South Koreans are fit. There are no two ways about it. This country is full of people who are the very embodiment of a phys-ed teacher's dream. This is one of the many reasons Erin and I tend to stand out in a crowd. We're not so much "athletic" as "doughnut shaped." At first, we thought this had to be because South Koreans have such fabulous diets. Every meal includes rice, soups, kimchi, and enough vegetables to make even the most health conscious blush. They love their veg so much, American-style greasy spoon diners can't get a foothold even in Seoul, that most cosmopolitan of cities. Native customers complained about the lack of greenery on their plates.
So it has to be the diets, right? Hmm...
Here's the thing. South Koreans do, in fact, have healthy foods at meals. However, what these people do between meals would put most gluttons to shame. To South Koreans, each of the previously mentioned restaurants sell "snacks." And when I say snack, I don't mean portion size. One of Erin's colleagues likes to talk about her regular (as in multiple times a week) fondness for a late night bucket of fried chicken and a few beers. This from a woman who's five foot nothing and skinny as a fence-post.
So its not the diet. No, I've come to believe its their fanatical devotion to exercise. To illustrate this, I provide the following photograph:
You are probably saying to yourself "So? It looks like a field of exercise equipment that someone trucked out to the woods and set up in a nice clearing. What's so special about that?"
What you can't see is that this photograph was taken while standing on top of a mountain. Specifically, a mountain that requires lots of stairs and steep trails to climb.
And Koreans use this equipment, too. Erin and I have recently taken to climbing the mountain near our house, in a desire to reduce our overall doughnut shape from boston creme to something in a more dainty long john. Every time we do, we find a gaggle of middle aged men and women already there, fanatically puffing away on the mechanisms. This after climbing the trail just to get there.
To give yourself an additional moment of pause, consider that the clearing in these photos has no road access. At some point in the past, a Korean walked up to the base of this mountain and thought "You know, what this thing needs is a total body gym at the top." This pioneer of vision managed to convince others their idea was just good sense, enough that they were then willing to help carry aforementioned equipment up that same mountain using nothing but the muscles they were born with.
THAT is dedication.
Or possibly insanity, but I'm giving everyone here the benefit of the doubt.