So, Koreans are sooo Korean…

The other day I sat through a conversation with a person who referred to Korean people as being soooo Korean. I didn’t ask them what they meant, and perhaps I should have, because it’s the kind of thing that really needs more of an explanation. Why? Is it not absurd to consider Koreans to be anything but Korean?

There is a prevailing thought that I keep encountering in Korea which bothers me. It is the concept that Korean people and people from other countries are so different that their actions must be distinguished as being distinctly Korean. You might think that this is fair, because Korean people do act like Korean people. But what’s the point of making an issue of it? It’s like complaining that the shower you are taking in the morning is sooo wet. Korean people are Korean, so they will act Korean. And, hold on to your hats here because this next comment will blow the roof off, many of them are proud of it! Fuck. Stop the world.

But, then again, I know many Irish people who are also very Irish in their actions. And, again you might have to hold on tight for this one, they’re also very proud of this factor too. While I’m thinking of it, I’m quite certain those who have managed to label Koreans as scandalously acting Korean are also pretty proud of their own national characteristics and how they do things in their country.

This is an overriding theme in conversations I’ve heard over and over again. That Koreans do things so differently that it is apparently a problem. These problems aren’t just in the classroom; they are on the streets, in the workplace, in bars, driving, and on family holidays during the summer. I won’t list the problems because they are irrelevant to anything relating to most of the people who complain about them, and especially me.

What I can’t understand is, where do people come from complaining about things that won’t be changed without moving a mountain? There are so many problems in every country which seem to be labelled as social problems but which are clearly cultural problems. What is the difference? Well, social problems are a lot easier to fix, in fact now that I think about it, social problems can be fixed. Culture doesn’t have problems so how can it be fixed?

I’m not going to be pretentious about this and suggest that culture should not be criticised and I have no right to step on the toes of thousands of year of a society constructing itself. Cultures do plenty of things wrong. Culture is a perfect example of the collective idiocy and narrow-mindedness of humanity, and has caused more deaths and pestilence than road deaths ever will. It may alter on its own thanks to the enlightenment and understanding of the population living under the culture. This is like an organic process. You cannot change it physically.

How I look on life is influencing me in this little (somewhat polite) rant. The way I see it, there are some things in the world you can do nothing about. The weather, if you get fired from your job, if someone treats you unfairly or discriminates against you, having no clean socks, all of these are examples where despite how much you whine and moan nothing is going to change. So, you just have to deal with it.

Complaining about anyone for being sooo anything is a perfect example. So what if a person is so much like the rest of the people in the country they have lived in all their life, share the same ethnicity with all the people they have ever known, and have gone through the same schooling and social gardening system? They are still people. They are still individuals. They still make descisions. They definitely have their own problems. They are still there and you have to deal with it, regardless of how good or bad an effect it has on your life. Or you can decide not to deal with it and piss off somewhere else.

2 thoughts on “So, Koreans are sooo Korean…

  1. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for us ex-pats to complain about Korea — I know I do it a lot. But what gets me is how often Westerners complain about things that are actually quite crap in their own countries as well (my personal favorite is my fellow Americans who can’t shut up about how racist Koreans are).

    So complain away, but be aware that nothing in culture is “natural.” It’s just a question of what you’re used to. And further, for every f’ed up thing about Korea there are quite possibly two or three times as many about your own home country.

    You don’t need a sociology degree to figure this out, I would hope.


  2. I agree with this….(and I particularly loved the shower being wet analogy!) I also think we do it with other cultures, and our own. I often describe things as being ‘So Australian’ because I can’t really put it any other way. Great article.


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