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I'm Grateful To Have My Job

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Today I read an article from The Grand Narrative, "Advice to Women Looking for Work: "Say you like to sing and dance." It reiterates the story of one young lady who has gone through so much in her life just to find herself not getting a job. This story highlights how students these days are filled with ambition and the desire to get a quality job, but come out to a world that doesn't match.

I want to talk about this aspect of Korean society because I think it might help those living here or who are considering it. As for me, I got a dose of this part of Korean life when dating two Korean men. So I also think it is important for the ladies to hear about how dating Korean men will likely mean you come to know this aspect of Korean society very closely. More importantly it can end up shaping your relationship and future with said person.

My first encounter with how the hiring process goes in Korea, came with my first Korean boyfriend. After I moved to Korea for the first time he followed suit from America after he finished his English studies. This was the summer time and we enjoyed a fruitful time together. But then came the Fall season and he prepared himself for interviews, by getting the typical Photoshopped resume picture and then trying on suits. Throughout it all I was supportive, but I didn't know just what he was really in for. After he got his job at a corporation (not a major one but was large enough) he went on field trips with the company which were meant for bonding and also seeing their offsite locations. During this time I didn't see him much, and communication was starting to run dry.

As he began his work at his new office things seemed to go downhill from there. He had to work late and attend after-work dinners. Our lifestyles began to clash. I got off work and was home by 5, had dinner and enjoyed my evening. The weekends were my time to get out and explore. Yet he worked late and started to view the weekend as his time to rest.

At one point the phone calls stopped coming and eventually we broke up. It wasn't a good break up because he found someone who he said, "...could have drinks with after work." It was at this time I realized how separate I was from this aspect of Korean society. Yet I moved on and found my second boyfriend.

Before I continue, I want to comment here a little on that experience. Definitely, for sure he changed after getting a real job and one that was quite typical of Korean work-life society. But our relationship had other issues and that is likely why we broke up. However, the point is that a Korean person doesn't simply just a get a job here and goes to work on a set schedule and la-di-da. They become a part of a team, tooth and nail, and it seems if you start to look like someone on the outside then things can go differently.

My next Korean boyfriend already had a job for some time and so was use to the work life. Plus his job was different. He worked for a small company selling and importing tiles. So he wasn't a slave at some office downtown.

Yet by the end of our time together he was certainly a tired man. Because he is the only employer for his company he handles everything. Clients call and treat him like an unintelligent slave and if they beckon his presence he usually goes there right away. The man lived a daily life of stress from client demands and also having to drive around the country. I was always supportive of him and let him have his time to rest. But in the scheme of things it started to eat away at our relationship.

The thing is, though, people like him work so hard because they know they need to for their future. I know this because we would have reoccurring conversations about our future together and the topic of "work" came up. His vision of the future included us sending our children to hagwons so they can be on a competitive edge with everyone. This would lead me to (in that foreigner arrogant way) talk about how I wish my children would grow up without cram schools so they can learn to be themselves, and that is what is most important in life...not test scores.

Even though he knew what I was talking about he put me back on point by telling me that this was Korea and in the end our children would have to fall in line with everyone else. I would always sit silently after these conversations and contemplate a sad future as he had envisioned.

Again, my break up with him was for personal reasons and thus shouldn't be blamed on Korean society. But I can't help but be honest and say that the troubles of Korean society were weaved into our relationship. It certainly depends on how strong people are attached to what is "right" and "wrong." But you can't escape it.

Thinking about it all I can't help but feel sorry for young Korean people who want to have beautiful rich lives for themselves in the future. But at the end of the day have to make due with what they can get and give over their bleeding heart just to not fall between the cracks. In that same sense I get a bit annoyed that, from the appearance of things, I can't see anyone or persons taking the pitchfork and rebelling. This brings me to something I'm No Picasso said:

When young Koreans start turning their noses up at jobs with bigger salaries, weightier company names and longer working hours, and turning instead to more average jobs that allow them more free time to focus on their own lives and their families, then that's when the ship will start to turn around. In his mind (and mine as well), realistically, you can't have both.

She continues to point out how some Korean people wonder why they need to work so hard in the first place. Korea is doing well economically these days, so it seems slowing things down might not hurt. I would mention this to my ex during one of our conversations, that Korea is up to speed with the rest of the world. He merely laughed and said it was impossible.

I don't really expect Korean people to suddenly change and mimic other nations in their happier work life. Yet I do sense that slowly, the structures that be today, will eventually melt and mold itself into something that functions in a way that serves Korean society for the better.

Personally, what it comes down to is this question. Do I want to marry a Korean man and live with him here forever? Possibly molding me into this troubling aspect of Korean society. That is where I agree with INP and her point of having a big weight on her shoulders. Definitely, as I became close to marrying my ex that weight became heavier and heavier. So it is for future Korean residents and current ones if you plan to stay here longer or involve yourself with a K-man...eventually all this will be yours to really deeply think about.

Finally, I want to say that after reading both those articles I couldn't help but feel grateful for my work status here in Korea. I have a good salary, a free house, pension, severance and health insurance. All was simply obtained because I'm a native speaker and have a few degrees. I suddenly became grateful for what I have, compared to what so many young Korean people are starving themselves to find. I truly do wish Korea transformed itself and let people have a break more often.


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