Indian PM weathers stiff breeze at Seoul welcome (Seoul Diary)

March 25th, 2012 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Seoul, March 25 (IANS) A stiff bone-chilling breeze was blowing, but visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only weathered it but also seemed to revel in it as he was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Blue House presidential palace here Sunday.

Dressed in a dark bandgala suit and an CREATE ORIGINAL GRAPHICS
overcoat, Manmohan Singh spent considerable time, along with his wife Gursharan Kaur, with a group of young Indian and Korean school children enthusiastically waving flags of the two countries. This was after he had inspected a guard of honour of soldiers in contemporary and traditional uniforms.

“It was certainly not a routine wave-by. He was revelling in the moment,” said an Indian diplomat.

As for the stiff breeze, it signalled a change in season.

“The Koreans have a beautiful way to describe it: It’s a tussle between winter and spring; winter not willing to let go and spring fighting for its space,” said another diplomat.

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Baby it’s cold outside

Chicago might be called “Windy City” but the sobriquet applies equally to this South Korean capital.

The noon temperature Sunday was 6 degrees Celsius and with a bright sun blazing down from a clear sky, it should have been comfortable, but it was not as the actual temperature was quite a few notches lower.

“This is because we are bordered by eight mountains,” was the response to a call to the local met office.

The result is a chilly breeze through the day and night. But then, if you are well clad, as most people here are, it’s a walk in the park!

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Hyundai rules Seoul’s roads

What Honda and Toyota are to Japan and Mercedes Benz is to Germany, Hyundai is to this South Korean capital to go by the number of its cars on the roads, with Kia snapping at its heels.

Every second private car is a Hyundai of some kind and virtually every radio cab is a Hyundai, as are most of the buses and mini pick-up vans. And, with Hyundai having bought out Kia, it controls 80 percent of the South Korean market. Not only that, foreign cars are few and far between with the occasional Mercedes Benz or Volkswagen - and even a Mini Cooper popping up, seemingly out of nowhere.

“It’s not that we don’t like foreign cars; it’s just that our own cars are so damn good that we don’t really need imports. Our manufacturers are pretty clued in about what’s going on in foreign shores and are quick to adapt,” said business executive Lee Kung-soo of the phenomenon. Is anyone listening?

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No concrete jungle this

Downtown Seoul could well have been a concrete jungle, but judicious use of glass has ensured this hasn’t happened.

It’s not that there aren’t any predominantly concrete skyscrapers, but there are an equally number of glass-fronted structures. Then there are other innovative uses to which glass has been put.

At the Novotel Hotel in downtown Seoul, a four-storey high glass wall provides a fascinating view of a waterfall as it trips down an artificial mountainside

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)

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