There’s something I never thought I’d say. I don’t have anything against the country, but unlike a lot of Chinese and Chinese-Americans, I never got into Korean food, Korean supermarkets, Korean films and TV shows, Korean cosmetics, or any of the countless other manifestations of Korean culture. I never wanted to study the language, and I never wanted to convert to Christianity.
But Korea is, like, a two-hour flight from Beijing. It’s accessible. It’s influential. And it’s got the fastest average Internet speed in the world. For reference, China is 98th.* Korean culture might not be my thing, but it’s something I’ve become more and more aware of as I’ve lived in China, mostly as I’ve come to realize the effects it has on regional geopolitics. While its presence has always been felt, it is often overshadowed by China and Japan like a neglected middle child, but over the past couple of decades, it has been coming into its own. Korea today seems more like the Japan of the ’80s and ’90s, with an enormous amount of soft power for its size (especially in East Asia), and it is interesting to see bits of Korean culture intermingling with the Chinese lifestyle. I wonder if Chinese influences are as plentiful or noticeable in Korea.
See you in Busan.
* It’s unclear from the survey, but I’m pretty certain China would fall another 100 places if strictly counting browsing speed for foreign websites.