South Korea: In the Eyes of an Expatriate (2)
(2nd of 3 parts)
I started mingling with real Korean people – real men and women and not fictional characters. I dined with them, drank their wine and beer, ate their kimchi and their delicious dishes, and spoke (a little) of their language.
I witnessed their way of life and even adopted some parts of it. I saw what’s inside their houses, their theatres, their bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. I have entered their museums, strolled in their parks, and hiked in their mountains.
Through daily encounters with my Korean students, colleagues, and friends, I was also able to probe into their character. I confirmed that just like what I saw in their dramas, South Koreans fall in love, get angry, feel sad and happy, and suffer from anxiety and stress. In short, just like me or any average human being from any part of the world, they also ride the roller coaster of emotions. They do have strengths and weaknesses too. They are not faultless… like me. Anyway, nobody is. They also have fears and uncertainties. But just like me and anyone else, they have dreams and ambitions. They have plans and a vision of a good life in the future for themselves and their families.
I discovered more. I found out that their prosperity is not a myth. Those things I saw in Korean dramas and movies that indicate how progressive and modernized their country is are not fictitious. Their provinces, cities, and towns are effectively interconnected by impressive highway systems that how I wish we could also have in my country of origin. How I wish that our telecom companies could provide us with internet connectivity as fast as South Korea’s.
With everything that I have seen and experienced, I could not help but compare this country to mine. I could not help but be envious of the South Koreans for what they have accomplished as a nation. As I stayed here longer, my “How I wish!” list grew longer. How I wish that in my country, packages could be left in front of our doors, even for days, not fearing that somebody would steal them. How I wish we could also send to prison our politicians who would be found guilty of wrongdoings without fearing that when a political ally would become the next president they would be granted a pardon. How I wish we would take research as seriously and meticulously as the Koreans do.
Whatever metrics I used for the comparison, it was a mismatch with this country always ending up on top after all the comparative analyses I performed except for this – my country has a younger population where the median age is less than 26 years. For this country, it’s more than 40 years. I will no longer be citing other statistics like those of life expectancy, GDP, and international ranking of universities. South Korea’s numbers are far more superior to my country’s.
In addition, South Korean students perform better in Math and Science as compared to the youth of my country. If there is any consolation though, I and my countrymen scored higher in English proficiency.
But does it matter if we in our country are better at English? Does it make my country better than South Korea? The answer is obvious – NO. There is no direct correlation between a country’s English proficiency and its economic performance. If there is, then why does this country, as of 2020, rank as the world’s 10th biggest economy while mine barely made it to the list of newly-industrialized countries?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not putting my country down while I am seemingly extolling South Korea. I love the country where I was born and I am proud to be its citizen. I am just wondering how come this country has gone this far leaving my native land way behind in the race to prosperity and stability.
My desire to figure that out led me to read more about the history of this country. In the process, I discovered certain uncanny similarities between our historical experiences. Both South Korea and my native land are colonized nations and earned independence after the second world war. Both countries embraced the democratic form of government thereafter. Additionally, just like in my country, the development of democracy here in South Korea was interrupted by military takeovers, and what a coincidence that martial law in our countries was declared both in 1972. Was it also a coincidence that powerful military leaders in both countries were removed via popular revolt in the mid 1980s?
Unfortunately, the similarities in the historical development of this nation and mine stop there. We took different paths in building our nations from the ashes of colonization, the second world war, and military juntas.
Posted on September 17, 2021, in Expat Teachers in South Korea, Filipinos in South Korea, South Korea, Teaching in South Korea and tagged Expat Teachers in South Korea, Filipinos in South Korea, South Korea, Teaching in South Korea. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.