Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Initial Impressions of a New Culture


After a day in Seoul, Korea, it’s not hard to understand why the Koreans are a confident group. The airport is state of the art.  The city bustles with a huge mass of people, for the most part intentional in where they are moving.  It is very competitive.  Walk into a large bookstore, and books on how to excel on SAT’s abounds.  The subway is clean and modern and jammed, and really fast.  We lunched in a simple café, lined with people to eat only one menu offering—a tin bowl filled with kimchi, sausage, rice, egg, and cooked vegetables.  You put the cover on top the tin bottom and shake it up really hard, and then eat. And then you write your impressions on the wall. I know—different!   In the midst of a fairly dense city, we also escaped to an ancient palace, Changdeokung Palace, situated on some 60 acres, with “secret” gardens that were stunning.

This is a different Asia than other parts I have seen.  There is not the chaos of Manila, nor the strict order of a Singapore (though there is the same humidity).  In ways, it reminds me of my time in Poland years ago.  Like Korea, Poland has had a long history of being the “in between”, the ground through which armies East and West have traveled to do battle.  Consequently, Poland is a tenacious group of survivors, and one gets that sense here.  Koreans have lived on a peninsula unfortunately set between Japan and China and Russia.  All three have made their way through Korea, on their way to other global intentions, but using and abusing Korea on the way. I haven’t got a sense of the attitude towards North Korea yet. My guess is that an older generation still has painful memories, going back to the Korean War, and worries about them.  The emerging generation appears to be more interested in reconciliation, more interested in focusing on simply making a living and excelling.  This is a guess, and a simplistic one at that.

There is a deep appreciation of art—their pottery is beautiful.  There is also an appreciation for their cultural past, evidenced in a music performance we attended last night. It is called Nanta (hitting the drum really hard), set in a restaurant motif, though all the sounds were historic Korean sounds. There is striking evidence of a strong Christianity, along with other lesser layers of Buddhism, secularism, and Confucianism, etc.  Today I will get a closer look at the health of the church.

We will also see the DMZ, the war Museum, and other sites before heading south.  My aim is to dig more deeply into the culture and learn as much as I can.  I am blessed to see so much of the world and learn from it.  Korea has its own lessons to teach me, and I am praying God opens my eyes wide to them. 

  • Debbie Hays
    5:29 PM, 19 August 2011

    Thanks so much for sharing….. I’m envious. 🙂

  • K. Heye
    2:46 PM, 20 August 2011

    Sounds truly amazing! I could almost smell and hear Korea through your words. RIch indeed!

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