Suwon, a satellite city of Seoul, South Korea. Warm., Springtime  air and a midweek national holiday.  The perfect day for some city hiking. I set a course to visit friends in the center of the 1 million strong city i live in, leaving from the North.

Heading out of the family neighborhood into the mean streets of Suwon (kidding), it’s possible to notice poorer areas that have their own, cost-effective security system: the guard dog.

Love motels, the long or short time getaways for naughty couples often have a castle shape design, presumably because whatever wench that gets hauled in by a fair prince will get a right royal seeing to.

Although most Buddhist temples in the city are noticeable by the original peace sign (reverse Nazi symbol), they are usually tucked inside a bland, otherwise unnoticeable building. It is Christianity that truly pervades the optics of the Korean city gazer, the cross lingering at every turn.

These omnipresent  neon-lit steeples with glowering Christ symbols cut an eerie presence at night, creating a Gotham City meets Blade Runner atmosphere in the skyline.

Suwon is home to what could be Korea’s largest church. I haven’t seen bigger, even in Seoul.

Considering that they teach you non-believers will go to hell, most churches, although frequently architecturally impressive, never strike me visually as a place of heavenly worship in the way that a  Mosque or a Buddhist or Hindu temple do.

April is the time of year for that rare beauty of the East Asian springtime, the cherry blossom.



The UNESCO-listed fortress wall is immaculately preserved from an age of kings. It was originally built as the center for a shift of capital cities from Seoul to Suwon. It never happened, and now serves as great place for a long walk, and was a big draw for my move to live here.


The architecture is reminiscent of many forms of palaces and temples in East Asia, and has it’s roots in spirituality as shown by the yin yang symbol above. Getting to know the predominant religions of a country is helpful, it’s history even more so. The most helpful insight into the Korean psyche would be to study a mixture of it’s modern history most notably it’s troubles with occupation and subsequent rise, and explore the spiritual and cultural landscape of Confucianism, the mindset of which many  modern Koreans still function with, although that is gradually changing.



Although K-pop is all the rage with the younger generation and a growing international audience, this lady’s stall sells nothing but old school joints.

Killer robots are the bait to lure phone shoppers.

Mcdelivery bikes, a dangerous hybrid of East and West.

On opening a new business, a popular practice is to place a pair of pig heads in front of the store for the first month.

Ajussis are a tight bunch. You will often find them huddled around on the street.

PC rooms (“bangs”) are dotted throughout cities, usually with fantasy images on display that indicate that they are geared toward teenage boys playing online games. This one has the tagline ‘Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability’, which seems a questionable claim.

The robot greeter in this restaurant, near Suwon station, is a lot less menacing than it’s cartoony counterparts. In East Asian popular culture, robots are seen as more of an aid to humans, whereas it is the opposite in the West, hence my inherent distrust of them. Maybe i can learn to love them. In 2015, a robot theme park will open in Korea. It’s going to be a blood bath.

Every city in Korea has a tagline. Suwon has two – ‘Happy Suwon’ and ‘Human City Suwon’. The former sounds like a government spin to convince it’s citizens they are happy. The latter, like Suwon is the last bastion for humankind in a robot-governed existence.

The area surrounding Suwon station has all manner of nighttime pleasures. This is the entrance to a booking club, where groups of young men buy a table and alchohol, and waiters bring girls from the dance floor to the gentlemen that look like a good match. You sometimes see employees in large droves hustling girls off the street and off to their club.

At night, love motels come to life. This is where businessmen bring their illicit partner, booking club couples frolic, or where an ordinary couple may stay a few hours or the whole night because of their parental living situation, if the DVD rooms aren’t romantic enough for them.

Not far from the main street of the Station lies the red light district.

Surprisingly, even though having an affair if you are married is open to prosecution by the scorned partner, and prostitution is technically illegal in Korea, the red light district is as open and obvious and nothing i have seen outside Amsterdam. There is a nearby sign that reads that the police have cracked down on prostitution in the area. Nonsense. There is a large labyrinth of hookers behind pink-lit  windows who are open for business and hiding from no one.  I decided to end my walk by video taping the main street, which is a internet first in Suwon Station as far as i can see, and show how casual the trade is.

City hiking – who needs mountains?  .

5 thoughts on “Sunlight to Red Light: City Hiking in Suwon

  1. Thanks Simon another educational and enjoyable tour of places I haven’t yet been to, your insight is much valued :) How much do the girls charge ;)?

  2. FYI the ‘bang’ in dong bang means bread, not room – 빵 not 방, so double ‘b’ not single. It’s called that because that’s what they sell – turd shaped bread things filled with different flavor creams.

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