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You will get something like this which will allow you to eat at the wedding

Rory and I had a bit of a fun argument last night. We were looking at options for wedding invitations and the websites we were looking at also were selling food tickets as well. I was a bit confused about this. Rory explained that it is customary for guests to receive food tickets when they turn in their wedding gift (money stuffed into a small envelope.) While I knew that money is supposed to be given instead of toasters and glassware I didn’t understand the whole ticket thing. As long as there are no wedding crashers, we should have a good sense of how many people will come to the wedding and can just let people eat without having to give them tickets in exchange for their gift. Rory explained that it is a way to keep track of how many people are eating and because it is what everyone is used to doing. Who am I to argue with that?

This is what Rory and I will look like at the wedding (minus the whiskers)

Now I received a slightly related link to a New York Times article about the tradition of giving money at Korean weddings and it interests me further to find out that the tradition is to open the envelope in front of guests and mark how much they paid in a ledger. I find this to be a bit insensitive and slightly unfair but I don’t think it’s done to purposely shame people into giving more, it’s just a way of doing the whole wedding present thing in a simple, quick, efficient and open way.

I find the article interesting mostly because of the idea that some people were using the wedding ceremonies of politicians and their families as an opportunity to bribe them with large cash gifts. I don’t expect anything similar to happen at our wedding but I think Rory and I agree that we can be bribed pretty easy 😉

Red envelopes with money are the standard gift at traditional Korean weddings

Here is a link explaining some of the Korean gift giving customs. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us.


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Racism in Korea

Japanese aren't loved in Korea

An article in the NYT yesterday reminded me of a story:

My first day in Korea in 2005, I was riding the subway, watching an old wrinkled Korean lady bouncing a really cute baby on her knee. The kid’s eyes were locked on mine as he garbled and cooed and his grandma smiled shyly at me in my amusement. Then the subway stopped and a young couple, a businessman and an old man came into the car. I kept making stupid faces at the child when I started hearing a loud Korean voice over the normal din of a midday train ride. At first I ignored it but then it became louder and more vicious sounding. I finally looked to see the old man sitting down and he was litterally spitting as he cursed foreign slurs directly at me. I was shocked and looked back at him. He stood up, assisted by a cane, and kept yelling at me. I moved back slightly, a little frightened when the grandma with the child said something to him in a stern voice and he sat back down. He kept muttering curses at me though until finally the young woman said something to him. She said it politely but with an edge and he finally shut up. She then turned to me and apologized. Her boyfriend did the same. I got off at the next stop. His eyes followed me out the door, as did the chubby cheeked Korean child.

Multiple generations live together in Korea

I didn’t know what that was about until later, it was explained to me that Koreans, especially the older generation, are pretty racist. It comes from living on an island. It comes from conservative education that tries to instill a strong sense of nationalistic and ethnic pride. It comes from Japanese invasions and drawn out wars. It comes from being stuck between some very distinct societies. It’s kind of normal there. That’s one of the reasons why it is a really big deal for me to be marrying Rory.

Long after I left Korea and travelled the rest of Asia, I looked back at my time and the people I met in Seoul. There was a serious shift happening and my generation in that country were torn between two very distinct cultures; that belonging to the old and traditional, conservative values of their parents and their own free-spirited, confused and artistically hungry sense of selves.


This is a great photo from flickr photographer 2five1

That train ride now reminds me very much of an elevator ride I took with my dad and great grandmother in her building when I was young and she was alive. A stubborn, Irish mother of 14 in rural Quebec, Great Grandma D’Arcy was a live, fallen power cable, full of spark and energy, often seen dancing a jig with a grin on her face. However, when two large black guys entered the car, her smile distorted as she began dropping N-bombs and cursing the most foul obscenities I think I’ve ever heard. Even as a young child I was shocked. I understood though that it was just her ignorance, her life in ethnic isolation. Not so different from the old Korean man on the train. I think Korea is one generation away from being awesome.

A lot had to happen for change to come about in the West

Going back to the NYT article, it is good to see that the government and laws in Korea are starting to reflect the new realities. In just the past seven years, the number of foreign residents has doubled, to 1.2 million and younger people are starting to marry non Koreans. People might read the article and think, ‘wow, what took them so long’ but consider that an interracial couple was denied a marriage license recently in the US.

I don’t often tell her but I am supremely proud of my fiance for choosing to stand up against the traditions of her family and her country in order to marry me. Women like Rory have started challenging the norms. They are Korea’s version of  Richard Loving. I’m hopeful that our children will be the ones who set Korea free.

Related articles:

After 40 years, interracial marriage flourishing

Just Plain Uncomfortable

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Korea photos