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How Korea Has Changed Since We Came Here

March 13, 2014

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Is this how old people talk? “I remember back in my day when Korea didn’t have cheese or herbs, and taxis used to be giant a-holes! Ah. Those were the good old days!” Yeah, it is how old people talk. I don’t know why we got interested in doing this topic. ACTUALLY WAIT! I do know. We recently spoke with some newbies to Korea, and we were talking about some of the things they were getting at HomePlus, and we wanted to scold them for not being as thankful as we are for it. UUUU DON’T KNOWWW WHAT WE WENT THROUGGHHH!!! *slaps pizza out of your hands* YOU DON’T DESERVE THIS PIZZA!

Ok, but for really reals, our old cantankerous curmudgeonniness aside, we wanted to talk about a few more changes we’ve noticed in this country over the past few years. Lets go!

Alcohol in Korea

Don’t confuse this with Korean alcohol, which – for us – hasn’t really changed all too much. Soju’s still…great? Soju never changes. Hite and Cass are still bad. Makgeolli still gives us the shivers ALTHOUGH Martina just tried one with chestnut that she didn’t get all flashback sick from. That’s not the point. We’re more interested in the import stuff that’s happening here.

The beer scene is really starting to blossom. While before we only knew about Hite and Cass, maybe a Red Rock from time to time, now they have lots of IPAs in lots of different places. They’re not ubiquitous, mind you, so a regular mom and pop shop will still have only Korean beers, but there’s a blossoming foreign bar scene with cool beers being both imported AND brewed here. Itaewon has some awesome brewers making good stuff, like Magpie Brewing Co. But, if you can’t make it to Itaewon, Home Plus is starting to have lots of great IPAs on sale. Home Plus! It’s lovely!

We’re also finding some a few good cocktail bars in Korea. Not many, mind you. Southside Parlour in Itaewon is probably the only guaranteed awesome place we know that offers a wide selection of import rums and bourbons, and even homemade bitters and soda. They take their time and make old fashion drinks the proper way. We love going to Radio Garden in the summertime for yummy summer cocktails. It’s still on the more expensive side but it does a good job of offering well done blended summertime beverages. A lot of cocktails are still ridiculously overpriced and sweet and not made with the best stuff, but we’ve found some places – again – in Itaewon that really know their stuff, and some cool spots here in Hongdae as well, like The Lounge Bar located right beside our studio! Good stuff, like awesome apple martinis that take time to be made because they’re being made with real pureed apple instead of sour apple mix! It makes us happy :D

Bread

Sadly, bread here still isn’t that great. There are a couple of shops that make good stuff. There’s one down the street from us in Hongdae, and you gotta make 17 left turns then 12 right ones, swing on the blue vine, and knock six times and give them the secret password (which we won’t reveal here) that makes really nice bread. But it’s the exception, rather than the norm.

Grocery stores here now have bread sections, which is a lot more than what we can say from before, but they’re just not great. We bought a baguette from Home Plus and it could be used as a murder weapon. Nope. For people that like sweet white bread, you’re gonna love it. We like hartier, darker, nuttier breads, and they’re not easy to come by here. Korea’s getting there. Just not yet.

K-Pop and Korean Music

We talked about this in our Girls’ Generation Kpop Music Monday, and how Kpop in 2013 wasn’t that great for us. We miss the good old days of Kpop! Now, just like how Garosu-gil is overrun by franchises, Kpop is overrun by new groups. And by “new” they’re not even that new. They’re just repeating a lot of what’s been done before, with different faces.

This, to me, is the biggest sign of us being old farts. We listen to lots of music from around the world, and we know some old dudes that only listen to Metallica and Black Sabbath and say “maaaaaan muuuusic just ain’t what it usssed to be maaaaan.” They only listen to the stuff they grew up with and refuse to try something new. We’re always like “but there are so many new genres coming out, so many new things! Give it a shot!” but they’re not having it. They’re stuck in the past.

We’re not that way with Kpop. We’re waiting for something new. Give us a new sound! A new voice! I want more than just new faces and new outfits! I want to hear more than just “but they worked really hard”. I want music for ears not just music for eyes! It seems like tons of companies have said “damn, this Kpop thing is popular! Let’s make a band and make some money!” Why the hell is Jackie Chan making a Kpop band? You think he’s passionate about the industry, and has a message that he wants to share with the world, or is he just trying to cash a quick buck?

The kpop scene is too overrun with too many groups for us. It wasn’t always like that. It feels like groups are being rushed out without enough training and without enough thought and the result is a bunch of mediocre groups that can’t compete with most of the current big band’s rookie debuts. I hope we’re not the only ones that feel that way.

I want to see bands form from the bottom up, rather than the top down. Enough of big labels cultivating a group of strangers. Let’s see some friends get together that want to make great music, develop their own sounds and songs, promote themselves, and make it big on their own. That’s why we’re so passionate about the Korean Indie scene here. Korea needs a music revolution. Kpop’s formula is being exploited and mass produced. I want something different.

Anyhow, that’s enough of my neck-bearding and cane-waving. Let us know what your experience is like. We’re only speaking from the perspective of Seoullites. If you’re in Busan or Daejeon or Jeju or elsewhere in Korea, what have you noticed that’s changed? We can’t speak for everyone’s experience in Korea (obviously), so we’re eager to know other people’s opinions.

And if you don’t live in Korea, do you have a growing Korean scene around you? Any shops or local markets, or is it non-existent? Let us know! Maybe you’ll find some local Koreaphiles in the comment section! :D

Lastly, sign the petition for better cheese in Korea! You can make it happen! All you have to do is click this pretty button down here and, uhhmm, you will get more cheese…yes…cheese…

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