I teach my homicidal class from 7:15-8:05 pm. It’s my last class of the day and all I want to do is go on tumblr. Everyone but Gu Jun Pyo, who is somehow still wild enough to disturb the peace, and Proper Chris who is at least smart enough to fake interest, looks like they have been stretched mentally thin for the past 12 hours. And guess what?
After the bell rang, Proper Chris was erasing my board and I asked him what he had done today. He said that first he went to school, then math hagwan, then science hagwan, then piano, and then English hagwan.
For the second time in less than a week I felt like an extremely lazy person. On the bus ride to Jinjae this weekend, one of the many topics my New Korean Friend and I covered was what school was like in America vs Korea. He said that after school he went to different hagwans until late at night so he could get into a good university. He asked me what American kids did after school.
I tried to think of my busiest day in high school. Well, I went to seminary from 6-7. Then school from 7-2:30. Then soccer from 2:30-4 or till late at night if we had a travel game, then to mutual from 7-8:30. And I had piano for an hour once a week. And my freshman year I even took private clarinet lessons once a week for an hour!
Then junior year I dropped everything under the excuse of taking “AP classes” when they were really no harder than my regular classes because I only took subjects I enjoyed. And then senior year…I did nothing. I had G period open so I left school at 1:20 and went to do things silly things with my friends until 7 or 8.
I ended up saying that American kids just do sports and clubs and weed after school. While he had worked his childhood off to learn English and math and science and all sorts of other skills, I had been galavanting about as left defense and nagging people to send me their yearbook photos. And yet, here we both were, sitting on a bus to Jinhae to see the cherry blossoms.
He acknowledged that many people in Korea worked too hard. He said that it was unhealthy, but also impossible to stop. The rising generation has to work just as hard to compete with the current generation and that it will only get harder. In such a small country, where success is so strongly valued, the competition is fierce. Parents want the best for their children, as most parents do, and if that means putting their children in formal education for 12 hours a day–so be it. That’s life.
He said he doesn’t want to raise his children in Korea because it was too stressful–palli palli. I told him I appreciated receiving things off of G-Market in less than 24 hours. He was shocked when I told him you can’t expect a package in the States for 3 days at least unless you pay for overnight shipping. And on the weekend? Or on break?
It just makes me wonder–how successful of a person would I be if I had worked as hard as many children in Korea do? And how on earth is America still on top?