Kent's Korean Wanderings: The Blog Begins & Part I
How a Middle-Aged Midwesterner Found His Passion
Welcome to what I plan will be a minimum quarterly if not monthly column to appear on the Gateway Korea website that I hope you will enjoy.
So, what will I write about? I will talk about that later as I think I should first introduce myself and then the focus of my column will make more sense. For now, I will just say that this will not be a serious news analysis or Korean culture commentary. While I may occasionally touch on a serious topic, that will not be the focus.
As I wrote this first column, I realized it was too long, and telling a story seven years in the making wasn’t something I could easily condense into a single page. So, this first column where I introduce myself and explain how I came to be so interested in Korea will come out in several parts with an update each week until it is finished.
Part I – Who is Kent Vesser?
Some who are reading this will have met or seen me at DanO 2019. For those who didn’t attend DanO this year and even some that did, but perhaps didn’t have a chance to speak with me, I should probably introduce myself.
My name is Kent Vesser. Except for seven years spent living in Montana while away in college and working some, I am a lifelong resident of St. Louis. I joined the Gateway Korea Foundation in Spring of 2019 just a few months before DanO. I serve on the PR Committee and help elsewhere as needed with events. I work as a lead data center engineer for Enterprise Holdings where I have been employed for almost twenty-six years.
As you may have surmised from my headshot over on the Gateway Korea Foundation’s Facebook page, I am not of Korean descent. Nor do I have a partner or close friend, prior to joining Gateway Korea, who is of Korean descent. Perhaps surprisingly, I have never visited Korea, but that will be changing in about a month when I take my first trip there.
So, you may be wondering how I ended up joining Gateway Korea and wanting to write this column?
Well settle in with your favorite drink and maybe a snack and I will tell you a story about my Korean journey, why I became so passionate about Korean culture, and my plans for this column.
So where to start?
I have always been interested in East Asia, even when I was quite little. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what spurred my interest. I suspect it is a combination of many things I was exposed to as a child ranging from some Korean friends of the family, to a Taiwanese classmate in elementary school, to anime and kaiju films at an early age, and to simply always being interested in history and geography. As a result, I simply found that I always enjoyed learning more about East Asian cultures and history.
I would say my journey to volunteering at Gateway Korea began in earnest about seven years ago.
As I mentioned I have been a lifelong anime fan ever since I saw Speed Racer on TV as a small child back in the early 70’s. Back in the late 2000’s I stumbled across several professional cosplayers on the Internet that did really elaborate theatrical quality costumes of their favorite anime, video game, or comic book characters.
In 2011, I had by dumb luck befriended a couple that lived in Atlanta over the Internet and become good friends with them. He was from Alabama and his wife was from Taiwan. They had met as post-graduate students in college and now lived in Atlanta. After about a year of knowing them, I thought it would be nice to meet them in person, so I started looking for an excuse to go visit Atlanta where they wouldn’t feel pressured that the only reason I came down was to meet them.
That excuse came in 2012, when I discovered that one of the major anime/comic/gaming festivals called Dragon Con is held annually in Atlanta. Not only were a bunch of those cosplayers, whose work I admired, going to be there debuting new costumes, but it would also give me a chance to meet my friends.
So I booked a hotel room near the convention, invited my friends to join me for dinner one night, and prepared to make my trip.
To be continued next week…Part II