Take this page with a large grain of salt. It’s not that there’s no truth here, but a rant is by definition heavily biased and prone to folly.
Being an expat is fun. Being an outsider is tough.
It’s been ages since my last post. I lived in Europe for a few years, and returned several years ago to the same town in Korea, where I’m now raising mixed-culture a family. Now that we’ve got that out of the way… Let’s get down to cultural barriers, making friends (?) and “being foreign” in Korea. At the beach this weekend, I took a picture of the barbed wire fencing, which stretches its way along most of the country’s coastline — a big fence. It seemed like an apt metaphor for cultural barriers.
Exactly a decade ago, I read that expats living in Korea will always be viewed as foreigners. As soon as I read it, I wished I hadn’t. I didn’t want it to color my experience in Korea. But many years into living in Korea, I can’t deny its truth. I know two women who have lived here for decades, speak fluent local dialect, married Korean men and have Korean passports. I attended a speech given by one some years back. Two members of the local press approached nervously, not knowing that she was the keynote speaker, and asked her politely what brought her as a foreigner to the event. Despite actually being Korean, she will always be a foreigner.
I want to share good things about Korean culture with others. I want to tell the world, “Hey, Korea is a great place. You should really make the folks at Korea’s tourism agency happy and come and visit.” In general, I think there’s a lot to see, do and learn here.
So I went to upload a video the other day of a traditional Korean instrument. What did I find? Due to a new South Korean “Internet Real-Name System” nobody in South Korea can any longer upload videos or even post comments on YouTube. WTF? Keep reading →
Why is Korea called the Hermit Kingdom?
According to the infallible Wikipedia, Korea was first called the Hermit Kingdom by William Elliot Griffis’ 1882 book, Corea: The Hermit Nation.
We can’t even rely on our trusty Wikipedia for information here because Koreans are so bent on keeping their history shrouded in the rosy imagery of popular historical TV shows (not an oxymoron in Korea) that Koreans troll Wikipedia vigilantly and mercilessly edit anything that might reflect poorly on their country. It’s like China’s secret service, only the Korean government gets the aid of its trolling “netizens” for free. So compare it instead to an entire country of Billy Ray Cyrus-loving American mid-westerners trolling the streets looking for foreign immigrant-types to rile up (wow-only the beginning and I’ve already offended the majority of Earth’s human population!). Keep reading →