One of the biggest things that came to my attention during my first visit to Seoul are the many existing classes and Korean subcultures that I've been unaware of (and no, I don't watch Korean drama's and I highly doubt they're anywhere near an accurate depiction of Korean society anyway). The majority of Korean's I've known throughout my life (aside from visiting family members who live here already) have been Korean families who have had the means to immigrate to the states, so generally middle to upper class. I grew up thinking that all Korean families were the same. Most parents were conservative business owners who gave up everything they had to immigrate, used that guilt to push their children to excel in academics and tried their best to be "normal" and fit into American society. To see the lives of middle to lower class Koreans is a completely different emotional experience. These people simply don't exist (or are pretty rare) in the states because it's damn near impossible to immigrate without money, but these are the people that give me hope in a culture I wrongfully despised. Turns out, it wasn't the culture, but the people that represented my heritage in the states that I was somewhat ashamed of - people who care only about money and financial success, that's basically what it comes down to. Sure, I understand the struggles they went through to give their children an opportunity within the "American Dream" but doesn't that entail the freedom to whatever they desire and to pursue their OWN dreams?
I'm a pretty firm believer that with suffering comes creativity, and I think it's safe to say that financial stability comes hand in hand with one's comfort in life (yes I understand that it shouldn't be that way but unfortunately it is). At first glance, I noticed what I knew. I knew that these people were obsessed with status, in which they represented with what they wore and how they looked. Everywhere I looked, I saw people with designer clothes and accessories, altered faces - eyes cut and sewn, jawlines shaved, noses poked and prodded, men in suits...but the more I looked around I noticed the people behind them, living in the nooks and crannies of Seoul, painting the town, expressing their individuality, being shunned by the "ahjumma's" (old ladies) of society.
At first, I thought, "you belong in America!" where people won't judge you and shake their heads at you from the bus, where people won't talk shit to you at the spa for being a lady and having tattoo's, where people encourage creativity, not look down on it as "something you do when you suck at gongboo (academics)." But after giving it some thought, I realized, these are the people who are going to give value and significance to Korea's youth and vibrant future. So, rock on you people. Grow them dreads and stick it to the man. Bitch slap the black, white and beige right off the face of Seoul and color it WILD.