If you have a horse send it to Jeju island; if you have a son send him to Seoul

The strongest nations are not the biggest but those with the strictest work ethics. August weather in Seoul can be as unbearable as August weather in Dubai but the Seoul National Museum is packed with children taking notes and listening to descriptions about historical and artistic artifacts- just a standard homework assignment in South Korea.

Korean teenagers stopped me to practice English 🙂

When I was at school we had plenty of summer reading to do and I enjoyed it very much, finishing the bulk of the books within a month since school ended. However, upon returning to school in the fall I learned not only that most of my classmates failed to complete the summer reading but also that this incompletion was met by indifference from my teachers. This alone is enough to draw a rough comparison between Korea’s economic prosperity and Macedonia’s economic decline or Korea’s superb performance in London 2012 Olympics and Macedonia’s continuous failure, and its inability to build a strong athletic reputation.

Moving on, Korea’s success in the Olympic games may seen as surprising and astonishing to some of you but we all know that success is always accompanied by strong work ethic, determination and, especially in the sport’s world, solid governmental and institutional support. For example yesterday I had the opportunity to visit some recreational facilities along the Han river in Seoul, a small part of the 12 riverside parks occupying 40 square kilometers under the umbrella of the Hangang Park complex full of cycling tracks, swimming pools, skate parks, baseball fields, soccer fields, kayaking activities and everything else your mind can imagine!

While other countries praise themselves with artistic developments and impressive architectural sites the Korean government has build a recreational paradise in the middle of the Metropolis- something you rarely see in other cities of comparable size. Still, while Korean Athletes are conquering the London Olympics South Korean families prefer to spend their time in some of Hangang’s Park many swimming pools, allowing their children some relaxation time after many hours of homework writing.

One of Hangang’s busiest swimming pools

South Korea’s educational system is very competitive and only the highest performing students enter the best universities and subsequently work in the most prosperous companies- hence during the week the Hangang park complex is peaceful and unpopulated. Since sports is second most important after academics Hangang park is full during weekends, as youth prefer to practice their favorite sport activities, including also westernized sports such as baseball, football and soccer thanks to post-Korean war American influence.

FIFA 2002 Mascots next to Seoul World Cup stadium

Due to its geographic position and both historical and cultural experience South Korea is a mix of modern and traditional: the best athletic performances are include both disciplines such as shooting (possibly established in the Korean genes from so many centuries and decades of warfare) and traditional martial arts discipline, Taekwondo, introduced in 1988 Seoul Olympic games.

Finally South Koreans are crazy about soccer and this is evident from the substantial effort they spent to organize the 2002 FIFA Soccer championship, where they also performed extremely well, reaching the semi-finals but loosing against one of the world’s best team Brazil.

Seoul World Cup Stadium

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