Life in South Korea
May 2011, I came to South Korea with lots of questions in my mind. Truly speaking, back home we have heard about oriental countries, mostly China and Japan but rarely Korea.
A lot of people may not even know that North and South Korea are two different countries as they are mostly referred to as simply “Korea”. Whatever the reason, I am still not sure. The funny thing is the the only time I see people making the mention of South Korea is after Gangnam Style becoming a youth anthem, and yes, of course, after the recent tensions between North and South Korea.
Anyhow, stepping in South Korea was a true eye-opener. It’s a whole new world - a world so far ahead in technology, in convenience, in comfort that is beyond our imagination.
My words will fall short in describing Korea. South Koreans are usually crazy about technology and workaholics. They’re people who, by any means, have pledged to take their country even far ahead from where it is now. South Korea is one happy nation!
Everything was going just fine, until recently, when I started getting calls from home enquiring about the tensions in the Korean peninsula. Due to this sudden interest, I started following the news, and would watch or read it at least five times daily. Honestly, the media had me scared, especially after getting the memo from Pakistan embassy in Seoul, stating their close eye on the situation and mentioning the worst cases. What do they mean by 'worst cases'? Well let’s follow the news again.
What did I get in the news, you ask?
The media appeared to be bombarded with news like “Korea is having their Cuban missile crisis”. It was dead scary. I started digging in for more and more information, not just related to the tension between North and South Korea, but much more than that. What kind of a country North Korea is, what is their leader like, what about the new and first lady president of South Korea – I was looking for answers to all these questions. In short, within few days I felt myself becoming an expert on this whole situation.
The funny part is that I found myself even challenging the statements that were being passed between the two countries. Whoever came up with this 'ignorance is bliss' statement was a genius. Now I understand what it truly means.
My husband would often tell me that it was strange that I was so worried about the situation here, when I had come from a place like Pakistan where every day brings insecurities and gloom. However, I feel that is my home. No matter how the situation over there is, I have always somehow felt safe. Yeah, a weird statement, I know, but that is the truth.
The strangest thing I noticed during this critical time was the reaction of South Koreans - so calm, so content, continuing with their daily activities as if nothing is happening. Hmm, seems like they have gotten used to all this 'exchange of rhetoric'. The news that I followed assured me of it.
These kinds of situations have come and gone many times before. The way people deal with them now is to hear them from one ear and throw them out the other; they keep on living in a world where everything is just fine.
There is a huge clash of lifestyle between North and South Korea. Although both countries started their journey from the same point, one went on to compete with the who's-who of the world on each and every level, and the other still lags behind in even fulfilling the basic necessities of life. Maybe that's the frustration clearly visible in their threats.
However, thankfully, along with the cherry blossoms came softened stances from both sides of border.
I don't know what people think of this place. I wonder what image they have in their minds. What I do know is that South Korea is a beautiful place. It can easily compete with the technology capitals of the world, and is also bestowed upon with breath-taking and well-preserved natural beauty.
Luckily, I have been around long enough to go through the contrasting sides of this country. I have witnessed the 'fast forward mode', where everyone seems to be in a race to compete, and I also seen the 'calm and soothing' side , as if one has gone into a trance.
The motto of this country states, "benefit broadly the human world", and that's precisely what South Korea is all about. It makes me believe that if you put your heart and soul, you are bound to succeed.
It promises and it delivers. It is South Korea.
PHOTOS: RABIA REHMAN