There are plenty of reasons to like Korea, and there are plenty of reasons to love Korea, but it has to be said there is an equal number of reasons to dislike Korea.
I won’t call them the sunshine press today because I know that they are also prone to sharing the overcast afternoon news and the even more miserable dark November evening where it pisses down for what feels like a week news, but the Korean blogosphere has been up to its naughty tricks again. This time it has started to talk about reasons why Korea is worth loving, or liking…or tolerating…etc. That fellow Roboseyo whom I keep hearing about has the lowdown here.
Anyway, the point I will eventually get to here is that, as lovable and likable as Korea is, it’s also very dislikable. A couple of weeks ago I was going through an awful bout of negativity, and all of these things were really getting me down. I am much happier in myself now (cherry blossoms and long lunchbreaks sunning myself may have helped). Still, I’d like to add some balance to this little scales of positivity being eschewed on ye olde Kinterweb.
For starters, of all the lists I’ve read, they’re all right. There is nothing I disagree with in any of them. I would probably add a few things and move one or two things up or down, but yeah, there’s nothing wrong with them. These lists do present Korea as a great place, which it is, and as a resident of this country for almost six years I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed living here thanks to many of these reasons.
But there are also reasons I dislike living here. And negativity weights a lot more than positivity all to often. Maybe these are things which exist equally in other countries, but I can’t really compare them. This is just how I feel about here.
So here you go, the fulcrum in the scales (and in no particular order):
Ten Reasons Why I Dislike Korea
1. Inflation – Yeah, you wouldn’t think it’s important for many, but it’s a killer for me, or I should say us. It’s something I notice on a daily basis, and sure it might get better in a few years, for now it is out of control. Maybe this points the finger at some deeper political problems, but from my own personal perspective I wish I knew how much I’d have to pay on food before I went to the shops. Prices go up and down on a daily basis, and rarely because the quality is different.
2. Driving – For those lucky enough to live in Seoul, public transport is all you need. The taxis will mostly be affordable and the bus will drop you down practically anywhere. Outside of Seoul, a car is required becaue the public transport lacks the same efficiency. And then, when you get into your car….well I still count myself lucky every time I don’t die on the roads. I don’t want to go into it in too much detail, but there’s a lot of angry, careless, and, it has to be said, stupid people driving automobiles in Korea.
3. Cost of Living – For all those fortunate enough to have their shoebox paid for by their employer, cost of living isn’t a problem. For those of us who don’t, like the vast majority of the population, the housing prices here are astronomical, and I don’t even live in Seoul! I have a nice apartment now, but I pay for the luxury, because otherwise I’d be buried in a second floor cave with no sunlight and poor ventilation. And that’s just rental prices…living here isn’t cheap and I aint getting that way either.
4. Unhappiness – There’s all that talk of the UN happiness poll, or whatever it was, and Korea didn’t do very well at all. Life is not easy here, and you can feel how pissed off people are by the way they interact with other people. All those dirty looks you think you’re getting? Well you’re getting them, but don’t worry, they people who are giving them are giving them to everyone. This kind of anger permeates.
5. Supermarkets – Every time I go to the supermarket they tease me with brief flurries of providing stuff I like. Then it either disappears forever, or they replace it with some crappy domestic brand (this doesn’t happen too often mind you), so I have to trapse off to Itaewon or Costco, or even worse the ubiquitous foreign food store, and buy it for a ridiculous price. I’d prefer to not have it at all sometimes.
6. People everywhere – This is a bit harsh I know (I come from a country roughly the same size but with less than one tenth of the population), but sometimes I just wish that everyone didn’t have the same idea as me every time I want to go somewhere at the weekend. Maybe this is a testament to my cranky-old-man gene that I inherited from my old-man and his old-man before him, but sometimes the crowds just put me off doing stuff. There are some really fantastic places to see and things to do in Korea, but I just wish there was more so that less people would want to do the same thing as me.
7. Costco – Where would I be without Costco? Well, in a lot healthier a mental state. Fuck me. That place just drives me crazy. But I have a car and I like buying their bread, cheese, roasted chickens, and other luxurious items in bulk, so what can I do? Grin and bear it? God no. I shall grimace, give out, and hate it…but still go.
8. Lack of concern for other’s personal safety – I really wish that people would be a little more thoughtful. The way people drive, the way people work, the way people get into the lift … sometimes I feel for the construction guy armed with a orange stick who has to direct 80 kmph traffic on a rainy evening – surely his supervisor (or he) should have a bit more sense? People driving through red lights all the time (you want to see it around these parts, you’d swear the population is colour blind)…. The lack of appreciation for the well-being of one’s fellow man gets me down all to often.
9. Misinformation – The daily propaganda machines that print out how great Korea is are unnecessary. The newspapers, radio, television channels, all of them, regurgitate the same press release of wonderful news about why Korea is fantastic. Meanwhile Korea has some serious problems that aren’t addressed. Young people have given up on the mainstream media and rely on blogs for their news because they know they’re not getting the full picture. Surely this is wrong. And don’t get me wrong, I think that consulting social media for news is very important, but to have to rely on it over the mainstream because it is unreliable… Anyway, this is the tip of a very awkward and ugly issue that I could go into in greater detail but will avoid for fear of landing myself in a whole I can’t get out of.
10. K-Pop – I fucking hate it. Really. I. Fucking. Hate. That. Shite. It’s awful. And anyone who claims it has any positive tenancies needs their head examined. Don’t try and argue with me. You are automatically wrong because I said so.
Many of the things on this list are things that won’t change, and they will bother me forever. I imagine there are plenty of things on this list that many Korean people will shake their head in agreement with. There could be an equal amount of people (or more) who completely disagree with me.
But you know what is more important? As much as we shake our heads in disbelief, we continue to get on with the job the best we can. The struggle is a constant one, but it’s a constant one wherever you. No one ever said life was easy. So suck in your gut, put on some music you like (I suggest anything but K-Pop) and just breeze through it with as big a smile as you can muster.
And if it all gets too much for you, there is one thing you can do: leave.
By the way, all of the situations I’ve alluded to here, I’ve witnessed on more than one occasion. I don’t have physical proof, you’ll just have to take my word for it.