August 14, 2003 - The Korea Herald: RPCV Gary Rector became a Korean citizen

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Korea: Peace Corps Korea : The Peace Corps in Korea: August 14, 2003 - The Korea Herald: RPCV Gary Rector became a Korean citizen

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, August 14, 2003 - 11:13 pm: Edit Post

RPCV Gary Rector became a Korean citizen

RPCV Gary Rector became a Korean citizen

Simplify your life: be Korean

One foreigner in Korea never has to wait in the immigration lines again. After 30 years of being a fixture at that office, and on a first-name basis, he left for good when former American Gary Rector became a Korean citizen. The long wait at the Mokdong office is a collective gripe among expats and permanent foreign residents in Seoul. Sorting out visas, trying to own an apartment and starting a business can cause enough headaches to make people do desperate things - like give up their American passports.

Rector is not anti-American, nor ridiculously in love with Korea. But he can speak the language fluently and enjoys being an expert in that field. He's a rare breed of foreign translators that are in high demand here, but are barely interesting back home, he said. Only a handful of Americans who are non-ethnic Koreans have local citizenship.

The decision to become a Korean was easy for Rector, someone who speaks more Korean than English. Before this interview with The Korea Herald, he hadn't spoken English for 48 hours.

Rector arrived in Korea ahead of the English institute craze with the Peace Corps in 1967. "I requested a non-European language speaking country," he said.

After re-signing for an additional three years service as a health volunteer, he shifted to teaching English and then translating and editing. All the while, getting to know the people and the culture.

"When I go back home I feel like a foreigner. People are totally uninterested in my conversations about Korea. We just talk about the long gone days," said Rector, native of a small Kentucky town. Some of his relatives have called him a "traitor."

"If I would have stayed home, I would have been just another Joe Blow," he said. Living in Korea is still a struggle for him, and at best adventurous. Without being too romantic, he considers himself a pioneer like his German forefathers who settled in America in the early 18th century.

Losing both his parents in the 1980s gave him little motivation to move back to the States. Ten years later he became weary of working for other people. Then he invented the idea to pursue the American dream outside of the United States.

His Korean citizenship allows him to legally juggle a dozen freelance jobs through his own translating company. Rector also reads copy for Newsweek and CJ International. His next frontier is musical arrangements.

"Knowing the language makes all the difference," Rector said about getting to know Koreans. Speaking their language gives Rector an "equal footing" on friendship and weeding out the ones who take advantage of English speakers to improve their own skills.

He doesn't take part in the expat hobby of "Korea bashing" now that he can exercise his right to vote. Voting is a satisfying privilege, he said. "If I don't like the bums, I can vote them out of office."

Applying for Korean citizenship was about a five-month process of paperwork, background checks, interviews and tests. As some officials expected him to fail, he surprised them with a score of 100 percent.

Some Koreans raise the issue about restricting citizenship to anyone who is not of "pure blood." According to Rector, the most active voices are college students who have not traveled abroad, and such sentiments rarely come from the older generations.

He deals with prejudice with a sense of humor. Rector has a stockpile of stories in which people actually believed he was ethnic Korean. While standing in line at the airport, U.S. customs officials told him he spoke English very well. An older Korean woman once stared at his face, assumed he was Korean but asked if he had cosmetic eye surgery.

An airport official in Michigan checking passports asked Rector about his Korean name "Yu."

"She was pronouncing it differently," he said. "I think she thought I was Chinese."


By Andrew Petty


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Story Source: The Korea Herald

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Korea; Citizenship



By Anonymous ( on Monday, May 29, 2006 - 5:26 am: Edit Post

i'm applying for the Korean citizhenship but it's said the test and result will come out in a year or more than a year, is that true? one more thing is that there are more and more Koreans raise the issue about restricting citizenship to anyone who is not of "pure blood", so is it impossible for foreigners to get Korean citizenship now?

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