Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dear Korean Journalists: You are Making Your Country Look Bad

I don't want to say anything about Yonhap News' latest piece of racist muckraking. But I have to.

However, it must be said that when racist garbage like Yonhap News' latest hit piece on English teachers comes out, people know. Koreans are not the only people who read Yonhap news, and even if most Koreans don't read what is written about Korea in English (why bother when I'm sure Naver has another essay up today about Korea's glorious four seasons), other people, in other countries want to learn about Korea, and when they find things like this: Yonhap: Unfit, Foulmouthed, Drunken English Teachers Running Rampant it doesn't matter how many Korean language articles there are to be found on Naver and Daum about the health benefits of Kimchi: English speakers still read mention of articles like this one, and frankly, here's the impression it gives:

Only a country full of racists would allow a media outlet to publish a piece as full of unchecked racism as this.

Now, this isn't necessarily true: we've all met a lot of Koreans who are super-cool, cosmopolitan, global-minded, who deplore such bald racism... but why aren't they storming down the doors of media outlets that publish this kind of yellow journalism, and demanding accountability... their silence reads as tacit approval, and Korea looks bad.

And Korea SHOULD look bad, until its media is roundly, and loudly criticized for playing on people's worst fears. Korea DESERVES to be embarrassed on the world stage, if it allows their media so much unchecked irresponsibilty. That's all.

Shame on you, Yonhap, and shame on every media outlet that publishes junk like this, and on every editor who approves it, and on every Korean who is silent while media outlets make their country look like some kind of racist backwater. Shame on all of you.

(Yeah. I'm mad. So?)

PS: let's not forget Korea's Foreign teachers are not the only ones who behave badly.
More here from Brian.
HT to Korea Beat.


Regina said...

You're just a whiney waegook! You just don't understand Korean culture. If you don't like it, go home! ;)

(...scurrying off to Korea Beat to read this one...)

JIW said...

My response from the Korea beat:
I read through the comments and agree fully that this situation isn’t really going to change with our written text words.

I say talk to your coteacher / Korean friends about this subject. Start giving them the perspective of what it is like for us to live and teach here. And it doesn’t have to happen over soju night either.

The best thing we can do is to try our best to educate and give insight to those on the other side. There are a lot of damn good teachers out there with no teaching credentials.

And why? Because they see the need for Koreans to learn English well and want to try their hardest to make that happen.

The day a newspaper writes an article about the English teacher who saved little Kim Shi Chan’s English speaking life may never come.

But if we can reach out to our coteachers and children and show them we are good people. Then the change can happen from within. And we can hope that Koreans have the ability to judge for themselves.


Whitey said...

Thanks for the good post.

Last summer, during the anti-beef protests, I asked my student's mom -- an intelligent, cosmopolitan, middle-aged Korean woman -- what she thought. She gave an eye roll, a sigh, and a "whatcha gonna do?" look.

I have often remembered her reaction. I think of it when I wonder why worldly Koreans like her don't speak out on stupid demonstrations -- or on lousy newspaper articles like this one, as you suggest. Then I realize that there is no point in her doing anything.

Why not? Because it's a society in which there is little give-and-take in conversation, little exchange of ideas, and little critical conversation that isn't interpreted as criticism. So one just has to bear it.

There doesn't seem any point in getting upset over it. It's a part of living in Korea.

I'll take it over being afraid to walk around in the city alone at night -- as is the case back home. Media nonsense is part of the tradeoff in living here, in other words.

No one whom I know thinks foreigners act as depicted in this article. I have to think that few others believe it. I console myself with that and move on.

I'd like to add that there is a media issue that bothers me more than newspaper articles about foreigners: The pressure on Korean women appearing in advertisements to present nothing other than an 애교 ("cutesy") image.

Kim Tae Hee and Moon Geun Young have to be more interesting than they look on TV. I saw a Moon Geun Young ad in the theatre the other day that had me grinding my teeth. And I don't blame her. It's the producers who cannot come up with another "concept."

Anonymous said...

Koreans don't write letters to the editor complaining about racist media coverage because they don't realize that these stories are either exaggerated or fabricated. Even if Koreans regard favorably English teachers they know personally, Koreans have been indoctrinated into believing stereotypes after ingesting so much media rubbish. If you're really serious about challenging media stereotypes, talk back in Korean on news threads, forums, or blogs. Cite statistics like the fact that no foreign national has been convicted of child molestation. Opposing comments left by foreigners in Korean forums usually attract a large number of xenophobic and racists trolls. However, if foreigners start making their voices heard in Korean, some Koreans may join the chorus.

pepper said...


The beef-protest was surely more than it should be (many think it was a sort of craziness or a feverish thing to project other emotions, indeed) but if you think it's simply about protesting against the gvn's decison to import beef from the States, you would never understand why all those Koreans went about it so strongly and seem-to-be-way-too long.

As far as I concern, regarding the fact that you wrote like this..

"it's a society in which there is little give-and-take in conversation, little exchange of ideas, and little critical conversation that isn't interpreted as criticism. So one just has to bear it."

I guess you don't read Korean or have little intrests to know what ordinary koreans do, how they share their thoughts, how criticism works among them and what the internet and activism have done to the society.

No, I'm not blaming you for not to have understood Koreans better and I totally agree with Roboseyo that Koreans are one of worst racists(and sexists as you implied in your posting) on the planet of Earth.

I'm not sure how many Koreans are aware of this Yonhop article or other things they do and believe even without thinking it might be a lie or just a part of the whole picture but I don't see it so badly to think it's hopeless society to have a sense.

Just like similar cases in other countries, human rights and minorities' struggles to be accepted as repectful members of the society, ignorant Koreans need to see themselves from others view.

It doesn't come automatically, of course. I've seen several movements and gatherings among foreigners to fight back the unjustice of all and some of them got help from Korean activists and organizations(i.e. south-east Asian blue-colour workers)and actually made some changes.

The effort to educate the ignorant has been started by ppl like you and other expats in Korea and I believe it wouldn't take a heck of time like similar histories in western society.

I wish I could show you brighter sides of all but I don't think it's important for you to see all sides. It's important for me and my people to see all sides and aspects.

P.s. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Roboseyo.

objets fabuleux said...

Hi roboseyo, thnx for all the great postings on here! I just discovered your blog and having a great time reading it..

Just responding on your question.. "but why aren't they storming down the doors of media outlets that publish this kind of yellow journalism, and demanding accountability..."

we are! oh we are.
please find the link below, scroll down and see the pictures.
you know Koreans are the one suffering from these trash Korean press most. And just speaking for myself, I truly, truly detest these Chosun/Joonang/DongA/Yonhap, these are 100% racists, and biased in the worst way. But please don't assume that all koreans are just swallowing what these racist press are ranting, unfiltered. You go to Daum Agora and you can see how many people are boycotting against these press. There are many boycotts going on in Korea against corporates running ads on these bad press, so you can't blame Koreans for not trying..

..and à Whitey, on what you said "Because it's a society in which there is little give-and-take in conversation, little exchange of ideas, and little critical conversation that isn't interpreted as criticism."!!!
phfuhh...the bad/trash/racist press is not entirely korean invention. It's universal, especially prevalent in countries with history of dictatorship. Korea does not have a long history of true democracy and these trash medias were always the dictator's favorite tool for stupifying the public, and I personally think these big newspapers have never spoken for people's interest. I mean people, korean or non-korean in general. And there are many Koreans who think like me, who just frown when they hear the name of these press and who can tell what's bullshit and what's not. sorry about the language but I don't know how else to describe it. What I'm trying to say is, the big press in Korea, it's not particularly and entirely because of Korean cultural defect(okay maybe some, but not all), but it has more to do with the bad journalism, with little or no history of justice from its birth. And it's maddening Koreans EVERY DAY TOO. We bitch about these trash press all the time.
In Italy, I don't think you'd describe Italy as a country "with little exchange of ideas," would you..but the whole broadcasting and the big press is owned by one man Berlusconi and that pig won the election despite of all his corruption, AGAIN. I sincerely don't know how many times he won so far. It's not because italians don't know how to "exchange ideas", it's just so hard to correct when things have very wrong start. (The hot potato Yonhap was started by the famous killer/dictator Jeon Doo Hwan. need to say more about its quality of information..?) And it does not mean there are no people fighting for the justice. Italians are trying, and Koreans are as well.

kissmykimchi said...

I agree with Joy. It's going to take one on one person to person contact, changing minds one at a time because how else can you stop a juggernaut like the media when your're already in a precarious position in the society?

They will only dismiss us as "foreigners" but when one of their own talks some sense into them after seeing firsthand how those stereotypes are false, well then maybe it will stick.

Still, how did their media outlets start out like that!

엘우드 said...

hi rob, it's my first time to visit your blog and i have to say this is a great work. im a student in his early 20's and i've only read few articles of yours

well, the point is that i can understand your opinions towards some newpapers and it did appear to me even if im korean, that the media things bring bad impressions on english teachers. actually there are alot to talk about this.
Honestly i am quite surprised to see some of threads and comments here and there. my concern is that not everyone thinks of them as it appears in the media although i really appreicate and encourage that someone is trying to make a positive change.

Foreigner Joy made good points as some others below. i think people in general are lacking in integrating with others and it can be shown to be narrow-minded or racism behind. But, there will be more people to find the bright side. so lets give them some time, i believe this small thing can make changes though.

on the other side, From my experience to lving in australia for 3 years, i have found out that there certainly is a prejudice about races or physical apperances here as well. also in this case, western media may be one initially bringing this issue, well it can be applied with any kind of jokes or exaggerated information on particular countries. i find some comments are very interesting because there may already be a prejudice about koreans and its culture; once again, i'd rather appreciate all of you who don't have to care about all this and having living experiences there.

this become very long in the end but all i wanted to say is that whatever already happened is giving its reflection and everyone needs to see more of individualism not necessarily getting negative stereotyped images. well ive only lived 3 years of my life in foreign countries and my mind certainly has changed...