I currently live in a Slow City. I had never heard of a Slow City until coming to Korea, where I somehow managed to live in one my first year and another one my second… which is especially funny because out of all of the possible F*bright placements in Korea, only two of them happen to be Slow Cities. It is rather difficult to be classified as a Slow City. You must have a population under 50,000, your area must not have any chains or fast food restaurants, your area must have minimal traffic, and you have to exemplify a “slow, peaceful, way of life.” What this means, is that I don’t have a single kimbab restaurant in my town, nor do I have a phone shop, or even a GS25, and we get a lot of tourists on the weekend coming to check out this “slow peaceful country living.” Which also means that I get gawked at a lot by tourists, who assume I’m another tourist. Which in a way, makes me wonder… who has more of a claim to Changpyeong? I live here, true, but they have the advantage of being Korean and they’ve lived in the surrounding area longer. I may live here, but I haven’t done a whole lot of exploring… in fact, I think I spend just as much time in Gwangju as I do in Changpyeong! Can I really therefore claim that I’m less of a tourist then the people who come here for lunch, wear super short shorts that scandalize the old women making rice cakes, take pictures of the “beautiful rustic natural Korean scenery” and then go back to their homes? Also is this really a traditional, Slow City if it’s become a tourist attraction?
Whatever it is, Changpyeong is very proud of their Slow City reputation. I’m currently sitting in the one coffee shop in Changpyeong lesson planning. This coffee shop is independently owned (so, see, it’s not a chain) and it’s called “Sloth’s Coffee.” This joke works on multiple levels – first of all a Sloth is a slow animal (ha. ha.) but secondly, Sloth could be pronounced in multiple ways with the “o” sound being pronounced as 러 (lah) or 로 (low). Though anyone who knows English and Korean would say that the first option sounds more natural, the residents and owner have chosen to pronounce it the second way, so that way this coffee shop’s name is actually “Slowth’s Coffee” – because it’s a Slow City. Ha. Ha. ㅎ_ㅎ.
Whatever it is, genuine Slow City or hidden Tourist attraction, I still like it!