If you've gotten
this far into reading about Korea then I'm sure you've already heard a
lot of different stories - each one pulling you in a different direction.
Some people (recruiters especially) will tell you how great Korea is,
how you'll make a hundred dollars an hour, be treated
like royalty and make a ton of new friends. According
to them your life will be nothing but bliss and happiness.
Others tell a far more sinister tale, Korea as something akin to hell's
armpit. You'll be robbed (of time and money), lied to, looked down
upon and taken advantage of at every turn. Listening to these people you'll
get the impression that the only good thing about Korea is the flight
Well, all I can do here is give you some advice and tell my own story.
Hopefully along the way I'll be able to answer some of your questions
and present a fair picture of life in South Korea. This is a work in progress
and will gradually get longer. It will be edited, revised, deleted and
changed but it will be here and I hope you find it helpful. If you ever
have any questions, or just want to tell me I suck, the feedback page is readily available.
As for the hell's-armpit vs. bliss-and-joy debate . . . I've always found
Korea to embody both. I knew less than squat about Korea and English teaching
when I first arrived but left having written a book, in Korean, for students
of English. I knew no one back in 1992 but left in 98 having done enough
radio and TV that even the guys at Kimpo Airport (before the arrival of the swank new Inchon Airport) immigration recognized me. My passport
was as green as my diploma when I first got in - I left with barely enough
room to fit in a final departure stamp.
I can also tell you about having to go to a morgue to identify a friend's
body after he'd been killed in a motorcycle accident by an idiot, half-drunk
trucker. About getting a call at 5 am from a friend who'd just been raped
by a taxi driver. About walking down the street and having the woman I'm
with called a, "gutter whore" because she's with a "Yankee."
Or having to explain to a sobbing student, tears running down her face,
why she hadn't been granted a U.S. visa - even though she'd been accepted
to study at UCLA.
For foreigners Korea is, in many ways, a land of opportunity. You can
do anything there, or, have anything done to you there. Over the
next few pages I hope to point out some things that I learned and experienced
during my stay that will help you with yours.