MOTHERLAND OF THE RIGHT DRAGONS: TRAVELING TO SOUTH KOREA
Images of dragons can be found throughout Asia. At first glance, it is rather difficult to determine the origin of the fairy-tale reptile. However, in Korea there is an old legend: in immemorial times, all dragons had four fingers on each paw. But whenever the magic monster flew to the northeast, he lost a finger, and when to the southwest, his fingers, on the contrary, grew. Therefore, the dragons of Japan have three of them, while the Chinese have five. And only the Korean have the “correct”, original set. This legend is worth remembering whenever someone starts to compare China, Japan and Korea. It is not so much about the number of dragon fingers, but about national identity.
Even more interesting is obtained with modern geographical maps. In any reference book you will read that the Korean Peninsula in the west is washed by the Yellow Sea, in the south by the East China Sea, and in the east by the Japanese Sea. But the Koreans themselves call the Sea of Japan the Eastern Sea, the Yellow Sea the Western Sea, and the East China the Southern Sea. And no compromises!
When you find out about this before the first trip to the country, you imagine pretty tough and wayward people. But the Koreans are very friendly. It is worth a minute to stop at any of the streets of Seoul, checking the map in the smartphone with the route – and someone from the passers-by will surely come up to you with a proposal to help find the way. This is in the ten millionth megalopolis, where, according to the unwritten rules of a big city, everyone should not care. But no!
It is now in terms of wages and quality of life South Korea overtakes most of the states of Europe, and in Asia it competes only with Japan. Until the 1960s, the Republic of Korea was among the most backward countries. And it’s not just the damage that wars have done to the local economy. Long before 1945, the division of the peninsula, the industrial north of the country was considered developed, and the agrarian south – backward. Now it is hard to believe, but the southerners lived more modestly than the North Koreans.
“How did South Korea manage to turn from a poor country into a prosperous one so quickly?” I pester with questions to a new acquaintance named Son Min. A philologist by training, Son Min works in a glossy magazine and, oddly enough, is interested in Russia. We sit in a traditional restaurant of national cuisine. Before us is a line of ceramic dishes, kimchi in them, spicy sauerkraut with various additives – from daikon and cucumbers to radish and carrots.
“Yes, our grandparents lived very poorly,” the Korean agrees. – Meat was eaten rarely. Therefore, in our traditional cuisine there are so many vegetable dishes and so many kinds of kimchi. But we worked a lot … ”
Koreans are indeed a very hardworking and disciplined nation. “In childhood and adolescence, we learn a lot in order to become a lot of work as adults,” the residents of South Korea say with irony about themselves. Processing in the local companies are welcome, but holidays and holidays do not differ in duration.
But I have a counterargument: “Did they work in North Korea a little?”
“A lot,” Son Min agrees. “But they were ruled by Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and now Kim Jong Eun …”
“But your country was also ruled by the generals for a long time!”
“I do not like dictators in power,” the philologist admits. “But our generals were thinking about economics.” We have a saying: “Where you plant beans, there will be beans, and where you plant beans, the beans will rise.”
South Korea began to turn into a democratic state almost simultaneously with the Soviet Union. The first free elections were held in 1987, and the first president “from among civilians” was elected in 1992. Now the forty-year military rule is perceived ambiguously, but everyone in the country recognizes that it was the logical economic policy of the generals that led to a technological breakthrough, promoted business development and the entry of South Korean goods into the world market. The Republic of Korea has gained credibility in a peaceful and good way, not saber-rattling. And in this great merit chaebol.
Sleeping area on the outskirts of Seoul. The ends of multi-storey buildings are decorated with a blue and white Samsung logo. It does not look like an advertisement – the house number is indicated under the logo. Maybe the company employees live here? Or are apartments equipped with Samsung branded appliances? Everything turns out to be simpler: the buildings belong to one of the divisions of the Samsung group, and anyone can live in them. Many have heard about the powerful chaebols – South Korean multi-industry financial-industrial groups. But how do they affect the everyday life of an ordinary Korean? Here’s how: a Korean from a residential house Samsung can drive a Renault-Samsung car, refuel with a gasoline joint venture Samsung and Total, the oil for which was delivered by a tanker Samsung Heavy Industries. The car of this citizen is insured in the company “Samsung Life” – as well as the health of the driver and his family. Our collective Korean goes shopping in the fashionable shopping center Samsung Fashion, pays a Samsung card, and carries purchases in a plastic bag made at the Samsung chemical plant.