Brian Dean, from Canada, who has lived in Korea since 2000 the year he got married, is an ESL professor at Kwandong University in Gangneung. However, he does not live in Gangneung but in Sokcho, an hour and a half or more away by bus. He lives in there because his wife, a Korean citizen, works as a Korean coast guard officer and her base is in Sokcho. “As she works more hours than I do, we decided that I should commute.”
Agafood : Could you tell us the reason you came to Korea?
Mr. Dean : I first came to Korea in 1997 looking for a bit of adventure. I stayed a little more than a year when I was close to attaining a black belt in Haedongkumdo (Korean fencing). Some of my best memories of Korea are of the do-jang (place for practice and exercise). No-one at the do-jang spoke English, and I spoke less Korean than I do now, so we communicated by hand signs, which is useful when learning a sport. I left Korea in December 1998 and returned to Canada where I stayed for about two years. But during this time I kept in contact with my girlfriend and proposed in 1999 after which I moved back to Korea again in 2000 to work and get married.
Agafood : How is your life in Sokcho?
Mr. Dean : Well, I’ve already said why I have to live in Sokcho but, still, let me say here why I am happy to live in Sokcho. I miss Seoul a little bit. I enjoyed going to used books stores and buying foreign foods, but I really don’t miss the crowds. Here, I can hike, swim, and bicycle happily. I have climbed Daecheongbong (Seorak Mountain’s highest peak) around ten times and visited many other sites in Seorak National Park. I have cycled to Tong-il Jeonmangdae (the unification observatory centre) a few times and to Donghae (a city of Gangwon-do) once. I have swum at most of the beaches between Hwajinpo and Donghae and now love to teach my son about the water at them.
Agafood : What’s your favorite Korean food and are their any Korean foods you dislike?
Mr. Dean : I used to eat extremely spicy foods. I had been a tourist in India and had enjoyed Mexican food at home. These days I still enjoy the hot flavor but don’t care for the pain. I still enjoy most Korean foods, which are spicier than Canadian foods, but not as hot as Indian foods.
Korean chicken, in all its variety, is my favorite. I enjoy Andongjjimdak (braised chicken with soy sauce, a traditional food from Andong in Gyeonsangbuk-do), Chuncheon Dakgalbi (spicy frilled chicken), and Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup). I also like rice and Ramyeon (instant noodle soup). At home I typically cook western food while my wife cooks Korean.
Agafood : What was you first introduction to Korea?
Mr. Dean : Learning Haedongkumdo was a great introduction to Korea.
My first words of Korean were counting to eight, where to move (left, right, and forward) and body parts. The instructor was also an enthusiast in Gigong (meditative breathing exercises), Taoism, and Buddhism.
Agafood : In your opinion where is the best part of Korea for sightseeing and for eating food?
Mr. Dean : I like the regional character of food in Korea. You can get most dishes anywhere, but each place has its own specialty. I would suggest going to Chuncheon for dakgalbi or to Masan for agwijjim (spicy angler fish with soybean sprouts).
Gyeongju is, of course, the best place to visit for culture and history, but Gangneung and Gangwon’s East Coast have their own treasures that are worth seeing. On the other hand, every bus trip I take I see another little side road or small shrine that I would like to visit. Even after ten years here I am still an explorer.
Korean food culture is important and Korea should remain distinct from its neighbors, but Koreans need to relax about the value their food has. Personally, I have learned a little about Korean culture and hope to continue to learn more.
Agafood : Are you going to return to Canada?
Mr. Dean : I’m leaving Korea in this month and going to come back soon. We keep planning to go back home and I keep putting it off. I don’t know if I could be as financially comfortable in Canada as my qualifications have aged while I’ve been here. We had talked about 2010 as a date to return to Canada but this is a time to hang on to a job. 2012 sounds like a good time to return to Canada. As my wife and son are Korean, when we do eventually leave we will definitely be returning.
I am happy here. My work is interesting and I enjoy raising my son in Sokcho. I really miss canoeing, though, and would love to be able to paddle down a network of rivers back home.
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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