Spotlight on Seoul

LUTRONIC’S VICE PRESIDENT OF SCIENTIFIC AFFAIRS PROF GLEN CALDERHEAD GIVES THE LOWDOWN ON HIS ADOPTED HOME CITY, SEOUL, THE CAPITAL OF SOUTH KOREA.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT SEOUL?

Seoul is a truly 21st Century, New Millennium city, but with her feet firmly rooted in her ancient past with her history stretching back more than two millennia to the founding of the city.

I love the massive gates which date back to 18 BC, all that is left of the massive walls that surrounded the city, standing side by side with ultramodern architecture and with easy access to some fascinating areas of narrow alleyways redolent of times gone by, well-supplied with small hole in the wall restaurants serving both traditional and modern fare. Getting around in Seoul is a doddle, thanks to the great colour-coded Metro network, which (fortunately for me) has all signage and in-train announcements in English as well as Korean.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO SEE THE CITY?

I think without a doubt the best way to see the attractions of the city is to take a tour on one of the really comfortable Seoul City Tour buses. There are three courses you can choose from but the best of the three is a hop-on, hop-o single decker that visits the vast majority of the major attractions. A commentary is given in several languages (including English), and you can simply get o when you nd somewhere you want to explore more in detail, then get back on a subsequent bus to continue your tour. A more expensive alternative is a personal guided tour booked through English-speaking taxi companies, such as International Taxi. In the summer, a river cruise on the Han river is also worthwhile, and some of the dinner cruises let you see Seoul by night.

WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEES WHEN TRAVELLING THERE?

From the ancient to the ultramodern, it’s all there. Must-see places are the two main gates (Gwanghwamun and Daehanmun). Then there are the three remaining palaces: Gyeongbokgung (Northern Palace) Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeonghuigung (Western Palace). Gyeongbokgung incorporates the Gwanghwamun Main Gate, and there is a very colourful and traditional changing of the guard that takes place there daily,
with all participants in uniforms from the Joseon Period (1392–1897). In addition there are many shops around Gyeongbokgung where you can hire traditional Hanbok (literally meaning Korean clothes), for men and women and children, so you can wander round the ancient palace grounds in clothes from the Joseon Period.

For the modern aspect, good examples are the North Seoul Tower on Namsan (Nam Mountain), which is reached by a cable car and provides tremendous views over the entire city. South of the majestic Han River (Hangam) is the towering 63 Square, also known as the 63 Building. Built in 1985, it was once the tallest building in Asia, with wonderful views from the top oor. For kids of all ages there is the Lotte World adventure and water park, complete with a magni cent aquarium.

What are the top three eating spots?

Apart from the magni cent restaurants found in the major hotels, the Myeong- Dong area is an eclectic shopping zone with global dining options, including good examples of the Korean ‘cook it yourself’ barbeque style, thin or thick succulent slices of pork, beef or chicken braised over glowing charcoal and served with a dazzling area of (usually) all-you-can-eat side dishes. Itaewon is a gritty magnet for foreign visitors and korean residents alike, teeming with a range of eateries serving all cultures and tastes, but of course including traditional Korean food, such as the must-try samgyetang (Korean ginseng chicken soup). Last but by no means least are the pojangmacha, the cheap and cheerful mobile food carts, stalls and tent-like dining areas found in all markets and around subway (underground) stations serving a magnificent selection of highly edible (and completely safe) street food to suit all tastes.

AND THE LOCALS’ BEST-KEPT SECRET?

The 10th floor of the Express Bus Terminal in Seocho-Gu, Banpo-Dong is a very unlikely candidate, but it is surprisingly popular and not just for those taking a bus somewhere far off. This roof-top area hosts two Korean BBQ restaurants, from which guests can buy drinks or even take-out food with which to enjoy their view, but the true attraction is the gorgeous view of Seoul and the unexpected garden that wraps around the building. Random plots of grass are sprinkled with benches and seating areas from which patrons can enjoy a casual drink or two (or three) while ten storeys above the city of Seoul. Note that the lifts stop working at midnight, and it can be a long stagger down the stairs.

WHAT’S THE MOST UNIQUE OR UNUSUAL PLACE TO VISIT THERE?

What about The Vault, which is located in Hongdae? If you like locked room mysteries, or planning and executing the theft of a priceless diamond or Masterpiece painting, The Vault will turn any ordinary evening into an adventure. Bring a group, big or small, and you’ll be led to a room where your parting words are, ‘I’m locking you inside. You have 45 minutes to get out. That’s all I can tell you.’ I have to admit, I didn’t make it! Hidden doors, cracking clues, avoiding guardian laser beams…all good fun with good dining and drinking thrown in. AMP

Prof Glen CalderheadNOW, A LITTLE ABOUT YOU

WHAT LED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER SPECIALISING IN PHOTOTHERAPY AND LIGHT DEVICES?

Serendipity is the one word answer. I was introduced to the medical laser completely by chance through attending a lecture on ‘What is a Laser’ in Japan in 1976, while I was there on a six month sabbatical. With the laser only 16 years old then, who knew what a laser was?

This talk was given by Dr Toshio Ohshiro, a plastic surgeon and medical laser pioneer in Japan. The practical part of the talk in which Dr Ohshiro showed how he was using only two lasers, a pulsed ruby and a two watt argon laser to remove hemifacial port wine stains with excellent results, blew my mind.

I asked to meet Dr Ohshiro, we went drinking…and I never went back to the UK: the rest, as they say, is history. Toshio Ohshiro, my mentor, put my feet on the laser pathway, and I am happy still to count him among my best friends and respected colleagues.

WHAT’S BEEN A CAREER HIGHLIGHT FOR YOU?

That’s difficult to say as there have been several peaks. Perhaps the first and earliest one that was indicative of my love affair with low level laser therapy was a presentation at the fourth meeting of the International Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine (ISLSM) in 1981, when I presented on a study Ohshiro and I had done comparing a new dedicated hand-held diode LLLT system with our existing defocused surgical Nd:YAG in pain attenuation. Another much more recent one which springs to mind, and by which I felt really honoured, was the invitation from Dr Roberta Chow of Quantum Pain Management and the University of Sydney to give an invited special lecture on my four decade pathway through surgical and medical laser and light- based medicine at her meeting of the Australian Medical Laser Association in Sydney last year.

WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE OF WORKING IN SEOUL?

I don’t actually do a great deal of work in Seoul per se, as I am based in Gyeonggi, one of the adjoining provinces, but I do have a lot of interaction with dermatologists and plastic surgeons both in the major teaching hospitals and major clinics. I am always impressed by the commitment to learning and the desire to further understanding of the role of laser, light-based and energy-based medicine all the better to serve the patient. Seoul has become one of the major hubs for medical tourism, not just because of the prices, which tend to be lower than elsewhere, but because of the quality of the care. I think the only setback to working in Seoul is the traffic! It gives a new twist to the well-known phrase; ‘Shall we walk, or do we have time to take a taxi?’