One of the things I want to do with this blog is to explore the similarities and differences between Ireland and Korea. There are more similarities than you might imagine, and the Koreans have even been called the Irish of Asia . But for this post, I’m going to focus on one of the most stark differences…
Suspend your reality for just one minute. Imagine the Republic of Ireland grows by 20% of its current land area. Then the Cork and Kerry mountains spread to cover a little under two thirds of this new, slightly larger Ireland. Then we all start reproducing like crazy, and the population multiplies ten fold.
This mad imaginary Ireland is what Korea is like today. It has 30% more land than Ireland, 70% of this land is covered by mountains, and there are 50 million people. This will already give you some idea just how different life is in each country.
Apartments vs. Houses
In Ireland I know only a few people living in apartments, but in Korea I haven’t yet met anyone who lives in a house. Big high rises are the norm, even for families. They are built everywhere, even on steep mountainsides where we’d be unlikely to build houses in Ireland, let alone high rise buildings – because we have many more options. The school where I teach sits on the top of one of Busan’s steep inclines, and my apartment is in its foothills. It’s a grand auld workout for the calves every morning.
Apartments are even fitted with descending harnesses, so you get out through the window in case of an emergency. I haven’t had to use mine yet thank god. Though abseiling down the building just for the craic is very tempting.
Even though I lived in Dublin coming to Korea, I was always close to green open spaces. Nowhere in Dublin is too far from the Phoenix Park and War Memorial Gardens, where you can enjoy green grass, flower gardens, cycling, deer, picnics by the river Liffey, and of course Dublin Zoo.
Korea has parks too, but city parks in Korea are very different from Ireland. There’s Yongdusan Park, which is the only park I’ve ever had to ride an escalator to get to. It doesn’t have a lot of green space, but it does have a tower from which you can look out on Busan’s stunning peaks and troughs.
Then there’s the Nakdong river park in the Sasang area, a rare expanse of open space with bicycle lanes and sports pitches. A section of it is what I imagine it would be like if they made a park in the middle of the N11. I have to admire their creative use of space, and sure isn’t a park in the middle of a busy road better than no park at all!
Korea does have a lot of outdoor gyms to substitute for the lack of outdoor space to exercise. There’s one across the road from my house, but so far I’ve been too intimidated to exercise in front of the adjoshi’s (older men) who hang out there all day.
With the exception of the Luas during rush hour, personal space isn’t usually too much of a problem in Ireland. In Korea, that’s not the case. Thankfully I don’t have to take the subway or bus during rush hour, but even during off-peak hours, especially on weekends, I sometimes feel an irrational urge to tell people to ‘Get out of me bleedin face!’ People generally don’t apologise when they bump into you, because it happens so often and is unavoidable.
Maybe I should get myself a one of these Spike Away Vests?
Source: Huffington Post