Letter from Korea, August 2010

Yongin, South Korea


Dear Ireland


Not being one to complain about things I can do nothing about, or more importantly, things that have nothing to do with me, I will do my best in this letter to remain loyal to myself and that which I’m committed to. In this case, I am committed to Korea; I made this clear when I married Jin Won, who is Korean, and this being said she is committed to Ireland. I was lucky enough to have spent several years living in Korea, and to have known her family before I married her. I was also fortunate to experience all that Korea has to offer from the perspective of both a foreign visitor and worker and thanks to Jin Won, as a Korean would.

Being a part of Korea, as I am whether this is liked or not, I don’t stick out any more or less or any differently than before I was married. I still look the same, and while I may have gained a few kilos and dress a little smarter (a phenomenon which I attach to my new job than a change in values), I am very much the same person. If any evidence is needed to show how little I’ve changed, I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this wearing green shorts stained with chocolate and a faded and well-worn t-shirt of a band that doesn’t exist anymore scribbling this down in a notebook, a pose and costume often associated with me. I am the same person on the outside that I was and I hope I always will be.

Now that I consider myself more closely attached to Korea, I have strengthened the concepts which attach me to here and which also draw me further away from my previously held notions of belonging and place. While every emigrant holds some hope, no matter how small, of being able to return to their homeland, I must now lose some of these and focus on the present and the future as a person who cannot consider situations of place and belonging too seriously as they will conflict with our plans. Where I am is something that must be accepted and dealt with, not grudgingly received and from then constantly complained about due to the problems which constantly mount due to, what I honestly believe is, a bad attitude.

What has spurned me to write this time is this ‘sticky’ on a forum for the usually respectable worknplay website. This post can only be conceived as a pointless and random attack on Korean people that wasn’t really thought out and that seemed to think that Korea, not without its own problems, was the most backward society that this person had ever come across, or something like this. Despite the authors defence, it is a narrow minded approach to a society, while boasting of being over 5000 years old, is definitely more complex than the poster can appreciate.

That being said, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, so I won’t go into why I disagree with this individual so much as to why I disagree with people who make decisions in their lives which turn out to be the wrong decisions and ultimately lead to them hating and ruing the results of these decisions so much that they take it out on all that is purely a consequence of the decision, as opposed to actually attacking the decision, and of course the decision maker.

This is a global phenomenon; if something is so bad then it’s in our right to go about and fix the situation, or at least try and do something to make the situation better. I’m going to boast a little here and I hope that it doesn’t rub off on you the wrong the way. Just before I first left for Korea five years ago, I knew that I had to do something or go somewhere, I had no real direction or idea where I could even direct myself even if I wanted to sit down and think about it for a year working in a shop or other unfulfiling role. Nothing seemed to have ever been good for me in Ireland and following graduation I thought that the best thing for me would be to move away and try something somewhere new, in a sense I wanted to find myself, or get a better idea of who I was. I’ll take myself down from my high stool now and try to convince you that I honestly still really don’t know who I am, but I have a better idea of what I want to do, which I suppose is a step in the right direction.

Korea was a fortunate choice, when I got here everything worked out and fell into place and allowed me a chance to go about creating something that I could look at and say ‘this is me’. It could have all gone wrong and I could have hated my time in Korea; there were enough signs to show that Korea or maybe what bad luck followed me from Ireland was trying to hold me back, like getting my entire second salary packet stolen from my apartment, losing all my stuff and getting ripped off in taxis, getting treated like a nothing in work as I tried to learn through guessing how to actually teach English, and there are probably a few other things I can list. I lived for the weekend where I could get drunk and meet the new amazing and different people that I felt my life had been missing since I was born. Gradually I got the hang of where I was and what I wanted to do and started to become more certain of myself, I realised that all these amazing people where people just like me with their own plans and problems, that the job I was in was replaceable, that I would come back to Korea, that I would read and write more, that I would not allow my situation to be a barrier to my progress. If there was something that was in the way, or something that was not right, I had the power to change it. Complaining was far from the right solution.

I don’t know what I can say without sounding like I’m on a high horse speaking down on everyone, but this is something that I want to share with everyone both in Ireland and Korea and anywhere else that this is being read, don’t let your situation stop you from changing your life. It’s your life and you can make the decision to stop doing what you were doing and try something new. The only responsibility that lies with you is the responsibility that you have for yourself living as happy and fulfilling life as possible.

The poster on worknplay probably should take this into account, because the complaints about Korea aren’t going to change Korea, and they aren’t going to make living here any better or make people think that they’re a better person. Not all positive decisions have the same results for everyone and not all positive decisions have positive results or even results I don’t think that complaining makes things better; making a positive decision makes things better.

One thought on “Letter from Korea, August 2010

  1. Pingback: 2010: A Year in Review « If I had a minute to spare…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s