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What do you like most about Korea?

March 30, 2010 - 15:54 By
A number of expats took issue with a list published in one of Korea`s English language papers not long ago: While it tried to list the 10 things foreigners love about Korea, the writer - who doesn`t even live in Korea - didn`t seem to have consulted any of the foreigners he claimed to represent.
The 10 things he listed are great things about Korea, but they weren`t the first things to come to mind for many of the expats who actually live here. In fact, the headline "10 things Koreans want foreigners to like about Korea" might have better fit the actual contents of his list.
In response to the bloggers` protests, I posted an informal poll on a community blog about Korea (, asking readers who actually live in Korea to contribute their own top 10 lists, and create something a bit more representative. The results of this poll are not definitive or scientific, but they`re hopefully a bit closer to the mark than the other one.




1. Food was the only thing mentioned on every single list, and rightfully so. Ssamgyupsal, makkeolli, triangle kimbap and bibimbap were among the foods getting special mentions. The experience of sharing food in the Korean style, the price, portion, flavor, health and simplicity were other things we foreigners loved about Korean food.
2. Public transportation was another thing foreigners love about living and traveling in Korea: The urban subway systems, as well as the bus and train networks across the provinces, are cheap, well-run, and easy to use.
3. Convenience - within a five-minute walk of my house are three drycleaners, 20 restaurants, two supermarkets, three produce stands, and so forth; many of them run 24 hours. Restaurants deliver, and even utilities often give same-day service for repairs.
4. Beautiful women, everywhere you look, ranked next on the list, possibly because many of the respondents were male. For both genders, one of my first impressions of Seoul was surprise at how well everyone took care of their appearance.
5. Jimjilbang and sauna - cheap, amazingly relaxing, loaded with a day`s worth of easygoing activities. Jimjilbang and public bath houses were deeply appreciated by expats in Korea.
6. People - the surprising, unexpected encounters, the energy, the attitude, the relationships, the variety and the sheer number of people in Korea keep the country interesting and fun.
7. Old vs. New - Korea`s long history, especially held up next to modern Korea`s amazingly quick social changes, combine to create an intriguing country where there`s always more to learn.
8. Landscape - the mountains, the seasons, the lakes, the plant life, the countryside and especially the hiking trails are great.
9. Safety - most expats rarely feel threatened or targeted by criminals during their time here, and wouldn`t hesitate to walk down a dark alley downtown at night: a welcome change for some of us.
10. Internet - amazingly fast, amazingly cheap, amazingly available, amazingly everywhere.
There were lots more that didn`t fit onto a top 10 list, of course, and readers are welcome to disagree, as well: part of the fun of writing lists is the arguments they start. But to get the conversation started, how`s that?
By Rob Ouwehand

Rob is an English teacher in Seoul; more of his writings can be found at and koreasparkle. com. To comment on this column, e-mail mattlamers@heraldm. com - Ed.