I had a rare opportunity to enjoy a Wednesday off without having to go to work, and so I decided to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Gwanghwamun. Gyeongbokgung Palace is a beautiful palace where the ruling monarch and his family would be residing in during the Joseon Dynasty. Here the Sumunjang of Joseon (the Commander of the Gate Guard) was the chief military officer who protected these gates and whose main duty was to ensure the security and peace of the dynasty. This ceremony of opening and closing the gates, along with changing the guards, was a symbolic act that was carefully arranged. The first year of it's ceremonious procedure was in 1479 during King Yejong's rule.
I was captivated by watching this authentic ceremony, and felt as if I was back in the 15th century. Korea has definitely come a long way, and my moments spent roaming the Palace freely were serene. Usually, whichever touristy place you go to in Seoul is generally jam-packed with Seoulites, but today it was like having the entire sand castle all to myself (well until all the school kids started rushing in around 2 pm). For the first time in Seoul, I felt remnants of a history long gone. I knew that past the McDonalds, the Nike stores, and the modern architecture, there was a forgotten presence of Korea almost camouflaged deep inside of Seoul. As I entered through the gates, watching a Gate Guard change proceeding, I was encouraged to learn more about my heritage. Korea has had a tumultuous history. War is definitely not a new concept here (nor is it anywhere else I suppose). My guess is that people are starting to remember the "Forgotten War" with all this hoopla about N. Korea. Yes, I am gravely concerned. Nonetheless, today I am still blessed and thankful to be alive and well, to have my family and friends, and of course to be employed.
Through my outsider's perspective, I am beginning to understand more of this culture. In this process, I am beginning to understand more of where my parent's came from. My parents left Korea seeking opportunity, hoaxed by the American dream, and the freedoms unheard of in Korea at the time. Fast forward 23 years and with rapid modernization and economic development I am seeing more parallels to that of a coastal American city. Hence, the prevalence of the Burgerkings, the Adidas, and the Starbucks. It's like an odd mixture of two cultures clashing; creating a bastardization of both. (My political sense would kick in right about now and take a glance at Capitalism, and the Establishment. Ironically, even if we all believed in the half-truths, it would never amount to the whole. Perhaps, we wouldn't be able to handle that kind of complete truth.) Nonetheless, the sights, sounds, smells, and sudden shouts of drunk men at 2 am remind me that though English is becoming prevalent everywhere here -- this is still South Korea. Though I still have my reservations about Seoul and South Korea, I am proud of how far this country has come.
On a side note:
We live in precarious times. A man would spend his entire life seeking a truth that did not exist. Or, relinquish his life to an outcome dredged with uncertainty and failure. In doing so, they made the world a little better, a little easier, for all of us. Yet, today we have gotten too comfortable relying on these past pioneers, and yesterday's newfound innovations. We count on other's past successes, and mistakes to minimize our own failures, and ultimately our own successes. Why? It's easier that way. Or, perhaps we could be asking ourselves which way we can take our mechanized society, our structured lives, and our deteriorating humanity into something anew? The biggest problem this generation faces is not being apathetic, which we are, but knowing that we are, and not doing anything about it.
without further adieu,
I finally got that bokeh effect!