Does The Rise Of Real-Time A.I. Language Translation Mark The End of ESL In Asia As A Profession?

by Shelt Garner

The case could be made that with the rise of A.I., the ESL teaching economy in Asia is about to undergo a severe retrenchment. It could be that as A.I. gets better and better at real-time translation, the idea of actually learning English will become quaint in the eyes of South Korean parents who are already often strapped for education cash.

But, I don’t know.

It may not be as simple as that. There is a lot to be said for the simple cultural exchange that takes place when young Korean children — and Korean society as a whole — are exposed to people from outside the country.

So it’s possible that there will be a lot of hand wringing, but, in the end, nothing much will change. Maybe a lot of the poorer school districts, outside of the major cities in South Korea, will give up on ESL, but in big cities nothing will really change that much.

I feel like trying to write a column about this for The Korea Times.

I Half-Think I’d Get A Job At Samsung Training AIs If I Went Back To South Korea

by Shelt Garner

I occasionally muse about what might happen if I went back to South Korea for a visit. I had a lot of “rizz” as the kids say when I was in South Korea and I’m sure there are a few South Koreans who remember me quite well.

I can just see me walking around the street in Seoul if I went back any time soon and some random Korean from my years there who remembered me popping out of the woodwork and saying, “Hey, man, there’s this perfect job for you at Samsung I know about…”

But there are a lot of problems with such a scenario.

It’s not like I’m going back to Seoul anytime soon — if ever. I could be nearly 60 years old — or older — by the time my lot in life changes to the point that I can even think about a return to Asia.

There are some other issues, but lulz, I don’t feel like talking about it.

Yet More Daydreaming About A Return To Seoul

by Shelt Garner

I have no plans to return to Seoul anytime soon. In fact, the way things are going, I could be in my mid to late 50s before I have anywhere near the funds to do such a thing. And, even if it did happen today — I’ve waited too long.

It just won’t be as much fun.

I’m too old.

And, yet, there is a little part of me that still wants to return to Asia again just to see how my old stomping grounds are doing. I would like to see Nori Bar and Haebangchon and Itaewon again.

But I know that given how fast things move in South Korea that everything would be different in the extreme, to the point that it would all be a lulz and a huge fucking letdown.

The fact that I’m just too old to enjoy any return trek to Asia weighs heavily on my mind. It’s one of those things you just don’t really think about — that there are things you have access to in your 30s that you don’t when you’re in your 50s.

Ugh. Talk about sick sad world, huh.

I Sense Someone In South Korea Is Thinking About Me Really Hard (Ha!)

by Shelt Garner

I don’t really believe in New Age bullshit, but sometimes I do find myself having a curious sensation — that someone, somewhere in South Korea (or connected to it) is thinking about me really hard.

Me, (right) in South Korea around 2004.

I know this is fantastical, but in the past, at least, around the time I have such feelings, someone will swoop in and look at this blog. It hasn’t happened — yet — but someone did download “Somehow” my 30,000 word screed about the crazy days and nights I “enjoyed” between 2006 and 2008 in connection to ROKon Magazine, Nori Bar and the late Annie Shapiro.

I dunno. I just don’t know what to tell you, folks. It’s probably nothing. It’s been about 13 years since I was in South Korea and there’s no reason to believe anyone in South Korea — even a Korean — thinks about me at all these days.

But it is all very….spooky. It does, yet again, make me want to return to South Korea (and Asia in general) one last time to see what’s up. I know South Korea well enough to know that there’s a 50 / 50 chance that if I went back to Seoul anytime soon I’d find myself with a job at Samsung training an AI.

Let’s Play, ‘Why The Fuck Was Someone Interested In Me & ROKon Magazine?’

by Shelt Garner

What happened with ROKon Magazine was so long ago that not even I, the keeper of its memory, care anymore other than drawing upon its legacy to write a novel. I know how great a story it is and what could be done with it under the right conditions, but, lulz, absolutely no one else will care or listen to me.

The late Annie Shapiro and me back in our ROKon Magazine days when I was still cute.

But today, out of the blue, someone came to this site through Instagram and made a beeline to what they could find about ROKon Magazine. I am WELL AWARE of how one could perceive my obsession with my Webstats as…creepy…but…lulz, my life is so devoid of anything interesting these days, please give me this one thing.

Here’s what I think happened — someone got wind of me and ROKon Magazine and did a search for me. My Instagram account was the first link they found, then they went from there to this site. Why anyone would give a shit about ROKon Magazine at this point without me prompting them is…intriguing.

My favorite cover of ROKon Magazine.

I am working with some people on a new online literary zine, so maybe someone was curious about me through that? But how they would know about ROKon Magazine specifically if that was the case is a mystery.

But I find the whole thing — while intriguing — a lulz. I’m so old at this point that I only keep breathing out of spite. Sigh.

I Find Myself Thinking Of Seoul Again

by Shelt Garner

For some reason, I find myself daydreaming about a return to South Korea sooner rather than later. I have no idea why this is. Maybe someone in South Korea is thinking about me really hard?

Anyway, barring something I just can’t predict, I won’t be returning to Asia for some time. The only known way with a clear timetable for me to return to Asia for a while would be if I sold one or both of my novels and they had some success. But from what I know of the post-production nature of the publishing industry….oh boy. It could be five years before anything like that happens — and that’s if I stick the landing.

So, I am just going to have to stew in my juices I suppose. I am going to be well past my prime by the time I return to Asia and it just won’t be the same or as much fun. And, in all honesty, if I hadn’t blown out an emotional knee after Seoul, I would have moved to NYC to seek my fame and fortune.

But….oh boy….I’m older now. A lot older now. And there is a small, small chance that if I found myself not in Seoul or NYC but in LA that I MIGHT be able to find a modicum of success simply because of my personality.

And, yet….I just can’t change how old I am.

If I Ever Returned To Asia, I Wonder What Would Greet Meet

by Shelt Garner

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of my first journey to Asia. There is a Before Asia me and an an After Asia me, for better or worse. Now, at the moment, the likelihood of me EVER returning to Asia — or even leaving the country — is quite remote.

Me, with my students in the summer of 2004.

I’m very, very, very, very poor.

But things are known to change in a heartbeat and, who knows, I might find myself with a little extra money at some point before I die and, as such, I could journey back to Asia for a visit. At this point, I think I would probably go to Japan, then South Korea, then Southeast Asia then come home.

The entire trip would be no more than maybe three weeks.

My biggest concern will be, of course, that I’ll be walking around, say, Seoul, and some Korean who remembers me from back in the day will all but demand I stay in country to, I don’t know, train LLMs for Samsung or something. That’s how things work in South Korea as an expat.

I don’t know what I would do in such a situation.

A lot would depend on HOW I got the money to return to Asia. If I blew up with my novel money, then I think I would politely just move on along. But if, say, something like the North Korean had collapsed and I was on my way to teach ESL there, then, yeah, I might stop in Seoul instead of finishing my journey to the former DPRK.

Anyway, all of this is just a bunch of daydreaming at the moment. There’s no reason to think I will sell my novel — even if I stick the landing — anytime soon. I could be in my mid-to-late 50s by the time I’m a published author, the way things are going.

But I have to admit that I continue to, on occasion, idly daydream about a return to Asia.

I Keep Daydreaming About A Return To Asia

by Shelt Garner

For some reason, I find myself daydreaming about a return to Asia. I was thinking if that became possible that I would land in Tokyo, stay a night, then head to South Korea to visit for about a week. I would go Seoul – Incheon — Ansan then head south on the KTX to see Busan.

2004 me

I would then head to Southeast Asia for a week before heading home.

I’m sure the fucking Internet has ruined everything to the point that such a trip just wouldn’t be what it might have been a decade ago. And, of course, enough South Koreans remember me that I’m SURE I would run into at least one of them while I was in country and they would all but demand that I stay in South Korea for this or that job that think I would be perfect for.

Ugh. I guess that would be a good problem to have, though.

And, yet, at the moment, the only way I would have the funds for such a thing would be if I stuck the landing on the novel, sold it and it had enough success that I could travel to Asia. But even under the absolute best of conditions, that would be probably a few years from now.

So, I could be in my mid-50s before I could return to Seoul. And it would just be very, very, very, very creepy for me to party with people just out of college once I got there. I hate that. But that’s my reality now.

I Often Wonder How The Tykes I Taught English In South Korea Ended Up

by Shelt Garner

Thankfully, to date, I’ve not had to have any awkward discussions with the grown-up versions of the little kids I attempted to teach English to back in the day.

I tried my best, folks.

I was very — colorful — back in the day and I can only imagine the weird memories they have of me. And as I grow older, I am reminded over and over again about how the smallest thing when you’re a kid can have a huge impact in later life.

I did my best to teach those then-children English, even if I constantly failed.

I suppose I’m over thinking all of this. I will probably be a few more years before the children I taught English will be willing to put the energy into a quest to talk to me.

Though, I will note that that very thing would be a great movie for a Korean-American to write, produce and direct. Think of it as a successor to Past Lives with a bit of Lost In Translation and To Sir, With Love mixed in for good measure.

I Really Want To Return To Asia For A Little Lookie-Loo

by Shelt Garner

Barring something I simply can not predict at the moment, I’m not going to South Korea or Asia anytime soon. But that doesn’t stop me from really wanting to return for a few weeks.

Me, (background), in the bad old day of Seoul.

I think, in all honesty, what’s going on is I just want to visit A Real City and I’m either too broke (NYC) or it’s too far away AND I’m broke (LA). So, I idly muse about going to Asia again.

It’s been so long since I was in Asia that I think the whole thing would be a rather meh experience. There are a few people in Asia that if I specifically tracked them down there would be drama…but it’s just not worth it. I just want to swoop in for a few weeks, see some of my old stomping grounds then head home.

That’s it.

There is, of course, always a risk that some people will demand that I absolutely stay for this or that great job opportunity they would love for me to fill. That would be…existential…for more reasons than one.

But that’s a serious amount of hopeful daydreaming on my part. I think I could probably sneak into Seoul and leave without too much drama. Of course, there would probably be at least one Korean who would stop cold in their tracks if they saw me and freak the fuck out.


That’s not happening anytime soon.