Underground Korea

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I remember one of the first things my dad told me when we moved to Germany:  With a certain veneration in his voice he announced that at least 50% of “additional” Germany is hidden underground. Now having seen Korean underground facilities I might say this is what I call “an underground country”.

We recently visited COEX expo center. We set off to visit the Coex Aquarium, which is considered the largest aquarium in the world. The guidebook marked Samsung metro station as our destination. We got off at the right stop this time, but we never had to walk outside. The long single metro corridor opened up into a large mall with dozens of shops and cafés in all directions that an eye could see. Various music, distinctive lights and crowd noises were coming from all directions. We noticed a large high-tech touch-screen information stand and came up to it to locate the aquarium. The fish world is securely tucked away at the furthest end of the mall. We would have to pass all restaurants and stores, a movie theater, Kimchi museum, art stages, art galleries, etc. A brisk walk took about 15 minutes one way. The air in the corridors was hot and stuffy; neon colors of store signs were flickering creating a sharp contrast to the soft yellow light of the corridors. I could not help but feeling as if I was in the movie “Total Recall,” walking along a tube-shaped hall at a mall on Mars, and at the next winding turn I would see Schwarzenegger arriving.

Having spent about two hours underground at the aquarium, we were making our way back to the subway. All of a sudden it hit me: “The walk is almost over, we left the house about 3 hours ago, and we have not been outside yet.” At that moment I felt very claustrophobic and short of fresh air. We took an escalator up to the 1st floor of the expo center and walked out from the dimly lighted mall and a buzzing crowd. The streets were virtually empty. Zone 4, where COEX expo is located is considered a relatively new area and was built with the Olympic games in mind, meaning that the streets are spacious, street blocks are extensive: the entire area with it’s contemporary architecture gives out an awe of people’s accomplishments and general magnitude. With that said, the streets were nearly empty with no people to admire this general grandeur and cleanliness because everyone was below the street level browsing the shops. I suppose this is the reason why the street level remained so pristine with its clean ostentatious high-rises.

 And this is what I would call living in the underground.

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