By Elizabeth Graham
1. Respect for the environment- The very impressive lack of garbage cans, a huge supply of a variety of recycling bins, the use of little metal cups that are sanitized for public use and of course the tiny napkins are all symbols of a national effort to demonstrate a responsibility for the environment. Additionally, the quantity of land that is nationally protected and the complete lack of trash are both remarkable.
2. Prioritizing education- Although students study during vacations, after school and probably before school, it is the focus on attaining wisdom and knowledge and the regard that intellectual growth is a blessing and a life-long experience that most impresses me. Our visit to the Confucian scholar’s home was so peaceful and tranquil reflecting the need for calm natural environments which are conducive to thought.
3. Respect and protection of elders, tradition, and history- Korea is the tiny country that stood! The existence of South Korea as a nation despite enormous odds and obstacles is remarkable. The continued celebration of a unique culture and history is an attribute to a strong national identity.
4. Dedicated work ethic- When do Koreans sleep? This question plagued me throughout the trip, but the lack of sleep also addresses the reason for the successful economy that Koreans have created and deserve. My host mother awoke at 4:00 a.m. every morning to prepare breakfast for her husband. She attended a church service at 5:00 a.m. and returned home at 6:00 to wake her daughter and pack her breakfast and lunch. The daughter generally eats breakfast in the car to save time.
5. Attention to detail- Who does the dishes? The myriad of tiny bowels and plates are beautifully displayed and a convenient way for everyone to choose what they most want to eat. Someone (poor mom) does a lot of chopping and washing. Our reception at the mega-church was extraordinary, especially regarding the little flower head bands that we all received, the lovingly decorated tables with name cards and little gifts. Overall the precision and detail reflect effort, care and consideration.
6. Emotional nature- The demonstrative character of Koreans was evident at the church service on Sunday morning. The singers and entire congregation were so sincerely moved that watching them was inspirational. The Korean soap operas also reflect a familiarity with strong emotion that is very engaging.
7. Perseverance- Women divers on Jeju Island, the constant defense of the country and struggle towards nationhood.
8. Warmth- One of my favorite moments was our visit to the orphanage and playing with the toddlers. The love and care they receive was heartening to see.
9. Family oriented- A vision of strong family values and a committed responsibility towards children and the elderly. All family members seem to accept their role in the family and are expected to act accordingly.
10. Courtesy- Even the toilets are designed to demonstrate courtesy to others in public bathrooms. I also enjoyed the bars of soap that were attached to a metal holder so no one would accidentally run off with it. I love that Koreans remove their shoes before entering homes and other special places. It makes everything very clean and quiet. I also appreciate the sense of modesty that I witnessed.