This post is part of a series about Korea and the recent transition in Korea to discovering new meaning in money through a rapidly growing capitalist culture. I was inspired to write about Korea after visiting Seoul this summer with my sister. Korea is kimchi-tastic.
My sister, Kara, wrote the following in the last post of my blog series about Korea.
Recently I had the experience of going to South Korea with my sister. Being adopted, this trip offered up an opportunity that no amount of reading prepared me for. And believe me, I have done plenty of reading about Korea.
What struck me most was the sheer amount of consumerism. There were areas where you could find everything and also nothing that you wanted. Blocks and blocks of shoes were shoved in ever nook and cranny of a dark alley. It was extremely hard to process as I walked past mountains of books and rows of ribbon. Where did all of this stuff come from? Where does it end?
Not only were there numerous shopping districts, there were underground districts (this is something that I have definitely never seen before). I found them to be extremely depressing as it was an underground mall or a subway stop filled with shops instead of a rail system. Despite the overload of product around me, an even more overwhelming experience was the number of people standing out of the shops yelling in a microphones, coaxing people to come and buy the best new thing.
It’s no surprise really that with such a great amount of competition, you rely on tactics that are more aggressive. What is going to set you apart from the other 15 nail salons that your store shares a block with? How will people know that your skin care products are more effective than the other 3 stores which all look the same? After exploring them all, it really seems that they all sell the same thing and around the same price.
But what I had the hardest time grasping was the lack of individuality that I experienced while I was there. Clothing stores all sold the same clothes. Everyone wore the same kind of shoes. Coming from a country that has such a diverse nature which originates at our very core as Americans, it was hard for me to come to terms with the idea that no matter which shirt, shoe, or scarf I bought, I was going to see a handful of people wearing the same thing the very next day.
The upside? Coming back to the US, I didn’t have to worry about wearing something that everyone else wears. There is nothing better than the opportunity to say, “Oh this? I got it in Korea.”