June 6, 2008 5:09 AM
Thursday, I went to the 63 (Yook Sam) Building on Yeoido with Karey and Sung. Well, that was the plan, at least. Karey's mom is a 5th grade teacher at the Yongsan army base, and her kids were coming to the tower on a field trip. The 3 of us were to follow along, and get in for free (otherwise, it would have cost 22,000 won, or $22). The plan was to meet at the building by 10 AM, and walk in together.
What ended up happening was that I was late. I got out of the house late (too busy with email/Facebook), and ended up arriving at 10:30. I ran out of the subway and in the pouring rain to the building, only to see Karey...nowhere. I couldn't find him. I tried calling him several times, but he wouldn't pick up. Eventually, he called me, and told me he was in the IMAX theater. I told him I'd meet him outside.
We got to see the view from the 63rd floor (the clouds and rain made for a mediocre sight, unfortunately). Sung finally joined us for lunch (Karey had failed to call him), and we all went into the aquarium. They had your standard collection of fishies, sharks, as well as jellies, reptiles, and mammalians, as well as some more interesting exhibits. The coolest was the Doctor Fish (Garra rufa). These fish feed on dead skin cells. Part of the tank had holes for fingers. When I stuck my fingers in, the fish swarmed around, picking at my fingers...It felt kind of ticklish.
After the aquarium full of screaming kids, we were drained, so we went to Karey's new apartment to play video games. Karey's mom treated us out to dinner, and we went to this really cheap but decent Korean restaurant (seriously, doengjang jigae and bibimbap for 5,000 won?! Awesome!). Another fun, yet tiring day.
On the walk back, we saw some of the protesters of the Korea-US beef trade. It's been all over the news here for the past few days. The South Korean government was considering renewing the beef import deal with the US (which has been closed since 2003). The fear is over mad cow disease; protestors in the streets declare "We don't want crazy cows!" This has been a major concern; there have been multiple protests, sit-ins, candlelight vigils, and the sort. Businesspeople, college students, stay-at-home moms...all sorts of people are joining in. The police have cracked down on some of these protests, although I don't know to what extent. There were video clips playing of one protest near Insa-dong, with the police in riot gear striking the protestors, choking, kicking, and punching them. It was a sad sight...
My grandfather explained that the bigger issue at hand is the relationship between South Korea and the US. This beef deal is part of the free trade agreement between the two countries, and is symbolic of the greater relationship between the two. One group of leaders wants to maintain strong ties with the US, and all the political and economic benefits from that connection. Another group wants to distance themselves from the US, and draw closer to North Korea. While a close connection between the South and the US does not exclude proper North-South Korean relationships, it is a hindrance. What to do, what to do...
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