Someone shared this photo in the Uijeongbu Crew Facebook group (which I can never bring myself to leave, ever):
Main street Uijeongbu, 1966.
Googling to find the original online (in case the Facebook image link ever breaks), I came across this page. It's mind-blowing how much Uijeongbu changed in nearly 50 years and how quickly.
Now Uijeongbu looks like this:
If that photo up there is taken where I THINK It is, then these two right here are just a few blocks down from that location.
This fresh on the heels of news that the THC9, beloved downtown movie theater, has finally been crushed under the heel of the CGV that opened when they put in the Shinsegae right at Uijeongbu Station. And that one of my favorite places downtown, Birdland, has gone from a cool jazz club with regular performers who recognized me and my friends to "Birdland 7080," which means no more live jazz in Uijeongbu and probably yet another loud, obnoxious 7080 bar.
Nothing is permanent except change. But when you leave a place, you like to pretend that you're leaving it in a state of suspended animation. That the things you loved will continue on after you forever and in some way that part of your life will, too; that you can come back whenever you want to and it'll be like you never left.
I found something the other day that prompted me to crawl out of the woodwork, something I can best describe as the aborted fetus of a literary movement: the lost in Korea generation.
An overwhelming number of EFL teachers in South Korea end up writing blogs. Only natural: the majority of them are the first among their peer group to teach in Korea, and it's easier to share longform updates and photo essays via Wordpress or Blogger than it is via email or Facebook. Plus, I think you'd find that many of them majored in English at university, to some extent—straight up English, or Creative Writing (guilty), or Journalism, and so on. I'd argue that crowd represents a disproportionately large number of EFL teachers in Korea. Not as many as Education, perhaps, but a close second.
Naturally, then, when you have people with a passion for words on what may be the biggest adventure of their lives, away from their friends and family for maybe the first time in their lives, a blog becomes a tempting, even an inevitable, step to take. Add a few words of encouragement in the comments, and you know what seems like an even better idea?
Full disclosure: I wouldn't have bothered digging these specimens up if I weren't up to tricks myself. I'm guilty of having literary aspirations, too.
That's besides the point of this entry. I have some amount of high-falutin' critical literary thoughts on what a novel about teaching in South Korea should and shouldn't be, but that can come later. For now, I just want to float these links to self-published "wacky expat shenanigans in South Korea!" novels out into the world for your amusement, since they are pretty awful. If you want to write a novel about EFL teachers in South Korea, don't write one like these. Please.
Out of courtesy to the authors who, as far as I can Google, have moved on into careers unrelated to teaching English or creative writing, I won't include their names or links to their Facebook/LinkedIn profiles, all of which I was able to find rather easily. Which brings me to a piece of advice: when writing a book based on your own real life experiences, do yourself a favor and use a pen name.
The granddaddy of all of these, though, is unusual in that it's mostly about being in jail: the infamous Brother One Cell by Cullen Thomas (who still seems to make bank on this book, so he gets named here, too). This one is maybe worth reading, but the reviews seem mixed, so it'll have to wait for a slow book day, after I've filled in the gaps of my English literature history.
I've been meaning to come out of my semi-retirement to talk about all of the insanity going on back on the peninsula: traitorous legislators in the south, power consolidation in the north, it's all crazytown! But—more competent people than myself are talking about it, so I'll just remain quiet. (Though, an interesting theory I came across: Uncle Jang was executed for setting KJU up with an ex porn star, and also maybe sleeping with her himself. Enjoy that one.)
(Also, news sources are reporting that he was fed to wild dogs? Fucking really? God, American media is stupid.)
Anyway, I'm not talking about that. What IS bringing me out of my retirement is a new blog on Korean history, written by one of my friends back in Korea (I almost typed "back home" there). It's called Figures of Korean History, and while there's only one entry now, there will be more in the future. Subscribe now!