Kimchi and Coffee

Justin Eckl

(Brent Schwert)

North Korea has nuclear weapons and detonated one just the other day. Most of you are probably thinking: “Why does this concern me?” Right. Unless the U.S. jumps head first into this one, it doesn’t concern you.
It concerns me. In a few weeks from now I’m headed out to South Korea to teach English to college students. Truthfully speaking, I’m headed back there because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. I graduated from this fine school in 2005, and since then I’ve been teaching English in Korea.
After you graduate you may be interested in teaching English in a foreign country. It’s in a completely different part of the world so there’s definitely an adventure element, and it’s a nice transition between college and a “real job.” If you’re interested in this line of work, where you go depends on your individual proclivities and interests.
I wrote my senior thesis on the nuclear situation in North Korea, and northeast Asia more generally held some interest for me. So, when my friend asked me if I wanted to come to Korea to teach English for a pretty decent wage and live rent-free (my school paid my rent), it was a no-brainer. And that, in a roundabout way, brings me back to North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
I don’t want to be an alarmist here folks, but if you do end up thinking about doing this sort of thing, you should know something about the political situation of the region in which you intend on living. There’s no lack of Americans who equate the non-Western world with a lawless terrain, but I’ve met just as many Westerners in Korea who were willing to go into any country completely ignorant of any security risks.
My friend wanted to vacation in Sri Lanka for a few weeks before she spent a month in India because she found a great deal on plane tickets. This is right when the Tamil Tigers decided to restart hostilities in what was before a 22-year civil war. This is just one example, but the point is: It’s worth looking into.
I’m not sure which is worse: the American-as-old-lady, afraid to go out of the house, or the American who wants nothing more than to counterbalance this stereotype without knowing anything else about the world.
As for me, I’m no old lady, but I will re-register with the U.S. State Department when I get back to Korea just in case those paragons of compromise George W. Bush and Kim Jong Il don’t see eye to eye on how this nuclear thing should play out and the proverbial fecal matter hits the proverbial electrically powered wind device.