Friday, October 15, 2010

Navigating in Seoul: Manila Times column for 14 Oct 2010

Navigating in Seoul


On a long, cramped car ride out of Seoul, I began to have a strange relationship with the GPS.

I had not been long in Korea at all, but noted that every vehicle I had ridden in had been equipped with a global positioning system. They seemed less a novelty than a necessity. And this one could talk. There were seven of us in the car—our driver, four Danes (an illustrator, a writer, a publisher and a graphic designer), myself (the eternal learner) and our guide. The eighth entity was the GPS—a cool yet urgent female voice delivering what seemed to be the same set of syllables every few seconds, as we negotiated the twists and turns from Seoul’s city center to the highway north. In a little while, this invisible woman was driving us crazy.

We were bound for Nami Island, a 4.6 square kilometer resort in a tributary of the Han River. It is hard to define Nami Island in one word: a resort with hotels and lodges, yes, but also a nature park organized around the idea of creativity. Nami recently opened a year-long children’s book festival and the Danes, all playing roles in the creation and publishing books for young readers, were among the guests.