Korean winter is something I think I will never be able to adjust to. Snowy morning treks on black ice covered sidewalks is only an improvement when compared to dark, freezing evenings making the same trek back home. It is not an exaggeration when I vehemently claim that my winters are spent leaving the house as little as possible, curled on my heated floor under a pile of blankets, watching tv and eating, rejecting the idea that life outside of my small safe space exists.
Korea is the first time I’ve lived somewhere with seasons and, although I’m grateful for mild San Franciscan breezes and San Diegan sunshine littering my childhood and beginnings of adulthood, there is something magic about living somewhere with seasons. Spring sweeps away all the lingering dreariness of late winter to make way for soft smells, delicate blossoms, and thin flowery skirts catching in the breeze. Summer’s long days and warm nights somehow always make for more firmly solidified memories. Autumn always comes at the very end of that blistering summer like a good friend toting a cooler full of needed ice into the party. Even I can admit that winter has its appeal- magical white flurries of a first snow, finding warmth in stolen romances, knits made to wrap the body like a gentle cocoon. Cliché as it may sound, seasons really do help one appreciate the passing of time in a way that their absence prevents.
I’ve always been an autumn person. I prefer autumn’s fashion, am more mesmerized by leaves changing than flowers blooming, and like a little crisp breeze with my sunshine. Yet, it is hard to live in a true winter country and not fall in love with spring. When I think about spring, I think about when that lifeboat came and grabbed Rose from the Atlantic in Titanic. THAT is spring, y’all. Near the end of winter, after months of navigating ice patched curbs, feeling the coldness literally crawling up your bones, and spending the first five minutes in any just-entered building defrosting fingers or lips or ears before being able to function properly, it starts to feel hopeless. It seems like spring will never come and that the snow will keep falling, the streets will keep freezing over, and that you’ll never be able to open your window and air out your house without icing over ever again. That’s why spring is Rose’s lifeboat.
So now, as the first warm days of early spring start, in Korea, we are all looking towards new beginnings. Not only are people preparing to pack away their thick down jackets and well-used electric blankets but, this year, the coming of spring aligns with a new political regime as well. After a winter spent in constant peaceful protests and investigations that were followed closely by most of the international community, the people have spoken and Korea officially confirmed the impeachment of its first female president just last week. With this impeachment comes the need for a new president to be elected within the next 60 days. That’s been set for May 9th. But more than that, everyone is asking the question, “What happens now?”
I recently talked to a colleague who, although similar in age to myself and generally socially liberal, had been leaning more towards Park not being impeached. As a resident and not a citizen, I have opinions and my own thoughts but find it is better to make space for the voices that can make a difference rather than add a useless voice to the cacophony. In one such conversation, this colleague was sharing how he respected the pure definition of democracy that the Korean people displayed this past winter, but that he didn’t always agree with the content. He wondered if now any administration’s smallest flaws would end in unending protests, if it was worthwhile to uproot the leader of the country to throw everything into chaos in order to shorten her term by a mere few months, and if the people will ever be satisfied because representation from either party will end in someone being disappointed. It was interesting for me to hear his perspective, one I don’t necessarily share and one I don’t necessarily think is without its own merits as well.
But, at the end of our conversation, it came down to the same question: What happens now? What’s next?
We will see what May 9th brings us… the future, so undefined and emotional-charged, seems to have the ability to be either revolutionarily new or disastrously messy. Whichever candidate follows this scandal will have more than simply the presidency and the Korean peninsula on their shoulders. Both sides are waiting and watching, closer than ever before; the hopeful victors demanding a complete renovation and the disgruntled defeated nursing their disappointment with riots and deaths.