A recent visit to Seoul has made me think about "tourist epistemology".
Korea has always been overshadowed for me, as for most Westerners, by its larger neighbours China and Japan, but I'm not completely ignorant about the country — if you include translated fiction, I've read maybe twenty books about it. Three days in Seoul as a tourist has not necessarily done that much to improve on this, however, or rather has has done so orthogonally.
The visit gave me something of a feel for the layout of central Seoul and its immediate setting. The bus trips from Incheon airport into and out of the city centre, with views of the Han river, helped here, as did some nice scale models in the Seoul Museum of History, which also has exhibits on the development and recent history of the city.
The centres of capital cities are not always a guide to the rest of the country, but Seoul at least is clearly an affluent city. (South Korea's GDP is about the same as Australia's, albeit it with twice the population.)
Visiting palaces and museums helped flesh out my Korean history with a better grasp of architecture and material goods. And I have a much better feel for Korean food in its natural setting. We didn't visit the war museum, or do a day tour to the demilitarised zone, but that would have connected with my reading about the Korean War.
Since we only had tourist-functional exchanges with Koreans, however, I never got much of a feel for what it's like to be Korean or to live in Korea. In contrast, in Turkey and Mongolia and Kenya, I talked with English-speaking locals, which gave a much richer perspective.
The only Korean novel I'd read set in contemporary Seoul was Kim Young-Ha's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, which has a dark ambience rather distant from a brief stop-over in a three-star hotel.