I was only in Seoul a week so my observations are rather casual. That plus I speak almost no Korean. I purchased a Russian-Korean phrasebook in Bishkek before going. But, it turns out a very large number of Koreans in Seoul, particularly young adults, speak pretty good English. At any rate I found Seoul to be a rather happening place. There is lots of commerce, lots of coffee shops, lots of noodle joints, and overall the place is quite clean and orderly. The freedom and high standard of living I saw in South Korea contrasts sharply with the picture of North Korea I gathered from reading Barbara Demick's, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2009). Demick's collective biography of six North Korean refugees that made it to South Korea by way of China paints an Orwellian society mired in poverty and the type of absurdity that only socialist regimes seem capable of imposing upon their subjects. Reading her account really drives home the radical differences in day to day life that governments can impose upon a single national culture.