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Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown returned for its fifth season on Sunday night with a creative and somewhat strange journey through Seoul, South Korea.
Perhaps in an effort to continually innovate the show’s videography, the one-hour broadcast features each segment and the overall narrative taking place in reverse.
In his first time back in the country in almost a decade, Bourdain embraces both the people and the cuisine, including the spicy seafood, like long-lost friends.
“What seems to define/defy Korea as I know it, is It anticipates the future very very well. This is a country that’s famous for looking into the future,” Bourdain tells a group of businessmen that he’s befriended for a night of BBQ, beers and late-night exploration.
Diving further into South Korea’s subcultures, Bourdain spends time in a gaming center where professional players go to practice for so many hours that food is delivered directly to their console. Gaming is a professional and lucrative craft in South Korea, spawning an industry of practice centers, coaches and, of course, competitions.
Bourdain then gets into one of the country’s main sources of Internet entertainment: online cooking shows hosted by video bloggers. He joins Choi Ji-hwan’s especially peculiar show, which takes place in an old army tent where Ji-hwan cooks dishes that viewers will remember from their mandatory enlistment time.
Bourdain helps create an “army strew” called budae-jjigae, which consists of Spam, hot dogs, baked beans, instant noodles and kimchi.
The show ends with what is usually his starting point: Delicious meals shared with insightful guests. He drinks soju with Mark, a New Yorker who returned to South Korea as the opportunities and economy improved, and Nari Kye who describes the innate characteristics of her culture.