2008.11.22: November 22, 2008: Headlines: COS - Korea: Return to our Country of Service - Korea: Times Herald-Record: RPCV Kathleen Wright travelled to Korea and tells how it's changed over the years

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Korea: Peace Corps Korea : Peace Corps Korea: Newest Stories: 2008.11.22: November 22, 2008: Headlines: COS - Korea: Return to our Country of Service - Korea: Times Herald-Record: RPCV Kathleen Wright travelled to Korea and tells how it's changed over the years

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RPCV Kathleen Wright travelled to Korea and tells how it's changed over the years

RPCV Kathleen Wright travelled to Korea and tells how it's changed over the years

When Wright left South Korea in the 1970s, the country was still struggling financially and culturally. When she returned for the first time in 2007, she was awestruck at the changes. In old South Korea, men and women wore a traditional flowing hanbok dress, and life was hard: no indoor plumbing in the country, and lots of hard agricultural labor. But there were also willow trees and pine forests, and a certain charm, and the old cultural traditions. "It's still there," Wright said, if you look. "And now you have all of this wealth, and all these young people who have no idea that their country once was poor." Talk of how far South Korea has come it's now the 13th largest economy in the world brings fond, proud tears to Wright's eyes. "It moved so fast, and they moved so fast," she said. "I didn't have any transition."

RPCV Kathleen Wright travelled to Korea and tells how it's changed over the years

SUNY Orange professor who travelled to Korea tells how it's changed over the years
Prof's slides tell tale of radical changes in land set back by war

By Heather Yakin
Times Herald-Record

November 22, 2008

MIDDLETOWN The pictures, old and new, are a study in contrasts.

Then was the 1970s of South Korean and American military in a devastated landscape, rural South Koreans living in thatched-roof huts without plumbing or heat, women carrying children on their backs and men carrying goods on their backs.

"There was total decimation of South Korea: its buildings, many casualties," said Kathleen Wright, an English professor at SUNY Orange who volunteered in South Korea for the Peace Corps from 1973 to 1975, as the country struggled toward democracy after the Korean War. "Children were displaced from their homes. Towns were left in rubble."

Today, South Korea is modern and fast-moving, with high-rise apartment buildings, department stores boasting designer goods and an urban population that works for corporations such as Hyundai. Wright spoke about that change Tuesday in a slide lecture about her recent returns to Seoul, in 2007 and again in October when she and her fellow Peace Corps volunteers were honored there. The audience packed a lecture room at the college library.

"Children no longer run from planes; they play on them," Wright says, flashing a 2007 slide of kids clambering on an old war plane at Seoul's War Museum.

She showed more slides, of refurbished Buddhist temples, with murals depicting the life and teachings of Buddha in vibrant colors, of modern marble-floored hotel lobbies, of modern markets where South Korean women in visors and hats and western dress shop for fish. The hats keep off the sun; in modern Korea, tanned skin is associated with peasants and manual labor.

When Wright left South Korea in the 1970s, the country was still struggling financially and culturally. When she returned for the first time in 2007, she was awestruck at the changes.

In old South Korea, men and women wore a traditional flowing hanbok dress, and life was hard: no indoor plumbing in the country, and lots of hard agricultural labor. But there were also willow trees and pine forests, and a certain charm, and the old cultural traditions.

"It's still there," Wright said, if you look. "And now you have all of this wealth, and all these young people who have no idea that their country once was poor."

Talk of how far South Korea has come it's now the 13th largest economy in the world brings fond, proud tears to Wright's eyes.

"It moved so fast, and they moved so fast," she said. "I didn't have any transition."

hyakin@th-record.com




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Story Source: Times Herald-Record

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Korea; Return to our Country of Service - Korea

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