I’m so excited to be able to share an exciting update with all of you! Junkyu and I got engaged recently when I visited him in Korea. I’ll first share how it happened and show you lots of pictures, then I will post about my entire trip to Korea (I was there for 9 days) later this week. I might have to break that up into two parts because a lot happened. But for now, enjoy!
I went to Korea for Golden Week, which is usually a week long holiday in Japan. This year we got lucky and had the weekend plus three week days off, but I went ahead and took off the rest of the week and stayed for the next weekend as well. In Korea, however, the break is a lot shorter, so Junkyu had to work some of the days I was there. That means I relaxed at home or went to work with him on occasion.
He told me that his friend gave him a coupon for a really fancy restaurant called The Seven Square inside The Plaza hotel in Seoul. His plan was for us to use it on Friday night after he finished work, so I suggested we stay in Seoul so we could explore all day Saturday. He agreed and told me we would take the KTX (bullet train) so that we could avoid traffic and expensive parking.
Thursday night, he told me we might have to drive after all, though, since he had to go kind of far away for work the next day. He told me he would pick me up around noon and we would go together to his job site before making our way to Seoul. His job is with a medical company and he drives from hospital to hospital doing sales or overseeing surgeries. It’s not uncommon for him to have to go to Seoul or other random places far away, but I was starting to get confused as he kept changing the plan.
Friday morning, he left and I read and relaxed for a while. I got a text from him saying he had to do a surgery last minute, so he couldn’t get me for lunch. He told me to be ready by 3pm. I was. Then he texted me again saying he would pick me up at 5:20. I was getting really sick of waiting and was worried we wouldn’t make it to Seoul in time for dinner.
He did end up getting me at 5:20 and told me that he already went to the other city that was far away, so we could take the KTX after all. We had to hurry to our train and by that time both of us were tired and starving. He had a hectic day of driving around and I had an anxious time waiting for him to get me, so neither of us were very cheery but I was excited about getting food in my stomach.
We made it to Seoul Station and then had to find our way around the subway. By the time we made it to the hotel, neither of us were in a particularly good mood. Finally, though, we found the restaurant, which was a big buffet of fancy cheeses, soup, pasta, fish, steak, dessert, etc. We loaded up plate after plate and sampled everything. After dessert, Junkyu told me he wanted to meet his friends for drinks, so we made our way out of the hotel, much happier people than when we entered.
We had to get back on the subway, but instead he led me across the street to the grassy front lawn of Seoul City Hall. He said, “Let’s take a walk on the grass,” but I was in heels and told him it wasn’t a good idea. So he said okay and pulled his backpack off his shoulders and started digging around in it, saying, “Where is it?” and I took the hint and put my stuff down in anticipation. He pulled out a tiny bag which held a box that was wrapped, and said, “This is a ring,” as he pulled off the wrapping paper.
He opened the ring box and inside was a silver colored ring with lots of diamonds. He took it out and just before putting it on my finger, asked, “May I have you forever?” My heart melted and at first I thought it was more of a statement than a question, so he put it on and we kissed. He said, “So is that a yes?” and I realized I didn’t answer, so I told him it was. The ring is the perfect size, and I asked him how he knew what size to get me but he told me that he asked the salesperson for a “regular” size, whatever that means.
We took a few pictures around City Hall and then made our way back to the subway and met up with his friends. We went out for chicken and drinks at a place that overlooks the Han River, and we ordered strawberry soju, which was delicious. We told his friends about the proposal, but Koreans don’t usually do that sort of thing, so they didn’t really congratulate us and instead asked me if it was a couple ring (which is popular for couples to get after dating for a while). Engagement rings aren’t really big in Asia, even though many of them see people proposing in Western movies all the time.
The next day we went to Bukchon, which is my favorite neighborhood of Seoul, to meet more of his friends. Bukchon is famous for its traditional Korean houses called Hanok and, a lot of which have been renovated for cafes and restaurants. We took better pictures of my ring and his friends got pictures of us together as well.
Since my family is in America, I had to wait to tell some of them on Skype the good news, and their big reaction and congratulations shocked Junkyu, who says Koreans are a lot less amazed when someone they know announces that they are getting married. The cultural differences just make for a more interesting story, though, and obviously all of my Western friends (and many of my Japanese friends, who understand the concept of engagement more so than Koreans) were excited for us.
I’m back in Japan now, and I’ve started telling the teachers I work with that I’m engaged and moving to Korea this year. My students, though, think I’m already married. My engagement ring is beautiful and perfect, but it is a bit non-traditional. My fiancé knows me well, though, and picked something he knew was unique and practical. I’m very clumsy, so having lots of smaller diamonds rather than one big one is way better in my case. I would hate to hit it on something and accidentally ruin it.
Another thing a lot of his Korean friends and even his mom asked is, “Why didn’t you get her a gold one?” Probably because in Asia, gold is seen as really traditional and valuable as well as good luck in some cases. He always counters this with, “It is gold! White gold!” but the first time someone pointed it out, he got self-conscious and asked me if I would prefer something gold-colored instead. I told him, “Nope, I only wear silver.” We high-fived.