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This Children’s Author Is Spreading Black Boy Joy In Asia

By DeAnna Taylor

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Meet EJ Asare, a Haitian-American woman living in South Korea. She has worked as an English teacher in the country for five years and has recently published a children’s book.

We spoke with EJ via email about her book and life in South Korea.

Photo courtesy of EJ

Travel Noire: What was the inspiration for your children’s book?

EJ: “Johnny and Joshua Coming to Korea” is my son’s story. He had to leave his best friend, Johnny the parrot, in Ghana when he moved to Korea. Johnny is a highly intelligent African grey parrot and loves my son. This book shows the commonalities between the Ghanaian and South Korean cultures. The drumming, spicy food, strong sense of family and community, bright and colorful markets, ancestral honors/worship rituals, are all common in these two cultures. The book also shows POSITIVE images of Ghana/Africa.

I was inspired to write and self publish this story because I wanted the Korean students to see a positive image of a Black boy and his family. The media portrayal of Black/African people in Asia rivals that of America’s narrative.

Photo courtesy of EJ

TN: How has the book been received in Korea so far?


EJ: It has been great! Many teachers, parents and hagwon owners (Korean private academies) have purchased the book and have told me how happy they are to see a children’s book like this in Korea. It is the first book of its kind. It shows positive aspects of diversity in Asia. 

There are many teachers, parents and children who are embracing the story of the globetrotting Black boy with his parrot. This book series teaches our children to learn to live outside the box. You don’t have to live or work in the country you were born in. You can learn so much about people, and yourself, by living in other countries and learning about other cultures. You will expand your mind and change the way you view this world. Stereotypes fall away when you live bravely.

Photo courtesy of EJ

TN: What initially inspired you to move to Korea?

EJ: My corporate job was outsourced to India. I had always wanted to work for the Peace Corps after graduating from Rutgers University, but went into the corporate sector instead. While I learned a lot working in the retirement and securities industry, I wanted more out of life. My creativity was stifled in that cookie cutter world. So being laid off gave me the perfect opportunity to explore a dream that had been put aside.

TN: What has your life been like as a Black woman abroad?

EJ: Living in South Korea as a person of color is like stepping back in time to 1950s. There are no non-discrimination laws here so there are clubs and restaurants that have “Korean only” or “No foreigners” or “No Africans” signs on their windows during the Ebola scare. Blackface is regularly featured in the comedy sketches on television. There are many people here who have never met a Black person in their entire lives. I’m usually their first person of color. Being dark skinned, six feet tall with long braids, I get a lot of attention.

The difference between how we are treated in Asia is that there is generally no malice or hatred towards us here. It is genuine awe and curiosity of people they’ve only seen on television or the internet.

Photo courtesy of EJ

TN: Can you offer any tips to those wanting to live abroad?

EJ: Do your research.  Make a plan. Find a reputable recruiter for that region. Get your documents together. Tell your family. Do NOT let them persuade you NOT to go out of fear. Pack your stuff up and fly out here! Once you get here, make a budget. Finally, decide to flourish.

TN: Where can we find you online?

EJ: You can find Johnny and Joshua on Facebook.

Related: Meet The Hip-Hop Artist Making Waves In The Asian Music Scene

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DeAnna Taylor

DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.

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