Most Recent from Sleep In Busan

The Aftermath

I have been consistently dreading writing this for public consumption as I am certain if the Kpop stans get ahold of this I'll get videos of Twice dancing along with death threats. I will preface this by saying that if you feel the urge to fight or debate, fight or debate your mother. This is not an open forum. I am not free of the consequences of my words, but I am eternally free to ignore you.

That being said, Korea is the worst place I have ever traveled. As I have likely told many of you who have asked me in person, I would suggest going if you're white, if you're obsessed with the culture and its exports, or if you're going for 2 weeks or less.  Everyone else has been warned. I landed back in the United States on Sunday, June 30th, 2019, and approximately 206 days later, I am ready to talk about my 1 year in Korea.

The Flight Back

So, I almost died. I'm starting here because this isn't really Korea's fault so much as my exhaustion because of Korea. So, it is storytime. My best friend who I met during my 1st semester in Busan decided to complete her internship in Seoul and so following my 2nd semester at Pukyong National University (PKNU) in Busan, I traveled to Seoul with 3 large bags, a book bag, and a purse to visit her for a week. It was the only good time I had during the entirety of my time in Korea. I had an intense and unsightly allergic reaction to what amounted to over 25 mosquito bites on my ankles which caused insane itching and, I kid you not, boils, but I was finally able to be myself armed with someone I love very, very dearly. 

After a week of finally having some fun, it was time to go. Traveling with 2 large suitcases, I took a train and then another train and then hopped on my direct fight exhausted. And when I say exhausted I mean I plopped in the Delta Airlines seat, all of the traumatic experiences I had in Korea behind me. I would not be asked "hotel?" on the train or groped or spat on everywhere I went. I would be going back home, where I knew I had a community. I mean had a drink and slept the entire flight home.

Hindsight, this was an important time in my life. I was forced to develop a self-confidence that I had not previously had in myself through consistent abuse. I was re-adjusting to life with a solid home base again- a new apartment, a new car, same job, and a brand new outlook. Things were going well. About 3 weeks after I landed, on July 22nd, 2019, I developed a cough that made my ribs sore. Smoking is legal in my state and I assumed that a post-inhalation cough made my ribs sore. It happens all the time when you're sick, right? You cough too often or too hard and it makes you a little sore. That's all it was. That evening, however, I could not even lie down and with much pressing by my mother, I presented to the emergency room.

I will not complain about my treatment in the emergency room, although it was terrible. I will say that after a 9-hour wait, I was finally diagnosed. A pulmonary embolism that developed during the flight home and was large enough that it was blocking one of my lungs from getting the nutrients and the oxygen it needs to stay alive. So for the 3 weeks following my direct flight home from Korea, my lung was dying, and on the evening I presented to the emergency room, the dead lung was rubbing against my ribs causing the pain and the cough. Essentially, I had a heart attack in my lungs caused by a fairly massive blood clot. Pulmonary emboli are often caused by remaining sedentary on long flights, though it is uncommon in individuals as young as I am.  I wouldn't be alive if not for my mother insisting that we go to the emergency department. Take that as you may.

The Academics

So, I think I talked some about the differences between Korean and American schooling, particularly that, at least at PKNU, you absolutely have to show up for your classes, a policy I was grossly aware of. With consistent harassment, pre-existing depression, and classes taught in Korean when I could only even register for classes in English, why should I even go to class? I studied extremely hard and despite having no materials available to me, I got As on every examination and subsequently an A in every course. Spite makes an excellent driving force. My university in Korea, Pukyong National University, had that pesky attendance policy, and so when my grades were transferred to my home university, I had failed every single course. The replacement policy stated that I had to get in contact with my professors in Korea and get letters, then have them send my grades, without the attendance scores, in order to get the scores overturned. 

There's a certain level of cognitive dissonance that was absolutely shattered during this process. Although I felt it when I was there, it was only affirmed when trying to get ahold of these professors that everything they were doing was intentional and malicious. They indicated their class was English and then spoke in Korean, assuming I didn't understand, in order to articulate how unwelcome I was. And while I ended up understanding quite a bit of Korean (which would actually not be even remotely beneficial to me), I was set up by the university to fail. When I reported campus harassment to the appropriate offices, I was abandoned and who do you complain to when your professors chair their departments? When I attempted to get these letters from these professors, most of them refused. They would acknowledge that I, to their surprise, excelled in the course, but they would not be willing to communicate that in any official capacity. After several months of course content review and attempting to acquire letters, I got every one of my grades to reflect the work that I had to do and should not have had to.

The Harassment 

I know that this is what everyone wants to hear; however, I will not go in detail about my trauma for your delight. If you were not supportive then, I'm not interested in your support now. From the moment I stepped foot in the country, the staring, touching, propositions, discrimination, and frank anti-blackness was palpable. There are several occasions where professors would talk about and insult me in Korean, assuming that I could not understand. An older man asked me if I would like to go to a Hotel with him, assuming I was a prostitute. I was spat on, on more than one occasion. 

A lot of Western individuals, especially Korean fetishists, love to (attempt to) argue with me that it's just ignorance but the "They don't know any better" ideology is insulting to me and Koreans. Infantilizing and stupefying Korean individuals or culture as if they have never seen or met black people particularly in Busan, Korea's 2nd largest city, is an affront to Korean culture and is gaslighting to my experiences. This is complete shade, but seeing that a good chunk of Korean popular culture is based on Black American cultural practices, they certainly know who black people are. Korea, Busan, and PKNU is home to several Black foreigners from all over. More so, no one should not have to 'accept' that they will be treated poorly if they decide to visit a certain place, nor is it my job to placate or educate anyone. I'd consider it for cash, like the cash I paid PKNU and did not receive any education.

The relationships

Well. Most of my friendships fell apart. whether they know they fell apart or not I do not know; however, I know that no one except a perfect British-Somali woman was there for me during my experiences in Korea. 

Finals Thoughts

Many of the other exchange students during my first semester, all of whom were neo-liberal "my country is post-racial" Europeans, had an excellent time in Korea. They cried when they left, they still stay in contact. They took all of their social science classes together and had a grand time. I, a math and psychology student, took my natural science and math curriculum alone, and though I made an excellent friend out of it, my sense of self, trust in others, and global view got damaged in incomparable and devastating ways. 

To answer everyone's questions: No, I did not have a good time. Yes, I learned the language. The food was good. My favorite thing was public transport. No, I do not recommend. 

Good Luck

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash