Biographical Fiction posted July 17, 2022


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I did not know I was a food imperalist!

Food Imperalism

by jake cosmos aller



My connection to South Korea runs deep. I first came to Korea in 1979 as a Peace Corps volunteer. I stayed afterward for three more years, got married to a local woman, and taught at the Korean military school before going to graduate school in Korea studies and getting an MPA degree from the University of Washington.

I came back in 1988 and taught at Kyunghee University in Seoul University for three years, while my wife joined the U.S Army as an Army officer and returned to Korea to work.

In 1989 and 1990, Korea went through a democratic revolution as the dictatorship ended. Student demonstrations continued throughout that period.

Teaching ESL at a Korean university was fascinating. My students were interesting, filled with the energy of youth, and curious about the world and their place in it, and it was a revolutionary period in modern Korean history.

They encouraged the two foreign teachers to go out with our students for informal conversation practice. I would often take my students to the new Burger King that had opened down the street as one of the first foreign burger chains to enter Korea.

One of my top students was a senior who had returned from mandatory military service. He was a left-wing radical and during our free conservation section of my class where we would discuss whatever they wanted to talk about he told me that the US government was engaged in Food imperialism as the US government along with the big food companies had forced Korea to open its market for foreign burger chains to flood in. Mc Donald's, Burger King, and Wendy's were all there along with Bob's Big Boy, and KFC.

One day while we were having lunch at Burger King, he asked me why I always took the class to Burger King and not Lotteria, the Japanese-Korean burger chain that was also down the street.

I told him,

"Well, Mr. Lee, I am a food imperialist. Burger King officials contacted me to help promote Burger King among the students here, and I get a commission."

All the students laughed, including Mr. Lee.

A few years later, I came back to Korea as a vice consul and met at a Trade event the West Coast manager for Burger King who was touring the Korean properties. I told him this story, which he loved, and offered me a job in the Burger King organization. I laughed and ended the conversation.

I lost touch with most of my students and always wondered what happened to Mr. Lee.




Teaching Affected Me contest entry


Teaching Affected Me
Teaching promotes strong responses. Reveal one of yours to write a true story (300-500 words) about a teaching experience. This was not necessarily in a formal classroom situation.
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