living / North Korea / South Korea

An expat in Korea

Note: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago when you couldn’t escape the news reports about North Korea.

I read an interesting point of view from an expat on The Huffington Post. I think this opinion sums up what a lot of expats are thinking.

April Salchert writes, “Many of us from the U.S. secretly share the opinion that going home would be more horrifying than living with the constant North Korean threat. Back home there is: Lack of health care, lack of employment, high cost of living and, the dreaded, living with the parents. These points keep us happily settled in the ROK.

“I’m not afraid of the possibility of being bombed, but I am afraid of going back home and being unemployed and/or sick without health insurance. That is more terrifying than anything Kim Jong-un spouts on about. I fear him much less than I fear the thought of being poor in the United States.”

I have met several Americans who came to Korea because they were laid off. Some were laid off multiple times while working in the education field. Others couldn’t find jobs after they graduated from college and decided to try working overseas.

This was not Matt’s or my situation. We’ve worked for 10 years after college and have been successful in our careers. We left good jobs, where we made decent salaries, had health insurance and lived happy, steady lives. We had — and still have — wonderful family and friends in America.

But we also had a desire to travel. To experience another culture for longer than our two weeks of vacation would allow. To actually meet some of the people we see quoted in all those news reports about South Korea. To feel like we were making a difference in others’ lives, that the work we were doing really mattered.

I consider myself lucky that I have the option to go home if I want to, or if the embassy warns me to. I’m not scared of living in my parents’ basement or being without health insurance. I don’t think I am being naive when I say that because of our experience, our network, our past prudence toward an emergency fund and our work ethics that we would eventually land on our feet.

But I also think returning now would mean giving up. I think it would be a waste. We gave up so many things to come here: those great jobs, more time spent with family and friends, seeing our beloved dog every day, stability. For giving up those things, we’ve gained an appreciation of another culture. We’re making friends. We’re feeling like we are making a difference in some children’s lives. I want to gain as much as I can to balance what we gave up. And I feel like there is still much to gain. I’m not finished yet. I’m not ready to go home. Not yet.

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5 thoughts on “An expat in Korea

  1. I miss Korea… One day I’d love to to back for a month or so. See as much as you possibly can, a year goes so fast. j.

  2. Nice of you to share your thoughts on this. I have a lot of respect for your decision to go to Korea, it took a lot of courage and I’m so glad things are working out for you guys!

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