Namdaemun Gate in Seoul, South Korea (Photodisc)

Namdaemun gate and traffic in Seoul, South Korea (Jeremy Woodhouse/Digital Vision/Getty)

Namdaemun Gate and nighttime traffic, Seoul, South Korea (Jeremy Woodhouse/Digital Vision/Getty)


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What to do in Seoul

After nearly being destroyed by the Korean War, Seoul and South Korea have not only revitalized their economy, they’ve resurrected the nation’s fierce spirit of identity and competition. Gleaming skyscrapers house leading international companies, the restored 14th-century Namdaemun gateway sits in the middle of a superhighway, and tours of the 16th-century Changgyeonggung Palace teach tourists of Korea’s ancient dynasties. In the city, countless “PC bangs,” privately owned computer labs, let teens and adults spend hours playing online computer games (Starcraft is the current fave). And in the upscale shopping neighborhood of Apgujeong, the infamous “Plastic Surgery Street,” potential patients can comparison-shop among some 400 clinics. Yes, in this hustling, modern city, competition extends even to physical beauty.

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