I wrote an article for The Korea Herald about the Lousy Korea incident, which you can also read about at I'm No Picasso here; the best commentary on the issue so far is coming from Korean Rum Diary, who's made some interesting and thoughtful posts on the topic. His first discusses critics of negative blogs; his second is actually a long comment from the blogger Lousy Korea, and his third responds to the article I wrote today in the Korea Herald. In the comments to the first of KRD's posts, The Korean leaves a response that's worth reading.
You can read my article in the Korea Herald here.
I'd written a big, really long post about this issue that I was going to run this week, but while writing the Herald article, I asked LK to contact me, and during that correspondence, she said that she doesn't wish this thing to be made too much more of a big deal, for the sake of some of the people whose lives have been threatened.
So I'm going to summarize my long post, instead of publishing the whole thing. Interestingly, it referenced the same news story KRD mentioned: Muslims threatening South Park for their Muhammed portrayal.
Here's the bullet point version of the original post:
1. Yeah, Lousy Korea had a harsh tone that was quite provocative.
2. I'm No Picasso notes here that "hater K-bloggers" and "psycho nutizens" are both extreme fringes who do not represent their groups, but who sometimes makes their entire group look bad.
3. Yep, Korean Sentry can be hateful... but no worse than some of Dave's ESL's Hate Korea comment threads.
4. A lot of this stuff relates to my old "Why Do Expats Complain"/"Why Do Koreans Get So Defensive" teamup.
5. (똥)개 눈에는 똥만 보인다 - a Korean saying literally translated, according to Girlfriendoseyo, "The dog that eats shit, only looks for shit." I think "The dog with shit in his eye sees only shit" is snappier, but basically, some kinds of writing reveal more about the writer than the subject. Such extreme writing speaks for itself, and undermines itself with its vitriol; if somebody's having SUCH a bad time in Korea, they ought to be pitied, and then ignored.
6. Most of the "Hate Korea" blogs out there have fewer than 50 followers: they're not reaching a large audience, nor are they really trying to. It's mostly a few buddies passing notes to each other in class.
(with apologies to Jason Ryan)
Q: If a tree shouts, "Korea sucks" in the forest, ten other trees shout, "Hear, hear!" and nobody else is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
A: Who cares? I have more important things to worry about.
7. "Hate Korea" blogs and the extreme reactions they engender lead to a perception that expats and Korean society are incompatible - in the same way that South Park's Mohammed jokes and militant groups' overreactions create the perception that Muslims will NEVER integrate into Western society. Is the laugh that South Park got for taking cracks at Mohammed worth the mutual alienation that develops between Muslim and Western society? I don't know.
8. While there are enough Koreans who can read English and access OUR complaining blogs, there are way too few expats who can read enough Korean to answer the K-defenders with "But a Korean blogger said the same thing yesterday!" and provide a link. That's too bad.
9. Free speech doesn't mean Speech without consequences. Free speech, even on the internet, has consequences, be that hundreds of commenters flaming me for saying "Wondergirls suck" or Birthers shrieking because I wrote in support of Obamacare, expressing yourself on the internet has consequences. The Marmot, Garry Bevers, Kushibo, and Brian in Jeollanam-do have all been personally attacked or threatened for their online actions. You own everything you say on the internet, forever. No, people shouldn't be allowed to publish my address and phone my employer: there are appropriate and inappropriate responses to free speech, but speech DOES have consequences. Even anonymous speech can be traced by smart enough people.
10. The cycle of Misunderstanding: I really think there's a big misunderstanding leading to the negative cycle of Haters and K-defenders. Here's how it works:
a. Expats vent online, kind of like a group therapy session (the internet's good for getting together group therapy and support communities)
b. K-defenders read the venting and miss the group-therapy context, and react. Maybe they start out rationally (which would be fine if the point of the forum really were intellectual exchange, but it isn't: it's catharsis), maybe they don't start out rationally. But they react.
c. Expats mistake the K-defender's defensiveness for either an invalidation of their right to free speech, or a denial of the realities they face every day. Instead of explaining, "Kindly leave us to our group therapy," they re-assert their right to free speech, usually by saying even nastier things about Korea.
11. You're not the first one to notice this blog is one-sided. K-defenders forget that the other people who read the "Hate Korea" blogs have brains, probably don't believe everything they read on the internet, and most likely suspect any blog that is one-sided, either positive (suspected to be propaganda) or negative (suspected to be vendetta). Readers will seek out other sources, if they care enough to get the full story.
12. When people are putting stuff on the internet, I don't know if "You're not my intended audience" can/should be a "get out of jail free" card; regardless, if it's something easily misunderstood, it's the barest of prudence to put a disclaimer on the front page: something like "This blog is a satire; if you think I seriously mean everything I say, you probably shouldn't be reading it, because you won't get the jokes."
13. In my own experience of K-defensiveness, I don't think it's as bad as it used to be, but I don't know if that's because there are more Koreans able to talk openly to foreigners about negative topics, because I'm getting better at presenting my thoughts tactfully, or because I'm getting better at spotting who is and who isn't up to those kinds of discussions, and I naturally avoid those who can't.