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United in the love of Phuket

PHUKET: August 15 is Korea's National Day. Time to grab a bowl of kimchi, a glass of soju and dance in a cute fashion to the latest K-Pop hit.


By Jody Houton

Tuesday 14 August 2012, 01:21PM


Phuket is home to quite a sizeable Korean community, with an estimated 1,500 expats on the island. Like the majority of other national communities in Phuket, most work in the tourism industry or in industries providing a service to their particular group.

There are around 40 Korean tour guide companies, numerous Korean restaurants where diners can experience the wonder of Korean barbecue and even a rather delapidated Korea Town.

For many of them, August 15 will be more than just the date that falls on a Wednesday of this year. August 15 is Korea’s national day and the day that South Koreans celebrate their national liberation from Imperial Japan in 1945.

As a result of the liberation from Japan, American administrators divided the peninsula with U.S military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half. The divide still exists today.

On August 15, 1948, the government of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) was established.

Jody Houton went to speak with three members of the Korean community to see how and if they would be celebrating the National Day.

Sunny

Sanhi ‘Sunny’ Jang, has been in Thailand for six years and living in Phuket for five. She is originally from Daejeon, South Korea. She is the Korean Customer Service Manager at HotelTravel.com.

1. It is Korean National Day soon. What does it mean to you? How do you celebrate it in Korea? Do you celebrate it here? How?

A:It is quite big to me. One of my aunts (my father’s sister) passed away just a few days after returning home after the evacuation of the war because of hunger and exhaustion (even though they were very rich, it didn’t help at all at that time.) I am very happy that we got our country back, but at the same time I feel very bad about Russia and USA letting Korea split into two.

They did help us in their way but at the end we have had to witness the deaths of many North Koreans due to hunger in the 20th century! But it’s still better than being a part of Japan and we can still say Korea even though it’s now South Korea and North Korea. Korean athletes attended the Olympics twice wearing the Japanese flag on their chest during Japanese occupation, but now we all sport our seperate Koreas’ flags proudly. Independence Day is the day of we got our country and our rights back.

We have government-organised celebrations in Korea. And we also have national flag-hoisting ceremonies at every individual’s house. I don’t celebrate it myself but I always remember that day and am proud of it.

2. What does being South Korean mean to you today in 2012? What are the best things about South Korea?

A: I can feel the differences. Our country is getting more powerful than ever in many ways. Almost everybody knows something about Korea, much more than a few years ago.

Foreigners used to call Korea as the country of courteous people in the East. Things have rapidly changed since then, but we still have manners, respect and love. We also have cooperation and patriotism. Koreans never sleep when Koreans are competing in the the Olympics or World Cup. We love to be one.

3. What do the younger generation of South Koreans think about the possibility of reunification with the North? Would you like to see it happen?

A: I have no idea about the young generations in Korea as I’ve been in Phuket for many years and have had no chance to meet Korean youngsters here. But I think they don’t really care about it.

I would love to see reunification but it may take time and it might be hard but as we can see from Germany, it can be done and we can do it too. Although it should happen a.s.a.p before it gets any harder to do.

4. What is the most difficult thing about being Korean in Phuket? How difficult is it to feel connected with Korean culture in Phuket?

A: I don’t have any problem. I just want to speak Thai more fluently so that I do not have any misunderstandings.

Koreans are very conservative and well-mannered and living here I can see many differences. In fact I still experience culture shock and don’t fully understand Thainess from the heart yet, I can only try to understand. I want to integrate into Thai culture someday. As I am living in Thailand and will continue to so, I think I should try my best to understand Thailand and Thai people.

5. What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you while living in Phuket?

A: When I meet foreigners who complain about Thailand and Thai people every second. It’s not only one or two, but hundreds. I have no idea why they are still living here, ‘Why don’t you go back to your country?’ I just want to remind every foreigner who lives in Thailand, “Do not complain! You are in Thailand, not in your country.”

 

Hwang

Seongcheol Hwang, from Cheongju, South Korea is the owner and chef of Korean BBQ Buffet Restaurant, Mr Gung.

1. It is Korean National Day soon. What does it mean to you? How do you celebrate it in Korea? Do you celebrate it here? How?

A: For my age (those who were born decades after the Japanese occupation and the Independence Day), there’s not such a huge meaning for Independence Day. But especially on this day every year, I am proud of being Korean. It is a public holiday in South Korea, so some families visit the National Cemetery, but I don’t celebrate it here.

2. What does being South Korean mean to you today in 2012? What are the best things about South Korea?

A: I feel secure as we have influenced many countries.

The best thing about South Korea is the seasons. Korea has four seasons, which I appreciate much more after living in tropical Thailand for such a long time.

Another great thing is family love: we do love and respect our family members.

3. What do the younger generation of South Koreans think about the possibility of reunification with the North? Would you like to see it happen?

A: They think we should re-unify but not that seriously I guess. I think we must re-unify as we are from one country.

4. What is the most difficult thing about being Korean in Phuket? How difficult is it to feel connected with Korean culture in Phuket?

A: As I cannot read or understand Thai well, Thai legal documents regarding Thai law is the most difficult thing when conducting business. Koreans are very particular about punctuality. But Thais seem like it’s not a big deal.

5. What's the craziest thing that has happened to you while living in Phuket?

A: The tsunami was the biggest thing in my life here in Phuket. Nothing really special happened after that.

David

Daeyong ‘David’ Jee is the Senior Sales Manager at The Village Coconut Island and has been in Phuket for about six years.

1. It is Korean National Day soon. What does it mean to you? How do you celebrate it in Korea? Do you celebrate it here? How?

A: I don’t think there’s a huge meaning for many in my generation. However, all Koreans regardless of their generation are sensitive to the political and societal problems related with Japan, for example ‘Comfort Women’ and the victims or the territorial disputes of Dokdo (which is called as Dakeshima in Japan).

Or when there’s a sports competition between Korea and Japan, we all think that we must and we will beat Japan. Even though the current overall relationship between Japan and Korea is quite amicable.

With all that, Independence Day should be meaningful to all Koreans in some way. The government and affiliated organisations do put on Independence Day celebrations but the public doesn’t seem to do much. Some people visit the War Memorial Museum or Independence Hall on that day.

2. What does being South Korean mean to you today in 2012? What are the best things about South Korea?

A: Getting older, and living overseas I do realise that I am Korean... 15 years ago when I had my first backpack trip, most foreigners thought that Korea was just a small country in Asia. But now in 2012, many things have changed. A little Thai girl next to my house knows Korean movies and songs (K-Pop) more than I do. Also almost all hotels and resorts in Phuket show Korean TV and as you know, we are very strong at I.T.

The best thing is, that I can proudly say that I am from Korea and others are interested when I say it. Of course that interest is for Korea itself and not for me.

3. What do the younger generation of South Koreans think about the possibility of reunification with the North? Would you like to see it happen?

A: It has to be done. Especially for me, my father’s hometown was in North Korea but he couldn’t visit his home before he passed away. Of course all his family are in North Korea and I would like to meet them someday.

4. What is the most difficult thing about being Korean in Phuket? How difficult is it to feel connected with Korean culture in Phuket?

A: I think it’s difficult sometimes because of certain fundamental differences between Thais and Koreans. As I am Korean I want a clear division of responsibility and rapid work flow, but Thai people appear more carefree and relaxed than Koreans.

 

5. What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you while living in Phuket?

A: The tsunami. When I was living in Bangkok, my wife I and were enjoying Christmas vacation. When we watched news on the morning of that day (December 26), we really thought it was a scene from a movie and not real.

We used to have a great time on New Year’s Eve at Central World every year, but that year we had tears in our eyes watching the scenes of the tsunami victims on the large screen.

 

South Korean Consul, Phuket: 076 234 452

 

 

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