In the Land of Perpetual Sorrow

I’ve learned in cultural workshops that in Korea, sorrow or sadness is the default emotion. If we hear birds chirping, Americans think they are singing. If Koreans hear birds singing, they usually think “Oh, the birds are crying.” The birds have quite a bit to cry about. Korea is a land that has taken a lot of beatings. During the Korean War, Koreans would ask each other “Have you eaten?” or “Did you sleep last night?” as a common greeting, something like “Hello” or “How are you?” Times were very difficult on the Korean side of the war. Additionally, I’ve never thought to ask someone about eating or sleeping as a greeting. I just assume we all eat and sleep as well as the next person.

Of course, the younger generations of Koreans are starting to pull away from this deep-seated sorrow. Most teens and young adults are obsessed with fashion or K-pop stars. However, there are still generations that remember the era of the Korean War and lived through the tumultuous years. Honestly, I know very little about the Korean War, so I’m not able to comment on whether or not it was right or wrong, good or bad. But I do know that war, regardless of it’s cause, can cultivate heartache that lasts for generations.

With this detail in mind, it’s important to know that beginning next week, I’ll begin life in a land that defaults to sadness and despair. Despite the glowing lights of Seoul or the placid beaches of Jeju Island, sadness still lurks somewhere beneath the surface. Sorrow can be a hard thing to shake, but thankfully, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tidbits:

Going to Seoul this weekend to visit the DMZ and the Ambassador’s Residence. I plan on sleeping and reading all weekend. Count on it.

Seven days until departure from Goesan to Jeju Island.

I’ve lost 19 pounds since coming to Korea. Long story short: best diet ever.

Good morning America and geon bae from a different kind of south,

Sarah

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