Now that I got my venting out of the way, it is time to focus on the things that make Korea, a great place to live, or visit. This is the second list (here is the first) showing the things I love about the RoK that will hopefully encourage some people on the fence to come on over (not talking about North Koreans, you guys probably don’t want to jump that fence… go around).
This one seems like a very simple thing, but there is something pretty amazing about being in one of the safest countries in the world. Per capita, there are less murders in South Korea than New Zealand. Wrap your head around that one. Even theft and other petty crimes are rather uncommon. Men and women can walk in pretty much any neighborhood, even late at night, without fearing for their lives (although the occasional exhibitionist / pervert does exist). While in the US, just as a precaution, I used to always watch my back at ATMs and was very careful not to show how much money I was carrying. In Korea, I have no fear of carrying a grand or even counting it right after withdrawing to make sure it is all there.
While it is unlikely you’ll find a good deal buying clothes in Korea, you will probably look fabulous anyways. Koreans are incredibly fashionable (except for those couple dressy people) and look dressed to kill all day, everyday. The women are always seen in high heels with skirts and a nice blouse, even if it is -20 Celsius outside. The men are just as fashionable with crisp pants, nice shirts and in the winter, fantastic jackets. Ladies and gentlemen of Korea, I noticed… and appreciated it :).
3) Clubbing and Partying
I have never been a big partier or had a need to get trashed every weekend due to a rare disorder I’ve had since an early age. It is called “NotCoolEnough Syndrome.” However, when I do party, I have a two expectations:
It Shouldn’t be Too Expensive – Clubbing is fun, but not $200 worth of fun.
The Party Should be over When I’m Tired – If the lights come on and people are forced to go home, that is a shitty party city. Clubbing pretty much anywhere in LA sucks.
Korea partying can be done cheaply and you can be out pretty much as late as you want.
2) Trust of Teachers
This one is going to take some explaining.
For the last four years, I worked as an English teacher in South Korea. To be more specific, I taught kindergarten, pre-kinder, pre-school, and elementary. The first year, I normally would post pictures of myself with my students playing, learning, or just carrying them around on Facebook and didn’t think much of it. Imagine an uncle or aunt picking up your children, and that is the kind of interaction teachers have, and are expected to have with their students in South Korea. Then the jokes and ‘serious concerns’ started coming in.
“Aren’t you afraid of being accused ‘of something'” and “that looks so wrong” were just some of the comments that came from friends in the US which highlights an incredible problem. The US is so absolutely terrified of pedophilia, and feel that their fear is the norm, not the exception. This makes working as a kindergarten teacher
When I tutored in the US, parents were sure to put me in a public place, even if I was teaching a male high school student. In Korea, teachers are given so much trust, and I think for the most part, the teachers appreciate it and do not violate that trust as they are… wait for it… professionals!
Even to this day, I cannot explain to a group of people in the states that I taught pre-school abroad and show them pictures of myself with any sort of physical contact (such as a hug) without some wise-ass making a pedophilic remark. So for those of you who asked why I don’t make a career of it in the US, this is why.
1) The Music Industry
Korean pop, for the most part is a product of one of the three major record labels: SM, JYP, or YG. The groups are pre-packaged, their personas are given, their music is rarely “deep” or “inspirational” and the stardom that comes with it all, is temporary. I adore that.
There are so many things I hate about the American music industry, starting with the worshiping of a ‘genius’ in music. No matter how good you are, you don’t deserve to be a millionaire and far too many ‘artists’ stick around for way too long (looking at you Kanye).
Many k-pop performers are well aware that their fame is temporary and seek out other more conventional careers in anticipation of the end. In fact, many of the young performers’ careers finish as soon as they enter college because an education is many times considered more important than superstardom (as it SHOULD be). While some do make quite a bit of money and an equally large ego follows, at least we know that in a few years, they will be forgotten.
Next, I strongly dislike how music NEEDS to be meaningful to be considered good. Music elitists of the west: I don’t care to be ‘moved’ or ‘inspired’ with every song. Just because I like pop, doesn’t mean it is ‘bad music.’
As an analogy, I like to compare music with movies. Comedies usually have absolutely no meaning, but they are entertaining. That is why people watch them. The tunes I mostly enjoy is kind of the comedic genre of music and I’m fine with that.
Korean pop is generally catchy and offers me exactly what I am looking for. I don’t think anyone can see Orange Caramel’s song Lipstick (above) and think ‘wow, that was so deep,’ but you know what? It doesn’t matter, that song is still awesome.