My Son and I recently made a quick trip to Korea to see again some of our friends. Strangely, our friends of 50 years ago and now so much older than I remember them. But it was great to catch up on some of them. We spent a few days in both Seoul and Busan.
I have ceased to be astonished at the growth in Korea. I have been several times in the last ten years so I am now well aware of the extent of the development, not only of Seoul but of everywhere. Again interestingly, I actually did see one car that did not have a GPS (short for a Global Positioning System), which enables one to navigate accurately to any location in any of the big cities. Every last car and taxi has them and you give the driver the address to which you wish to travel and sit back, knowing he will be directed there by the shortest route. In this matter at least, Korea is well ahead of Australia.
Our main purpose was to visit old friends but we did have a little bit of spare time so did some of the touristy things. In Busan we walked the tourist path around Taejongdae Park, and we also walked from 5-6 Islands to Iggydae, a pathway of something like 5 kilometers long which hugs the coast so one gets many views of the rocky shore line, and distant views of the seaside resort of Haeundae. Both paths are very well maintained with wooden steps on many of the steeper parts and nearly always the protective handrail. The weather was clear so we had ever so many photographic opportunities. Both walks were exciting and will long be remembered.
In Seoul we visited the Seoul Tower, one of the old palaces, the Secret Garden and of course several of the really large markets such as the Tong Dae Moon market (East Gate Market). Again there were many photographic opportunities. On our first day in Seoul, it was heavily overcast so there was no way we could see or even estimate where the sun was. And I realized how dependent we are on the sun to orient ourselves. We simply could not decide where was north, and that meant after traversing a few streets and turning a few corners, we had forgotten in which direction was our accommodation, and probably it was because of our poor Korean language speaking ability, several of the folk we questioned weren’t able to direct us. We eventually did find out where we were and in which direction we were going.
One interesting feature in the Secret Garden was the Longevity Door. This was a large structure, cut from a single stone, and the story is that if you pass through this door you will live much longer. Well of course all of the group passed through the door. But I later realized it is more than a harmless superstition. At the end of our walk up and down all the hills, I felt about 20 years older. So it must have been working when I walked through!
And of course, in early spring, the cherry blossoms were out in all their glory, and the Gingko trees were lovely in fresh new leaf. It was a lovely time to be in Korea.
Rev. Alan Stuart Ex missionary to Korea, Retired Minister, UCA
(02) 8876 1870