I just told my host dad I applied for a job in Seoul. I had to submit a picture of myself with the application. He ensured me that I’d get the job because i have a good face.
Stories and Voices from South Korea’s Sexual Minorities
You’re Korean and you’re gay. Or at least you thought you were. But when you came out to your mother, she was neither horrified, happy, nor surprised. Instead she simply responded, “Homosexuality does not exist in Korea”.
You’re Korean and you’re gay. Yet your extensive world travels and endlessly outgoing nature ensure that you never feel too attached to either label. So you openly hold hands, hug, and kiss whomever you please on the streets of Seoul. Sometimes people stare, but most are too weighed down by their department store bags to care.
You’re Korean and you’re gay. You take daily self-camera shots, study French, and have many foreign English teacher friends. They know you are gay, but no one else. Precisely the lifestyle you want. One night, three soju bottles deep, a few of these friends reveal your sexual preferences to your Korean buddies. Everything could change. Or nothing. But you shut down regardless, and have not talked to these friends since.
She stepped onto the subway and immediately attacked me with her eyes. Her soft, cherubic yellow sweater standing in total contrast to the intensity of her face. This woman had an vendetta against me and I had no idea why. She stood in the train right beside me, her eyes growing fiercer and fiercer, her straight mouth not budging in its sternness. I seriously feared she would attack me. I was confused, irritated and offended, and gave the evil glare right back, shaking my head to question her motives but not indulging her in my language. /////
///// A 5 minute ride felt like a lifetime. I was getting off the train, but her stare remained, and I felt I needed to settle it somehow. With seconds to go before our encounter was finished, I tried an alternative approach. I matched her glare straight on. And smiled. Immediately her face lightened up, her mouth rounded, and her eyes turned into an open door. I went out into the crowded station full of blurred, anonymous faces and felt accomplished at having connected with one.
This strong perfectly encapsulates the typhoon of loneliness that has been washing into my mind every other day of late.
One week till I must make my decision to stay in Korea another year.
Live octopus, squirming.
Massive pig, roasting.
Neon accented women, foraging.
Two islands, thousands of people, momentarily connected.
Today I was going over the differences in between Korean and USA Middle Schools with my club class students.
The usual stereotypes (both good and bad) erupted when I posed the initial question: what do you think a US Middle school is like?
—-“Bang Bang Bang!”
—-“Students can ask free questions!”
But then, something more unexpected. When going through common school subjects in a USA Middle School, which I expected to diverge only slightly from a Korean school, my students were all, simultaneously (a cohesion that never happens in my unfocused lunchtime class) flabbergasted over one huge contradiction.
“Teacher! Where is Korean (language)?!”
“You don’t study Korean in America!?”
“Then, why we study English! Why do we study English all day?!”
They didn’t way it out right, but I couldn’t help but think they were also questioning, “why are you here?”
While cute in their delivery, my students were genuinely shocked and embittered by this discovery, and I felt embarrassed and apathetic. In my baby Korean, I tried to argue that some Americans were interested in learning Korean, but it was no use.
Since then a flashback of emotions have swept into me. Before coming to teach English abroad, I had serious doubts about the cultural implications of being an America with no foreign language skills coming into another country essentially promoting my language over theirs.
Since coming to Korea and throughout my travels in Laos and Thailand, I’ve been struck by how truly coveted the English language has become. More than just necessary or a way to get a leg up in society, it has an added “cool” factor which I believe harkens to a cultural inferiority complex amongst these asian countries.
Korean is a beautiful language. It should be valued, respected, and studied in classrooms beyond the asian peninsula. Especially with the number of Korean students and families increasing in the USA year after year, isn’t it time we open up US children’s minds to the native language of many of their classmates and neighbors? And really this goes beyond Korean, for secondary language study and acquisition amongst American children for any language is nothing less than embarrassing.
My student 민서. And Korea.
The ever shifting, finnicky, and curious island proudly detached just south from the Korean peninsula. Rough to touch, yet with chiseled features I can’t help but envy. Always in the present, always keeping me guessing until he finally reveals his sweeping blue skies, midnight blue waters, achingly green grass, blindingly beautiful wildflowers, and several other sorts of nature that billow out of the island: palm trees to pines, and everything in between.
Mt. Hallasan, which towers over this mysterious landmass, is the true diety of this place and culture—when it is covered, as it often it, the island’s mood (and mine) seems unpredictable; at once warm and breezy, hours later storming with torrential rain, then after impossibly cold for the April air.
I had one full free day on a recent weekend conference trip to see the island and experience his flaws and addictive mood swings. My tour started at 주상저리, some lava formed conical rock shoreline, screaming at the howling sea amidst symmetrical, octonical spires jutting into the sea. The flowers flowers were yellow, the grass green, the sky and water blue, the coastline a mischievous black.
Next was a surprisingly pleasant folk village, devoid of tourists, with living residents, yellow wildflowers popping out of everything ETA’s camera phones, and weavy roads perfect to get lost in.