I’ve been back in Winnipeg for just over a month now and many people have asked me “How was Korea?” So I’ve decided to put down some of my thoughts about the country and my time there.
My job in Korea was to teach English to Grade 3s to 6s. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Using resources from EPIK and Dave’s ESL, as well as some friends who begun teaching there before me, I quickly learned about lesson plans, lesson flow, and classroom management. The first few weeks were intimidating but, once I got into the hang of things, it became a whole lot easier. I will never forget the first time driving up to the school and three kids stopped, mouths gaping, pointing at me as I drove by. They were excited, which helped ease my own nerves.
In regard to Korean life, Koreans always seems to be in a hurry to do something. I don’t get it. I’m sure North Americans are guilty of the same thing, but, as an outsider, I noticed that everything done by Koreans needed to be done right away. If you were a foreigner, you were allowed some lenience. I really felt bad for my co-teacher because every time she received a phone call, she stopped everything to attend to the call, and then (sometimes) sprinted out of the classroom to take care of whatever business needed to be taken care of.
If there’s one thing you’ll soon notice when you go to Korea it’s that everything is Korean. LG and Samsung, Daewoo, KIA and Hyundai, and Angel-in-Us. It’s kinda creepy. Jim Rogers, a renowned New York investor, wrote in his book Adventure Capitalist, that Korea came across as “artificial”. He’s got a point. Korean companies dominate the landscape; not many foreign companies (especially not Japanese, i.e. Sony and Panasonic!) can be found here!
And how about those cab drivers? You really learn to appreciate life after you’ve made it home alive in a cab. If there was one reason to learn the Korean language, it was so you could tell the cab driver where to you lived, and to go slower!
The Korean language. I loved learning Hangul, if only because I could make an attempt to talk to every cute girl that walked by. Aside from that, Hangul looks like such a happy language. Look at a paragraph of Hangul and tell me that you do not see little faces, some happy, some unamused, some winking, some confused!
Drunk winking: 인
Wearing cool glasses and smiling: 면
Surprised pirate: 잉
Sly and cool: 원
Those are just some of the things I saw when I first looked the Korean writing system. Here’s a sample:
언제나 어디서나 날 따라다니는 이 스포트 라이트
어딜가나 쫓아오지 식당 길거리 까페 나이트
도대체 얼마나 나이 들어야 이놈의 인기는 식으러 들지 원
섹시한 내 눈은 고소영
아름다운 내 다린 좀 하지원
어쩌면 좋아 모두 나를 좋아하는 것 같애 oh no
-from “So Hot” by Wondergirls
Don’t you see the faces? Tell me you see the faces! (Okay, it’s a stretch, but the first time I saw it, I swear I saw faces!)
Some of my friends thought Korea was a third-world country. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Korea is probably more developed than most parts of North America! If you want your luxury shopping (Gucci, Prada, etc.) you’ve got it. Movies? All the English movies are shown in addition to some Korean movies subtitled in English. Music? Great rock and jazz music to be found in Seoul, while Busan seems to be overrun with foreigners and their music groups. Food? Take your pick, all western fast food joints and many European foods (such as pizza or kebabs) are available. Coffee? Yes, Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Angel-in-Us, and my personal favourite (because they gave me cake every time), Cherami (exit 6, Goejeong Station, Saha-gu, Busan). And don’t forget the largest sea-food market in Asia, Jagalchi in Busan. You’ve never tasted fresher raw fish. You walk down any number of isles offering a variety of fish and sea creatures, pick which ones you want, take a seat, slug some soju, then eat. My most expensive bill there was $50, and that was apparently for some “expensive” fish. I can only imagine what the same bill would be in Canada.
And how about that Kpop? Well, words will fail any attempt to describe Korean pop music. Let’s just say, they’ve got America beat at cranking out popstars. America only uses one pop star and makes him/her a star. Korea? They take 18 young men or women, put them on a stage, and make them sing and dance. Be sure to check out Super Junior’s “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry”, Wonder Girls’ “So Hot” (see the lyrics above), and my favourite, “Fire” by 2NE1.
I enjoyed my time in Korea. I’d like to return to Korea one day, possibly to teach, or maybe just to visit. Or maybe to shoot another movie? (See Coffee and Milk below.) The world is a large place and I would really like to see more of it.
PS – In regard to North-South relations, the only “bomb” I experienced was mixing soju with beer, which my kids called “pok tan ju”, translated to mean “the bomb”.