"want to talk about an article which I read the other day, that really tipped me over the edge in terms of wanting to create a blog. This was a joint piece between The Korean of Ask a Korean! fame, and Roboseyo from his self-titled blog."
and then went on to make some good points. Wow! Thanks for the feedback Baekgom; that's really encouraging. Another great paragraph:
There are other things that get to me too, like sometimes just the tone of the criticism is enough for me to rebel against what is being said, even if I agree with it in principle. But I'm fairly happy for what I've already said to represent my feelings on the issue. Bottom line: the coolest ex-pats I meet here are the ones who take things as they see it, and don't let their good or bad experiences with the place taint their perspective on things. If they have mostly positive or negative things to say about the place, that's generally due more to their personality than anything. The others may as well stay out of my way, because I always do my utmost to stay out of theirs.
Now go read the rest!
[Update] Baekgom has also, just now, posted a response to the question, "Why do Koreans take Criticism of Korea Poorly?" by going in a totally different direction, and asking his middle-school students, "Is Korea the best country in the world?" The results are very interesting, and I like the conclusion a lot.
Again, Foreign/er Joy has posted a response to my second question: "Why Do Koreans Handle Criticism Poorly?" that's worth reading.
This post on Cheri Goes To Seoul, slipped my radar until just now.
Jennifer talks about "good Korea days" and "bad Korea days" -- something I TOTALLY understand (I also have good Korean days and bad Korean days, depending on the people I bump into that day.) She also breaks down the types of comments on the comment board of one particular post, in order to show that not ALL commentary about Korea is unfair, unjustified, and harsh criticism.
InMySeoul wrote a response to my "Why Do Koreans Get So Defensive" post: some of the highlights, but go read the whole thing over there:
As a response to Roboseyo:
For someone who has lived in Korea for such a long time, it seems that the a fundamental basis of Korean Society has been missed. . . . "Saving Face" is perhaps the most important concept to understand when discussing Korean sociological issues and it seems to be missing or way too lightly considered in Roboseyo's post. . . . I don't think "outsiders" (myself included) can understand how serious Koreans take this and live by this concept. . . .I would have to say, to Koreans, criticizing their country is way more than dirty laundry when you are openly criticizing Korea. To put it into our severity, it would be like throwing feces on the American flag. It is impolite to openly criticize (whether constructive or destructive) openly in public.
If Korea has been able to do what it has in the last 50 years, (BTW. Korea is a top 10 major player in the world economy now), then why does it need to adjust? Why is it that western cultures think Progressive means westernizing? Think if the roles were reversed (which honestly I could see happening in the next 100 years, if you factor that China, Japan, and Korea are all "major" players in the world markets and still growing and soon to be added to that list India) how do you think you would react if other countries were telling the US and other western countries that they are "behind the times" and that Progression means "Easternizing" or conforming to the Asian cultures? It definitely would not be received well.
Just because you have stayed in a country for as long as you have, something to remember is your still a visitor. I was wondering, how do you give "constructive criticism" to a society/nation? Are your comments really going to change something and be useful/productive? if not, they are not constructive. . . . remember while, in Korea (no matter how long), you are still a visitor and certain boundaries shouldnt be crossed. Apparently you have found where that boundary is and my advice would be to stay clear from it. Korean society isnt like American society, its less forgiving of people who like to "stir things ups".
Here are some questions Roboseyo has asked of Koreans:
If criticism of Korea by non-Koreans upsets or offends you, why does it?
Yes. Because does anyone like being criticized? In the US people are used to open criticism, in Asian societies they are not. And to think that Korea has to "develop" and get used to this is frankly unacceptable in my opinion.
How could those views be expressed without upsetting you? Under what conditions ARE outsiders allowed to criticize Korea?
Frankly to be honest, I really don't want to hear what people dont like about Korea. Same with the US, I don't want to hear what people dont like about the US. There are no conditions in which I would openly be grateful to hear criticisms about either country from foreigners. However, What I find that works is you can discuss the differences between the visiting country and what your used too. But just because your used too it doesnt mean its better.
Here are my last responses to the last set of questions Roboseyo poses:
Whence all the negativity on the K-blogosphere, from both sides?
Personally I try to stay out of it. Its not something I want to publicize because I think it detracts from the many great things Korea has to offer. Why focus on the negatives of various cultures. Its not like the Korean society is killing anyone or committing genocide. So why the "urgency" to degrade the society?
Why do YOU think expats complain about Korea?
Because expats complain about whatever country they live in anywhere in the world. . . . Expats tend to be ungrateful and compare everything that is happening to them to what they are used to and to their native country. . . . And frankly I agree with the philosophy that if you want to complain so much, then leave. . . .No one is forcing expats to stay in Korea. . . .
Why do you think critiques are often taken so poorly?
Does anyone take critiques gracefully? Again, you have to understand "Saving face" better to truely understand the how much this means to Koreans in this scenario which you are exploring.
Is it just that the internet makes everything seem more extreme than it really is?
Is there something I simply missed?
I think people post stuff on the internet a little bit too freely because they are behind a computer and not face to face. It would be real easy for me to critique you or anyone out there because of the internet barrier. I could post things that I would never say person to person..
Sorry for the long post, but I hope this helps Roboseyo.
Ksoje has also posted some interesting things at Ask A Korean!
A1) 95% of the reason, it is human nature. Geez, isn't it obvious? It happens everywhere. My wife complains a lot about her parents and other relatives, but if I say something slightly critical about them I know she will be upset. . . . The other 5% can be accounted to the closer association Koreans have with their race and country. Any criticism to their country is a criticism to the people, to the race and ultimately, to themselves.
Q2) If Koreans are so sensitive about it, how would a non-Korean go about criticizing Korea without offending anybody?
A2) Like I complain here in USA, very carefully. Understand you are talking about a country and culture to which you don't belong. Try to throw in a couple of compliments in between complaints. For instance: "The USA are the least racist country in the world but I'd love if the media here didn't stereotype Asian men as martial artists or geeks". See? It's easy, I started with a compliment and then followed it with some criticism.
On comment boards, this one, and its responses, are interesting.
Talk amongst yourselves.