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why i fell in love with south korea



Three and a half years have passed since I started living in South Korea. I didn’t originally plan on living here for this long, but before I knew it, it became my second home. Living in South Korea for the past three years, I had trouble dealing with interpersonal relationships and gotten hurt. Also, the heavy traffic and air pollution (PM2.5) in Seoul made me feel depressed. All the same, the more I got to know about this country, the more I found myself hooked on it.


When I was a senior at uni, I felt it was difficult for me, as a lesbian, to live in my surroundings in Japan. Back then, I couldn’t talk about my sexuality not only with my family but also with my close friends. Living with my parents, the feeling of pressure started to build inside of me, to act on their expectations that I will marry someone of the opposite sex and have a family. I suffered the conflict between their expectations and my desire to live true to myself. That eventually led me to the decision to move to South Korea. I wanted to leave the nest, and there was also an academic subject that I wanted to study in South Korea. Furthermore, I had studied abroad in the country before. I felt very close to it, and I chose to move there.


Nothing had more influence on my personality and my way of thinking than my life in South Korea. I learned that in South Korea being assertive, expressing anger, and being a little egoistic is just right instead of being modest and reading between the lines. When I was in Japan, It was natural that I should care about how others feel and read faces rather than insisting on my opinions. I don’t think I had a lot of chances to express my anger, and that kind of emotion was not needed in the first place. I rarely had conflicts with my Japanese friends who I had known for over 10 years, and I can say for sure that we have built a respectful friendship. I don’t need to use as much energy to get angry as I do in South Korea. I am a type of person who doesn’t like to have conflicts with others, and wants to spend my time in peace. With these reasons, I realize I like living in Japan as much when I go back there once in a while.


Without exception, all the Korean people that I have met so far express their emotions and opinions in a straightforward way including both good and bad. When they laugh they laugh from the bottom of their heart. When they get mad, they get infuriated. When they cry they express their grief from the bottom of their heart. When somebody has a problem, they get genuinely worried and try to help them. When I talked to my friends about my experience that I was pretty mad about, they got so mad, ー so mad that my anger went away and that made me happy.


Come to think of it now, throughout my life in South Korea I always had somebody who stood by me and helped me. There were many times when I wondered, “They are just my friends. Why are they so nice to me?” For instance, this one time my friends and their mothers gave a lot of rice and side dishes including kimchi to me, who was just an exchange student. On my temporary return to Japan, one of my friends who I had met only a few times bought so much Korean traditional snacks and noodles and gave it all to me as souvenirs. I had this thought that “they were just friends,” but they seemed to think that “it was a natural thing to do for friends.” Having met people like them, I think I have come to be more proactive in caring about my friends and helping them.


My Korean friends became very honest with me once they opened up to me. In the beginning, there were times when I was confused and hurt with their honesty and blunt words, but I learned that I didn’t need to feel that way. When I went to a hair salon or went shopping, my friends were always honest about whether it looked good on me or not. When I asked them for advice, they told me what was good and what was bad. I felt their human warmth. Of course, those “goods” and “bads” were based off of their standard. I came to think that making it clear about where we stand and our understanding was one of the important communication tools when opinions don’t match.


Also, you may think South Korea has strong anti-queer groups and it is hard for sexual minorities to live there. It definitely is partially true, but I think it is easy for lesbians to live in South Korea. Additionally, living far away from my parents made it possible to focus on my choice about who I want to live with and where I want to live. That made me feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders. Through meeting lesbian friends in South Korea, I found out that there are a lot of communities who I can go camping, drinking, and traveling with as well as so many places where I can feel safe such as bars secretly known exclusive for lesbians. When I was in Japan, I didn’t know how to find those communities. I didn’t even know if those communities even existed, and It was hard for me to find a place where I could be true to myself. Here in South Korea, I felt that I could live like myself without holding back.


South Korea and people in this country taught me “it is okay to live true to myself, and to live however I like.” I sometimes get tired of their straightforward way of expressing feelings and indicating intentions. However, I got hooked on the charms of the country and this is already my fourth year living here. The country with so much human warmth and energy makes me feel at home. I would love to continue living in my second home. I want to live my life feeling the charms of close yet far countries, Japan and South Korea.

Images by Yurina

English Translated by Mao

English Edited by Hanayo

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

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