The Korean Dream

I want to live in Korea.

That’s it; it’s decided. No more dithering.

Ever since the idea of living abroad implanted itself into my head, I’ve been toying with the idea of going to Korea. I decided on Vietnam initially, for reasons which you can find here. But I’ve changed my mind. It always was Soeul, and it’s going to be Seoul.

Because I’m a big K-pop and K-drama fan. I’m sure that sounds silly to you. What a superficial reason to want to move somewhere. But I’ve asked myself countless times if my desire to move there is genuine, and by now I’m pretty sure that it is.

Somewhere along the K-entertainment journey that I’ve been on, I’ve been seduced by the culture, the people and the language: it is so flawed. And in certain aspects so… weird is the only way I can put it. The dominance of the male, of the family, of appearances, and most of all of age. That eternal question – how old are you – to find out where I stand in relation to you, the answer setting the whole course of the relationship. The subtleties of the Korean language. The loudness in speech contrasted by gentleness of manners (I’m thinking of the younger female generation in particular). It’s fascinating.

I don’t expect my time there to be rosy. In fact, it was only a few days ago when I chatted with a school friend of mine who’s been living in Korea for many years. She warned against the deceptive nature of Koreans – how they’re selfish individuals out for their own good who will sweet-talk then abandon you the second they get what they want. How difficult it is to find genuine people who will stick with you through thick and thin. She says it’s much more difficult to find true friends there compared to in Thailand. I already struggle in Thailand – so finding good friends in Korea is going to be a real mission.

But, as I told my friend yesterday, I still want to go. That irrational joy of hearing Korean being spoken and seeing Korean letters everywhere is overwhelming. It’s safe to say that my love for the language is a major reason why I want to live there. Everything else is secondary. I don’t know whether this is a good enough reason. But my connection with languages in general (I have a similar affinity with French which made my year in Paris especially memorable) is deep-rooted, and I’m hopeful that it will be enough to help me overcome the numerous obstacles that await.

So the plan is to study in Korea. I was thinking of a Masters in psychology initially, but I’m now leaning more towards an undergraduate degree. First because four years is longer than two years – I want as extended a stay in Korea as possible. Second because I had a look at the Masters programmes on offer and naturally they’re all “advanced” courses – I don’t have formal training in psychology and it seems precocious and arrogant to not start at the beginning. Third because, should I wish to pursue a career in psychology, having an undergraduate degree (and possibly a Masters at a later date) is a much more solid background than merely two years of a Masters combined with the broad social sciences and language undergraduate degree (specifically a BA in European Social and Political Studies) that I have.

I looked at the fees recently and they’re affordable. I’m looking at around 600k in Thai baht for four years of undergraduate education. That’s vastly cheaper than a degree in English that you could get in any other English-speaking country. Cost of living is another matter, but I’m confident I can earn enough from my subtitles work (which I intend to continue doing) and possibly part-time work (which luckily a student VISA allows you to have). In any case I’m used to managing on a tight budget, and I have a solid two years to save up. So money shouldn’t be an issue.

The biggest obstacle right now, ironically, is actually learning the language. Though it’s the main reason I want to live there, I seem to cannot muster the determination to start. I have the books, the multimedia, the means to practice – everything but the will to learn. As I type, I have a beginner’s book lying in my bag, waiting to be used. I’ve known how to read and write Korean for a while now from watching Korean television (music shows are a great help because you can match the audio to the lyrics shown on-screen) – the alphabet system is fairly uncomplicated. I also know some oft-used phrases from watching a copious amount of Korean dramas and variety shows. But I know mastering the structure of the language will be another matter. It’s going to be tough. I don’t doubt that I can do it, but right now the prospect of facing the work is daunting and I keep putting it off.

It’s nice to have decided at last. It’s exciting and scary. In a way, I feel that my journey has finally begun. I’ve looked over the precipice and seen what awaits. And it’s Korea.


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