Saturday, 16 April 2011

Do you get used to Korea?

1. Yup. I know there's been a lot of talk about ATEK lately. I'll address it as soon as I'm able.

2.
http://imnopicasso.blogspot.com/2011/04/questions-are-you-getting-used-to-korea.html so I'm No Picasso wrote an interesting post about living in Korea, and all the things that start off mind-blowingly new aren't new after a while, and there comes a point where one has to just hit the "Zen" button when they get bumped on the subway, or get complimented on their chopstick use again or asked if they can eat spicy food again, because if they can't do that (at least most of the time - everybody has "bad Korea days" which are really just bad days with different ingredients than bad days back home), they're probably not going to make it.

The money shot, to me, is this:
...The S.O. knows all about my blogs.... He constantly bemoans the fact that I am too used to Korea, and that he can't explain anything, or guide me in anything, or show me anything new. Which isn't true at all. ...it confuses him that I'm still keeping the blog -- he says, "What else is there for you to write about? Haven't you written everything in nearly three years? What could you possibly still have to say about Korea?"
There's something I like to call "second year syndrome" which is the fallacy (common among certain groups of people) that once one's been here for a year or two, one is ready to hold forth as an expert on all aspects of Korea, the assumption, for example, that three years of blogging about Korea would be enough to explore every topic, or that a series of short declarative statements (here's a good sampling) would be all one needed to successfully navigate all of Korean culture and life, and I'd like to at least introduce that phrase today.  I'll talk about it more later...

But for now, I'd like to stand with INP and say that Korea, as a country, a culture, a people, and a history, is inexhaustible.  I've met people who, by the way they speak about Korea, have hedged their views of Korea in with so many shorthand conclusions about the country, the culture, and the people, that they've closed themselves off from finding anything interesting, fascinating, or new about the country, and I've even met Koreans who sell their own culture short, settling on the image of their country they learned in ethics class, and the places they like to visit, and the shows they watch on TV, and have their own set of shorthand conclusions about what the country, and the people are, such that they don't explore anymore.

And that's too bad, is all.

Anyway, I've been reading a lot (grad school, you know), and studying the language a lot (still slow going, that), and trying to find new ways to be re-amazed by Korea.

I'll keep you updated.

One place to start: http://koreanfilm.org/topten2000s.html KoreanFilm.Org.  Not all of them are, but Korean cinema has some pretty awesome films in its history.

I'm watching The Housemaid (the 1960 version) right now.  AWESOME movie... but the "Very Special Episode" ending was something else.

14 comments:

This Is Me Posting said...

I maintain that Korea's cinema (i.e. film culture) is the only popular media of any worth. They can keep their cookie cutter, utterly uninspired KPop and their trashy, utterly ridiculous Kdramas, but a lot of their films are beyond excellent. I can't understand how there's such a massive creative and artistic dichotomy between these artistic mediums. I'm interested in reading some Korean literature, but I'm having trouble procuring any (in English).

As a slightly unrelated aside, anyone else getting a little tired with the increase in blind zealous hatred toward the Japanese lately? With the Liancourt Rocks textbook thing and the radioactive rain, well over half my students can't go a day without reminding me how absolutely evil, two-faced and vile the Japanese are. I even had one student tell me venomously how his only feeling toward the Japanese after hearing about the Sendai earthquake was regret that it didn't do more damage. The blatant racism and viciousness is starting to get to me. Anyone else feeling this lately?

Paul Ajosshi said...

I've been here eleven years and I'm nowhere near finished exploring all that Korea has to offer.

As for The Housemaid, brilliant film and the ending says so much about cinema of that time. Kim Ki-young kicks all kinds of arse and more people need to watch it. It's available legally online for free... http://mubi.com/films/2039

The remake is worth watching as well, but it's a very different film, dealing with very different issues.

Charles Montgomery said...

This Is Me Posting,

Head over to to check out Korean translated literature. There's a link on the upper right that leads to suggestions for newbies to the literature, and there are 40 or so reviews of translations available on the "reviews" page.

There's some good stuff out there.

조안나 said...

It's been nearly three years and I'm always surprised by new things and exciting places. I'm sure that you could live in any country for a lifetime and still discover new things... If you're not than it's your problem, not the country's. Get out of the house and look around!!

About once a month I find something new in my own neighborhood that makes me say wow! I never knew this was here, this is awesome! Now, multiply that for every neighborhood in Korea!

Foreigner Joy said...

I am going into my third year and I think with being more comfortable with everything I am able to see what makes Korea and it's people so great.

Gomushin Girl said...

I love the "very special episode" ending - I think it's the perfect surreal touch.
But if you aren't finding things in other kinds of media to like, it's because you're looking in the wrong places. It's like somebody saying that they hate Britany Spears and Jersey Shore, and therefore there's nothing worthwhile in American music or TV.

thelostseoul said...

To a native Korean, the general reaction will be a shrug of the shoulders, with the look of "that is the way it is, and you have to accept it that way." Because of that attitude, foreigners may see the oddities as just plain weird. Foreigners (i.e. without a sense of nationalistic pride for Korea) can either be annoyed or fascinated. Thankfully, there are those that are tolerant, or fascinated. The original post, along with many other posts in other blog written by expats in Korea, are observations of the oddities of the concept of 눈치 (noon-chi, or "saving face"). An entire book can easily be written regarding the different ways in which 눈치 affects the lives of everyday Koreans. The concept is accepted by native Koreans, is thought of as strange/extreme by expats, and makes me want to vomit (no, I do not appear in a picture on that blog).

These juxtapositions are more than mere annoyances. They are genuine barriers to genuine progress. Now, some of those barriers have had a long history, and in many cases, rightfully so. However, Korea is a doormat to no country now. Its laws and attitudes must change because its natural restrictions (small geographical size, small population, lack of natural resources) will always exist. What you may call "annoyances" are setting up to be barriers, if not overcome, that will restrain Korea from realizing its full potential. As an 애국자 (a lover of Korea pronounced ae-gook-ja), this is the challenge of our generation. How this challenge is, or is not met, will be fascinating indeed.

Turner said...

I'd agree with that. I've been living abroad for five years, and I'm very aware of how my perception has changed over that time. In Japan, it would be a rare occasion in which I stayed home on the weekend rather than participate in a cultural event, travel, or at least get outside my apartment. But I'm tired, and my Korean experience is unfolding differently than that of Japan. I know this country is an inexhaustible source of entertainment and information, but I've subconsciously closed myself off.

ckaaloa said...

I think you get to taking a place for granted no matter where you live or move to. Some of my Korean teachers were blown away that I visited so many places in Korea that they haven't ever been too.

On the same end, wherever I've lived I eventually acclimated to the point where I walked only the same routes, visited the same places,... seldom went out to glitz the night fantastic. It's inevitable that things get a bit old and boring... like marriage or a relationshiop, I think you need to be actively engaged and every once in a while pushing yourself out of the comfort zone to explore new things.

Easier said than done though.

Nick said...

The best way to maintain your interest in Korea is to avoid learning any Korean and never look up anything on the internet. If you don't speak or read any of the language and you've only the vaguest idea where your going you can spend 20 years here and never get bored.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Nick: very interesting point of view... I suppose you're right that Korea's more exciting without any outside knowledge, in the same way that mountain climbing is more exciting blindfolded.

yujinishuge said...

I think I might fall into somewhat of a different category of people who haven't gotten used to people who haven't gotten used to Korea. Either that or I am a snobby elitist or something, ya noobs.

This Is Me Posting said...

@Charles Montgomery - Thank you. This looks like it'll help me out tremendously!

palladin said...

Got used to Korea a few year ago. And while I deeply disagree with how they treat professionalism, for the most part I'm comfortable. And while my situation is 180 degree's from what any English teacher will experience, I will give this bit of advice.

In most countries, especially East Asian ones, people treat you base don your appearance. If you look like a professional businessman then you'll be treated like one. If you look like a college kid, then you'll be treated like that. Regardless of any personal opinions on the right / wrong of this, its a fact of life. My single greatest suggestion is to dress and act professionally in all your encounters. You don't have to wear a suit, but slacks, business shoes and a button up collared shirt go a long way. Do this and doors will magically open and opportunities will become available.