Korea - Kingpin Magazine

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Seoul is a very big city. Some ten million people live
there, and you can tell. The traffic doesn`t stop,
ever. You can get in a traffic jam on a random weekday
night at 3am, and Sundays are no exception. And so it proved as we arrived.
Kris Vile, Sean Smith and Ross Mc Gouran were the skaters.
With the youngest 17 years of age and the eldest being
19, I didn´t know what to expect, but these lads made
the best out of the trip and conducted themselves in a
respectful and responsible manner. Ed Leigh
was going to be our guardian angel throughout the
whole expedition.
Fortunately Ed had the marvellous idea of getting a
Korean phrase book that ended up being vital for us.
Not that many people speak English in Seoul and moving
your way around can be a nightmare without the help of
some phrases.

The city is full of contrasts. Even though it keeps a
strong link to it’s Asian culture you can live a
perfectly westernized life, buy the same products as
in any European city or eat the same food.
Wisely, they have pride for their ancient traditions
and they take good care of them. Most people eat Asian
food in Seoul and you get to see loads of restaurants
from Korea, China, Vietnam and Japan. Their culinary
customs are a whole issue in itself if you are a
tourist. Every single kind of Korean food you may try
is spicy: very spicy. They even have spicy breakfast
so you better be ready to sweat some. Fish is a big
part of their diet and it`s very interesting to walk
by the restaurants and see at the marquee a huge fish
pond with many different kinds of live sea food. From
baby octopus, eaten alive, to fish you have probably
never seen before waiting for you to make your pick.
But what really kept us on guard was dog. We had found
out that people eat dog there. Not just a random dog
(though we didn´t get to see any stray dogs at all!)
they eat a special breed of dog, raised in farms
specifically to be consumed by humans. It is supposed
to be a delicacy and it isn´t an easy thing to find a
restaurant where they serve it. Ed and I were ready to
try it but it never came across our path.

The skate spots in Seoul are frankly amazing, it`s a
paradise of marble-granite ledges. The construction
there never seems to stop and they keep building huge
glass skyscrapers with all kinds of ledges and
different skateable things at the foot of them. It
also helped in having all of these great spots that
South Korea hosted the Olympics and the football World
Cup in the last ten years and these kind of events
always have the city fixed and cleaned up.

We had a couple of contacts from local skaters to show
us around. Kim, a skater-photographer took us to some
of the most known skate spots and to some very good
restaurants. But he was working so we couldn´t meet up
with him on a daily basis. We also couldn´t rent a car
because you need an international driving license to
do so in South Korea, so we ended up lurking around
the city looking for spots. We found some very good
ones indeed, we even found some spots that had never
been skated before and Kris, Ross and Sean got a piece
of them. We were skating every day since our
skateboards and the metro were our only means of
transportation. And we were also skating every night
because the security guards got more laid back and the
streets weren´t too crowded.

Politically, Korea is divided into two different
countries, comunist North Korea and capitalist South
Korea. The tensions have been high in this country for
many years now since they are also neighbours to China
and Japan and both of them like to mess around with
their smaller neighbour. In a troublesome area like
this it is only normal to have people going to the
military for two years after they turn eighteen and
many talented skaters are lost after this non-skating
Having the communists so close only made having the
Americans even closer. Their presence is very strong,
with their big military bases and their own TV
channels. They even have a Marine Corps TV channel
where you can get an anti communist message at any
time of the day.

Travelling in Seoul was like being in two different
places at the same time. At times it made you feel
like you were in the heart of Asia and in some other
times you would feel as in any Western city, at times
it looked like a poor place but in some others it
looked like one of the wealthiest places, at times the
communists were a hazard and at other times the
Americans were the hazard.

Seoul was to me a bit like that place between Heaven
and Hell, and that`s always a good place to be.


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