Cool things are cool. I feel like that isn’t said enough.
And Korea has no shortage of said cool things.
Here are all the things I find cool in South Korea.
They probably won’t blow your mind, but if you chuckle slightly at some point, it was worth the effort.
Let us begin!
1. Communal Hula Hoops
You can tell a lot about a culture by what they prioritize, and hula hoops are high on the list in Korea. And rightfully so, they’re fun for the whole family.
Yes, this is going to be that type of article.
2. Overbearing robots
When ajummas aren’t enough to shame you into doing stuff, send in the robots! I for one welcome our new robot overlords.
3. The village tree
In the olden days, every village had a guardian tree. The people would hold shamanistic ceremonies around them to summon rain. Super cool.
With apartment buildings sprouting up practically overnight, these trees are becoming harder and harder to find. Here’s one in a random town on Jeju.
4. Discrimination is A-OK
Not cool necessarily, but mildly amusing.
Discrimination is totally legal in South Korea. As such, it can be an arms race of who can exclude each other more. I still think they’re doing well for being the most homogeneous country behind Japan.
5. Crime-free zone
Some small villages boast about being totally crime free. It would be a shame if someone were to jaywalk while taking a picture…
6. Wi-Fi free zones don’t exist
No need to wait for Starlink, every inhabited area in South Korea is lousy with Wi-Fi. It’s also among the fastest in the world. Not the best place in the world to cure your cell phone addiction.
7. Cellphone chargers
You can walk into one of the thousands of cafes in Korea, and ask them to charge your phone (after you order something). For those who avoid human interaction at all cost, they have chargers on the bus and bus stops now. You can even find them in public parks for when you need to Snap Chat or something.
8. Public health is no joke
Korea handled the pandemic pretty well. When I went there to lie low for a few years, they guided me from the plane to bus to train to a testing and quarantine facility to keep me separated from civilized society. All the buses and train cars were empty and reserved for the unclean overseas arrivals. They even sent an ambulance to pick me up to get tested after a 14-day quarantine.
9. Quarantine packages
Nothing says “stay home” quite like a gallon of sanitizer and 10 ramyun packs. You probably saw these on social media, but I can assure you they’re real. I actually got two of them.
10. Cool vehicles
Yes, I drove the Catmobile all over Oedo near Jeju. And yes, it was totally awesome.
11. Luxury gyms
Does your gym have a chandelier? I didn’t think so. Does it need one? Also a big no.
12. Hanok everything
Why go to a liquor store, when you can go to a hanok liquor store straight out of an alternate universe?
13. Mills everywhere
You can walk into a random mill and walk out with fresh-pressed sesame oil and misutgaru. Great stuff.
14. Campy city decorations
I don’t know who’s in charge of these, but it seems to be the same person throughout the country.
15. “American” restaurants
Nothing funnier than seeing how other countries view yours. At least they don’t serve deep-fried turduckens.
16. Delivery food is an artform
There’s a fried chicken brand called, “Pradak” meaning “Prada Chicken”. Enough said.
17. DIY air pressure washer
You can find these cool things at the base of hiking trails and even at Haeundae beach. Great for getting sand and dirt off your shoes.
18. Fancy fruit baskets
Sending fruit means you care in Korea. This basket cost me 70 bucks, so I cared a bit.
19. Interesting sculpture choices
From suggestive foot massagers to full blown nude wrestling, they’ve got it all in Korea.
20. Catch lotto fever
Of course you can play the local variety, but what if you really miss the Mega Millions of the states? Well now you can with an extremely questionable service that buys lottery tickets back home and totally gives you the winnings.
21. Banners banners everywhere
Banners are the billboards of Korea. You can make a fortune in that racket. I’ve seen them for everything from ads to city ordinances. It’s customary on business trips for the employees to pose for pictures in front of a big one with the company name and purpose of the trip.
22. Eat your heart out Joe Camel
Jinro is big on their revamped mascot that kids just love. These jellies are the candy cigarettes of Korea. Gotta get them started young.
23. Interesting flavor choices
Imagine biting into a savory tuna and mayo sandwich and hitting a layer of strawberry jam. Come to Korea and make that happen.
You also get to try “fire chicken” toothpaste.
24. Future apartment stuff
Korea’s good at handling situations where you’re in such a hurry that every second counts. Newer apartments allow you to call the elevator from your room and check the weather at the entrance, so you know whether to bring an umbrella or sunbrella. The answer is usually, yes.
25. Mixed messages on signage
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean what you think it does. It just says that this area isn’t wheelchair accessible and go around. See, not as bad as it seems.
26. Top notch movie theaters
Koreans are an expressive bunch, but they know how to watch a movie, in complete silence. Escapism is vital when you’re living under extreme societal pressure.
Movie theaters in Korea are a great place to zone out. They’re brand new and come with cool gimmicks like 4DX, couple chairs and balcony seating. Matinees are practically empty on weekdays!
27. Art villages
Ever since Gamcheon Maul became a big deal on Instagram, financially-challenged neighborhoods everywhere have been churning out upcycled arts and crafts to attract influencers. These places have popped up in every major city, so you won’t have to look too hard to find one.
28. Serious gym ads
I’m either intimidated or excited to check these out. I’m still not sure which.
29. Clubbing goes hard
Clubs are serious business and you’ll find no shortage of novel and interesting places. This one is called “villain” which is trendy slang for anyone who makes your life difficult. Delicious.
30. Drive-by political rallies
You can always tell when it’s election season by the loudspeakers blaring out campaign songs and promises of affordable education and a better future. Go out and enjoy the show!
31. Crosswalks for cell phone addicts
When you’re so deep in Reels that you can’t be bothered to look up.
Koreans say “Kimchi” instead of “cheese” when someone takes a picture of them. Very cool.
33. Panic buttons everywhere
You can call the police with the touch of a button. You’ll find these in parks and public restrooms all over the place.
34. Oddly specific signs
From watch out for wild boars to don’t ride the dolphin, they cover a lot of ground.
35. Germaphobe’s paradise
Libraries have UV sterilizers for books and there’s enough hand sanitizer in the country to drown an elephant.
36. Serious sunbrellas
You may laugh, but in 10 years we’ll all be using them. Bonus points if they match your outfit.
37. Umbrella wipers
Koreans hate wet umbrellas. They have created technology to avoid that situation at all costs. Why store your umbrellas in plastic baggies when you can wipe them off like a boss?
They also don’t share the same superstition Americans do about opening them inside. You’ll find heaps of them fully bloomed in entrances and walkways of buildings to dry them.
38. Money gifts
I love how Koreans get to the point when it comes to gifts. Money is always welcome as a present as long as it’s in an envelope or worked into an elaborate flower bouquet.
Word is on the street that they sew them into cushions now, so you can sit on your wealth.
39. Cute pet outfits
What’s cuter than a puppy? A puppy in a sweater vest that matches its owner, that’s what.
40. Milkmaids on transformers
It’s been said that the future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. Well, they spent all their future points on cool delivery vehicles for the yogurt ladies.
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Did we miss anything?
Let us know what you think is cool about Korea in the comments!
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