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this is traditional wedding box and some of it's contents. We will do a bigger post on this later.

In Korea marriage isn’t just between a couple, it is also the marriage of two families. Yai mul is how you call all the wedding presents that are exchanged between the two families. Jamie and I are going to go look for some diamond jewelery today that we will give to my mom when we visit in December. Normally this would go into the Ham 함, the wedding chest that the groom presents the bride’s family. It is also filled with fine silks (예단) that the wedding party uses for the wedding day and a formal letter that states the groom’s family’s acceptance of the bride into their family.

We are breaking a little with the tradition by giving my mom the jewelery ahead of time. Normally it is a pearl set, a diamond set and a watch given for the father. These are normally all presented just before the wedding but for convenience we will give them a bit separately.

The actual Korean word for marriage when referring to a girl is Shi jip Kan Da (시집간다). This literally means ‘going to the groom’s house and becoming their family’. This is why the groom’s family presents such lavish gifts. It is in thanks to my parents for raising me to be such a great wife to Jamie :p

We’ll be sure to share pictures when we get back from the Gold and Diamond park.

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

China_24_cardinal_directionsThis is a quick post to let everyone know Rory and I have will be married on May 2, 2010 in Seoul, South Korea.

After taking a good hard look at the energies that swirl about this great universe, the Korean Shaman has suggested only a couple possible dates for us to be married.   This was one of two possible dates in the lunar calendar that represent the best luck, the best timing and the best weather for a wedding. We chose May because in Seoul, the blossoms will be in full bloom, the sun warm, the air cool and of course the kimchi spicy. It’s also because we want to be married as soon as we can.

We are very hopeful that all of our friends and family can attend but understand that this might not be possible for everyone.

Please keep following this Blog for all the relevant details around the wedding but also to share in our adventure. We will be updating the blog with interesting details about Korean culture, the traditional Korean wedding process, specific details relating to logistics for those attending as well as documenting our own experiences. For those of you who use Twitter, you can follow updates through our account @roryandjamie.

Please feel free to share this blog with anyone who would be interested to follow us on our wedding journey.

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Korea photos