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Technology in South Korea

July 23, 2014

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If you couldn’t tell from the enthusiasm in our voices, we find the topic of technology in South Korea really exciting. There’s so much cool stuff here! Now, I’m worried that some of the things we mention here might be common in your countries. Forgive us if they are. We just remember not having these in Canada. It’s been six years since we lived in Canada, though, so maybe some of this stuff is already available there. If so, please let us know!

Otherwise, here are some other cool things that we didn’t talk about!

Built in Rice Dispenser

Ok, so this isn’t really an electronic thing, but it’s pretty badass. Rice is a big part of Korean cuisine. So big, it seems, that a rice dispenser is built into our cabinets. So, there’s a thin little drawer right beside our appliances drawer. I pull the thin drawer out, turn a nob, and exactly one cup of rice comes out into a little box at the bottom, and I pull that box out, then dump that into my rice cooker. IT’S SO BRILLIANT! We don’t eat a lot of rice, so we put other stuff in there, like barley and quinoa instead. But, still, it’s cool

Ceiling Clothes Dryer

Ok, now this thing here is electrical. Here’s the deal: our washing machine is in the room beside our kitchen. Attached to the ceiling is this odd box with a few bars on it. That box has a remote control that does a few things. With that remote control, I can have the bars lowered, since the bars are attached to an accordion contraption, which attaches to the box. So, I lower the bars, then put my wet clothes on hangers, and put those hangers on the bars. Then I push another button on the remote to bring the bars back up to the box. But here’s the cool part: I push another button on the remote, and the box is now a fan that blow-dries the clothing. AMAZING! It’s not hot air that shrinks your clothing or anything. Just a nice fan that blows on your clothes from above. It’s so brilliant! It’s off the ground so you can still walk around. And as soon as it’s done drying, you can simply bring your clothes over to your closet, as they’re already pre-hung. That’s pretty awesome, IMO.

Warning: Tech Ain’t Cheap Here

This was majorly disappointing for me. Before coming to Korea I was under the impression that living in Asia would result in buying cheap electronics for everything, but that’s really not the case in Korea. Tech stuff here is expensive. It’s actually cheaper to buy a Samsung TV in Canada than it is in Korea. Our TV cost us three times more than the TVs we’ve seen at Best Buy.

Now, supposedly the reason why things are so expensive here is because they come with lifetime warrantees or something like that, so if anything ever goes wrong you can just bring your Samsung product to the Samsung shop (and those things are fairly prevalent around here). We still haven’t had to bring anything in, so it’s kinda good that our electronics aren’t faulting, but still kinda bad that we spent so much money on it. Eerrgghhh :(

So, that’s it for this week’s TL;DR. Let us know if you have any cool tech stuff that’s common in your country that you didn’t see in other countries. I’m sure there’s stuff here in Korea that we’ve taken for granted. Let us know if we forgot any!

Otherwise, make sure you click on this pretty button here below for more TL;DR videos! We’re flying out to Sweden tomorrow early morning, so we might not be as active in the comments as we usually are, but we’ve still got videos prepared in advance! Don’t miss out on them, including our important Coffee Shop Opening Party Announcement video tomorrow!

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Technology in South Korea

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  1. Well in my lovely little country of Florida,USA the only thing we really have that’s close to anything you guys were talking about is that some parking garages will tell you if the floor is full or not. But that’s only at specific places like the airport and it tells you on an overhead sign that’s really close to where you have to turn, so you kind of have to look quickly and make a decision to go in or keep going(also the parking lot has a ramp that’s like a swirly slide yay Orlando international airport!). One thing that we have in Orlando, is at some high schools they will have a water fountain and then on top there’s like this sort of box thing with an indent shaped like a water bottle. You can place your water bottle on/in it and it will automatically fill up your water bottle. The first time I saw this I just thought “Why doesn’t my high school have this??? This is the future people!”

    6 years ago
  2. Here in Ohio, US we have corn. Also non-functioning stoplights

    6 years ago
  3. lol, I’m from Dubai, and here because we have the biggest mall in the world, we can easily forget where we parked your car, so we have cameras that are connected to the red/green lights above the parking slots that you talked about. The cameras connect to a touch monitor you use to find your car. You just enter you cars number in the monitor and it automatically finds your car and it shows you a map of where it is.

    And instead of stopping at the tollbooth, we have Salik (literally mean”Passable”). You just stick a sticker/tag on the car windshield and it will automatically deduct money, we don’t need to stop at all.

    6 years ago
    • I’ve been to Dubai and Korea, and the technology in both is pretty similar. Actually, in the malls of many Middle Eastern countries they advertise tvs by playing k-pop songs. I like it because I can do my grocery shopping while listening to 2ne1. Haha.
      One thing that I saw in South Korea and in the Middle East that I haven’t seen in other countries is doors with a push button to open it. To most westerners these doors look like motion sensor automatic doors, but there will be a metal rectangle on the side. When I was in Korea, I saw a group of my foreign friends standing outside a door waving at it. None of them could have figure out how to open it, lol. I just walked up and pressed the button. The shop keeper must have been so confused.

      6 years ago
  4. I was in Korea this summer and one of the things that blew my mind were the car elevators. So freaking amazing! Like…an elevator for your car! Never seen one of those in the US. Another thing was the automatic-replacing-toilet-seat-covers-thing, where you press a button and new toilet covers slide out. I didn’t see this everywhere, only at the airport, but wow, were they cool.

    6 years ago
    • Yes!!!! We have those in the US actually. I live in NYC and they are all over. All the casinos have them as well as rest stops on the highways. You will now find them in most amusement parks as well!

      6 years ago
  5. The coolest thing we have here, are in Target stores. ._. In the frozen food section, the lights inside the freezers are off, and when you walk down the aisle, they turn on one by one. So it’s like, I AM GOD MUWAHAHAHA! But then they turn off behind you one by one and it turns into a scary J-Horror movie like The Grudge…. XD

    6 years ago
  6. You guys should visit us in the Middle East pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease

    6 years ago
  7. Meg

    America is so behind lol. Ummm well I know we have like home security and maintenance apps on our phones so like you can lock your whole house with your phone if you forget or think you forgot to do it. Or if you think you left lights or water running you can use the app to turn it all off. But it’s really expensive and you have to pay for it with your security company, it’s not included in any house or apartment you get.

    6 years ago
  8. My Dad recently updated our sprinkler system to a very new, very advanced system. He can turn on the sprinkler system from his phone and can even choose specific zones to turn on or off. The sprinkler system also has internet access so it can access the weather forecast and shut itself off if it’s going to rain that day. However, this new system was recently abused when he used it to remotely turn on the sprinklers to get my scumbag ex boyfriend off the lawn. It worked like a charm.

    6 years ago
  9. Honestly, there is one question I have been most curious about Korea, and this TL;DR reminded me to ask: Are clothes dryers just not a common appliance? I ask because I can’t recall EVER seeing one in a kdrama or Korean film, though for whatever reason the washing machine is often shown. Then you’re talking about ceiling fan clothes drying. I get the feeling clothes dryers are just not that common abroad, period. I knew someone from England who said she had a washing machine in her apartment, but had never had a dryer in her entire life. Is it because they use too much energy? Also, does Korea have laundromats? It doesn’t seem like it.
    This could be your next TL;DR. How clothes get clean (and dry) in Korea.

    6 years ago
    • The frontload washer that are common all over Korea are generally combination washer and dryer. The problem I see is if I put on a load of clothes to wash and put it on a setting that will result in the clothes being dry when the cycle is done, it takes 4 hours. Therefore it is easier to do one load and then hang it out to dry. That way I can go ahead and start the next load of wash. (and it saves energy)

      6 years ago
    • I’ve lived/been in three other countries long enough to know about the respective country’s dryer habits. Which is to say: Pretty much only the US uses driers regularly.
      I was in France for about two weeks with a host family and clothes were all line-dried.
      Japan, clothes were all line-dried.
      Korea, clothes were all line-dried. The washing machine DID have a drying function on it when I lived with a host family – but it wasn’t allowed to be used for energy conservation reasons.

      This also extends to dishwashers. In both Japan and Korea, dish washers existed BUT nobody used them except like a drying rack. (I can’t remember for France but would assume it’s probably the same).

      And continues on to Air conditioning. I’m so used to centralized air conditioning and not thinking twice about it. Japan and Korea had air conditioning units for rooms which were used very sparingly. (In fact, the two monthes I was with a host family in Korea, I think they didn’t turn on the A/C unit ONCE.) It also happened that Korea had some issues with their power plants and so while I was at a summer internship, the government had passed a law that buildings should be at 26 or 27C and no lower than that.

      As for laundromats, I saw at least one, though I didn’t use it. They may have just been there for the students in the area. I can’t say how common but I wasn’t on the look out for it either.

      6 years ago
    • Niiiiccceee… :)

      6 years ago
  10. Love the use of the Dalicks. For your fans in Korea that also happen to be Dr Who Fans, Seoul is the first stop in the major global publicity tour to launch the new series of Doctor Who and introduce Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. 09AUG2014 @IFC Mall (International Financial Celter tower 1) in Yeouido.(http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldwide/2014/doctor-who-world-tour-seoul

    6 years ago
  11. My dryer recently broke down. I bought a great drying rack at Costco and when I do laundry I set it up underneath a ceiling fan that is always on during the day. It is amazing that in 2-3 hours everything is dry. Then I put everything away and nobody knows. I don’t need my dryer anymore.

    6 years ago
  12. Hey Simon & Martina~ I was just wondering if their many hispanics such as Mexicans that live in Korea? In Korea do schools hire teachers that speak & teach Spanish? How do Koreans view the hispanic culture, food, & people? Are there any stereotypes on Mexicans in Korea? (Sorry for my grammar ^_^)

    6 years ago
  13. AND THEN going to the Korean countryside is like stepping back in time!! Actually we see a lot of technology when we visit our friend’s apartments in nearby towns and cities… but living in rural Korea in a village… no cool technology. Even farming techniques are very old. When you guys visit you need to do a TL;DR on the differences between city life and farm life I think.

    6 years ago
  14. oh my GOODNESS- The subways in Toronto are SO AGGRAVATING I JUST WANT TO PUNCH PUPPIES ARRRGGGGGasdfkj;gsdafas!! The subway system is so short as well.. I mean… It’s not so massive that implementing wifi and all that fancy jazz down there would be hard. I think the city would be much better for it too. :/

    6 years ago
  15. We have the same thing in Estonia with escalators. :D I think one of the coolest and most useful things is that when on a crossroad with traffic lights, it usually shows how many seconds is left until it turns red or back to green. :D

    6 years ago
  16. Hmmm, honestly? Norway is such a wonderful country, but we are fairly behind when it comes to technology. I mean, we’re fine! But the whole wifi or having a signal everywhere with your phone – EH NO! It is sooo typical not to get a signal, let alone wifi! But we do have trolls, the nature one, not the internet ones. Well, those too, but the nature trolls crushes them.

    6 years ago
  17. I used to live in a student dorm in Melbourne, Australia. They had door locks could be unlocked with your student card or with a silicon bracelet.

    I never took it off so I never got locked out. Slept, showered and eat in it. If every door could be like that it would be amazing!

    6 years ago
    • English getting bad from all the Dutch I am learning as I now live in the Netherlands! Sorry!

      6 years ago
  18. I have seen the appartment keys here in Sweden as well. My grandmother’s appartment opens to the street that way, but you still need a regular key for safety (thieves).

    Same with parking, but it’s a little different. Most parkings have a parking machine you need to walk to, pay with coins (and finally, in some cases card), and you pay for a certain amount of time. This is tedious, because it will result in you either paying too much (because you finish your errand early) ot you need to rush back to put on more. The better ones, that sadly are not too common, but they have existed for some time, pays as you go. You get a ticket when you arrive, and before you leave you bring this ticket to a parking machine, it calculates how much you need to pay, you get another ticket and you can leave. Similar, but I admit, Korea probably works much smoother.

    But this is my experience of really cool technology, mind you my brother is in a wheelchair, hence why I have experienced it, and it’s not for most people to use.

    My big brother has some really cool stuff in his appartment. He has a remote, that opens his door, his belcony door and the appartment complex door with a few buttons. Pretty much open sesame, but in real life. Other cool things is how much you can adjust. Sure, handicap appartments tend to have lower furniture so that the people there don’t need to stretch to reach everything. Well, his can be adjusted. The bed can be adjusted up, down, in different positions etc. with a remote hanging to the side. His kitchen also can be lowered or heightened, which is good if a taller person is to help hi, they don’t need to destroy their backs. All the lights in his appartment are adjusted by his smartphone, so when I visit he will turn of the lights from his bed. Sadly, robots aren’t available yet for daily use, otherwise I’d love for him to have some for him to move things around, because he still needs me to do that. Not that I mind, but I do worry at times since I cannot always be there, what to do. Technology has made his life SO much easier.

    6 years ago
  19. you guys are seriously in the future the coolest thing in California is those robots that people make do stuff with a romote I really want to go to korea but sadly I cant because im not old enough to go or get a job to get the money to go in the first place but I will go one day

    6 years ago
  20. When you mentioned the red and green lights in the parking garage, I remembered recently seeing a piece of news showing a similar system being deployed in Japan for toilet stall doors in public restrooms so you don’t have to do the infamous bend down and look for a pair of shoes maneuver. As for advances in technology such as the ones you describe, America in general is lagging woefully behind and here in the People’s Republic of New York where they view technology as a threat to the continued reign of the many bureaucracies and unions which control everything in sight, we’re still trying to get permission to transition from the horse-drawn carriage to them newfangled automobiles.

    6 years ago
  21. I was prepared to hear an awesomesauce story about your carpark experience but we have the same sort of thing in Australia. Some of our bigger shopping malls have lights above the parking spots so you can see what’s available and a sign indicating how many spots are left. However, everything else sounds amazing. As you already know from your trip to Australia, we’re practically in the dark ages as far as technology and internet speed goes. I just spent two weeks in Seoul and Tokyo and I MISS YOUR FAST INTERNETS T_T

    6 years ago
    • Yep. I feel like I live in the Stone Age. Actually I basically do most of the time — where I am in Australia 8 months of the year we are literally pulling minerals out of stone, just like the Flinstones (yabadabadoo?). But I do admit, we have the parking thingo. Everything else I greedily suck up and obsess about when in fast moving, Futurama cities like Seoul and Tokyo. Thank you EYK for satisfying our tech cravings. And a big thank you to Tokyu Hands for everything else in my life.

      6 years ago
  22. And there we have it. My entire budget for laundry renos will be blown on importing that ceiling dryer. I cannot live without. And I thought the drying cupboard from the UK would be good enough — what the (ahem) was I thinking?!?

    Damn you technology!!! But thanks EYK (from my appreciative architects…who are also grateful that I must only have Toto toilets everywhere, despite sewage incompatiblity. Butt warmers of the world – unite!)

    6 years ago
  23. I remember seeing the key code door entry in Kdramas. Very cool. Then a few months ago, I saw the American version in my local home improvement store. So, it looks like my neck of the woods is catching up….slowly. Oh, and I have seen parking garages with signs stating how many spots are free. Didn’t pay attention to whether the spots were broken down by level. Thanks for sharing the cool tech!

    6 years ago
  24. In Hawaii there is nothing like that{sad}. the best thing that we have is automatic lights that work on sound. I dont know why though this place is a tourist place right but it is nothing good here. Only food!!!!

    6 years ago
  25. Surely Simon “real men” take the stairs? Two at a time, while carrying Martina. o.O

    That is however a bad ass proximity sensor. All my office does is turn the lights off when I’m working like there’s a power driven ghost.

    My car is pretty fun though. It has cameras to steer the car back into lane if I drift off and dips the headlights at night if it sees other cars and restores them when they’re gone.

    6 years ago
  26. The hospital car park at my uni also has electric signs telling you how many spaces are left and I’ve seen coloured parking space lights and automatic escalators before at Adelaide Airport. I think it was upgraded in the last couple of years, so that’s probably why.
    I wish we had key-code door locks too, it’d really feel like living in the future.

    6 years ago
  27. Hey Simon and Martina :) I couldn’t help but share my experiences when it comes to parking in my country. I live in Lithuania (yes Simon, I’m neighbors with Poland :D ) and although we are rally behind when it comes to technology, we have had a simpler parking system for at least eight years now. When we come to a certain mall here, there are small screens with numbers at every parking lane, showing how many free parking spaces are left and there a censor lights above every parking space, that turn red when a car is parked and isn’t moving anymore, and green when the space is left empty. Since it’s a mall, the parking is free :)

    6 years ago
  28. HI! I live in Los Angeles, CA. South Korea seems like a cool place to live. Here in Cali I have only come across simmilar parking lots, but one parking lot structure with the green/red light indicating taken or free spots, but I was still required to obtain a ticket which had to be put into a machine to pay and then given to another machine to exit…..sigh. I have one question. Does S. Korea experience blackouts? and if so, is there a manual way to get into apartments or use anything that was remote controlled?

    6 years ago
    • Blackout is pretty rare since the electricity lines are in underground
      If it’s blacked out you should worry about to climb up the 25 story apartment
      without elevators since 60% of Koreans live in highrise apartments
      and 92% of Koreans live in cities.

      6 years ago
    • As far as I know those electronic lockers use battery power

      6 years ago
  29. The parking garage idea just blew my mind! About the only technology advancement I’ve seen here is that the electric wires are underground. It makes a lot of sense, we don’t have whole power outages when there is a storm or whatever. I really think they need this in North America as well even though I’m sure it will take a lot of work and money. That’s probably why it hasn’t been done already.

    6 years ago
  30. I think the technology in HK is very similar to S.Kor!
    The parking things are really popular here in Hong Kong and they’re used in a lot of the big malls and wealthier residential car parks since I think 3, 4 years ago. And the same thing applies with the screen showing the number of spots available blah blah blah. However, in Hong Kong shopping malls, they usually have like parking discounts if you purchase items to a certain amount. So you have to pay via a concierge so you can show them the receipt as proof that you have bought a certain amount worth of items. But HK also has automatic machines for paying car park fee before you go into the car park so you won’t have to worry about going over time for only a minute :)
    Same applies with the wifi in tunnels, n subways. And even in elevators sometimes depending on the building’s age.
    Hong Kong also has a lot of keypad locks that you can purchase if your building was not recently built, you can find these locks everywhere and they’ll even help you install it. Lots of recently built buildings including offices of course has these locks. If I wasn’t mistaken, most of these locks are actually imported from korea :)
    I recently moved in to an apartment which finished its construction 5 or 6 months ago, and there is a card called an octopus (which you travel and pay with) that you can beep outside your building and in the elevator which your floor is registered into. But the smart panel is still in experiment but I do have it in my house, however its functioning pretty well. However for the lights we have another smart panel in every part of the house, so u can drag ur finger on the screen up and down and it controls the brightness of your lights.
    However, we don’t really cook in our house so we don’t have advanced or cool technology in our kitchen. But like Korea rice is a big part of Chinese diet, so we do have really cool rice cooker that washes and cook your rice perfectly for you with just one press of a button (but overly expensive of course).

    Overall, I think Korea and Hong Kong have very similar technology around our daily lives. However, I’m still pissed at how HK has no table bell to call the waitors…I LOVE THT THING.

    6 years ago
  31. Wow some of these are genius. I remember you talking about something at a restaurant that let the waiters know you needed them. I don’t remember if that was technical of not , or what it was called (Can anyone help?) but that sounded amazing!

    6 years ago
    • Iirc many Korean restaurants have little bells on the table that ring back to the kitchen

      6 years ago
  32. There’s none of those things in California…
    But anywho I am excited to see the coffee shop!
    Hopefully I can go to Korea again one day.
    I hope you have a fun time in Norway like you did in California.
    Lastly, I pray to the old gods and new you don’t get TD

    6 years ago
  33. Hi~~ Simon and Martina! I was wondering if you had any knowledge on how well foreigners are welcomed into the Korean job market. I know that many people, like yourselves, can get jobs teaching English in schools and Hagwons but what about other areas such as part time jobs and small/large businesses? Thank you!!

    6 years ago
  34. In Sweden we sort of have the car park bit. Except for the lights that turns on automaticly. And isntead of putting in the license plate number you swipe your credit card when you enter the car park and when you leve you swipe it again to pay for it before the gate opens so you can leave. It also tells you before hand if there are any free parking space before entering. So it’s similiar.

    6 years ago
  35. I need proof! you should have video taped some of these things! like the parking & the dryer! : D

    6 years ago
  36. During my Seoul adventure last October, we realized that the owners of our rented apartment didn’t tell us we had to lift the handle to lock our keypad door knob… we went out the entire first day without knowing our apartment was unlocked! #Thingstotellyourforeignvisitors

    6 years ago
  37. I live in the U.S.A and there isn’t any cool technology now and days. The U.S.A doesn’t really make too much of it’s own stuff now. I have to say one of my biggest pet peeves here in the U.S. is the parking buildings. You have to drive through every floor and look at every spot to be able to find a parking space. I’ve never experienced a parking building like the ones you described. Also a lot of things in the U.S.A are NOT Eco-friendly; In fact the majority of our electronics waste resources. We have the automatic flushing toilets that sometimes go off while you are still doing your stuff!! That wastes a whole gallon of water!! Also I heard that in some countries they have more Eco-friendly ways of bringing home groceries, but here in the U.S.A you just take home new plastic bags every shopping trip only to throw them away! I really think that the U.S.A is becoming farther behind on technology and is hurting the Earth because of it.

    6 years ago
    • The automatic toilets are annoying especially when I try to put down the toilet seat cover and it flushes because it senses movement. Same thing with the automatic faucets and paper towel dispensers. At UCSB they tried to dial back on water usage even more because of the drought and finally installed more eco-friendly toilets with the optional flip? I don’t know what to call it but if you did a number 1 you just push up to flush and if you did number 2 you push down. It’s simple and saves water and in my opinion better than the automatic toilets.

      And I know at least in my neighborhood in LA they stopped using plastic bags at least in some stores. More and more stores are starting to stop using them because apparently there’s a new law. I’m not sure but I remember my mom freaking out because she forgot to bring a cloth bag for groceries one time. It’s also sad because and this is not just the case for Korean immigrant parents but for all frugal parents we use the same plastic grocery bags for trash cans and other stuff. So my mom is trying to figure out alternatives. But I agree USA is really slow when it comes to more eco friendly efficient technology.

      6 years ago
  38. They actually have the same parking system with the red and green lights and numbers at the Third Street Promenade mall/shopping area (or maybe it’s The Grove, I forget which one it is) in LA which also has something about paying from your phone (I think, I’ve never tried)

    LA however, has absolutely terrible reception in what seems like anywhere you actually need it. And, those “smart panels” are generally available if you pay a fee for the service and installation + equipment etc. They have a similar lever/thing used in hospitals that allows you to operate the faucet with your feet, but I’m pretty sure that’s mechanical and I’ve only ever seen it in hospitals.

    The door technology mostly applies to college dorms and the more recently built apartments in LA, the suburbs and older areas aren’t up-to-date in that respect.

    6 years ago
    • Century City mall has the lighted parking spaces. WHICH IS AWESOME.

      6 years ago
  39. I see what you did there with the Daleks XD

    6 years ago
  40. lol, I’m from Dubai, and here because we have the biggest mall in the world, we can easily forget where we parked your car, so we have cameras that are connected to the red/green lights above the parking slots that you talked about. The cameras connect to a touch monitor you use to find your car. You just enter you cars number in the monitor and it automatically finds your car and it shows you a map of where it is. You can see it here (0:24): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNIGEqmGooI
    And instead of stopping at the tollbooth, we have Salik (literally mean”Passable”): http://goo.gl/qDtPe5
    You just stick a sticker/tag on the car windshield and it will automatically deduct money, we don’t need to stop at all.
    Also we have a Ski in a Mall (pic: http://goo.gl/B2O8kz) and the Longest automated metro system.
    And gold ATMs (which is in Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi [the capital of our country]), I have never seen it, but here is a pic: http://goo.gl/O6tuUy

    6 years ago