As you as you get off the airplane you can smell it. It is in the air. It surrounds you. It is freedom. That is what we felt landing in Seoul after five days in Beijing. Our goal was to find out what Korea was all about.
As our trip grew closer, many friends and family commented on the fact we were going to South Korea as part of the trip. They were all anxious because Kim Un Flung Dung was acting like a juvenile delinquent and threatening both South Koreans and Americans alike. We were not deterred. Our close friends Shawn and Michelle Steel had encouraged us to go. Michelle is the highest elected official in the U.S. of Korean descent and Shawn is a member of the Republican National Committee from California. They gave us some suggestions and we went on our way.
The contrast between the Chinese and the Koreans could not have been more pronounced. Korea is a sophisticated modern society. Wherever we went we felt as comfortable as if we were in America. The people are gracious, charming, polite, modern and educated. We found out currently 80% of the young adults attend college. This is a society that knows Americans and likes Americans and American culture. All the Americans we encountered while there expressed their great feelings for Korea and how much they enjoyed the country.
That manifested in the most demonstrable way--by attending a baseball game. These people are baseball crazy. It truly is their national pastime. There have been fourteen Koreans who have played in Major League Baseball, with Shin-Soo Choo currently playing for Cincinnati and Hyun-Jin Ryu in his first season as a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Koreans currently have nine teams in their league which plays a 128 game season. The league would be equivalent to a triple A league in America. The stadiums range in size from about 10,000 seats to the one we went to in Seoul which seats 27,500.
We arrived at the stadium, adjacent to the Olympic Stadium used for the 1988 games. We had a confirmation, but we had to go to Will Call to get our tickets. But how do you say “Will Call” in Korean and is that what they call it? No problem, as we roamed around the exterior of the stadium where endless vendors (mostly older women sold various different foods and beer --including some questionable dried fish), and we found a young Korean man who spoke very good English. He walked us to where we picked up our tickets, helped us obtain them and then made sure we knew where to go to our seats. No problem…we spoke baseball and this is Korea where they are unfailingly nice. As we walked in I got a smoothie from Smoothie King, right next to the KFC and Burger King.