South Korean flagAfter a surprising good night’s sleep in the car at a motorway services near Narita airport I am soon on my Japan Airlines flight to Seoul. There are surfable waves on the Korean peninsular but due to Japan sheltering most of the coastline they are are as a rule naff.

As a consequence I am visiting here more out of curiosity than anything else. So many consumer goods come from here (e.g. Samsung and LG) and the press from this country is usually negative due to the grumpy neighbours to the north, so I wanted to see for myself what it was like for a few days.

FirestarterI have been interested in the countries here since the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, when it was my responsibility to escort the flag bearers back to their team mates after they had done a lap of the athletics stadium. (The flag always does a full lap out of respect, but the athletes rarely do for logistical reasons that I will bore you with another time.)

Rather amusingly in the dress rehearsal I had been allocated Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (The North), Republic of Korea (The South) with Syria thrown in just for good measure.

Sadly any opportunity for starting a diplomatic incident was lost when somebody queue jumped, leaving me instead escorting a one armed athlete from the Democratic Republic of Congo!

Unlucky 4Whilst researching this leg of my travels I have discovered  that the number 4 is extremely unlucky here. For this reason most buildings in Korea do not have a 4th floor.

Also I have aged a year during my plane flight because in Korea a baby is one year old at birth, instead of zero. This is complicated further because when the New Year passes, everyone in Korea automatically ages one year, even if they haven’t had their actual birthday yet. So if a baby is born on December 31 it would be one year old, and automatically turn two the following day!

north-korea-flagHowever the real story here is North Korea which is only 20km north of Seoul, or more worryingly just one day’s march should they decide to invade.

In the interest of world peace I have decided to travel up there tomorrow to see if I can have a chat with Kim Jong-Un about bagging a few waves north of the border. It is actually more exposed to the Pacific than the south, so you never know

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