Today in Seoul 32: Behind Bars

November 15, 2016

Our apartment has bars on the windows. I’ve never lived in a place with bars on the windows before. It’s a “garden level” apartment — overlooks a parking space on one side and a meter-wide alley bounded with cinder blocks on the other. Some garden… although looking at these photos, I see a small tree in fall foliage over against the next door building. Beauty is there to be seen, I guess, if you have eyes to see it. I also notice that the window bars match the outside bars on the other side of the parking space. Nice design touch, but they’re still bars. The other buildings have bars, too — like ours, not just on the garden level, but all the way up. In some buildings they’re retractable on the higher floors — like those mesh barriers they pull across store fronts in the mall when they’re closed. Before we came, I asked Gillian about safety, especially for foreigners. No concern at all, she said. My online research agrees: Korea ranks low or very low in all categories of crime, and high or very high in all categories of safety. Today’s State Dept. bulletin agrees, and points out that the recent massive political protests in Seoul have been violence and crime free. Korea is a Confucian-culture, based on internalized social mores (character building) vs. externally imposed laws. Seems to be working — although the 20th Century also saw an expansion of legal codes. So, why the bars? They don’t make things safer — they’re kind of flimsy, actually. Maybe they’re to help visually define “home” in a huge, crowded city? Who knows. I just know that Seoul is safe as can be, and there are bars on the windows. Go figure.

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