Foreign interns like subway, but don’t like missionaries, Gangnam

The JoongAng Ilbo talked with some youngish foreigners working for Seoul as part of an internship program about what they liked and disliked about our fair city.

Almost all of them liked the subway system, although some took issue with certain aspects of said subway. A young Iranian woman said the Seoul subway system frightened her. She said she was often shocked by the sudden appearance of missionaries telling her to believe a certain religion or garden-variety nutjobs making a scene. According to the JoongAng, most of the foreigners found the subway missionaries objectionable.

They also found public order on the subways lacking. Oh, and some apparently didn’t like that there were so many plastic surgery ads in the subway stations.

Suprisingly (to the JoongAng), many of the foreign interns weren’t especially impressed with Gangnam, which they found to be ostentatious and lacking in any distinguishing charm besides the high prices. A Japanese intern from Tokyo said she was surprised by the gap between Dongdaemun and Gangnam, which she felt revealed the gap in living standards in Korean society.

The interns were impressed by the long work hours kept by Koreans, though.

Marmot’s Note: Yeah, the missionaries can be annoying, although I’ll take annoying missionaries over religious compulsion as a matter of public policy any day.

  • KoreanCanadian

    Most of Koreans finds the missionaries in the subway objectionable.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    “ostentatious and lacking in any distinguishing charm besides the high prices”


  • SalarymaninSeoul

    No one likes missionaries, even rats and cockroaches run away from them.

  • Horace Jeffery Hodges

    Hey, that’s “Gangnam Style”!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • Sinister

    I really don’t understand the whole Gangnam cachet thing. It’s very expensive, crowded, polluted, noisy and pretty ugly. Seoul in general is a pretty ugly city with awful traffic. Public transport is pretty good, except for the manners of many people.

    I wouldn’t say that manners on the metro are ‘lacking’ I’d say they are pretty much non existent, and those crazy religious nutters should be subjected to huge fines for their bad manners. At least the people selling umbrellas and other stuff on the subway can occasionally be useful if it starts raining and you left your umbrella at home, religious lunatics serve no useful purpose whatsoever.

    I’d rather live around Dongdaemun than Gangnam. There are at least a few decent restaurants around that area that don’t cost an arm a a leg and provide better food than Gangnam style overpriced slop.

    Best area to live in Seoul? I’d have to go with Mapo Gu. Fairly good parks, a few decent places to eat out, some decent bars, not ludicrously expensive, some decent places to see live music, good cycle paths along the river, places to go hiking if that’s your thing, a selection of fairly good markets, entertaining football matches at bargain prices, good cinemas, convenient links to the airport. It’s the best place I’ve lived in Korea by far.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Can I ask the people who bring over these interns to pay me instead?

    Seriously, what the F is the point of these constant in-the-eyes-of foreigner tests and surveys and exercise?

    I am a walking example of 국위선양, 1000 times more effective than a visit Korea poster or a CNN commercial or a Washington Post full page ad.
    People get a good impression of Korea by breathing the air I exhale.

  • gbnhj

    If you find them objectionable, I’d ask you to just think of the position they’re in.

  • wangkon936

    Even Christians have an inside joke of how intimidating some missionaries can come across:

  • ChuckRamone

    Sometimes when I read the things foreigners rue about Seoul, it sounds quaint. Missionaries, advertisements, some public disorder? At least it’s not as bad as in New York where you have rats, garbage everywhere, crazy people, constant panhandling, crime, plain rude people, etc. When I hear someone sermonizing on the train, it’s a nice break from all that other crap.

  • Joshua Stanton

    It’s one thing when Korean missionaries do their thing on the Seoul subway, but now they’ve brought their act here, to the DC Metro. In Korea, I actually saw missionaries harangue bereaved Buddhists (my wife, to name one) at cremation ceremonies for their loved ones. Whatever good you must concede that Christian missionaries may have done in some parts of the world, you have to think that these tactics alienate twenty people for every person they convert. Really, they’re more of an exercise in spiritual masturbation than anything.

  • wangkon936

    That Iranian chick is funny. Yes, there are missionaries in the subway, but at least in Korea people don’t have to worry about being publicly hanged if they are accused of being gay.

  • wangkon936

    Yeah, some of that is true. However, for Asia Korea is pretty good. Last year I spent a week in Seoul, then a week in Beijing and then Shanghai. Seoul is decades ahead of those two cities. The pollution level is off the charts in Shanghai and Beijing. The air is almost soup there and the streets smelled like urine. Well, the streets in NYC smelled like urine too, but you forget that because it’s NYC.

  • Kuiwon

    I find missionaries to the be no. 2 annoyance in Seoul subways. What about all the ads for plastic surgery?

  • Madar

    If you take the long view, Kore has one of the most peaceful histories of any country in the world. Germany is the exact opposite!

  • The Sanity Inspector

    I was walking through Chonnam National University one day, and I got accosted by a Jehovah’s Witness at one end of campus, and some Protestant kids inviting me to a service at the other end. The kids gave me a little gift: a brochure of their church, with some kleenex folded inside.

  • Robert Koehler

    That Iranian chick is funny. Yes, there are missionaries in the subway, but at least in Korea people don’t have to worry about being publicly hanged if they are accused of being gay.

    I have to confess, the first thing I thought when I read her comment was “무섭겠지. 특정 종교를 믿으라는게 정부의 업무이지 일반인이 하는게 아니다.”

  • Robert Koehler

    You know, I can pass on your suggesting to the Ministry of Culture if you like.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Hang on, I would have to ladyfy my language a bit then, e.g. what the H instead of F

  • Songtan1

    I do when they ring my door bell. I answer nude from the waist down and they either run away or ask to come in. Not sure where I fit in…

  • Horace Jeffery Hodges

    Clearly not the normal missionary position.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • Horace Jeffery Hodges

    Maybe good for pest control . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • will.i.aint

    I really don’t understand the whole Gangnam cachet thing. It’s very expensive, crowded, polluted, noisy and pretty ugly.

    It’s really simple – Gangnam is where the best schools are located.

  • Sinister

    If my wife and I had children and if we were rich, I’d school our kids abroad or home school them. Gangnam is not that good for schools. I worked at a so called ‘elite high school’ for a couple of years in the area, some of the students were bright, other students were basically ‘window lickers’. Throwing money at education is not the key and a lot of these ‘elite’ schools in Korea have almost the same class size (or even bigger) than tech schools.

    I went to a small private school in the UK for my secondary education, the benefits of small class sizes at that level of education are proven.

  • Robert Frog

    Some of you may not like to hear this.,,,but despite what you think about the “quaint” opinions of a bunch of foreign interns…the country in general cares FAR more about the opinions of short-term visitors and tourists than it does about the opinions of lifers or longer-term sojourners. Sure, most of us are more knowledgeable (read..acclimated) about this or that, but honestly our opinions mean little to those government folks who make it their business to work up ways to make Korea an attractive destination.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    No, they don’t kill the pests they simply redistribute them elsewhere.

  • Wedge1

    Our good friend Dr. Lankov has brought to our attention that Korean history has been positively halcyonic compared to Germany’s.

  • Andrew

    Boy they have a lot of work to do. “They also found public order on the subways lacking.” Only on the subways?

  • Wedge1

    What is this subway missionary thing? What’s their modus operandi and how often do you see them?

  • Sperwer