“When my family and friends read the headline about North Korea, they worried about my safety but I said I’m living a fairly normal life even though we know that it’s possible North Korea might bomb us. I’m not really overly worried about it. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here for many years as long as I have energy and enthusiasm for teaching. I can’t imagine any other place I’d rather be teaching my Korean students.”
One month ago, North Korea attacked South Korea, and it was top news world-wide. Louisa Frank, an American English teacher at Jeju National University, was worried about it, but she tried to remain calm because she doesn’t want to leave Jeju Island.
She grew up in Virginia, lived in New York City for a while, and then moved to Montana where she raised her two daughters. This is her first time living in Korea. She had traveled to Europe and Canada but had never been to Asia before.
“I was teaching in Montana, in a college called Carroll College, and a history professor there has a wife from Jeju. So she comes to Jeju once or twice a year and encourages the students to go to Carroll College. I met students from Jeju. I loved them. They were committed to excellence. That’s the quality I loved. So I thought ‘maybe I would enjoy going where these students are from,’ and I thought about it. I said something to one of the professors from Jeju National University, Dr. Song from the Department of Education, and he said to me ‘when you want to come just let me know.’”
She couldn’t decide to go to Korea right then because she didn’t want to leave her family.
“I didn’t want to leave America until my two daughters were on the road to their own lives. So I did not leave right away but I thought about it. I got a master’s degree of education while I was waiting for my two daughters to get settled, and then my younger daughter got married, and my older daughter was working in New York.”
Frank decided to go to Korea, and she applied to Jeju National University.
“So then it was like my moment for my own adventure … I came in 2006 in July, so I have been here for almost four and a half years. It’s thanks to the wife of the history professor. ”
According to provincial government statistics, as of February 2010, 448 Americans live on the island, including 176 with working visas.
▲ Paul Rauh. Photo by Yang Ho Geun
Paul Edward Rauh, 61, is a student at Jeju National University. He is also from Virginia but grew up in Illinois. In 1983 he moved to a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. He speaks a little Korean and wanted to use it during the interview. This part of the conversation is translated from Korean.
“I lived there with friends (Emissaries of Divine Light) for about 10 years and then moved to a farm in Indiana, again living with Emissary friends. I lived there for about 8 years then moved to the headquarters of Emissaries in Colorado, on a farm/residential property.”
Rauh spent about 5 years there before coming to Korea.
“Koreans came to the headquarters of Emissaries in Colorado in 2002. Since that time, I have been interested in Korean language. I don’t know why I fell in love with the language. There is no reason. I studied Korean by myself one or two hours every day for two and half years starting in 2003.”
He really wanted to pursue his Korean studies further and make sure it was the language for him before he decided to visit Korea in October, 2005.
“When I first came here I felt at home. The most difficult thing is food because I prefer a vegetable diet to meat. I studied Korean in a Korean language class at Sookmyung Women’s University and lived with my friend in Gyeonggi Province. After that I studied Korean at Yonsei University in June 2006 and Sogang University in December 2006 for one and half years.”
One of the Emmissary communities is located on Jeju Island. In September 2008 he visited it and now studies Korean at Jeju National University. He was enrolled in the language course for about two years before applying to the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at the university.
Although he speaks Korean with some difficulty, he entered the department’s program and looked for a job to further improve his language skills.
“I hope to learn more Korean while in a company.”
The language problem is also the most difficult thing for Louisa Frank, but she never gave up.
“I try everyday to think about Korean words and vocabularies. If you ask me in English maybe I can talk to you in Korean for a short time, but if you answer me in Korean I get lost. I can’t understand spoken Korean. And of course partly, everyone wants to speak English with me, so I don’t have to speak Korean. But I hope to be here many more years so I’ll always be studying Korean as long as I’m here. I hope to eventually be able to have a very nice and long conversation with my lovely friends at a coffee shop.”
When Frank first came to the island she felt like it was her home. The clean air and comfortable atmosphere are similar with Montana.
When free she walks Olle trails with her friends.
“That’s my favorite thing. I walk every Saturday with my friends. We once walked on the 14-1 trail, and that is magical. That Gotjawal forest is like being in some secret place. It almost feels holy. That’s my favorite.” She wants to write a book about Jeju in the future. “That will be a good way to let people know more about Korea,” she said.
(Erin Ah-nam Kim contributed to this article)
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