A brief trip to
Multitudes of high rises extend across greater
The evening before I had flown into Incheon airport on a 14 hour flight. The aircraft drops you into the lap of a hollow silence of muted sounds that is the airport, following the tribe of passengers through a sequence of passageways like a character out of a grainy handheld camera shot movie, escalators, advertisements whisking by, through immigration counters, quarantine checkpoints, pulling out local currency at the ATMs, buying tickets at the bus stand, all of this on autopilot compounded by the daze from the lights and language of a foreign country. The airport itself is on an island and the large, modern highway that leads into the city passes through paddy fields, golf courses, and bleak wetlands where the sea has retreated for now. The traffic is fast on a Sunday. We pass a cemetery on the left carved into a hillside, presided over by a large advertising billboard. Up in the evening sky an aircraft hangs frozen in the air by the vectors of our relative trajectories. The Han river, criss-crossed by a multitude of bridges, cuts through
The night that I arrive, I take a long walk through the streets now relatively quiet, where the only places open are the restaurants and small family run convenience stores. I pick up an electrolyte drink at one of these—Polcari Sweat, brilliantly named and branded. If I am sweating in a gym I would like to grab something with the name Sweat, for the vindicative feeling of earning the rights to its consumption. The walk loosens the effects of the flight. I cross an Outback Steak House and come to a small two storey building—Pho Saigon on the ground floor, and-advertized through smoky blue windows and shimmering neon signs—Tokyo Jazz for “music/bar”. Suspecting that the latter is a hostess bar, I settle for Vietnamese noodles and a beer at Pho Saigon. Chinese, Vietnamese, and south-east Asians form the largest immigrant group to Korea, in most cases—and as is often the case worldwide—carrying out menial tasks that Koreans are uninterested in doing. Increased migration to the urban areas have opened up, “international marriages” between South Korean farmers and South East Asian women are expected to generate as many as upto 50% of rural mixed ancestry children by 2020 (http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2009/04/123_42911.html).