I should start a series on conversations I have with Koreans. There are some real odd ones, especially when it involves students. Take, for example, this exchange…

Walking down the hall toward my office, I come across five students who bow to me and say hello. Two are my students, the others are not. One of the others wants to know if she can ask me a question. Of course, I say. They all sort of surround me in a half circle as I stand against the wall.

“Are we, um…”
(they whisper to each other in Korean, then one says the word “ready”)
“Are we ready?”
“Ready?” I ask. “Ready for what?”
(more Korean whispering)
“Yes, soldiers. War?”
“I don’t understand.”
(again with the whispering)
“Are… soldiers ready… for war?”
“Uh… you mean U.S. soldiers or Korean soldiers?”
“I have no idea.”
(they all laugh hysterically, say thank you, then say goodbye, smiles all around, and continue on down the hall.)

I told this to one of my Korean colleagues and she couldn’t stop laughing. I asked her what that was all about and she said she didn’t know, then kept on laughing.

3 Responses to “Conversations”

  1. It is a humorous exchange, but there must be a great deal of concern behind it. It’s really not funny at all.

  2. Yeah, actually I thought about this later. Many times Korean laughter is nervousness. Also, right after posting, I came across this article about Korean military readiness. Maybe my students really were concerned, even if they didn’t appear that way.

    And then this morning I found this ominous article. The language has been heating up lately. From what I understand this happens from time to time, and isn’t surprising with a new ROK president who promises a less conciliatory position with the north.

    Nothing to get too worried about, but “fire and ashes” does kind of make you shudder for a half second while reading it.

  3. […] 4, 2008 That’s the question she was trying to ask me. I’m going to stop laughing about such things. And give my students a little more of the […]

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