Submitted to the Korea Herald, Times & Joongang Ilbo’s Opinion-Editorial departments. Who knows if they’ll accept it, but it’s sent…
Check out these sites the following days, if you’re curious if it was published: http://koreaherald.com/oped/index.asp, http://koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/137_main.html and http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/list.asp?cat_code=01
I was sitting on the phone earlier today waiting for an English operator to answer my questions about where the nearest KT Plaza location was here in Busan. The message repeated over and over “The line is busy. Operator is answering another inquiry. It is a lot of inquiry. Please wait for a while.” If I were in the states, I would wonder if the manager of the customer service department was an idiot since he hired someone with broken English to record the message to thousands and potentially millions a calls a year about almost anything involving affairs with Korea Telecom. I did a bunch of research online to try to find a wireless internet provider. I constantly ran into websites that were in English, but just briefly explaining services. There was rarely a phone number I could use to see if I could use my broken Korean and figure out a solution. In the end, I gave up out of frustration.
While my troubles continue in getting some basic services here in Busan, Korean parents are paying millions of dollars to send their children abroad to learn how to “become more like a native speaker” so they can get 118 (out of 120) on their iBT TOEFL scores. It’s a great thing the parents are doing and I especially admire all their sacrifice in letting their kids go abroad with sometimes 1/2 to 2/3’s of their hard earned income. The parents REALLY value their kids and the future. One of the reasons why Korea is the 11th highest economy in the world despite being something like the 108th largest country in the world in size and the 25th biggest in terms of population is because of sacrifice and investment in their kids for the future. They also work harder than most people in the world. So, I am understanding more and more why they call others lazy…it’s because they work harder than everyone.
However, I started thinking “How about making Korea more convenient for foreigners to live in?” Why? If we did, perhaps there would be more foreigners to interact with their kids and even themselves. How about letting the foreigners spend their hard earned money in the country & possibly share their pearls of wisdom about their native lands and even giving people the opportunity to bond with them more so that later, when they do want to send their kids to New Zealand or Canada, they have someone they can trust in advising them?
I realize there’s Korea.com and a few other websites like Korea Tourism Organization’s Tour2Korea.com, but coincidentally, it was down today when I was just trying to see what it looked like. There are many times when the English version of a website was not operational. There are attempts, but since the numbers of English speaking foreigners are not as large as the Korean population, it’s not a big deal if it’s down for 4 days — even if it’s the most important 4 days before an event or when the website is the most useful. A few coworkers of mine were looking for this year’s Busan Rock Festival. We went to the site & found it to be nice, but the the English link was broken. Fortunately, after contacting the city’s manager on the project, I was able to get the details and post them on a new website I created to help solve the lack of English resources about stuff in Korea: http://Korpedia.info I also emailed the coworker with the details.
I’ve lived here in Korea for more than 3 years now. I can speak Korean, but I can’t speak it as well as I should. So, I still have a lot of difficulty in finding things. In the past, I gave up after about 4-5 tries in acquiring the information. However, today, I’ve decided to just try my best each time and when I do find the solution, I post it on my website: http://Korpedia.info I’m currently trying my best to solicit others to also throw their details about a local great restaurant find or a remote location in Korea that our friends should visit or a Korean phrase that may be helpful in many situations while living here.
However, my website is not going to be the only solution that’s going to attract more foreigners here to Korea. Additionally, the numbers don’t justify a lot of investment in the infrastructure for English speakers. When you see an international company market to Korea like Google.com or many others, you’ll see that the default language that the sites come up are in Korean. They don’t realize that there are people who speak English and many other languages in the country & can’t read the Korean to back out of the site & set it to Egnlish. Also, I realize that it is more English friendly in Seoul, but how about the rest of the country where 75% or more of the population lives and possibly as many of the foreigner population?
At the same time, if Korea can be a little more welcoming online and in the many places foreigners can acquire more information to do simple things like get broadband wireless internet, it could possibly surpass the numbers in Japan which I believe number over a million. Korea might not beat Japan’s standard of living in the next decade or more, but it beats them in other ways like cost of living and entertainment to the Nth degree. I’m hoping for my Korean brothers and sisters’ sake that they do continue to put that extra effort to hopefully attract more foreigners so that they will gain in the end. The other benefit beyond becoming friends with the them, learning from them (their culture or the details about their country) and earning their income back when they spend is that Korea becomes a hotter destination for tourism and for people living here and in the end helps the country truly become much stronger. There are hiccups a long the way, but as long as we work hard together to share both cultures and languages more freely in information especially on the Internet, Korea will truly blossom even more into possibly one of the leading countries of Asia, despite it’s size.
After submitting, I realized I should of probably wrote about the statistics of the number of people who read websites in English vs. those in Korea. At last count, there were about 365 million readers in English & potentially as many as 2+ billion — the largest group in the world vs. the 8th place Koreans who have about 34 million readers in Korean. Of course, this is quite significant given that Korea’s only a country with about 48 million, but regardless, the numbers are clearly in favor of the English readers. Koreans could make so much more money if they just made their websites English friendly.
I finally got the service today from KT Telecom, but it turns out neither my home nor the one work location that I can’t hook up via a wireless lan with my laptop both fail. They don’t have strong enough signals, but fortunately, the service was only 15,000 won a month & so if I don’t find much use after this month, I’ll dump it. I noticed a big “SK Wibro” thing outside my door today at my place & will look into that. However, with the little I’ve already found out about it, it just seems like a wireless protocol/standard. So, here I go again trying to find out information & where to actually sign up for the service. Geeeeezzz…
Well, that’s why there’s more reason for my website: http://Korpedia.info and I don’t mind taking advantage of this problem.