Anybody that has been keeping up with the news concerning Covid-19 (Corona Virus), may be aware that Korea has set the benchmark for prevention by which other countries will be judged. The statistics (if they are to be believed) are astounding. Of a meagre 11,000 recorded cases, Korea has suffered only 263 fatalities. Compare that to the UK’s 246,000 confirmed cases, and approximately 35,000 deaths, and you may wonder where the disparity comes from.
Is the Korean health service considerably better than the NHS? There is no evidence to suggest that this might be the case, but they are certainly better prepared. South Korea has done an amazing job of controlling the disease, and there are several factors why they have been able to do this.
Korea does, it must be said, have an extremely robust health service. They also have prior experience in dealing with such outbreaks. SARS was a similar virus that spread throughout Asia between 2002-2004. As a result Korea has excellent systems in place for the testing and isolation of its citizens. Another reason may be the constant threat from North Korea. There is a real fear that the North could employ biological warfare if a border war were to re-ignite.
Testing has played a major role. Korea has the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per day. Kits are also available to the public at $130 each, and half the cost is covered by insurance. Test positive and the kit is free!
Luck has also played its part. Quite by chance, the Koreans conducted an exercise in dealing with a Coronavirus outbreak just before Christmas 2019. Korea also has a relatively young population and they are highly sensitive to the needs of the elderly. Many old people live at home with the whole family and are well protected by younger members. The percentage of fatalities in the 70-80 age group is much lower than in Italy or Japan.
You may conclude that Koreans are just better at dealing with health crises than the UK. Fair assumption. They may actually be better at dealing with any crisis than we are. You may recall, in 1998 Koreans collectively handed over their gold reserves to the government to help pay a debt to the IMF. Yet another example of collectivism being used to overcome great hardship.
To many in the west, particularly the UK, Korea and Korean people and culture is still something of a mystery. Chinese people have been living and working in Britain for years, and Japanese tourists are everywhere (in London at least) yet we know little to nothing about Korea. North Korea, on the other hand, is rarely out of the news and most of us are familiar with Kim Jong Un and his bizarre form of Communism.
This set me to thinking. What is it about Korea and Korean people that make them the way they are, and what else do they do better than us. Quite a lot as it happens. Enjoy!
#8 World’s best airport
Visitors to Korea will first experience the wonder that is Incheon international airport. Incheon is the most magnificent airport that I have ever seen, and it is probably worth visiting Korea just to view the airport.
Incheon has been awarded the title of the world’s best airport for 12 consecutive years. It is also consistently rated the world’s cleanest airport. It has only 2 terminals but serves over 68 million passengers every year. The airport boasts a spa, private sleeping rooms, an ice skating rink, a casino, magnificent indoor gardens, a video game centre a Museum of Korean Culture and a golf course.
What is really special about Incheon airport though is the Sky Garden. Located just outside the passenger terminal the sky Garden features walking and biking trails, as well as abundant flora and fauna that makes layovers just that bit more special. Climb up to the observatory deck for a magnificent view of the gardens and airport runways.
Inside the terminals, more than half a dozen other gardens are scattered around the airport. These include water gardens, a cactus garden and a pine tree garden with ponds and flowers. Without question one of the best designed and most beautiful airports in the world.
#7 Speedy internet
Korea has the fastest internet connection in the world. Average broadband speeds are around 26.1 MB/sec. Faster than Norway, Sweden, Hong Kong and Switzerland. They also have one of the highest internet usage rates in the world at 91.5%. Korea is also reported to have the best 4G availability in the world, with users able to expect a signal 95.71 per cent of the time.
The United Kingdom delivered an average broadband download speed of just 22.37MB/sec ranking us a lowly 34th fastest in the world.
Korea is the land of cute. Maybe even more than the Japanese, South Koreans love all things soft and bright and furry. From K-Pop groups to pencil sharpeners cute girls, cute gifts and cute characters are everywhere.
Cuteness pervades every aspect of Korean life. One of the most engaging Korean cartoon characters is Kakao Friends. They are the mascots of the Korean messaging app Kakao Talk, which is mega-popular with young Koreans. The company that owns Kakao Talk also owns other ventures including, Kakao Bank. The bank recently unveiled newly designed credit cards featuring the Kakao Friends. These credit cards became so coveted that tens of thousands of Koreans opened a Kakao bank account just to get their hands on one of the cards.
In the UK, one of the definitions of cute has to be the Meerkat advert for a well-known money comparison site. Everybody adores those loveable Meerkats. In Seoul, it is possible to visit a Meerkat cafe. Yes, you heard that right! Korea has cafes where the public can go and spend time stroking a real-life Meerkat. Tell me that isn’t the coolest thing you ever heard!
#5 Credit cards junkies
Koreans are the world’s biggest users of credit cards. Americans make around 78 credit card transactions per person, Canadians 90 whilst South Koreans make 130. In the UK credit card transactions have fallen year on year since 2008. The UK’s preferred transaction method is the debit card.
#4 Body enhancement
Asians are obsessed with skin colour. The paler your skin the more beautiful you are considered to be. South Korea, makes some of the world’s best skin care products. Korea also has the highest per capita rate of cosmetic surgery in the world. An estimated one in three women aged between 19 and 29 have gone under the knife. The most popular procedures are reported to be eyelid surgeries.
South Korea is also a popular destination for medical tourism. People from all across the globe travel to Korea to have their body or looks enhanced. Russians, Chinese, Mongolians and Japanese pay regular visits to Korea for cosmetic surgery.
Bizarrely South Korea is also the largest market for men’s cosmetics by a considerable margin. Korean men are more reticent when it comes to going under the knife but they are less worried about buying make-up. A quarter of the world’s men’s cosmetics ($900 million a year) are bought in South Korea.
#3 Lady golfers
Of the top 100 female golfers in the world, 38 are Korean. Compare that to Korean men who have just four players in the top 100. There are a mere 3 English lady golfers in the world’s top 100 players with no representation at all from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Surely the best known Korean lady golfer is Michelle Wie. At age 10, she became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship. Michelle turned professional shortly before her 16th birthday in 2005. However, it wasn’t until 9 years later that she won her first major, the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. To this day, her only major. Quite incredible when you think of what an amazing prodigy she was.
#2 Theme parks
Korea certainly knows how to do theme parks. They absolutely love them! There are 17 theme parks in Korea. Of the 25 largest theme parks in the world, 2 are Korean, Everland and Lotte World.
Lotte World, a major recreation centre in Seoul, is home to one of the largest indoor theme parks in the world. It also has an outdoor amusement park, an artificial island with monorail, shopping malls, museums, and much more.
Everland is South Korea’s largest theme park. Located at the Everland Resort in Yongin city it hosts 5.85 million visitors a year. It is in the top 20 for amusement park attendance in the world.
By far the strangest theme park in Korea though is Love Land Theme Park. Located on Jeju island, Love Land is an outdoor sculpture park with sex as its theme. The park features 140 sculptures depicting humans in various sexual positions. Visitors can also view a series of sex education films.
Described in the brochure as “a place where love oriented art and eroticism meet.” This is the place to go to have your photo taken riding a giant phallus or sticking your head inside a stone labia.
#1 Public transport
The public transport system in Korea is awesome! For tourists use of public transport is an absolute necessity. There are 10 million inhabitants in central Seoul and 25 million in the metropolitan area. Luckily for them the transport systems are clean, affordable and always, always, always run on time.
Much the same as London or any other capital you can buy a travel card to get you around the city. An all-day pass costs as little as 3000 Won (£2), that’s about the same price as 6 fare stops on the bus in Birmingham.
Are you a Koreaphile? Do you know your Bibimbap from your Bulgogi? Think I’ve missed something? Let me know in the comments section below about all your Koren related experiences.
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