Guest: Frank Brannen
Duration: 56 minutes
Recording Date: June 13, 2009
Frank Brannen is a 28 year-old half-Korean American who grew up in Korea, Florida, Germany and California. Frank experienced diversity going to US Department of Defense schools growing up and then went on to study political science at the University of California at San Diego. While working in Washington, D.C., an interest in working for the US Department of State brought him to Korea to learn Korean. He currently works as an English instructor at a university.
In this interview, Frank discusses growing up in Korea and partially internalizing Korean nationalism; he talks about his experience living for a year in extreme proximity to the DMZ and exposure to the reality of Korea’s relationship with North Korea, life and work as a foreigner in a small town and his eventual transition from public middle school teaching to university. In the social realm, Frank talks about living in Korea as a mixed-Korean adult, the looks a heterosexual “foreign” man receives dating a “Korean” woman, and the differences between the American business environment and Korean hierarchy in the teaching field.
“My first six months of being a teacher was a disaster […] I had no idea what I was doing, you know, I was asking everybody: ‘What are doing? You play bingo?! That’s genius!’ […] So the first six months was like a crash course and after that […] it became easy.”
“My first year, dating would be people I met in Seoul; in the countryside I didn’t really date. Because it was such a small town, everyone knew your business […] And then moving to Seoul, you do get looks. You do get stared at, especially if the girl is Korean and you’re a foreigner, then people do stare. Especially in the countryside, that’s probably one of the biggest things: they look at the girl, they look at the guy, they look at the girl, they look at the guy […] I see that and I think about my parents, and they were doing this in the 70s, and I’m sure it was much much more close-minded back then.”