[ANOTHER VIEW]Kids treated differently in Korea, U.S.In the United States, getting to school in the morning was a joint effort between students and parents. When kids didn’t take the school bus, their parents usually gave them a ride to school. In Korea, it’s up to the kid to figure out transportation. If you feel like walking, fine. Feel like taking a bus? That’s fine too.
I remember sitting in my high school classroom one day and watching an unexpected storm pile up snow outside the window. Since schools in Korea rarely close early because of the weather, we students couldn’t believe our ears when we heard that we would be dismissed early.
As happy as everyone was, we were faced with the immediate problem of how to get home. Those who got a ride with their parents were the lucky ones. Most of us had to take public transportation, which was not only clogged with passengers, but also running very late. In retrospect, I’m thankful that was the only time I was dismissed early because of snow.
This childhood memory contrasts with another I have of going to school in the United States. There, even a small event is cause for parents to come and take their kids home. If the parents can’t make it, a neighbor comes; if that isn’t possible, the child remains at school with the teacher until a guardian arrives. This actually happened to me, and I had to wait quite a while with the teacher before my parents finally arrived.
Back to Korea, where a rainstorm can prove quite humorous. Unlike the indifference shown to transporting kids home in the midst of a snowstorm, a light shower brings umbrella-clutching mothers scrambling out the woodwork. It’s a lucky day for kids because they have someone to walk home with.
Then there’s missing school because you’re sick ― the last thing you do in Seoul. In the United States, however, if you’re not feeling well you’re free to go home (with a parent or guardian, of course). My brother loved the idea of skipping school even if there was nothing seriously wrong. He became obsessive about checking his temperature to see if it was even slightly higher than normal.
Kids are dealt with differently in different cultures. I and my brother were lucky to learn both. Pizza for America, jjajangmeon for Korea.
by Cho Eun-hye
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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