Learning to Thank and Appreciate
*Notice* Since my dad can only speak in Korean, this interview was done in Korean. Then, I translated the interview to English to best of my ability.
Dad:Have you been well?
Me:Yeah, and by the way, this is all being recorded. Got it?
Dad:Ok, go on.
Me:I will ask you interview questions and you answer.
Me:Why did you send us, mom, my sister, and me to the United States?
Dad:Uhh…Uhh… I believed that getting you and your sister educated in the United States was the road to let you guys experience a bigger world because even though getting education in South Korea is good enough, if you guys get educated in the United States, I believed that you guys get to meet a lot more people than you guys could’ve meet in Korea and have more experience in many sorts of things, therefore even though it was a difficult decision, I thought it through and decided it was for the best if you guys lived in the United States.
Me:Why was it difficult?
Dad:It’s because my family, you, Ui-Chae (my sister), and your mom going to and living in the United States is different than living in South Korea. In the United States, you guys needed a house to live in and also a car because in the United States, it’s difficult to go anywhere without a car. I guess money in general was an issue. You guys needed money in order to live in the United States and I also needed money to support myself in South Korea, while sending majority of my income to you guys. Another difficult thing was that we were separate from each other. I believe that families should live and stay together. Since we lived so far away, I began missing my family. Those were some of the difficult things I had to go through.
Me:Another question… why was it the United States? I researched a bit and found out that countries in Europe, for example, Finland have better education systems than the United States, so why the United States?
Dad:Hmm… but the United States is top in many fields, such as economy and even education, in my opinion. Also, there are many diverse people in the United States coming from all around the world. I don’t know if you know this or not, but the country called the United States can be said to be made by immigrants, so you guys can meet many diverse people. That is why I chose the United States. Of course other countries may also have several diverse people, but United States is known for its diversity and also, the land itself is big.
Me:Ok next question. Are you okay living by yourself?
Dad:Uhh… now that we live separately, I miss my family. I want to live together, go on vacations together, go have meals together. Of course I want to do all these, but like I said before, because of the larger goal to get you guys better education in the United States to become great people, I was able to win over these difficulties. Obviously, there were many difficulties.
Me:Ok then, now tell me your experience as a student in South Korea. Was it a good experience or a bad one?
Dad:I think that there were both the good and the bad experiences. Korean education traditionally focuses a lot on etiquette, such as, you must make your country proud and you must respect your parents. I like this aspect of the Korean education, but on the other hand, Korea focuses too much on test scores. Therefore, Korean students, not much for elementary students but for middle and high school students, especially the high school students, study until around 11 P.M. everyday for several years to get into colleges. This is tough on the students. And I believe that it’s bad to focus too much in test scores. For example, in high schools in the United States, students can choose to play an instrument if they want to. Students who want to play the violin can learn how to play the violin. Students who want to play the flute can learn how to play the flute. But in Korea, because getting into a college is the top priority, music and PE is thought to be a waste of time. They only prioritize English, math, science, and language arts and cannot waste money nor time in music and PE.
Me:So, if you were a student again and if you had the chance to be educated in the United States, would you have taken the chance?
Dad:Of course I would’ve taken the chance. But in my time, it was difficult to go the United States to learn. That’s why I couldn’t go.
Me:I think I’m almost finished… do you regret sending us to the United States?
Dad:No, definitely no. Even though it was difficult at first, you guys are all in college now and are on the road to become great people so I have no regrets at all.
Me:Okay, let’s say you were to retire soon, then do you have the desire to move to the United States with us?
Dad:I have considerable amount of desire to move to the United States, but I also have things I need to finish in South Korea. But I believe that it will be nice, once I am done with things, to move to the United States and live with you guys.
Me:So, you want us to live in the United States our entire lives?
Dad:Only if you guys want to. If you guys want to live in South Korea again, I wouldn’t mind. I want you guys to do what you guys want to do.
Me:Okay I think that I am done with the interview.
Dad:If you think that if the interview wasn’t good enough call me again.
Me:*laughs* I think that we are fine. Thanks once again!
This interview with my dad was just supposed to be a 10 to 20 minute of casual chat over the phone; however, after the interview, I couldn’t help but feel terrible and guilty. While I was having the time of my life over here in the United States, my father was tirelessly working, day and night, in a small cubicle so that he can provide his family in the United States. The thought that really struck me as sad was thinking about my dad returning home back from work and no one being there to welcome him. No one to cook him a delicious, warm dinner. No one to ask how his day was. No one to remind him the reason to live. How empty inside did he feel the first time he came back home after sending his family off to a foreign land? Why was it that I’ve never thought about the sacrifices my father has made for me until I had this interview with my dad? Even though I am ashamed of myself right now, I’m glad that I’m not too late to appreciate what my father has done for me. Therefore, I can’t express how thankful I am that there’s an interview section included in this project. Because of this interview, I was able to spend quality time with my dad. Some people who reads this interview may believe that this situation, a father staying in Korea to support his family in the United States, is unique only to me. However, that isn’t the case. It’s so common that there’s even a vocabulary term in Korean which describes these type of fathers. They are called “geese fathers”. Even in my high school, three of my close Korean friends were in the same situation as me. Maybe the reason I got along well with them was because I had something in common with them. It’s sad to see that more and more Korean students in the United States are becoming “fatherless”. I hope that one day, Korea becomes a successful country where parents do not have to think, even for a second, that they must send their kids to the United States to have successful lives. During the interview with my father about the difference between Korea and the United States, the challenge I faced was asking follow-up questions because I mainly asked questions that I had already planned out beforehand. Therefore, if I can ever interview my father again, I would like the interview to be more free-flowing, meaning that I want the interview to go wherever my father’s response leads to, not to go where my pre-planned questions directs it to go to. Also, I would like to go deeper into the interview by asking how it was for him to live alone for the sake of his family and if he ever had thoughts to just give up everything, even his family. Now that I know what my father has done for me up to this point in time, even if it’s not for my sake, for my father’s sake, I would like to make efficient use of everything the American education can offer me, so that I am one step closer of becoming the great person my father wants me to be. If there ever comes a day when I become the tradition-bearer myself and have the opportunity to talk about the most important part of my life, I would most certainly discuss about the time I moved to the United States, because that moment shaped the person that I am today.