Tourists in Seoul invariably find themselves at the top of the N Tower, marveling at the massive expanse of the South Korean capital. The Han River winds its way past the seemingly countless skyscrapers decked out in neon and lined up neatly along boulevards dense with locally manufactured cars. The city wears its modernity on its t-shirt sleeve.
To see Seoul is to think South Korea’s current status in the world was always assured, but this couldn’t be less the case. As recently as a half-century ago, South Korea was something closer to a backwater, a new nation grappling with the aftermath of the Korean war and searching for an identity.
Because this period is so easy to forget, the set of photographs recently posted online by Bill Smothers, who lived in Korea with his family in the late 50s and early 60s, stirred up quite a bit of interest among Koreans. Far from the expanding malls and K-pop fueled clubs, the images show an agrarian country, obviously poor yet naturally striking. This Korea was a place where ex-soldiers settled and adventures wandered off into secret forests –- something along the line of what Vietnam and Cambodia would someday become.
The pictures should serve as excellent inspiration for travelers considering whether or not they might be willing to try traveling in the developing world. The developing world, it seems, has a tendency to develop.