Incredible Sights, Products, and Design Innovations You’ll Find Only in South Korea
What comes to mind when you picture South Korea? Delicious food, electronics, and dazzlingly catchy pop, perhaps? If you’ve never been (or even vacationed there) before, you might be blown away by the wave of innovation—artistic, technological, sociological—that South Koreans have been riding over the last few years.
Forget feeling like you’re in another country—some of their innovations are so out there that you might feel like you’re visiting another planet. From the big things, like being able to sing karaoke or pick up a new book on the subway, to hand-pumping toothpaste, South Korea proves that putting art and technology first can truly improve everyone’s day-to-day life. Read on to learn more!
A Sunny Spot To Sit And Recharge
This is a South Korean solar-powered bench. Not that the bench itself requires electricity to function as a place to sit—it does that all on its own. Rather, this bench offers walkers a chance to take the weight off their feet and get their cell phone battery recharged at the same time.
This benefits everyone—but most of all, tourists who will undoubtedly be burning through their phone batteries by using Google maps to get around. It’s a great use of green technology and a good way to incentivize tech-heads to go out and catch some sunshine.
The Wobbling Block
One architect must have been looking around at the buildings of a city one day, thinking to themselves, “do buildings all have to go straight up?” This picture of the GT tower in Seoul was taken from the ground perspective.
Not only is it trippy to look at, but it’s also solar-powered and boasts energy-efficient natural ventilation—impressive for a skyscraper!. The distinct, wavy facade was inspired by Korean pottery. Just don’t stare at it too long, or your eyes might go a little funny.
Traffic Lights At Your Feet
Here’s a smart innovation: traffic light signals for pedestrians where their feet are—the ground. While you should probably look up from your phone while walking or crossing the road, it’s a neat way to protect those less aware of their surroundings from themselves.
While you can always just look and check for a red or green light, it’s easier to look down in the wind or rain than up. Some people are just going to be too busy tapping away and doing their digital business, so why not?
Toothpaste From A Pump
It’s one of our favorite dating icebreakers, but it can also be the cause of many arguments in a household: do you squeeze the toothpaste out of the bottom of the tube or the top? Now there’s a new twist on the question—but you may need to be careful how you word it: squeezed or pumped?
This brand of toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors and dispenses exactly the amount of toothpaste you need onto your brush. Only a pea-sized amount is needed for good dental hygiene per brush, so this pumping paste might help you squeeze a few more pennies back into your weekly shopping budget.
Robot Airport Assistants
Are you feeling lost in an airport? Can’t find a monitor to check which gate you need to head toward? This little guy might be able to help you if no one else is around. This robot could potentially be programmed with hundreds of languages, allowing people from all over the world to access information about their flights.
And, of course, being that it looks like a robot straight out of Wall-E, it’s super adorable! Those eyes blink and change depending on their mood. Tease them too much, and you’ll make them sad. So be careful what you say!
Seoul’s 2.5D Cafe
Works of fine art don’t just have to be confined to museums or to the pages of graphic novels. What you’re looking at here isn’t actually a flat picture—it can be walked around in three-dimensional space! Is anyone else getting A-ha vibes from this picture?
Before you get your paintbrush out to redecorate your kitchen in the same style, you should take on (me) the knowledge that this look requires a lot of light and painting precision. Every edge needs to be darkened to perfection, as the artists that decorated this stunning cafe understood.
Street cleaning isn’t an easy job, but somebody has to do it. Or do they? The streets in this South Korean city have decided to clean themselves —or rather city planning decided to install them to do that. Not only do they keep the roads clean, but they cool them in hot weather, too.
Just imagine roads that self-cleaned in a snowy or icy place. The water could be replaced with salt water from the sea, breaking up the ice and making it safer to drive. If we’re going to have to live with roads and non-public transportation, they may as well be smart!
The daily commute can be a real grind. One way to offset the lost time spent traveling from home to work or vice versa (other than scrolling for excellent travel and culture pieces) is reading. But books can be heavy and easily left at home.
With a mini-library on offer on the subway, you would be able to pick up knowledge on an unfamiliar subject or enchant yourself with a story. Just remember to return your book before alighting! It does help that this subway train looks like a bright, clean, and friendly place to read.
Personal Train Karaoke Booths
If reading isn’t your distraction of preference while commuting to and from work—or if you’re heading to the city for a night on the town—imagine seeing this on your train carriage! These boxes are personalized karaoke booths.
This way, you’ll be able to get some privacy and sing your heart out to that little earworm in your head. It must be a great stress-buster after a long day of work. While they’re only supposed to be used for a few songs, they will certainly get you where you need to be—or at least your next stop.
Ice Lolly Tray
For too long, we’ve labored under the assumption that ice-lolly run-off must be licked up in time, lest it drip onto the back of the hand, where it shall remain sticky and gooey for all time. But it need not be this way.
This small but simple improvement on the classic ice-lolly-on-a-stick model proves that not all innovation needs to reinvent the wheel or spark a revolution. Sometimes it can be as simple as allowing you to have your sweet treat without the mess.
Ticket With Instructions
After a wonderful holiday in South Korea, it’s sadly time to say your goodbyes. To make this separation easier, the folks working for South Korean airlines came up with a nice way to help you avoid the stress associated with catching your flight.
This helpful map of the airport (with directions) can be found printed on the back of every passenger’s ticket. The gates are conveniently labeled as well, minimizing the chances of getting lost. This might be trickier for larger airports, but it’s certainly appreciated!
South Korea isn’t only just interested in technological innovation—they’ve also developed useful psychological aid for the population as well. This “healing broadcast” can be found on all KTX trains, allowing passengers five minutes of soothing puppy time.
It’s not an advertisement or public service announcement in disguise—just five wholesome minutes of newborn puppies playing and rolling over one another in a soft, fuzzy bed. This simple but effective imagery helps to soften a troubled mind.
Pedestrian Resting Spot
Walking around is a great way to get to know a place or keep fit if you’re a local. But in a big city, walking for too long can really take its toll on your feet or your back. Or worse—you might suddenly find yourself in a flash downpour without an umbrella.
Thankfully, the city planners in Ansan have provided these resting spots for pedestrians to sit on and take shelter from the rain or the sun. It’s a great way to make your city friendlier and encourage your citizens and visitors to lead healthier lives. We love it!
Cherry Blossom Explosion
If you’ve never walked under the cherry blossoms during their bloom, well… they don’t usually look like this! This street in Jeju City on Jeju island looks incredible—like the roads are awash with foaming cotton candy!
It’s pretty, but we can’t recommend it to anyone with allergies. If you ever want to see this amazing sight for yourself, you’ll have to time it right. Cherry blossom trees only bloom for one to three weeks in a year. So plan ahead!
Granted, it isn’t as awe-inspiring or majestic as a field or street full of blooming cherry blossoms, but it’s a cute way to commemorate the gorgeous and iconic showering of pink. And look, it comes from the “pink shelf!” It’s almost too adorable.
We only wonder what it tastes like—it can’t possibly be cherry flavored, can it? While it may not entirely capture the joy felt at seeing those pink petals drifting triumphantly in the wind, it does make for a cool memento.