What Seoul Taught Me

To be honest, I was rather reluctant to go to Seoul. After so many stories about North Korea threat and also, the country where K pop comes from – I think I only know PSY so far.. and Rain, I was not very interested. We have booked the tickets since last year and I was on the fence on whether to go or not since, we weren’t sure if election day is going to clash with the trip. I decided to cancel my trip if election were to fall on 27th April. Fortunately, God answered my prayer and got it fixed on 5th May. So, off I go.

Seoul and Jeju simply amazed me. From the sight seeing, their natural wonders, how they managed to upkeep the place – keeping it spick and span, the efficiency of how they manage so many tourists or travelers both local and foreign, timeliness and efficiencies of their transportation system – you don’t have to go around the bush just to get to a place! Their quest for perfections – in terms of their appearance and projecting positive image, their people’s friendliness despite being unable to speak a word of English, everywhere we go, there’s a tourist booth providing information with officers who could speak Japanese, English or Chinese to assist you, their architecture, cleanliness of the area.. even the recycling area didn’t smell bad!

A friend even showed me an app on her phone which could track how long more we would be waiting for the next bus, as all buses are equipped with GPS on them and their frequency is every 2-6 minutes each, right on the dot. She even paid for her bus fare or train fare using her iphone – T money, they called it. And she said, you can just leave your handphone or ipad on the table and go to the toilet or even order your food at the counter without even worrying of your things getting stolen etc which is very rare in South Korea.

Everywhere I see pretty girls and boys walking with their eyes transfixed onto their gadgets on their hands with headphones plastered permanently into their ears. They walked without even holding tight to their bags and be alert at all times people might jump them. Some even let their handbags zip open with the least care in the world, even in a crowded MRT train, chatting away.

Old folks get priority in seats on buses and trains and, they are healthy folks who are independent, going about their passion for hiking with friends on weekends, in their chic jackets and pants in bright neon colors! A group of ajumas and ajusis can even walk faster than us when we were attempting to scale the steps in Mount Seorak!

Any beeline do not deter people from lining up to get their things done. They are fast workers and were very efficient. When we were at the airport, the staff even asked us if we need help with our tax refunds and patiently explained to us 2-3x till we understand.

Most shopping complexes charge you if you ask for plastic bags. They encourage you for bringing your own shopping bags, not only on weekends. Or they have many discarded boxes at the checking out counter for you to pack your own things to bring back home. They even separate their rubbish. Right from the guest house – they have separate dustbins for food waste, plastic, paper, glass and other waste. Cleanliness is so important, you don’t even believe how clean their public toilets are! They even shut down the escalators after 9 pm much to my chagrin to conserve energy!

I am no history buff or what but I remember reading a little about the Korean war 1950 – between South and North Korea in wikipedia as I was still contemplating on whether or not to go to Korea.. the war ended in 1953, which was just 4 years earlier than the independence of our country, Malaysia. And as they pick up pieces to mend their war torn country, we managed to obtain independence from the British with not much blood shed (saved for the communists and security forces, may their souls rest in peace), we didn’t develop to this level as yet. It does make you wonder, isn’t it? Seoul is already almost at par with the Japanese and yet, we are still comparing ourselves with countries like Ghana (My God!). Even Cambodia which I visited in 2006, it only took them 7 years to develop their Phnom Penh city from “Ipoh in the 1970s” to the “current Ipoh”! Yangon is also already catching up.. and I read somewhere that, Vietnam is soon going to lead the world in coffee exports!

This trip truly opened my eyes to the reality of the choices we could make. So, my fellow Malaysians, I urge you to please vote with your conscience. We all should vote to get rid of corruption, we vote for equal opportunities to education, we vote for basic security, peace of mind, safety of our loved ones, we vote for keeping brains and skills in our country, we vote for harmony that has been all along fostered over the years, we vote for rationalism, we vote for fairness and justice, we vote for a competent government who doesn’t take us as idiots, we vote for freedom of speech, we vote for freedom of religion, we vote for our fundamental rights as a human being, and most of all, we vote for a prosperous and peaceful future Malaysia. Together, we will bring the evil and corrupted to their knees in the presence of truth and integrity! Together, we shall fight for the future of Malaysia!

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