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Want to "understand" Korean culture? (serious)
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War Eagle



Joined: 15 Feb 2009

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:42 pm    Post subject: Want to "understand" Korean culture? (serious) Reply with quote

I beg all of those who are new to Korea, and even some not-so-newbies who may not know better, to please read a paper/book/journal such as this on collectivist vs. individualistic cultures. This link is ok, but only goes into minor detail with regards to the subject matter and doesn’t cover all areas of the topic. (It’s all I could find with a quick Google search.) I wish someone would have given me this information when I first came to Korea.

Five years ago I was clueless, I'll admit. Of course, I was also bias towards the Western way of life. Oh, how things have changed. I was even called a “Kyopo sympathizer” recently by someone on this forum. They obviously have no idea I’m about as white and American as one can be without owning a gun and ingesting a 64oz. Big Gulp every day. This is NOT the reason for me posting this thread, but I digress.

If you look back at my posts over the years this is what you'll find. In the beginning, I didn't have a clue, I posted a lot, and I was sometimes critical. The years passed, I got married (to a local), and I didn't post on Dave's for a LONG time. This was partly due to all the negativity I found here, but also for work and social reasons. However, recently I have found myself with more time on my hands, so again I peruse Dave's, this time mostly out of boredom.

Over the years my views on Korea changed for the better and, frankly speaking, this time around, I find myself disgusted with many of the posts on Dave's from people who don't have a clue, just like I didn't 5 years ago. So, this is my effort to help them “understand” why people are different here than wherever they grew up. But, not only that, I want them to realize that Korea is NOT unique. In fact, there are many more cultures that are similar to Korea (the collectivists) than there are to the US, Canada, the UK, Aussieland, or wherever you are from.

So, before you judge people, read. If you still want to judge them after that, have at it; but at least be armed with the facts before you start ranting about crap you are completely oblivious to.

TLDR:
Read about individualism vs. collectivism
I posted critically, I read, I married locally, I changed my perception
Nearly three-fourths of the world’s cultures can be described as collectivistic (Triandis, 1989)
Don’t be that guy; everybody hates that guy

P.S. If you didn't read the link or know nothing about the subject matter, please refrain from making comments.
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Burndog



Joined: 17 Feb 2008

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I applaud your effort sir, however I feel that it shall fall upon mainly deaf ears.

Having said that...I agree with you.
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Lucas



Joined: 11 Sep 2012

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+1
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joesp



Joined: 16 Jan 2008

PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

collectivistic + conservatism + in-group vs. out-group mentality -> a "no" culture setting up barriers

Drawing lines between yourself and others based on age, sex, education, religion, and being prejudicial is not a recipe for happiness. Koreans, arguably, are not in the 'pursuit of happiness' line of people, like Americans, who certainly know how to pleasure themselves (sex fascination + fat people eating ice cream all day). Koreans are more concerned with the rise of their ever-smaller social circles, slowly closing in on themselves as they age, regardless of the happiness it brings them or fails to.

So, I would be interested if you could take the time to explain how collectivism makes people happy and what its commendable goals are. I think "laissez-faire" is the recipe for happiness. Discrimination against "the out group" is not. I always think of Hitler as an example. Or, in modern days, the whole Korea-China-Japan thing. Or, even more so, the North-South korean divide. I could go on and on with examples of how it leads to war and hatred.
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vaticanhotline



Joined: 18 Jun 2009
Location: in the most decent sometimes sun

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the old "Reductio ad Hitlerum" argument from Joesp. Also known as "Godwin's Law." Technically, that means this thread should now be finished. Good work, that only took something like 5 posts and half a day.

Edit: 3 posts.
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earthquakez



Joined: 10 Nov 2010

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

joesp wrote:
collectivistic + conservatism + in-group vs. out-group mentality -> a "no" culture setting up barriers

Drawing lines between yourself and others based on age, sex, education, religion, and being prejudicial is not a recipe for happiness. Koreans, arguably, are not in the 'pursuit of happiness' line of people, like Americans, who certainly know how to pleasure themselves (sex fascination + fat people eating ice cream all day). Koreans are more concerned with the rise of their ever-smaller social circles, slowly closing in on themselves as they age, regardless of the happiness it brings them or fails to.

So, I would be interested if you could take the time to explain how collectivism makes people happy and what its commendable goals are. I think "laissez-faire" is the recipe for happiness. Discrimination against "the out group" is not. I always think of Hitler as an example. Or, in modern days, the whole Korea-China-Japan thing. Or, even more so, the North-South korean divide. I could go on and on with examples of how it leads to war and hatred.


Well done! Cool I don't pretend that non Korean/non Asian etc non collectivist cultures are anything near ideal but I do know that there are better alternatives to the unhappy lives of many Koreans because they are always comparing themselves to others in a way that is considered absolutely normal in its dysfunction.

Whenever the pro Korean argument comes up here in the caf, you'll always find at least one person who tries to say that superficiality in the US for example is just about the same as superficiality in Korea so why the criticism of Korea? I've heard that assertion from non Koreans and Koreans alike including people trying to tell me that westerns are into plastic surgery. They then talk about 'Valley Girls' in the USA.

Sorry, those kinds of 'proofs' don't prove anything. We are talking about a very privileged, limited demographic in the US compared to a societal obsession in Korea with how tall, thin, and handsome/beautiful Koreans look and if you don't fit that stereotype, well then, run off and get plastic surgery. It's much more 'normal' and common in Korea than it is in any of the countries I've lived in.

One of the best things when I lived and worked in Europe was how feminism had influenced a broad range of females of all demographics against the obsession with looks and plastic surgery.

No country I've lived in has this obsession unlike Korea. It's not about the well heeled or idle rich in Korea - many of my students at my first public school told me how they were going to get plastic surgery before they finished high school or before they went to university.

As for Korean collectivist culture compared to other Asian collectivist cultures like Japan, give me the Japanese version any day. One of the reasons many non Koreans criticise the society and culture is because of the fixation on conformity that also co-exists with an individualistic selfishness that is hard not to notice in Korean daily life.

So whereas the Japanese group mentality when you live in a J neighbourhood can be annoying, it's also good when people or individuals are making noise or doing other things to cause discomfort to others in your block. Representatives from the block or the apartment group will go and tell the selfish barstards that they are a problem and need to stop upsetting everybody else.

Living in Japan showed me that foreigners have more Japanese friends and generosity shown to them than I experienced and heard of in Korea. Koreans also demonstrate far more exclusionary behaviour than the Japanese including in the workplace.

The Japanese may be into the group mode a lot but generally they don't pressure their co Japanese to not be friendly to the gaijin if the foreigner is friendly and helpful.

I've seen and heard of too many cases where Koreans pressure other Koreans to exclude the waygugin because well, Koreans are more important, aren't they? I've heard firsthand from foreign women about the group dynamics of that kind in hagwons and I can honestly say I didn't hear of Japanese people pressuring other Japanese who were friends with the foreigner at their workplace to stop giving them their attention and fit in with those who were most senior even if the seniority was among Koreans who were about 32 yrs old.

From my experience Japanese people are more likely to be loyal to their non Japanese friends but in Korea it's often the case that the foreigner goes by the wayside. English speaking Koreans who seem foreigner friendly often drop that when their 'real' relationships with other Koreans take precedence. Regardless of how the foreigner treated them well when the Koreans didn't.

There are a lot of valid criticisms of Korean lack of empathy, inability to stop worrying about what others think even when they are not friendly with those other Koreans, and weird mix of collectivism and utter selfishness as shown by many discourtesies in daily life that are considered normal in Korea but are seen as very rude in other societies including that of collectivist Japan.
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MiXX



Joined: 30 Aug 2012

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dont particularly care for / about Korean culture.

You want to find a fun, happy, and open culture head to Latin America.

From my experience Korea is a very homogeneous and xenophobic country. On top of that many Koreans I encounter are shallow / vain and materialistic.

Korea is depressing in comparison to Latin America and South East Asia.
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War Eagle



Joined: 15 Feb 2009

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

joesp wrote:
So, I would be interested if you could take the time to explain how collectivism makes people happy and what its commendable goals are. I think "laissez-faire" is the recipe for happiness. Discrimination against "the out group" is not. I always think of Hitler as an example. Or, in modern days, the whole Korea-China-Japan thing. Or, even more so, the North-South korean divide. I could go on and on with examples of how it leads to war and hatred.


I don't think that was aimed towards me, but in case it was I never said collectivism makes people happy. In my opinion, both collectivist and individualistic cultures have their good sides as well as bad. I think it's up to the individual as to which they are more happy/comfortable living in.

Yes, collectivism has led to an immense amount of hatred and many, many wars against "outside" cultures. On the other side of that coin, it usually leads to more harmonious living conditions for the people living within the society.

earthquakez wrote:
As for Korean collectivist culture compared to other Asian collectivist cultures like Japan, give me the Japanese version any day. One of the reasons many non Koreans criticise the society and culture is because of the fixation on conformity that also co-exists with an individualistic selfishness that is hard not to notice in Korean daily life.

So whereas the Japanese group mentality when you live in a J neighbourhood can be annoying, it's also good when people or individuals are making noise or doing other things to cause discomfort to others in your block. Representatives from the block or the apartment group will go and tell the selfish barstards that they are a problem and need to stop upsetting everybody else.

Living in Japan showed me that foreigners have more Japanese friends and generosity shown to them than I experienced and heard of in Korea. Koreans also demonstrate far more exclusionary behaviour than the Japanese including in the workplace.

The Japanese may be into the group mode a lot but generally they don't pressure their co Japanese to not be friendly to the gaijin if the foreigner is friendly and helpful.

I've seen and heard of too many cases where Koreans pressure other Koreans to exclude the waygugin because well, Koreans are more important, aren't they? I've heard firsthand from foreign women about the group dynamics of that kind in hagwons and I can honestly say I didn't hear of Japanese people pressuring other Japanese who were friends with the foreigner at their workplace to stop giving them their attention and fit in with those who were most senior even if the seniority was among Koreans who were about 32 yrs old.

From my experience Japanese people are more likely to be loyal to their non Japanese friends but in Korea it's often the case that the foreigner goes by the wayside. English speaking Koreans who seem foreigner friendly often drop that when their 'real' relationships with other Koreans take precedence. Regardless of how the foreigner treated them well when the Koreans didn't.


I won't pretend to know anything about Japanese culture, so these are just assumptions. It appears as tho the Japanese way of life is closer to that of Western society than the Korean way of life is. I would attribute this to the fact that Japan saw it's economic boom years before Korea did, and is therefore a little farther down the path towards individualism. Perhaps they have shaken a few of the old school ways that Korea still holds dear?
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Squire



Joined: 26 Sep 2010
Location: Jeollanam-do

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating article. I think I'm a product of my culture in quite an extreme way. Collectivist culture is alien to me but I'd like to understand it better. When I look at traits of collectivism I automatically see it in a negative light and view it from the perspective of the individual- not necessarily myself, but the individual in a general sense
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Scorpion



Joined: 15 Apr 2012

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 7:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Want to understand Korean culture? I want to understand the centrality of 'phlegm' in Korean culture. Honestly, it's omnipresent. No act is complete without a phlegm-related sound or act. I've travelled the world and I've yet to encounter another culture that places phlegm-related acts at the center of all social interaction.

Unpleasant...and primitive.
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stevieg4ever



Joined: 11 Feb 2006
Location: London, England

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Much like Earthquakez, Korean culture has no place of special importance whatsoever in my mind and, correspondingly, no amount of analytical theory can mitigate the blatant racism and discrimination that goes on here.

I wouldn't say Korea is the most racist country around as that's too much of a blanket, unquantifiable statement to make. What I am prepared to say is that I don't believe I have seen or met with a country where racism is as socially acceptable as Korea and where, generally speaking, people are as ignorant, insensitive, unaccepting and intolerant of foreigners as many Koreans are.
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So Sincere



Joined: 04 Apr 2011

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MiXX wrote:
From my experience Korea is a very homogeneous and xenophobic country.


Korea does have a pretty fierce history of foreign occupation. Ever been to the J̶a̶p̶a̶n̶e̶s̶e̶ ̶H̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶M̶u̶s̶e̶u̶m̶ Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan?

MiXX wrote:
On top of that many Koreans I encounter are shallow / vain and materialistic.


The drawbacks of capitalism.
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War Eagle



Joined: 15 Feb 2009

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scorpion wrote:
Want to understand Korean culture? I want to understand the centrality of 'phlegm' in Korean culture. Honestly, it's omnipresent. No act is complete without a phlegm-related sound or act. I've travelled the world and I've yet to encounter another culture that places phlegm-related acts at the center of all social interaction.

Unpleasant...and primitive.


Haha. I rarely encounter this. I guess people see what they want to.

And obviously you have never lived/grown up in the Southern US, where I can assure you, this type of behavior is much more prevalent.

stevieg4ever wrote:
I wouldn't say Korea is the most racist country around as that's too much of a blanket, unquantifiable statement to make. What I am prepared to say is that I don't believe I have seen or met with a country where racism is as socially acceptable as Korea and where, generally speaking, people are as ignorant, insensitive, unaccepting and intolerant of foreigners as many Koreans are.


Obviously you have never lived/grown up in the Southern US, where I can assure you, this type of behavior is much more prevalent.

Ding! Ding! Daily double....

Seriously tho, I don't want this to turn into a bash Korea because it's racist thread. There are too many others out there already. (See the Job Interviewers Insulting Applicants thread in the Job Related Forums if you want to travel that path.)
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MiXX



Joined: 30 Aug 2012

PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MiXX wrote:
I dont particularly care for / about Korean culture.

You want to find a fun, happy, and open culture head to Latin America.

From my experience Korea is a very homogeneous and xenophobic country. On top of that many Koreans I encounter are shallow / vain and materialistic.

Korea is depressing in comparison to Latin America and South East Asia.


No one found my comment offensive or off base?!? lol
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meangradin



Joined: 10 Mar 2006

PostPosted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
stevieg4ever wrote:
I wouldn't say Korea is the most racist country around as that's too much of a blanket, unquantifiable statement to make. What I am prepared to say is that I don't believe I have seen or met with a country where racism is as socially acceptable as Korea and where, generally speaking, people are as ignorant, insensitive, unaccepting and intolerant of foreigners as many Koreans are.


Obviously you have never lived/grown up in the Southern US, where I can assure you, this type of behavior is much more prevalent


you're not kidding there. check out this link:

http://www.kvue.com/news/201427871.html
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