Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Wow, let me dust off the ol' K-blog for the first time in a long while!

I wish I were posting here again to relay some positive news—a vacation or even a new job in South Korea, a friend's new blog, some great news out of the peninsula—but that isn't the case.

I want to tell you about my friend Bob. Bob, a gay ex-Navy man, and his husband, Hoon. Both of them were some of the warmest, most open, most generous people I met while I was in Korea. This is out of an amazing group of coworkers and friends I managed to accrue—I honestly had a wonderful time in Korea due in large part to the fantastic people I met, Korean and foreigners alike, and even among those examples they stand out. (The "hell is other foreigners" tag notwithstanding; it's my default "other foreigners" tag and I wouldn't have much use for a new one.)

Bob is quite a few years older than most of my Korean and NEST contemporaries; the draw of retirement and the beginnings of failing health prompted him to leave the Korean ESL world after a solid decade in the field. Hoon was unable to come with him at the time, so he remained in Korea.

Unfortunately, Bob's been facing an uphill battle since coming back home. He is unable to work much these days (aforementioned failing health), but receives no additional disability support to supplement his $500 / month Social Security stipend. And it takes money to bring someone permanently overseas.

All of this is not helped by the fact that, during the entirety of Bob's tenure in South Korea, the Korean government did not recognize same-sex marriage (and continues to fight this losing cultural battle, even today); we all knew Hoon as Bob's husband and vice versa, but the title was nothing more than a social nicety. Likewise, national, federal-level same-sex marriage was not established in the US until after Bob had already moved home, so the US embassy couldn't have done much to help.

Would being legally-recognized partners help? I don't know, it might have. But that's water under the bridge.

I know the Internet is full of a lot of tales of woe, or ridiculous potato salad kickstarters, or anything else, but I can assure you that the couple involved with this are among the kindest and most generous people I've had the pleasure to meet. Do I understand entirely the reasoning or legality behind all of the obstacles, both American and South Korean? No. Hopefully it will actually be easier than this for them to be together; hopefully it won't take as much as Bob is expecting it to take. But do I think for a moment that this GoFundMe is a graft, a fraud, a pity party? No. Never in a thousand years. Bob was always the giving one: having dinners, thoughtful gifts, good advice, even job openings. He would never ask other people to give if he didn't have to.

If you have the means, please donate. If you have the audience, please signal boost. If you have the legal connections and advice, please get in touch.  These are two sweet people who deserve to be able to live out their lives together.