Jeong, Jeong Baby!

19 Jul


I need to start off with an apology. I haven’t been taking enough pictures.  I’m sorry.   I know you guys want to see my beautiful face all the time.  I hope that you will accept my sincere apology.  I’ll try to do better.

So, on to this last week. Last week was one of the most incredibly average weeks of my whole mission. We talked to a lot of people, met with few and loved every second of it.

In this post I’d like to talk a little about contacting people. Everyone has a preconception of the missionaries knocking at your door on a Thursday afternoon with a Book of Mormon and a smile.  But things in Korea are a little bit different.  In Korea, people are really, really hesitant to open their doors to strangers.  Door knocking has always been ineffective, but it’s even more so here.

So that leaves contacting people on the street!  One of the things that is really hard is getting people to stop and talk to you.  A lot of times, you just have to walk with them wherever you are going.  For example, this last week, Elder Vomacil and I walked around this exercise track for 30 minutes with this old man as he did his morning power walk.  We just stayed up with him and we talked.

It’s all about this Korean concept called “Jeong”.  It’s super important to be able to build Jeong with people.  Otherwise, they won’t respect you and won’t talk to you.  There is no English translation for the word.  Jeong is just a Korean thing.

So here’s the concept.  If you have a friend that you would lend your car to so that he could drive it to Wyoming for the weekend, you have Jeong with him.  In America you probably only can name two people that you trust that much.  But lucky for the Korean missionaries, you can have Jeong with total strangers.  Here is how that works.  Jeong is connective.  So let’s say I have a friend that I have a lot of Jeong with.  I might not necessarily know all of his friends.  In fact, it’s pretty likely he has somebody that he has a lot of Jeong with that  I don’t know at all. But if I meet the friend of my friend, and we find out we that we share that mutual friend… BAM!  Instant Jeong! .  Because I trust that friend completely, and he trusts that friend completely, then it goes that we trust each other completely too.   It’s so weird to see that happen. People will talk and then when they make the connection, BEST FRIENDS.  It’s crazy.

It’s unlucky for missionaries because you can’t force Jeong on anyone.  If a Korean thinks you are trying to “raise the Jeong level” more than what makes them comfortable, they become very defensive.  They just won’t talk to you anymore.  It’s a very subtle game to play.

But I have the ultimate combination that raises my Jeong level with many people I talk to.  I look white.  I act white. I come from America. I don’t speak a lick of Korean.  But, this gives me what is called “foreigner power”.  Koreans love foreigners.  Because I’m a foreigner, I can usually break the ice with people even though we have no Jeong in common.  Koreans just think that it’s great that I’m learning their language and living here. That lets me build just a little Jeong right there.

But that is when I move on to step two.  You guys might not know, but my Grandmother was Korean.  That makes me 25% Korean.  I’m not Korean enough to be expected to speak the language fluently.   But it is just enough for them to love me for being part of their culture.  So when I tell them about my Grandmother, JEONG BABY!  It is nice to have, because foreign power alone often is not enough.  A lot of the other foreign missionaries have a hard time getting people to talk to them.

I’m happy to be serving here in Korea.  I love you guys all very much.  Stay Happy.  Hug somebody today! ❤

Elder Ian Mills


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