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Sunday, April 14, 2013

MUGA Day #20: Tokyo to Seoul

AMAZINGLY ENOUGH, I FOUND A WAY TO OPERATE THIS BLOG SITE IN CHINA.  NOT SURE HOW LONG THIS WILL LAST.

Well, Japan did have an earthquake, but it was only 6.3 on Awajishima, exactly below the Westin where I was scheduled to stay last week.  While 23 were injured on the island, and while you would have worried about a tsunami if you were near the seashore, it was nothing compared to the Great Hanshin Earthquake of magnitude 7.3 of 17January1995 (above), which killed 6,400, and whose epicenter was under this same island.  Nearly a month after that 2011 9.0 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, which was catastrophic for those Fukushima nuclear reactors, I reported on a 7.1 I felt in Tokyo.

The 105 F at 90+ humidity of Bangkok was stifling, but Japan has had good, if not chilly, weather, where I did finally experience peak cherry blossoms at Nagano and Matsumoto.  Maybe the most memorable moment was learning that the oleander, or kyochikuto, is the Hiroshima City Flower, because experts said that nothing would grow from the ruins of the atomic bomb for 75 years, but the first flower that amazed everyone was this oleander only a year after the blast.

Anyway, there was no $2.3 trillion earthquake during my nine days in Japan.  My trip from the Tokyo Westin to the Westin Chosun in Seoul was totally immemorable.  I flew Asiana, which has the youngest, tallest and best looking stewardesses.  They placed me in the United Airlines First Class Lounge, where I was the only customer:


On the flight, the champagne was Taittinger, service ingratiatingly accommodating and food excellent.  I only had the seared scallops and truffle soup, and turned away the rack of lamb and assorted desserts.  Too bad I was in the air only two hours.  

Catching the $10 limousine bus from Incheon to Seoul is always a bit iffy because you need to find the ticket office outside, where it is always cold or too hot, usually late at night (although it was in the mid-afternoon today) and then hope for help on the bus location, as the ticket says stop 11, but there are a dozen of them.  Finally, an hour later, the Westin Chosun, with the following view from my room of Korea's Temple of Heaven:


That's the City Hall to the left.  I finally had time to find out about this temple, and it was not as reverential as I thought.  It was built in 1897 to sacrifice animals to ensure for a bountiful harvest.

Well, the first thing I see on TV in my room is Gentleman by PSY (left), now #1 in South Korea, and after only two days on You Tube, is at 40 million views.  His Gangnam Style has shot past 1.5 trillion.

It is now tomorrow, and, coincidentally, I need to be in Gangnam today after lunch with long time colleague Kiryun Choi.  I've stayed and had meetings in Gangnam numerous times, but this is the first time I've been in this town since the song became viral.  The section being described is located across the Han River from downtown Seoul.

The most important thing, of course, is that I'm only a few miles from North Korea and the residents of this city carry on like there is nothing to fear  It was only a few days ago that North Korea threatened "Merciless, Sacred, Retaliatory War."  Actually, it is interesting  that the Young Leader has not made a public appearance since April Fool's Day, April 1.  

I had lunch with Professor Kiryun Choi of Ajou University.We discussed the graduate course he is teaching:  Global Energy Economics.  He is pro-nuclear and has an American Republican's view of global warming.  However, he accepts the need for society to spend the necessary funds to develop sustainable options, but that they will not become important for a very long time.  My attitude today does not differ much his.  I did ask him what South Korea was doing about 65% of their energy use, to power their transport systems, etc.  This, apparently, is not a priority.  I think he said that oil be around for awhile.  I did not have the heart to bring up the ocean, Blue Revolution and the advantage of their progressive shipbuilding capabilities.

On the subway I noticed that they are well-equipped for emergencies:


They are prepared for war, except that Professor Choi was unconcerned about the current "crisis," and so are the rest of the people in Seoul.

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