless they have too, so we decided to sit outside. The only seats we were able to find were at a bus stop. And there we were, all dressed up, eating ramen and a sandwich at a bus stop. Again our plans had not gone accordingly. But we just had to laugh about it. Honestly though, it didn’t matter where we ate. Paying $100 or $8. I was right where I wanted to be. Sitting next to my beautiful, wonderful wife, just laughing.