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Seoul - Etched in history, yet rushing towards the future

Updated on July 19, 2011

Seoul is a sprawling metropolis with the river Han caught in the middle of it, people running around, cars zipping in and out, noise. The whole place is rushing towards the future. Seoul gives the high tech Tokyo a run for its money.

It’s only been just over 50 years since the partition of Korea and since that time Seoul has sold it’s soul so to speak. This is a city that has developed a real desire for progress and technological knowhow. It’s that bug that drives everything including the lives of the eleven million people who live here. You can be sure to see some pretty amazing things to the trip to Seoul.

To start with it all seems a bit disorientating. The signs are in a completely different alphabet and looking around; there aren’t too many westerners to ask for help. This city is so strange and different. The people and the places are a fascinating mixture of old and new but Seoul is so dauntingly vast its hard to know where to start. It might be high tech that makes them tick but Koreans are also fond of old fashioned good manners and a lot of that is tied up with Confucianism.

Confucianism was the official state religion under the Chosun dynasty which ruled Korea for 500 years until the start of the 20th century. Its complex system of etiquettes means that a polite person would still need to brush up on the manners.

Crane means a symbol of the civil officer and tiger means military officer and only the emperors and crowned prince could wear dragon. It means the show of respect to the ancestors and the parents and the family relationship is very important.

Each of Seoul’s five palaces have played an important part in south Korean history. But the biggest and certainly the must see is Gyong Bock Kong. This sprawling palace complex can easily eat up a day’s worth of sightseeing but in fact it’s only a fraction of its original size. This was the Buckingham palace of Korea for about 200 years from when it was built in the 1300s until it was burnt to the ground by the Japanese invasions in 16th century. The Koreans rebuilt it only for it to be systematically altered again by the Japanese annexation of the country between 1910 and the Second World War.

Nowadays the site is a bit more stable and for history buffs there are two excellent museums. The national folk museum and national palace museum. The main attraction is Kung Jong Jong the throne room. It’s the largest wooden structure in Korea and that’s where foreign envoys would be received.

Samsung Hyundai and LG are all based in Korea, so the cutting edge of technology is road tested here before it gets released to the world. Forget WiFi this is a land of WiBro – Wireless broadband - and you can even use your phone underground. Anything and everything that’s new in the gizmo world can be seen on the streets in Seoul.

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