Saturday, 26 February 2011

A little more about Blackout Korea, and then I'm done

The last post about Blackout Korea was fired off in a hurry, so I'd like to add/refine/retract a little, before I'm done with this topic.

The comments below the original post have been really awesome, though: thanks, readers, for your contributions.

1. It's interesting to note that the person who started the "English Teachers Out" blog seems to be having second thoughts about the wild generalizations s/he made in the original post.
The writer of English Teachers Out has also impressed me, no so much with his logical reasoning, but with his willingness to put his own name and other blog address out there, after being called out by the Metropolitician.

2. As several readers pointed out in the comment: I overstated things when I said "Public drunkenness is a national disgrace"... it's fairer to say that Korea's drinking culture can be polarizing: in the comments I said:

then again, the WHO's recent report tags Korea as the world's biggest per capita consumer of spirits, and the fifth biggest per capita consumer in the world...it IS kind of embarrassing that I have to tell my friends visiting Korea, "Unless you want to see Korea in its worst light, be back in your hotel room by eleven"
http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/msbgsruprofiles.pdf
To qualify that, I wouldn't say that to all of my friends, but certainly to the friends of mine who don't like drinking, or who get embarrassed or upset by seeing that kind of...uh...unrefined behavior.  To other friends of mine, I'd say that the drinking culture might well be the best thing about visiting Korea, depending on their position, age, background, concern about stepping in vomit puddles, etc..

So yeah.  Off my puritan high horse now.

The fact remains that, the amount of public drunkenness in Korea makes the country/drinking areas ripe for the formation of blogs like this: low hanging fruit gets picked.

3. Black Out Korea seems to be plugging along unapologetically.  For now.  We'll see what happens next.  I don't know who or how, but last year a few other K-blogs got traced to their homes by netizens, such that one told me in an e-mail that s/he even moved houses because s/he didn't feel safe.

4. Black Out Korea DOES show the faces of some of the passed out people.  I was incorrect to assert that faces weren't shown.

5. Passing out in public is one thing.  Taking pictures of a passed out person is another.  Posing with a person who's passed out like a "trophy" - one phrase I read somewhere - is stupid and reprehensible.  Whether we want to be or not, we're cultural ambassadors in Korea, because we look different, and we're making our group look like assholes with these kinds of frat-boy pranks: Korea is not one big college town, and Koreans are human beings, and those who act as if those two statements were untrue make things harder for those of us trying to make a good life here, and for those who come after them.

6. It's disheartening that after a really successful event on Sunday, talking about improving the image of English teachers in Korea, and exploring the confluence of cultural phenomena that led to English teacher scapegoating, that this has been the main focus of attention on many expat k-blogs and forums I've visited this week.  ESPECIALLY when two English teacher deaths in Busan SHOULD be the subject of a rallying cry for more support for English teachers and expats in Korea.

7.  Blackout Korea, particularly when it's publishing the "trophy" pictures of white people shaming Koreans, is pretty asinine, and it should be made clear to anybody that the vast majority of foreigners and English teachers think so.

However, it's not even close to the offensiveness of the worst "korean culture" blog: Texts From Korean Girls, which, while the work of just one blogger out of the tens of thousands of expats living in Korea, really takes the cake for making Korean women look like idiot whores... and by doing so, makes western men look like vile scumbags who first take advantage of them, and then laugh at them afterwards...

The only good thing I can say about Texts From Korean Girls is that it hasn't updated since October.

Come on, guys.  Seriously, fucking grow up.  This is the reason Wifeoseyo, shortly after telling her family she was dating a Canadian English teacher, had to have a conversation with my future mother-in-law, to assuage suspicions the had developed after reading some news reports about foreign English teachers in Korea.

And I'm done. The outliers on either side don't deserve any more attention from me.  Or you.

Update: to be fair, after talking so much shit, I should link Blackout Korea's defense/explanation of what he's doing, and how it should be understood.

23 comments:

Eugene said...

Dude,

Messages from Korean girls is really funny. I guess though that there is no harm from me reading it, because I know that not all Korean girls are like that.

So I can see the argument in hoping that it doesn't become too popular,for it will paint expat guys and Korean girls as terrible people.

It's kind of like how a lot of Asian-American people I know found Long Duk Dong to be funny, but still felt offended when non-Asians found him to be funny.

Chris in South Korea said...

Rob,
There will always be a high culture and a low culture. While it's clear the cultural differences, denouncing someone who reads or creates something is far from the solution. It's the same reason more people like topless mud wrestling than wine tastings -it appeals to our pruient nature.

Taking photos is a powerful, shaming act. The question becomes this: is BOK shaming Koreans into not passing out on the streets, or just forwarding a hilarious warning message that appeals to a wider audience? Either way, it has a right to be, much the same way askmen.com puts forth a pretty sexist site itself.

Bintz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jin said...

Great post. I think it is necessary to call out both Black Out Korea and English Teachers Out without taking sides; the former for their stupid frat-boy behavior and the latter for overreacting and making outrageous comparisons. I don't think Michael Hurt helped matters when he called ETO a "racist" website. Rob, you are right when you describe the idiots on both sides as "outliers." Hopefully, the rest of the media and blogosphere community can give these fools less publicity before more irrational get into the debate.

chiam said...

Texts from Korean girls is one of the stupidest pages I have ever seen/read in my life.

I can't help but feel sorry for the author(s), because it must suck to be a ten year old trapped in a 20-something body.

That site was mentioned quite some time ago on another blog (perhaps marmots) and I quickly forgot about it because it's SO dumb. It's too bad people are making it a talking point again.

Roboseyo said...

Eugene:
Some of Messages from Korean girls is funny, but "u tore my hole" is over the line. Even if it was just "Konglish texts" rather than "texts from Korean GIRLS" I would have been more comfortable, but running THAT kind of matter comes across as sexist and irresponsible to me.

Then again, all my readers know I'm a bit of a preachy old bastard by now.


Chris, I'm afraid you're off the mark here.

Sure, there's high culture and low culture. There are Korea expat blogs that are really trying to add social value to the expat community, and there are those that are just trying to be a bit funny, or to be a space to blow off some steam.

But to take your "high and low culture" line a step further, you've not included exploitation.

See, if BOK wanted to make the point that passing out in public was a public shame, and maybe an international disgrace, that point would have been better made without the "trophy" photos - then everybody could have been sure that's what the blog was about, and nothing else. By including photos like the infamous "marmite" photo, or photos where (mostly) foreigners were posing with (mostly) Korean passed-out, a blogger who had that socially aware purpose in the beginning, would have realized that the blog was going into an area that was possibly unethical, and that would CERTAINLY change the message of the collection of photos from one purely about Korea's public drunkenness, to something that else. The "foreign exploiter" undertone that comes with the trophy pictures, the perceived intent to demean and humiliate, are impossible to miss, and obscure what could have been a noble (or thereabouts) purpose.

As for texts from Korean girls? That's the ugliest, trashiest kind of exploitation I can think of -- there's nothing playful, fun, or restrained to "you made my hole bleed" - that's exploitation pure and simple, it's socially irresponsible, it's unethical, it's hurtful, it damages the reputation of Korean women and western men, and brings nothing redeeming to the table whatsoever.

So while I suppose those writers are free to create their prurient content, or moreover to spread wide the base actions of others (because they're both collaborative blogs, which makes them worse, because they're providing a forum for others to express their most racist or sexist impulses), I am and will remain free to decry it as irresponsible, ugly, and not representative of the expats I know, or the way we want to, or ought to, engage with Korean culture.

Those naked mud-wrestling fight websites rightfully deserve all the criticism they get from feminist and women's groups, too... if they don't actually deserve to be shut down, they at least, certainly, deserve to be engaged constantly in a dialogue about how far is too far, and under what terms they attempt to legitimize themselves.

Roboseyo said...

To that end, Blackout Korea has written a post in response to the counter blog, which it would be unfair of me not to link.

http://blackoutkorea.blogspot.com/2011/02/black-out-korea.html

Kokoba said...

Rob, you've hit the nail on the head when you bring up "exploitation." That's exactly what bothers me about it. BOK made me really uncomfortable even before all of this fecal matter hit the fan.

While foreigners account for a minority population and thus a minority amount of what I'll call "thuggishness," the "I'll do what I like, I've got the privilege, it's just like college!" attitude is still way more prevalent than would be ideal. BOK exemplifies just that.

And all I hear in BOK's justification post is "wah wah wah, I'm a white male, I'll continue doing what I like, you all need to learn from us foreigners what's wrong with your society." Perhaps I could take BOK's stance a bit more seriously if there seemed to be any kind of filtering process, instead of (apparently) whatever people send in. At the least, it doesn't take more than a minute or two to black over people's faces.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you've gone from "its a national disgrace" to "it could be the best thing about Korea"

That has to be one of the biggest reverses in opinion i've seen recently.

Am sure you will delete this, like my last comment, but just wanted to voice what a lot of people are thinking. Try sticking to stuff you can do, another awsome review of why korea is awesome perhaps.

Roboseyo said...

how would I know if I did or didn't delete your last comment, anonymous, when you won't even put a name to your sniping?

Mr. Spock said...

Honestly, I think in the right hands, a concept like "Texts from Korean Girls" could be really funny, but the ones you showed from the site actually almost brought tears to my eyes. It ruined my day. I have gotten HILARIOUS texts from Korean girls, and I would honestly love to share them with the world because they are either A) Crazy (women everywhere have their moments!) B) Verbal oddities (which happens when you text in your second language--I am sure ALL of my Korean texts belong on a humour site somewhere!) C) Adorable. I have never gotten cuter, more sincere, heartwarming texts in my life.

It would be nice if more bloggers could have a sense of humour while emphasizing the word "sense". Respect and human decency would really be nice, because that's how we all would expect to be treated. Put aside entirely the fact that it makes male foreigners look like disgusting bags of sleaze, it is just beyond cruel and disrespectful of women in general and that is something we should stand against no matter what.

Black Out Korea said...

I think I might address some of what's being said when I have some time, but I just wanted to point out that our mutual acquaintance "Bintz" has deleted your most recent comment, as well. Just a heads up.

Roboseyo said...

Yeah, I saw that too. Not long after I posted it, either.

Eugene & Spock: you're right that, in the right hands, "Texts from Korean Girls" or at least "Konglish Texts" (without the sexism thing) could be a HILARIOUS site... if some kind of standard were applied, and if the overall tone were a playful one, and maybe also where my wife could send in MY texts of mangled Korean.

Bintz said...

Hello, King idiot of Evil Blog


The last comment of Roboseyo, what I deleted was taken on 24 February 2011 13:25 / Yes, it was 5 days ago.

And yesterday, I received Rogoseyo's comment via email but I couldn't see it on my counter-blog.

Above comment of mine was deleted by myself because Roboseyo opened it too late after when I commented and I already describe same thing on my blog.


Best
Bintz

Roboseyo said...

Bintz: in the box where it says "leave your comment" it says "Be thoughtful and respectful"

You do not have permission to call other commenters on my blog idiots or evil. Even if you really hate what they do.

Please do not, or your comments will be deleted, not because I disagree with you, but because my comment section is meant to be a place where people can speak politely to each other.

Your comment got caught by my spam filter because it had links in it; that is the reason it too some time to appear. I put it up as soon as I saw it, and I'm disappointed you deleted it.

And yesterday I put a comment under the place where you accused me of justifying the BlackOutKorea blog, when I've pretty clearly explained that I don't like how that blog operates.

That comment disappeared, which is disappointing. In blogger, you might want to look in the "in moderation" or "spam" box to see if it got caught in your spam filter; otherwise, it will appear as if you are not allowing honest discussion on your blog; that would be disappointing, as for a few days there, your apparent willingness to actually engage in discussion, made you different from most anti-English teacher blogs. If the comment is gone forever, the comment will be lost, as will most of the respect I might have developed for you, depending on how you handled your counter-blog.

All the best,
Rob

Black Out Korea said...

@Bintz: If you want to engage in any sort of rational dialogue, I wouldn't mind here being the place to do it. I'm not going to put myself out there on your blog and you seem to be unwilling to address the points I've made on mine. I admit, I don't know much Korean, but unless you've learned all the English you know from self-taught lessons and only in the past 2 years, I think it's an unfair comparison.

One of the things I am having problems with understanding, is why people seem to be so up in arms about posing with a stranger on the street. I can definitely understand (though am only a humble messenger/self-described humorist) people being wholly upset at pictures where folks, (Western or otherwise) are physically handling blackout victims, but I don't really see the harm in posing with one. Is it really that disrespectful considering the situation already at hand?

Part of this failure to see any wrongdoing undoubtedly comes from cultural differences, namely if someone passes out at a party, stranger or otherwise, they traditionally get messed with. While undoubtedly being juvenile/"frat-boy" humor, it is humor nonetheless -- and honestly, good natured (?) humor of the like is difficult to come by when you're in a country like Korea. But I digress...

I can't help but wonder if the blog would still be catching such harsh language if it were just photos of blacked out Koreans, faces blurred out, and no westerners in them. Wouldn't all the "English teachers" still be getting blamed/hate hurled at them? Who knows. Maybe I'll implement that change and see.

In regard to the current status of the blog, I suppose it's up in the air. I'm sure Roboseyo or any other blogger can attest to the phenomenon of blog evolution, and while in past statements I have stated the initial intention of the site, passage of time and comment explosions like last week give a person a lot to ponder on the more diplomatic routes of addressing the public drunkeness situation in Korea.

Despite the current content of the blog, readers will have to take my word for it that i'm not a horrible person nor an "idiot", "racist", "fratboy" or any other number of epithets the site seems to inspire.

That being said, any positive changes to the site are going to come by rational discussion convincing me of the worthiness of other perspectives I don't currently understand (if anybody wishes to take up the case). It seems most netizens fail to grasp this concept and would rather resort to threats and intimidation, and simply crying foul.

Bintz said...

I regard you as a human being.
But can't respect. NEVER

'cause you are the public enemy. You are a criminal or a terrorist in Korea.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Bintz: Using language like "criminal" or "terrorist" is name-calling: in English logic terms we call it "ad hominem arguments" -attacking the speaker, instead of answering what they say.

If you are only here to call BOK names, then go back to your own blog. If your only method of communication is making threats and calling names, and right now, with deleted comments and more threats on your blog, that's how it looks... http://englishteachersout.blogspot.com/2011/03/public-enemy-who-becomes-coordinate.html

then I'd like you to think about how productive that's been for North Korea, whose leaders love calling names, but who walk away from the negotiating table when South Korea sits down to talk (meanwhile thousands of North Korean people starve to death).

You don't have to HAVE respect for someone, to ADDRESS them respectfully...
but it looks like you don't care about that.

As I said earlier:

I'm disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Black out Korea is just fun.

Before I knew about BOK, I was taking pictures of passed out men (Korean and otherwise) . Koreans in Incheon and westerners in Seoul....

Remove stick from arse.

Puffin Watch said...

Bintz, if your blog was just about the reprehensible antics of those posing for trophy photos with drunk Koreans, you would have a point. But you've used this to launch into an attack against all foreign english teachers in Korea, lumping them together. Koreans, at time, commit some pretty horrible acts in Canada:

http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/10/19/15751916.html

In Canada we don't go "wow, that's messed up, lets kick all the Koreans out." Appreciate that anyone who posted such a blog (say oh koreanchristiansout.blogspot.com) would be attacked as racist scum by native Canadians.

Bintz, narrow the focus of your rage. Pick your battles.

Bintz said...

Dear Puffin Watch

If you saw Bintz used this to launch into an attack against all foreign english teachers in Korea..
Yes! That's my fault and I have been apologizing again and again.

Best regards,
Bintz Shin
ps http://blackoutmirror.blogspot.com

gordsellar said...

I can't help but recall the Bill Hicks routine about all the criticism Basic Instinct drew:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrTifComO7U

I find life much more enjoyable when I ignore morons ranting and screaming and frothing at the mouth into the wind... or, dullards ironically mocking everything because doing anything else would require, well, work and thought.

I have more to say, but I'll save it for my own blog post, except to say that this is the fourth or fifth time I've written a comment and then decided I couldn't be bothered to post it, on a post here in the last week or two.

(Mostly in those other cases because I don't suspect the interlocutors will actually listen to my point anyway.)

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Gord:

yeah... my comment "type-to-post ratio" still hovers between 35% and 55% - I swallow a lot of comments where I doubt the usefulness of continuing the discussion as well.