One of the draws to living in a large metropolitan like Seoul (or the greater Seoul area) is the convenient public transportation system. Though not as clean as the Hong Kong Metro, but nowhere near as dirty as the NYC subways, the Korean Metro system is an easy way to get around Bundang and Seoul.
My school is about a twenty five minute subway ride away. If I manage to get a seat, I usually spend that time reading a book or reviewing my lesson plan. If I'm left standing, I usually pass the time listening to my iPod. (Speaking of music, check out my music box to the left). Though I enjoy this time to think, read, and sleep, I've realized that I'm totally missing out on a wonderful Korean gadget -- the handheld TV! The Korean version is way cooler than those heavy little portable boxes from the '90s. A tad larger than my iPod nano, these sleek Korean handhelds pick up satellite feeds of popular sitcoms, variety shows, news, and sports programming, all while the train speeds along the underground railway, however many meters below the surface. If you're willing to drop some extra won (actually, more like, a lot of won), you can also get the device built into your mobile phone. The screen also rotates accordingly if you hold it vertically or horizontally. I've glanced at a number of these screens, and the image quality appears to be HD quality.
If I knew that the U.S. was capable of handling such technology, I might actually pick up one of these babies for myself. However, knowing the U.S. and all of its hangups over resource allocation and proprietary issues, it's unlikely for you all to be enjoying your own handheld TVs in the near future. So for now, you'll just have to enjoy your archaic little video iPod. Muahahahahaha.
Speaking of subways... despite the personal space issues, most subway riders keep to themselves and cause little ruckus. With that said, in little over a month, I've already observed my fair share of drama on the subway trains. For example, there was the time that this ajusshi (old man in his fifties) confronted a young girl in her early twenties, screaming at her for sitting in the seats designated for the elderly, disabled, and pregnant women. The train was pretty empty, so I don't see why the man took such issue with the girl (perhaps soju was fueling his ire). To my great amusement, the girl was not threatened by the man's rage, and simply yelled right back at him. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but at one point the old dude pushed the girl's shoulder. Oh snap! This girl wasn't having it. She pushed him right back! Unfortunately, the drama came to an abrupt halt when the train pulled into the last stop, and the two fiery parties went their separate ways. I guess Confucian values can only go so far. I'm sure that Destiny's Child would agree that all independent women have the right to stick up for themselves if they've been wronged.
The fight was both exciting and frightening. I suppose this why so many folks enjoy UFC matches. I only wish I caught the fight on camera.
I did, however, catch a photo of a presumably homeless, man on the train. He didn't have any shoes, but he did have a fresh bottle of soju. I wanted to catch his tirade on camera, but I was afraid that he'd go all Russell Crowe on me if he caught me recording him. So, all I got was this blurry photo. Unfortunately, in his drunken stupor, the shoeless man started roaring at the elderly gentleman sitting across from him. I'm not sure what Shoeless was saying, but the elderly gentleman timidly nodded his head every once and awhile. The elderly man seemed like he wanted to move seats, but was afraid of seeming rude, or perhaps, afraid of inflaming the drunk further.
Should I have stuck up for the old man, and have told the drunk to shut it? Perhaps I should have, but I wonder if Shoeless would have understood the phrase, "Stick a cork in it, you a-hole"?
I have a few other subway stories to share, but I'll save them for another post. Instead, I'll end with a photo of some hip hop dancing soju bottles. I'm assuming that they were dancing as part of a promotional activity, and were not sporting the latest trends in Korean fashion. I was greeted by these break dancing bottles on my way from the subway station. It made me smile.