“Conditions are very good, meaning we may be able to arrive half an hour earlier than expected. Wouldn’t that be nice?” “I know it’s not the done thing to interrupt you during the flight these days, but I just wanted to let you know that in 15 minutes, we’ll be enjoying a glorious view of the Great Wall of China.” The pilot on my flight is, of course, an Englishman. I am heading home after a four-year stint in Korea, and hearing his words puts a smile on my face. “Not the done thing” and “wouldn’t that be nice?” bring up an England I recognize in- stantly, albeit one I’ve never actually seen: one of grandmoth- ers drinking lukewarm tea on rainy afternoons and of model train enthusiasts marveling over rail gauge sizes. I’m going back to Blighty. But the thought tears me up a little as well. The place I’ve thought of as home since mid-2010 is already a thousand miles behind me, somewhere far beyond the Great Wall of China. Korea is far from the ideal country. Just this April, an event occurred that could be said to be a grimly perfect distillation of nearly all the social problems that exist there. And such is the divided and politicized nature of the place that right now in Gwanghwamun you can see people protesting against the families of the victims of that event. Whenever I told Korean friends that I loved living in Korea, they usually responded by saying that they wanted to leave. I understand them. As an independent writer, not to mention a foreigner, I’m gratefully exempt from this county’s brutal com- petition and militaristic office culture, among other things. But still, nowhere ever got into me the way Korea has. It’s a place where I feel friendship and brotherhood as soon as I step off the plane at Incheon. When I first lived in Seoul I taught English at a hagwon (pri- vate study center). Most fellow teachers around me didn’t like Korea much, making me a bit of an oddity. But things have changed. These days, people mostly seem to come here by choice, and many want to get involved in actual Korean soci- ety — as opposed to staying within the bounds of what is de- pressingly termed “expat life,” or more nebulously, “the expat community.” Koreans are more likely than before to welcome this, too: for every person who (still) asks, “Isn’t this food too spicy for you?” there will, these days, be another who genu- inely wants to engage with you. This is why I like Groove Korea: big features and cover sto- ries about politics, education, sexual minorities and the like elevate this magazine beyond the expected (and admittedly necessary) Itaewon restaurant reviews and into the realm of proper involvement with Korea. But this just reflects what is really going on in Seoul. These days, “we” aren’t just in hag- wons, factories or “on base” — we’re everywhere, and we’re starting businesses, NGOs and artistic collectives, and, in one case, sitting in the National Assembly. More and more speak Korean extremely well, something that makes me feel embar- rassed about my own level of proficiency. During my early days in Korea, I heard this line very often: “You’ll never be a part of Korean society,” with the added im- plication being that the sooner you give up on trying to be part of it, the happier you’ll be. But I think times have started to change, and as you know, Korea is nothing if not a fast-mov- ing place. I know I’ll be back living in Seoul sooner or later, and when I do return, I’m sure I’ll see fewer “expats” and many more people genuinely adding something to Korean society. I hope I can be one of them. Wouldn’t that be nice? food Makgeolli mania In a cozy bar in central Seoul, a long table of people slowly swirl and carefully consider the contents of small ceramic cups of creamy liquid. “Too sour.” “Not for me.” “There’s a complexity and earthiness I like.” “I preferred the first — sweeter and more balanced.” The cups are filled with makgeolli — Korea’s traditional, fermented rice-based alcohol — and the scene is a typical meeting of the Makgeolli Mamas and Papas Korea. To dive into the world of makgeolli is to experience a living, breathing example of traditional Korean culture mirrored by the rich, ever-evolving, microbial nature of the brew itself. Makgeolli has weathered Japanese occupation, rice shortages and the rise of the util- itarian cocktail of cheap beer and soju to emerge as one of the few unbroken cultural links tying modern Korea to its traditional past. Story by Beryl Sinclair next up: January 2015 music & arts Geography of youth Juanita Hong is a Brazilian-born Korean pho- tographer who grew up in the United States. She first got her hands on a camera at age 9, after her parents recognized her artistic tal- ents. Growing up she took classes in ceramics, pottery, painting, drawing and pretty much any creative pursuit going. Now she’s working on a photography project called Geography of Youth where, over the course of 30 days, photogra- phers from around the world interviewed and photographed one millennial every day. Interview by Josh Doyle M o r e t h a n e x p a t s By Daniel tudor, journalist, author and food entrepreneur editorial ‘ w e ’ a r e g e t t i n g m o r e i n v o l v e d a n d g i v i n g b a c k www.groovekorea.com / December 2014 4 To comment, email editor@groovekorea.com EDITORIAL Daniel Tudor is a partner of craft beer pub chain The Booth, former Seoul correspondent for The Economist and author of “Korea: The Impossible Country,” “North Korea Confdential” and “A Geek in Korea.” He left Seoul in November after four years to set up a platform for crowdfunded journalism in London. Follow him @danielrtudor. — Ed.