This is What Summer Looks Like in South Korea

Walking through my neighbourhood this week, I captured the essence of what summer looks like in South Korea. Empty coffee cups everywhere. Empty packets of cigarettes. This area has a lot of office buildings and it is not uncommon to see office workers standing around smoking and drinking a LOT of ice coffee. Yes, even during this pandemic.

I don’t know what Korea’s obsession with iced drinks is, but it is obviously making sense during this heat wave here in Seoul. However, it is pretty common to see people drinking these in the winter. Any office I have worked in has had a pretty consistent background noise of someone fetching ice from a fridge or dispenser of some kind. People need their beverages iced and they need them now.

With the window illustration in the background of this image, I thought this moment was so quintessentially Korean. It’s as though the two characters are admiring all of the coffee cups that have helped fuel workers throughout their day. Like, ‘good job you guys, you’re doing good work here’.

Of course, the bigger question that this photo alludes to is a nation’s obsession with plastic. I haven’t really spoken about it on my blog but Korea is plastic-obsessed. Things are wrapped up in plastic, bagged in plastic and served in plastic. The problem is not the plastic, it’s that people don’t seem to care.

The day I see a majority of Koreans using reusable bags for shopping and reusable cubs for their coffee order will be a miraculous milestone. But spoiler alert, I don’t see it happening any time soon. As long as the consumers continue to demand highly efficient products and services, without any consideration for plastic consumption, the big conglomerates will continue to provide. It’s that simple.

A real change needs to happen on a day to day behavioural level and I honestly think it’s going to have to come from K-dramas, K-pop stars or some kind of social media movement. That’s a long way off in my mind considering that people are still trying to figure out that feminism isn’t about hating men.

A photo of empty coffee cups and empty cigarette packets on the streets of Seoul, South Korea
Summer summed up in Seoul, South Korea

1 Comment

  1. Plastic 싫어요 ㅠㅠ. I agree, it’s difficult to watch how far behind Korea is in the anti-plastic movement. It was just in its infancy and gaining momentum in 2019. But the pandemic brought that to a screeching halt here, sadly, with some exceptions. Starbucks and a few other cafés have introduced paper straws. And there’s a zero-waste store called Almang Market near Hongdae in Seoul. But I live in Namyangju so haven’t been yet. Check out this article for more: http://m.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20201203000722
    I was actually thinking of putting up posters in cafés of the turtle with the straw in its nose to remind people that straws aren’t necessary, and to think of waste. The more people see a good example or gentle reminders, the more we can make positive changes! Stay cool and hopeful this summer! ^^

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