Monday, December 9, 2013

Returning Home

I haven't updated this blog in forever. There are thousands of "My Year-Long Teaching Adventure In the Land of the Morning Calm" blogs written by Americans and other foreigners. They gripe about the shower/bathrooms, lament about the scarcity of cheese, and make fun of the Engrish. There are scores of "Adoptees Return Home/Search/Reunite" blogs, too, so I'm not going to do any of those things. I have found Korea to be confounding in the practicalities, but easy to adjust to culturally, if you can divorce language from culture.

Since my last post I have returned to the country in which I was born. I'm no longer an immigrant, and again, I'm just part of a larger social trend. Korea is changing from a country of 'one blood' to a 'multicultural' one. Half of the children in the rural areas will be half (not fully) Korean soon. Migrants are coming from South and Southeast Asia to work on farms and in factories. There are Turkish entrepreneurs in Itaewon and West Africans selling the same stuff in the same way as in New York. There are the military personnel and contractors who live in the American bubble as they have since the middle of the last century. Then there are the English teachers and other westerners who are usually called 'ex-pats' rather than 'migrants.' Somewhere in this mix are the Koreans who come from the US, Australia, Europe, China, the former USSR and other countries as the children of emmigrants, refugees, settlers, and adoptees.

Although I'm not an immigrant anymore, I am here in Korea on a visa. I have no right to live and work here; I have to ask permission. To get that permission, I have to prove that I am a naturalized citizen of the US, the country to which I involuntarily immigrated. Ironically, though, in the US, I had a lot of privileges, while here I have very few: I am fortunate to look like a typical Korean person physically so I attract no unwanted attention in public. My other privileges include being a female-bodied straight woman, educated, earning a substantial income, speaking English with native fluency, and legal immigration status. I lack privilege because I am not a man, not thin, not married, not a mother, not rich, not a citizen, not a native Korean speaker, and not white.

Yes, one of the most difficult things about living in Korea is all the white men here. Because I'm living in Daejeon, not Seoul, I have only co-workers to socialize with, and at the university where I teach, more than 80% of the foreign professors are white men. In New York City, my friends and associates were mostly non-white. Being thrust back into white society is a culture shock I was not prepared for.

So, hopefully, after a long hiatus, I hope to be exploring the legalities of migrating to Korea; the non-Korean communities of migrants, especially in comparison to the ex-pat community; ex-diasporic Koreans; and the effects of colonialism and forced migration.

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