Since moving to Korea two and a half, going on three years ago, I’ve treated my experience here as a temporary one, a first step on the way to something better, a necessary bother, and my goal had always been to get the hell out as soon as possible, and then never return, even after I married a Korean woman, and even after I found myself with a good job. I assumed consistently that almost anything else was better than the job security, family happiness, and general growing prosperity and progress I experienced here, and that it would be better to move back to America, or some other country, rather than deal with the garbage in Korea.
Until my wife, A., got pregnant, neither of us cared about money at all, but after this grand event A. began obsessing over the subject, scheming to her wit’s end whenever she had a spare moment, asking ceaselessly how she could get her hands on the kind of cashflow that would allow us a lifestyle of continuous or near-continuous travel. She settled on the traditional Korean answer to the question of how does one provide for oneself without working: property. Her plan was simple, and based on the success of some of her relatives: save up a lot of money, buy some apartments, and live off the rent.
After much argument and discussion over the preceding months, it seems to be the solution we’ve settled on, or really the only solution we can come up with; in spite of the garbage, Gyeongju is not such a bad place, and if A. got back to work as a nurse or an English teacher in a private school we would, perhaps, attain the goal of about $2000 a month in rent in about three years. The only alternative would appear to be saving for an eventual return to America, where we would never be able to escape the middle class, regardless of our talents or work ethic. Here in Korea, however, freedom from disagreeable labor (which should be the goal of every society, and every family, and every person) is readily within our grasp.
So my opinion of this place, and my place in it, has changed. I won’t stop despising the things I should rightfully despise (did I mention the garbage?), but to pretend that the situation is somehow better in America is no longer much of an interest for me, and that will continue to be the case so long as I sense that our prospects are good.