I was in Korea for less than a month when I heard my first horror story. Imagine: a family arrives to Camp Humphreys, gets on post housing, goes to on post schools, and they only… shop… at the commissary! I get freaked out every time I hear this story where families are too timid to leave base and explore South Korea. I’ve heard of people staying on post for more than 6 months before they go and shop at the market or go on a trip. I can’t imagine living on just the commissary, the PX or Taco Bell. I would go absolutely insane. It sounds like a plot line for an AFN horror movie, “An American Family in South Korea.”
Wait, AAFES! Don’t leave! Let me explain! It’s not that I hate you, but there is a whole world out there for me to go explore. I’ll still come back for a Doritos Crunch now and again, but I want to try spicy chicken on marinated grape leaves with a pile of kimchi. Let me buy some live Octopuses or watch the Angry Chicken Lady glare at me while she murders my dinner at the 5-Day Market (Youtube of 5 Day Market). There are Bhuddist Shrines that want photographing and mountains that need to be climbed. South Korea is a vacationer’s paradise and my heart breaks when I hear of families trapped on Humphreys.
I’ve been trying to think of ways to get families out of Humphreys and into Paengseong and beyond. Luckily, an answer that was better than any of my crazy ideas appeared: Pokemon Go. Don’t laugh! This game is crazy addicting, people of all types and ages play this game. If playing really doesn’t appeal to you, then find a buddy to go with or let the kids play it. The benefits of getting out Humphreys, exercising and enjoying South Korea will still come.
Pokemon Go is going to get everyone out and about. I’ve played its predecessor, a game called Ingress created by the same company, and I explored Paengseong more in one day than the 4 months I’d been living here. I believe Pokemon Go can be used to encourage families to enjoy South Korea and to improve the American/Korean community in Paengseong.
In Korean, Pokemon is called Pocket Mon or 포켓몬
Is Pokemon Go expensive?
No, it’s free! There are in-app purchases but like most games those are optional.
Is Pokemon Go hard to play?
It’s as easy as opening it up, registering and throwing the first Pokeball. There are plenty of intricacies but the casual gamer can enjoy it just as much as anyone else. The hardest part will be walking enough to hatch eggs. Yes, walking is a mechanism for Pokemon Go and based upon another game that I play, called Walkr ironically enough, the steps will be recorded through the phone with minimal data usage. No fitness bands or nifty watches required.
Didn’t someone get run over by a car playing this game? What if I walk into a bad neighborhood?
Yes, there have been reports of people getting hit by cars but I’m not going to blame the game for that. As for crime, South Korea isn’t perfect but it has extremely low crime rates and I have never walked into a back alley and felt unsafe. Some tips: All trainers should be aware of surroundings when walking, have an external cellphone battery in case of emergencies, have a reliable Korean translator app (Naver Dictionary works great) and some won for water and snacks.
Can I play Pokemon Go now?
Actually, no. Pokemon Go has not been released in South Korea. The company Niantic is releasing the game in stages throughout the world. The United States was one of the first to receive the game, even before Japan, and the rest of the world is waiting on the edge of their seats for their turn. I’m a little sad to be in South Korea while my friends are catching Dragonites but I can be patient… Ok, no I can’t. Keep reading!
When will Pokemon Go get here?
This is where social media users like to insert a hype train. Users have posted the craziest reasoning for why this midnight is the midnight Pokemon Go will be released in South Korea. I’ve even seen posts claiming that Pokemon Go will never be released because of Korea’s Google Maps ban or that it will take months of user data before the game will be playable. I know Pokemon Go will be here soon and it will work. Their previous game, Ingress, was similar where players walked around to interact with portals and it functioned well in South Korea. There is enough of a player base, as evidenced by Sokcho, for Niantic to take notice and I hope to see it go live by the end of August.
Wait, What about that mayor in South Korea who dresses up as Professor Oak?
It’s true! There is one small part of South Korea that has escaped Niantic’s off-switch where Pokemon Go is up and running, complete with Pokestops and Gyms. Koreans and foreigners alike are booking buses and rushing up to the little fishing village of Sokcho to play. This little town has become Legendary for starving trainers in Seoul but it is not a quick drive for Humphreys players. Soldiers will need at least a pass to stay overnight and families should be prepared to get a hotel or an AirBnB.
As for the mayor of Sokcho, he knows a business opportunity when he sees it and has welcomed trainers with open arms. He will continue dressing up as Professor Oak every Saturday and Sunday, until August 21st, handing out Pokeballs to trainers. There are also maps for wifi hotspots, free entertainment and plenty of food from local restaurants.
For now, the family and I are heading to Sokcho to join other Korean trainers. I’ll post plenty of photos and videos, so follow me on Twitter and Facebook!
Join the Pokemon Go Korea Facebook group to stay up to date and find fellow team members.