A long time ago, in a Korea of another age, Seoul was a truly conservative, extremely reserved place where people didn’t hold hands and certainly never hugged or kissed in public. But Korea has developed into a consumer economy based on choice, freedom, and the ability to indulge one’s carnal urges.
This is a collection of images that conveys the hard-felt passions of the New Koreans, who are young-at-heart, more carefree, play hard, and expect some gratification now and not desires forever deferred. These images define the style of a new kind of street, one in which, laughter, love, and yes, sex are all in the air.
These days, there’s a new brand of sass wafting off the new “cool kids” of Asia and it’s downright baffling to those raised in a time when you trusted authority, did what you were told, and your good grades and chipper attitude would get you into a good school, great job, and big apartment in the sky. Now, the kids these days know that life is short, money’s tight, and the night is young.
Skirts are higher, courtships are shorter, and girls don’t bring boys home to mama anymore. It’s the age of “Gangnam Style” and discerning “Gentlemen ” with a “Hangover.” This new attitude is the source of much consternation in Korean society nowadays as Korea grapples with the side effects of its own popular culture success.
Korea is a nation very concerned with national image and trying to impress what it refers to as “developed” nations, which — deep, deep down, it still feels it is not, much like the unpopular girl who got invited to the school dance by a cool kid and still fears being “found out” despite the outta-sight makeover and new clothes. But the funny thing is that the very things Korea is becoming known for in the international sphere are those things that would have been found, by a conservative Confucian, old school Korean, completely inappropriate and embarrassing. But that’s the up and downside of the two-edged sword and the point of the old adage to “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”
And that’s the contradiction — or just plain old sensory overload — that some in Korea now find has seemingly gone too far. Yet Korea has always been a land of extremes, a nation full of a balls-to-the-walls, can-do mindset that has led to insanely fast economic development and an outright naughty pop music culture that by all rights is bizarre to have originated in a culture in which people were afraid to hold hands in public not even 20 years ago, but now boast pop culture that might make the hentai -prone Japanese blush. Well, not really. But I think you get the point.
And the change is pervasive. And insidious. Even those who might describe themselves as “demure” or even “conservative” are not like they used to be. And the everyday look on the streets ain’t what it used to be.
But whatever one wants to make of it, one thing is certain: things done changed on the streets of Korea. And it’s that je ne c’est pas that makes Korea seem extra edgy these days and much more interesting to the rest of the world than it has ever been.