Koreans are almost categorically happy to see you, America

Not all Koreans love America, or Americans, and of those who don't, I'm told, most feel that way because of the post-war behavior of American soldiers. Typically these feelings are limited to the oldest (or at least older) generation. Almost across the board, younger Koreans (and many, if not most, older Koreans) love meeting Americans.

This afternoon, an older Korean woman in Jeju-si did not wait for me to ask for help. The minute I pulled out a local map, she came out of her store, grabbed me by the elbow, led me inside her medical-products shop, dialed her cell phone, and then handed it to me. On the other line was a friend or relative who asked how they could be of assistance.

In Korea, that is normal.

This morning I came across a field trip of Korean children, a few hundred children, all in primary school. For nearly 30 minutes I did nothing but say hi, hello, and I am fine, hundreds of times. One little girl said, "It is nice to meet you, English man!" about 50 times, stopping only to giggle.

Yesterday I asked a woman working a tour booth if she knew of a nearby Internet connection. Her answer was not to point me in the right direction. Instead, this woman who spoke only a little English, invited me inside her booth and insisted that I use her work computer. Then she booked me a free tour of the Geomunoreum lava tubes for the following morning, and gave me a phone number of an English-speaking friend should I need any assistance. She also taught me how to write my name in Korean: 두이 (Dewey) 헤먼드 (Hammond).

Yesterday evening I walked by a table of older Koreans dining. I was just walking by on my way to the restroom. They stopped me and insisted I take a shot of soju (Korean rice wine). Two shots actually, followed by some chopsticks in my face, with a large piece of raw octupus caught in their grasp. I know it was fresh because we were next to an octopus tank. For the record, I love you Korea, but please spare me the raw octupus.

Last week I met five University girls, first-year students, all of whom asked me a few questions for a school project. The questions had no continuity or context, and if asked by native English speakers one or two of them might have been offensive (e.g. "What kind of sports are 'your people' good at?") but I was happy to help.

I could not imagine a warmer reception. Thank you, Korea.