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I first went to Korea over a years back at the invite of the Korean federal government. It was one way to see the country: state visitor, guide, interpreter, limousine with chauffeur, meetings with senior officials and formal dinners in elegant restaurants. Though I returned a couple of years later on for a conference, it was the first trip that remained imprinted in my mind. I had actually been to Japan just prior to I went to Korea and a few of the resemblances between the two nations struck me as interesting.Then, a year or so earlier, my good friend Vikram Doraswami ended up being India’s Ambassador to Korea and insisted I visit Seoul again. Vikram gave my name to the indefatigable Choi Jung Hwa who runs Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI), which holds a yearly summit at which around 30 people from all over the world are invited to collect in Seoul, see the sights, eat the food and go over Korea’s place in the world.The delegates are always a combined bunch and while some countries send interesting people, the representation from others is, well, not terribly high-level or interesting. Vikram believed that it was time for India to up its video game and suggested to CICI that they welcome me. (Though on what grounds he thought that I was certified to represent India remains a secret. )I am thankful he did so. This was the very first journey where I got a real sense of Korea and comprehended a little of what this really complex society resembles. That’s likewise due to Choi Jung Hwa who arranged a terrific, if rather stressful, programme for delegates and to my old pal Tony Spaeth, who I know from his time in India for The Wall Street Journal and Time and who now edits a newspaper in Seoul. Tony is an amusing and incisive observer of Korean society . And obviously to Vikram and his wife Sangeeta who were kind adequate to invest hours revealing me sides of Seoul that a casual visitor might not constantly see.By some coincidence, I went to Seoul a couple of months after I had been to Japan and was, when again, struck by the similarities. Koreans are

like the Japanese in their issue with appearance. No Japanese individual you see on the streets of Tokyo will ever be severely dressed. The Koreans are like that however they take it to extremes that I did not discover in Japan.< img src = > A customer checks out a lipstick at a cosmetics shop in Seoul. Korea’s charm custom is now so world-famous that cosmetic stores in Seoul are thronged with customers.(Getty Images) To begin with, there’s the fixation with skincare. Such Japanese cosmetic giants as Shiseido have actually taken Japan’s cosmetics and appeal strategies all over the world. But they have nothing on Korean brands. Korea’s charm custom is now so world-famous that cosmetic stores in Seoul are thronged with foreign consumers. There’s even a name: K-Beauty– simply as K-Pop refers to Korean pop music.Over a decade ago, a Korean business invented Cushion Foundation, in which the compact includes a cushion of sponge soaked with structure. That product has now been copied all over the world, because Korean lady have– or appear to have– perfect skin.But it’s not just the women. There’s a whole subculture in Korea of so-called”Grooming Men”who are make-up obsessed metrosexuals (i.e. straight guys who like girlie things). They cut their eyebrows, use eyeshadow and contour their noses.

There are cosmetics lines directed at men and it is not thought about uncommon for men to wax their legs if they wish to use shorts in summer.While “Grooming Guys”have the tendency to be reasonably young, their beauty routine is dealt with as necessary for all job-seekers. When males go to work interviews, they usually wear makeup. According to my person hosting in Korea, Choi Jung Hwa,”base makeup is essential for a great impression at task interviews “. If you have an acne or a spot on your face, you might not get the task. So guys wear structure, eye liner and a lip balm with a matte texture so that their lips do not appear chapped.Yup. It’s all real. I kid you not.< img src= > A’ chocolate abs ‘, or the Korean guys’s term for stomach muscles as flat as a chocolate bar(AFP)It’s not just the face. The body is as essential.

There are couple of paunchy people in Korea.

They all work out to obtain ‘chocolate abs’, their term for stomach muscles that are as flat as a chocolate bar

. The women diet and work out to keep their weight listed below 45 kg and imagine being Korean size 44– which is United States size 2, or a UK size XS. Females who are a size S believe that they are too fat.You can think what comes next: Korea is primary in the world for individuals who go through plastic surgical treatment. In the trendy Gangnam district, made popular by the tune, plastic surgery clinics are all over. There is no discretion needed: they set up big neon signs.Then, there’s the food. For the Japanese, food resembles a religious beliefs and the look for nirvana is relentless. The Koreans are somewhat less obsessive than the Japanese however the food is excellent. Tony took me to Poom, among Seoul’s best contemporary Korean places. And though the food may not be

for everybody(Baby Octopus, served raw with pieces of fresh pear is a typical meal)there are indisputable parallels with modern-day Japanese.The Japanese have Wagyu beef from various districts which is treasured all over the world. The Koreans have Hanwoo beef which they declare has comparable marbling to Japanese Wagyu.I suspect Hanwoo is actually a larger handle Korea than Wagyu is in Japan because the most popular type of Korean restaurant is the barbecue location. And high-end restaurants will constantly offer Hanwoo.Even the hotel food is fantastic. I remained at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul which has the Paris Grill, a cousin of the world-famous New York Grill at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. The Paris Grill is not as attractive as its Tokyo cousin but the food was outstanding with steaks from all over the world and a sommelier who organised a perfect pairing.Korea is in the middle of a huge food boom. TV channels have plenty of”cookbang” programs( a made-up word that combines cook with “bangsong”, the Korean word for broadcasting). There are likewise “meokbeng “shows (don’t ask!)which are popular on online broadcasting media. Some “meokbeng’shows function gorgeous and very thin( this is Korea, after all)female anchors who are called BJs( short for Broadcast Jockeys, in case you questioned). The BJs consume profane quantities of food on electronic camera but still remain thin. (No, I do not know how they do it. If I did, I would follow their techniques!) An example of K-Beauty at work (AFP) There are many other parallels with Japan. There’s the electronic devices industry (which has actually now overtaken Japan’s own ), a symbol of national pride. I remained in Seoul when the very first Galaxy 7 exploded (or at least, when the news first struck the papers)and there was the sense that a nationwide

disaster had actually struck … Samsung is to Korea what Sony used

to be to Japan in the 1980s and the Koreans are extraordinarily pleased with its success.The Koreans have their own Sakura festival though I’m a little shocked by this. The very first time I existed, the cherry blossoms were blooming and no one appeared to make too much of it. Now, however the Korean Sakura season uses an economical alternative to the Japanese version.There is also the exact same mix of custom and modernity that you find in Japan. Though the nation has yet to toss up an Issey Miyake or a Yohji Yamamoto, I imagine it is just a matter of time prior to this takes place since Korea is a fashion-obsessed society. Among the most striking buildings I saw in Seoul this time was the Dongdaemun Design Plaza created by Zaha Hadid, which looks like a spaceship from the outside and has plenty of style and style stalls inside.But there is something that the Japanese do not do well and which the Korean stand out at: dessert. Korea has more dessert/pudding dining establishments than any other city on the planet. Almost without exception, they are excellent.On my last night in Seoul, Vikram took me to an impressive place with ice-cream, cakes, pies, macaroons and a delicious pudding. I made a complete pig of myself and the next day, as I went out to Incheon Airport, my last memory of Korea was much, much sweeter than I had ever believed it would be.From HT Breakfast, November 20, 2016 Follow us on!.?.!Connect with us on