I was 6 years old the first time I flew to Korea. I remember the heaviness in the air - part unrelenting humidity, part struggling economy. Seoul was far from cool, barely holding its head above American trends. The nation was still emerging from war, still closing the door on third-world status. Today, Korea leads the world - and this is why:
  1. An indelible connection with tradition.
    2687b2b0 de1e 49e8 be78 c6d47f16a70f
    You can’t go a day of your life here without encountering raw Korean heritage. We’re talking thousands of years of history in the social rituals, extraordinary cuisine, and landscape. There are cultural monuments, statues, and the King’s palaces, strewn about the city - the constant reminder of how far Korea has come, honoring the past, while barreling into the future.
  2. The best food - and restaurants - on the planet.
    3c16e9ef 8eef 4acd a818 2d7260305e0b
    If Japan has crafted the highest retail experience, then Korea holds down the dining category. Eating Korean is an art, an adventure. Meals are where relationships are forged, business is conducted, and life is understood, so the curators go all out, and the patrons dive right in. With so many different genres of Korean fare presented through a prism of colorful means, so much of understanding the people's history boils down to the eats.
  3. For example, the nnaengmyun here.
    5d84667d 0c54 4abb 9a1a 22d373889a37
    You can get nnaengmyun (cold noodles) in most cities with a Koreatown, but in the homeland, the selection is vast, nuanced, and a food category of its own. This restaurant (in trendy Apkujeong), specializes in a North Korean interpretation of nnaengmyun, which is gaining popularity in the city. It’s milder than the more flavorful bowls that Koreans are used to, but the younger generations are drawn ot it because it’s more refreshing and cleaner.
  4. The fashion.
    F3332d1f 390f 4699 b53b dcfbc393a621
    I staunchly believe Koreans are some of the most creative people on the planet, and nowhere does that come better across than in fashion. From Paris Fashion Week to the Streetwear underground, Korea is carrying the flag right now, out of a quiet artistic upwelling that’s been simmering for generations. Apkujeong is one of the trendy shopping districts in Gangnam (that’s right, Gangnam Style), the hub for a lot of relevant new brands and designers.
  5. White people.
    Bf9beb94 c162 49de bac6 0d200cb980b7
    For decades, it was rare to find a non-Korean in Seoul, outside of the military base. I think I saw more white people in one day than the three decades I’ve been coming here, combined. The face of the city is changing rapidly. As the Korean economy swells, riding off the momentum of once-scorned homeland brands like Samsung, LG, and Hyundai, Seoul is becoming a more attractive destination for those looking to turn the world a little faster.
  6. Cool people.
    E479307c c9fd 42a1 be2e dbccfa4cfb13
    Korean cinema and K-pop changed everything. Now that all eyes (and ears) are on South Korea, they aren’t just defining the Asian mainstream, but popular culture worldwide. These are some of the kids who are responsible for the revolution, from the YG camp (label behind Big Bang and G-Dragon) in the Boon the Shop penthouse office of XIN, its director. The blonde kid to the left, ZION T, has the #1 song on the radio right now.
  7. International relations.
    Ca8d3f81 82b7 4936 9baf b712b055e47b
    For centuries, Korea and Japan were at odds, but this is a new time, a new mindset. BAJOWOO is a punk rock Korean fashion designer whose label, 99%is, is based - and celebrated - in Japan.
  8. Strong, powerful, and beautiful women.
    Edeef18a 44ff 4c76 bdc8 3595f3383ff6
    My friend was telling me how he only dates Korean women because they’re feminine on the outside, “and gangster as fuck on the inside.” That pretty much sums up my mom and most every Korean woman I know. You’d think in such a macho society, where plastic surgery is a national pasttime (seriously, girls shave their jaw on a lunchbreak), that the ladies would take a backseat. No way - they’re leading the new school (like the MISCHIEF girls here). I mean, the Korean president is a woman.
  9. Koreans are point-provers.
    6f3c7976 c26b 4795 ad63 e25e2526937b
    It’s illegal to get tattoos here. Yet, you'll see kids dipped head to toe in ink (like my friend Heerak). Smoking weed is tantamount to rape. But still, of course, everyone gets high. Even as far as I'm disconnected with my own heritage, there are elements in our bloodline that I'll never escape. Koreans are an emotional and passionate people. They have this crazy, innate fighting spirit that is responsible for centuries of survival. Outspoken. Defiant. And wear their hearts on their sleeves.
  10. You gotta see this for yourself.
    3d82d7b7 6c65 467b a445 e239e6f063d7
    Come to Korea! (Just not during monsoon season 😰)