Seoul Searching: Final Reflections

Someone once said that "It's the journey, not the destination" and what an amazing journey it has been in Seoul. Although I have been back in the States for over 2 weeks, I've been able to reflect over my time in Seoul and how it has changed my perspective forever.

As a young Black woman from Iowa, I felt it was even more of an interesting time going through culture shock and changed perspectives yet came out ahead. It was fascinating to see Korea go through cultural pride yet simultaneously see their foreign disdain and reverence unfold before me. There are a lot of dynamics that I find fascinating in Korea and I find myself wanting to go back and explore them further.

That is why I am enrolling in Korean Language classes at my University either this semester or spring semester. I love the language and I feel that learning it would be one of the biggest forms of gratitude I can convey to all the UOS buddies who strived to make our trip pleasant in English. I would like to return that kindness by learning Korean.

I am also planning on going back to Korea to study abroad for a semester hopefully my junior year because I left way too much unexplored and was changed and enriched by too many people. Talking to my engineering advisor, my University's College of Engineering apparently has a lot of Korean alumni and she said if I ever wanted to get in contact with them she'd be thrilled to help me out (Korean engineering internship or research possibilities maybe?!)

I also feel there is an underlying Black and Korean movement that I can't really explain but can feel the effects. With the appreciation of Black music and aspects of Black culture (many Korean men I had met knew the black handshake unsurprsingly), I feel there is much more to discover there as a Black woman and I am ready to go back.

Also, I miss many people there including my friend Jaeyong. He's too adorable to be left alone. He got really excited because apparently there is a Black woman who just arrived at the University of Seoul and he said she reminded him of me. I demanded that he go out of his way to make sure she feels welcomed on that campus because I know she's probably feeling a little isolated.

Korea was a life-changing experience that will remain with me for a lifetime and I am so grateful that I was blessed to be able to experience it all. Above all though, it is the people I will never forget. I've been changed for the better and will cherish these memories for a lifetime. Thank you all for your support.


  1. You're a Peach! That's what it's all about though; living and learning. I hope you have the chance to go back and I'm sure that you will.

    Good for you in taking Korean classes. Better communication never hurt anyone. As for the exportation and absorption of Black American culture, I continue to be surprised.

    A couple of young ladies in K-Pop busted out with Minnie Ripperton and Eric Benet. Now Usher and Bey are a given because they are prominent artists.

    However, Eric Benet is not as well known and Minnie goes way back to the 70's with "Loving You". Folks seem to know some R&B/Soul history over there and I respect their efforts.

    Plenty of us over here could give a damn about our own roots. So Big Up to so many of the K-Pop artists showin' love and respect.

    We need to start to return the favor on this side of the pond as well.

  2. Glad you plan on returning. I've always heard that study abroad is a great experience and I regret not going when I was a student. I just heard that Mblaq is supposed to be filming a varity show at UOS. Eric Benet seems to be very popular in South Korea. Several K-pop artist have sang his songs on tv.

  3. Glad to hear this! It's been a great series!

  4. It's fantastic that you're making plans to return to Korea. You also have another option. You can return after you graduate because it's pretty tough to go back after such a lengthy time. Perhaps your University has other programs to get you there, including one in the engineering field.

    It would be great to experience actually living in another culture rather than just visiting it. While some people find this to be an unpleasant experience, it will serve you to be as well-rounded as possible. Good, bad or ugly, these experiences can help you carve out a much better life for yourself.

    It's great you're taking classes. I regret that I did not study Japanese well enough before coming here. Thankfully, I was able to use traditional Chinese characters to cheat while I finally learned. If you live in Korea, you'll also discover that what you learn in the classroom seldom has any bearing on real communication because classroom language makes you "foreign."

    Thanks to the internet, you can breach this barrier, too. Dramas are invaluable. Since K-dramas, J-dramas, C-dramas and others are created for native speakers, you can learn practical language skills from watching them. You can also glimpse into how the target societies truly work because again these dramas do not target foreigners, only natives.

    When you're more comfortable with Korean language, go here: http://www.d-addicts.com/forum/ You can keep up with Korean entertainment happening in almost real time and when the dramas are available, you can download... until the site is forced to close. The discussions are all in English, too. Racists exist, but it's easy to ignore them. The ability to choose *not* to respond to them will make you strong.

    Good luck to you. I look forward to hearing about your future experiences in Asia. Life-changing events can occur multiple times.

  5. have you thought of permanently living there?

  6. the woman that your friend mentions is probably my sister. She is at Seoul University working on her master's.

  7. @Avastacia
    I have thought about it but it's way too early for me to think about that. I still have to be fully set with my major, decide on if I want to go to Graduate School, and then find a job :D I will say I would not mind at all :D

    That would be a heck of a coincidence. What is she getting her master's in :D

  8. @Bcbgrl33

    Thanks so much for this series. It was very eye-opening and empowering for both of us. It's definitely a great experience that you'll be able to cherish forever. You've inspired me to try to make it to Korea by this time next year. :)

  9. @Lenoxave
    We need to start to return the favor on this side of the pond as well.

    Agreed. Every black person that I introduce to the likes of Rain, Se7en, Big Bang, etc. usually says a variation of the same thing about thirty seconds into the song or video...it's always either, "How can they come this hard and no one here knows who they are?" or "This would be a hit if it was played on black radio." or "Hell yeah, blacks would embrace them. I know I'd listen to it."

    Or in the case of Rain specifically, "He's definitely way better than damn Justin Timberlake." or "Damn, he's fine. What's his name again?" or my absolute favorite, "That's the same guy from Ninja Assassin?! I didn't know he could sing and dance like that!", which is usually followed by wide-eyed staring, silly grins and open-mouthed breathing. (I love introducing new people to Rain. Their initial reactions are hilarious. *ahem* Of course, I always conveniently forget that I had the same reaction the first time that I saw him sing and dance...)

    We're most certainly open to it, but it's like it’s being deliberately kept from us (mainstream-wise). Like "Someone" knows something is up between blacks and Asians (esp. Koreans) and is trying to stop it. Or am I just being paranoid? Somehow I doubt it...

  10. @ Cinnamon. As Ankh says "White privilege, there's nothing it can't ruin."

    Music industry Bastards...

  11. @Anonymous
    That would be a heck of a coincidence. What is she getting her master's in :D

    something in diplomacy, business, or international relations - not sure completely but she's been there since summer 2008 and is supposed to graduate next year

  12. Cinn, you are doing better than I am. Every time I try to introduce people to Rain they just see "Asian male" and dismiss him.

  13. @ Anonymous

    Please use a name next time. It's easier to converse and avoid multiple "Anons".

  14. @ MG - There is a lot of work to be done. Stereotypes and programming are a b*tch to dismantle once they've been planted in people's heads.

    It doesn't help that the Seoul Patrol in Korea, assists in infantilizing its own artists, through banning and censorship.

    Grown Folk can't even talk about being grown in their music without being shut down by their own gov't and its minions.

    I'm forming a rough draft as we speak, of my thoughts on K-Pop's arbitrary censorship of anything deemed "adult."

  15. @MG
    Cinn, you are doing better than I am. Every time I try to introduce people to Rain they just see "Asian male" and dismiss him.

    They see all that talent and fineness and dismiss him for something dumb like that? *shakes head* That's a shame. They don't know what they're missing.

    You're so right. This stuff is pervasive. I can't wait to read your piece.

  16. @ Lenoxave

    Ohhhhhh...I know. That Rain's music is deemed unsuitable for peeps under 19 is insane.

  17. Ohhhhhh...I know. That Rain's music is deemed unsuitable for peeps under 19 is insane.

    Yeah, I think that Rainism got hit with that because of the "magic stick" lyric in the Rainism song. Crazy.


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