37° 33′ 59.526″ N, 126° 58′ 40.6884″ E
Before I left my home in the states, I talked to my grandparents about my trip to Korea. I am very close with them and I knew that they will miss me while I’m gone. I spent a whole day talking, playing cards, and looking at old pictures with them. At one point, my grandpa asked what city I would be staying in during my trip. I told him the name and he looked like he was trying to remember something from a long time ago. He then explained that he was in the army in 1945 and was sent to Korea to fight the Japanese. But once he arrived in Korea, all the Japanese were standing on the shore waiting to surrender. I asked him why they would do such a thing and he said it was because President Truman had just dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. The war was over.
I thought about what that meant for so many people: the Koreans, the Japanese and my grandpa. If things had been just a little different, my grandpa would have actually fought in that war and I might have lost him before I was ever even born. I might have never found this out if I hadn’t taken this trip. I wanted to visit the places my grandpa had come before me. I found a connection in my past that linked me to this place that is so new to me.
I started at the War Memorial of Korea to learn the history behind the war and behind Korea as well. I learned about the brilliant kings and generals that protected Korea from invasions by Chinese, Mongolian, and Japanese attacks long, long ago. Korea was often under attack and after each battle, the Korean people were left to pick up the pieces. When my grandpa got to Korea, the people had nothing. The Japanese soldiers had used up all the food and resources Korea could make. That was only 68 years ago. Since then, Korea suffered under the American and Russian soldiers fighting the Korean War as well. Yet somehow, the country still managed to pick itself up and explode into one of the most powerful economies in Asia.
Do you or your parents have a cell phone? Is it a Samsung or LG? These Korean companies make all kinds of things that are now found around the world. Korean electronics are some of the best and they keep getting better. When I look around me at the buildings in Seoul, everything has a futuristic feel to it. The internet is blazingly fast, high definition TV and videos stream wirelessly into people’s cell phones and giant touchscreens show you which way to go in the subways. It’s all like a science fiction movie where aliens came and shared their technology with us! Korea is at the very front of the world’s technology race and they are working hard to keep moving forward.
I have a hard time deciding what part of Korea I want to explore the most. I could study the high-tech computers, robots, spaceships, and power cells of its super-modern side. I could also study the thousands of years of history that have made Korea what it is today, a history where notable Koreans invented totally new written languages, man’s oldest observatories, rocket powered arrows, floating tanks, or even giant machines that could show the positions of the stars and planets at any point in time. What do you think is most interesting? Could you decide on just one or the other?
I have spent just six days in the capital city of Seoul and my mind is already racing with questions and curiosities. I leave for Asan and my new university in the morning. It will be a two hour train ride to my new home for the next few months. How will it be different than Seoul? How will it be the same? Will I make a lot of new friends? Maybe you have moved to a new home before and know how I am feeling. Don’t you think it feels exciting?!