the past and present layers of _mperialism we wear
I was sitting in a friend’s tiny apartment in Seoul when we were discussing our decisions to stay in South Korea for another year. To make his point clear, he shrugged and pointed that there was “nothing Seoul about Seoul.” As much as I did not want to see him leave at the end of our contracts, I could not help but agree on innumerable points, including that of the overwhelming westernization that has claimed its stake over a beautiful culture: most businesses look identical, and if not, there are more than enough Dunkin Donuts, KFCs, Pizza Huts, Popeyes Chicken, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger Kings, etc. that line traffic-congested roads. While Korean ways are conforming/clashing to western urbanisation, subtle details like traditional, low-rise Korean dwellings are being torn down and replaced by high rises.
Looking upon our very own histories in suburbia, urban and rural areas, we ourselves are testimonies to the fact that landscape organization does affect social space: how we go about our day, how we interact with each other, our economies, our notions of ‘community,’ etc. Aberrant westernization in Korean urbanism is not the sole focus to the city’s layout, because there is also South Korea’s interpretation to westernization: who are the customers in Baskin Robbins? How do the people in Starbucks interact? Who are they? Are patrons open to social interaction or private in public places? Are people hurried and invasive or relaxed and nonchalant?
This is what my Fil-Am friends and I have touched lightly on while reflecting on my very short stay in the Philippines. Rapid Western urbanism that has swept over Asia changed lives. Call it American imperialism or the great Hand that provides, you simply cannot ignore Americana anywhere in the world.
Lastly, the taxi driver in the Philippines casually asked me one afternoon where along Katipunan I’d like to be dropped off, and I could not decide between KFC or one of the two Starbucks within minutes apart from each other.
Just visiting? start from the beginning.