Friday, August 10, 2007

Can you tell summer's almost over? FINALLY Last Busan Update

Now that I'm back in Bloomington...and over jet lag...and as the end of the summer creeps closer...I have been focused on getting a little bit of work done. But, now other things I want to blog about are cropping up so I want to wrap up the thoughts and pics from my trip to South Korea.

When we left off on my travel-log, I was leaving the APEC convention location and the skies over Pusan were opening up for a terrible thunderstorm. So, without the possibility of any outside activities, we decided to visit some indoor shopping malls for me to find a gift for my son. I don't quite know how we had gotten upon the topic, occassionally during my trip my host, Professor Kwon, told me the story of Wal-Mart's attempt to enter the Korean market--an attempt that eventually failed. Now, certainly there are many sides to this story, most likely. But according to Kwon, Wal-Mart thought that the same approach they use in the US would translate successfully to Korea: Low prices and high-volume purchases. But, in a country where space is extremely limited (click here for a posting showing XXX a stack of almost identical restaruants stacked on top of each other because of their last of space), the possibility of buying 15 rolls of paper towels is pretty rediculous.

So, Wal-Mart sold their Korean stores to a Korean company that changed the names to E-Mart. And, off Kwon and I went to E-Mart in a pouring thunderstorm.

Of course, there were differences. Parking lots that were, well, actually parking 6-story parking garages. And, each ROW of the parking garages was headed by an EMART employee who either crossed their arms in front of themselves to let you know there were no spaces in that row...or they waived you in if there was an opening. But, regardless, as your car passed by they bowed to you. And not in a "this-is-an-hourly-job-that-I'll-quit-as-soon-as-possible" way. With seeming actual pride in the job they were doing and glad we were there.

Then, just like the parking lot, the store itself was multiple floors. Imagine hundreds of people with shopping carts going up and down flat escalators (I'm sorry I dont' have pictures of that). But, I did take pictures of carts...or at least a part of a cart. Check this out:

Each cart is locked to each other when you enter the store. To unlock it, you need to put in a 100 Won coin. The reason? Because E-Mart knows that even for the equivalent of less than 10-cents, their customers will bring their carts back to get that coin back. And...THEY DO...they all bring them back to the store after depositing their groceries in their cars. No carts in the parking lots...incredible! Oh, here's instructions for those new to the system:
Another thing that was surprising to me was just how LOUD the place was. While the outdoor fish markets were mostly quiet (a surprise in hindsight only), this place was hoppin' with E-Mart employees trying to get you to come over and look at their fish, or kimchee, or whatever. Here's one guy who posed for me...I was so over-the-top with being an obvious tourist...I mean, imagine seeing someone in your local Wal-Mart snapping digital photos every 50 feet...

Before I visited I used to tell my Korean students that I liked kimchi. To me, that was self-explanatory, because I thought there was only one kind...made of spiced/fermented cabage.

But, now I know that just about ANYTHING can actually be kimchied (?). Here's a picture I took of an entire display case of different kimchis. I'd have taken a better one, but apparently this was a counter operated by a particular brand of kimchi. The moment I took a pic the woman behind the counter came scurrying out and told Professor Kwon that these were trade secrets!

So, I'm almost to the end of my my pictures. It was, again, an unforgetable trip and I hope you enjoyed my retelling of it. I thank you for visiting my site to stay up to date, and thanks to those who leave comments every once in awhile.

To truly thank you, I'm leaving you with just a picture of me singing karoke to "With or Without You" by U2. No audio.

But, check this out and just imagine my face superimposed over Bono's.


Marcus Satellite said...

Hi Professor Rob,

You may be interested in my Electronica covers of U2 on my album The Marcus Satellite Tribute To U2.

The entire album was rendered in real-time using only software synthesis. I use many instances of reaktor ensembles for the instruments, and I do very interesting effects animation. Oh, and the vocalists are excellent!

It's also on iTunes.


Sam said...

What do you mean by "flat" escalator.

Sam said...

Like this: