I’m moving to Korea

on Friday i’m moving to Korea.

this will bookend a 14 month, twice-around-the-globe journey i’ve been on with my wife since leaving NYC in January 2019.

why Korea?

i was first introduced to Korean people in 6th grade orchestra. you can speculate as to why that is.

i played violin throughout middle school and high school, becoming first chair my sophomore year but occasionally being demoted to 2nd chair due to “behavior” issues.

by senior year there were no more than 10 non-Asian students in my orchestra class, and most of my peers were Korean. they taught me popular phrases like “do you want to die?” (죽어래) and “idiot” (바보) and “you’re crazy” (이상해).

this, plus dating a Korean girl at the time, got me interested in the culture. i also really like beef, and gal-bi (갈비) is a gateway drug to Korean BBQ.

in college i took 2 Korean classes. i recall nothing except hangul (한글), the Korean writing system. this takes about 90 minutes to learn.

after graduation i tried to investigate Korean culture once more, but a night in jail killed that dream. so i forgot about it, moved to NYC, and went full blast on startups.

fast forward 6 years to March 2019. i was finishing a late night dinner in Bangkok when 2 Korean guys sat down at a nearby table. my wife said something like, “Ryan speaks Korean,” and they insisted i sit with them to chat.

i couldn’t say anything. this created a little pressure, a little tension, in the back of my mind. then i promptly forgot about Korean, again.

until September. i was hiding out in Romania after overstaying my Schengen visa and being detained on a train from Budapest to Vienna. my wife decided to watch a famous Japanese tv drama, Boys Over Flowers, remade into Korean. begrudgingly (at first), i watched it with her.

random vocabulary words came back into focus. even that funny phrase i learned in high school, “do you want to die?”, was screamed 10x per episode by the Very Dramatic High Schoolers.

after a 10 year hiatus, i was hooked on the language once again.

Korean MVP

before committing to something you should test it.

for the past 7 months i’ve spent 2-4 hours /day studying Korean. i only missed one study session, on the evening of a 7-9pm Thanksgiving dinner i attended in Seoul that lasted until 5am at a karaoke bar. i threw up a few times when i got home.

i took a 2-week intensive course in Gangnam and spent another month bouncing between apartments in Seoul neighborhoods Hongdae and Itaewon. i visited Busan on the southern coast, living in Haeundae Beach and working out at Dallas Fitness.

somewhere along the way my wife got interested in the language too, and now our “how was your day” pillow talk includes vocabulary and culture notes. leveling up in language is like playing video games, for adults.

for more of my thoughts on living and working in Korea, see here and here.

what i’ll be doing in Korea

i’ve been subtly and not-so-subtly dropping hints that i will soon exit from the startup world.

although i may never sell a company for a billion dollars, i do feel like i’ve “made it.” all the Jobs To Be Done at a tech company — coding, marketing, biz dev, fundraising, support, management — i get it. and i’ve done it.

in Korea, as i continue to wind down personal day-to-day involvement in our portfolio, i’ll pursue ventures in new industries altogether.

currently i’m exploring:

  • selling large (size 13+) shoes to ex-pats
  • Mexican food truck
  • building more courses
  • documentary filmmaking
  • writing / recording more music
  • niche SEO content sites
  • making covers of Korean pop songs

i also intend to double my daily study time, and real-world immersion is an excellent way to pull that off.

why i’m sharing this

despite this blog’s purpose as a marketing journal, Google Analytics and newsletter subscribers prefer personal content.

today’s personal update is that even in the midst of a global pandemic you can make bold decisions and level up.

here’s the best tweet of 2020:

does this sound like you?

still very American

i love Korea. i love Medellin. i love Porto, Portugal. yet the USA is still the greatest place on earth. it’s a literal experiment turned global superpower in a couple hundred years.

once a Marine American, always an American.

HOWEVER.

i think the USA is flopping hard. social justice and identity politics and modernity and intersectionality are ruining everything. and there is a non-zero chance it all burns down in my lifetime.

so while the country may never recover, the spirit lives on. a spirit of individuality, respect for capitalism, and a shared belief that we are all created equal by God.

i take this spirit wherever i go, and Korea is about to get a booster shot.