Letter from Ireland, August 2013

Dunboyne, Ireland
16 August, 2013

Dear Korea

Negativity is an often attractive topic. It’s in our nature to be critical, to find issue with what is at fault, and even when we are happy we still find reasons to complain. This isn’t exclusive to any particular situation or condition, everyone does it in some manner or form. There may be some explanation to it, but that is not my aim today.

I wanted to write today about something which has being an increasing source of bother for some time, and since I am now in Ireland I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on it from a particular standpoint.

Some time back, possibly longer than one year ago or more, I wrote a post on this blog entitled “10 Reasons Why I Dislike Korea“. I suppose when I wrote it I felt that I had to say what I said. I was feeling inciteful as well as insightful, and at the same time I was approaching the living in Korea thing from a new angle. I didn’t consider it an “I hate Korea and here’s why you should too” kind of post, and I still don’t. I read it again recently with the thought that I might take it down, but decided that no it wasn’t my post which had the problems, it was the people who read it, and of course those who commented on it who had the problems.

Regularly people find my blog with search topics which automatically create the idea that they hate Korea, or that they are looking for people who hate Korea. These kind of people who go searching for previously written complaints find my blog post with a set agenda, that is they agree with me, or accuse me of being a racist, which I don’t believe I am. But what gets me a little is that more often than not, people take what I have written and muddle my meaning.

I suppose that’s just part of writing to be read though. That some people disagree with me, or that they take what I write and twist into some other meaning and confuse and confront me as if I have some sort of agenda is something I have to deal with. I have kind of stopped replying and interacting with many commentors, with the exception of the odd clarification. That’s my way of dealing with it.

I had thought of removing the post from my blog but I think that would be against what I stand for. I do still believe in what I wrote, and if it’s a little more negative than how I usually think or write, let it be a lesson for me to think these things through. On the up side, it does bring a lot of traffic to my blog, more than many of my other posts, but I don’t get the impression that many people do what I suggest they do and that’s read some of my other posts to get an idea of how I really think.

And you know, how I think now is no different than how I ever think. I try to think as openly and as relevant to my current situation as possible. I try to approach my blog posts about wherever I may be as honestly as I can. I don’t think I’ve ever lied, or taken anything out of context before (too much). As I say, it’s a personal blog and I am just the opinion of one person. This is the internet, I suggest using it to find a counter opinion.

You see it’s always easy to choose the reasons we dislike somewhere when we are there. Call it a constant search for a better situation, or something, something that encourages us to simply desire a better slice of the cake, because every human is entitled to want.

I could easily turn around and write ten reasons why I like living in Korea (and maybe I will but it would be a challenge to avoid cliches – which may be why I wrote the ten reasons in the first place). What I can do is point to where I am now, Ireland, a country where I have lived for a lot longer than I have lived in Korea, and one where I left in 2005 when I was 23 because I disliked living here. Today I couldn’t even attempt to rattle my brain to recall the simple causes of my initial departure, but there are plenty of things which get to me already and I’ve only been bacl here on holidays for a month and half.

Things like this odd superiority complex, the casual racism, the expectation that Ireland is and always will be perfect for everyone, that it is impossible to get real, good, Korean food, that we still as a people cannot stand up and fight and demand together the changes this country needs (but this could be a universal problem), that we still can not turn left on red, and that the majority of pubs still insist on serving only Guinness, Heineken, Carlsberg, Smithwicks, Bulmers and Budweiser…

We are people and we all want a better lot. We see things which we believe can be improved and we try to talk about them, to raise awareness where we see wrong. Some things will never change, such as the poor beer choices in Ireland and the human zoo that is Costco in Korea. We hope, and in this hope we continue on, making our own changes to see the progress in our lives, because we know how little hope we stand of ever finding the solutions we seek elsewhere.

I do dislike many aspects of living in Korea, but I bear them as an acceptable weight, and I see them as challanges which would be merely different but equally pertinent in any other country I might choose to live in, including my own. There are plenty of reasons that I like Korea also, but I chose not to write about them at that time.

There is no such thing as utopia. With every situation were people live together there will always be complaint and distaste. I believe it is in our nature. The important thing is that we do our best to concern ourselves with our own goals and our own future and we look beyond what others see as wrong. No place is exempt from criticism, just as much as no country should be criticised for only its mistakes and wrongs.

The same can be said for people. If you see what someone has done or said, look back and try to see what else they have said or done and try to realise how much of a human they are and how their actions reflect our own, regardless of skin colour or place of birth. In the world, it’s all just best that we get along, regardless if we’re from Ireland or Korea or somewhere in between.

10 Magazine’s Blog of the Month

If you are in Korea, pick up a copy of this month’s 10 Magazine!

Not only is this a great resource for activities, eateries, and lifestyle tips for Korea (including the odd contribution by myself), you will find that if you turn to page seven right next to the big citibank credit card advertisement you will find the regular ‘Blog Of The Month Slot’. Why am I mentioning this? Well it’s because it’s my blog that’s featured this month.

Page 7, 10 Magazine, June 2012 issue.

This is an honour that I can share with Korean staples such as The Three Wise Monkeys, On Becoming a Good Korean (Feminist) Wife, IndiefulROK, and there might be others. Oh yes, of course I should forget the guy who wrote the article is also featured in Blog of Month, Rob Ouw…O… Roboseyo!!! That name is pronouced Rob-os-say-yo… I think, and unfortunately not Robo-sayo, which would be cool because that mean he was a robotic – perhaps my imagination is wandering here.

It’s all a bit mad because I was musing a while back that it would be nice to be included here, and then thought it’s not going to happen as there are surely more important sayers of things Korea out there. Well, apparently I am one of those important sayers now. So, I’ll have to keep up the good work here I suppose.

Just a few comments about blogging in general to kind of make myself sound all humble and stuff, because if I don’t someone else will end up taking me down a level.

Getting this nomination/award/recognition is great motivation for me as I have been working hard on this blog for the past two years, and with it I have gradually learned more about myself as a writer and a person who lives in Korea. I don’t consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t even consider myself what is often described as a K-blogger – this blog is and always has been a way for me to practice writing, which is what I do, but maybe because I’m in Korea much of what I practice on is Korea related. That being said, I know that many of you, my regular and irregular readers, read this blog for the same reasons which are, bascially, that you like what I read and most of this tends to be about Korea…
I have said it once and I’ll say it again, it’s the hit count and the comments that keep calling me back keeping me writing and without them I don’t think I’d be doing this as zealously as I do. You can take this Blog of the Month accolade as a recommendation in support of your good taste. So pin it on your wall and pump-your-chest because you deserve this as much as I do! *sniff*

Now that I have all that humble thanks out of the way, allow me to express how I also feel. For all the people out there that consider the sunshine press and the contents of their magazines irrelevant to the real world, and all the people who may consider blogging (but especially me) as irrelevant, this one is for you!

We Who Are About To Die posted this the other day and I pissed myself laughing and found it appropriate for this situation.

One final comment, and I know I’m sounding pretty rich after a simple reference in an expat-community magazine, but this goes to anyone who writes, draws, makes music, video, or anything else you can place under the broad banner labeled creativity. If you work hard and focus on what you are doing and take the time to know what quality work is so that you can create it yourself, and if you put what you learn to good use success will come your way, but it takes time.

(Disclaimer: no one is a bigger cynic about the English media/sunshine press than I, but sitting around complaining about it doesn’t get you very far. To be the best you have to beat the best etc.)


On Being a Writer in Korea – Getting Down to Dirty Truth

Part 3

The fact of the matter is that if you are writing in Korea then you are going to find it very difficult to get paid for your work. For all the writing I do, I have never been paid for any of the contributions I have made to the media here. Is there something wrong with this? Yes. Is it my fault? Yes. Can I do anything about it? No. Am I complaining? No.

There is writing work out there that will pay, but much of it is related to proof-reading and copy-editing, work that I have done and been paid for. I could go on about the problems in this area too but I won’t because I don’t do enough and it’s not in my mandate. Basically, this kind of writing work doesn’t really interest me that much – that being said I’d jump at a chance to take a job that would fit my schedule – I prefer writing about stuff basically, and copy-editing a poorly written ESL book isn’t that exciting.

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