Friday, 22 April 2016

Hurray for Seoul

Despite my Cambridge educated disdain for Americana and money-making, Seoul is unexpectedly a great relief. It is paradise after all I read about North Korea, where I until recently planned to go, but also wonderful after Communist/nouveau riche/crooked Peking. Even compared with the corrupt ex-Communist country where I live and with a Muslim country like Turkey, where I was last week, it feels normal.

James Palmer, the writer, whom I had dinner with in Peking, used to live here and won a literary prize for saying how much he hated the place. He said three days would be quite enough. I am not sure why I am here but so far I like it.

The Far East is America's Raj, which is why Americans love coming here. Despite the absolute vulgarity of Seoul they can be very proud of it. People can live their lives here fairly free of interference by the police. Which is the main thing (thinks: is this still possible in England or Western Europe?)

I haven't been to America (except Buffalo for four hours) but now I don't need to. I have just been to a pancake parlour and eaten the most extraordinarily heart attack inducing
'hash' a huge thing full of potatoes and bacon and hot sauce which is vast beyond imagining and is accompanied by three large pancakes served with whipped cream and syrup. The parlour, it proudly says, was founded in 1952. Across the aisle site six huge American soldiers in khaki of diverse sexes and colours but of huge girth. They are the UN forces which are everywhere. The Korean waiter has a crew cut and is like every American in a 1950s film. In fact Seoul resembles an American film though the Korean girls are gamine, not Kim Novaks.

The gaping hole here as in China is the absence of a monotheistic religion. Perhaps Korea and China will be converted to Christianity. Even Islam would be better than shopping as a belief system.

Actually, I no longer think that. It is much better that individuals believe in God rather than not but, despite what Carlyle said about Mahometanism being a great improvement on the seventh century paganism it replaced, it would be disastrous for a country to become Muslim.


  1. 19% of the population is Christian in South Korea. That's quite a lot.

  2. Now you make me want to visit :)

    1. Europe the Middle East and North Africa are much more interesting than the Orient.

  3. In light of your post*, the sentence above - that "The gaping hole here as in China is the absence of a monotheistic religion" - got interesting... Not in the least because I have been told a few times - around Cambridge and a few other good places - that my Orthodox faith is an incomprehensible oddity.

    So be it ...