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Visit Korea, don’t forget the gas mask

The slogan for this year in Seoul is Visit Korea 2001. The government hopes to drag in about six million tourists and earn several million dollars of foreign currency. Clearly it's hoping to attract visitors from further afield than North Korea. Indeed the government has another agenda, beyond managing the current account and strengthening reserves. Its programme also marks a crude attempt to prepare the population for the mass invasion that will soon follow. The football World Cup hits town next year.

South Koreans, despite being fond of discussing the implications of globalization, are still not accustomed to seeing, let alone meeting, anyone foreign. The stereotypical image that Koreans hold of the European male - schoolchildren still nurse an image of the English gentleman - may soon be rudely shattered. Koreans are going to see that after drinking a few glasses of the local brew - which at best can be described as a mixture of pesticide, paint thinner and rice spirit - Europeans, especially a certain type of Englishman, become a shambling mess, unable to pronounce their hotel's address and nowhere near as cultured as the school text book would have the Korean believe.

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