By Hanako Taura
Just days after returning to the United States, I already missed Korea. In the wake of the Global Peace Convention in Seoul, where so many hearts and minds converged around a shared vision, I made a list of five things I really, really miss about Korea.
#5 The Convenience Store – You can find Korea’s convenience stores in every corner, and they have the ones at home beat by far. From nail clippers and q-tips stockings and coffee, quick takeout rice bowl lunches and a special ramen stove so you can eat your noodles piping hot just like you would at home, the Korean convenience stores make finding the small necessities and indulgences in life – convenient to find.
#4 K-pop – Those stars are everywhere! Smiling from posters at the department stores, delivering safety messages in the subways, cutting into with an ad during your YouTube stream, it’s pretty hard not becoming a K-pop fan, especially when they take up a cause as worthy as Korean unification and world peace.
#3 Mom’s Cooking – I think every restaurant, from high-end BBQ to the small hole in the wall where you can get bone soup, there is something about Korean food that makes you feel warm and loved. Ask a Korean and they’ll tell you that that feeling comes from “omma mat,” or the taste of mom’s cooking. The secret is the jungsung, or sincerity that the cooks pour into every aspect of their cooking, from the kimchee to the tonkatsu. Now that I can’t readily get a bite to eat off the street cart or in the mom and pop shop downstairs, I can see how my nostalgia for each thing I ate is similar to my longing for mom’s homemade lasagna.
#2 My Extended Korean Family – When I first arrived in Korea, I felt a little uncomfortable when middle-aged ladies would encroach on my personal space to poke my baby’s cheek and tell me how to dress him. Or the grandpa that pushed me down the bench so he could have space to sit. But after the first few encounters, I realized they were treating me as they would treat their own family. The lack of borders for those aunties and grandpas made everything seem close. I miss that familiar in-your-faceness.
#1 The Korean Dream – When so many people come together around a shared purpose, it really forges strong bonds quickly. There were hundreds of people from all corners of the globe, from Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America, Oceania and the Middle East all converged around one dream – the Korean Dream. What we found as we expressed our solidarity with the Korean people, is that the dream pulled us together, to dream a dream of a better world not just for Koreans, but all of us. I miss the feeling of so many people together dreaming the same dream. But the dream is not far, and neither are the dreamers, both are close in my heart.
Thank you Korea, and thank you Global Peace Foundation for such an amazing experience. Here’s to making the Korean Dream a reality.