My interest (maybe obsession) with the concept of South Korea began in the spring of 2003, as I was sleepwalking my way through my final semester at Alfred University. I was a not-entirely-lazy-but-still-pretty-damn-lazy English major about to be pooped out into the real world without any clear idea what I could be, or should be doing with the degree I was about to be bestowed. At this point in my life, I had been slowly and surely racking up credit card debt, I was soon going to be required to begin paying on student loan debt, and I still at this unenlightened time had to maintain a pack-a-day cigarette habit. Things looked shit.
One day, while Prof. Mike McDonough waxed about a childhood friend who stole a penguin and a cousin whom–“I shit you not,” he insisted–was named Ophelia Balls, I looked on the school’s job forums to find, I shit you not, an advertisement encouraging new graduates to consider a career teaching English in South Korea. “See the world!” “Pay off your debts!” “Be immersed in a foreign culture!” For someone with few prospects for travel outside the tri-state area that did not involve taller and deeper mountains of debt, I was intrigued.
It would take another two years before finally pulling the trigger. In November 2005, in what today feels like a completely different world, I arrived cold, severely jetlagged and utterly confused in Jinju, South Korea. Less than 40 days later, after posting a job listing on Koreabridge, I stuffed my suitcases like I was being hunted by the po-po and left Korea with my tail tucked between my legs. It was a different time. Far fewer coffee shops, many more PC Rooms, no Skype and, for me, only a tethered, cheap phone to make expensive, obsessive calls to an increasingly less-interested ex-girlfriend back home in New Jersey in the middle of (my) night.
The aforementioned obsession with the concept of Korea began to creep not long after I landed at Newark Liberty International Airport. I’ll leave the details to that to this musty old claptrap of a blog I obsessed over during much of the aughts and into the teens, as I prepared for my second attempt at giving a life in The Land of the Morning Calm a go.
Korea finally stuck in February 2013, when I returned to Busan, to teach at a hagwon (학원, or private school) in Dadaepo Beach, Saha-gu–which was ass-deep in subway extension construction–which as of this update is about to have its own set of subway stations, which will no doubt change the identity of that sleepy southwest Busan beach area forever.
Happy with my job, I expected to renew for at least another year. But, with a significantly-reduced number of students at the school, the foreign teacher jobs were eliminated. This took me out of Busan and into nearby Gimhae, in March 2014. I returned to Busan in February 2016, where I expect to stay until eventually, finally, my obsession with the concept of South Korea comes to a close.
I hope you enjoy reading about this third go, what I write, share and experience, and hope you can share your own personal adventures, whether they are happening for the first time or you’re just completing them to their full for the first time.