Reporter Column: A Small Glimpse into a Different World
Reporter Column: A Small Glimpse into a Different World
  • Reporter Kim San
  • 승인 2023.02.17 22:10
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Reporter Kim San

 There is something undignifying about living in an apartment complex. I say this not to offend those who live in an apartment which, if looking around is not obvious enough, is a significant proportion of the Korean population including myself but purely out of my subjective impression from the experience of living in one. I feel as though I have become a cog in a machine, an ant living in a toy ant house, a caged chicken in a factory farm, an insignificant being in the grand scheme of the universe. This is not totally untrue, but being reminded of this fact every time I press the button from a wall of buttons in the elevator panel is excruciating. It must be something to do with how uncharacteristically uniform one house looks to all the rest, or how far above the house is from Earth. Something just feels unnatural, oddly disconcerting, and not house-like.
 My discomfort is probably characterized by the years of living in Belgium in a quiet, quintessential European suburb where things are slow, natural, and beautifully old. One would discern a house from the rest not by counting the number of floors above the ground but by looking at the shape of the house, the color of the wall, and the type of flowers growing on the outdoor window shelf. I would often be woken up by the cacophony of deafening bird chirps, confident rooster crows, and the sound of a bell from the town’s Cathedrale so deep and divine. During spring, I would see green patches sprawling in the brown canvas of grass, a fragile little tree that holds the most beautiful white flower, and leaves blooming on the skeleton of trees. In summer, my visual cortex is bombarded with the color of greens radiating from all directions, and my auditory cortex echoes with the sound of the summer breeze rubbing the tree leave against each other. As I lie down in the garden smelling the grass fluid watching the summer sunset so violently red as if to leach its color is one of the best and most melancholic spectacles of  nature.
 The day our family moved back to Korea was at night, and we took a taxi to our apartment. As we drove over the Incheon bridge, I saw tall buildings from a distance that had monochromatic lights shining on the walls. They were ambient lights of colors. They were meant to be visually pleasing, but the odd mix of discordant colors like the sound of a piano out of tune only felt frightening and uncanny. If an amateur artist tried to recreate Mona Lisa, a mediocre pianist played Chopin, or a human tried to appeal to the beauty of nature, I would get the same impression as I watched those buildings. Frankly, two things came straight to my mind: Blade Runner 2049 and red light district. What followed was a somber realization: ‘I live here now.’
 This is not a comparison between the mode of living in Korea and Belgium; rather, this is a comparison based on personal recounts from my subjective experience of living in Incheon and Hoeilaart. I should also highlight that the two countries have polar opposite historical backgrounds. Korean cities were mostly destroyed during the civil war and had to be rebuilt, while most Belgian towns have been around for centuries. As a consequence, Korean cities are equipped with modern conveniences that are mostly absent in Belgian towns. They both have their pros and cons, and it comes down to one’s lifestyle to formulate a preference for one over the other.
 Don’t you wish you were there?