Category Archives: Seoul

Korea Times “Why are Seoul’s grocery stores dying?”

Korea Times

“Why are Seoul’s grocery stores dying?”

March 4, 2018

Emanuel Pastreich

 

 

It does not take much digging to see a tremendous tragedy unfolding in Korean society today, yet the topic is studiously avoided not only at coffee with friends at Starbucks, but also in newspapers and in TV news broadcasts that serve to distract people from reality.

In every neighborhood of Seoul, family-run grocery stores are closing. I have seen it around me and it troubles me deeply. In our previous neighborhood, I watched a group of brave and creative people try to start a bakery. They did not last long, and the family-owned bakeries disappeared soon after. Read more of this post

Empty Grocery stores in Seoul

It does not take much digging to see a tremendous tragedy unfolding in Korean society today, and yet it is a topic that is studiously avoided not only at coffee with friends at Starbucks, but also in the newspapers, or the TV news broadcasts that serve to distract people from reality.

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In every neighborhood of Seoul, family-run grocery stores are shutting down. I have seen it around me and it troubles me deeply. I watched in our previous neighborhood a group of brave and creative people try to start a bakery. They did not last long, and later the family-owned bakeries disappeared soon after.

These stores are the last holdout of ordinary people who run their own company and make decisions for themselves about what they will buy and how they will organize the space around them. They are being driven out of business. In a sense, it is the end of democracy:  now no one in the local community has any say over how things are run.

I do not know the details of why these stores are closing down right now so quickly. I  welcome your input.

Perhaps they are being squeezed by the distribution system. Or perhaps they cannot compete with the convenience stores that have access to massive capital and can afford to go for months, or years, running a deficit in order to drive competitors out of business. That is the Amazon model, but it is also the Google model. It goes far back in history and sadly few around these days know much about how that game was played before, or how it was fought.

The result will be quite predictable: more and more people working at convenience stores or driving taxis, or working in some other job that does not allow them to make any decisions as to how the business is run but forces them to just follow rules dictated from above. The resulting poverty not only in terms of the income available to ordinary people, but also the loss of diversity in neighborhood cultures is quite clear. The cities are becoming deserts.

It is interesting to compare with the interiors of banks which are quite attractive, clean and spacious. Often there are many empty luxurious seats in the bank waiting rooms. There may be await at the bank for those of us with checking accounts trying to send money abroad, but next door there are sweet young women in the commercial section who sit alone all day long waiting for the business person, or the VIP, who comes once in a blue moon. But we should not make fun of these banks. They do at least offer some employment.

I would only warn those of the upper middle class who assumed that these massive economic rifts created by the financialization of our economy, do not assume that your career will not follow the same course. A competitive market economy driven by profit knows no limits. There will never be a day when those planning for stock market profits will sit down and reflect on how they have gone too far: complete  social collapse will come much sooner.

Launch of Buam-dong Mug cup

Launch of Buam-dong Mug cup
부암동 머그컵 출범식 
buam mug cup

Sunday, June 11, 2-5 PM
6 11 (오후 2-5

야나문 카페

Janamoon Café
종로구 자하문로 240 2
02 394-0057

In recognition of the beautiful scenery and unique history of our neighborhood Buam-dong, we invite you to join a small gathering to celebrate the launch of the new Buam-dong mug cup. Please join us for a cup of coffee and celebrate our neighborhood together with friends.
부암동의 아름다운 경치 및 역사를 기념하는 새로운 부암동 머그컵 출범식으로 초대합니다.
시간이 되시면 커피 한 잔 동네 친구들과 함께 합시다.

정가:     Price 9000 Won Read more of this post

The Asia Institute “Post-peace march account” in The Korea Times

The Korea Times

“Post-peace march account”

May 21, 2017

 

Meenakshi Pawar

 

On May 15, the Asia Institute and the Korea Peace Movement ― both deeply concerned about the fast deteriorating situation on the Korean Peninsula ― brought together their first peace march in downtown Seoul. Institute members feel they must raise their voices before it is too late and our children and dear ones are vaporized in the coming nuclear fire, and inform authorities that something must be done to address the growing concerns of citizens.

A broad section of Korean society participated in the march, including academics, business people, housewives, school teachers and students. Professor Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute, opened the event. In his speech, he emphasized that no matter how small we are today, we must take the first step in the right direction. It takes an act of bravery to resist a wrong in society. Having gone through so much pain and suffering in the past few months because of the fear of nuclear war, we can no longer sit quietly in our homes and hope for this terrifying situation to return to normal. He said if others are preparing to wage war, we must come out in the streets and start waging peace. Read more of this post

March for Science in Seoul

I was there for the entire March for Science in Seoul last Saturday and had a chance to talk to a variety of teachers and students.

 

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You can see me on the far right

 

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The woman pushing the woman in the wheel chair is wearing one of the Asia Institute’s “Stop Climate change” pins. 

Future Heritage Site

I came across this “Seoul Future Heritage” plaque in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Uljiro sam-ga, in Seoul. The plaque is mysterious. It seems to suggest that the building will be a heritage site at some point in the future. Not entirely clear to me.

 

Nogara Alley in Urjiro samga

Nogara Alley in Urjiro samga

Logo for Buam-dong

Here is my design proposal for a logo for Buam-dong 부암동,

the neighborhood in the mountains on the North side of Seoul where I live.

I hope to refine it and make a T-shirt in the near future.

buamdong-logo
 Below is a color  version of the text alone
buamdongli

Sinchon Station Old and New: The Korean curse of false monumentality

The old Sinchon Station is visible in the midst of the overbuilt development that makes up the new Sinchon station.

The old Sinchon Station is visible in the midst of the overbuilt development that makes up the new Sinchon station.

The new shopping is center has essentially closed down, whether awaiting redevelopment or something else.

The new shopping is center has essentially closed down, whether awaiting redevelopment or something else.

The quaint Sinchon station now exists as a center for tourism information.

The quaint Sinchon station now exists as a center for tourism information.

One of the saddest aspects of contemporary Korean culture is the emphasis on false monumentality.

The assumption among many Koreans, and especially city planners, that large and impressive structures create a modern, and therefore more enjoyable and more livable, environment.

Nowhere is this tragedy more apparent than at the Sinchon station near Yonsei University. The has been built up into an enormous shopping center, but there is almost no business and the building was so poorly constructed that it has been shut down for repairs. The assumption was that somehow through this massive over-development the neighborhood would be improved. But the simple original Shinchon Station remains as a contrast. This handsome building is more than sufficient as a station and with a bit of modification could still be employed today.

 

Demonstration concerning the removal of poor people from neighborhoods in Seoul

protest-3

Seoul Cafe BATKONG introduces Batman to Kyung Hee University

The cafe “BATKONG”  devoted to the theme of Batman has opened

recently near Kyung Hee and serves excellent coffee.

Feel free to pick up some coffee beans to take home too.

Bat obviously refers to “Batman” and “Kong” refers not to “King Kong”

as much as the Korean word “k’ong” meaning “bean.” %e9%98%bf%e6%b3%b0%e7%a0%81%e5%a4%b42%e6%8a%8a%e5%ae%83man

 

batmanbatman2batman1