Seoul, South Korea - November 2018
Looking back at my photos from my first trip to Korea, everything seems out of focus, gloomy and lonely.
Maybe thats how I was feeling in Korea without even knowing it.
My 25th birthday to Seoul and Tokyo wasn’t suppose to be a solo adventure but it turned out to be exactly that. So I picked a beautiful penthouse apartment with a view to Airbnb in Gangnam within walking distance from the station 1 and a crawl away from a Starbucks. I splurged on a driver from the airport since my Korean is more then subpar and focused on adjusting to the 15hr time difference for my 5 day stay in Seoul. Time to “Seoul Search.”
Well I hoped to.
Before I left Los Angeles I was hesitant to go to Korea, let alone go to Korea solo. But I wanted to experience something new. Korea was an added last minute stop and all though my interactions with Korean photographers/ fans isn’t always pleasant when photographing shows, I still wanted to be open minded and just experience something.
I always say that South Korea is a “New Metropolis.” The Korean War was only 60 years ago. Samsung and Kpop are S.Korea’s biggest corporations. Politically they have had some ups and downs over the past decade. Statistically they are one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies in the modern world. To sum it up, Korea is working on itself everyday. It’s finding it’s footing through music, fashion and technology. It’s doing it’s best to break out of its regular “Korean Beauty Standards.” It’s becoming accepted into the “Western world,” whether it wasn’t to or not.
Walking the streets was like being apart of the Sims, except I was the only on in control of my player. I wasn’t really interested in photographing anything. I want to experience the now and study everyones interactions.
What colors are people drawn to?. Muted browns and blacks. Maybe cream and blush pink. Safe. Uniform. Wow there is a surplus of couples but a lack of children running around. Maybe people have better things to do here. What music is playing? “Vintage” SHINee and some remix to Illionaire’s YGGR. DEAN. The “HYPEBEAST/ IG worth shops” love DEAN. What’s the Starbucks of Seoul? Maybe Twosome Studios. S/o Teddy Park and YG Family. What’s the makeup style? Taemin first album and peach everything. What are the girls sitting on the floor at the mall for? JUNSU. You mean JYJ/TVXQ? Really? What is this amber alert message i’m getting on my iPhone? Fine dust warning. Air quailty very bad today.
I wanted to be just as curious of them as they are of me.
On the morning of 9th, my actual birthday, I spoke with my driver as we speed through morning traffic so I could catch my flight to Tokyo.
“How did you like Korea?”
I almost ignored him. I didn’t want to be rude but I replied with a, “Korea isn’t that warm of a place. The people, I mean.”
He knoded his head. He understood.
In the short time I was in Korea, I could count the “Hello’s” I had received on one hand, (2 being from foreigners, one being from a nice ahjussi driving a bus that I was photographing and that may be it.) I had a NIKE employee in Coex Mall follow me around the store for 10 minutes, I had a man close the door in my face as I was walking out a restaurant only to tell him “it’s ok” because he was apologizing in a 90 degree bow as if his life depended on it , and I had a driver ask me if I was in Korea with my playboy Korean boyfriend.
“PlayBoy Korean Boyfriend.”
That’s a new one.
The coldness of Korea didn't phase me, it was the age group. I wasn’t expecting the internet generation or the 18-30 people to be the ones brushing up against me on purpose or cutting their eyes, I expected that from the older generation. The old people were fine, maybe curious, but not as off putting. I don’t know what I expected from Korea as a “solo Black female traveler” but when I can explain it I will let you know.
I don’t hate Seoul. It’s has some of the most beautiful trees, I’ve ever seen. Don’t mention it being cafe heaven. It socially needs some work and over time I think they will become more accepting.
Maybe I will attempt to “Seoul Search” next year for fashion week.
Until then, I must leave you with musical recommendations. So here are 50+ of my favorite Korean songs.