When I was in Hong Kong, a couple of times I joked how ironic it would be if after having spending so much time learning Chinese I ended up marrying a Korean or Japanese lady. Little did I realize that those words would be as prophetic as they were ironic.
Korea is the most recent addition to my East Asian studies and experiences. Until I met my wife, my understanding of Korean history was quite limited compared that of Chinese or Japanese. My first trip to Korea was for approximately two months before we got married. My in-laws were very hospitable and worked quite hard to get to know me. Fortunately, one of my wife's cousins has studied Chinese, so I was able to go through more than one translator (particularly useful when the translator I married decided to take advantage of her position).
Following our wedding, I began taking Korean classes at Indiana University. In general, Korean is a very difficult language for westerners; however, nearly half of all Korean words are loan words from either Chinese or English. While the connection between Mandarin and Korean is often quite difficult to hear, often Korean pronunciation is quite similar to that of Cantonese. Still, despite this leg up, my Korean has deteriorated to almost nothing.
After my first year in grad school, my wife and I met up in Korea (she was working in California that summer, while I was working in Minnesota). My second trip was only a little more than a week as I had to get back to school a bit earlier than Hyounsoo. In 2009, our entire family (less dogs) lived in Korea for 9 months while I was on an overseas assignment in Korea.