I’m an American living in South Korea. There are lots of us here: soldiers, businesspeople, teachers and others. Some of us call this place home, whether home for now, home for good, or home for lack of a better word. I’ve been out of the U.S. long enough that my family and friends long ago stopped asking me when I intend to “come home”, meaning, the place where I was born. South Korea is my home, for better or worse.
Maybe it’s because I live in Asia, but I’ve always felt like an outsider, even though I’ve lived here longer than many of the people who refer to me as a foreigner have been alive. I’m married to a Korean, have kids in school, Korean friends, in-laws, neighbors, etc. but I understand that no matter how long I stay or how much I assimilate, I’ll always be a waygookin (literally “outside country person”). That’s natural; I’m not lamenting it, and it isn’t unique to South Korea. I’m not even talking about discrimination. I am discriminated against, but I am also discriminated for, which evens the balance. I’m not a citizen of Korea, and I don’t intend to be. I don’t expect any special rights or privileges, only those to which fairness entitles me, which, for the most part, is what I get.
I don’t want to blog about Korea or America per se. I’d like to blog about the spaces in between, the space I inhabit with other expatriates, in which we strive to make sense of both countries to which we partially belong and our place among them. This blog is founded on the assumption that expats of all nations have a unique cultural vantage point and something to add to both conversations. In a world that requires and increasingly values cross-cultural understanding and exchange, expats have always been on the frontier. They are the pioneers of the cultural borderlands, the tinkerers of new cultural forms, and the messengers of human possibility.
This is not necessarily a blog for American expats in Korea, though of course you are welcome. I happen to be American and live in Korea, but I’d like to welcome anyone who is living in the cultural space between the motherland and some other place. My goal here is to create a space for thoughtful global citizens to meet, have a laugh, and reflect on life on the outside looking in.