My Thoughts on Last Month’s South Korea Trip

Seoul skyline, facing in the ESE direction, from Namsan Tower. Unlike most trips, I elected not to take as many photos for this one.

Seoul skyline, facing in the ESE direction, from the Namsan Tower. Unlike most trips, I elected not to take as many photos for this one.

A month has passed since I came back from South Korea for a two-week trip there.

It was my first trip to South Korea in approximately 20 years — when I was about 3 years old — and, by that same token, my first international travel since. For a land I was born in but originally had little recollection of, it is distinctively unique and remarkable in its own ways.

The reason for my trip last month, if you did not already know, was to visit my biological mother and my largely-unknown-to-me maternal family.

(To sum up the long and slightly depressing backstory associated with the purpose of this visit, I knew my mother early on in my life albeit barely and didn’t see her again until she suddenly reemerged in my life in 2007. Though an international custody dispute was likely at the center of all this during the early 1990s, she was never at fault for anything and still isn’t.)

I went into this trip in early August, unsure of whether anything was likely to change or develop out of all this. I felt the same way last month as I did in 2007 — emotionless. I went into this trip, not harboring any particular feelings for my mother and returned from that trip unchanged in any way. I never expected any type of change could realistically materialize within the short duration I was abroad.

Although my mother has made it clear that she loves me — there was no shortage of such gesturing on her part — it is a feeling that is not mutual. A 14-year gap where, through no fault of her own, she was absent for the large part of my childhood makes it rather difficult for me to emotionally identify and connect with her. I would say that for someone that brought me into this world, I only know her as much as anyone else I currently know — well enough but not by much.

I have no serious qualms about my mother. She is a genuinely well-meaning, kind-hearted person that is every bit deserving of respect as much as the next person. The only criticisms I have about her are relatively petty and largely rooted on cultural differences. Apparently, South Koreans there believe money buys people happiness. That’s why I have a suitcase full of clothes I received as gifts from her that is currently sitting at a Public Storage unit in Brea, California. Despite my repeatedly turning down her offers to buy clothes and other items for me, my requests were largely ignored and I eventually learned to live with it.

That last part made me a little miffed as I struggled to understand why she believes my happiness and love has a price tag. In a broader sense, she was simply trying to make up for lost time, doing anything she possibly can to reestablish a relationship with me. That’s something I also do not want as I feel that I’m already used to living a majority of my life without her. My primary source of happiness comes from my paternal family — aunts, uncles and cousins — along with hundreds of friends and a handful of former colleagues that have collectively stepped in within the last 20 years to fill the role she otherwise would have.

As for my maternal family, I am not particularly fond of them. I’m sure they also are well-meaning individuals but I did find some of them particularly overbearing and inept. I was annoyed by those who say they remember me at a much younger age. I obviously don’t remember any of them. This included my maternal grandmother — who I recall meeting for the first time during this trip and is my last surviving grandparent. That was the most depressing moment from this trip for which I was thankful it only lasted a few minutes. It was that bad.

Where do I go from here? I still don’t know. Things could change in the future. Then again, it may still be the same then as it is now. Sure, I’m currently in another slump where my career prospects remain uncertain and I continually fret over it every day. I’ve experienced many challenging times before. I’ve also experienced many good times. My mother wasn’t around when those happened nor was she tied to these developments. No matter what happens, I have learned to live my life without her and I still turned out just fine. Her continued presence in my life, however, is not one I have any real reason to object to.

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3 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Last Month’s South Korea Trip

  1. That is a great piece of writing and very heartfelt, even in light of the content. I am sorry your early life didn’t go a different way but you have turned out more than just fine. Your career prospects will pick up and you can be proud of the fact that the good life you built for yourself is largely the result of your own efforts.

    See you soon.

  2. Pingback: Simon Oh | 2013: A Look Back on the Year That Was

  3. Pingback: Anything Goes | On This Sunday: An Interesting Weekend

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