Korea For Real
I’ve lived in South Korea three years now, out on the town every other Friday with other English teachers and Korean friends – friends, not language leaches. I traveled in motorcycle convoys to neighboring cities to enjoy the wonderful hospitality extended to foreigners.
Some stare, mostly children! They have seen only a few of us and they are children. We are given free food, free drinks and have even received free clothing during the World Cup. A night out is not a melting pot of prostitutes (very controlled industry) or drunken randomly violent wife-beaters with piss-poor English. It is a load of happy people, dancing, laughing, talking and sharing cultural quirks.
We are given opportunities to share our god-given gift, the English language. Koreans do like to practice English. It is the global language and they are switched on enough to realize it will be a vital commodity later in life. Conor’s postings have found him bunking in the red light districts of three countries. These areas are little streets well removed from the main areas. Don’t go there.
I have never seen a woman being hit. I have heard a few verbal fights in the apartments and saw a woman at a local shop with a suspicious black eye. Once we saw a drunken guy push his drunken girlfriend into a seat and shake her arm as she was yelling at some other drunken couple, probably friends. A companion of mine who taught the man at the university berated him and said the guy was in shame for months.
Koreans are very emotional. Physical contact is the norm, beatings are not. You will be charged by the police and jailed. Historically it happened, as did the eating of dogs as a staple diet, now both a lot rarer.
I have seen three fights – two between a pair of foreigners, both involving men who couldn’t handle their alcohol intake. You know the story – instant asshole, just add alcohol. The other incident was at six in the morning on a Saturday morning outside a club where a bouncer (we think) removed a difficult client with a Beckhamesque follow through.
Road rage occurs about three times a year in a country of 46 million. Most Koreans are Buddhists, not the most violent people. You will sometimes see them going through the motions. No one gets hit. It is theatre.
As long as you have a degree, the paperwork, a good work ethic, no serious personal issues and an understandable accent, you are in and can easily make US$2,000 a month. An American accent is the standard. Many non-American teachers “round out” their accents by speaking phonetically. A few people have problems with bosses, some are not the right stuff and other Korean bosses are straight out of the 50’s. Humor them, don’t fight with them, prove your worth. They will leave you alone after a few weeks.
Many foreigners in every city have established a routine. You will soon learn where they go. There is some fine country to tour, fantastic train trips, hikes, cities to explore, skiing and snowboarding at great prices, national holidays – and more and more.
Don’t be dissuaded from visiting Korea as a teacher or a tourist. It is a fine country with plenty to offer.
Editor’s Note: This article is written largely in response to the opinions expressed by Conor Purcell and his experiences in Korea. You can read about them in his travelogue: Seoul Man