In my home city of Atlanta, our subway system, called MARTA, is nothing more than a cheap, quick means of public transportation. With litter in the trains and urine (yes, urine) in the elevators, the MARTA station is no desirable place to linger. But when I went to Seoul the summer before sophomore year, I was met with subways that looked like a shopaholic’s dream.
Hiding underneath a effulgent Asian metropolis was an army of small shops carved into the subways. While they lacked the radiance of the lambent city above, fluorescent lights mimicked a diamond-like sparkle that glimmered against the rest of the plain gray station. Racks on racks of clothes in every color were like the technicolor iridescence of an opal. In the busy metro station, inevitable for visitors, consider the unexpected fast fashion center a not-so-hidden gem.
Store attendants carefully looked on as I sifted through the clothes. I suppressed a chuckle at the funny English phrase I see printed on a t-shirt. During my stay, I quickly realized it’s commonplace in Korea to see wonky or nonsensical English on cheap clothes and other apparel. A burnt sienna shirt with the phrase “josh ur out of the band” caught my eye. Without trying it on, I bought it.
Fast fashion complementing even faster transportation is indicative of the nature of Seoul itself. Seoul is a bustling, quick-moving city. As a hub for business, technology, fashion, beauty, and more, life in the South Korean capital can be a constant bombardment of content. In this sense, the overwhelming subway scene is a microcosm of Seoul.
To experience Seoul, look up at Namsan tower protruding from the skyline, look in the alleyways lit by neon lights where vendors sell hot, sugary hoddeok until late, look to the right at the group of students on their way to cram school, and look down — look for a new favorite shirt in the subway station below.
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