Sometimes I stumble on a pithy little phrase that I feel encapsulates some aspect of what life in Korea is like.
Korea, as a country and culture, is a bunch of layers. At the core, there is a group of mountain-dwelling hunter-gatherers, in a rugged, difficult climate. That was thousands of years ago. Add a layer of Confucian Chinese paternalism. Add a layer of Buddhist soul-saving. Add another layer of reactionary confucianism. Add a layer of Japanese fascism. And finally, a veneer of western modernity. But all the layers are from the "outside" – the core is still this rather disparate, hardscabble tribe of hunter-gatherers. This is evident any time you sit down to a Korean meal – everything and anything is edible, and, with some soy sauce and red pepper flakes, delicious.
So some time back, I had coined a phrase to describe Korea: "A medieval city state with an internet connection." But my current revision of this idea is to take it farther back – to the paleolithic. That's what I put in the title, above. I really feel this, at times. Korea is deeply primitive, yet in a weirdly post-modern way. I like that, about this country.