Seoul - City on the River Han


I walked and walked and, all of a sudden, came across a monument in the shape of a giant... drill. The huge, made of steel and shiny, the drill seemed to start spinning and to make a hole in the sky above me. Under the drill, which apparently by mistake had missed being included into the Guinness Book of World Records, a granny-bum was sitting on the bench and basking in the sun. Around her, life was pulsing through a great ancient city.

Nowhere in the world is there such monument, but in Seoul you can see it. The drill, towering in front of the building of the Korean Chamber of Industry, was erected in 1984. The monument is young, as, indeed, the so-called South Korean "economic miracle", after which it was erected. Seoul itself is much older as it has already marked the 600th anniversary. 


 With this sketch above, I started my article written from the South Korean capital and published in the Russian magazine "Echo of the Planet", No. 44 (October/November 1994).  Since then, Seoul, of course, has changed considerably, and my observations described in the article, can now be interesting maybe just to learn a little bit of the history of this great city. 

Only a heavy tiled roof over a gate in cobblestone fortress, that once surrounded the city, reminded of the past. All around, I saw the concrete and glass walls of buildings, sometimes beautiful and sometimes not very attractive. Grey asphalt and endless, often turning into traffic jams, flows of nervously moving cars formed the image of the city with 11 million inhabitants, where every one person in ten owns a car.  It’s not a surprise, that walking in the streets sometimes can be a faster way to get somewhere than driving a car.

The age of the Republic of Korea’s capital is actually more than 600 years, as some historians tend to believe. As they remind us, in 18 BC Onjo, the third son of King Tongmyong, who founded the state of Koguryeo, created his own kingdom with its capital in Baekje fortress Wireson (Read “wee-reh-sohn”). It was located just near the present Seoul at the junction of three ancient states on the Korean peninsula. In 688, the Buddhist kingdom of Silla, existed till 935 AD, united them. A new one with the name Koryo, which gave us the modern name of Korea, replaced the state. Although a new capital was established in the city of Kaesong, Wireson continued to play an important role in the life of the country.

The founder of another Dynasty Lee Song-gye came to power in 1392 and by the age-old tradition of Korean rulers decided to establish a new capital. He went through many options, but all of them for various reasons were not perfect. 

A little bit of history

Once, as the story goes, a high-ranking monk Muhak, travelling the country, stopped at one place to consider if it was good to build a new capital there. At the time an old man emerged sitting on a bull and plowing a field. The man looked at the monk and said: "You are foolish Muhak, aren’t you? Why are you searching in the wrong place?”  The monk understood, that the old man was not an ordinary person, and asked him to show the right place.

"Walk 10 miles farther, and there you will find it", - the old man responded.

Muhak followed his advice and found a suitable place, exactly where now Gyeongbokgung, the main palace in Seoul, is situated. As for the place, where Muhak met the plowman, who was actually a Buddhist saint named Toson, is still called Wansimni or “Ten miles walk".

The Kingdoms ruler Li Song-gye arrived at the chosen location in October 28, 1394, and from that day the history of Seoul has started. Construction of palaces and fortifications took 98 days. The new capital was named Hanyang, "North bank of the Han River" (now it flows through the city).

Subsequently, the city became known as Hansong ("Fortress on the Han River"), and in the early twentieth century, when the Japanese dominated Korea, it was renamed as Kyongson ("Capital Fortress"). Only after the liberation of Korea in 1945, did the capital get the present name of Seoul, which in the old days used to mean simply "capital city".

Seoul quickly and easily kisses goodbye to the past, despite a traditional conservativism of views that for centuries was fed in Korea by the ideas of the ancient Chinese thinker Confucius. Koreans zealously follow his commandments made two and a half thousand years ago, but the attitude to the antiquity in Korea looks quite philosophical.

In May 17, 1899, in the wake of the opening of Korea to the outside world, in Seoul, thanks to the American company and Collbran & Bostwick, trams emerged in the streets. So after Japan, Korea has become the second country in Asia, where in the capital a previously unknown form of transportation was introduced. The tram has become a symbol of the Seoul city for two-thirds of the 20th century. Then in 1968, when nothing special was happening in the country, the trams disappeared without a trace, and now no one can really explain why. No one can recall trams anymore.

It is noteworthy, that trams in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang have shared the same fate, for unclear reasons and also in the 60s. However, they were again revived there in around 1990.

In Seoul, the trams probably will never reappear, because it would require removing cars from the roads. However, what will remain for sure is the ancient gate. 

In the past, the gate had served as one the main entrance to the capital like the others that had been built in four cardinal points. The one which coexists with the giant drill, was raised in the South, and therefore called Namdaemun - "Southern Big Gate" (It was that were set on fire and burned down at the beginning of 2008).

Each of these entrances to the city used to gather crowds because there always has been a market where goods flocked from all over the country. So far, the Namdaemun market is the most popular in Seoul and, in the best way, still preserves its traditional ambience and the spirit of the past.

However the city authorities planned "to refine" his appearance and hide narrow and noisy stalls into a multi-level, air-conditioned buildings, as it was done before with another market at the " Eastern Bid Gate" – Dongdaemun.  In the early 90s this place was very popular among Russian and Polish people that used to come to Seoul for shopping tours. If Namdaemun market would become a second Dondaemun another trace of Korean traditional life could disappear forever. (Fortunately, so far this has not happened).

But still at Namdaemun market, along the narrow streets under an open air, professional barkers on every corner at the top of their throats are shouting and clapping their hands rhythmically.

- Kolla-kolla poayo! Jaba-jaba-jaba! Come on, choose and grab! - They shout in rhymes, calling out prices, which are much cheaper than in any store, but no one is responsible for the quality of goods.

What sophisticate tricks these dons at commercial shouting invent to attract customers! One, for example, donned over a woman's dress and climbed with his barefoot on a pile of clothes for ladies, the other wore a costume of the aristocrat of 19th century and put on a black horsehair hat, a mask with a huge nose and moustache.

Stalls with leather jackets, neckties and silk trousers side by side stood with shops selling dried cuttlefish, wallpapers, ginseng and cameras, neighbouring with mobile carts full of raw oysters, sea cucumbers and actinides, which in Europe have been considered inedible.

Old Korean women in headscarves would sit on a bench appearing to do nothing, but everyone in Seoul knows that they are always ready to sell foreign currency without complicated paperwork and the supervision of tax inspectors. (These days are probably gone)

I saw Korean women digging in countless sheaves of clothing for hours while their children were eating with relish boiled silkworm larvae from newspaper cones. After a cocoon has been unwound for silk the insect inside was dried out and served as a favourite treat for children. However you will never find the recipe in the cookbooks and just the smell coming out of aluminium basins with piled larvae often make Europeans feel uneasy.

As a rule, every country’s capital of the world has a historic building that became a symbol of the city and let’s says an integral feature of its architectural character. But in Seoul the only such monument that was the icon the city remained a huge building of the former Governor General of Japan. Until recently, it housed the exposition of the state Museum of Korean history. The grey granite giant-building in the Neo-Renaissance style with greenish bronze dome on the top was erected in 1926 by a joint project of Japanese, Korean and German architects. But in 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Korean independence, the building was to be destroyed and eliminated off the face of the earth as a "legacy of Japanese imperialism." 

Demolition of the building was ordered by the first, in more than three decades of military rule, civilian president Kim Yong-Sam, who came to power in the Republic of Korea in 1993. 

There had been proposals to dismantle the museum's building to move it and restore in another place, but calculations showed that it would cost too much money for the government which finally has leaned toward demolition.

All TV channels in South Korea had been showing computer simulation videos of the future shape of the city without the building of the former colonial symbol of Japan. On the TV screens its image was gradually disappearing and the announcers enthusiastically described how the capital would look without the building, and how the city would get back its original appearance.

The government established an endowment fund to pay for the demolition of "the symbol of colonialism". As reported, a hundred dollars were transferred to the fund of the Republic of Korea's President from his compatriot in the United States. The American Korean has sent the money to Kim Yong-Sam after learning from a TV program that the President went to lean noodles as he had urged the nation to tighten belts on the path of building a "New Korea."

Preparation for the demolition of the building had been started and was going on at a rapid pace. But everyone knew that in the past the building housed not only the Japanese colonial administration. After the end of the Second World War, when Korea was liberated from Japan by the Soviet Union and the United States, the U.S. military command was settled in a building.  After the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, its government had also was based there. At the tribune at the main entrance, the ceremony of inauguration of the first president Syngman Rhee was held.

During the 1950-1953 war, the building was occupied by the North Korean forces when they captured the capital of South Korea shortly after the beginning of hostilities. Its granite walls also had seen Soviet military advisors which arrived there to help North Korea to fight. After the truce came, the national flag of the Republic of Korea was again raised over the top of the building. The point is, that while the granite colossus in the centre of Seoul could not be called an architectural jewel indeed, no doubt that it was a silent witness of many significant events in the modern Korean history, but the people of Seoul were going to say goodbye to the stone giant forever.

Here I’d like to remind that it was not the only building in Seoul that was constructed by the Japanese colonial regime: there were also a much more gloomy box-like building of the City Hall, Seoul Station, the Korean bank, and actually, all the survived buildings of the first half of the 20th century.

On the eve of the 600th anniversary the city’s authorities were looking for a logo but there were nothing left from the past to be drawn except one of the ancient gates, which were almost identical in Seoul, in Pyongyang and in any other city of Korea. The alternatives just did not exist.

At the same time, there were old palaces in Seoul as reflection of simplicity and unpretentiousness of the Korean aesthetics. In contrast to the palaces of China, Japan and other countries of the East, which are overfilled with luxury and gold, the Korean palaces had always been quite ascetic but harmoniously interlaced into the surrounding landscape. Actually, a palace complex in Korea is mostly look like a park or garden with low wooden pavilions under tiled roofs, columned galleries and picturesque ponds. The exterior and the interior decorations included paintings, dominated by green colour, which in Korea is considered to be the cleanest of all.

The most beautiful of all the palaces in Seoul is Changdeokgung ("Palace of the abundance and goodness"), built in 1405 by King Taejon, the third ruler of the Choson (Joseon) Dynasty. The palace has suffered destructions and fire repeatedly, and still the original look of this architectural complex is not fully restored. If I recall it wright, unlike the other palaces, in Changdeokgung it was allowed to look around only in groups, at a rapid pace and with a guide and strict supervisors. It was prohibited to step inside the palace rooms which were completely empty. As I understood, the reason was that in Korea, there were a lot of vandals that left autographs or indecent mot on the old walls.

Changdeokgung Palace is famous by its “Forbidden garden” where ​​ Korean rulers and their ladies used to have a promenade. It is impossible in find the wright words to describe the charm of this place. There is an old pond where carps are splashing, and in the middle lies an artificial island covered with pine trees and bamboo, the traditional symbols of eternity.

The peace atmosphere and purity of the air in the garden is just unbelievable by the fact that the modest and peaceful splendor is placed just in the middle of noisy Seoul. However, the tranquility of the garden is not impermanent, as every 20-30 minutes crowds of tourists walk down to the pond breaking the silence of this wonderful place with ecstatic whooping. Kids start feeding the fish in front of their parents with clicking cameras, chewing food and ice cream, opening cans with soda. Then they go away and everything around calms down again until a new tour visit. Only after dark Piwon as the palace garden is called in Korean finally gets a chance to have a rest.

Bustling Seoul occasionally also has such a chance. For example, on the lunar New Year, the incredibly important holiday in Korea. According to a poll, the vast majority of South Koreans consider the lunar calendar as the “true” one while the common Gregorian calendar, introduced in Korea only in 1895, is used mainly in the official sphere of life. One could believe that in the New Year eve the town drowned in the sea of colors with traditional festivals and carnivals. On the contrary, the Seoul streets at that time look like dead city with tightly closed metal shutters on entrances and windows of every shop, bank, and company office and government agencies. The deserted avenues let city buses run like crazy. On the New Year eve, almost half of the population flow away from Seoul rushing to the countryside to meet relatives and to visit ancestors graves.

Seoul gets also empty on the occasion of two other holidays too. It is in the spring and autumn days of harvest and thanksgiving when all the people of the city again flock to the countryside to make pilgrimage and pay respect to older relatives.

Those who remain on New Year in Seoul dress up in the afternoon wearing colorful silk clothes and follow to the palaces and parks of the city to enjoy a bit unpretentious and maybe weird entertainment from the point of view of a foreigner. Like hundreds years ago, Koreans compete in jumping on a swing-rung or spin   wooden tops, play Korean board game "yut."

Old men, sitting on the ground, play checkers “baduk”, which is widely known to the world as the Japanese game "go". In fact, this game is not Korean, nor the Japanese. The aristocratic game helping to concentrate originally came to these countries from China.

For modern Seoul people this kind of entertainment within the family circle is very important because for many people this is the only way to get together. It is typical for Seoul that kids cannot see their overworked fathers for a long time. Fathers often are gone to official events and social happenings including partying with colleagues.

Their kids have their own busy problems up to the neck. One of the main Confucian values that are followed by Koreans is ​​education, and parents spare no expense to ensure that their children would not lag behind others in knowledge. Coming back from school every day, the children frantically memorize by heart the books before they go to private tutors to fill any gaps in knowledge, and then they have to wait for music lessons, drawing, martial art taekwondo and arts classes.

According to a survey conducted by the Seoul students, almost half of them do not have free time for any entertainment. Only 14.3 percent of the respondents have the opportunity for at least an hour a day to talk with their friends, another 7.1 percent can watch TV, and 6.3 per cent are able to find time to read books, but mostly comics.

In Seoul, there is a myriad of large and small construction firms. In every corner of the city something is always being built, overbuild, rebuilt, the ground is constantly being digged and trenched.  Most people in Seoul live in apartment buildings the first of which was built here in 1962. Active construction only began in the 70s, and the apartments are concentrated in several large residential areas outside the city center. One of the largest districts, Moktong, is housing about 100,000 people. However, vast territories of the South Korean capital, especially in the historic center, are occupied by private homes, chaotic settlements on slopes of the hills. There are expansive luxury villas with Japanese style gardens. There are also quite miserable hovels with holes on the roof, so the inhabitants have to prevent leaks from rain covering holes with tarp or plastic sheeting.  Pressed with bricks, the cover is not supposed to be blown off by winds. The owners of these squalid dwellings do not invest in renovations knowing that the houses would still be demolished, as the land would be used for new development. In the city center, they would receive land compensation, which must be enough to buy a relatively normal apartment or a village house.

But there are some narrow old streets in Seoul, which would have to preserve and demolition of the houses there would be a sin because this part of the city itself definitely has historical value. Step aside from Jong-no Avenue in central Seoul, and behind facades of fashion salons, pizzerias, stores and optical shops and you can see sometimes two cubits wide, zigzagging streets that actually have not changed its appearance over the years. The dwellings should not be called shacks as each of the houses has a strong wooden gate with brass pattern, backyard with patio and a house on a massive wooden platform.

Right on the streets, housewives with young children attached with blanket back carrier are plucking bunches of radishes, greens and dried chilies.

At noon, lunchtime in Korea, everyone put aside any work and start having a meal. In the old blocks of Seoul, numerous eateries open doors from where the smell of pickled radish, pepper, broth and homemade noodles flow out, triggering appetite. Some shops set tables outside attracting employees from nearby offices. This meal is inexpensive and is very popular among older and middle generations of people in Seoul.

Young Koreans often prefer European food and coffee. In the old part of the central Seoul non-Korean cuisine is also represented widely.  For example, a sign "Volga” is attached to the white wall of a tiny restaurant under a tile roof.  There is nothing Russian, and even more there is nothing from the Volga region in the menu as well.

 A myriad of eateries and restaurants is Seoul is trying to show off and to look awesome. That is why they choose exotic names, from the local point of view.

It is estimated that every day Seoulities consume 43,700 bags of rice, 135 tons of beef, 270 tons of pork and 1,000 tons of fish. This is the staple food of modern inhabitants of the South Korean capital, besides pickled vegetables and salads. In poor times that still are on the memory of the current generation, vegetables remained the main kind of food, but now Seoulities feel on top of the world, swallowing huge amounts of Korean barbeque – strips of beef grilled over open fire. Koreans consider as a must to take every foreign friend or a visitor to the restaurant where they serve sharply spiced beef grilled on charcoal. It is difficult for them to understand why some prefer a meatless diet.

However, there is one very unique restaurant in Seoul, where its rich menu does not offer any food of animal products. Flagstone path leads visitors deep into the old quarter of Insa-dong, which is not far from the "Palace of wealth and virtue”. Statues of idols made of volcanic tuff greet guests at the door under the calligraphic sign with two Chinese characters "Sanchhon" ("Mountain Village"). This is a Buddhist restaurant, created by former monk Kim Yong-Sik who have excelled in the culinary arts at one of the monasteries. At the age of 32, he left the holy abode and opened a business in Seoul that has been spectacularly successful. The restaurant is more popular among foreigners who are majority among the guests.

In the hallway, where visitors take off their shoes, a huge photocopy article from The New York Times was hanging above the entrance. The American journalist Susan Chira wrote it with love about this place in 1986. Guests are to be seated down on the wooden floor at low tables, surrounded by old paintings, darkened by time, calligraphic scrolls, antique furniture, including chests and sideboards with large pot-bellied phials of herbal or fruit infusions or liquors.

The tables are covered with round braided trays with a dozen wooden bowls of food - fresh, roasted and boiled mountain herbs, roots and vegetables with spices, mushrooms and soy cheese "tooboo" (tofu). In addition, a large wooden bowl with makolli - rice murky brew that Buddhist monks made perfectly from time immemorial.

When the dinner is coming to an end, the light slowly fades and a gong’s sound goes up from the darkness. Then a bamboo flute and string instruments follow up with a lyrical melody and at the stage, equipped in front of the tables, a colorful performance of traditional classical dances starts, hypnotizing the guests of the restaurant.

Every spring, when South Korea is to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, the street named Insa-dong is particularly busy. Chogesa, the main and largest of the 756 Buddhist temples in Seoul, get dipped in the sea of colorful paper lanterns.

Every believer, who came that day to the temple, bought a lantern and attached a pink piece of paper with the names of his or her relatives, written with black ink. Then the lantern was hanged on one of many strings, illuminating all around the place. The sea of lights around the temple was visible from planes flying over the city at night.

Nearby, there was a number of shops where one ould buy everything for decorating interior of a Buddhist temple: gold-plated statues of Buddha of various sizes, candles, incense, burners, lamps, bells and clappers, sandalwood prayer beads and charms, magical signs on silk paper, prescribed for all occasions in one’s life.

Religion plays an important role in the life of Seoulitees that practice, perhaps, the entire set of world religions and beliefs. 

The most common among them are Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and shamanism. In total, there are more than a hundred religious sects in Seoul only, and more than 5,000 large and small temples are functioning. 

By nightfall, red crosses lit up on rooftops at every corner of the streets, indicating the presence of numerous churches.

Sometimes the temples do not have separate buildings and occupy just a part of space in an urban structure, neighboring with hairdressers, banks or shops.

Transportation in the South Korean capital constitutes one of the most serious problems, according to its residents. General public transport here is so specific, that some foreigners are often getting shocked. The saying "cheap and cheerful" until only recently matched characteristics of the city’s transport, but not any more: prices are rising, and the quality of the service remains the same, very far from satisfactory.

Buses in Seoul are especially impressive. Standing at the bus stop, one had to know that a bus might not stop and just pass away if a potential passenger will not raise hand in advance to signal the bus driver.

However, there were cases when even when a passenger had waved with hand, the driver did not bother to slow down and just pointed to the rear, advising to wait a little for the next bus. And when a bus stops, it is not necessary that the doors would open right at the bus stop. As a rule, this happens about 50 meters before or after the stop, depending on the intensity of traffic, and so passengers have to run over trying to get in in time.

In case if anyone succeeds to do so, he or she has to make every effort to stay on his feet. Hurtling at speeds up to 100 kilometers per hour, the bus, which is equipped with only limited number of seats in the cabin, does not only brake on the turns, but also began to slow down just a few meters before stopping. In this case, a recorded female voice gently reminds the passengers that they must hold the handrails as tight as they can. Once it is alerted, then all the responsibility for their safety rests with the passengers. If you want to get off the bus, click on the button at the door and be ready to jump out as soon as possible.

Seoul taxi is a subject, which should be mentioned separately. There are some polite and ideal people among taxi drivers, but on the whole more surly and rude examples here are hard to find. Their tactless manner of driving often causes road accidents. However, their attitude to passengers is not much better.

In mid-90s, even vacant taxis, without any passenger, skipped away when a foreigner was trying to catch a cab. They were just afraid not to understand foreign speech. However, recently cabs with translation emerged in Seoul. If a foreigner takes this taxi the driver dials the phone number of an interpreter who will listen to the alien passenger and translates to the Korean driver where exactly you are going.

I must say, the majority of South Korean people usually recon that people with white skin color are definitely Americans. As reported, a couple of drunken Russians took a taxi and asked to get them to a hotel. But the driver, being sure, that they were American military persons directly brought them to the Yongsan military base in the center of Seoul. It was wrong address, but the taxi driver still required to pay for the ride.

Even hotel names, borrowed from foreign languages, Koreans pronounce their own way, quite different from the original. For example, the name of the Hotel Kingdom sounds like Khingdum hot-hell and any other option to pronounce it is not understandable for Koreans in general.

 Once I took in a taxi in Seoul. The driver was very gloomy fist, and ten minutes later sarcastically asked: "So, is life in America better than in Korea?" .

"I do not know,  I’ve never been in America", - said I.

At this moment, the cab driver pushed the brakes in middle of the road and asked with great surprise: "How can it be? And where are you from?"

I said that I was Russian, but he hesitated to believe my word. It took some time for him to calm down and get warmer to me.

Next time, it was winter,  another taxi driver was also gloomy and like a knife stuck in his throat  asked me: "Why are you in a hat? ".

 "It's cold", - I said.

My reply detonated the driver’s temper: "I’m old enough to me your father, and I don’t put a hat on".

Is there any logic? Definitely, there is for Koreans.

At first , I did not grasp the logic myself. But living in Korea, I started to notice that the young people in this country, even when the weather is freezing, do not wear hats. Generally, put on warm clothes it is not accepted, and that's why all Koreans in Seoul suffer an epidemic of colds. As tradition requires since ancient times, even in winter, wearing hats is appropriate for elderly people only.

While catching a taxi in Seoul, it would be good to remember that stopping in front of a passenger on the road is not necessary at all: the driver may only slow down, opening the window. At this moment one need to collect all the breath in lungs to shout the name of the place where he or she is going. If a horn signal follows, it means that the driver would agree to give a lift. What can the first-comer foreigners can fill about it!?

But even Korean passengers had enough trouble with the taxi drivers. As opinion polls had shown in early 90's, nearly 50 percent of taxi passengers slipped away ignoring potential passengers.

Seoul inhabitants take taxies mainly to go to restaurants and shopping. The best place to go for that purpose is the old shopping district of Myeongdong, accumulated 1,508 offices, 496 clothing stores, 113 shoe stores, 220 restaurants, 141 cafes, and 86 bank branches. The heyday of this part of the city fell to the time of the Japanese dominance. Then Myeongdong turned into interweaving of fashion streets, though, just to copy Tokyo. Today as well, this part of Seoul is strikingly similar to Tokyo, although the signs unlike the old days, are written in Korean alphabet. Japanese restaurants used to be and remain very popular among Koreans who like eating raw fish.

There are many Chinese food and drink shops, especially near the Chinese Embassy - a powerful giant mansion behind gates in a traditional Middle Kingdom’s design. Originally, the diplomatic mission of Taiwan was located at this place, but in 1992 the South Korean government has established relations with Beijing and by request from the mainland Chinese broked earlier ties with Taibei. For Chinese children living in Seoul, there is an elementary school near the embassy. Nereby, I saw many old Chinese selling vegetables, teas and spices. Once their business flourished in Seoul , but in the 90's "Chinatown," where they were concentrated in the center of the capital, was demolished by municipal authorities for the reason of the city development. Since then, many Chinese have gone to Taiwan, and only about 6000 people from China left. It is for them vendors sell vegetables and spices, as quite a few Koreans buy such products that do not fit their taste.

There are records, saying that in the 30s a Russian man by the name of Tikhonov used to walk around Myeongdong streets, selling sweets and perfumes. His red beard reached down his waist and a bushy mustache like a magnet attracted crowds of Korean kids. There were rumors that he was a former White Army officer who escaped from Russia after the Revolution 1917, and wandered on Korea in search of a beloved Korean woman.

Today Mendon is always crowded because there is concentration of the world's most famous brands of clothes in shops where sales at discount prices never end. Students are hired to shout calling out prices of the goods on sale.Shoppers scurry around with armfuls of shopping bags with the names of famous brands.

 On the background of this abundance comes through the other side of life : crawling on the asphalt crippled , sometimes deprived of almost all of the lower body . Pushing ahead of itself powered by batteries amplifier with speaker , they sing into the microphone bitter songs , trying to soften the public money around. Occasionally someone will toss a coin into the stands on the dynamics of the bowl, but most people simply bypass the crippled party.

Myeong-dong district has a younger brother Apkujongdong which in the 80’s has bred the most expensive fashion salons , bars , restaurants and night clubs in the capital. (This is just a part of the town called Gangnam that has got famous outside Korea due to the music video clip in Youtube with the song "Gangnam Style")

In the 90s so called Korean "golden youngsters" began to gather in Apkujongdong and they obtained name of the "orange tribe” . These were the children of very wealthy people, most often just wasting  their parents’ money.

 Ordinary people who earn for a living at work, did not like these new Gangnam generation and felt it as an alien phenomenon, brought over from abroad like  oranges that had never been grown in Korea. That's why Koreans called that rich boys and girls riding expensive cars to the the Apkujongdong bars and restaurants "orange tribe" .

 According to another version of the origin of this name, orange juice was used by the Gangnam new rich youngsters for inviting the opposite sex for a contact. For example, a young man asked the waiter to pass a glass of juice to a girl he liked, and if she accepted it, he could be sure: they would have a date.

This kind of dating is also alien to the old Confucian tradition. It demanded that men and women could get to know each other only through a mediator. Thus, the appearance of the "orange tribe" generation in the 80’s seemed to be terrifying threat for the basic moral system which had existed in Korea for centuries almost unchanged.

 The same fears terrified Koreans initially after emerging eateries such as " McDonald's " and " Pizza Hut" on the Korean soil as well as   construction of a “pseudo-Disneylands" and the promotion of Western pop culture.

But times have changed, changing morals and the very face of Seoul.

The capital occupies an area of about 234 sq. miles (605 sq. km) and the city is growing up to the sky, though not  so long ago a strict limit on the height of buildings restricted its growth. 

What remains unchanged in Seoul, it's the flowing waters of the Han River running through the city to the Yellow (Western) Sea. Despite the pollution and frequent floods in the rainy season, it is truly dear to the indigenous Seoulities. In the heat they flock to its shores , and even can spend a night near the water, looking for escape from the damp heat in anticipation of a new day. The day will be similar to the days before, and at the same time, someone can find it special, unique, as every moment of life of Seoul,  in the new century of its history.