2) Elsewhere: New York Times front page story caught my eye--without a single mention of Kim Jong-il: Cities Like Seoul Rediscover Waterways They Paved Over. You can see my pictures of the stream by clicking here.
In the years after the Korean War, as more and more people flocked to Seoul, the Cheonggye Stream, Cheonggyecheon 청계천, became an open sewer, a source of disease and odor. It was paved over in the 1960s. As the article points out, this is a fairly common fate of central city waters in the twentieth century. There is such a stream running along the north side of The Mall in Washington, DC, for instance, and the article points out additional cases:
In New York State, a long-stalled revival effort for Yonkers’s ailing downtown core that could break ground this fall includes a plan to re-expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which currently runs through a giant flume that was laid beneath city streets in the 1920s.
Cities from Singapore to San Antonio have been resuscitating rivers and turning storm drains into streams. In Los Angeles, residents’ groups and some elected officials are looking anew at buried or concrete-lined creeks as assets instead of inconveniences, inspired partly by Seoul’s example.
Uncovering the stream was a project of current ROK president Lee Myung-bok when he was Seoul mayor at the start of the decade. Before moving into politics, MB was the CEO of Hyundai chaebol, where he built cars, as well as the roads to put them on. In the Cheonggyechun project, he literally undid his own work. He also beefed up Seoul's public transport, including LP-fueled buses (built by Hyundai, of course) so the roads became less crowded.
Still, despite the popularity of the new environment of the stream, many Seoulites remain unhappy about its cost. Mr Hwang and his family visit occasionally, despite his opposition due to its expense--but, hey, he paid for it, might as well use it!
3) Tuttle Gets a Root Canal: Andy's suggestion of the dentist in the next building was spot-on, as the place was sparkling clean, highly professional and very modern with an in-house X-ray room, electronic dentist chairs and wireless English translation services.
Okay, that last bit meant one of the dental assistants called a friend on her cellphone to translate back and forth, but I appreciate the effort. I did the same with Mr Hwang; plus, they had a series of printouts with Korean and English on them so they could point to what they needed to tell me.
Anyway, I got a root canal on Tuesday. Call me a chicken, but it felt like I was being waterboarded or something. I finally figured out how to breathe, and after that, things went quite smoothly. I had a second appointment yesterday, which I thought was to get the crown put on, but it was just a progress check kind of thing--I think the dentist pushed some more amalgam in there, too. I go back next week--hopefully for the crown.
Korea has socialized medicine, including dental care, for which I contribute about 5% of my salary, an amount my employer matches. The root canal procedure cost W 8,400, about USD 6.50. In the States, this would run me between $500-800. The crown will cost W 350,000 (under USD 300) since it isn't covered, compared to $600-1000.
The ramifications are left as an exercise for my Dear Readers.