South Korea is an interesting country. It is very similar to Japan and Taiwan in terms of cleanliness and social norms. The food was very affordable, relatively healthy, delicious, with decent portions, a large variety, and available virtually everywhere at any time of the day or night. Living accommodations can be had for also a very reasonable sum. I could expect a clean room with all the basic amenities, though there were clear differences in quality amongst the different establishments. The people there are very nice, though they have a cold exterior. But, if you talk to them, they put in an honest effort into helping you.
One night, as I was walking home, my phone ran out of battery. I went into a nearby convenience store and asked if I could charge my phone. The clerk said, "no", but a customer was willing to pull up a map on his phone and show me where I was and how to get home. This was a highlight of my trip, and a situation that could've been much worse.
Also similar to Japan and Taiwan, South Korea is very safe. I walked home in the middle of the night, and even though I wouldn't recommend such action, there were a few old ladies I saw along the way, going about their business.
The night scene, though, was noticeably different than when I was last there 10 years ago. The pandemic has definitely left its mark. The streets were a lot emptier earlier in the nights. Many businesses closed early; many others never even open. It was a bit tragic to see. Google maps did not reliably show open businesses and their hours of operation.
South Korea seemed like a nice place not only to visit but perhaps even to live. Discussing this with my friend, he informed me that South Korea is hyper competitive. Behind the low cost of living for a relatively high standard of living is the low wages for the average inhabitant. That sounds like the same situation as Japan and Taiwan.
One significant observation I noticed was that apart from eating and shopping, South Korea did not really offer much in the way of things to do. Specifically, it felt that Seoul was dominated by shopping districts. As I am less of a consumer and more of a producer, I failed to appreciate this part of South Korea.
Finally, a breakdown of the cost for this trip:
Flight - $864.07
Food, transportation, entertainment, and purchases - ~$2200
Hotels - $793.92
Covid tests and traveling checks - $431.76
Ryan - $74.91
Data plan - $51.80
Total - ~$4500