Today is Thanksgiving day. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything to anyone around me. On Cheusok, Seven Star asked me if I was okay, and I said of course I was, why do you ask? “I heard foreigners were very lonely on Cheusok.” No. Not Cheusok. Thanksgiving.
So today I was not okay and the English teacher across from me at lunch asked me what was wrong. He’s very good at English and also a very good listener and I don’t know his name, because he sits in another office. Most of the English teachers are in another office. He tells me that the year he spent at the University of Michigan was very hard on him, and that he prayed to God every day to make it through the next. He talked about how there were no Asians and how, though everyone was very nice to him, nobody was really open to him either. But, he said, you have it much worse than I did. It’s different as a student in campus life. But to work here? You have it really bad.
I told him I grew up in Michigan and how there were no Asians in my town. I told him how adoptees expect to see a white face in the mirror and are disturbed when they see an alien in the mirror, and what that does to a person. He nodded solemnly. I think he’s the only Korean I’ve ever met who really comprehends this. And then I went on to tell him the rest of the story and he was truly upset. He tells me I have had the misfortune of working with very bad men. Yes. And I found myself saying, “I came here to love Korea, but Korea doesn’t seem to love me.”
Sound familiar? Yes. It sounds like Mr. S. I think I got in 9 months a condensed quick tour of what Mr. S. has gotten his whole life. You can fight for justice and go to jail and be a hero of the downtrodden, but you’re still on your own and everyone is too concerned about their own tenuous existence to fight with you or for you. They all say I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do. (which of course, is totally not true)
Earlier in my teacher conversation class, I asked my adult students how Korea can stop corrupt practices, and there was silence. I asked why these things continue to happen, and the self-proclaimed adjumma told me that they were trained to obey. Even bad men? Yes. Especially bad men. They can make your life hell. Then how is Korea ever going to change, I ask? The discussion class falls silent.
Last month there was a dinner for the progressive movement I was invited to go to but didn’t. It was in honor of a worker who immolated himself for the cause of worker rights and his act was pivotal in reducing the exploitation of workers. He’s a popular culture national hero now.
Maybe I have to immolate myself, both as a foreign worker and as a reverse discrimination adoptee. That would make Mr. C. very happy, I am sure.
If anyone happens to have that blacklist, could you please send it to me? I won’t reveal who sent it. I just need it if I am going to defend myself and the others against what is a violation of Korean law already on the books. The laws will continue to be ignored until someone sues for damages. As soon as it could mean money out of their pocket, things will change. I have nothing left to lose…