The state of the expat: looking to 2010

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Expats and the K-blogosphere have definitely experienced a measure of recognition in 2009. A number of bloggers and other writers have found their words used in almost every English language newspaper in Korea, along with every expat-focused magazine and several expat-driven websites. A few new websites have opened or relaunched in '09 - Chatjip is still fairly new as of the end of the year; has been relaunched. many excellent blogs continue to run strong, while several new ones have been quite interesting to read. Hat tips to Hermit Hideaways, @Koreangov, and Dating in Korea for being just a few of the better blogs I've discovered this year.

2009 had some downers, both with the rising of AES, SMOE's debacle over hiring / firing teachers before they arrived, and the economy pervading everyday life across the world. There's been some worry about being replaced by Indian English teachers or Korean English teachers; while both seem small-scale or just talk, it's something worth keeping an eye on in the new year.

A sense of community, while still not commonly talked, is one becoming more accepted. With a larger number of teachers staying for longer, it seemed a matter of time. It's been embraced in groups like Roboseyo's 2S2, and the blogosphere stayed quite busy talking about it earlier in the year. Other things keeping the blogosphere hopping were the epic fail of SMOE, former President Roh's suicide, among many other stories.

The question to be answered in 2010 will be one of relevance - how will expats become relevant to the Korean worldview? Volunteering and reaching out to our own communities is one thing - but with more of us staying in Korea for longer than our first year, how do we become relevant outside of the classroom? The cynic might say Korea won't change - yet it changes everyday. It may not always change the way we'd like or want, so how do we become part of that change?

As bloggers / writers, the same question of relevance applies. What relevance do we have in the larger context of news, Twitter updates, and so on? What do we expect our readers to do as a result of reading our words? How do we turn news stories into actions? Except in a few extreme cases, writing letters to an editor or taking action about a concern is something we've been hesitant to bring up. Whether that says something about our fear of taking political action or avoiding excessive controversy, I couldn't tell you.

There's no crystal ball involved here, but I'll present the things to look for in 2010:
  • With more foreigners staying for longer periods of time, expect subtle but substantial changes in the amount and quality of things being geared to them. Just a few years ago, buying some foreign foods involved a trek to Itaewon or a lucky break at a store near you. Things are becoming more convenient than ever - the list of things you can't find around Seoul is getting much smaller.
  • Twitter will become larger, more prominent, and have a wider base - whether you casually post to Twitter or have an established reader base with lots of followers, your posts are listed in essentially the same way, the same size and style, and so on. That's one major benefit to the site. There's zero 'entry fee' to the game - and popularity can be quickly gained (see @koreangov's rise to fame for a recent example).
  • Branding - while writing for many different publications is not bad, being known as the source for all things X not only establishes a reputation beyond that of the publication, but increases one's credibility in that given field.
  • Shakedown - some websites related to Korea will be launched, re-launched, or improved; quite a few will fall by the wayside due to technical difficulties or lack of anything distinctive worth reading.
  • A larger presence outside of Korea - while there have been a few stories talking about Korea outside of Korea, my guess is that 2010 will be the year where Korea begins to get some real attention for things outside the DMZ or some new discrimination story. Some negative press about the AES in the Canadian press is just the start, hopefully.
  • An attempt to quantify traffic and focus on a goal, whether personal, professional, or financial. Whether you call it 'content', 'posts', or something else altogether, being able to say you have X readers or Y followers will become important again.
  • A fairly large group of foreign teachers will leave or desiring to move on as the economy begins to improve. They're likely to be replaced by a new generation of more experienced / certified teachers, giving the 'lifers' more competition than they've seen in the past. (this one's more of a guess, and isn't based on any solid facts or basis, admittedly)
What predictions do you have for the new year? Comments are open - as always, play nice.

Disclaimer: I make no guarantees about my pontifications - these are opinions, guesses, and hopes for a new year. I am not your lawyer, your mommy, or your editor, and I can't be held responsible for any actions you take, don't take, or anything else you do or don't do as a result of reading this post.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe - 2009



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