When I came to South Korea, I was naive about the world. Thought I knew everything.... well not facts (geography, history, pop culture, ...) but thought I completely understood people and how the world worked. I was wrong.
I definitely didn't know anything about South Korea, as an American who's media fed about the evils of North Korea and their desire for Nuclear Power. I thought I'd live in a beaten-down "traditional home" and be the only foreigner in my city. Didn't realize how westernized and industrialized Korea's become, with some financial assistance from Western Powers. Though much of Korea's traditional culture has been preserved, a woman is usually only seen wearing a hanbouk on holidays or Weddings. Many restaurants now have forks to accompany their chopsticks. And most people speak a little English. Hence, the flood of foreign teachers in Korea. I've met so many people over the past year ... some of the most interesting characters I've ever encountered. I usually hate or love them, because they fall into 2 very distinct categories: those who are running from something and those who are running to (searching for something more). Unfortunately, most foreigners here are looking to escape the problems they've created back in their home countries. It frightens me to hear a teacher of little children say they came to Korea b/c it's "drug free" and the best way to quit cold turkey. Or that they couldn't find girlfriends at home and heard Asian women flock to Western men. Sad, but true. Well I've weeded out the weirdos and met some great companions who, like myself, have come for the experience. To be part of a different culture, learn the language and ways of other people. To teach. To travel.
a little HISTORY lesson: Korea was invaded and ruled by Japan from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945. On August 10, 1945 the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to divide Korea along the 38th parallel (Japanese forces north of that line would surrender to the Soviet Union, those south to the United States)
The Korean War, ( June 25,1950 - July 27, 1953) started as a civil war between North and South Korea. The north was communist and was backed up by the Soviet Union. The U.S. and U.N. "saved" South Korea when they were nearly defeated by the North. American opinion was "solidly behind the venture", however Truman failed to obtain a declaration of war from Congress before sending troops to Korea. Our troops have been here ever since; though I hear we're removing them soon. Hmmm. I'm supposed to visit the DMZ next year with friends.