Hi Roboseyo the awesome
My name is Kyoposeyo - I'm such a fan of yours that I legally changed it, and your blog gives meaning to my life. As a second generation Korean/Canadian, I want to thank you on behalf of my race for being so awesome. Awesome. I'll say it twice. That's how awesome you are. Having been raised by first generation Korean parents (grew up in a Canadian city), I know a thing or two about Koreans, despite not having lived there, nor being as awesome as you.
I want to throw a question your way: hopefully this complete stranger's question will pierce your near-indestructible shell of awesome. It would help me a lot if it did, and you answered.
I am planning a trip to Japan and Korea in May; I'm going with my caucasian boyfriend. He wants to see Korea's natural beauty, and bask in the awesomeness of the place that inspired your awesome blog. Awesome. There's that word again.
I have been to Korea with my family before, but NEVER with my boyfriend. I speak Korean, but am wondering how Koreans will react to us being together. I thought I'd ask you since you are a foreigner, and I am assuming your girlfriend is Korean?
Your thoughts on this would really help me in planning my trip. I haven't booked a ticket yet, as I am figuring out how many days I want to spend there with my boyfriend.
Thanks for the sweet letter. It's actually my policy only to answer letters that use the word "awesome" the exact number of times you did (ten, or twice per paragraph for longer letters), so you lucked out, I guess.
To answer your question:
First, a qualifier: I can't speak for how your family will react. Because family's closer, things are just different; your parents will be more useful in briefing you on introducing him to the family. If he's meeting your uncles, I bet they'll try to get him drunk, as my best friend's uncles-in-law did. For family, their impression will depend a lot on how they've been prepared for meeting him, but that's all I can really say about that.
Next, for people in Korea, once it's clear that you're not Korean born-and-raised, you often get a kind of a free pass here. Therefore, one thing you could do is simply pack clothes that are clearly Canadian, and noticeably different from the fashions Korean women wear. Wear very little make-up, which will set you apart from most Korean women, even in the summer. If you're going to Japan first, pick a few distinctively Japanese accessories you can wear, that'll set you apart for passersby looking from a distance. Then people will size you up as a tourist and the "rules" won't apply to you. You could even speak in more laboured Korean, as if you don't know it well, to make your disguise complete. Of course, if it doesn't sit well with you to deny your Korean background, don't do it; I sure wouldn't hold that against you.
Third: I think the reactions your boyfriend will get, being seen with a visibly Korean woman, really depend a lot on your boyfriend's appearance. Some people have a lot of trouble with negative attention from Koreans when they're out with their Korean girlfriends, but I never have, and I think it's because I do what I can to keep a well-groomed appearance, and try to make a positive first impression on the Koreans around me, especially when I'm with Girlfriendoseyo (who is Korean: you were right about that). I might be totally wrong here, but I bet you'd get more attention in general, if he looks like a bedraggled hippie with long hair, a grizzly adams beard, and torn clothes - just because NOBODY dresses or looks that way in Korea; once he's attracted all that attention, there's a greater chance some of the attention he attracts will turn negative, and that some individual will peg him into the stereotype of the ugly English teacher stealing "our" women or whatever. But if he dresses in a way that keeps a low profile, and fits in with the locals, there's a much much lower chance that he'll elicit that reaction. When in Rome, wear a toga. Those viking furs might be the heighth of fashion in Denmark, but they won't get you far at the Coliseum.
If he's groomed, smiling and polite, if you teach him a few Korean phrases and he says them with a friendly air, all those same people who'd otherwise mutter, will smile and tell you he's a handsome guy, and maybe offer him a shot of makkeolli or some extra side dishes. If you're out climbing mountains and in nature, which it sounds like you want to do, you're very likely to encounter the nicest side of Koreans, rather than the unsavory side: many of the most positive experiences I've had with Koreans, especially older Koreans, have been on the mountain. The same old lady who, in the city, would shove you to get onto the subway car before you, will share her lunch with you on the mountain-- the climbing culture is one of the friendliest aspects of Korea I've come across, personally, so you're probably in for a treat if you're heading for the hiking trails.
Of course, you can also just tell everybody you're married, too. These days, international marriages are nothing out of the ordinary in the countryside.
see also this post: Tips to Avoid Being Assaulted in Korea