Moving to South Korea: The Story of an Art Expat

So I’ve decided to move to South Korea. Seoul, to be precise.

When I tell my friends I’m moving to Korea, I have three common reactions:

Common reactions to my move to Korea

Common reactions to my move to Korea

But seriously, it’s to do an art residency in Seoul. While it will be my fourth home city (“home” being anywhere I’ve lived in for at least six months because really, it’s probably the only criterion I have left), it’s my first time to live in East Asia.

Seoul, my fourth home city

Seoul, my fourth home city

A big part of choosing South Korea among all other countries is, duh, taekwondo, which I have realized has way more impact on my creativity than I think I give it credit for. Yes, I expect training after studio hours to be the most badass there, so I have high expectations for Dojang/School #15 and Sabonim/Master #29.

Korea, land of taekwondo. Oh la la! Hurray!

Korea, land of taekwondo. Oh la la! Hurray!

I only had a few weeks to pack as much Korean in my head as I possibly could, as I don’t think taekwondo terms will help much. For future expats in Korea, check out the incredibly helpful and hilariously engaging videos of Eat Your Kimchi and SweetAndTasty, which I’ve also written about in a previous post.

Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi

Simon and Martina of Eat Your Kimchi

5-profoh

Professor Oh and Friends


Thanks to the internet, I have come with things like deodorant, bedsheets*, and bras that will fit me—things that are apparently very hard to find in Korea.

Things I was advised to pack

Things I was advised to pack

And so the past two weeks were of doing what I now call The Expat Thank-You and Farewell Rounds (Part 7) of saying goodbye and having conversations with close friends and mentors. Closing another chapter through conversations, no matter how short that chapter was, is important to me, hence the lightning round of brunches, coffees, lunches, dinners, and drinks that make me question the human need of saying farewell over carbs. It’s quite sad to leave again, but I choose to look on the bright side. I am looking forward to uninterrupted time of continuing my work in a country that values tradition, skin care, and taekwondo as much as I do. Woohoo!

Ciao, friends! See you soon!

Ciao, friends! See you soon!

In the past nine years, I’ve always headed out west, and so this should be quite an adventure. Truthfully, it kind of feels like I’m going to another planet, or a parallel universe. I’m going to pretend the entire country is a dojang to minimize any untoward cultural misunderstandings. The bowing, the removal of shoes before getting in the room, shaking hands while touching your elbow—I’ve been doing this in taekwondo for the past 16 years.

Thanks to taekwondo, I feel that the chances of me unwittingly insulting a local are radically decreased.

Thanks to taekwondo, I feel that the chances of me unwittingly insulting a local are radically decreased.

It seems like only six months ago when I packed up my life and said goodbye.

Oh wait, it was.

Well, here goes nothing.

*Edit: So I’m here in my studio and they DO have bedsheets, or at least something that covers the bed. What the hey, internets. 

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3 comments
  1. Megan said:

    I too will be moving to Seoul within the next two to three years. It’s going to be quite the change of pace and I’m a little nervous since it will be my lifelong home. Best of luck with the transition 🙂
    Best,
    Megan

  2. I was curious if you ever thought of changing the structure of
    your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content
    so people could connect with it better. Youve got
    an awful lot of text for only having 1 or 2 pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

    • Annyung! Thanks for the comment. Yes, I need a new theme. Any ideas? I’m busy with an exhibition, but I should get to a redesign soon! Thanks for checking in!

      Catherine

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