December 1999-March 2000: For four months I taught English to South Korean English students ranging from pre-school to high school in age at an English immersion school in Seoul. My school was located in the suburban Illsan, where I lived in a small room rented out from a Korean family that owned a restaurant upstairs from my school. Teaching English in South Korea was my first job after graduating from college and it was a perfect opportunity for me to combine making money with travel. But living and working in South Korea had its challenges. I definitely had some challenges learning to adapt to a new culture and at times I felt very isolated and lonely especially since it was the longest, I had been away from home. I also had new experience in teaching and many of my students spent all day in school in a highly pressured learning environment so when it came time for them to attend English class where I was the lone teacher in the class, many of them would use the time to misbehave and have fun instead of to learn. This was especially the case of the youngest students. I did learn to love my time in South Korea however and on the most part my students. I made many friends, was able to meet my childhood friend in the US Army and spend Y2K-New years with him on the DMZ of North Korea, developed a taste for Korean food, was a pitcher on a baseball team and even got to be Santa Clauss form students. There were definitely stresses and I was constantly being scolded by my school for breaking taboos in Korean culture in the end I was very thankful for my time in Korea. I eventually left the country or more like absconded when I stopped trusting my employer and missed my American girlfriend.

 

My students

My students

Living so close to North Korea, occasionally hearing practice bomb sirens in the events of an invasion and hearing from other Koreans about their divided families left me constantly wondering what the other side was like. I also stayed with my childhood friend Billy on his army base near the North Korean Border in Camp Stanley during New Years Eve on Y2K when many thought North Kore might invade and take advantage oif the distraction. Was North Korea really so dreadful? I became obsessed with learning about it but unfortunately, I could not visit North Korea. Americans were not welcome during this time. But I was able to visit the demilitarized zone, where the US Army and South Korean military or ROC soldiers patrol and man Panmunjom, a series of small structures where negotiations are sometimes held between the North and South. I was able to visit the hut the structure that straddled the border and enter into the North Koreas side. it wouldn’t be until 5 years later that would finally be allowed to officially enter North Korea on a proper trip-Visiting North Korea As One Of The First American Tourists Since The Korean War | Venture The Planet

 

North Korean soldiers at the DMZ

Me standing in North Korea with a ROC soldier in Pamnojon.DMZ

My friend Billy in the US Army posing with Secretary of State Cohen 

One of my favorite memories as a teacher was delivering presents to my students as Santa Clauss. Christmas isn’t commonly celebrated in South Korea, but my English school wanted to promote it as part of the English learning western experience to the kids. Whatever the reason, I dressed up in a tacky beard and red suit and delivered presents to the kids and they loved it.

Me as Santa

Me as Santa

Me as Santa

After a few bad encounters with my school’s management and hearing about some of their broken promises to other foreign teachers, I decided it was time to leave. I also missed my American girlfriend so one night without telling anyone except for one of my Korean friends, who I taught illegal private lessons to and his family, helped me to get to the airport and leave the country. Technically I needed permission from my employer to leave the country since I had a work visa and without permission, I would owe my employer an unspeakable amount of money. I bluffed my way pas immigration officials and was able to fly to Japan for a few days before returning home.

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