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INFUSIon

the Korea Fulbright

The Korea FulbrighT

Volume 5

Infusion
volume 5 2012

A publication of the Korean-American Educational Commission

table of contents
02 .................. Letters from the Executive Director & Ambassador Kim 04 .................. Foreword 06 .................. 20th Anniversary, Fulbright Forum Lecture Series & Alumni Fund 08 ................. 2011 Timeline 10 .................... 2012 Timeline 12 ..................... Empowerment Through Education: Volunteering with the North Korean Community Jacob Owens, ETA '11 - '12 13 ..................... 산천어 하나, 산천어 둘, 산천어 빨간, 산천어 푸른 Jake M. Phillips, ETA '11 - '12 14 ..................... Snapshots of a Tongue Ruth Williams, Junior Researcher '11 - '12 16 ..................... Locks of Love Stephanie Kim, Junior Researcher '11 - '12 18 .................... Get in Slow Motion Jenna Gibson, ETA '11 - '12 20 .................. Tomorrow and Tomorrow Morrow Willis, ETA '11 - '12 22 ................... Redefining The Red and The Dead Michael Rutkowski, Junior Researcher '11 - '12 28 .................. Pursuing Han Sandra K. Webster, Fulbright Lecturer '00 32 .................. Standing on Invisible Shoulders Hyesung Oh, Junior Researcher '11 - '12 35 .................. Ocean Window and Biennale Jesicka Labud, Junior Researcher '06-'07 36 .................. A Year in Korea Izumi Han, Lisa Porter & Morrow Willis, ETAs '11 - '12 38 .................. Hyphenated: Exploring the Space Between Korean and American
Bruce Park, Esther Min, Laura Wilczek, Eric Horvath, Leslie Kang, Izumi Han,

INFUSIon

2012 / volume 5

A publication of the Korean-American Educational Commission

46 ................... Colonel Bogey Marches North David B. Austell, Fulbright IEA, Korea/Japan '92 47 ................... Frozen Jenna Gibson, ETA '11 - '12 48 .................. Piano Lesson Elizabeth White, ETA '11 - '12 50 ................. My Name Is Andrea Sohn, ETA '11 - '12 52 .................. Korean Students Speak Jenny Wilborn, ETA '11 - '12 54 .................. Of Konglish and (North) Korean Foreigners Nikki Muyskens, ETA '09 - '12 57 .................. Ohamana Boarding Part II Jesicka Labud, Junior Researcher '06 58 .................. Beware of Chiggers Charles Nelson IV, ETA '11 - '12 63 .................. Untitled Amy Lanteigne, ETA '11 - '12 64 ................... The Korean Rebound: My Semi-Amateur Basketball Career in Korea 67 ................... Firelights Morrow Willis, ETA '11 68 .................. Korea, In Character Sonia Kim, ETA '11 - '12 71 ................... Black & White Ken Li & Morrow Willis, ETAs '11 - '12
Anthony Cho, ETA '11 - '12

Andrea Sohn, Anthony Cho & Sonia Kim, ETAs '11 - '12

Farmer’s Dance at Korean Folk village, Chuseok
Jeju Island Deborah Engelen-Eigles, Senior Scholar ‘11

Publishing Adviser ................................................................................... Jai Ok Shim, KAEC Executive Director Editor-in-Chief ............................................................................................... Padraig Shea Managing Editors ................................................................................. Jenna Gibson & Andrea Sohn Design Editor .................................................................................................. Meredith Howard Deputy Design Editor .......................................................................... Colleen Mayo Photo Editors .................................................................................................. Amy Lanteigne & Ken Li Chief Copy Editor...................................................................................... Misa Kabashima Copy Editors ................................................................................................... Frank Cernik, Sarah Degerman, Eric Horvath, Erin Labasan, Liz Lyons, Colleen Mayo & Jacob Owens Supervising Editor ................................................................................. James McFadden, KAEC Executive Assistant Cover Photo .................................................................................................. Dawn Over Christmas Morning, Mokpo. Morrow Willis, ETA '11 - '12 Telephone ........................................................................................................ (82-2) 3275 - 4000 Fax ............................................................................................................................ (82-2) 3275 - 4028 E-mail .................................................................................................................... fulbright.infusion@gmail.com Infusion Web ................................................................................................ http://infusion.fulbright.or.kr Fulbright Web ............................................................................................ http://www.fulbright.or.kr The Korea Fulbright Infusion is published by the Korean-American Educational Commission.
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Letter

Executive Director
Jai Ok Shim / KAEC Executive Director
Dear readers, It is my great pleasure to present the fifth volume of Infusion magazine. On behalf of the Korean-American Educational Commission, I would like to thank all the grantees and alumni without whose time and effort this collection would have been impossible. This is a year of milestones. As the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, or ETA, program celebrates its 20th Anniversary, we recognize the history-making context in which we rejoice. Korea’s ETAs paved the way for other initiatives around the world. With the foundation Korea began to lay in 1992, Fulbright ETA programs now operate in nearly 70 nations. Current Korea Fulbright ETAs: You are the latest cohort in a tradition of young people who have accepted the challenge to serve as cultural ambassadors. Take pride in yourselves and the efforts you’ve made in fostering mutual understanding. This is also a time when winds of great change are blowing on the peninsula. Last November we bid farewell to Kathleen Stephens and welcomed Sung Kim as the latest U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Ambassador Kim is the first-ever KoreanAmerican to serve in this prestigious capacity. In December, the world watched as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea mourned the loss of Kim Jong Il and entered a precarious and uncertain leadership transition. This climate of caution was highlighted in March, as world leaders gathered in Seoul for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. As this magazine celebrates its fifth anniversary edition, please keep in mind the people behind these words as you read. Their stories and experiences extend far beyond the pages of this volume and truly have made a difference. I offer my sincere congratulations to Infusion’s continued documentation of the tales and triumphs of Fulbright Korea. Warm Regards,

from the

Letter

Ambassador
Sung Kim / U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Congratulations to Fulbright Korea on the publication of the fifth edition of Infusion. It is always a pleasure to see and read about the opportunities and experiences that Fulbright participants have had in Korea. Undoubtedly, the magazine will serve as a way for all Fulbrighters to remember their time here. In addition to the fifth anniversary of Infusion, this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, or ETA, program in Korea. The story of the ETA program is quite remarkable, growing from a handful of participants in 1992 to more than 100 recent college graduates this year alone. At the Embassy, we like to say that its participants, who reside in rural towns and cities throughout the country, serve as de facto American diplomats who play a major role in building stronger ties between the people of our two countries. While these two anniversary occasions mark significant milestones in Fulbright Korea’s long history, they also point to the larger idea of Fulbright and the extraordinary accomplishments that all Fulbrighters have had in fostering greater understanding and cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Korea. The lasting impact of these contributions and your commitment to service, your country and the lives of so many others are something of which to be extremely proud. Sincerely,

from the

Sung Kim

Jai Ok Shim

02 / 03 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

Foreword
Padraig Shea / Editor-in-Chief
We took a leap of faith this year and let the theme of this fifth anniversary edition of Infusion come to
1. My sincerest thanks to the staffers who shouted down my big idea: “Reflections.” 2. The Seine of Seoul is the Han River , the Korean alphabet is Hangeul and the adjective meaning “Korean” is Hanguk.

Seoul / Ken Li, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

Han River

entrenched in the Korean culture, language and landscape.2 Han is a repressed despair buttressed by helplessness: One suffers han when one lacks agency to keep the cruel world at bay. As han is essentially a Korean emotion, we grapple with it constantly in these pages. It is said to be impossible to express han directly, so we confront it obliquely. Even our most direct pursuits are frustrated—and fueled—by the futility of satisfying delineation, as researchers Sandra K. Webster and Ruth Williams discover. As teachers, we know students often rely on

examples when they cannot produce a definition. Hyesung Oh’s research provides haunting evidence of what can be the unbearable personal burden of psychological distress, though he does not accuse han by name.3 For decades, North and South Korea’s schism has been a prime producer of han, and Nikki Muyskens penetrates the personal toll geopolitics has exacted on one bifurcated family. In each of these stories, however, the counterweight to han’s oppressive sadness is the joy of jeong, the similarly nebulous sensation of love delicately cultivated among groups of friends, family and col-

leagues. In these pages, we often see personal and political despair overcome by communal love. As Sonia Kim’s episodic treatment moves toward sublimating both emotions, jeong sprouts from the puddlings of Charles Nelson’s colleague. Meanwhile, Elizabeth White and Anthony Cho build jeong through their artistic and athletic pursuits. The trick, we suspect, is building enough jeong to counterbalance the han life deals you. We hope we have struck such a balance in these pages.4
3. In fact, none of the other authors directly address han or jeong. We are reading into their work and do not wish to put words in writers’ mouths. 4. And on our new website, http://infusion. fulbright.or.kr!

us. Eschewing our many honest but failed inspirations,1 we placed faith in our contributors to settle on a theme naturally, or not at all. The twin tropes around which many of our writers coalesced are uniquely Korean and arcane: han and jeong. We do not presume to define either term, but—for a bunch of curious Americans seeking meaning in our Korean year—it’s fitting that our explorations should be incomplete. Han, as best we can tell, is the ineffable sadness

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fulbright forum Lecture series
The monthly Fulbright Forum Lecture Series is held in the Fulbright building and allows grantees to present their research to the Fulbright community. This year's presentations were: September 2 Forum - Joji Kohjima, 2010 Junior Researcher: Hansen's Disease in Korean Society: Social Otherization and Integration in the 20th Century September 16 Forum - Emilie Chu, 2010 Junior Researcher: K-pop Mirroring Korea or Korea Mirroring K-pop? - Grace Ha, 2010 Junior Researcher: Haenyeo, Jeju and the Future of Marine Conservation February 24 Forum - Jacob Reidhead, 2011 Junior Researcher: Control, Legitimacy and Change: The Origins of Economic Transition in Socialist China, Vietnam and North Korea
ETA alumni gather in New York to share memories and discuss their post-grant year experiences.

the

20 anniversary
th

March 16 Forum - Daisy Kim, 2011 Junior Researcher: Understanding South Korea's Multicultural Project April 20 Forum - Danny Crichton, 2011 Junior Researcher: Steve Jobs, South Korea and the Search for Innovation May 11 Forum (This was the first-ever Fulbright Forum led by ETAs.) - Sonia Kim (2011), Roberto Santosdiaz (2011), Matt Blesse (2011), Emilee Lehenbauer (2009), Vincent Flores (2000), and Albert Lee (1995): English Teaching Assistants, 20 Years of Teaching and Learning in Korea June 15 Forum - Elizabeth Kim, 2011 Junior Researcher: To Conform or Not to Conform? The Influence of Culture and Parenting on South Korean Preschoolers' Deference to Others

of the ETA program
Jenna Gibson / ETA, 2011 - 2012
Assistant James McFadden of the Korean-American Education Commission, or KAEC. For participants, the weekend was a chance to catch up and reminisce about their Fulbright Korea experiences while celebrating a milestone in the program’s history. “During the past two decades, I have seen great peacemakers in each and every one of our grantees. I am deeply proud of our ETAs and with each passing year I continue to be humbled by their dedication, intellect and grace,” said KAEC Executive Director Jai Ok Shim at the event. “I hope that during this weekend’s celebration you will be able to reconnect with cherished friends from your time in Korea, but also be able to form new and meaningful bonds with members of our Fulbright family.”

A group of more than 50 English Teaching Assistant, or ETA, alumni gathered in New York on May 26-28 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fulbright Korea’s ETA program. Participants from as far back as the ETA class of 1994 headed to Syracuse for the official launch of the Fulbright Korea ETA Alumni Association, a commemorative video about the ETA experience and a keynote speech from Shelby Lewis of the international Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. The group then moved to Association Island in Henderson Harbor, New York. There, the alumni enjoyed Korean food, participated in small-group discussions and enjoyed a boat cruise on Lake Ontario. “Basically they were enjoying each others’ company and reconnecting with Fulbright,” said Executive 06 / 07 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

2011 - 2012

alumni fund Projects
The Fulbright Korea Alumni Fund is endowed by the generosity of past classes of ETAs to help current ETAs realize projects aimed at building cultural understanding in their schools and communities. Eleven ETAs led six such projects this year after receiving grants totaling nearly $1,000:

Nikki Muyskens, Leslie Kang, Phebe Kim, Korena Burgio: “Flat Stanley: Teaching Culture and Daniel Hayes, Ekaterina Mozhaeva, Jake M. Phillips, Jessica Meckler: “Noraebang English Korena Burgio: “Cultural Explorations Through an Exchange of Culinary Customs and Cuisine” Megan Lau: “Pals Without Borders” Anthony Cho: “By the Way: An English Anthology by Gochang Buk High School” Matthew Blesse: “Finding Our Way Back to Voice: A Korean Adoptee Spoken Word Poetry
Workshop Series” Class” Geography Through English”

program year
2011

Timeline
Right: Campers polish their skills during an archery outing. Below: Arrayed in lines, campers wait for the day’s activities to begin.

Camp Fulbright / 07 . 17 - 30 . 2011
For two weeks, Jungwon University hosted 121 Korean students for the Camp Fulbright program. The students learned about this year’s theme, “Heroes,” while participating in English classes and fun activities. Each ETA completing the Orientation program taught three classes as a warm-up for their grant year. In addition, 13 American students served as Junior Counselors, helping run the camp while promoting cultural exchange.

Left: At the closing of the Gyeongju Conference, all the attendees pose for a final silly photo. Below: ETAs discuss homestay and school topics during a workshop.

Gyeongju Fall Conference / 10 . 21 - 23 . 2011
Fulbright Korea ETAs met for this year’s Fall Conference in Gyeongju. This marked the first all-ETA gathering since the summer Orientation program, and participants were able to catch up with each other while discussing lessons learned during the first few months of teaching. ETAs also had a chance to explore Gyeongju’s rich history through a tour of some of the city’s famous historical sites.

Youth Diplomacy & Activism Conference / 11 . 16 . 2011

July
Right: At her residence, the Habib House in Seoul, Ambassador Kathleen Stephens welcomes ETAs for a barbeque before the start of their grant year. Far Right: The Taekwondo extracurricular class poses with their instructor, Yunseok Choi. The students all earned yellow belts.

August

September

October

November

December

Thanksgiving Dinner / 11 . 24 . 2011
This year’s ETAs celebrated Thanksgiving with food, friends and newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim. ETAs gathered at the National Folk Museum of Korea for a night of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. In addition, attendees enjoyed a show from a group of traditional musicians and performances from their fellow ETAs.

ETA Orientation / 07 . 03 - 08 . 18 . 2011
The 2011 class of ETAs spent six weeks at Jungwon University this summer learning the ropes of life in Korea. The Orientation program included 100 hours of Korean language training, dozens of lessons on culture and history as well as teaching workshops. The program culminated in Departure Day, a ceremonial event when the 86 graduating ETAs met their coteachers and principals for the first time and left to settle into their placements.
Top: A group of ETA friends snaps a quick picture before the American Thanksgiving dinner is served. Above: Zainab Abdul-Rahman plays the gayageum during the Thanksgiving Dinner.

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program year
2012

Timeline

Below: ETAs enjoy a Jeju beach during the last half of their tour of Jeju Island.

Jeju Spring Conference / 03 . 30 - 04 . 02 . 2012
ETAs and Junior Researchers headed down to Jeju Island for Fulbright Korea’s annual Spring Conference. There, ETAs spent time learning from each others’ experiences during small-group discussions and large-group presentations. Junior Researchers also had the opportunity to present their work to their fellow researchers and to ETAs. There was, of course, some time to explore the beautiful island and enjoy the spring weather.

Right: During the Jeju Conference, ETAs enjoy a tour of the lava caves.

ETA Final Dinner & 20th Anniversary Celebration / 06 . 23 . 2012
Nearing the end of their grant year, the 2011-2012 ETA class and ETA alumni came together for a final dinner to celebrate their accomplishments this year. Seoul’s newly built Stanford Hotel hosted the event, which included a meal and the chance to spend time with fellow ETAs before many of them headed back to the United States.

January

February
YDAC participants work together on a presentation during their week-long activities.

March

April

May

June
Fulbright Korea ETA 20th Anniversary Celebrations

Youth Diplomacy & Activism Conference / 06 . 15 . 2012

Seoul, South Korea / 05 . 23 . 2012 New York, United States / 05 . 26 - 28 . 2012
Signifying the links between the two nations, hands join together in the student-designed logo for the 20th Anniversary of the English Teaching Assistantship Program in Korea. ETA alumni gather together for fun and reminiscing at the New York 20th Anniversary event in America.

Youth Diplomacy Program / 04 . 30 - 05 . 02 . 2012
This spring, six ETAs and their students practiced their English and learned more about foreign policy through the Youth Diplomacy Program. Four students from each participating middle school traveled to Seoul to participate in a debate about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. In addition, the students toured the Blue House and Yonsei University and had the opportunity to meet U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim.

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through

volunteering with the north korean community
Jacob Owens / ETA, 2011 - 2012
Fulbright Korea began coordinating English programs for North Korean defectors this year, lending institutional support to the English Teaching Assistants, or ETAs, tutoring North Koreans across the country. This allowed the Fulbright ETA-North Korean Defector English Education Program to expand into Seoul, Busan, Cheonan, Daegu and Gwangju. Though many ETAs had volunteered with North Koreans in years prior, Fulbright’s alumni group, the Korea Fulbright Alumni Association, or KFAA, began supporting the program this year. Within the nationwide network created by KFAA, ETAs could teach elementary school students the alphabet or help adult students develop conversational English. Approximately 110 North Koreans took advantage of an extra opportunity to study English with native speakers. All had arrived in Korea within the past three years, some just months before starting classes. Many adults participated, seeking friendship and the sense of accomplishment, said Anthony Cho, a 2011 ETA volunteer in Gwangju. “Having structured classes gives [students] something to look forward to, something to be proud of,” he said. Volunteering allowed Fulbright ETAs the opportunity to explore the North Korean community. Often they introduced South Korean coworkers, friends or homestay family members to their students in an effort to demystify that community. Classes with the defectors became something much more than just exercises in grammar and vocabulary—it was a foundation for dialogue and understanding. According to 2011 ETA Hogan Medlin, who volunteered in Busan, “Education is the medium for fostering mutual understanding and empowerment across communities around the world.”

empowerment education

산천어 하나, 산천어 둘, 산천어 빨간, 산천어 푸른
(One Mountain Trout, Two Mountain Trout, Red Mountain Trout, Blue Mountain Trout)
Hwacheon, Gangwon-do Jake M. Phillips, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

ETA Phebe Kim and Junior Researcher Hyesung Oh volunteer with North Korean defectors in Seoul.

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Other times, meaning rises like a fish to a pond’s surface. Someone will use a Korean word

action, English shaped by a foreign tongue. Tongue Tried I’ve been tutoring a North Korean student in English conversation. In the course of our regular lessons, we’ve discussed all kinds of topics: life, love, politics, etc. Since his English comprehension is low, we often have to navigate around complex words, one of us making several attempts to explain ourselves. Worried there may be a gap in understanding, I find myself repeatedly asking, “Do you know what I’m saying?” Over time, he’s learned this question and now regularly uses it himself. Yet, when he says it, he not only uses the same words as me, but also the same inflection. Though he is Korean, he uses an American accent, in a tone higher than his own. It seems in the course of teaching him my mother tongue, I’ve imparted on him my unique way of phrasing. While it startled me to hear my voice coming from his mouth, as if he’d tried on my tongue, this experience made me realize language-learning is not just restricted to grammar and vocabulary. We also learn how people use words to express themselves, and what desires, worries and personalities such choices reflect. My repeated use of “Do you know what I’m saying?”—in addition to his enthusiastic adoption of the question—belies our eagerness to be understood. We worry that we might not be able

snapshots
of a
The Tongue of the Han As a poet, language is my medium. I am drawn to muse on what language does, how it works, what it means; language is my fascinator. Consequently, I approach the Korean language as a curious outsider. While I cannot always understand, I am amazed by the unique way Korean works, how it holds meanings both familiar and unfamiliar. Like an intricate design of folded paper, the more I learn about the Korean language, the more meaning I discover with each word that tumbles out to reveal multiple meanings, multiple uses. If this were not true, translation would be a simple act: a one-to-one correlation. Instead, translation is an art. A translator makes a choice, decides which word best captures the meaning of
1. Korean alphabet.

I know and it becomes a little hook of meaning on which I can hang my tongue. If I listen carefully, not just to the words I recognize, but also to the tone, the pace and the gestures of the speakers, I can ride the arc of conversation into a moment of half-way understanding, full as I am with glimmering half-tongues. Cartography of the Tongue One of the beauties of encountering your tongue far from home is the way it is shaped by its travels. Language on the move mutates to take on new meanings, new sounds. Often, Koreans who lack English fluency apologize profusely for their mistakes. They don’t realize how they defamiliarize my language, rendering it wonderfully foreign even to me, a native speaker. For instance, on a gray and rainy day, I was talking with a Korean friend about the weather. I said it made me feel tired, but I wasn’t sure why. He said it was because the sky was “lonely.” There wasn’t enough light to make us feel fully awake. But, is a gray sky lonely? Yes, it seems so. The word was strangely perfect. Such unusual uses of English open a window in my mother tongue for something new to enter. While these may not be “pure” acts of English, they are much more interesting: language in

tongue
explain this same word in English we’re unable to assign it one meaning. Instead, it is translated in a variety of ways, as “bitterness,” “regret,” “lament,” etc., though none of these quite encapsulates the essence of han. There is something beautiful about this inadequacy. It suggests a word is never just a word. Rather, it is an opportunity. If we pay attention to the way words shift under the influence of culture, the gap between our words and another’s, the contours of difference emerge. Learning another language, then, is learning how to speak the differences of culture with the tongue. A Hook for the Tongue I am like a baby in Korean class, repeating and repeating a word to hold its shape and meaning in my head. I fill notebooks with sloppy Hangeul,1 attempting through repetition to wear a groove in my brain, and still I’m unable to connect word to meaning when the professor asks me the simplest of questions. The connection between brain and tongue gone faulty, my mouth stumbles, and something incomprehensible leaks out.

Ruth Williams / Junior Researcher, 2011 - 2012

the original. But any honest translator will admit that such a choice is never final, never perfect. Translation is always an act of interpretation, the meaning of a given word, always a matter of opinion. For example, the word han captures a Korean concept with one word; but, when we attempt to

A word is never just a word. Rather, it is an opportunity. If we pay attention to the way words shift under the influence of culture, the gap between our words and another's, the contours of difference emerge.

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Snapshots of a tongue
to speak to one another, to make our meanings known intimately by the other. Our highest priority is communicated by “Do you know what I’m saying?” We’re two people looking to connect our two brains, our two tongues. When the Tongue Fails Though we may attempt to communicate, there are times when understanding is impossible. We cannot navigate the gap between our tongues. In these times, hands become words, and we make our way through conversation via gesture. In Korea, I frequently communicate this way, using my whole body to speak. And the Koreans around me use their whole bodies to reply. We flail our arms, we point and use noise. Our faces contort to make meaning: raised eyebrows for surprise, furrowed foreheads for confusion, two hands running down the cheeks for sad. But, there are times when even body language won’t carry us across, and all we are left with are the sounds of language divorced from meaning. There was a time when I would have laughed if you told me I’d enjoy not understanding. Though so much of my life is centered around words, so much of my time devoted to massaging their meaning, in Korea there are moments when
Ruth Williams is a 2011 Junior Researcher affiliated with translator Brother Anthony Taize at Sogang University.

I am wordless. In these times of wordlessness I appreciate how my access to language affects my access to power. Without the Korean tongue, I am powerless, forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to make my meaning known. Such a position creates within me a great compassion for those who may not have access to my mother tongue. It illustrates the kindness embedded in our attempts to understand those who lack fluency, to bridge the gap between tongues. Speaking With Tongues The work we do to connect tongues reveals not only the way our language has shaped who we are, but how it might go on to shape other tongues, in other places. Even when we are without language, we work to make our meaning known. Our desire to communicate our thoughts, feelings and experiences asserts itself even when we know we lack the words to make ourselves understood. We are propelled to connect in this way, using our tongues to traverse the gaps between us.

UNtitled
Namsan, Seoul Amy Lanteigne, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

Locks of love
Namsan, Seoul Stephanie Kim, Junior Researcher ‘11 - ‘12

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Motion
Jenna Gibson / ETA, 2011 - 2012
We pull out of Cheonan just as the sun begins to set, so by the time the city’s rows of gray highrises give way to country fields the entire landscape is alight. From the window seat, I watch my train’s shadow push across the brilliant green rice paddies stretching for miles on either side of the tracks. I am headed to Mokpo for the weekend for the first of many lengthy trips after settling into my placement city. And I sit contently with my chin in my hand, elbow resting on the window sill of the Mugunghwa as the Korean landscape chugs by. The shadows grow longer as we pass fields and towns and bridges. For me, a Midwest girl through and through, movement means freedom. Back home, I lived 20 minutes from nowhere and never owned a car, meaning I had to rely on my parents or particularly generous friends to rescue me from constant isolation. In college, I was forced to stay within the radius of where my legs could take me—which in Nebraska isn’t too far. But here in Korea, I can just go. As long as I don’t mind getting stuck with a standing-roomonly ticket every once in a while, I can run to the station at a moment’s notice and be gone a few minutes later. My Minnesota hometown had buses, of course, although they were so ineffective they were never worth trying. But with such an extensive railway system running through Cheonan, I can take my movement into my own hands without waiting for someone else to offer their car and time. Sprawling Daejeon passes by, clusters of brilliant neon lights flickering in the dimming light. The car is mercifully quiet. After a week of hearing nothing but screaming middle schoolers and the constant background chatter of a language I don’t understand, this bubble of relative silence is bliss. I check my ticket—departure at 4:47 p.m., scheduled arrival in Mokpo at 8:44 p.m. A friend will be standing at the station when I arrive, ready for three days of catching up and exploring the tiny islands sprinkled off the Korean peninsula’s southern tip. A full weekend ahead, but it’s not hard to put the plans out of my mind as the steady hum of the train fills my ears. Any wish for speed would be useless. Even while zooming through cities and cutting across fields I’m stuck. I can’t indulge in my usual hobbies of scanning Facebook and obsessively refreshing Twitter to keep up with the minutiae of what’s going on around the world. Even if I wanted to pass time chatting on the phone or striking up a conversation with my seatmate, train etiquette stands firmly against loud English

Get in Slow

conversations. In the Mugunghwa—headphones firmly stuffed in my ears—everything is out of reach. No matter what I do, we will still pull into Mokpo station at 8:44 p.m. Nonsan, Iksan and Jeongeup drift by as I stare out into the now dark landscape. My Korean textbook lies open in my lap, but I have abandoned it in favor of studying Korea as it passes outside my window. I should have learned by now. No matter how determined I am to finally finish a magazine from home or master a new grammar form, I always end up entranced by the endless alternating of grass and concrete outside the window. But taking the train is not just a mode of transportation or a way to disconnect for a few hours as I make my way from Point A to Point B. It also indulges my love of novelty—taking the train includes not only a little fantasy but also nostalgia for a time before I was even alive. Yet trains, somehow, are new, a reminder of how many new places are out there lining the tracks, how many

possibilities there are and how easy it is to hop on if I ever feel the urge to escape. Even now— nine months and dozens of rides into my year in Korea—I still feel a similar exhilaration each time a crisp voice rings through Cheonan Station’s loudspeaker, announcing the impending arrival of my train. Inevitably, 8:44 p.m. arrives. “We will soon be arriving in Mokpo,” I hear a bright voice chirp through the loudspeaker. I am excited to see my friend and explore this new city, of course, but I still find myself sighing, a small pit of dread in my stomach as I prepare to exit the peaceful world I have built for myself in the train car. My untouched textbook returns to its place in my backpack, my headphones wind around my iPod. It’s time to disembark and actually move into the world outside the window. Four hours is never enough.
Jenna Gibson is a 2011 ETA at Cheonan Ohsung Middle School in Cheonan.

emergency exit Seoul / Jenna Gibson, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

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tomorrow
Andtomorrow
in the rice fields, out of place, but at home Walking home from school
Morrow Willis is a 2011 ETA at Mokpo Deogin Boys’ High School in Mokpo.

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on patrol : keeping the streets safe from evildoers

redefining
Revolutions in the sciences often arise from properly categorizing items and discovering patterns. What was chemistry before Mendelev? Or biology before Linnaeus? This image was made by observing a small region of the sky (less than half the width of a full moon) for 100 orbits with the Hubble Space Telescope. It allows astrophysicists to observe approximately 95 percent of the universe’s history in a single frame, as it contains thousands of galaxies observed at diverse stages of evolution. In this inset, one gets a better sense of the diversity in galaxy morphology. It is apparent that galaxies A, B and C are different in color and shape from galaxies D, E and F (the sort of galaxies I study)—but why? For decades we have linked morphology with the stellar composition of each of these galaxies, but the research I am conducting with Yonsei collaborators points to a need for a new classification scheme which incorporates mergers—perhaps like those which Galaxy G appears to be experiencing—for understanding the fundamental physics which gives rise to the morphological diversity we observe throughout the universe.

the red and the dead
Michael Rutkowski / Junior Researcher, 2011 - 2012
Without exception, my introduction in Korea goes as follows: Them: “So, what are you doing here in Korea?” Me: “Oh, I’m studying astrophysics at Yonsei University.” Them: “Whoa! But why are you in Korea?” The answer to this question is straightforward: I colfocuses on the same topics I address in my Ph.D. research. For most, this isn’t a satisfactory response, so I usually whet their appetite with some facts about South Korea’s unique history in astronomy and astrophysics. Did you know that in 1395, at a time when “the West” was struggling to free itself from its self-imposed “Dark Ages,’’ the Joseon Dynasty was completing the world’s first star map, which incorporated stellar maps

22/ 23 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

laborate with a research team at Yonsei University that

Redefining the red and the dead
first recorded as early as the first century during the Goguryeo Dynasty? Did you know that the first Korean to receive a Ph.D. in science was Lee Won Chol for his work in astronomy, and that he
1. Yonsei, preSeverance.

After I give warning that I must get a bit more technical, whomever I’m speaking with will usually hail the bartender and ask for another round. My research is particularly focused on the analysis of early-type galaxies, or ETGs, which I observe at ultraviolet, or UV, wavelengths temporally near to the epoch of peak star formation in the universe. ETGs were once assumed to be, as a class, essentially “red and dead”—composed of old stellar populations too cool to emit strongly at UV wavelengths and severely deficient in recent star formation, the signpost of galaxy evolution. These galaxies, we thought, formed in the early universe, and had consumed most of the resources necessary for star formation when the universe was still relatively young. Now, they are like an old man, casually sipping a glass of sweet tea in his rocker recounting, for anyone who will listen, stories from “back when I was a young whippersnapper.” If you recall what you learned of galaxies in your introductory astronomy course, you might wonder at this point, “In a universe replete with billions of galaxies that are currently evolving— colliding and merging, generating bursts of new

stars as a result of this catastrophic reprocessing— why study these ‘red and dead’ ETGs to understand galactic evolution?” Taking a textbook definition at face value, you and my colleagues would be absolutely right to question why I have selected this class of galaxy for study. The textbooks, however, are incorrect: The last decade of astrophysics research has redefined what it means to be an ETG. Beginning in the 1980s and really taking off 4 in the 2000s, space-based observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed that ETGs not only emit strongly in the UV (surprisingly from both young and old stellar populations), but also revealed that almost a third of these galaxies show evidence for recent star formation in the previous billion years. Better yet, star formation in ETGs is unobscured by the manifold dynamic processes associated with stellar and galactic evolution.5 Thus, ETGs provide (almost) pristine laboratories for the study of stellar and galactic evolution. Currently, and for a very limited time because Hubble will be de-orbited in the next few years, I am continuing the study of these supposedly

“dead” galaxies at ultraviolet wavelengths using the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope. This telescope combines ultraviolet sensitivity with Hubble’s unrivaled spatial resolution, allowing me to directly address fundamental questions about the evolution of galaxies in the universe. “But Michael,” some ask, “the Hubble telescope is 550 kilometers above us in space; why did you have to do this exciting research here in Korea?” The answer to that question begins with the GALEX observatory (still in Earth orbit) and ends here at Yonsei. Of the 13 institutions engaged specifically in scientific collaboration with the GALEX mission, a NASA Explorer-class UV observatory that was launched in 2003, Yonsei University researchers S.K. Yi and Y.W. Lee were the only international science collaborators. Though a small telescope,6 observations of ETGs obtained with GALEX are largely responsible for motivating the scientific community to reconsider the traditional paradigm of galaxy formation. Fortunately for Yonsei, when Yi finished his posts abroad in Europe and the United States, he brought his expertise back to Korea and be4. Pun intended. 5. e.g., supernova, AGN feedback, affects of gas and dust distribution 6. Hubble’s collecting area is more than 20 times that of GALEX.

was a graduate of Yonhee1 University? At this point, if my conversation partners are still around, I realize what they want to hear about is my research at Yonsei. So, I suggest they grab a chair, because if we’re going to discuss my research properly, we really need to start from the beginning. About 13.7 billion years ago, everything that was, is, or will be—i.e., “the universe”—was born in an event casually referred to as “the Big

2. This event occurred approximately 13.7 billion years before the second “Big Bang” of which many more Koreans are aware. 3. e.g., supernovae and supermassive black hole feedback, galaxy mergers, acquisition of cold gas from the local environment.

Bang.”2 A couple billion years or so after the birth of the universe, conditions were finally adequate to promote the formation of galaxies and, eventually, all of the exciting things galaxies host: stars, dust, apple pie, etc. Understanding the evolution of the galaxies in the universe since this period of initial formation is the subject of my research. The processes affecting this evolution3 are the key to understanding the formation of structure and energy transfer in the universe.

24 / 25 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

Redefining the red and the dead
gan to build a research group—Galaxy Evolution Meeting, or GEM—that is partly responsible for the recent international recognition Yonsei has earned from the community studying UV emission in galaxies and stellar objects. Fortunately for me, GEM members are specifically interested in many of the same topics I am considering in my dissertation research. Observational astrophysics at UV wavelengths is an expensive endeavor (it must be space-based because of the Earth’s atmosphere’s opacity to UV photons), so UV missions are few and far between and data is limited. Thus, the community of UV astrophysicists is quite small and opportunities for direct collaboration for extended periods with members in the field are few. Upon hearing about GEM, I knew I had to find a way to get to Yonsei to work with this group. When
7. Exotic is a fancy word we scientists use when we don’t have a clue what it is.

and the results are exciting. We have confirmed that recent star-formation events have occurred in a significant minority (about 40 percent) of ETGs and we have addressed the mechanism(s) by which star formation was reactivated in these otherwise “quiescent” galaxies. This novel result will provide new observational clues, which will test the theoretical paradigm for the evolution of massive field galaxies. Understanding the formation and evolution of these galaxies is fundamental to the study of the evolution of matter and energy in the universe for a number of reasons. First, galaxies contain much of the “normal matter” that makes up the atoms and their sub-atomic constituents on the Periodic Table. But, this matter is merely an approximate 4 percent of the universe’s “mass-energy budget.” Most of the energy budget of the universe is in the form of “exotic,”7 dark energy or (to a lesser extent) dark matter. Fortunately, dark matter does interact gravitationally, and we know that galaxies will form and grow in “dark

matter halos” (i.e., local overdensities of this exotic “stuff”). Thus, galaxies can “trace” the distribution of this material. Furthermore, the

formation of galaxies is dictated by cosmological “initial conditions” that are difficult, or impos-

sible, to directly observe. By investigating these processes, we can better understand how matter and energy are distributed, and learn about the

dynamics of that distribution over time, which, in turn, reveals the underlying physics of the universe that dictates how everything in the universe fundamentally “works.”

my adviser suggested the Fulbright program, I saw my opportunity. During my term at Yonsei so far, we have made great progress through this new collaboration

The United States’ research community could try and answer the questions all on our own but

with the main question being “How does everything work?” I think we all would be better

“ ”
The first steps—and real progress—have been made toward answering some of the most fundamental questions any human, American, Korean or otherwise, has ever been fortunate enough to ponder.
served in our endeavor by a team effort. The Fulbright program is helping, in its unique way, to develop these new partnerships. The collaborations which I have initiated here during my term will require years or decades to bear fruit, but the first steps—and real progress—have been made toward answering some of the most fundamental questions any human, American, Korean or otherwise, has ever been fortunate enough to ponder.
Michael Rutkowski is a 2011 Junior Researcher affiliated with the Department of Astronomy at Yonsei University.

26 / 27 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

purs ui ng
Sandra K. Webster / Fulbright Lecturer, 2000
A graduate student introduced me to han early in my time at Korea University. He was struggling to explain his complex psychology research project in English but could not find the words. He told me he was experiencing han but he couldn’t tell me what it was. The word han was not in the lexicon of cross-cultural emotions and it intrigued me. I soon discovered that Korean professors of my generation would not discuss han with me. They simply said, “We don’t talk about han.” I turned to Korean students who gave me a basic understanding of the Korean national emotion, han, through a series of writing assignments, speaking exercises and group discussions culminating in an experiment. This psychological research into the meaning of the emotion led to a deeper understanding and appreciation for Korean arts. Han can be described as the experience of holding a painful emotion deep in one’s heart while not expressing the pain directly. If not resolved, han can lead to psychosomatic illness and other psychological problems. Indirect sublimation of han, however, can both reduce the pain and build character. According to the students, the creation or experience of art representing deep experience and sublime expression of the complex emotion is an appropriate form of sublimation. Korean pottery (for example Koryo celadon and Punch’ong stoneware) is justifiably famous for its subtle beauty and superb craftsmanship. As a psychologist and potter, I feel a kinship with the makers of Korean ceramics, as if my own spirit is compatible with the people who used their craft and art to express such sublime sentiments. Indeed, it was Korean pottery that prompted me to study in Korea. Korean students were eloquent in their written and spoken descriptions of han. They described the Chinese character for han—which has a vertical line that represents a splinter in the heart— and they differentiated this term han from the homophonic terms meaning the Korean people, the number one and the Han River. The students explained that han resulted from injustice, some terrible situation that was neither caused by nor under the control of the person experiencing han. They linked han to Korea’s division into North and South, about its history of foreign domination and about the hierarchical nature of Korean society. The students also described the key features of han; it is experienced but not expressed, it is understood as a Korean national trait and its resolution builds positive character. When I lined them up to get a picture of the facial expression of han, these very polite Korean students laughed at me. I hadn’t read their essays at that point, nor heard their discussions: Han is not expressed on the face. The quantitative study of the emotion was an experiment assessing the ways Korean students and their parents perceived it. My graduate students and I presented a description of han, altering the age (25 vs. 50) and gender of the person experiencing it. The experiment measured emotion words used to describe the experience, perceived consequences and methods of resolving han. We found that han was perceived to be strongest for the middle-age man and the young woman depicted. We also found many positive perceived outcomes of han, and reiterated the strong connection to the Korean arts as a means of resolving han, ranging from traditional Korean musical styles such as Pansori to modern Korean movies. My deepest interest as a scientist is what han tells us about the general nature of emotion. What are the dimensions of feeling? How are complex emotions experienced, expressed and resolved? My continuing research has produced consistent evidence for three dimensions of emotion using the emotion label ratings given for the han scenarios by South Korean and American samples. The strongest dimension is the pleasure-pain dimension, commonly called the valence of the emotion. Han is perceived as mostly painful. The second dimension is arousal, and han situations tend to produce high arousal. The final dimension is dominance-subordination. This dimension is often neglected in emotion research using only Western participants. Han is perceived as a subordinate emotion in that it is reactive and disconnected from a sense of personal agency. Over the past 10 years I’ve conducted a series of experiments on the dimensions of emotions attempting to elicit han-like emotion memories in American students by varying the agent of a negative situation and the outcome of that situation. Han is a deep emotion experienced because of a negative outcome to the self caused through no personal agency, which makes it very different from guilt or shame. The results of this research have supported the importance of the dominance-subordination dimension in understanding basic emotional processes, even in Western

han

28 / 29 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

Pursuing Han
samples. It has not produced evidence for the positive benefits of han through sublimation in American samples. American college students, in general, don’t seem to understand the concept of sublimation or of personal growth through conscious, prolonged suffering. Han has posi1. Choi, S.-C., & Kim, K. (2003). A conceptual exploration of the Korean self in comparison with the Western self. In K.-S. Yang, Hwang, KwangKuo, Pederson, Paul B. & Diabo, Ikuo (Ed.), Progress in Asian social psychology (pp. 2942). Westport, CN: Praeger.

ry, songs, drama and visual arts. It was most clear for me in the sublime work of modern Korean potters. The perfect melding of form, function, decoration and color in a vessel made of clay, especially of the soil of one’s homeland, can express deep emotion through the visual and kinesthetic senses. As a potter I also tried to indirectly express han in my own work. Through a class at the National Museum of Art in Seoul I discovered the strength, malleability and smoothness of Korean clay. It is a metaphor for the Korean people, strong, resilient and adaptable. Decoration of the clay form is as important as the materials in Korean pottery. The decorations, congruent with the forms, add to the its emotional expression. As I learned through a Korean folk dancing class, Korean art has the superficial appearance of being spontaneous, but that spontaneity is possible only because of the many hours of training, highly developed skills and a very clearly defined cultural lexicon for expression of emotions through non-verbal means. As I’ve studied emotion over the last decade

I’ve come to a deep appreciation of han. It made me curious about another Korean emotion I have not had the opportunity to study through a psychological research program. One consequence of han is that when properly resolved it can strengthen connections between persons and the rest of their group (present and past). Jeong, or a strong feeling of “we”-ness, may be directly related to han. In my pottery I’ve attempted to express jeong through a series of bowls. These bowls are decorated with a chain of people, arm in arm, as I witnessed the South Korean school girls on the streets of Seoul. Because the people form a closed, complete circle there is a unity of the group; no one is on the end. The group surrounds the bowl and holds it up on the outside. The same pattern of interlocked friends is also on the inside of the bowl where they can share in receiving whatever contents are placed inside. I hope this series communicates—subtly under the celadon glaze—the strength of human connection in groups with a shared history, purpose and future.

As an American I am free to express han, or at least the academic research into it, in ways that are difficult for my South Korean colleagues. When I presented the results in Korea, some members of the audience cried. They told me: “You tell us who we are.” I’ve been pursuing han since I was first introduced to it 11 years ago. Because of this, my understanding of art, life and people has been made richer. Han, like the Korean people, is not an emotion to be understood or experienced quickly. Its resolution, with patience, perseverance and deep contemplation, is essential to understand both the human experience of emotion and artistic expression.

tive as well as negative consequences for Koreans through its indirect expression. Direct investiga1

tion alone cannot work well because one of the key characteristics of han is that it is not directly expressed. This is why my colleagues in South Korea could not talk with me about it. Han should be implicitly understood by those in the group, and not discussed, especially with outsiders. The students could speak and write about the general experience of han because of their relationship to a professor. Vertical communication of sensitive information is more acceptable. The Korea students could not demonstrate a facial expression for han. Han is not expressed on the face; it is most often expressed by making or observing artistic presentations. Being aware of the importance of han for Korean arts allowed me to see its expression in poet-

Sandra K. Webster was a 2000 Fulbright Lecturer in Psychology at Korea University and Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul.

30 / 31 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

Han, like the Korean people, is not an emotion to be understood or experienced quickly. Its resolution, with patience, perseverance and deep contemplation, is essential to understand both the human experience of emotion and artistic expression.

standing on

invisible shoulders
Hyesung Oh / Junior Researcher, 2011 - 2012
Neon lights flash. Pedestrians haggle with the There is a strong, machine-like work ethic on display throughout the spectrum of professional life, from offices and universities to mom-andpop stores. Yet, throughout the Land of Morning Calm, roaring echoes of those who yearned to be heard, seen and understood reverberate. The dreaded piece of paper ridden with scribbles that may signal each self-inflicted loss of life initiates a chain reaction of reflection, tears and shame in its author’s loved ones. Korea currently has the highest suicide rate among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.6 A scourge once written off as an inevitable consequence of the economic crisis of the late 1990s, the persistently high suicide rate is now begging for investigation. Despite material prosperity, the rate keeps climbing.7 Among the silenced echoes, those of the elderly reverberate the loudest. A lethal mix of traditional bias toward stoic suffering, growing poverty and unchecked mental illness have left elderly Koreans most vulnerable to suicidal despair. Koreans The gleam of the city compounded with its

aged 60 years and older suffer from the highest rate of suicide.
8

of funding for the elderly. The Korean government spent only 1.5 percent of its GDP on social expenditure for the elderly compared to Japan’s 8.6 percent.11 Only 25.4 percent of Korea’s elderly population (aged 65 years and older) obtained old-age pension services in 2007.12 Consequently, relative poverty was higher among the elderly compared to the general population in Korea (45.1 percent vs. 14.6 percent).13 This is bad news for a country whose people traditionally provided for their elders through an extensive extended family network. Along with societal factors, mental health influences suicide rates as well. Korean dictionaries and the Korean National Statistics Office, or KNSO, define suicide as an “intentionally self-inflicted” phenomenon.14 This definition is especially troublesome in the Korean context, as the word “intentional” implies that those who attempt suicide do so with a clear, calculating conscience. It is shown, however, that 60-72 percent of those who attempt suicide in Korea have at least one mental illness15 and that depression is the main factor driving suicidal ideation in Korea.16 The KNSO’s definition of suicide perpetuates the culture of viewing suicide as a sustained character problem rather than a problem preventable by intervention, thus worsening

The Korean education system’s 수능9 induces incredible existential stress in high school students, making it tempting to heuristically associate the severest rates of suicide with the population toiling for the high-stakes test. However, young people are 10 times less likely to take their own lives than the elderly. Why do these false
10

perceptions exist? At the moment, Korea is a melting pot of the old and the new; the conservative and the progressive; the ill-informed and the well-educated. As its economy continues to strengthen and as Western individualistic values incubate in younger generations, Korea’s traditional foundations are being challenged. Family values are becoming more nuclear and less extended. Mental health and suicide are becoming real issues that people cannot ignore. Of course, Korean society confers the most influence and power to its eldest members, who, more so than others, consider suicide a symptom of weak character. And as those in power in Korea are quite well-off, the influential elderly may be disconnected from the ramifications of the cultural shift from extended to nuclear families. One manifestation of this disconnect is a dearth

1. Rice cakes in spicy sauce. 2. Fish cakes. 3. Commercial back alleys. 4. Karaoke.

occasional street vendor. The scent of 떡볶이1 and 오뎅2 wafts in the air. Car horns bellow their displeasure at the quotidian gridlock that freezes a winding stream of automobiles. Life courses through Seoul’s veins—from the gaping main roads to the more obscure 가로수길3 riddled with neon signs, clubs, bars and 노래방.4 If the stream of cars is blocked, the stream of people

5. World Bank. World development indicators 2007. Washington, DC: Author, 2007. 6. Korea National Statistical Office (KNSO). 2008 Cause of mortality statistics. Daejeon, South Korea: Statistics Korea, 2009. 7. Kim, MyoungHee, Kyunghee Jung-Choi, Hee-Jin Jun, Ichiro Kawachi. “Socioeconomic inequalities in suicidal ideation, parasuicides, and completed suicides in South Korea.” Social Science & Medicine, 70 (2010) : 1254-1261. Print.

keeps the heart beating. cacophony produces a visceral musical, familiar and perhaps therapeutic to many. Synesthesia becomes commonplace. To the eyes and ears of those young enough to see this modernized and dynamic Korea as normal, this is home. But it is not home for all. Korea has developed more, and more rapidly, than virtually any country in recent history. In 15 years, Korea’s economy achieved the type of growth that took Japan’s 40 years.5 Brands such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG have become staple names in international trade. Korea leads the world in Internet access and cellphone usage.

The persistently high suicide rate is now begging for investigation. Despite material prosperity, the rate keeps climbing.

32 / 33 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

8. Ibid. 9. Korea’s national college entrance examination. 10. There are approximately 110 suicides per 100,000 people among those 60 years old and older, versus 11 per 100,000, 30 per 100,000, and 52 per 100,000 among those 15-24 years old, 25-44 years old, and 4559 years old, respectively. Ibid. 11. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD health data 2009. Paris: Author, 2009a. 12. National Pension Service. 2007 national statistical yearbook. Seoul: Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2008. 13. National Pension Service. 2007 national statistical yearbook. Seoul: Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2008. 14. Nam, Mihee, Dae Seog Heo, Tae Yeon Jun, Min Soo Lee, Maeng Je Cho, Changsu Han, Min Kyung Kim. “Depression, suicide, and Korean society.” Journal of the Korean Medical Association, 54.4 (2011) : 358-361. Print. 15. Ibid. 16. Na, Sewon. The effects of social support on suicidal ideation of the middle-aged and elderly. Seoul, South Korea: Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health, 2011.

standing on invisible shoulders
stigma against it.17 Credible, leading members
17. Nam, Mihee, Dae Seog Heo, Tae Yeon Jun, Min Soo Lee, Maeng Je Cho, Changsu Han, Min Kyung Kim. “Depression, suicide, and Korean society.” Journal of the Korean Medical Association, 54.4 (2011) : 358-361. Print. 18. Repper, Julie, Rachel Perkins. Social inclusion and recovery: A model for mental health practice. London: Bailliere Tindall, 2003. 19. Leong, Frederick T.L., Anna S.L. Lau. “Barriers to providing effective mental health services to Asian Americans.” Mental Health Services Research, 3.4 (2001) : 201-214. Print. 20. Chun, Chang Bae, Soon Yang Kim, Jun Young Lee, and Sang Yi Lee. “Republic of Korea: Health system review.” Health Systems in Transition, 2.7 (2009) : 1-183. Print.

Because of the resulting atmosphere and culture, approximately one-third of undergraduates have visited the center, providing evidence for a de-stigmatization of seeking mental health counseling in the university. The last suicide at POSTECH occurred in 2007, before which the institute had dealt with 38 reported suicides since its 1986 founding. A scaled-up system of surveillance and—most importantly—education would be beneficial to all of Korean society, including the elderly. Those who suffer from mental illness also deserve more, not less, support from society. Korea’s elders are a pillar of Korean society that deserves dignity and support. They helped build Korea’s identity and propelled its economic boom. Ultimately, each suicide is a silent failure of society to help its own. Koreans must hear and help the silenced voices, because each such failure is final.

of society have a strong influence over who does or does not get stigmatized,
18

especially in the

framework of Asian culture. Unfortunately, as
19

of 2009, there have been no Non-Governmental Organizations, donor organizations or religious organizations that have significantly contributed funding toward mental healthcare services. Sui20

cide prevention efforts require credibility as well as money and materials. The government can help by allocating a higher proportion of GDP for national old-age pension services and government-funded nursing home facilities. To combat depression, the government should launch a concerted effort involving scholars, policymakers and community leaders to raise awareness of and weaken stigmas against depression among Koreans. POSTECH, a prestigious science and technology university in the city of Pohang, can be a model. POSTECH currently has six staff at their student counseling services center, which emphasizes education and awareness, training professors, staff and students to detect early depressive symptoms. The center implemented a Residential Assistant training program focused on detecting and supporting students with mental health issues.

ocean window
Busan Jesicka Alexander-Labud, Junior Researcher ‘06

Hyesung Oh is a 2011 Junior Researcher affiliated with the Graduate School of Public Health at Seoul National University.

biennale
Busan Jesicka Alexander-Labud, Junior Researcher ‘06

34 / 35 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

a message for king sejong
Seoul Izumi Han, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

no stir. no celebration. just another quiet afternoon.
Cheongju Izumi Han, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

36 / 37 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

korea

a

yearin

home
Jeonju Lisa Porter, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

placement day
Goesan Morrow Willis, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

hyphenated
exploring the space between

detected as a foreigner until I speak, in Korean or English. My looks are unmistakably Korean, but the way I think, talk and carry myself is distinctly American—bowing often feels awkward, sharing food unsanitary and saving face insincere. The formula seems so logical: a Korean American representing America as a cultural ambassador in Korea. But to varying degrees, this union often becomes complicated, convoluted and confusing. I’m forced to wonder: Why don’t my pieces fit?

a bus.” Her eyes stray to my English-speaking friends in the front before turning back to me. They tell me what is obvious to her: You are Korean. You should know better. I bite my tongue. Thank you, ajumma, for choosing the cultural identity most convenient for you. What was I supposed to know, and why exactly did I have to know it? My two friends beside me offer an apologetic look. They don’t need to understand Korean to understand what she is saying. I hide my indignation and attempt to tune out the conversation behind me. My eyes locate the source of noise, and I see a group of Korean college students sitting in the last row, slapping each other on the back in amusement and shouting the latest gossip. I glance in front of me at the obvious congregation of foreigners, my friends. Right. I should have known better. I turn to the ajumma, looking past her head to the back of the bus: “I’m sorry. We will be quieter.” Hello, I am Korean-American—and I am your Designated Korean.
1. An older woman.

Korean &American

Bruce Park, Esther Min, Laura Wilczek, Eric Horvath, Leslie Kang, Izumi Han, Andrea Sohn, Anthony Cho & Sonia Kim / ETAs, 2011 - 2012
What is it like to be anonymous in the crowd? How does it feel to be betrayed by opening our mouths? What does it mean to be clearly Korean but also frustratingly foreign? Nine takes on the Korean-American experience in Korea—including a puzzle piece, a banana, and a Twinkie; a voice, an actor, and a spy. We are Korean, American; these are our stories.

Waiting for a friend, I take the only
table left in the café—one near two Korean girls loudly chatting away. I feel my phone vibrate. It’s my host father, probably calling to check if I’ll be home for dinner. Reluctantly, I take the call and begin to speak, in Korean, with my hand cupped over my mouth, wary of someone overhearing. I make sure to speak politely using honorific speech, to mind my intonation and accent, but most importantly, to speak quietly—such painstaking effort for such a simple conversation. “I may be late today. Please eat first,” I say quickly, yet carefully, in Korean, enunciating each syllable. “Don’t come home too late,” he responds without a second thought. My American friend arrives and a sea of eyes

follows her to my table. I can feel the stares shift toward me, teeming with curiosity. The girls beside me abruptly halt their conversation and gaze intriguingly at the newly arrived foreigner, unaware one had been among them the whole time. As my friend and I talk, I can hear their astonished reactions to my fluent English. I overhear one girl say: “His English is so good. He must study very hard.” Her friend responds: “Maybe he’s a foreigner. I really thought he was Korean, though.” Korean-American: Two vastly different cultures, histories and languages brought together by a single hyphen. The compound descriptor suggests a steady balance or harmonious union, like two puzzle pieces cut neatly and perfectly for one another. Every day I go unnoticed, un-

Cue

the

ajumma:

1

relentless pecking

punctuated by a harsh, “Agasshi! Miss! Miss!” I turn around to see a face puckered in agitation. Not even the bob of permed curls can hide the angry slant of her mouth. I pick up the animated chatter of my friends in the background, laughing at host family anecdotes and inside jokes from our summer orientation. It has been a month since moving to our Jeollado placements, and we were all too glad to see familiar faces. I reluctantly respond in Korean, “Yes?” “Where are you from?” Did she know I wasn’t Korean? “I’m American. Why do you ask?” “You are too loud. Much too loud. We are on

this is Who i am: i am ameriCan.
I am Korean. I am the birth-child of two people I will never get to meet. I am the daughter of two mothers and two fathers. I am a child whose de-

38 / 39 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

hyphenated
parture left one family torn, and whose arrival made another family whole. I was given up out of love and received with love. I balance two cultures but will never fully understand the culture of my birth. No matter where I go, I will always either look or feel like an “other,” even when surrounded by members of my family. I look into my parents’ faces and see no reflection of my own. Not a single person in my family shares the same blood or genes, yet we all love each other unconditionally. I have many questions, but very few answers. I was lucky. I am grateful. I am a Korean-American adoptee. Yet, when I tell Koreans I am an adoptee and they call me “입양아,” I become a person who is merely American, a person dismissed by their own Korean blood. I become a person worthy of extreme pity, a person denied full membership within the people of my birthplace. It is as if the word “adoptee” becomes something beyond my recognition. It is as if the Korean word for “adoptee” fails me; lost somewhere in translation, it becomes a word that fails to express my true identity. For me, the word “adoptee” and the Korean word “입양아” signify two different things. I am Korean. I am American. I am proudly both. He impatiently mutters more Korean, incomprehensible to me and at a pace so fast that I’m blinded by anxiety. I offer a series of unconvincing nods and turn to one of my more languagecapable friends in the back, or, failing that, I sink further into my seat. I am American and the taxi driver loves it. He adores my nascent Korean—unlike the ajusshi from the other day—and vehemently denies my comment about having poor pronunciation. As we drive away from Hongdae he slows down his speech, simplifies his diction and allows me to get out a few basic sentences. I get out of the taxi in Mapo, emboldened and more optimistic about my next ride. Maybe they’re not all irritable ajusshis incapable of understanding the disconnect between appearance and upbringing? But then I walk into a convenience store or kimbap restaurant, fully dressed in my disguise, and gear up for my next performance, anxiously awaiting the reaction. earlier that month. He looks at me proudly. We had spoken Korean the whole way over to my apartment. In his mind, I am a good Korean. The ability to speak Korean not only credits my parents, but also fulfills the expectations native Koreans have of us living outside the country. He praises my parents for being wise and “true Koreans.” As I open the door to leave, the taxi driver says one thing: “Koreans needs to be able to speak Korean, regardless of where they live.” At least I made this man proud. But it doesn’t last for long. My host mother at the grocery store: “She can’t speak any Korean. She can understand everything but can’t really speak anything.” An anonymous ajumma: “She should study Korean.” I sigh; I am fully aware of what happens next. The ladies talk and glare. They look at me like I have done something wrong, like I am a disappointment. I am humiliated and embarrassed. I have not spoken a word and already the dissat2

it

happens most frequently in

taxis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s rehearsed ev-

erywhere I go in Korea, regardless of companions or venue, but the choreography is sharpest when I get caught in the rain or the subway’s closed. I stand on the corner with friends and volunteer to hail the cab. It comes quickly and I climb into the front seat, usually “welcomed” by a cantankerous ajusshi, an older man who doesn’t seem interested in chauffeuring a handful of rowdy foreigners to their next watering hole. We exchange the necessary information (“Hongdae Station, please”), in Korean, and everything seems fine. Except it’s not—I’ve butchered the simplest of pronunciations and before I get to the second syllable of Hongdae he already knows I’m an imposter, using my Korean features as a way to disguise my American-ness—a costume, character and contradiction in which I never had a choice.

i

respond,

“교포예요...”

to the taxi

isfaction is written over their faces. Had I done something wrong?

driver when he asks me why I was in Chicago

2. “I am a Korean living outside of Korea…”

Not a single person in my family shares the same blood or genes, yet we all love each other unconditionally. I have many questions, but very few answers. I was lucky. I am grateful.
40 / 41 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

hyphenated
During my stay in Korea, my school has asked me to pretend to know no Korean. So, I have been burying away my instinctive Korean responses and replacing them with unnatural, slow, usually fragmented English phrases. For what? To be the ideal Native English Teacher Who Cannot Speak Korean. I am one person living two different lives. At home and school, I am an American that cannot speak very much Korean. Elsewhere, I am a Korean who speaks excellent English. People’s responses to my different characters are drastic. Yin and yang. Here, I am two separate characters— but together, they make up who I am. I am not a light switch that turns American to Korean, or vice versa. I am simply who I am. I am a Korean American. tongue spills out the English language, giving voice to my identity as an American, giving the lie to my attempts to blend into a Korean crowd. It’s silly, but I am on edge every time I speak English in public because of glaring eyes; whether it’s because I’m envied as a cop-out Korean who has escaped serving military duty or I’m that American who carries the stigma surrounding foreign English teachers. So what, then: Do I play to the public by using Korean? The flipside is equally ridiculous. When I speak Korean to those who know me as American, they are truly amazed. Why? Because I look “Asian” but I certainly don’t look “Korean” with my tan skin and round eyes: a mismatched combination for any Korean. So while teaching at an all-girls’ school, the text messages and phone calls flooded in when word got out that I knew Korean. Oops. That’s what they called me back Sometimes, though, I use my foreigner camouflage as an ace up my sleeve. Once I reveal my language competency, I can no longer get away with using the “foreigner card,” which lets us avoid conflicts by playing dumb. Navigating between languages feels like a card game—which suit do I play next? In the end, I pick and choose, maybe even mix and match which language I use. Throw in a little Korean here, some English there. Keep people on their toes. At the same time, I’m reminded that I’m caught in this mix of language and culture juggling too. Welcome to the life of a Twinkie—er, banana. question is directed entirely at the native Korean: “She must not be your 언니, then? I’m sorry.” But by now, I have been a fixture in my host sister’s life for over six months. I can not only point out that my host sister’s favorite Korean idol group is TVXQ, but also rank its members in her order of preference;5 I not only know that she wants to go to police academy after she graduates from high school, but can also recount how many times she has changed her mind before reaching this conclusion.6 The barista’s unnecessary apology makes me indignant. Does it matter that I speak English, even though I have black hair and dark eyes, side bangs and plastic frame glasses? “No,” I say in Korean, the language I learned from my parents even before I knew how to speak English. “She’s my 동생.” She’s my 동생—my little sister.
6. Too many, to be honest. 4. Older sister. 5. 윤호, then 창민.

Whenever

my host sister and I go

out to eat, I let her place the order. Today, we stop for post-dinner coffee. Mocha latte for me, milk tea for her. The barista behind the counter confirms, “Tea for you, and a latte for your 언 니?” My host sister finds it funny that everyone
4

thinks we’re so closely related (“It means you also look like a middle school student,” she insists), but she plays along: “Yes, please.” I, in the meanwhile, am always on the ready to apply my knowledge of Korean culture. Case in point: Those who are older tend to treat those who are younger. “I’ll pay,” I tell my host sister in English while rummaging through my bag for my wallet. The barista, whose interest has suddenly been piqued, eyes us curiously. He ignores me; his

tWinkie.

home. “Banana” would be the more fitting term in Korea. Yellow on the outside but “white” on the inside—white meaning “American,” of course. On the outside, a muggy yellow complexion, hair and eyes inked onto me like a sketch and the stereotypical small Asian stature. Yet my

i am a spy.
I have been sent on a mission to foster better relations and understanding between South Korea and the United States. My training for this mission thus far: teaching for five months in a Korean high school, learning the Korean lan-

Does it matter that I speak English, even though I have black hair and dark eyes, side bangs and plastic frame glasses?
42 / 43 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

hyphenated
guage, seamlessly assimilating myself into Korean society. My disguise, even simpler: bigger glasses, tighter clothes, pierced ears and crimson hair. Even going above and beyond the call of duty: dabbling in K-Pop. On duty in Seoul, I witnessed this scene: Two distressed American GIs enter. Anonymous GI 1: “Dude, I have no idea where GoGo Bar is.” Anonymous GI 2: “It’s gotta be around here somewhere.” Me: “You guys looking for GoGo bar? Head out to the main road, make a right, and you should see it on your right.” GIs exchange confused looks. Anonymous GI 1: “Thanks dude. You’re the man.” GIs exeunt. I like to imagine an unstoppable wave of positive aftereffects from these seemingly minor and casual exchanges. Maybe the GIs were so impressed with this helpful, articulate Korean that their perceptions of Korea somehow changed. They take this experience back home, eventually becoming the generals who influence U.S.-Korean military policy. Maybe their spirits were so high that night that the Koreans who interacted with them grew to understand them as more than colonial uniforms. Although unlikely, this scenario is not impossible. As an undercover American, it is my job to take every one of these opportunities to foster mutual understandings. Being a Korean-American makes me a double-agent: Not only do I promote a better Korean image for Americans, but I also do the same for America’s image in Korea. I am constantly vigilant because in Korea, I am always on duty. art. It’s like he’s saying, “Don’t understand that painting? Just sort everything by shape and color. Divide and conquer, folks.” But how to tidy up a Korean-American? People use all sorts of metrics: Bangs and Glasses vs. Strange Accent. Kilograms of Kimchi Consumed per Month. Length of Skirt. 눈치7 I Have vs. 눈치 I Clearly Lack. In some ways, I’m already tidied up. I teach at a school for the blind. To most of my students, I am just a voice, no confusing Korean face attached. But the first time I heard my own teaching voice played back to me, I couldn’t believe it was mine. There they were: the ㄹs8 that sometimes rolled just a little too far, the 성생님s instead of 선생 님s (seongsaengnims instead of sonsaengnims), the inability to say the word 회의9 at normal speed. Englishy Korean bled into Koreany English. Sometimes I sounded like two different people. It was stubbornly untidy, and strangely unsettling. And yet, in this messy moment of language shock, when I heard the two languages that were my first-turned-second and my second-turnedfirst melding together for the first time, it was ever so true. Its existence to me was truth—in all its untidiness.
8. l/r’s 9. Meeting. 7. Cultural knowledge.

in his piCture book, “tidying up art,” author and illustrator Ursus Wehrli
takes an unconventional approach to analyzing some of the world’s most famous masterpieces. On one page, a Van Gogh painting of a cluttered bedroom. On the next, all the furniture is neatly arranged. A Paul Klee painting of various colored squares: Post-clean up, they’re organized by color and stacked in rows. The book’s a cheeky little thing, but it’s also kind of comforting, like Wehrli’s taking on the big, bad world of snooty

Being a Korean-American makes me a double-agent.

Bruce Park, Esther Min, Laura Wilczek, Eric Horvath, Leslie Kang, Izumi Han, Andrea Sohn, Anthony Cho and Sonia Kim are all 2011 - 2012 ETAs.

44 / 45 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

north

colonel bogey marches

David B. Austell / Fulbright IEA, Korea /Japan, 1992
Seoul is a collision of tectonics, a fusion of people wary of warfare; if, for a moment, you lift your eyes from the tempting leather goods of Itaewon to look to the hills in the north, you will see the bitter paradox of this beautiful place, the razor-wired scrub flanked in ambuscade by enfilade-ready and triangulated squad automatic weapons, the minefields. There is a department store in Seoul accessed underground through a stretched tunnel ending in a barrier of steel bars, time-locked and guarded. At five minutes to ten in the morning, I’d taken a break from reading, joining the consumers at the gate, just beyond which was a long enclosed and boulevarded hallway leading to a vanishing point with open shops and kiosks on either side, attendants standing taut in front of each, starched uniforms, merchant marines in a sea of product. Then came the department store captain, dark three-piece suit, imposing, important, followed by his assistant, his lieutenant, a lithe young woman with her hair smartly back, efficient hands holding a clip board, a poised pen; they both paraded up the long hall, pausing here and there, inspecting each shop, each anxious attendant, white gloves on all hands. At exactly ten o’clock, two sentries unlocked and opened the heavy gates, and suddenly intoned in multiple loudspeakers, like a skirl of war-pipes, was the military march of marches, the mother of all soundtracks, the bold whistling of “Colonel Bogey’s March.” My weight shifted uncontrollably from side to side at the tune, left right, left right, left right I don’t know, but I’ve been told, the center of the world is Seoul.

David B. Austell was a Fulbright IEA grantee in 1992 in Korea and Japan. He is the assistant vice president and director of the Office of Global Services at New York University.

All the employees were tight at attention as I walked by, helpless in the martial cadence, but just another shopping day in the capital at peace.

Frozen
Cheonan Jenna Gibson, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

46 / 47 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

Elizabeth White / ETA, 2011 - 2012
I’ll never forget the look on Host Mother’s face when I confessed to her that I had never learned to play a musical instrument. You’d think I had said, “Kimchi doesn’t cure diseases,” “K-Pop isn’t really all that catchy,” or some other such blasphemy. When she had recovered speech, she managed to utter the words: “You will play piano. I will call the teacher.” It wasn’t a question. A week later, the doorbell rang and Piano Son1. Teacher.

piano lesson
Every Wednesday and Saturday, Piano Sonsaengnim would come to our house. Each lesson was filled with the sounds of laughter, the halted chords of a beginner’s efforts, and the occasional “Wow!” from Sonsaengnim when I struck a particularly bad note. Language, we found, was not necessary. We had hands to gesture, we had heads to shake or nod, but most of all, we had music. I remember the first time we played a duet together. After learning the basics, my beginner’s piano book (with its colorful cartooned pages) eased the learner into playing some very simple ‘songs.’ To the novice, it just sounded like noise, like the strange result of pressing seemingly random keys. What I had failed to notice was that each of these songs was titled ‘Student’ and had an adjoining page titled ‘Teacher.’ They were duets, never meant to be played alone. The bench gave a slight creak as Piano Sonsaengnim sat down beside me. She placed her hands tenderly on the keys, and with a nod of her head said, “Sijak.”2 What followed was nothing short of a mystery to me. My earlier pings transformed into a rich

the

medley of sound. The awkward pauses in between notes became rhythm, and the strange assortment of notes became music. The ivory keys rumbled with a beautiful power. When the song ended, all I wanted to do was to play it again and again until it was time for Piano Sonsaengnim to go home. Every lesson from thereon, I couldn’t wait for the duet time. Because during that time, the piano, music, and I— we all transformed. Almost a year after that first piano lesson, I (along with Host Mother) am happy to report a noticeable improvement in my musical dexterity. After bringing down the house with my rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells” at the local Christmas recital (where my musical colleagues gave me sticky-hand high fives backstage and cheered me on from their booster seats). I have now moved on to more sophisticated pieces, such as the world-renowned masterpieces “Happy Birthday” and “Roly Poly.” Despite my newfound musical independence, I still look forward to my duets with Piano Son-

saengnim the most. When we play the piano together, fingers dancing and flying on their ivory stage, my music transforms into something more beautiful than it could’ve ever mustered on its own. Playing piano is like experiencing the world. On our own, we can vary notes to make a song. But without traveling and experiencing another part of the world, we will always be playing the same select notes. It takes the people we meet along the way—like Host Mother, Piano Sonsaengnim and my army of little musical colleagues—to show us what we’ve been missing. Like duets, life was never meant to be played alone.

saengnim1 entered my life. After the appropriate amount of bowing and greetings, we sat down together at the family’s piano bench. “Ah, I’m nervous. All English…” she said in Korean to Host Mother, laughing. “It’s okay,” replied Host Mother. “Our teacher understands a lot of Korean.” And with that extremely generous introduction, she closed the sliding glass doors until they clicked shut. Piano Sonsaengnim and I looked at each other and started to giggle. She then pulled out a crisp

Elizabeth White is a 2011 ETA at Seondeok Girls’ Middle School in Gyeongju.

2. “Start.”

green elementary piano book from her bag and folded back the first page. We both nodded, and the lessons began.

My earlier pings transformed into a rich medley of sound. The awkward pauses in between notes became rhythm, and the strange assortment of notes became music.

48 / 49 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

mynameis
Andrea Sohn / ETA, 2011 - 2012
is nice to meet you. But nobody calls me that here—and therein lies the paradox. It turns out that there is no defined concept of Mrs./Ms./Miss in Korea, much less a cultural desire to refer to individuals by name, and the underlying emphasis on hierarchy demands that those who are younger respectfully address those who are older by title. Take, for example, “aunt”—the English word that is designated for either parent’s sister or even the woman married to any of your uncles. But in Korean, 이모 is the title used for your mother’s sister, 고모 for your father’s sister, 외숙모 for the woman married to your mother’s brother, 작은엄마 for the woman married to your father’s younger brother, and 큰 엄마 for the woman married to your father’s older brother. Who needs proper names when the language itself accounts for every possible person in your midst? At the beginning of each semester, I begin my classes by introducing myself. “My name is Andrea. You can call me by my name. It is nice to meet you.” But at school, students only address their teachers by title. I am no exception; my name in the middle school classroom is Teacher.
2

tickled my lips the first time one of my students

My name is Andrea. I remain convinced that my name is Andrea because it appears on the first page of any standard baby name book, the kind sold with all the latest tabloids in the supermarket checkout aisle. A name chosen for convenience’s sake—a name to fill the empty space on a birth certificate. Of course, my parents tend to say otherwise. “Don’t you know that ‘Andrea’ means ‘woman’? How
1. But, really, who are we kidding? I’ve heard that some baby name references insist that ‘Andrea’ actually just means ‘man.’

called me Teacher. One word, two syllables and

seven letters to embody position and recognition awaited significance into the years of compulsory was proof that I had accomplished something midst were capable of at this exact moment, and the title was mine (all mine!).

and status. A name infusing some kind of longeducation and sleepless nights in college—here

beyond what the middle school students in my

can you pick a better name than that?”1 My name is Andrea. You can call me by my name. In this place so far from home, names (traditionally) carry the potential to determine the course of an individual’s life. A good name has the capability of reflecting well on the character of its bearer and can bring good fortune long past childhood. A bad name, on the other hand, may drive its bearer down an endless road of difficulty. The standard Korean name is composed of three characters (the first indicating surname, the second and third combining as a given name) that are almost always rooted in classical Chinese characters. Each character has its own meaning, and collectively, the characters must strike a perfect balance. My name is Andrea. You can call me by my name. It

Between classes, as teachers move back and forth from classroom to teacher’s office, teacher’s office to classroom, the hallway is a chorus of myself hesitating to respond. Are they referring

singsong “선생님, 선생님”s. But I always find

to me? The art teacher to my left? The other of instant gratification, but the one name that is not even my own name.

English teacher to my right? Teacher. It is a name

“ ”
Who needs proper names when the language itself accounts for every possible person in your midst?
“It’s okay,” I keep on saying, a self-conscious grin plastered to my face. “You can call me Andrea!” But the response is always the same. “엔듀 리야. 발음이 참 어렵네요, 선생님.”4 With my books arranged neatly on my desk and my school bag packed, I leave the teacher’s office behind. Before I have time to slip off my shoes at home, I am greeted with a “선생님, 안 녕하세요,”5 from my host mother, a “선생님, 오늘 일찍 오셨네요,”6 from my host father, a “Teacher, what are you doing?” from my host sister. “We’re not in school anymore, you know. You can call me Andrea!” My grin begins to fade as I watch her bite her lip. “I think I will get in Because you are older than me!” trouble by my parents if I don’t call you Teacher. Korea took me in its arms and christened me Teacher, a funny little title that often feels just as unfamiliar to me as the name on my own birth certificate. My name is—but maybe it doesn’t matter what you call me, for now. It is nice to meet you.
Andrea Sohn is a 2011 ETA at Seogyeong Middle School in Cheongju.

3. “Teacher, you look tired. Teacher, what are you plans for the weekend? Teacher, see you tomorrow.” 4. “An-dew-reeah. It’s quite difficult to pronounce, Teacher.” 5. “Hello, Teacher.” 6. “Teacher, you’re home a little earlier than usual today.”

Even when the seventh period bell rings to signal the end of the school day and the students scramble from their seats, fellow teachers stay behind in the teacher’s office to finish grading homework assignments and to engage in routine pleasantries. “선생님, 피곤해 보이세요. 선생 님, 주말에 뭐 하실 거예요? 선생님, 내일 뵈 요.”3 I call my fellow teachers Teacher; they likewise call me Teacher.

2. And for those students who are less enthusiastic about speaking English—선생님 (teacher), sometimes shortened to 샘, or 쌤!, when they are feeling especially cheeky.

I will always remember the satisfied smirk that

50 / 51 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

korean students

speak
Jenny Wilborn / ETA, 2011 - 2012

“Korean Students Speak” was started by a group of Fulbright Korea English Teaching Assistants. Our goal is to promote freedom of expression and creativity, while also providing insight into the daily lives and thoughts of Korean students. Since the project began in the fall of 2011, more than 1,000 students from all over the peninsula (and Jeju Island) have courageously put pen to paper. We have collected these photos and many more at http://koreanstudentsspeak.tumblr.com.

All the students pictured have consented to having their pictures published in Infusion. Their teachers are Charles Nelson IV in Jeonju, Ekaterina Mozhaeva in Cheongju, Jenny Wilborn in Sapgyo and Hogan Medlin in Busan.

52 / 53 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

(north)

ofkonglishand korean foreigners
Nikki Muyskens / ETA, 2009 - 2011
like “saen-deh-wi-chi” (sandwich) in Hangeul. Sometimes life in Korea can give me so much “suh-tuh-rae-suh” (stress), yet I am grateful that our languages do overlap in some instances. Otherwise, how would I ever navigate the “in-tuhnet” (Internet) on my Korean “com-pyu-tuh” (computer)? With my blond hair and blue eyes, I never fool anyone into thinking that I am Korean, and this generally earns me some extra help. I fit very well into Korea’s conception of a “way-gook-in” (foreigner). However, I am not the only type of foreigner in this country. People come to live here from all parts of Asia and the rest of the world. Some look foreign, but others blend in. Some have Korean heritage, but have grown up entirely in another country, like America. There is yet another group, a group now over 20,000 strong, who look Korean and indeed are Korean, and yet grew up in a land very foreign to modern-day South Korea. These people are North Korean defectors, and they face their own challenges in adapting to life in this Korea. In many respects, South Korea can be more foreign to North Korean defectors than to me. Aside from the mere existence of unfamiliar

English loan words, the ideas for which such words stand are also novel. Most likely there are “taxis” and “bus terminals” of some sort in North Korea, but in a country where the “du-bal-cha” (two-footed-car, i.e., pedestrian) is the primary mode of transportation and even the very concept of unrestricted travel is unheard of, a comparison can hardly be drawn. Similarly, “marts” and “supermarkets” operate under an alien system called capitalism, which the North Korean regime has tried hard to suppress. “Study rooms” speak to South Korea’s strong emphasis on education, particularly on English education, in contrast with North Korea’s primary goal of idolizing the Kim family. The normalization of the word “sandwich” speaks to the prevalence of Western and fusion foods, which must seem exotic if one is accustomed to a place where even rice can sometimes be outside of one’s price range. Given that situation, “stress” cannot be a foreign concept, but its source can be vastly different. Rather than being concerned with getting the next meal on the table, they may wonder how they will ever be able to navigate the wealth of knowledge available to them on the “Internet,” that bastion of information freedom.

What must it be like to be someone from North Korea, having lived through and overcome situations that I cannot quite imagine? They must be so different from me, I thought, until I met them and started getting to know them. One mom I know is concerned about her daughter’s education and English ability, much like my other students’ parents. The high school students I teach worry about their tests, and look forward to being free and hanging out with their friends. One girl named Rachel,1 whom I taught in high school, is now entering university and is wondering how she will make new friends, because she doesn’t know anyone in her major. These emotions are hardly foreign to me. There are, of course, differences—significant differences—between us, in our experiences and our situations, and yet, they are not irreconcilable. They need not isolate us. Paradoxically, the very concept of “foreigner” others the individual from mainstream society, and yet the title does offer the individual a larger group identity. Both Americans and North Korean defectors living in South Korea experience this culture as foreigners, which naturally means that there will be some similarities in our experiences.
1. This student’s name has been changed.

I remember studying some “Learn Hangeul” print-outs on my first flight to Korea, desperately trying to get some of this new writing system to stick in my mind. I had a list of “Konglish” words to sound out for practice, which did little to calm my nerves when I would tediously sound out a word like “pi-ja” and still be unable to make the connection to the English word “pizza.” What match would I be for the language barrier, if I couldn’t even understand Koreanized words from my native tongue, let alone the cultural obstacles I would have to overcome? Thankfully, I encountered many friendly people along the way who have helped me make Korea my home, and I have gradually learned more and more Korean. Sometimes I enjoy the convenience of English loan words, like when I want to take a “tek-shi” (taxi) to the “bus-seh tuhmi-nuhl” (bus terminal). Sometimes I just get entertainment out of Korean pronunciation, like the lack of “r” in “ma-teh” (mart) or the “sh” in “shoo-puh” (super(market)). Other times I feel frustrated with loan words like these, like if my students don’t understand my pronunciation of “suh-tuh-di room” (study room) or laugh at my attempt at spelling a word

In many respects, South Korea can be more foreign to North Korean defectors than to me.

54 / 55 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

Of konglish
I miss my family and friends in America, like many of them miss their family and friends, but I have the benefit of video-chat and occasional trips home. Through what I’ve read and heard about North Korea, I have gathered that there are many divided families, and that defectors can’t exactly go back to their hometowns for a visit. But this abstract knowledge, sobering as it is, gains new meaning in knowing the people that this affects personally. Though I don’t know what it would be like to be in their situations—to have lost family and friends, to have to talk to relatives only rarely and in utter secrecy, or to feel like you’ve abandoned loved ones to punishment—I can at least identify with a great love for family, and thus connect with them a little more. We are both foreigners, but our longings and affections are not that foreign. Recently, I met up with Rachel, the university student. She was very emotional, and told me that she had just received a phone call from her grandmother in North Korea. Rachel was grateful to have heard from her, but there was so much left unresolved in a conversation that couldn’t last
Nikki Muyskens is a 2009 ETA at Cheonan Yongso Elementary School in Cheonan.

more than a minute or two. There was so much she had wanted to say, and yet emotion had overcome her, especially at her grandmother’s concern for her and her mom, when their concern was for her. All too soon, because of the danger of being reported in North Korea, the conversation had to end, while countless unspoken thoughts lingered. From afar, it is too easy to say that North Korean defectors are vastly different from us and thus distance ourselves from their struggle. But our common ground as foreigners draws us together. We miss our families; we want to see them again someday. How will that work for North Koreans? No one can know, but we can hope together that somehow these families are reunited. “Mom,” Rachel’s mother cried right before hanging up the phone, “make sure to live until we reach unification! We’ll definitely see each other again someday.”

ohamana boarding part ii
Jeju Island Jesicka Alexander-Labud, Junior Researcher ‘06

56 / 57 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

chiggers
His office, unlike others in the Sogang Business School, has a sink and mirror next to the door. These are, perhaps, vestiges of the room’s former purpose. Equidistant, roughly repaired patches mark where urinal and toilet pipes once protruded from the walls. The sink, left behind, nevertheless continues to get regular usage. Every day, usually twice a day, Professor Kim Lee Gwon will rise from his chair and walk past me holding his empty coffee mug. At the sink, he will fill the mug with water and return to his workspace. From the sound of it, he doesn’t even wash out the remains of his morning coffee. He gets a straight fill of slightly brownish coffee water and deliberately, well, “puddles” his floor, pouring the water onto the floor beneath his desk. In the few weeks we have shared the same office, I find it increasingly difficult not to ask him what he is doing, feigning disinterest as best I can. As with most things I don’t understand in this country, I chalk it up to cultural difference. I have only just settled in for the day when Professor Kim walks over to complete his circadian ritual. As he crosses the room, he asks me, as nearly every Korean person has, “Charlie, do you enjoy Korean food?”

bewareof

Charles Nelson IV / ETA, 2011 - 2012
“Yes, Professor, I enjoy all types of Korean “Yes, Professor. There truly is nothing like a grapefruit in the morning. Can you find good grapefruits in Korea?” He throws me a look of indignation. “Come on,” he spits out, stretching the “ah” sound of the “o” in “on” and clenching his eyes shut for dramatic effect. “When I returned to Korea, I had only just completed my Ph.D., and I began to yearn for many things from the United States. I asked markets and shops, ‘Do you have a grapefruit?’ But when I finally found grapefruit, it was so old, so um, so stale. It was very sad to me.” I offer my condolences and think to myself how I, too, miss a good grapefruit. I observe him as he silently continues to reflect. After a minute or so, he reaches across the desk for a weighty-looking Korean-English dictionary. His ruminative state suggests he has a need to find a word. However, he does not immediately begin his search. Instead, he lifts the dictionary above his head with his right hand, and with his left hand he cups his right shoulder. I recall him telling me that he had recently strained his rotator cuff during his early morning tennis matches. This is a man who rises at five in the morning in the dead of winter to hit on the backboard before playing a 6 a.m. match. He works the injured shoulder in a circular motion, grimacing slightly. As he continues his impromptu physical therapy, it becomes apparent that the dictionary is already serving its purpose. He has no need for a word after all. He resumes our conversation, slowly easing into his thought rather than simply blurting it out—selecting his phrasing when the interaction warrants or allows—but without the visible frustration that speaking another language can generate in some people.3 A few missed articles can be forgiven, for this is a man who, despite working in his second language, employs words like “phlegmatic” in daily dialogue. He chooses deliberately. He chooses with a mind for exactly what he would like to say. Despite his tendency to heighten the level of conversation with his diction, he has a keen sense for the rhythm of American dialogue. “There is a song—many Koreans have a familiarity with this song,” and immediately I know where this is going, as he clears his voice to sing, “I was dancing, with my baby, to the Tennessee Waltz. I surmise you know this song?” “Of course. It is my state’s song.” “Very beautiful. Sung by an Englishman.”
3. e.g., the writer.

foods, especially samgyeopsal and kimchi.” He returns to his desk area and shakes the water from the cup, using his slippered foot to spread it around the vinyl flooring. As soon as it’s empty, he returns to the sink for a second filling. “I recall when I was in Missouri,” he speaks over the sound of the running spout, mostly ignoring my answer, “that my favorite food, during the breakfast time, was a sweetly ripened grapefruit. Also, my mouth waters still when I think of pancake, and McDonald’s coffee, with a little butter—oof.” I cannot contain a smile, nor can he. His inflection is singsong and clear, emphasizing certain words by slightly elongating their delivery. He voices his English with the subtle sinusoidal tonality inherent in the Korean language. He looks over to me through his thick-rimmed glasses, which always rest on his nose slightly off level, like a framed picture hung by an overeager child excited to help his mother decorate the house. Standing next to his desk, he points his long, straight index finger at me, and then proceeds to bend over to baptize the floor again: “I can see, you also enjoy these things!”

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He looks over to me through his thick-rimmed glasses, which always rest on his nose slightly off level, like a framed picture hung by an overeager child excited to help his mother decorate the house.

beware of chiggers
“Welsh, actually.” “Walsh?” “Welsh. Tom Jones is from Wales.” “So he is from Wales, so he is Walsh?” “Yes.” He turns his chair toward the computer and does a few more dictionary windmills for his shoulder. After a time, he tosses the dictionary to the ground next to a bookshelf, the book landing with a subtle splash rather than a slap or thud. He then pauses a moment to collect his thoughts, and I await his next meditation. “You know, Charlie,” he begins, sighing. “I also miss su-da-fed, one of the commoner allergy drugs in U.S.A.” door, and go our separate ways. After lunch, I run into him as we enter the building. Walking past the elevators in the foyer to the stairwell, I ask how his meeting went. “Charlie, I would perhaps use the English expression, ‘awkward,’ to describe my lunch. But, ah! Charlie! Did you see they had peanuts at the school restaurant today?” he asks, grasping my elbow. “Do you know the significance of the peanut’s presence on this day?” “No Professor, I’m afraid I do not.” “Ah, okay. Let me tell you,” he replies. He closes his mouth and makes a sound to himself, breaking before he continues. “So, you are aware that it is the New Year in Korea. In Korea, we eat peanuts or maybe,” he pauses. He turns to me as
is

him, or that he is having a medical emergency. But, as I look down, I see that he is doubled over in a fit of laughter. “Get cracking, ah! It means we need to start— eating the nuts—as soon as possible! And—잠간 만요.”4 “Sure,” I reply. He collects himself, but I am at a loss. I wasn’t under the impression that a platitudinal idiom could elicit such a reaction in a person. “Oh Charlie, I am understanding what you said! We must ‘get cracking,’ and eat many nuts immediately, and we will also have a need to ‘crack’ the peanuts! This is a clever thing you did!”

sor Kim sitting behind his desk, I ask him about the first time he learned such words. “What is it when you toss the ball underhand and hit it?” “Softball?” “Yes! Softball. We had just played softball, and we were sitting down on the grass, late at night, drinking one, two, maybe three beer,” he pauses, “maybe four. Ha! The next morning, we awake and there is a lot of itching, around this area,” he points to his armpits, “and the legs. You know these things, they are called ‘chee-gars’?” “Chiggers.” “Yes! They are small and they are red. No one said to us, ‘Be aware of chee-gars!’ No one!” Without pausing he continues, “But you know, I also like the tradition of making marshmallow. It’s very nice. And hot dog. With the mustard? It’s very nice.” I am still laughing. “So that is the time I learned these words.” While I’m laughing, it occurs to me that I have these stories too. I have my Old Faithful. I have my marshmallows, hotdogs and mustard, my grapefruits and McDonald’s coffee. I am not yet finished transplanting those Korean roots into myself. But in my laughter, I can see that I have my chiggers. I definitely have my chiggers.
4. “Wait a moment.”

i

begin to notiCe hoW, in our

at 11:30 a.m., professor kim

we round the railing, tilting his head and squinting as though attempting to recall the name of a distant relative he has not seen since his childhood. “Chestnuts? Walnuts? We do this on first full moon after the new year because when you eat the nut, you will be guaranteed no tumors for the coming year!” “Well, better get crackin’,” I reply. He immediately grabs my elbow again and stops me. He is holding my arm tightly. At first, I think that I either have said something to offend

conversations, he insists we pick apart his American experience so he might wax lovingly. He reminisces as a way of reconciling the complexity of his fondness for something he could not fully comprehend. He tells me three separate times about driving across the country to Yellowstone to see Old Faithful, and about the derogatory chants of University of Missouri students at the end of a lost football game. He finds crude American colloquialisms to be particularly hilarious. Now sufficiently distracted from our tasks, I sitting across the room at my workspace, Profes-

asleep at his desk. He is having one of those hang-your-head, arms-crossed, chin-on-thechest naps, his fatigue undoubtedly the result of the early morning match. A brief snooze and at noon, he wakes. “Oh, Charlie, I will not be able to eat lunch with you today. I will be eating with the Dean of Sogang Business School.” “No problem, Professor,” I reply. “I will see you after lunch.” We exit the room together, stroll down the four flights of stairs, walk out the

The next morning, we awake and there is a lot of itching, around this area and the legs. You know these things, they are called 'chee-gars'?
60 / 61 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

beware of chiggers
it
is our last day together.

an

portion to the expanding crescent of his smile. “She walked over here one time, to give me a paper or other document of some kind. And, when she came over to my desk, not having sight of the water, she almost slept!” He tilts his head back, closes his eyes, and clutches the armrests of his chair with one hand as he swivels back and forth, the water splashing under his feet, laughing hysterically—laughing so hard that it comes from him as a silence, pointing his extended index finger in my direction. “She almost slipped?” “Slept? Yes, she almost slept onto me!” Most of us would say that you are less likely to slip on a desiccated floor. Or sleep on a desecrated floor. Either way, Professor, I think I am understanding what you said.

hour before my departure, Professor Kim rises to complete the floor-watering. As has been the case for many of my thoughts regarding his eccentricities, he gives an answer without an explicit question. “As you can see,” he said, “I grew a strange habit. I spread water on the floor. I do this because I feel it is a bit dry in the room and I do not like the dryness of the room.” “Desiccation,” I offer. “Desecration?” “No no, desiccation. Not desecration. It means being dry.” “Ah yes, yes, yes! I know, I knew this! Ha! Great word, Charlie,” he declares. “The office manager lady, you know?” He begins to smile, his eyes narrowing as his cheeks rise. A line forms at the end of either eye. No crow’s feet appear, only two individual lines that lengthen toward the tops of his ears in pro-

Charles Nelson IV is a 2011 ETA at Jeonju Youngsaeng High School in Jeonju.

untitled
Seoul Amy Lanteigne, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

62 / 63 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

the korean

my semi-amateur basketball career in korea
Anthony Cho / ETA, 2011 - 2012
The game of basketball is about making impossible choices: Shoot or pass? Drive or dish? Lebron or Kobe? Jordan or—actually, that’s not really a question for a North Carolina Tar Heel. These choices reveal a lot about a hoop fiend like myself. For example: What’s better, jumping a bonfire to celebrate my Tar Heels’ national championship during my junior year, or coaching a band of misfit elementary students to a YMCA championship a year later? Like Lebron and Kobe, both are great, but they aren’t the best. For me, basketball’s ultimate reward—the Jordan of joys—is the kinship and chemistry created by a great team. Before I arrived in Korea, my biggest concern was not language barriers or gastronomical adjustments, but whether I could watch and play basketball. Would the basketball gods to whom I stayed faithful smile upon me in Korea, or would they create a Shaq-sized vacuum in my life?

rebound
Gochang County, where I live and teach, is a small agrarian community where the sweat of farmers and smell of fertilizer dominate the senses. It seemed that Gochang has no time for pro sports. I was determined to start a basketball club at my school, but life often plays stifling defense. After some initial investigation, I quickly learned three things: 1) there are no basketball goals in the school 2) most of my students are too busy studying to play and 3) the students who do play ball would rather play soccer. Having been rejected by both the professional leagues and my school, I turned to the community. I scouted my town for basketball hoops. I discovered a court in a park very close to my home with goals, but they were closer to Naismith’s fruit basket on a pole than modern hoops. I was on the verge of giving in to a life without jumpers, jams or joy. Finally, I stumbled into the community gym

whose sign promised a basketball court. If they had nets, I was game. Before entering, I could hear the battle hymn of hoops: shouts of laughter, eruptions of cheers and sneaker-squeaks on the court. I could taste the sweat in the air. This was a scene from my American life. Grinning ear to ear, I zealously swung open the pearly gates. There were indeed nets—badminton nets. There were people of all ages— from toddlers to the elderly—swinging their rackets and smashing the shuttlecock of my hoop dreams. My heart sank. The basketball gods mocked my odyssey. Luckily, these gods are more merciful than mighty Poseidon. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the basketball goals, orphaned and begging for some attention. I went to the gym office, borrowed a basketball and obliged these goals until the lights turned off. This gymnasium became my sanctuary. The first few weeks teaching were both physically and mentally exhausting, so I regularly came to the gym to shoot around. I would turn to my friend,

Wiz Khalifa, clear my mind and make it rain. It was a reminder of good times with friends in Chapel Hill; these familiarities helped me ease into my new life in a foreign land. One fortuitous weekend, I happened upon a game—not badminton, but basketball. People in team jerseys playing a full-court, five-on-five game. This was a sign from above. I hustled over, introduced myself, and asked for a shot on the court. I’m sure they relented out of courtesy (thank the gods for Korean etiquette culture). I thought that if I played well (and politely), they would ask me to play again. I dreamt of friendship, league ball, storming the world of Korean recreational basketball. I had to play with a delicate fervor to prove my worth, treading the fine line between baller and ball hog. After the game, one of the guys approached me to make small talk. Where are you from? What are you doing in Gochang? How long will you be here? It was like a first date. We were getting to know each other, and there was definitely chemistry.

Before I arrived in Korea, my biggest concern was not language barriers or gastronomical adjustments, but whether I could watch and play basketball.

64 / 65 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

“ ”
Looking back, I now realize that it really wasn't basketball that I was looking for anyway. As much as I love the sport, I loved the community more.
the korean rebound
to be courted.” I knew that he would ask for my number later as much as they might have in America. It was and thought to myself, “So this is what it’s like Finally, the words I had been waiting for all painfully obvious that we lacked the talent on the court to win games. However, we laughed off the eat for dinner afterward. court and were more concerned about what to For the first time in my basketball career, the night finally came out: Let’s play again sometime. next weekend. I did it. It finally happened. I giddily gave out my number.
1

What’s your telephone number? I’ll give you a text

number in the wins column wasn’t the best measure of our team. Instead, I looked forward to the ers. They now ask me questions like: why I don’t serve in the Korean army, if I have ever seen an NBA game or even if I could teach English to right after I teach them how to dribble. games where I could hang out with my broth-

Fast-forward to the present. Now I have eight

형 in Gochang. Some of them have children, some just got back from the army, some are looking for work and one owns a children’s clothing boutique with his wife. These veterans showed

1. Older brothers.

their kids. I fire back by saying I’ll teach their kids

me the best spots to eat and kept me abreast of

local politics and gossip. As time went on, their company became just as comforting as the basketball that we played.

Anthony Cho goes hard in the paint as a 2011 ETA at Gochang Buk High School in Gochang.

Looking back, I now realize that it really wasn’t

basketball that I was looking for anyway. As much as I love the sport, I loved the community more.

We started our season this spring with zero wins and two losses, but the losses didn’t bother me

I ball so hard...
Mokpo Morrow Willis, ETA ‘11 - ‘12

66 / 67 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

CHARACTER
Sonia Kim / ETA, 2011 - 2012
This isn’t 20 questions, but 20 characters, 20 moments of connection. Some were declarations destined for print. Some were folded-up sentences picked up word by word. And some were like a low exhale—sweet and familiar in their realization. Entrusted to me, these are the stories I want to remember—and retell. 1. You are a 13-year-old boy who has just woken up in the hospital. You blink. You’re awake. You blink, furiously, choking back your growing panic, because you can’t see anything. 2. You’re a teacher and a single father. Every student you meet, every spoonful of soup you slide into a waiting mouth, every hairband you slide into place reminds you of the child you have raised for 24 years. In a society of authoritarian fathers, you are an anomaly. And yet, you are peaceful in your solitude. 3. You are a mother whose daughter was born blind. When another child pushed your baby 7. You want to say things, but talking is hard. 6. You’ve grown up in the same village your entire life, and your hands are now cracked and your back bent from years spent in the wind and sun. Today, you meet a foreigner for the first time at church. 4. You are a Korean-American woman to whom a Japanese man has just apologized for “the terrible things my country did to yours.” 5. You don’t want to be here. It’s a school full of freaks. And maybe you’re one of them. girl down the stairs, she lost what little sight she had. And as your heart screamed in grief, you split your family apart to enroll your daughter in a school for the blind. For the next six years, you will stretch your heart across the peninsula— from the small town where your husband and son still live to the city of 10 million you now call home.

KOREA, IN

Sometimes, it’s much easier to flap or twirl or drum. But flap, flap, flap, flapping is when you are the happiest. Teacher wants quiet hands. Teacher says, “Minjeh, time to learn English.” There’s a new teacher who comes and she talks funny. Sometimes she lets you play with a dog. It is soft. One time you held hands and counted one, two, three, four, five with her. Then she was so happy, and you were so happy you crowed and jumped up on her lap and touched her glasses and her long, curly hair. You are seven years old and, next year, you will be in the first grade. 8. You go in, and there are only squat toilets. 9. You have a beautiful wife and a young son. You made his name yourself; it means, “the source of happiness.” Your cataracts make it impossible to see more than a blur, but your son is perfect the way he is. Thank God he can see his father. You take your family to church every Sunday, your wife guiding you and the child you hold in your arms.

11. You don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. You’re like any other kid. Except you’re blind, so you’ve only got a handful of options. It used to be fortune teller, street musician and massage therapist. Things have gotten better lately. Now, you can be a social worker, massage therapist, acupuncturist or, maybe if you study really hard, a teacher or a professor. Now which to choose? 12. You’re 75 years old, and it’s never too late to learn English. You get tired more easily and your body creaks in protest, but you’ve ordered textbooks from a local 학원.1 “These are two kettles. That is a flower,” you whisper to yourself, the foreign words catching in your throat. 13. You smile. It’s the English teacher standing next to you. She gives you her hand, but no, that’s not what you’re looking for. There it is, just under her sweater. She has a belly button, just like you. 14. You’re Korean-American, and—in your mo1. Private academy.

10. You can’t wrap your mind around it. So you ask her, “Why did your parents leave Korea and move to the States?” “You know English, so why do you want to learn Korean?”

ment of panic—you just told that man you’re not Korean. Now why did you do that? Wait. Why does that make you upset?

68 / 69 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

You want to say things, but talking is hard. Sometimes, it's much easier to flap or twirl or drum. But flap, flap, flap, flapping is when you are the happiest.

15. You’re in the fourth grade, and you can’t see. You can’t speak either; there’s a tube in your throat. But you can listen. 16. You were just talking about how you had never tried dog stew before and maybe you’d try it if someone paid you, when your host mother gleefully informs you that the soup you just finished for dinner had dog meat in it. Did your stomach just gurgle in protest or contentment? 17. You borrowed your host grandmother’s pants and shoes (thank God your feet are tiny), and you went fishing with your host family in the river. The sun was shining, the water lapped lazily at your feet, and ajusshis fed you grilled duck on the riverbanks. Today isn’t a day of doubting or feeling like you don’t belong. You’re full, happy and slightly sleepy. You wonder, more like a daydream than a yearning this time, what would have happened if you were born in this country. 18. You’re at the British Museum, and you spend a day discovering the arch of Zeus’s back, the timeworn features of Venus’s face, and the intricate details of an Egyptian sarcophagus—all using the sense of touch. You are overwhelmed with emotion, not at the beauty of the artwork surrounding you, but at the fact that in your country, such an experience would be impossible for people like you. 19. You thought you would see your father tomorrow. That’s what mother told you the night you escaped. But if you could live nine years without him, what’s another month, another

five? You wanted to go to school, but mother wouldn’t let you. She said children were cruel. So most days, you’d go up in the mountains and cut wood with your sister. She’d teach you songs about numbers and words, and when the work was done, she’d carry you home, because walking was hard. When you escaped, you crossed rivers on your mother’s back. You limped through deserts eating dust-black bread and beating back blinding winds. Years later, on the cusp of adolescence, you realize the depth of their struggles. You are North Korean, and you will never hide where you came from. 20. You never grew up here, but you keep turning around, at bus stations, at coffee shops, just walking in the street. Everyone has the lovely, lilting speech of your mother, your father and all your aunts and uncles. In America, you prided yourself on standing out from the crowd. But it is in Korea that you have discovered the beauty of weaving through streets and melting into a sea of black hair and glasses. In 10 months, countless lives have intersected with yours. And as their stories spill over and breathe life into your words, you feel that this place is truly becoming home.

black&white

Photos by Ken Li & Morrow Willis, ETAs ‘11 - ‘12

Sonia Kim is a 2011 ETA at Hanbit School for the Blind in Seoul.

70 / 71 The Korea Fulbright Infusion

This photo: End of the Day at Mokpo's North Harbor, Mokpo. Morrow Willis, ETA '11 - '12 For more content, please visit http://infusion.fulbright.or.kr. For more on Fulbright Korea, please visit http://fulbright.or.kr. If you wish to contact Fulbright Korea, please email executive.assistant@fulbright.or.kr. The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through cultural and educational exchange. The Korean-American Educational Commission in Seoul, widely known as the Korea Fulbright Commission, is governed by a Board consisting of equal numbers of Koreans and Americans representing governmental, educational and private sectors. The board makes decisions on overall policies of the Fulbright Program in Korea. The Fulbright Commission is not responsible for opinions expressed in The Fulbright Korea Infusion by individual contributors nor do these in any way reflect official Fulbright Commission policy. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission from the contributor and from the Korea Fulbright Commission.