With headlines focusing on the situation in Haiti and the election in Massachusetts, it’s a wonder I’ve seen three stories in the news this week about my former home.

CNN Go has launched Asia Beta, and while I’m usually disappointed by the ratio of stories about places I’ve visited to places I haven’t, I was pleasantly surprised to see a story on Seoul’s Namdaemun Market. Not to be confused with Dongdaemun Market, Namdaemun is black market paradise. I only made it there once, and was so close to finishing my contract that I didn’t feel the need to pay three times the market value for hard-to-find American goods. Lisa and I hit up the market on a Saturday, which was the biggest mistake one could ever make at Namdaemun. The alleys were packed with bargain-hunting shoppers and haggling vendors. The smell of kimchi permeated the air, and, as usual, not in a good way. Highlight: the pineapple on a stick bought from the vendor outside the metro for a solid chun won (slightly less than US $1). Less of a highlight: standing on the tips of my toes and struggling to take this photo of the madness:

The second story of the week, also from CNN GO, was about the North Korean government allowing Americans to enter the country on guided tours. Brits, Aussies, Kiwis–basically everyone except for Americans–have been allowed in the country. This loosening of restrictions is a definite step in the right direction for U.S.-North Korean relations. I rarely say this, but I wish I was still in Seoul, if only for this (and dolsat bibimbap). I’ve heard stories about the “guided” tours, and few of them good, but I’m still intrigued. Last year, it blew my mind that just an hour north of me existed an entirely different Korea, one with state-run media, the world’s largest standing army and a ruthless dictator. North Korea is a fascinating country, and one that only about 2,500 Americans have seen since the end of the Korean War in 1953. If the two Koreas are ever reunified, I’ll be on the first plane to Incheon. Who’s with me?

The closest I've gotten to North Korea--windswept and cold at the DMZ.

The third story this week is my favorite–the Ministry of Health closed early yesterday and sent workers home in the hopes that a few extra hours out of the office and at home would allow the workers to”spend quality time with their family, and moreover, hopefully, have more kids,” according the The Korea Times. Monetary incentives are even being given to families with multiple children. It’s quite a different situation in neighboring China, where the one-child policy has been in place for three decades.

Seriously, when Koreans can pump out kids who look like Donny's son Scottie, why wouldn't they want to have as many as possible?

And that’s your Korean news for the…week? Month? Year? This whole unemployment thing makes going back there for a few months seem like such a good idea. After all, I’d have an apartment and a steady job, plus the company of my good friends who are still there. But going to Korea for a second time would be much different, and I don’t think I would be prepared to go back to something that isn’t “my” Korea. Friends who started around the same time as I did have returned home and resumed their lives. Many of them are pursuing jobs in education, Korea an appropriate step along the way. I’m still trying to figure out what my year there was. The chance to run away? A free ticket to somewhere new? Or just a cool idea cooked up in a college bar with Erin? In my time there, I learned a lot. One of the most obvious was that I am not a born teacher. I’m a journalist, though struggling to figure out what that even means anymore. As good as my year in Korea was, it’s not to be repeated. The door to Korea may be closing, but my heart will stay open for at least a little while longer.

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