Love to Hate Korea: Costco


It’s no secret that Costco in Korea is the epitome of a modern hellhole designed to rip your soul out, divvy it up with a rusty and blunt axe, chew it, then spit it right back at you, so you you put it back inside, then turn around and do it all over again. This place steals so much attention and causes so much heartbreak and frustration, but let’s not forget that all it is is a bloody supermarket!

But why is the place just destined to constantly infuritate me? I blame people. Because, let’s face it, all the ills of the world are brought about by our fellow humans, and Costco in Korea is a perfect example of this.

To get into the place you have to tackle the car park (because let’s be honest only an amateur would take the bus or train to Costco), where the wonderful Korean driving etiquette phenomenon is magnified. Here, the larger and more foreign your car the more entitled you are to be a fucker, while the little guy who has been bullied really doesn’t care who or what you are, and just drives straight over you. Do you see the difference? That’s right, there is none. Rules out the window to beat the band!

This is a mild description, as the car park is really only a primer for the zoo downstairs. In this Parthenon of consumption every man is equal (but some believe themselves to be more equal than others) and wealth and status can no longer be displayed by the make and colour of your car.

I used to think people were just so damn disgusting towards me because I was a foreigner, but the more I have observed this phenomenon I can steadfastly proclaim that no one gives a shit about anyone but themself in this passage to hades of a glorified 광장시장! In fact it’s worse than there. A. Lot. Worse!

It’s like people take the shopping trollies merely as a tool to beat other people out of the way as they browse. Not only do they not look where they’re going, generally I believe they study the area they want to go before hand, and then plot the most insane crowd inducing route possible, including where they can dump their trolley. I find the people who buy one or two things, like a packet of Calvin Klein underwear and some dried jujube, to be the worst perpetrators.

For else that may be right or wrong with Costco in Korea, it’s the culmination of so many people milling around oblivious to the fact that there are a few million within spitting distance of them, and then when they notice these other people they look at them as if they are something disagreeable inside their shoe, that really makes Costco an awful experience that I would reluctantly wish on my worst enemy.

And I am not even going to go into the details of the food court (and here too!)!

But…

I am a consumer and Costco is fantastic because the stuff they sell there is so much better than any other bog standard Homeplus or Emart, and that’s a fact; (generally speaking) better meat, better fruit, better vegetables, better selection of bread, drinks, alcohol, dairy, and whole lot other stuff. And I like eating nice food and buying over priced goods that I probably don’t need Yes you can find better quality stuff in Korea, and cheaper too, but if you are talking about better quality products at an affordable price then Costco is your man.

(Added bonus tip: Costco has a decent electronics section, which is good value, and they also are very helpful with returns and damaged goods, which a lot of the cheaper websites will not even look at you sideways when you’ve even a whisper of complaint)

Yeah I know I’m repeating the same draft that so many other people trump the place by, and believe it or not, the insane fellow customers are in fact worth the battle to get your hands on all that crap which make living in Korea more doable. Hell, I’d do it every week for the bread and cheese only.

Of course, having and car and being able to take home a whole boot load of food makes this whole experience worth the madness.

“Web” by Chris Westray – www.westrayart.com


A very good friend of mine, and someone who I’ve known as long as I’ve known Korea, Chris Westray, is a fantastic film maker, who not only makes short films but also, importantly, does most of his best work animating his own fantastic shorts that are very very, well, interesting – which is an understatement. I won’t even dare to explain them because, well firstly I can’t, but also much of Chris’s work requires the viewer to try to explain and understand each film themselves.

He spends hours individually crafting, photographing, moving, shifting, twisting, photographing again, and digitally connecting and twisting all these images into a moving series of images. It really is amazing to see the finished project and his level of commitment is inspiring. It is a true shame that his films don’t get the viewership they deserve.

Chris has been putting together this series of films over the years, and it has finally reached completion (I think). Take a look at the most recent creation, Web, followed by the four previous efforts; Emergence, Blocks, Need, and Shy.

I am big fan of Chris’s work, not only because he’s a good friend, but also because his films offer a healthy dose of What the Fuck is Going On Here, and I think everyone could do with plenty of that in their life…just to keep things interesting.

Visit his website www.westrayart.com for more fun!

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Web – 2012

Emergence – 2011


Blocks – 2009

Need – 2008

Shy – 2007

For further shits and giggles and a bit of my own harmless self promotion, here a short myself and Chris put together back in 2010 ish called Hairdressers Are To Dangerous For Boys. This short was originally a piece of flash fiction and it will be appearing in Flash Flood Journal online day of flash fiction this Wednesday at around 3 pm Irish/UK time – which is about 11 pm Korean time.

Hairdressers Are To Dangerous For Boys – 2010