In a couple of months, our family will move to the Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea. While we have concerns relating to this move, we are grateful for the opportunity to be able to continue living in Asia. I first explored moving to Korea in my senior year of college. The seed was planted by a young Vermont Law School student I was dating at the time. He was Korean-American. He was raised in in southern California, but he learned to speak Korean before he learned to speak English, he prepared kimchi, potatoes and eggs for breakfast, and he socialized with other Korean-Americans. He had a deep affinity–and respect–for Korea, Koreans, and Korean culture.
Ten years later, at the age of 31, I returned to Korea for the first time. The primary purpose of my trip was to attend the international Korean Adoptee Gathering in Seoul, with exploring my birth country as a close second. My two-week holiday included a Buddhist temple stay on the country’s east coast (no English spoken), a reprimand by a ROK MP at the DMZ for stepping over a line (literally), and a local television interview asking for information regarding my birth parents. Of course, I also explored the country’s temples, secret gardens, and famed markets and shopping districts. But those unexpected moments are what I am able to recall best and most fondly.
When we learned we would be moving to Japan, Russell and I agreed to take time to explore Korea with our daughter. We will leave Okinawa this summer without having done so. Rather, our sole trip to Korea was to meet our son. Of the five non-travel days we spent in Seoul, three were dedicated to our son, one was spent exploring Yongsan, and one was spent walking around Myeongdong, a tiny sliver of Seoul. Regardless, we did our best to act like locals. We traveled by train (subway). We purchased Korean sweet treats from a local vendor. We spoke Korean (albeit poorly). We bowed.
For me, the strangest part of the trip was leaving. We left without our son. We left without exploring cultural sites. We left without seeing tourist sites. We left without shopping. We left without visiting a temple. Yet, we left having accomplished exactly what we set out to do.
The term Motherland has never been so rich.