Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Oh Korea, how silly thou art!


This one is a bit messy. Non linear thoughts collidingat every turn!
(by kyle)

Among “Westerners” there is an undeniable stereotype of Asian men. In no particular order, it goes something like this;
1. Good at math.
2. Short, slanted eyes, and red face when drinking.
3. Slightly weak but a hard worker.
4. Sometimes rude with horrendous table manners.
5. Veraciously loyal.
6. Likes sushi.
Deny it all you want but we have all heard it and everyone who has been with an Asian friend long enough will agree with at least some part of this list. The thing I have come to realize in my time here in Korea is that when one gets too caught up in looking for the stereotypes, you can’t help but find them and 9 times out of 10 it completely blinds you from seeing the value in a person and their culture.

On the other hand, to say that I am some high and mighty, well seasoned citizen of the World who doesn’t see people as Caricatures of their cultures would simply be un-true. For all of my “open-mindedness” I am constantly struggling trying not to fit the people I work with into tidy little boxes of ignorant and simplistic generalization. Life is far more painless for the brainless.

For the record, this is not one of those moments were I berate all the ignoramuses out there or make some pathetic plea for a pardon for my transgressions. I will simply tell you my thoughts and let you all judge me for what they are. I may end up apologizing for them but at the moment I see no reason too. Perhaps someone can lead me to see the error of my ways. In other words, this is a rant.

Koreans are freakin robots! They will mindlessly follow orders to the bitter degradation of their own personal well being! They will do exactly as they are told to without question until someone points out just how ridiculous the request was. The root cause of this as far as I can tell is that anyone who raises an objection is ostracized, excommunicated, publicly humiliated or simply forced to quit and if they don’t, Hell’s fury knows no wrath! By the way, this is not exclusive to Korean men. Korean’s are equal opportunists when it comes to exploiting the cultural norms of their society. One simply does not question, does not talk back and certainly doesn’t say the dreaded N O word.

Ok, so not all of them are in this sinking boat any more. There’s a growing chunk of the population in Korea that have seen what this attitude does to people but it lingers on. I have a feeling that until the old farts in Korea finally kick the bucket, the fart cloud will continue to float around every office, just waiting to ambush its next victim.

Even now, the younger Koreans are starting to wake up to the fact that it doesn’t matter how old they are, if a douche is being a douche, everyone reserves the right to put him in his place. Take the Ajishi (Korean old man) on the subway for example;
Too many times I have seen some old geezer drunkenly stumble onto the subway and push his way to the “old farts” section. Along the way, he may yell at anyone younger than him for whatever reason, he may grope whoever he pleases so long as it isn’t for too long and the only people who can stop him from doing any of this are the Ajimas, (the Korean Old Ladies) of who there always seems to be too few of when the Ajishis come around.

BUT! Many of the new generation of Korea are standing up to these belligerent, drunken buttwipes. Some even feel compelled to tell them it’s not ok to treat people like crap. If a group of foreigners are speaking a language you can’t understand, that doesn’t mean you can yell “YAAAAA! You too loud!” and get away with it. If a couple teenagers find a joke funny, they have every right to laugh at it without someone telling them they’re “stupid wastes of their father’s semen.” Creative, but uncalled for! It’s NOT ok is to drink your ass off, stumble onto the subway at 2 in the afternoon and presume that because you are the oldest person in the subway car you can say whatever the hell you please, touch whoever you want to touch wherever you want to touch them and be shocked when someone talks back, slaps you, or tosses your ass out at the next stop!

So that’s changing, but then there’s the whole other matter of the workplace. For example, when you’re boss is telling you that you either put in more time, share your apartment with another co-worker, take less pay than you deserve, and teach more hours than you’ve been teaching and not complain or quit. Most people think that’s a bit Fed up, Koreans included. But the response I always hear is, “this is just how it is in Korea.” Here’s what I’d like to say;
Oh, this is how it’s done in Korea? Oh I see. Well as long as it’s tolerated by everyone else, I suppose you should go along with it too. I mean, maybe if you ALL said something about it… oh ya, that would mean you would actually have to SAY you don’t like it to someone “higher” than you. Freakin grow a pair Korea! For your own damn sake!

But then I remember that for every job in Korea, there are 50 other people applying and no one, my Korean teachers included, has any hope of standing up to the threat of “don’t like it? Then quit!” What’s a Korean to do when there’s just too many of them around? I wish I had an answer. Sigh….ok, rant is over. As you were, nothing to see here.


kay said...

Wow Son, I sincerely hope you feel better!! See what happens when you get "old"? I think it's definitely time to come home to the good old USofA!!!

Anonymous said...

Today was the day that I truly needed to hear this. I thought I was alone. And I didn't even know about the drunk guys on the subway...yet!!! Today was another day of Kirk why aren't you doing more and the parents are unhappy because he and I are not staying in the dorms (which are separate living quarters from each other) and why don't we work on our weekends off, and....well, you know how it goes. It seems there is a good amount of our time working to protect our Korean workers. Most of the time they seem to be seen as expendable and thus someone of more importance can simply take their job and do it. And then what do you do when, as an American woman, you feel like you have no voice. SO many times, so many times....but, alas, I do not know what that would do to my husbands career and so, I sit.
Thank you. I don't feel alone in this silly Korean world :)

Lynda H

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kyle! I needed this today. Although I did not run into any groping, drunk men I did run into the kind that thinks that we are not doing enough. What is it with the thought that although you are married it should not be a big deal if you spend most of your time apart?! And then we spend a good deal of time trying to protect our Korean staff because for some reason they are quite expendable. When someone more important needs a job suddenly our staff is let go and the newcomer comes in thinking that they can fill that persons shoes. Really?!

Thank you again. I needed it. I needed to know that we are not alone in this silly Korean world :)


Alex G said...

Hey Kyle,

I meant to leave a comment about this. You're right about Koreans basically being their own worst enemy (I'm paraphrasing) at times. Sometimes things really frustrated me there. I particularly hate the way they run businesses.
There is too much stress on the young to succeed at a young age, there are not enough opportunities for women, and not enough foreign employees at upper-level positions at companies giving new creative ideas.
R-Amen to your post, sir. Fight the powers that be, brother.

*raises fist and flashes 'V' for victory sign*

P.S. Vanessa told me to tell you that she is looking for you.