4.1 Spring 2022

June 2, Korean ghosts

Two of my students who are brothers have haunted me all across town.

The sixth grader I’ve seen at the Lotte Mart crosswalk, most recently with his mom. I wondered how long it would be until I met the whole family.

Both found me at the cherry blossom festival where we took some selfies together, one more a close-up of little J’s nose as he had grabbed my camera mid snap while giggling to himself. We parted ways at the train tracks and I met up with a friend. We took turns taking each other’s photos among the thousands of other tourists doing the same and it wasn’t until I was scrolling through the pictures over a questionable four cheese pizza that I noticed something strange.

“Christina, oh my gosh, look at this.” I flipped my phone screen to her. Behind me along the railroad tracks and under the blossoms were two boys walking hand in hand. I swiped to my next photo– there they were again. Was I being haunted by two Korean boys?

At least they were cute ghosts.

I thought the pleasant hauntings would continue until little J ran up to me after fourth grade class.

He said in slow Korean, “Teacher, we are moving on Friday.”


Then today after sixth grade, big M approached me.

“Teacher,” he started sadly, “we are moving this Friday.”

“I heard! J told me. I’m so sad.”

He swayed close like a hug was inevitable. Just like his brother, I thought, surprised. Little J once dragged me across class by the hand to ask a question, no second thoughts about physical touch.

I don’t know the post-COVID or current protocols on student-teacher PDA so I took his hands and we stood among the chaos of his classmates entering their breaktime. His hands were fever-warm and surprisingly pliant, like his whole body had gone to goo. I swung our hands around a bit, and thought of how my parents said they held us as long as they could before we grew out of familial affection.

“Where are you going?”

“We’re moving to Pyeongtaek for my dad’s job.” He said, voice catching.

“Are you sad?” It seemed like a trivial question. I know exactly how devastating a move like that at his age is.

“Yeah,” he said roughly. I didn’t want to make him more teary so I disconnected our hands and patted him on the shoulders.

“I’ll miss you!” I told him.

After I disentangled myself from the pre-pubescent barnyard I went back to my office and pulled up our selfies. There was no good stationery to be found but then cute owl paper appeared at the back of a drawer. I typed up two notes for my two ghosts and dropped them off later that afternoon.

Little J insisted I give M’s note to him.

“No, I will deliver it myself.”

I trudged back up to sixth grade and looked for M. The girls demanded to know why I hadn’t written them a letter.

“Are you moving to a new province? No? Then no letters for you.”

The girls turned on M when I managed to snag him in the hall.

“Open it!” They demanded.

I shooed them away but M had started to peel the sticker off while my back was turned. I think he changed his mind quickly about sharing it in public, maybe because of our selfie printed inside the letter or maybe because in my limited time I had written to him in English instead of Korean.

M took his letter inside the classroom as the hallway slowly cleared out. Another student came up to me and said, “they might come back!” as if comforting me.

I didn’t see little J or big M again. I wish them well on their cross-country move, even as I’m sad that my two ghosts went into the light.

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