From Nigeria to Seoul – what did I learn?

I am not really sure what to make of this article by ThisDay’s editor (January 23, 2012).  Apparently he came to Korea – business class – at the invitation of the Korean Cultural Centre and wrote this article filled with poetic prose(?) comparing Nigeria and the “Asian Tiger”  – positive for Korea and somewhat negative for Nigeria. 

The beauty of Seoul’s skyline was clearly defined by its skyscrapers that adorn the city in well defined geometric patterns. Architecture like the modern art forms of Isamu Nogushi in Japan, articulated the modernism of Seoul as a city of international business comparable with London, Paris or New York.

Seoul makes the Federal Capital Territory here look drab and ordinary. Is it part of the master plan of the FCT that there shall be no skyscrapers such as are seen in Seoul, in particular in the business district?

The editor was obviously well-entertained:

Driver Han drove into the exotic Lotte Hotel, which by all standards justifies its five-star status, where the high and mighty rulers of this world are quartered as guests of Korean presidents. At the roof top of Lotte, every weekend, Korea’s most famous chef threats his guests with unique native cuisines, choice wines and jazzy concerts. Dining in Lotte’s exquisite two restaurants every morning was part of the fun of this visit.

(I am going to assume that “threat” was a typo) And received some valuable Korean history lessons:

In the Seoul Museum you learn how 19th century Korea resisted Western culture with the invasion of foreign powers between 1866 and 1871. This was followed by a Treaty of Friendship between the government of Korea and Japan signed in 1876. Two schools of thought emerged – Confucianism and Buddhism creating a divide in Korean politics with the East adopting the Confucian philosophy led by Yi Hwang(1801-1570) and Seong Hone(1535-1598) leading in the West. The Japanese invasion of Joseon in 1592 preferred Confucianism to Buddhism.

And, of course, my favorite:

Here [World Cup Stadium] you learn that 1882 was the beginning of Korean football when sailors of a British warship docked at the Incheon Port and introduced the round leather game to Korean workers and natives.

Wasn’t this fable put to rest a couple of years ago?  Who were they playing?

As to the purpose of the article and its rambling – the part about Jeju could have been polished up a little more – I am at a total loss.  It is true that I am unfamilair with ThisDay’s readership but am I to believe that most Nigerians flying to Korea are doing so in business class and that they are staying at the Lotte Hotel?  Do they all receive a tour of the media outlets by the Executive Director/International Relations who will assure them that  Korea’s major television broadcasting network, largely owned by “government but commercialised and founded on a platform of unbiased reportage while representing the interest of government”?

  • Seth Gecko

    The editor was obviously well-entertained:
    Korea’s most famous chef threats his guests with unique native cuisines…

    Beware the hansik!

  • eujin

    The obvious answer to your rhetorical question is, the sailors were most likely playing each other. While I agree with you that the burden of proof rests on those who say the events in 1882 did occur, it’s a long way from there’s no solid evidence to it’s a fable that has been put to rest.

    If there is no record of a quick game in any sailor’s diary from the trip then there’s unlikely to be much evidence of it until the ball turns up. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the story passed by word of mouth for a while amongst the Koreans, but because it doesn’t conflict with any prior prejudice, like bears turning into humans, and no one wrote “we absolutely didn’t play football in Korea” or the ball subsequently turned up somewhere else, then it still seems perfectly plausible. Did you try to find out where the “fable” originated from?

  • robert neff

    #2 Eujin
    Thanks for the comment. You are indeed correct – it is impossible to say 100% that it did not happen but considering the situation at Chemulpo/Incheon at the time – it seems very very unlikely. There were very few Koreans in the area and the political unrest at the time made it very unlikely that the sailors were allowed ashore to play a quick game of soccer.

    Survey parties were frequently molested/harrassed by the Korean population (can’t really blame them – how would you react if strangers were wandering around in your neighborhood?) There was also the Imo Incident in July 1882 which is referenced in the article.

    Judging from the other diaries, ship’s logs and books that pertain to this period it all seems extremely doubtful at best. As for where this fable originated from – as you read in the article – I went to the various authorities and no one could provide sources or answers. It was just an established fact.

  • Q

    “You can fool all of the people some of the eime and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time” is a quote made famous by President Abraham Lincoln, right? Sorry. This remark is not found in any of the writings of Abraham Lincoln, nor can it be found in any newspapers from Lincoln’s time. In fact, the saying did not surface until more than fifty years after Lincoln was supposed to have said it. Most historians now attribute the remark to circus impresario P.T. Barnum. But nearly 150 years later, it seems this old saying isn’t even true — all of the people were fooled for all of this time.

  • Q

    The men who in 1908 wrote and composed the anthem to baseball “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” Jack Norworth and Albert von Tilzer, had never been to a baseball game.

  • hamel

    Q: wow! Interesting trivia. Not sure what the relevance is here, though.

  • iwshim

    “business class – at the invitation of the Korean Cultural Centre”

    The Korean Governemnt paid for this?

  • nayaCasey

    iwshim #7–if the Korean Cultural Centre is a government outfit, then, to be more accurate, Korean taxpayers paid for the trip. The Korean government just made the arrangements. Hope the rest of you enjoyed it as much as our guest did!

  • CactusMcHarris

    What, aside from oil, does Nigeria have that Korea wants? Surely not its labour force, no?

  • Q

    In 1871, Tucson, Arizon, was the heart of the Wild West, and boasted 3,000 people, two doctors, a newspaper, a brewery, and several salons — but just one bathtub.