South Korea: In the Eyes of an Expatriate (1)
(1st of 3 parts)
South Korea entered my consciousness through Hallyu – a term that when translated to English means Korean Wave. And yes, when that cultural wave reached our shores, South Korean dramas, movies, and music drowned the country’s airwaves. Local magazines and the entertainment sections of newspapers regularly featured K-pop artists and other Korean TV and movie personalities. Before long, other aspects of Korean culture – food, fashion, lifestyle, and what have you – started to deeply influence me and my countrymen.
Before the Korean Wave came, I knew not much about South Korea. I remember checking the encyclopedia for information about the Korean war when I took World History when I was a college student. It was only then that I found out that my country was one of those which sent troops to help this country to ward off the Communist invasion from north of its borders.
Just imagine how dreadful a picture of the war-torn Korean peninsula the things that I read created in my mind. It was horrible, to say the least. The death and destruction were too much to bear.
But before I graduated, I had another chance to check the encyclopedia for more information about South Korea when the country hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. Because of the said sporting event, South Korea was all over the news. That triggered my curiosity thus I checked the encyclopedia to once again read something about the said nation.
I saw a country different from what those pages about the Korean war presented to me. I found out that the nation called “Land of the Morning Calm” rebounded from the horrors of the Korean war and eventually became very progressive. Then I wondered at that time and asked – “What did the South Koreans do that enabled them to, like the legendary Phoenix, rise from the ashes of a horrendous war at that time and even became only the second country in Asia to host the world’s biggest sporting event?”
As years passed, I learned more and more about South Korea, not only through traditional media but more from the Internet (which became more accessible than when I was in college). I got to see more and more Korean dramas. It made me, just like many of my countrymen, want to visit the country so bad. I wanted to visit the places in the country that I got to see only on TV programs and movies. I wanted to try soju and maekju and when the two are combined – somaek. I wanted to taste kimchi and eat Korean dishes prepared and served by Koreans. I wanted to try bibimbap, pyo haejangguk, and kalguksu served with plenty of banchan in a restaurant in South Korea, not in a Korean restaurant in my native land. I wanted to meet real Korean people. In short, I wanted to have an authentic Korean experience. I personally call that my “Korean dream.”
That urge became stronger when I enrolled in the program Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). South Korea was mentioned by the program coordinator as one of the countries considered as premiere destination for ESL teachers. Thus, since teaching overseas is an option in the career path I set for myself, I thought that if I would teach abroad, why not in South Korea? My “Korea dream” suddenly expanded – I no longer just wanted to have an authentic Korean cultural experience but to live and work in this country.
Then I did what I had to do for that “Korean dream” to come true. I left no stone unturned.
My persistence and hard work eventually paid off. My wish was granted. I was given the opportunity to live that dream when a university hired me as a teacher. So, off to South Korea, I flew.
As soon as I exited Gimhae Airport, I started having that authentic Korean experience. The early spring weather giving me an icy cold welcome got it going.
As days and weeks passed, I gradually immersed myself into the country’s culture. I was no longer just watching the people of this land from the television set, the silver screen, and the World Wide Web. It’s no longer a Korean drama I was watching but it’s real Korean life I was experiencing… from reel to real. I got what I wanted.
Posted on September 16, 2021, in Expat Teachers in South Korea, Filipinos in South Korea, South Korea, Teaching in South Korea and tagged Filipinos in South Korea, South Korea, Teaching in South Korea. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
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