무료 (muryo) means "free". I've found free weekly Korean classes in downtown Changwon, and the prospects are encouraging.
Personally, I require structure and a schedule to learn best. If you just gave me a book and told me to self-study, I'd end up leaving the book on a dusty shelf somewhere and forgetting about it. (Facebook Scrabble is just so much more fun!) But I also prefer to spend as little of my salary as possible. So, when Elani from church told me about a free Korean class offered at the community center, I jumped at the opportunity.
Braving the Changwon buses once more to go to the Jungang district (중앙동) this evening, I gave myself time to explore that area more. I did check out the local cheap clothes store, called Auckland, which I might describe as the closest thing to a hipster fashion joint in Changwon. It's been surprisingly difficult to find clothes in my size here (I thought Koreans were generally... small... like me), but this place had lots of clothes that fit and that caught the eye -- in multiple ways. Polka-dot jeans? Check. Paisley ascots? Check. Engrish tees? Check. I even found a sweater with mustache styles on it, as well as a shelf full of bowties! (And yes, I bought one, for just 5,000 won (<$5) !)
After resolving to come back in the near future, I made my way to the Jungang 주민센터 (community center), where the Korean classes are held. The class has been run by a Korean named Sunny since 1998, and as far as I'm aware it's always been free of charge, just his way of contributing to the community. Isn't that awesome? The class has maybe half a dozen foreigners in it, and just as many native Korean speakers. The format of the class is a one-on-one pairing, somewhat like a language exchange. On the downside, it's also geared for beginners, so I breezed through the level evaluation given by Sunny.
In the end, I just chatted in a mix of Korean and English with him and another Korean, Eva, and decided that I could come back weekly, if not for actual grammar lessons, then at least for solid conversational practice and 정-building. (My host parents are good, but there's much more Konglish involved in our communication than I'd like.)
Everyone was very pleasant and enthusiastic! They invited me to hang out at a coffee shop after class (it began at 7:30pm, ended at 9pm) and we stayed until 10pm. I met folks from Russia, England, Canada, and South Africa (South Africans are everywhere, what?); the international crowd is really awesome! I'm pleased that I found this place and I'm looking forward to my new Tuesday evening engagement.