As planned, Brica and I met up in Tokyo and headed for Seoul on March 1st. We arrived in the evening with no place to stay, too much stuff in our bags, and not a single word of Korean in our list of language that we understand. Compared to Tokyo, we saw few foreigners, few signs written in Roman letters, and few people who could speak English, even a little. Luckily, I miraculously leaned to read Korean script in a matter of minutes. This was very helpful for place names and English loan-words like "ice tea", but if the letters spelled out "chuso" or some other unintelligible word, we were clueless. Our second stroke of luck was when we ran into two Americans from South Carolina. They were both teaching English in Korea, and offered to show us to a cheap place to stay. Considering that the place we were looking for was wiped off the map by some new development project, we were very happy to accept their help.
We took the USO tour to Panmunjom on the DMZ between North and South Korea. There really is not a lot to see up there, but I recommend a trip to any American who passes through Seoul. It is crazy to see how politics can tear apart people who once lived together. The "Peace Village" and the "Propaganda Village" stand in opposition inside the four-mile wide DMZ. We were allowed to step across to the North briefly when we entered the meeting room for North-South talks. It was a kind of cheesy tour, but a real eye-opener at the same time.
After a couple days in Seoul, we headed down to a place called Kyongju. Kyongju,a small town near Pusan, was the capital of Korea for nearly a thousand years. Many people told me that it would be like Kyoto or Nara in Japan: lots of history and great places to see. Well, it was an old city, but there was not so much to see. We spent about three days there and managed to see everything of importance. This included some old burial mounds, a great national museum, and a temple or two. We still were not speaking much Korean or getting along with Korean food, but I did meet a few Japanese students at our hostel who were enjoying the same type of spring break. I got to practice my Japanese in the evenings and walk around the city in the daytime.
Back in Seoul, we met up with a couple Korean friends that I met at school in the states. They showed us some good places in Seoul and answered all of our questions that had accumulated that week. It was really nice to get to see my friends again. It reminded me of all the fun we used to have talking about the world and our little lives. It really is great having pen pals in other countries. Otherwise, our trip would have just been just sightseeing; however, after seeing my friends again, I felt like I understood Korea a little more.