Friday, 11 April 2014

5 Signs the Author of the Article you're Reading Doesn't Actually Know Much about Korea

Lately, every Thursday at 10:30am, on TBS radio, (101.3 in Seoul), I've been doing a list-based segment. I've had some fun, and done a variety of topics, and perhaps I'll post some of them on the blog... but today's got a really good response, and I've been asked to re-post it on my blog, for anyone who's having trouble accessing it from the TBS website, or prefers text.

The topic: 5 signs the Author of the Article You're Reading Doesn't Actually Know Much About Korea

You know how it is: whenever global or OECD rankings come out, whenever a Korean hits the global stage, whenever something's written about Korea in a prestigious magazine, or bidding opens for another major global event... it becomes clear that in general, Koreans in high places (and perhaps many ordinary folks as well) really really do care what non-Koreans think about Korea. I've written about this before... perhaps my most memorable (to me) being "In Which Roboseyo Exhorts Seoul City Not To Get In A Snit About Lonely Planet." One result of this abiding interest is the occasional case where some article, blog post, or other bit of writing gets far more attention than it deserves, through social media, netizen backlash, anxiety that someone Doesn't Like Korea, or whatnot. At times, people taking a blog more seriously than it deserves have waged online and even offline harassment campaigns, and shut down blogs and even chased people out of the country.

Caveat: I'm well aware that there are three fingers pointed back at me for a bunch of these. Watcha gonna do?

So, here are five times to take an English article about Korea with a grain of salt... or a progressively larger one.



1. Their main source of authority is marrying a Korean or teaching English in Korea for a while. 

If the topic is "courtship in Korea" or "the hogwan where I work"... buckle in and enjoy a personal story that doesn't have any larger meaning. If the author is making sweeping generalizations, without providing evidence of being up to date and informed in the news, policies, and public discussions about the issue, other than in a really vague "I heard on Dave's that..." sort of way, well, maybe don't bother getting worked up about it, and click the "ignore" button in your head.

Teaching at a hogwan doesn’t make a person an expert in Korean educational policy, and it doesn’t mean they know a single thing about public education. And having beers with a public school teacher to trade stories is not necessarily enough to balance out that weak spot. Same for talking with one's spouse and their friends, unless one's spouse or some of their friends are informed and keep up to date on these issues, and makes statements about them starting with "Well here are the main stakeholders in the issue and what they want..." rather than "Koreans don't like this." When I asked my wife, "What do Koreans think about this?" back when I used to do such things, she used to answer "I don't know. Go find out." This is the best answer.

The caveat of course is that there are trained journalists and excellent researchers who just happen to be working as English teachers and/or married to Koreans... but they'll be pointing to their sources, not to their spouses.


2. All their quotes are from English teachers or bloggers.

In these first two, I am clearly throwing my own under the bus... 
Source

If a foreign correspondent or random writer doesn't know a lot about Korea, or lacks the tools to interview the Koreans knowledgable in an area, here's the first thing to do: a google, and a search of Facebook groups and pages. They'll come across some blogs, and a forum like Dave's ESL or Facebook's Every Expat In Korea, where all the bitter lifers and English teachers who haven't learned the better places to make connections go to vent and preach outdated Korea knowledge to newbies and invent new racist terms.

Darn. Ricetard didn't catch on. Let's try Klown.
(source)

For someone who doesn’t know the terrain, it’s not always easy to separate people who REALLY know what’s going on, from people who are good at writing as if they know what is going on. And both bloggers and Facebook blowhards LOVE to act like they know more than they really do. I should know: I am both a blogger AND a Facebook blowhard. To choose to open a blog at all, you need to have a reasonably high opinion of your own views... or you wouldn't project them across the internet... and take someone with a reasonably high opinion of their own views, whose blog isn't getting as popular as quickly as they'd like, and send them an e-mail from the Washington Post... if they're anything like I was in my starting-out blog phase, they'll be so flattered at being asked for a quote, they'll provide one without ever thinking about whether they're actually qualified to do so. I used to. I am still a sucker for ego strokes, ear scratches, and shiny things. I am actually a cat.

Source. (warning: cute cats)


A persistent reporter or writer will eventually track down the kinds of people — policy makers, researchers, or other experts or sources who have more reliable answers. And to be fair, some bloggers and English teachers are great researchers, and would give well-sourced replies.  But someone only using sources like blogs and english teachers… may just not have looked very hard, so factor that in when evaluating their writing.


3. They use Han, Jung, Confucianism, Nunchi, Chaemyon, and other “Magic words” to explain Korean culture

People talk about the theme of a story as if the theme were like the string that a sack of chicken feed is tied with. They think that if you can pick out the theme, the way you pick the right thread in the chicken-feed sack, you can rip the story open and feed the chickens. But this is not the way meaning works in fiction. (source)
That's a quote from Flannery O'Connor's book Mystery and Manners. She's an author I studied as an undergrad. I love the image of a string on a bag of chicken feed -- once you find the right string to pull, the whole bag comes open effortlessly. There are people who think that invoking "Confucianism" does the same thing: like a skeleton key, all Korea's secrets are magically laid out, just by saying (as pretentiously as possible) Confucianism!

I love the saying "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” and this is where a lot of amateur analysts get stuck when they write about Korea, but they don’t ACTUALLY know a lot about Korea. Things like Confucianism, or Korea's rapid economic growth, or troubled democratization, or the colonial experience, or any word that a pretentious friend might be likely to intone in a low voice, "There is no translation for this word" runs the risk of being taken, and applied to way more situations than they're actually relevant, or given way more explanatory power (or mystery) than they deserve. Inside the expat echo chamber, and among "I must make sure my expat friends get a VERY specific image of Korea" Koreans, there is great danger of their over-use.

South Korea is a society that works like other societies. It follows a logic that makes enough sense to enough of the people here that they can generally muddle by. Most phenomena have specific origins that are discoverable by any searcher willing to read books rather than blogs, and those "magic words" are often part of the background, but they're very rarely an adequate explanation on their own. The mistake people make is to put their finger on something like Confucianism and then stop looking. Confucianism is more often the sauce than the actual steak: part of the mix, but not the meat.

The danger of "magic word" analysis is that it often comes out of orientalism, or leads to it, and thinking of Koreans as some "mysterious unknowable eastern people" is not conducive to careful critical thought, nor helpful in applying one's knowledge of the country to encounters with actual, living Koreans who don't fit the stereotypes.

Confucianism, and all those other "magic word" concepts, are not skeleton keys. They are single pieces of a puzzle, single threads in a web. Trust writers who are looking at the others as well.


4. They refer to Koreans as if all Koreans share the same opinion on issues, or talk about “Korea” as if it were a character in a drama.

"Korea wants..." "Korea always..." Who is this Korea you speak of?  "Koreans are..." "Koreans all...""Koreans can't..." This is called "monolithic thinking" -- as if Korea were a monolith, an undifferentiated hive mind with no diversity of intention or opinion.

Korea is not actually like this:
Koreans: not the borg. Source.
In fact, Korea is sometimes like this:
Source - 2008 beef protests
and this

and this

and this


If Koreans all generally agreed on everything, a vigorous protest culture and a tradition of public dissent would be inconceivable.

Korea's a diverse, divided country. Left and Right, North and South, Southeast, Southwest and Seoul, Gangnam vs. populists, Christian and Buddhist, Pro and Anti [you know which countries go here]. There are robust debates in Korean society on almost every topic, and even in areas where you get general consensus (not many Koreans think Dokdo doesn't belong to Korea) you'll still find dissent in the details (but some think public demonstrations and rude behavior toward Japanese tourists are the best strategy for laying that claim, while others would prefer it be dealt with at the government-to-government level). A lot of these disagreements spill over into street protests. That a writer hasn't located these debates, or can't access them because of language problems, doesn't mean they don't exist. Burndog regularly points out what you might call the "If I haven't seen it, it doesn't exist" error common on blogs and commentary about Korea. 

Writers who say “Korea is” “Korea wants” or “Koreans all…” are usually guilty of lazy thinking: a more careful thinker will write about what specific groups are doing, or want, and how they're disagreeing with other groups, not what "Korea" wants.


5. (And this is the biggie) They don’t know any Korean.

Becoming an authority on Korea without speaking Korean is kind of like being a hearing impaired musician. Yes, Beethoven proved it’s possible… but it’s really really hard and really rare. It’s possible to write a very good piece about Korea, without speaking any Korean — I’ve read some — but it’s much MUCH easier if you CAN. 

Signs that a writer doesn’t know Korean include romanization errors — it doesn’t take too long to learn the two main romanization systems, and once you’ve learned them, it’s easy to spot errors. If someone's putting Korean sounds into English letters all helter-skelter, they have seriously put their credibility into doubt — ANYBODY who’s studied Korean beyond taxi level has learned how to romanize correctly, and will.

Other signs include using Korean words incorrectly or in the wrong context, or doing what I call “dictionary translations” - where the word they’ve translated IS what you find in the dictionary or google translate, but it’s being used in the wrong way or in the wrong context (usually as if it had exactly the same usage and meaning as it does in English -- the error students make coming the other way when they say 'I was scary when I watched 'The Ring''). These errors show that a writer not only doesn't know Korean, but hasn't even bothered to check that translation with a single Korean speaker. If they have been so lax on doing their due diligence, don't take their writing that seriously.

Another sign of this is ONLY using English language sources — nothing against the English language newspapers and websites, which are getting better every year, but using them means an author receives a filtered version of Korea, not the original they could access if they read Korean. Errors are just more possible if an author is experiencing Korea by proxy. 

And something I've been noticing as I get deeper and deeper into my life in Korea: people who don't bother to work on the language seem to have a pretty hard ceiling on how well they can understand and engage with the country, once they've bumped up against that ceiling, their investment in the country starts to suffer diminishing returns. I might write about that more in another piece, but for now:

Remember that no one of these signs, totally on its own, is definitive, and as with dear deaf Beethoven, even someone checking all five boxes might write something really good. But in general, checking two, three, four, or all five of these boxes is a pretty good sign that you shouldn't take an article very seriously, and perhaps the article can be taken as one person's view and then forgotten: no need to be forwarded, shared, spread, translated into Korean, or the subject of a netizen backlash. Writing like this speaks for itself, and what it's saying is "not worth your grief."

If you disagree, or love this post, or have some other points to add, feel free to drop a comment in the box below, and thanks for reading!

91 comments:

Roboseyo said...

awesome, love it! The one point I'd make, though, is that Korean Studies is a field conducted primarily in English as it grew out of the (troubling Cold War legacy of) Area Studies. This means that in general a Korean writing in Korean is in conversation with other historians/education theorists/sociologists, not the interdisciplinary field of Korean Studies. While I think that anyone in Korean Studies, or any blow hard taking about Korea this and Korea that in a public forum (like a blog) positioning themselves as an expert should know either know Korean or be very careful with their grand pronouncements, I find really good Korean language sources much less frequently than English sources.

Roboseyo said...

this is a very good point... but if a blowhard is linking academic papers rather than "I asked my wife and her three friends about this last week" then most of the principles in this blog post don't apply.

However, if they're extrapolating huge constructs from a Korea Herald article, or assuming Koreans aren't talking about something, just because the conversations happen on Naver, get out the salt shaker.

Roboseyo said...

Who is "a writer"?


Why not name names?

Roboseyo said...

How dare you roboseyo for calling out the average expat's complete and utter bull shit analysis on Korea and Koreans.


How dare you. May the angry expat god of the anglosphere (but we all know it's chiefly made up of entitled 'Muricans and Canucks) strike you with down with deadly lightening from heaven above.

Roboseyo said...

"There are people who think that invoking "Confucianism" does the same thing: like a skeleton key, all Korea's secrets are magically laid out, just by saying (as pretentiously as possible) Confucianism!"


The people claiming this don't even know an iota about Confucianism. Those who know some sliver have really only read the Wikipedia entries.

Roboseyo said...

not naming names... for exactly the reasons you'd guess. the goal here isn't to start feuds.

Roboseyo said...

my punishment has been swift: I just got linked from The Marmot's Hole!

Roboseyo said...

Korean romanization sucks and i often romanize it how i think it should be so it sounds closer to the Korean pronunciation. That being said knowing Korean seems important...i agree. Im at an intermediate level and i sometimes see misunderstandings based on the dictionary meanings of words and not the true meaning and nuance as I have come to understand it.

Roboseyo said...

Isn't 'hogwan' a butchered romanization of 학원? I'm so going to complain about this on Dave's!

Roboseyo said...

I think being married to a Korean might be the best way to get an accurate intepretation of Korea. How could you possibly have a better teacher for both learning the language or the culture?

Roboseyo said...

6. They're not Korean.

Roboseyo said...

I think all of these are pretty good indicators, but I completely disagree with your romanization point. The system for romanization has changed at least twice since I arrived in Korea. That alone will cause problems. However, add to that the tendency for learners of Korean to use Hangul rather than transliterations even at the lower proficiency levels and get quite a few proficient Korean speakers who cannot use the current romanization scheme. I'd be willing to bet that many highly proficient native Korean-speaking bilinguals find these transliterations challenging as well.

Roboseyo said...

There is, of course, another complete and utter bullshit analysis of Korea, and that is the analysis of Americans who happen to have parents from Korea.

Roboseyo said...

This is a really good point, Daniel, and thanks for it.

I'm going to stick to my guns insofar as there are romanization errors that occur from confusing McCune-Reischauer and Revised Romanization, for example, which can be identified as such if you are familiar with both systems, and errors that occur from just making things up as you go along ("Where the hell did that Z come from?" What's zzazhang myun?)


I DO take a moment when I teach writing classes to encourage my Korean students to learn the Revised romanization system.

Roboseyo said...

How is the picture below "We are the Borg" not the same exact thing?

Roboseyo said...

certain aspects, yeah. Being married to a Korean gives you a great inside look into certain social practices and family rituals and things, but won't necessarily help you have a good grasp on what was going on in May 1980 in Gwangju, for example, unless your spouse is interested in that and knows a lot about it.

Roboseyo said...

a vibrant protest culture in a country is proof positive that people in a society disagree with other people in a society about something -- so vigorously, in fact, that they'll take to the streets rather than just write letters to the editor.

Roboseyo said...

might be... but I'm not very qualified to write that article. I have some friends who could probably do a great job of it, though.

Roboseyo said...

It's not a genuine protest if they don't know why they're actually protesting. It's just a reaction. Choose a better picture if you want to make your point more convincing.

Roboseyo said...

Neither is Mr. Carr. He's definitely not qualified to talk about Korean Americans. But he talks about them as if he knows them.

Roboseyo said...

I would tend to agree with you that the 5 factors you list lessen the credibility of the writer, but different perspectives are valuable and not always without truth. One should be sceptical of anything you read (especially on the internet). Facts and logic trump anything else, speaking Korean for example simply helps you gain access to better information. What you do with that information, however, is another matter.


However, there is a problem here, which TheKorean has shown with his quick comment. Being Korean, for example, may actually affect one's impartiality, so might being a Korean speaker if that person has stayed in Korea long enough and has enough emotional attachment or time invested into the place or its people. This may cause a strong bias. The irony of his comment also is that it somewhat discredits your opinion on this blog.


I thought it was common knowledge that one should be careful what you read and the opinion of people with greater experience and knowledge of a given field be more respected. Does that mean they are always right, no; does it mean they are always impartial, no; and does it mean that others with less knowledge and experience are always wrong, again no. And finally, does this mean other perspectives aren't valuable, again I'd argue, no.


I'd simply say (when reading any article on almost any subject), does the author make a good logical argument and is it supported by facts (if they are indeed making factual statements). Authority of opinion is of much less importance.

Roboseyo said...

My 28 year old cousin is here in the states studying for her MBA. Just came from Korea last year. She pretty much agreed with everything I had to have said about the typical opinions of the more ignorant expats. She was actually friendly to that crowd. Her best friend is marrying one, but that person became nearly fluent in Korean and got himself out of that self hating crowd. His Korean got to be good enough that he's now got a job at Samsung.


Any ways, she said they, as a group, had the irritating habit of blowing every problem in Korea completely out of proportion to reality and also forgetting that their country had it's own problems too. She kept telling them that they should learn more Korean so they could have a better time in Korea, upon which they said, "I speak English, a global language, therefore I don't need to..." or some crap like that. As a group, she thought expats were a bitter, excessively proud and insular crowd.


I salvaged the situation by telling her that a special kind of 'Murican goes to Korea and that often times their social-economic status is normal. I told her not to judge Americans in America or America in general by those defacto representatives that make their way to Korea.

Roboseyo said...

Let me see.
1. Yes
2. Nope
3. Nope
4. Nope
5. Nope


Can I consider myself to be knowledgeable?

Roboseyo said...

Now if you two are going to act out the same drama here that you do at The Marmot's Hole, I'll have to ask you both to either go back there, or get a room.

Roboseyo said...

Understood. Thanks for the heads up.

Roboseyo said...

careful readers of your writing will be able to figure it out soon enough. :)

Roboseyo said...

Much appreciated. :)

Roboseyo said...

fair enough. I'm on it...

Roboseyo said...

Sorry, but I'm just cynical enough not to be convinced by those additional photos, either. The first one is of politicians rumbling, in other words, more political "theater" (there's no real difference between the major political parties in Korea because they all serve the chaebol, not the people, of course). The next image is of kids "protesting," from a government Web site no less, are you kidding me? The last one, from the "How are you doing?" movement, so-called, was rather Borg-like itself. A bunch of university students reproducing the same meme with minor variations is not very creative or original in my opinion, and was not exactly a genuine protest, it must be said. They still want to join the system, and by asking the system to give them a "fairer shake," they in fact help to reaffirm its power and reinforce its legitimacy. A genuine protest movement against the system would actually reject the system whole hog, and create its own alternative lifestyle and community.

Roboseyo said...

Well you know what, sweetheart?
If you want to tell yourself Koreans are a hive mind, go right ahead, and good luck with that.

Roboseyo said...

That's not my point. Korea used to have a vibrant protest culture but these days, what we often see are simulations of protest that are more media spectacle than anything else. If one really wants to fight or change the system, it's going to take a bit more effort than a few Facebook "Likes" or Twitter "RTs." Another sign of an author who doesn't know enough about Korea: They actually believe the media hype.

Roboseyo said...

1. politicians' theater wouldn't reach the point it does happen if they didn't have constituents who were equally vociferously divided on issues
2. Save our friends might not be the best example... but I think you've seen how hotly contested North Korea policy is in Korea.
3. Viral shit is a legitimate part of civil society these days, whether you're nostalgic for the smell of tear gas or not. Maybe young Koreans are just protesting because they want a slice of the chaebol pie... but say... youth disenfranchisement and the dominance of chaebol (and the injustices that come out of that) ARE other examples of issues hotly contested in Korea. I would take them as ample evidence that Koreans are by no means a hive mind, even if they manage to go about their disagreements with fewer molotov cocktails these days.


The original point was that Koreans aren't a monolith, not whether or not Korea's protest movement is as healthy as it used to be, and I think these examples show that.

Roboseyo said...

Because the best objective analysis comes from those fully immersed and with a personal, visceral stake in the matter. I've particularly found that true of peninsular people dominated by larger and more powerful neighbors who have had to fend off centuries of literal attacks.


I would go to a Korean for an understanding of their nationalism, which is often so blind that one needs to speak to a Korean to understand and so that one can empathize with.

Roboseyo said...

Well, in point of fact, nearly all of my Korean friends, who are generally quite intellectual and cosmopolitan, believe that Korea is an intensely group-oriented and conformist society. There may be political or ideological divisions here but these are often superficial in my opinion; I think the Internet and social media actually serve to reinforce Korean collectivism, rather than promote greater diversity. An informed writer on Korean culture and society will thus investigate the construction of such group trends and currents, which of course is slightly different from stating flat out, "Koreans are like this or that."

Roboseyo said...

Absolutely.
The way Koreans go about disagreeing is not the same way people do in other societies... but if one is talking about that kind of thing, one has probably already gotten past the monolithic thinking this post warns about.

Roboseyo said...

What's wrong with Korea that it only attracts losers? That's your thesis, right?

Roboseyo said...

Anyway, what was the end result of the "안녕들 하십니까?" movement, besides driving up the click count on Web sites? Were there any policy changes? Reform of the education system? Has Lee Kun-hee decided to devote his obscene fortune to lessening competition here and improving Korean society in whatever way he deems fit? I remain unimpressed by this particular form of so-called "Internet activism and protest."

Roboseyo said...

Boom. The obvious point. I'd rather write knowing that I don't understand Korea and just express my thoughts than pretending to know better than others. English bloggers who have been in Korea for a few years tend to think a little higher of themselves than the rest of the foreign population.

Roboseyo said...

Yeah, but most bloggers aren't claiming to be authorities on Korea. They are simply sharing their experiences.

Roboseyo said...

I would add: They have a simple solution to a "problem with Korea", and that solution is for Korea to change to doing things the way they do it in the author's own country.

Roboseyo said...

This is a long-winded way of basically saying there's a right way and a wrong way to blog about living in another country, and you're wrong.


Certainly there are people who claim far too much knowledge/insight without knowing the language or the history, but I don't really think that's much of a crime. It's the internet. People say stupid things. You can simply ignore the stuff you don't like.


I get the sense that you're still clinging to this outdated notion of the "K-blogosphere" as this group of five or six blogs written predominantly by white males from five years ago, and you got to check each others work now and then, and pat each other on the back ("Great post, bro!"). And you're indirectly trying to police something that doesn't exist any longer.


Since you're on tumblr yourself, you know this is no longer the case. There are people blogging about South Korea from a much wider set of backgrounds these days. Some of them try to do "serious" analysis, some write about pop culture, some about dating, some are quite content to just admit they're a foreigner who doesn't know a whole lot about the country. But their experience is still just as valid as yours. (Sorry your "Golden Kimchi Blog" or whatever the hell it was never took off.)


As for Han, Jung, Confucianism, etc., the reason I mention these things sometimes is because my Korean friends mention them all the time. They aren't "magic words," they are common terms Koreans use to define themselves and their culture. (Albeit conceptually challenging terms, but I don't think you need a graduate degree to get a grasp on them as a foreigner.)


So in conclusion I offer you a resounding "Meh."

Roboseyo said...

Ha ha, who said anything about "objectivity"? Koreanness is nothing but a feeling, ergo, to analyze it rationally would really be beside the point. Jeez, if you had more 정 I wouldn't have to explain this, would I?


Oh wait, you're not Korean, so never mind!

Roboseyo said...

The American: "I think the Internet and social media actually serve to reinforce Korean collectivism, rather than promote greater diversity."

That's an interesting idea. I have found that the internet has given a platform for Koreans to express strong opinions strongly, which I seldom see in-person and outside a mob or group. Now that you mention it, however, the strong opinions are more of the "piling on" variety rather than of vigorous debate.

Roboseyo said...

That's fine... but bloggers sharing opinions online have been taken too seriously in the past by readers, which led to online harassment that caused some of them to leave the country entirely... which sucked.

Roboseyo said...

"I get the sense that you're still clinging to this outdated notion of the "K-blogosphere""



what gives you that sense? I'm actually very interested to know, because I haven't felt that kind of thing existed since before ATEK fell apart.

Roboseyo said...

If you and Wangkon are going to do this little dance you act out every week at The Marmot's Hole, please return to The Marmot's Hole to do it, or if you want, I can recommend some love motels.

Roboseyo said...

It's good you know your place, expat. I approve your attitude wholeheartedly.


Enjoy your (hopefully not too long) stay in Korea!

Roboseyo said...

This is a long-winded way of basically saying there's a right way and a wrong way to blog about living in another country, and you're wrong.



I don't know about other countries but there is certainly a right way to blog about Korea and that's the Korean way, duh.

Roboseyo said...

The post is about blogging about Korea and not blogging about "Koreanness".


...but you've done it again.


1) Non-sequitur: your reply changed the topic.


2) You've insulated yourself, Korea, and Koreans against any critique or criticism simply by claiming "you don't speak Korean, so your opinion doesn't matter."


Now, you've added a new layer: you're not Korean, so you can't comment on being Korean. You're trying to fully insulate Koreans against any observation or analysis that doesn't fit your narrative. I don't know why you don't just campaign against everyone who is not The_Korean to shut down his blog.

Roboseyo said...

I don't know why you don't just campaign against everyone who is not The_Korean to shut down his blog.



What a fantastic idea. Thanks for that!

Roboseyo said...

I would be surprised if I found out that The Korean was being sincere rather than satirical with his one-liner.

Interesting that you mention bias, though. Does anyone really think we can ever be free of it? I guess there are some people who are convinced that what others experience as opinions are instead objective facts – but the opinions we form almost inevitably reflect back on who we are and where we come from and what our
underlying values and core beliefs are, and far more often than not our opinions serve a function, not just of explaining the world to us but also to buttress those parts of our self-esteem that hinge upon where in the world we
come from. (In short: I have problems and frustrations living in Korea. It’s Korea’s fault, not mine.)

I really doubt that learning the language creates bias - rather I would say quite the opposite.

To me, it's a question of balance. I will trust someone's opinion more if they express contrasting attitudes, both yea and nay, which indicate to me that they observe
deeply and think honestly and clearly.

I think the real key is to have some humility, and just admit when one is not qualified - I'm coming up on 15 years in this city and the main thing that gets learned is how much more there IS to learn.

Roboseyo said...

kimchibytes: Boom. The obvious point ("they are not Korean").
I come from the most over and wrongly analyzed country on the planet. The arguments that you don't speak English and you are not American would be scoffed at if Americans applied them to Koreans.

There are a few differences, however. Those Koreans who post opinions about America and Americans are insulated not only from without because (frankly) Korea is at best a blip on the world's radar but also from within. Korea is (logically) geographically an island and difficult for its inhabitants to get out. Those readers of the Korean commentariat generally speak about as much English as I speak Korean but have not had nearly as much time in the U.S. as I have had in Korea and for that matter the Korean bloggers generally haven't had as much time in the US as I have had in Korea.



I can go on, but the ad hominems you are not Korean and you aren't fluent in Korean are enough to shoot down well-supported, well-written opinions of anyone who is not Korean and who dares to offer insight about Korea or Koreans.

Roboseyo said...

The Korean: "It's good you know your place, expat. I approve your attitude wholeheartedly."

There's a colorful label for someone who so pleases the master of the house.

Roboseyo said...

There's a colorful label for someone who so pleases the master of the house.



House wigga?

Roboseyo said...

...enough to shoot down well-supported, well-written opinions of anyone who is not Korean and who dares to offer insight about Korea or Koreans.



"Insight" about Korea from a non-Korean? That's a mighty big assumption there, son. I don't believe such a thing actually exists. In fact, I know it, and don't ask me how I know it, because you just wouldn't understand!

Roboseyo said...

Now come on, @Anonymous_Joe and @The Korean. It was entertaining for a while, but now I've got to do the same as I did for Wangkon and Brendon, and ask you to either take your usual schtick back to The Marmot's Hole where it's de rigeur, or get a room.

Roboseyo said...

Sorry, but I don't date outside my race. (In the case of the hunky Brendon Carr, however, I might be willing to make an exception. Love the stache!)


In any case, warning duly noted.

Roboseyo said...

I like your commentary even better than your articles!

Roboseyo said...

I never said you had to buy him dinner.


Anyway... appreciate it.

Roboseyo said...

I never said you had to buy him dinner.

Well, I suppose I could skip a full-course meal, but I'd at least expect a tossed salad.

Roboseyo said...

Sorry big guy, I've been here three years and counting... I've already tainted this country and the blogosphere. But, I do believe people should be judged solely on what they write - not superficial standards like their jobs, choice of broad terms, or who they marry.

Roboseyo said...

I think pretending not to know better than other people is called humility, but I'm glad you see it as a form of servitude.

Roboseyo said...

I'm serious here.
http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view1/3666311/mason-stop-o.gif

Roboseyo said...

I'm pretty sure these comments are not meant to be taken at face value, Kimchibytes.

Roboseyo said...

Again, perfectly insular:

"I don't believe such a thing actually exists. In fact, I know it, and don't ask me how I know it, because you just wouldn't understand!"



You prove your arguments with your premise. Your "reasoning" cannot be reasoned with, and such reasoning is the seed that sprouts into "please understand my unique culture" without the "please" and not even an empty appeal to "understand".


(Roboseyo, I appreciate that you are trying to maintain an orderly debate. I can leave personages out of it, but TK's argument is strictly about the person and not the argument.)

Roboseyo said...

I like your commentary even better than your articles!

Ah, I believe you're starting to see the light.

Roboseyo said...

Humility. I couldn't agree more.

Roboseyo said...

I can tell you that the Romanization theory is bunk, as the method itself has changed a lot and demonstrated to be faulty. Not only have Koreans themselves been alternating Hangeul pronunciations of P/Busan and more, but the Romanization that was employed doesn't demonstrate how the average user of American English visualizes those sounds. I'm talking about you "eo" "ui" and "oe." It's hard enough in Korean, but in ENGLISH it just doesn't doesn't work like that. As such, I love being inventive with my American-izing of sounds.

As far as "Good Experience vs Bad Experience" in the eyes of the average married expat... as an English teacher, I'm having the time of my life and my experience gets more positive as time goes on. But, because of the challenges of my mid 30's working wife, we feel an incredible amount of pressure from family and work (hers) to explore "a better life" back in the West. I try not to carry a pessimistic view of this country, but it's hard not to find her perspective very informative -- even if it's not the perspective others find most agreeable.

Roboseyo said...

Robert Mathew Adamson: "I would be surprised if I found out that The Korean was being sincere rather than satirical with his one-liner."

His post for an additional rule ("6. They're not Korean.") is so patently (and forgive me roboseyo because I lack any other word for it) ridiculous that a first time, second time, or even third time encounter with his posting such opinions leaves the reader thinking Kayfabe ala professional wrestling or a modest proposal to eat your children.

The problem is, of course, that he means it. Every thread I've ever engaged him in becomes more about him by him making it about everyone else. I would happily engage him in debating his opinion that only Koreans can understand Korea or Koreans, but as he's noted

"Insight" about Korea from a non-Korean? That's a mighty big assumption there, son. I don't believe such a thing actually exists. In fact, I know it, and don't ask me how I know it, because you just wouldn't understand!



(I particularly mind him referring to me as "son" for reasons that a non-native speaking, foreign born and reared naturalized American would not so easily understand.)


Note to the moderator: my post is germane to this thread. TK proposed his addendum "6. They're not Korean" and supported his argument by in essence writing they're not Korean.

Roboseyo said...

Also, does taking Gyopos into account have any effect on any of the above?

Roboseyo said...

Joe, you are responding to THe Korean's point 6 as if he were in absolute earnest, and all indications so far suggest he is not. He is clearly poking you because he knows how you will react, and I have asked him to desist for now.

Roboseyo said...

Roboseyo, have you been hacked?

I no longer think this poster is TK, and I am almost certain that I didn't write the following:
"I don't know why you don't just campaign against everyone who is not The_Korean to shut down his blog."

In fact, I distinctly remember writing "I don't know why you don't just campaign against everyone who is not Koreanto shut down his blog." (emphasis mine)



In fact, I remember precisely what I was thinking when I wrote it and wanted to emphasize the point that (the person purporting to be) TK thought that only Koreans could opine about Koreans.


In short, check this poster's IP. You know where TK should be and the time there is wrong for him to post now.

Roboseyo said...

I wrote another post, which seems to have disappeared, before your reply that I thought that this "The Korean" was not "The_Korean". Also, I wrote that I was sure that I did not write the following:
"I don't know why you don't just campaign against everyone who is not The_Korean to shut down his blog."

and rather had posted that "I don't know why you don't just campaign against everyone who is not Korean to shut down his blog." (emphasis mine) As I posted, I no longer think that "The Korean" is TK (aka, The_Korean) and asked you to verify.


In other words, I think he is spoofing, which is a cardinal sin on most of these blogs, and you've now acknowledge that he's trolling. All this on a closely moderated blog that requires all comments to go through moderation.


I'm new to posting on your board but not new to Korean message boards. Moderation with trolling and spoofing and disappearing posts? No thanks.

Roboseyo said...

I haven't really said much about Gyopos specifically in this post. Somebody else is probably a better candidate to write that article.

Roboseyo said...

I'm looking into it.


Turns out Disqus is a bit wonky (hence appearing/disappearing comments), and sometimes autocorrects words to the IDs of people participating in a conversation. Don't know if that's what happened to you, but...

Roboseyo said...

If someone wanted to impersonate me, they could have at least tried and use my profile pic too. F for effort.

Roboseyo said...

This is now confirmed to be the first comment on this thread by The Actual Korean. The others will be deleted or edited as necessary.

Roboseyo said...

I'll post and say,

Roboseyo said...

Korea's problem is that it thinks it needs to learn English more so than it actually does. The demand has created sources of supply that, at times, has quality issues. The fact that Korea, sometimes and particularly on the private side, doesn't want to pay for quality, doesn't help either.

The years of conversing with you at TMH I know you have your own reservations of that crowd too. I don't know why you are all of a sudden defending them. Btw, I wouldn't count you into that crowd.

There are many expats who are progressive, open minded and well educated too and have made tremendous contributions to the study of Korea and Koreans. Yes, even from the USFK. If you recall, we had a conversation about this, no?

http://www.rjkoehler.com/2011/05/19/making-early-korean-history-know-to-an-english-speaking-audience/

It isn't an exaggeration to say that expats to Korea from the anglosphere, be they from the armed forces or spending some time there to teach English, or originally there for business reasons, have created the basis of Korean Studies in the U.S. and other Western countries.

Roboseyo said...

yes...?

Roboseyo said...

I hate how Koreans will pronounce certain names the way the Romanized version looks as if it ought to sound, rather than the way they are actually pronounced. I'm looking at you 'Choi' (=/='Choy'!).

Roboseyo said...

If I may touch on #4. They refer to Koreans as if all Koreans share the same opinion on
issues, or talk about “Korea” as if it were a character in a drama.

Shame on people who generalize aye, like you've never done it? Koreans are some of the easiest people to generalize about. Most of them start out by saying the proverbial..."In Korea..." when talking about Korea because there are rules that you, me, and everyone else are expected to follow and as if to generalize how things ought to be done or how things simply are in Korea. One cannot differentiate, or prepare to suffer their wrath.

As an American I'd bet that when Koreans go to America they don't find any Americans talking to them by starting statements ..."In America...you must do this or...we hate Russians or Japanese people because..."

Of course they disagree about domestic matters(whoever said they didn't?) but most do not disagree about international or foreign issues, why would they, they don't like reading English where they might find differing opinions, they/most only read Korean news and don't like reading dissenting views anyway to why should they read English aye?

Can't forget about the mid to late 30 - 40 year old men who love the youngest Kpop stars and believe they're their Uncles.

Roboseyo said...

How can a fictional character be "impersonated"? You're not even making sense. "F" for Internet 101.

Roboseyo said...

http://www.vh1.com/celebrity/bwe/images/2011/03/james-van-der-beek-crying.gif

Roboseyo said...

It would be best to add university English teachers to this category as well in point number one. Are they not worse than our brothers and sisters who may work at a hagwon presently????? Is there a real difference?

Roboseyo said...

The bullet point says "taught English" not "taught at a hogwan."

Shall we go through every possible iteration of "I'm a X therefore I'm right" in order to say none of them work on their own, or can we just point out that appeal to source material is more credible than appeal to (sometimes spurious) authority, and leave it at that.

Roboseyo said...

I've done some reading about han. I had some idea of the concept before, though as an expat I haven't a visceral sense of it.

Some writers think that Han is inherent in nearly every aspect of Korean culture:
Han is frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent. (Dong-A 1982: 1975). Han is an inherent characteristic of the Korean character and as such finds expression, implied or explicit, in nearly every aspect of Korean life and culture.

Reference: Dong-A (1982). Dong-A's New Concise Korean-English Dictionary. Seoul: Dong-A Publishing Co., Ltd.

And this lifted from Wikipedia's entry on han:
The Korean poet Ko Eun describes the trait as universal to the Korean experience: "We Koreans were born from the womb of Han and brought up in the womb of Han."[6] Han connotes both despair at recognition of past injustice and acceptance of such matters as part of the Korean experience.

Reference: Yoo, Boo-wong (1988). Korean Pentecostalism: Its History and Theology. New York: Verlag Peter Lang. p. 222. ISBN 3-8204-1664-1.

Those are more credible testaments to the role of han in Korean culture than Roboseyo's.



(also posted at TMH)

Roboseyo said...

I'd be very interested to see some of what you've been reading about Han.


But between stuff poets have said, and the history of the use of the term, I'd take the latter.

Roboseyo said...

I've mentioned this on Marmot's Hole, but I would like suggest a no. 6: "Having a Huge Messiah Complex."

Roboseyo said...

If not for the fact 5 is a nice tidy, round number, something along the lines of "They Know Exactly What Korea Needs To Do To Become A Better Country" would probably have crept into a top ten list.


Along with "Is unremittingly negative, unremittingly positive, or unremittingly picks on any of the following: white expats, expats in general, expat men, expat women, GIs, English teachers, elderly Korean men, kyopos and other diasporic Koreans, people who don't speak Korean, Koreans born-and-raised in Korea, people who either only hang out in, or actively avoid Itaewon/HBC..." I could go on.

Roboseyo said...

Thank you.