Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday afternoon with Kyung-Jin

Kyung-Jin was in a very expansive mood this afternoon, and we had some fascinating conversations. One thing we do every session is go through one of her TOEFL practice essay questions, and today one of them was about the generation gap in Korea. Learning from her about South Korean culture makes me feel really North American, and I'm glad to have the chance to understand how things work in another part of the world. When I see the phrase "baby boomer," I automatically think about a generation that is affluent, powerful, and highly influential in the culture and economy of North America. For Koreans, baby boomers are conservative, cautious, and concerned about waste and poverty. They were born just after the Korean War, and while the rationing and restriction during the World Wars has created a North American baby boomer generation who want to take advantage of their affluence, it is the opposite for South Koreans. Their deprivations during the war makes many of them exhibit the same tendencies as people who lived through the Great Depression: they make their children clean their plates because they know what it was like to go without food, and they save everything they can in case there might come a time when they can't get it. While the South Korean echo generation is willing to consider the possibility of peace and unification with North Korea, the baby boomers are generally very much opposed to it and still worry about a possible invasion by North Korea.

As much as I think I will always have a case of fernweh (away sickness, the craving to go somewhere far and new), working with Kyung-Jin helps, because she teaches me the kinds of lessons that you can often only get from travelling to another country. This is what I love about teaching: I'm doing half the learning.