When you walk into my school, the first thing you see is a wall of people. At first, I didn’t understand what this wall of people was supposed to be about. I recognized a few Korean celebrities and famous athletes that were on T.V. all the time and thought, “Oh it must be some sort of tribute to famous Korean people.” When I looked closer, however, I saw other internationally famous people like Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and others. See how many you can spot in the pictures below.
One day, on my way out I noticed there was something different about our wall. That’s when I recognized a new face was added.
The Korean characters on his lapel spell his name “Obama.” I can’t help but be proud of my school for putting up my President’s face on their wall of inspiration. If you look closely, he is also the first and only black person so far.
This may not seem like a big deal to some back in the states but to put it into context: Korea is a very homogeneous society. No one wants to be “other”. No one wants to stand out or be different in any way. I could talk more about this topic but will save it for another day. Suffice it to say, there are times when being a foreigner in a homogeneous society can make you feel uncomfortable, or make you feel like you are being stared at, and even made fun of or looked down upon for speaking a different language and looking different.
I’m hopeful and encouraged that in Korea, especially in Seoul, with so much more exposure to other cultures it really is becoming (as my co-teacher claimed a while back) a ‘multicultural’ society.