Korean Society

Why does it Happen? Some Korean Cultural Conclusions

It has come to my attention that foreigners in Korea (including me) often use cultural explanations for much of the behaviour that can be seen by Korean people and also sometimes draw conclusions from it.  Why is that?

There will be a significant number of people who will chalk it down to prejudice or a lack of understanding, and to be fair in some people, and with some issues, this may very well be the case.  However, the story is not a simple as that.  In my opinion, there are obvious traits about Korean culture that stand-out and that guide us to cultural conclusions, and these are very often the right ones.  Let's go through a few and I will highlight the simplified cultural explanation (SCE) and see if there is any truth to it:

Plastic Surgery

The Asiana Crash - Korean Respect Culture Under the Spotlight and Justifiably so

Even before the Asiana crash, I had been warning of the perils of Korean respect culture.  Then immediately after it, the suspicions about the cause of the crash started to resemble Malcolm Gladwell's cockpit culture theory, which was critical of Korean culture before with other plane crashes.  Ask a Korean then wrote about it on his site, pointing out that Gladwell wasn't as thorough as he should have been.

How the Treatment of Dogs in Korea Should Shake our Conscience on Eating Meat: My Story

First an update on Noah the dog (original post here), after my concerns about how my in-laws were taking care of him I was then slightly disappointed to learn that they also couldn't keep him.  Why oh why they couldn't have realised this before they got him, lord only knows, it could have saved them, me, and more importantly the dog a lot of heartache.  For a variety of reasons my in-laws had to give him up.

Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

Picture by Charles LeBlanc (flickr.com)
Why is it that so many people get so upset about Korea while living in Korea?  I have never sensed the same acrimony about living in Japan or South East Asian countries, not even China.  When bad things happen in these countries, people get upset and move on more easily than Korea, it seems.

A Different Kind of IMF 시대. The Good Kind.

Seoul Pledges $15 Billion to the IMF
In the late 1980s, South Korea faced sovereign default. The things you read about Greece? Korea was in virtually the same situation. It received enormous international financial assistance, in the form of loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In Korea, this was called IMF시대 (please don’t say “HEY! Just like 소녀시대). Controversy ensued, but Korea paid back the loans, with interest, and in advance. It was an era of austerity for Korea and the Korean economy. One dollar bought 2,100 Korean Won at the time.

Japan’s Excruciating, Inevitable Economic Decline and Korea

This Is NOT An Personal Vendetta Against Japan, Nor The Japanese
Let’s get this straight. Japan has accomplished the near-impossible. No natural resources, surrounded by no allies to speak of, and thousands of miles away from the largest developed markets, Japan had, at one time, grown to the second largest economy in the world, with less than half the population of the U.S., the world’s largest economy. But things change, and the decline of Japan is akin to the train wreck that no can help but to watch. The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed this out on many occasions. And while the Japanese language is easy for native Korean speakers to learn, this blog has stated that learning Japanese is a huge waste of time.

Things I like about Korea When I’ve been Drinking


Does This Seem Like Two Countries on the Brink? Nope.

S. Korea Suggests Red Cross to Negotiate Family Reunions
Today, the mK Daily reported that South Korea has requested that the Red Cross negotiate family reunions with North Korea. So while the rumor-mongers would like to try to convince whoever will listen that the Korean peninsula is precariously close to the brink of war, this blog has strongly disagreed, on multiple occasions. While military accidents may, and do, occur, it will take something other than state-sanctioned attacks that would lead to a sustained conflict of any wort. That has been, is, and will continue to be the central hypothesis of this blog. There are too many with too much to lose, especially in South Korea, for this to occur.

Dear Korean Police: The Chaebol Are Laughing At You, LOUDLY

Charged With Embezzlement? Meh, Move Along…
You have to laugh, or else you will cry. The mK Business Daily reported that SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won has been appointed to the Hynix board of directors. HUH? Now, as the largest shareholder of Hynix, there is no doubt that someone from SK Group deserves a place on the board. Zero doubt. However, does it need to be SK Group Chairman Chey, the same one that is being charged with embezzling almost USD 90,000,000 from SK, and its shareholders? By the way, those shareholders? Koreans, and most likely also Korea’s National Pension Fund. Just to get this straight: a person being prosecuted by the police, which is supposed to protect the inhabitants of Korea, are being laughed at by a company owned by the citizens of Korea. Looks contorted right? That is because it is.

Whitney Houston and Korean Misunderstanding of the U.S.

No, This Isn’t A Sob Story From a Fan
You can read eulogies and condolences elsewhere. There is zero doubt that Ms Houston was uniquely talented. No lip-syncing, just her belting it out as purely as anyone can remember. It is not only the tone, but it is also the power of her voice: you cannot teach that, it is bestowed upon you. We can pontificate about demons or this or that. Nah. My favorite clip is above, and it reminded me of a misunderstanding that many native Koreans had, and may still have, about the U.S. Usually, this blog is devoted to pointing out aspects about life/society in Korea. But this time, the Whitney Houston tragedy reminded me of something different.

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