Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seoul, 3rd Worst City in the World

Apparently, according to a new Lonely Planet reader poll, Seoul, South Korea has been given the dubious distinction of being the 3rd Worst City in the World to live in! I thought this was particularly interesting since I lived in downtown Seoul (3 locations) between 2004-2006.

One quote from the Lonely Planet poll of the worst cities to live in described Seoul:

It’s an appallingly repetitive sprawl of freeways and Soviet-style concrete apartment buildings, horribly polluted, with no heart or spirit to it. So oppressively bland that the populace is driven to alcoholism.’

Now, I have to admit, that I did indeed have a few bad experiences while living in Seoul. I once was hired by an illegal private school. They claimed to be above the board and seemed so, but when immigration started sniffing around, I had a bad feeling and quit. I also had a few run ins with some rather unsavory drunk men. For the most part though, my time in Seoul was rather enjoyable. The night life was great and I made a lot of wonderful friends there.

Eventually though, due to a company transfer and general claustrophobia, I opted to move to South Korea's second largest and much smaller city, Busan. Busan was far more relaxed and friendly. Like Seoul (or any other Korean city), it didn't particulalry look nice, but I liked it.

Does Seoul deserved to be dubbed "The 3rd Worst City in the World"? Probably not, but I think Korean people and the government should take notice. Poor treatment of English teachers and discriminatory attitudes and legislation towards non-Koreans living in Korea is coming back to bite them in the ass. This is now a world where English teachers who are ripped off by crooked private school owners or mistreated by drunken men on the street can quickly spread their opinions via You Tube, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I suppose those in power in Korea need to start thinking more about foreigners who come to live and work in Korea. They should be extending more of an olive branch as opposed to marginalizing them!

I don't think Seoul is that bad of a city, but many (and I mean many) teachers who leave Korea, leave with a huge chip on their shoulder. The city doesn't deserve this sort of rating, but I am not surprised that it got it!


Anonymous said...

When I first saw this a few weeks ago, I was shocked... but then I remembered where the rating was coming from: Lonely Planet.

Now, for the most part, Lonely Planet is a great resource; however, those that write for their publications are not the greatest thinkers in the world.

Yes, Seoul is crowded. Yes, it is polluted. Yes, there is sprawl. But it's the 8th largest city in the world and let's not forget that there are close to 50 million people living in 100sqkm.

Other criticisms are valid as well, much like the cases you state and the ones I experienced last year. Seoul is making huge changes. I see far less racism this year than I did last year and new laws are still being passed to assist foreigners acclimate to the country.

Great post Kevin!

Anonymous said...

whoa I'm shocked to read this. I'm not a big fan of Seoul and it is hard for me to suggest someone visit Korea. I think that it has some nice things to do and wouldn't place in as 3rd worst city. I do think it lacks a little pizazz and beauty. The mountains have looked pretty cool with this recent snowfall. Thanks for sharing

RNSANE said...

Interesting article. While I would prefer to visit Gyeongju and Jejudo if I ever go to Korea, I, of course, would also go to Seoul. I love Korean food and, in spite of the Lonely Planet's rating, I would not be deterred. The only thing that usually stops my travel is U. S. State Department advisories.

chuckupd said...

I live in Las Vegas, but I've been visiting Seoul for several weeks, and spent a month here last year - My travel journal: This is an unfair criticism of Seoul.

Yes, the apartment buildings do look terrible. But the street life makes up for it. They're just bursting with life and I love that! I always enjoy walking around and exploring here.

Try walking around Las Vegas and see how you enjoy that. Even when it's not summer (and 115 degrees) it's still no fun at all.