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A sense of self-pride
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승인 2010.03.16  12:31:59
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In mid-February, I interviewed a relatively recent arrival to Jeju who, in the course of our conversation, asked when spring would arrive on the island. I said that it had been Ipchungut, which marks the arrival of spring, two weeks earlier and his response was, “Yes, but when does spring begin?” It had been bitterly cold the previously weekend but I assured him that I thought the worst weather was over for the season. How very wrong I was became chillingly obvious this week when all of Korea, including Jeju, got hit by hail, ice and snow-storms. Here in Jeju City, I woke to my car covered in snow and the roads covered with snow and ice that vehicles slipped and slid upon, not always going where their drivers intended.

Experiencing such conditions mid-March was strange enough, but to have such a biting cold snap on what is termed “Korea’s Hawaii” seemed particularly ironic. It also reminded me of conversations I’d had with two separate foreign residents in the past weeks. One had arrived in Jeju believing the Hawaii comparison and found she was totally unprepared for the island’s winter. Thus, she needed to quickly purchase warm clothing that she could have easily brought with her from home. The other commented on how much better Jeju would be marketed if those doing the selling used more truth and less hyperbole. I realize truth and advertising don’t always go together but his point, with which I agree, was that Jeju has so much going for it that it doesn’t tell people about. He, like I, is here by choice and enjoys so much about the island and its people but finds it annoying when it is misrepresented.

To my mind it’s almost a sign of insecurity or immaturity, of a youth judging him or herself in terms of elder role models and I can understand why Korea may have felt this way 50 years ago when the Republic truly was a newcomer to the global stage. But in that time the country has achieved what it took most Western countries, those “older siblings” it keeps comparing itself to, hundreds of years to accomplish.

So can we please get over the things that Jeju might have wanted to be when younger and insecure and instead celebrate what it has and is?

This island is not Korea’s Hawaii, neither is it Hong Kong or Singapore, it is Jeju, and it should proudly proclaim that identity.







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