“You need a Korean girlfriend.”
This is what all my Korean male friends would tell me constantly. It was easier said than done.
Of the 300 Native English teachers, 180 of them came in couples. Of the 120 left, probably 40 of them had girlfriends or boyfriends back home. That left 80 or so single teachers. 40 of those were males. Of those 40, four successfully got Korean girlfriends while living in Mokpo.
The first native teacher with a Korean girlfriend’s name was Mick. He met his Korean girlfriend at a dance club in Gwangju, which is about 40 minutes outside Mokpo.
“How does your girlfriend’s father like you?” I asked Mick.
“Well, he doesn’t know I exist. My girlfriend said that if her father found out that she was going out with a foreigner, she would be out of the family.”
That didn’t stop them from going out, but for a Korean woman to marry a foreigner it can usually have immediate repercussions in her family.
The second native teacher I met with a Korean girlfriend was my roommate Axl. He actually came to Korea with a girlfriend in Ohio but halfway through his stay he decided that he wasn’t going back to live with her and he wanted to stay in Korea. He met a Korean girl named Gloria during a private English lesson. She was taking English lessons in Mokpo because she was planning to apply for a teaching job at a university in a city called Jeonju, which is an hour north of Mokpo. Gloria successfully got the job in Jeonju. They started dating shortly after she moved to Jeonju. Almost every weekend, Axl would take the bus to visit Gloria in Jeonju. They were getting along so well that Axl decided to apply for a job in Jeonju so they could live in the same town. It took him four months of searching but he finally got a job teaching in Jeonju.
The night before Axl was set to leave Mokpo, he got a call from Gloria saying she was breaking up with him. It was too late for him to stay in Mokpo, his position had already been taken by a new teacher and his room was also taken.
Although he was sad about what happened with Gloria, he still wanted to have a going away dinner. We had three-person dinner with a Korean girl named Pam.
“I really want a boyfriend, I am so lonely,” remarked Pam while we were eating dinner together.
“I thought you had a boyfriend.” Axl commented.
“No, I haven’t had a boyfriend in two years. I want an American boyfriend I can just have sex with, nothing serious. I want you to be my boyfriend” Pam said to Axl.
I looked at Axl’s reaction, he just stared into the table as if his heart was in his throat. Here he was leaving for Jeonju pursuing a girl who didn’t want to be with him. While all along a from a girl in Mokpo wanted to have sex with him. I asked Axl why Gloria had broken up with him. He said something about her being too busy. What I take that to mean was that it was great to have a friend come visit but once he starts living in the same city, the Korean girl gets nervous about maybe this guy will try to marry me and then I can get stuck in a sticky spot.
Axl moved to Jeonju the following day. He is probably, to this day, traveling to Mokpo every weekend to visit Pam.
The third native teacher with a Korean girlfriend was an American friend of Jonathan’s. The way the American met his Korean girlfriend was during a dance party. During the party Jonathan and his friend danced with two Korean girls. The two girls were really animated and fun to be with. Because neither of the girls spoke English fluently, Jonathan had to translate everything that went on that night to his foreigner friend. While dancing, Jonathan and his friend introduced themselves to the girls.
They replied back in Korean. Jonathan translated, “Their names are Tammy and Jee Hey,” Jonathan relayed to his foreign friend. He then asked them about their jobs. “Jee Hey graduated from a top university in Seoul and she is the owner of an English academy. She also lived three years in China and speaks fluent Mandarin,” Jonathan explained to the foreigner.
He then asked Jee Hey to demonstrate her Chinese to the American. She spoke a couple of lines of Chinese and everyone was satisfied. After the party, he and Jonathan invited the two Korean girls to have a drink with them.
So, the group all got into Jonathan’s car and went to drink soju. While drinking soju together the girls dared Jonathan and his American friend to take each girl in their arms and squat them to see who was the strongest. The American guy was a little nervous about the dare but Jonathan accepted freely.
The night went so well they ended up going to the Karaoke with the girls after drinks. In the Karaoke they drank plum wine and started to play a “numbers” game. The rules of the game were simple. Jonathan would write different numbers on tiny scraps of paper and put them in a hat.
On another piece of paper he would write a list of 1-10 with the instructions of what the person had to do if they drew a certain number. (ex: #1 – Go to the front of the karaoke and do a sexy dance, #4 – You must drink a shot of soju, #8 – You must sing a song while another person rides piggy back on you). It was a genius game.
As luck would have it, Jonathan’s foreign friend pulled the #8 and asked Jee Hey to ride on his back while he sang, “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar. Before Jee Hey climbed onto his back she took off her shoes and then latched her legs around his waist. By the time the foreigner got to the chorus of “Hurts So Good” Jee Hey had started kissing the American on the neck. He was nervous, out of breath and wasn’t known for his vocal skills but he continued to sing the entire song. At the end of the song they hugged each other and he thanked her for participating.
By the time it reached 4 a.m. the girls were tired and wanted to go home and take a rest. Before they left, the foreign guy asked Jee Hey for her number through Jonathan. A 12 minute conversation in Korean followed between Jee Hey and Jonathan. “What are you talking about?” asked the foreigner. “She says that she really likes you but she’s not sure if you want to go out with her.” said Jonathan. “Why not?” asked the foreigner. “She was divorced from her first husband and wonders if you still want to go out with her.” replied Jonathan. “What’s the big deal?” wondered the foreigner. Jee Hey interrupted and explained in Korean a little more about the situation. “She wants to know if you date girls who are divorced.” Jonathan translated. “Yes, why not?” the foreigner responded. “Well, in Korea, sometimes Korean men don’t like dating women who have divorced.” reported Jonathan. The whole situation was finally cleared up and Jee Hey agreed to give the foreigner her phone number and they went on another date a few months down the road. After that they broke up due to language problems and the fact that Jee Hey was working six days a week, going to church on Sundays and also trying to run her academy.
The fourth native teacher with a Korean girlfriend was a friend of Ole’s. The inter-racial couple was the most visible couple in Mokpo. They went out often and were very popular because they both had such an extended network of friends. One night the Korean girl invited some male Korean friends of hers to come out on a date with her and her native English teacher boyfriend. The night started out pleasant enough, everyone was getting along fine until one of her Korean male friends had a little too much to drink and started causing a commotion. Finally he stood up at their table and berated her in Korean for having a foreign boyfriend and called her trash in front of their Korean friends, a very uncomfortable situation for everyone. They continued dating but had to reduce their circle of friends to avoid future outbreaks.
Added to the social pressures of a Korean person dating a foreign person are the language problems (3% of Korean girls in Mokpo speak fluent English), cultural issues (Korean girls usually aren’t allowed to be alone in a single man’s apartment) and the religious issue (65% of Koreans are Christian and this means their daughters can’t have sex before marriage). When I say a Korean person is a Christian, this is not the same as a North American Christian. Korean Christians go to church up to six days week and spend anywhere from 20-60 hours a week in church. For them it is not so much a religion but a lifestyle choice.
Dating in Korea is similar to every other country; complicated.
Everything You Wanted To Know About Teaching English In Korea But Were Afraid To Ask
|Yearly Taxes||Yearly Housing Expenses||Total Remaining|
|Korea||$26,000 + 50% of medical bills paid||$780||$0||$25,220|
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