When my brother Steve was in Pusan, South Korea back in the late 1990s, I paid him a visit. One of the things from that visit that stayed with me is the different notion of “public space” in Korea.
Many Koreans have very small apartments or houses, and so they seek places outside the home to socialize and wile away the hours. One example of this is the ad hoc bars — called soju tents — that spring up every night on the streets of suburbia. In these tents, the men of the neighbourhood gather, drink sujo, and eat snacks cooked in the knock-down kitchens set up in the tents. Another example is the proliferation of very comfortable coffee houses throughout the cities, places you can happily go and spend 5 or 6 hours doing, well, whatever while you’re drinking coffee.
We don’t really have analagous public spaces here in Charlottetown. There are coffee shops — Beanz, GrabbaJabba, and the ubiquitous Tim Hortons — but with the exception of Tims they keep anemic hours, and are never open when you really want to get out of the house (at, say, 11:30 p.m.). And if you’re at Tim Hortons at 11:30 at night you’re widely considered to be worthy of scorn are at least derision. There are bars, but because of our bizarro liquor laws, they aren’t really bars, more restaurants posing as bars. And if you don’t smoke, even that option is out.
Not being a bona fide Islander, I’ve always had my suspicions that people born here, or at least people who have been here more than 13 years (which, Catherine Hennessey says, is the qualifying period of Islander status consideration) have secret bunkers where they gather to make secret Islander plans. I’d welcome any true Islanders in the readership who are willing to break ranks with the fold to confirm or deny this fact.