Living downtown, I'm starting to see flags, placards and signs all over the place that the G20 is coming. Seems some of the higher-ups, or at least the people who hang flags on light posts, are pretty excited about this.
Joy looks at the cleanliness and safety of some parts of the city, and the efficiency of the transportation system, then she references The Metropolitician's post about Koreans who are being trained by their own media to suspect, and maybe hate, foreigners, and concludes that because of the provincial, nationalist mentality of people in Korea, the country's not truly ready to host the G20 Summit yet.
Along that vein, Chris in South Korea chimes in, agreeing that while the hardware is there - infrastructure, facilities, etc., Korean people's mindset is not really global, and that Koreans will treat foreigners as if invisible, until it is revealed that they are associated with the G20 summit, at which point the special treatment will come out: he cites incidents where Koreans were more ready to apologize when their bad service led to upset people, than just to give good service in the first place.
Chris says, in light of the coming summit:
To assume that every Korean will suddenly become friendly to every foreigner they see during the summit is ludicrous. The summit is so far removed from the average person's life that they'll barely be aware what's happening, or where.Except... that has happened before. I wasn't there personally, but from all accounts, Koreans, and Seoulites, are pretty good at putting their best food forward when the occasion calls for it: during the 2002 World Cup, every person I've talked to who was there remembers Koreans never being friendlier, warmer, kinder.
No, sir, the question is not how Koreans, on the whole (and I apologize for referring to Koreans as if it were just one person, with just one personality) behave when the world is watching. I have no doubt that once the cameras are pointed at Korea, most people will do their best to put on a show.
The question, and the true test of Korea's status as a globalized country is this: after the diplomats go home, next time a foreign English teacher does something like this, or this, of if, heaven forbid, an English teacher ever actually is caught molesting their students, what will happen?
Anybody can put on a show for a one or two-week summit. World Cup 2002 was a whole month of peace love and understanding... but in 2002, in the middle of the happiness and love, there was a black undertone: on June 13, two girls were killed by a US Armored vehicle. During the World Cup, nobody did much about it, but just as soon as the international soccer fans went home: after the world cup ended on June 30, Korea embarked on a series of anti-American protests called an "orgy of hate" by the Chicago Tribune - that story is meticulously documented by ROK Drop here, in one of their most important posts.
I'm not really interested in how Koreans act during the G20 Summit. I'm more interested in whether that half-Indonesian kid entering Kindergarten this year is given a chance to fit in with his classmates. I'm more interested in whether the Filipina bride in the countryside is given information about recourse, in case her husband starts hitting her. I'm more interested to hear whether, during the office dinner, somebody speaks up to defend the interracial couple across the restaurant, when one of the team members starts grumbling that he doesn't like seeing "our" women with "those kinds of men." I'd like to know what steps are being taken to make sure that those mixed kids don't fall behind in school, or on the all-important tests, or, since we're talking about the disenfranchised, I'd like to know whether Lee Eun-eui, who won her sexual harassment suit against Samsung is being viewed as a one-time anomaly, or as a sign that such behavior will no longer be tolerated, which other women look to, in order to feel more empowered at work.
Yeah. The subways run fine and they're on time. There are a lot of new, very pretty buildings all around the city, and I bet every hotel employee in the whole damn country is learning a few phrases in English, French, Arabic, Spanish and whichever other languages will come in handy. And those diplomats and finance ministers will be well-enough shielded from street protesters and drunk belligerent ajosshis, I think the question of how regular folks will behave during the G-20 is mostly moot. International events aren't a good barometer of this stuff, in my opinion: a better measure of Korea's true globalization would be how easy it is for a foreign English teacher to get any or all of these things:
1. A fair shake from the police if a fight breaks out between him and a Korean
2. The approval of his/her fiance's parents
3. Fair treatment according to Korea's labor laws
4. The health care he/she was promised when he/she signed that contract, and a way to press his/her boss if it turns out he/she illegally wasn't registered
6. A smartphone, without jumping through ridiculous hoops from the phone company
7. A membership on any sign-in website in Korea
8. The benefit of the doubt
9. A contract re-negotiation if the labor board finds that their contract is illegal, and
10. Release from a bad contract, along with the right to find other work instead of having to then leave the country
and an even better barmometer would be how easily a Southeast-Asian could get each of these things. Now, I'll say for sure that it's easier for we waygooks to get most or all of these things than it used to be... but I'll also say that there's a ways to go, because who cares what a visiting diplomat says about Korea (other than quote-starved "Tell us how much you like us!" reporters), really? I'd rather know what the long-term expat residents say, to see how far a country's really coming.