On that same Friday, Mr. Han was wheeled out as a corpse, he had counted exactly eight mothers in EngLearn’s reception room. Eight mothers meant eight new students and possibly more, for some could be wrangling for sibling packages for their whole litter. Eight mothers waited for a spot to open up. Desperation a necessity, it was the backbone of Mr. Han’s business. Only eight mothers in the waiting room! His eyes widened when he looked out from his office. What would they think of us? Some neighborhood hagwon? We’re in Gangnam for Christ’s sake! That morning, Mr. Han had noticed his receptionists browsing the internet. They could have been making one more call to a mother during that time—a mother who could be sitting in their very reception room, heightening demand. The more the merrier.
Each mother tensed up at the sight of her competition. They scanned each other: the Hermes bag, the Gucci scarf, the Dior suit. They eavesdropped on the mother of the international school brat, the mother of the private boarding school brat, the mother of the to-be-Harvardian brat. Competition made them squeeze their handbags harder, each dangling metal lock glimmering with envy. My child over her child, each of them prayed. Money didn’t matter. This could alter their children’s future: the difference between the inferior UC schools and the superior East Coast colleges—Yale or perhaps even Harvard. How grand that would look! Their children being retirement plans, only hagwons could transform their financial uncertainty to sumptuous silver towns of their future. (Read More)