It's a fact that Seoul has twice the amount of particles (particles of what? I assume it's not healthy stuff) than that of New York--or any other developed country city. (Korea, I believe, has just been upgraded to developed country status.)
If you have athsma or other such conditions do not come here in the summer. Also, in the Spring (especially May) there is "Yellow Wind". This toxic breeze comes from the Gobi desert where it is pretty tame stuff--but after flying over the moist West Sea it grows fungus and bacteria in its clouds and by the time it gets to Seoul it could be dangerous for kids and old folks. (This is one reason why some kids sport the Hello Kitty face masks.) I haven't noticed anything, and I see people jogging in it, but when the wind is at its worst the city gets a bombed-out look to it (haze and fewer people in the streets).
The biggest problem, though, is the cars. The number of cars in Seoul has tripled in just ten years (that's 11.76% per year, for us math geeks). The fumes from people's driving habits (see tip on Couples Parking in Local Customs) has prompted the city to issue stickers to drivers that show what weekday they cannot drive to work. (I think the taxi drivers lobbied for this one.) I truly don't understand why people drive anyways, the subways are great and busses and cabs are all over the place...but then, I live almost right next to work.
The pollution also affects kids or those susceptible to skin irritation. Kids get atrophy (it's so common there are many TV shows about it on Korean news) which is a drying and kind of scaling of the skin...use moisturizer (maybe this is why they are pushing men's moisturizers here, who knows).
Be careful of smiling kids, weilding M-16 assault rifles and AK-47's running around corners, or hiding begind bushes. Because you could get caught in their crossfire and end up getting shot.
It hurts I tell you. I am alive to tell the story. Why? Because when I got shot, the projectile that hit me was not a fast moving metal bullet but a small plastic ball. Still they leave the gun very quickly, and they can cause a welt. Quite dangerous.
Seoul and Korea in general is really safe. I think that the safest country I ever been. You can walk in downtown late at night without any problem. I never felt unsafe anywhere in Korea. The crime there is very low which is very nice.
Spent the night strolling with friends downtown and ended up in a karaoke house. I went to use the bathroom and it was a squat type like the Japanese toilet, but with a weird toilet flush and it took me a while to figure it out.
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