Let me tell you about my favorite spot in all Korea. I won't name it, since I don't want to take the blame when, for other reasons, it inevitably gets too popular.
But I will say that you'll find it near a major Seoul art school. You have to go down some stairs to get to it, but once you enter, you'll find that you've gone not just underground, but back in time. There you can eat a mean plate of tofu kimchi, drink a stiff Long Beach iced tea, and spend the evening listening to the DJ of the night's selections from their wall of Korean vinyl records from the 60s, 70s, and 80s — and only those.
This might sound unremarkable if you engage in the West's, or even Japan's, thriving retro culture, but this place's singular focus on the music of thirty, forty, fifty years ago — and on the domestic music of thirty, forty, fifty years ago at that — makes it a true oddity in Korea. The Korean historical consciousness has long fascinated me: they'll tell you all sorts of stories from way back in the country's "5,000 years of unbroken history," but if you mention a ten-year-old song, they'll wonder what could ever interest you about such an irrelevant artifact.
I've heard of this conflict, or at least misunderstanding, erupting with some frequency and in various domains between Koreans and Korea-resident foreigners, especially Westerners, from music to style to architecture: many of the latter came to enjoy the very same elements of the culture many of the former would prefer to leave behind. Read the rest