At first glance, Seoul seems like just another sprawling metropolis: Its buildings, hastily constructed with dubious financing in the months leading up to South Korea’s 1997 economic crisis, are the sort of blocky, concrete-and-glass high-rises that give many modern cities the air of prefab homogeneity. Wide boulevards are choked with the oppressive traffic common in East Asia or, for that matter, Silicon Valley. Megamalls and underground shopping centers filled with Body Shops and Burger Kings cater to teens and young professionals. There’s none of the high tech visual overload you see in Tokyo, or the clean-scrubbed, old-meets-new urbanism of Scandinavia — nothing to indicate that Seoul is the most wired city on the planet.

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