So I’m moving to South Korea.
For those of you who have been following along here on Very Nerdy Curly and on twitter won’t be too surprised I think. I’ve talked about it before, quite seriously actually. I’ve tweeted in mini essays about it and why I think it’d be a great idea and your feedback has been lovely. In the end I was just making sure I was convincing myself… or rather, I was letting myself realize that it was the right choice.
I’ve found myself in an odd, but not terrible situation. I’ve been getting more writing work, which has been wonderful, but also means I don’t have to be in any specific place. Granted, my on-air show at the local station is at stake here, and I do love my radio family, but I only have a show one day a week and I’m very interested in the English language radio opportunities in Korea. There’s also internet radio, so I could just start up my own show in the land of the Morning Calm. I’ll be teaching English again, something that I did in Japan once upon a time, though I’ll be busier and teaching more often… which will be a great improvement.
When I told my sister, the first thing she asked was: why Korea? Other than the reasons mentioned above, the main reason is the ability to make and save some money. I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about that. I have quite a few friends now in Denver where the economy and job market (especially in tech and creative works) is doing really well and I’ve been seriously entertaining heading there, but I wanted to do so feeling secure. I can’t do that at the moment. I know any one of them would be willing to put me up until I got a job and got myself situated, but it’s a point of pride and self-reliance that I want to do it on my own. I’m determined really. So while I tried to find something local, I even went the retail route, nothing was coming up.
However I knew I could get a job teaching English. I’ve done it before and have multiple teaching and childcare credentials to my name. It makes sense. The Korean economy isn’t in the best of shape, no, but I also know how to live frugally. Any graduate student becomes more than efficient at that before long after all. So while my salary may only be around $2k a month in Korea, I should be able to save at least half of that every month as my housing will be paid for by my school and expenses won’t be too high going by what I’ve researched.
Also there’s the creativity aspect. The last time I lived and worked in Asia, I wrote a book. I really want to get back to creating, and every time I’ve been in Asia, be it visiting or living there, I have found myself immensely inspired. I don’t know what it is, but I like it. And I intend to use it.
So that’s the grown up plan. Go to South Korea doing something I will enjoy, broaden my horizons a bit, live responsibly, CREATE, save money, and do things on my terms. Will I stay a year in Korea? Probably. But I could stay longer. It’s hard to say now when I still have lots of steps to go through before I head out.
The first time I went to Korea it was the summer of 2010 and I was finishing up my contract in Japan. It rained pretty much the entire time. I went with a fellow JET and we did all the touristy things like the DMZ tour and palace hopping and the folk village. We got new glasses Namdaemun and ate more kimchi than we knew what to do with (especially since our taste buds were so use to Japanese food which, while delicious, is not spicy at all). It was only a three-day-long trip and I immediately yearned to go back. After finishing The Mongol Rally I finally got that chance, and I won’t lie, a large part of me wanting to head back to Korea after the rally was to gauge if I did want to move there. I’ve been writing about that trip in detail at The Nerdventurists, but in short, I found myself aching to stay longer. Korea is a country caught in rapid constant change. It’s modern and not afraid to affiliate itself with the Western world, but also it is fierce in keeping to its traditions, especially when it comes to food. It’s not as intense about it as Japan, which I find interesting from a cultural standpoint, but I also understand it given the two countries’ history.
It’d be remiss to talk about reasons I have been drawn to Korea without mentioning their pop cultural exports: KPOP and KDrama. Two years ago I had no idea about the Hallyu craze. I wouldn’t have been able to name a single Korean artist or actor if you paid me. But in my YouTube roulette looking up versions of a song I loved from a German musical (look, I’m super nerdy OK?), I came across a Korean version and immediately fell in love with the singer’s smokey voice. That singer turned out to be Kim Junsu, a legendary figure of the KPOP world and former TVXQ member (the first Korean boy group to break into Japan). Little did I know it would be a slippery slope and I discovered his discography and music videos and the rest is history.
I’ve talked about my battle with depression and panic disorder here and there, but I had never tried any sort of music therapy before. Despite working in radio, I’m not much of a music person. I mainly did talk radio. If someone had asked me my favorite band a few years ago I literally wouldn’t have been able to tell you; not because I couldn’t choose, but because I simply didn’t have one. But there was something about Junsu’s voice, his passion, and frankly his killer dance moves that helped me. His dance tracks help me feel energized and happy, his ballads can comfort me or help me cry when I need to and the tears won’t come.
Through discovering him I discovered his new group, JYJ, and other artists. I got introduced into Korean Dramas and found many of my friends were also fans. It was a new world for me and one that just genuinely made me very happy. It’s very unlikely I’ll ever be able to see Junsu live as he has to enlist in mandatory military service this year, but his work alone has done wonders for me. I wish I could explain it better, but I invite you to watch the two videos above to see sort of what I may be talking about. Or at least enjoy the show.
In my planning to learn Hangul, I came across a proverb that I thought was quite apt for this decision and going forward.
가려운 곳을 긁어 주다
Galyeoun gos-eul geulg-eo juda. It literally means “you scratch where it itches.” Moving to Korea has been itching my brain for ages. I kept going back and forth, back and forth, but it’s time to scratch that itch. I know I’m still young and that there’s no rule saying you can’t keep bouncing all over the world as you get older, but I want to do this now before I do get settled somewhere (if I ever do, let’s be real). It’s time to scratch that itch. And so, 가려운 곳을 긁어 주다!
Living and working in Korea will bring a slew of challenges, but I am ready for them and am excited for them. Now to get all that paperwork done…