I'm just back from a week tour of Seoul and Bangkok where, in between speeches, I experienced traditional Korean and Thai culture. Rather than Buddhist temples or authentic villages, my particular zone of interest were foot massage parlors. That's where key strategic parts of me interfaced with the genuine Asia. And that's where I invested most of my American cash.
Which leads me to the central riddle about the economics of globalization. In Seoul, foot massages started at around $60 for a hour worth of vigorous handwork; while in Bangkok, identical massages cost $8 an hour. It's the same feet, the same product, the same exchange of value, the same sensory experience, the same traditional cultural experience. But radically different economic pricing. Thus, 1 hour of pleasure in Seoul equals 7.5 hours of equally intense foot--happiness in Bangkok.
Does that make Thailand a seven and a half times better country than South Korea? Or am I analyzing globalization with typically myopic American self-interest -- through the traditional culture experiencing zone of my own two feet?