the odd couple

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Of all the people who have been a great help to EunBong and myself since coming back to Korea, our real-estate agent has been among the most helpful. When most people wouldn’t have wanted to deal with us at all, he and his wife helped us get two apartments with hardly a cent in our pockets.

The difficult part about getting set up in Korea is the huge deposit required to move in. A place in a good neighborhood is about 10 000 dollars. Where we are now, a foot steps into the countryside is still about 5000 dollars. He helped us find a place that only required 3000 dollars and he convinced the landlord to let us pay it a bit at a time. This month, he even told us that he spoke to the landlord and told her that he thought we’ve had a hard time lately so she said we didn’t have to pay the deposit until next month, just the rent. Basically it means that I just have to send the same amount to Visa instead, but it still lets me breathe easy for this month, and get out of the house on the weekends!

When we first dealt with them over the phone, EunBong was certain they must be Buddhist. When we visited their office, she was surprised to see a crucifix hanging above their desk. I have to say, there are many pushy, rather annoying missionaries on the streets here, and there are weekly knocks on the door from people tell you that only they have the “truth” and that you must attend their church. There have also been some disconcerting events in Korea, preachers who burn down temples, or even kill Buddhist with absolutely no feeling that they’ve done anything wrong. EunBong usually gets nervous when I get into debates with the people at the door, she’d prefer I just close the door. Anyway, it’s refreshing to meet people like our real-estate agents, to show us that the foundation of any religion is to be compassionate to others. Unfortunately, our labels tend to get in the way at times.

8 responses »

  1. Was there a baby Jesus nearby? Maybe someone thought this was Joseph and Mary? lol! or perhaps just covering all the bases!

  2. The crucifix might indicate that they were Catholic. I’ve always had much friendlier relations with Catholics in Korea. It’s some flavors of the Protestants that seem to get wound up about beliefs different from theirs. I suspect there’s an aspect of Catholic faith that emphasized dealing with one’s own issues before getting too worked up about others. That or just the teaching that pride itself is something to be restrained.

    • Yeah, I’ve noticed that, too. (about Catholics in Korea)
      I sat in on one of Joe’s classes before to see what teaching adults was like.
      My student’s father happened to be in the class. The discussion topic was, “How would you feel if your spouse changed religions?” He had a look of complete disgust and said he would rather his wife become a Buddhist than a Christian because at least Buddhism was similar to being a Catholic. It was the first time I was introduced to the huge dived between the two in Korea, and in general I guess. I was never really aware that “being Catholic” or “being Christian” was at all different. When I went to school, everyone was Catholic except me!

  3. Hi,

    I remember going along to the wonderful Anglican Cathedral in the centre of Seoul and chatting with the lovely Irish priest there. And though we said that we’re Buddhist (me, Seon, Ikumi, Jodo-Shinshu), we were made very welcome. But that’s so typically, and beautifully, Anglican….

    It just goes to show that not all Protestants in Korea are the rabid evangelical kind! But, it has to be said, despite the size of their glorious building, Anglicans there are only a small percentage!

    All the best,

    Marcus

  4. I think the “Catholic” “Christian” divide is a unique to Korea, in the sense that “Christian” seems to be derived from the evangelical movements, especially “Are you a Christian?!” statements by Korean pentacostals. Although, as I think of it, a lot of the priests here did used to be Irish, so I wonder what attitudes they may have accidently brought with them.

    A funny thing about Korean movies, is that all of the acclaimed ones about Buddhism such as “Why did Bodhidharma come from the East,” and “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter” were made by Catholics, not actually by Buddhists.

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