August 11, 2015

Of Bitterness and Self-Hatred: Jacquelyn Chappel's Korean American "Story"

Growing up, my mother did not teach my sister and me about Korea. 
She did not teach us Korean. She did not feed us Korean food, and by middle school, my sister and I balked at her stinky jars of kimchee.
“Do you have to eat that stuff?” we complained as we ate our Apple Jacks or spaghetti with Prego.
My sister and I each had a hanbok for our elementary school’s “World Culture” day, but aside from such token attempts to acknowledge our culture, my mother made no effort to pass on any kind of heritage. She wanted her daughters to be good little Americans.
I took ballet, grew up reading Judy Blume and Nancy Drew, ate Rocky Road ice cream and Taco Bell, and watched American movies (though we had to walk out on Gremlins because my mother found it too offensive). The standard of beauty were Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith. There was no K-pop as far I can remember and even if it had been around, I doubt I would have liked it. I maintained a flaming hot crush on Ricky Shroeder and, eventually, two blonde-haired blue-eyed boys.
This mindset no doubt came from my mother’s own complicated relationship to her country.
Having been raised a girl in a small town of a poor, war-torn country, my mother had little hope of making it in the world. That South Korea made no apologies about being patriarchal only sealed the deal in terms of her wanting to leave. My mother grew up doing all the household errands, making runs to the local well for the family’s washing and dinner, while her brothers were given time to study. My mother received a ninth grade education, the end of the line for girls in her town, and thereafter received no more formal education in Korea, a great loss for my mother who loved school.
As she and her sisters grew older, the girls were the ones who found gainful employment and paid the tuitions for their brothers to attend the finest universities. The idea was that these brothers would eventually give back to their sisters when their sisters needed help, but that’s not the way it worked out. One brother took his prestigious Seoul University degree and went back to their small hometown to become an anchovy fisherman. None of the brothers, I’m told, ever paid the sisters back. The boys in the family, not surprisingly, stayed in the country while the sisters ended up immigrating to America.
In response to the oppressive patriarchal expectations imposed on her in Korea, my mother fully embraced the seductive images of America that came in the form of Audrey Hepburn starring in Roman Holiday and the good looking Charleton Heston in Ben Hur. The movies she watched at the Yongsan army base where she worked taught my mother that America was a great and powerful country filled with beautiful people. The girls were cute and peppy and seemed to command power over their men. The men, dashing and worldly, fought for good.
My mother worked at the EM club. Here she was: a small town girl from a little-known country hobnobbing with high-ranking military officers. She had somehow gained entry to an American military base with its slick asphalt roads and oversized sense of space. All of it, from the canned soup and Hershey’s chocolate bars to the military vehicles cruising around the base, was indubitably superior to South Korea, then just a couple years older than she was.
One day, the gatekeeper at Yongsan asked her out. He had been eyeing her for some time, and my mother, twenty-something, dressed to impress and not betraying any of her poor, rural ways, snagged up what she believed was the best of the best. In his impressive uniform, he looked “so clean cut,” my mother said. “Very handsome.” They married, without being able to fully communicate, and it was only after she moved to America that she saw her husband for what he was.
“So lajy,” she told me more than once, emphasizing the “so” with a guttural vibration of her epiglottis. They divorced soon after coming to America, and my mother began a single-life in Hawaii, where a small community of Koreans had resided since 1919, when Syngman Rhee, the future President of the ROK, sought asylum after a failed coup.
The number of Koreans in Hawaii, however, came nowhere close the number of Japanese in the islands. Whereas the Japanese had been coming to Hawaii as plantation workers since the mid-1800s, establishing their roots and burgeoning in number, the Koreans in the 1990s, according to one census report I saw, comprised just 1% of the population of Hawaii. Whereas the Japanese had been taking up leadership positions in finance, education, and government, with prominent figures such as Daniel Inouye and Patsy Mink becoming the first Asian Americans in the Senate, “Korea” was a foreign and little-known place. It might well have been Uzbekistan. Despite the proliferation of Asians in Hawaii, Koreans were nevertheless a minority.

Jacquelyn as a child with her mother
As a result, growing up Korean, I felt shame for my heritage. My mother was an immigrant single-mother who knew nothing about Hawaii or America. She had an accent and didn’t understand the nightly news. On the hand-made sign she hung on the door of her dress shop, she wrote simply, “Close.” Recognizing, even as a 5th grader, that this was wrong, I did not hesitate to fix it, adding a little “d” to the end, which I thought made it unquestionably better. I questioned my mother on everything and had little respect for her, though she managed a successful dress shop for most of my childhood. My mother dressed funny, talked funny. She was superstitious and didn’t know how to secure a good husband.
Occasionally, friends of hers would come into the dress shop and they would gossip for hours about I don’t know what. Some of the women, unemployed but married, me that one day I would want to have a child. I rolled my eyes at them and assured them I would never want to have a child. Some of my mother’s friends were single bar maids who wore gold leopard leotards and open-toed stilettos. None of the women were beautiful, as far as I could tell, and they did not seem to be doing anything respectable with their lives. Being Korean, I learned, meant being uneducated and vulgar. And I wanted no part of that. As it turned out, in running her own business, my mother was the one doing something respectable with her life but I didn’t realize this at the time.
Some of the adolescent rejection of my mother was normal, just part of the course of the next generation staking out its values and style, but part of the rejection was a rejection of Korea. My dislike of my mother was an extension of my dislike of Korea, and I remain a great critic of my mother’s home country.
Korea continues to be a homogeneous, superficial, status-oriented, insecure, patriarchal society. It is a country where teenage girls routinely get plastic surgery for their eyelids and where schools put up mirrors in the hallways so girls will feel bad about their body and hopefully, eat less. It is a country where parents spend as much as $100,000 to stretch their children out so they will be taller by an inch or two. They do this because they know that being taller and more attractive will mean getting a higher paying job, and in the end that’s all that matters. It is a country where college admissions directors, when faced with two equally qualified candidates, will resort to the picture to decide who is better looking. It is a country where, for many years, boys lost their virginity to prostitutes once they completed their three-year military service. It is a country that frantically built up its infrastructure in preparation for the Olympics in the 1990s, building impressive symbols of civilization that were not up to code. It is a nation with a tragic history of colonization that has for several decades been trying to prove something no matter the cost. 
I suspect I inherited this critical attitude of Korea from my mother who herself rejected her home country. Having left Korea to marry a white man, my mother was one of many Korean women taken in by the image of the great United States only to find herself alone later in life. She had been lured by the old myth of America as the land of opportunity, and for a time, it was, but when her luck ran out, she found herself a single mother, oceans away from the family and country that knew her. Hers is a tale of many women, victims of Korea’s patriarchy and history of colonization.
This site is a place to share one's Korean American experience and thus, help others to understand their own , but I do not see a lot of understanding in this story. There is a lot of ignorance and judgment fueled by the author's own bitterness toward her own Korean-American identity. This is most evident in the way she unfairly and caustically compares Korea to America and the Korean community in Hawaii to the local Japanese community. The comparisons do not help when they are not supported by the proper use of quotation marks. "Stinky jars of kimchee", "good little Americans",  "indubitably superior to South Korea" as well as "Korea" all lack or misuse quotation marks. This is surprising given the fact that the author represents herself as a "Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Hawaii", so she should have a good grasp of English grammar. It is interesting that the author would put quotation marks around "Korea" when that is a verifiable entity yet she fails to use quotation marks around "stinky", "good", and "superior", all adjectives conveying her judgment on these things rather than undisputable facts. This shows that she is too caught up in her own bitterness toward Korea to assess it objectively.  This is further illustrated throughout the rest of her story by these comments and others:

"All of it, from the canned soup and Hershey's chocolate bars to the military vehicles cruising around the base, was indubitably superior to South Korea, then just a couple years older than she was."

In this comment, she is saying that America is undoubtedly superior to South Korea, rubbing in the fact that it was "just a couple years older than she [her mother] was" at the time. What she fails to recognize is that Korea the civilization is thousands of years old and the "superior" U.S. played a major part in dividing the country into north and south. Using canned soup and Hershey bars as evidence of American superiority is comical at best.

The author's comparison of the Korean community in Hawaii to the local Japanese community in the following paragraph further highlights her disdain of the Korean community:

The number of Koreans in Hawaii, however, came nowhere close the number of Japanese in the islands. Whereas the Japanese had been coming to Hawaii as plantation workers since the mid-1800s, establishing their roots and burgeoning in number, the Koreans in the 1990s, according to one census report I saw, comprised just 1% of the population of Hawaii. Whereas the Japanese had been taking up leadership positions in finance, education, and government, with prominent figures such as Daniel Inouye and Patsy Mink becoming the first Asian Americans in the Senate, Korea was a foreign and little-known place. It might well have been Uzbekistan. Despite the proliferation of Asians in Hawaii, Koreans were nevertheless a minority.

So according to the author, the Japanese community was superior because it had established itself earlier and were a "burgeoning minority" with "leadership positions in finance, education, and government" whereas Korea "might as well have been Uzbekistan". I really don't think this kind of slur is necessary and it further compounds the author's bitterness toward her Korean heritage.

It is ironic that the author judges her mother's friends for not being beautiful as well as "wearing gold leopard leotards and open-toed stilettos." "None of the women were beautiful, as far as I could tell, and they did not seem to be doing anything respectable with their lives." But in the next paragraph, she chides Korea for being a "homogeneous, superficial, status-oriented, insecure, patriarchal society".  She judges Koreans for being vain and getting plastic surgery yet not recognizing her own superficial judgments toward her mother's friends and their appearance. The criticisms she has of Korea are exaggerated and pretty unfounded. Most Koreans do not get plastic surgery and a lot of Koreans are tall naturally. Schools do not put mirrors in the hallway to make girls eat less. As far as the rest of the paragraph, she continues to project her own insecurities and bitterness toward  her Korean heritage onto Korea. She needs to do a lot more research on the job market, college admissions, as well as army society as well as check her own biases to make any valid statements about them. Korea may have patriarchal elements, but she cannot blame the whole country for her mother's family history. That is something that is specific to her family and for which, Korea should not be blamed. As an academic, I would have expected her to be more responsible and intellectually honest. The issue is not Korea, but the author's inability to deal with her identity and past in a mature and honest way. 

December 31, 2014

Superstar K and Rabid Nationalism

It gets so tiring after a while browsing Korean videos, noticing the number of comments attacking Korean celebrities and people in general as "plastic" or "fake" when the video has nothing to do with beauty or appearance. I noticed this after watching a number of videos about a Filipino girl group called "Mica" who were featured on Superstar K. This group did not make it to the final round, so there were a number of comments from largely Filipino viewers that it was due to discrimination for being non-Korean as well as for not being "fake" like Korean stars, both of which are preposterous if you recognized the talent that was displayed on that show. I don't know of any contestant on that show that had plastic surgery and I will not assume that someone has had plastic surgery just because they are beautiful. That is offensive and degrading. Unless there are obvious surgical scars or you have seen before pictures that contradict this, you really can't say that. There were a lot of average and natural looking Koreans who made it further, so the claims about favoring "plastic" contestants were unsubstantiated. And the notion that the Filipina group was discriminated against for being non-Korean was unfounded as well. I thought the judges and the show in general were pretty generous with how far they let this group go into the competition, considering the fact that they were kind of awkward in their stage presence, messed up the pronunciation of Korean songs, and over sang a lot. Being a talented performer is not about showing off and belting as much as you can, but knowing when to pull back and be subtle. They also could have worked on their presentation because the way they dressed was a bit shabby. The other contestants didn't wear flashy clothes necessarily, but they were clean cut and presentable. Perhaps it was a budgetary problem, but they could have done a better job without spending a lot of money. As a performer, you need to take responsibility for how you present yourself, including how you dress. There were people who have shown up for Superstar K in t-shirts and blue jeans, but they were clean and presentable, so money is not the issue. I was amazed at how un-objective some viewers were in evaluating their performances just because they were from the same country as the singers. If those girls had gone to a non-Korean country, they probably wouldn't have gotten translators to help them through the competition. I believe that they were given a lot of accommodation by the judges and the show in general despite the fact that the producers would not make a lot of money from having them on the show as Superstar K does not really broadcast in the Philippines, so there would not be much revenue from that audience. Some Filipino viewers were a bit culturally chauvinistic, saying that the show should just name those girls the winner after their first appearance, never considering that it's a talent competition and a show that needs to create revenue. National ego does not supersede the fact that Superstar K is a business that people rely on for work and revenue. There are other contestants in the competition that deserve a chance and your desire to have a fellow countryman be named the winner does not negate any of that. It is a bit self-serving and arrogant as if to say, "Korea, you should bow down to the talent of these Filipinas because they are better than any of the Korean and other contestants will be."

It's ironic that people can be this nationalistic because these women, formerly known as the Gollayan Sisters, have been on talent shows in their home country, the Philippines, and yet they only went so far there despite having won a number of singing competitions in their home country like "It's Showtime" (ABS-CBN News). They went pretty far on Superstar-K, a Korean show, given their performances, yet some viewers are criticizing that show and Korea in general for not giving them a place further in the competition. Superstar-K did not have to accept these contestants into the competition. The show did not have to hire a translator to assist them during the competition. The judges did not have to be so generous with them. But the show was generous and yet that is not acknowledged by these nationalistic commenters because the only acceptable outcome would be having those Filipina women win the competition. If you want your singers to go far, why not take responsibility for that in the Philippines instead of blaming Korea for not giving them the chance? If the Filipino record industry cannot recognize their talent, why should Korea? The competition was actually too generous to those women because objectively, they did not perform as well as the other contestants. There was a lot of victim-whining on the part of some commenters, saying that the Korean judges should give those women more time to learn how to sing in Korean. This is a Korean singing competition, so it should be a given that you should know how to sing Korean well. Actually, there were other foreign contestants on Superstar K that sang much better than these Filipina girls, but they were eliminated much earlier, like Greg from the U.S. and a Muslim Indonesian singer. I don't know if they were on the same season, but they were eliminated much earlier than this girl group. I believe that they did not get as far as these women because they did not have much of a sympathy card due to the fact that they were a little older and came off as more strong and independent and better off. Those Filipina girls were barely in adulthood and gave a more sympathetic image due to their youth and hard luck image. You can't deny the importance of a profound personal story in the context of reality television. So despite the claims of discrimination and unfairness, I would have to disagree with the nationalistic commenters and say that the group was given a lot of favor despite their lackluster performances.

As a side note, Jessica Sanchez, the Filipina-Mexican American singer who was a finalist on American Idol performed much more skillfully than Mica. However, even after Phillip Phillips won instead of her, I did not notice as many negative comments about America besides the observation that it was due to race that she was not chosen as the winner. I would have to agree with that assessment as the talent level between her and the other contestant was large. She also belted too much in the beginning, but took P. Diddy's advice about holding back and she followed through with that. Mica also got a similar note from an established Korean female singer, yet they continued to belt, showing that they were not willing to learn and work on themselves. It's not just about having potential, but knowing how to realize it. That is something that those girls need to learn. Conversely, John Park did not get as far on American Idol, yet you did not hear racist or offensive comments from Koreans regarding that because objectively, he was not the best performer in the group despite being a great singer. I really don't know who it serves to respond so immaturely to such outcomes, fair or not. It's being part of the problem instead of working toward a solution. I was pretty disappointed and amazed that people could be that racist, petty, and immature.

So You Want to Marry a Korean

Reading a number of comments, it surprises me how naïve some people can be regarding this issue. You can see this on a number of Korea-related sites like blogs or videos on Youtube, etc. On one hand, you have the female Kpop or Korean drama fans who want to marry a Korean because they think that he will be like someone from a drama or look like a Kpop star, the latter actually being more realistic than the former. On the other hand, you have these foreign guys who want to marry Korean women because of what they see in those mediums as well as stereotypes they have about Korean women. Regardless of the images they have about Koreans, they will be somewhat moderated by actual experiences dating them. I say "somewhat" because even after dating, there are lingering assumptions that continue unless they are dispelled beforehand either through experience or dialogue. In order for that to happen, people need to realize what they really want out of a marriage and discuss that before getting serious. I find that people who are not Korean, yet are looking specifically to marry a Korean have a bit of a shopper's mentality, being consumeristic, looking to see what they can get out of the relationship rather than recognizing it for the responsibility and commitment that it is. Because there is an underlying assumption that they will get this fantasy marriage and everything will be great, but how are they going to make that happen when they don't really know what they want and what they need to do to create it?

There is a reason a lot of Korean parents object to their children marrying out of the culture. Because they believe that there will be a cultural gap between themselves and their child's spouse. Like every culture, Koreans have an idea of what a proper husband or wife is, what a proper marriage is, and what a proper mother/father is. And these ideas are shaped by the culture, so it is natural to expect that if you are from a different culture, that you will have at least somewhat different ideas about what those things are. There is a way to relate to parents that may be different from culture to culture. In Korea, the wife has a greater responsibility to care for her in-laws than in the West. This can take various forms, but generally more would be asked of a daughter-in-law in Korea than the son or daughter. The son would be relied upon for financial support, but more care would be required of the daughter-in-law.  The daughter, if she was married, would generally not be asked for much support as she would have her own husband, in-laws, and children to tend to. In the West, parents usually rely on their children first before getting help from their daughter-in-law as they have less of a responsibility. Of course, it varies from family to family, but generally children are relied upon first before asking sons and daughters-in-law for additional support. Non-Korean wives might be taken aback by the amount of responsibility required by their Korean in-laws. This might be minimal in the case of couples who live separately from the husband's parents or it may require more effort if the couple lives with the parents in addition to celebrating je-sa (ancestral worship).

I know of a Korean movie actress who lived in the U.S. with her husband, son and his American wife along with their daughter. Never have I seen a Korean woman so angry on a show. This woman was livid because her daughter was not Korean and so unfamiliar with a lot of Korean customs, naturally. The setup they had was that the Korean woman cooked for the family instead of her American daughter-in-law. I could understand why she chose to do that, probably because her daughter-in-law did not know how to cook Korean meals. On the other hand, I could not understand why she did not choose to teach her American daughter-in-law how to do so. At that time, the granddaughter was about four years old, so there should have been plenty of time for her to teach her daughter-in-law by then. Instead, the actress was so angry because she felt so burdened by the responsibility of cooking the family meals when she should have been relaxing as the mother-in-law. It was a very awkward situation as she did not really acknowledge her daughter-in-law and there was a lot of hostility displayed as she prepared the meals. Of course, if a mother-in-law has to spend a lot of time teaching her daughter-in-law how to do a good job, that is considered a failure because the daughter-in-law should come prepared to take on that role before she gets married. If you are not Korean, you probably aren't going to get that information because it is something that Korean mothers pass on to their daughters. That is why you see much less marriages between Korean men and foreign women. Daughters-in-law are too much of an integral part of the family that if your son marries the wrong woman, then it really disrupts the family order. As a daughter-in-law, you have to know how to attend to your in-laws, the extended family, as well as deal with friends of your husband and in-laws, most of whom will probably be Korean. If your child is brought up in Korea, you have to know how to be an education manager and deal with the Korean school system because that is what your child will need to master if they are to have a good future.

If you are a son-in-law, you will not be expected to be an education manager, as women are generally given the responsibility of primary caregiver for children. You will, however, be expected to be a good provider. Most of the foreigners that are in Korea are in the military or English teachers, both of which do not have a great reputation in Korea. They're generally not lucrative positions with a few exceptions and they do not have a good status due to bad behavior on the part of some in those groups. Obviously, there are Korean women who marry some of these men, but not necessarily with great support from their families. I've seen a lot of posts citing the advantages that foreign men have over Korean ones and I can't really say that I agree with them because they are generally based on false stereotypes of Korean men as being more sexist and too traditional.  I would generally agree that Korean men are more traditional than Western men, but I don't think that necessarily has to mean more sexist. There are a lot of young Korean men who do help out with childcare and chores when both spouses work. In traditional households, there is a delegation of responsibility where the man is considered the provider whereas the woman is considered the homemaker. I don't see one role as lesser, but just different. There have been comments about how foreign men are more accepting of heavier women, but I have seen plump women get married to Koreans. Korean men do prefer a thinner standard than Western men, but that is just one consideration and not a deal breaker overall. Marrying a foreign man would give a Korean woman the opportunity to immigrate overseas, but what a petty reason to marry anyone. It's not like there are no other ways to immigrate besides marriage and to be frank, I don't think anyone wants to be used as a green card. Those marriages tend not to last. Marrying a foreign man would relieve the Korean woman from having to take care of the in-laws, but at the same time, would you really want to marry someone who was not willing to help out with your family? The reasons presented by some foreign men about how they are much better matches do not really add up because they are neglecting the fact that the Korean woman is going to have to give up something in the process. She may get all the benefits stated above. At the same time, she is giving up the prospect of someone who is going to understand her culture and her family in a way that is difficult if you are not raised in the Korean culture. She's going to have to explain a lot of things and her husband may or may not get it based on his willingness to understand and learn. For too many foreign men, being foreign is enough to be a good husband because of all the "advantages" they confer on their Korean wife. But they fail to recognize that there is going to be a sacrifice in the process on the part of the Korean woman. The same can be said of any couple in an intercultural marriage.

Marriage requires commitment and work. You need to make sure that you are on board in regards to children, family, finances, religion, etc. It's not just about feeling good about spending time with the other person. It's about taking responsibility so that you can be there as much as you need to be for the other person. It's not about how much you can get, but how much you are willing to give in the relationship. And that is what will determine whether your marriage will work out or not. So what people really need to understand is what they really want out of a marriage and whether they can help their partner out as well. Otherwise, they are just going to waste time and be disappointed in the end. If you marry someone from another culture, it's going to be different perhaps in a way that you don't like, so do your homework and make sure that you know what you are getting into because marriage is very different from dating. It's a responsibility.

The mixed couples who tend to do the best are ones where they did not seek to marry a partner of a specific ethnicity, but through happenstance found one another. Because it is ultimately about the other person's character and understanding and if you are stuck on a label, than you are just missing the whole point. If you are going to marry someone of another culture, you better do your homework and part of that is learning enough about your partner's culture to understand where they are coming from. They have only spent twenty plus years growing up and being part of that culture, so it is a big part of who they are. I really don't understand some foreign people (usually men) who do not make the effort to understand their partner's culture. It's like they are saying that the only thing that matters in the relationship is what they can get from it. That is not a formula for a great marriage and a big part of the reason why some mixed marriages do not last, because either people do not know what they are getting into or they are not willing to do the work necessary to make their marriage great. Learning about another culture is an education and a commitment, so Korean and other parents from cultures where marrying within the culture is strongly emphasized, are not being racist, but realistic and practical. It's all about understanding and if you are too self-centered to bother about it, then don't expect your Korean partner's parents to receive you warmly. That's why a lot of Koreans prefer to marry someone Korean because they want to be sure that they will be with someone who understands and respects the Korean culture. They don't have to go through the hassle of vetting out whether someone is truly committed to understanding or not. Yes, I am sure there are Koreans who are disrespectful or disinterested in the culture and good luck if you seek to lower yourself to that standard. If you want to marry someone, I would think that you would want to bring your best self to the relationship instead of getting away with being as jerky as you can. If you really want to marry a Korean person, you should make sure that you are going to be as great of a partner as a Korean could be. That's showing the same commitment to understanding and respecting the culture as an ideal Korean partner would. If you're not willing to do the work or take on that commitment, why even marry?

Ultimately, marriage is a responsibility. Some foreigners seem to think that it means that they will just continue the same experiences they had when they dated their partner. To a point, yes, but marriage is a different ball game and if you expect it to be exactly the same as when dating, you are headed for a mountain of trouble. The responsibilities expected of a partner in a Korean marriage are different from a Western one, especially in regards to care of in-laws. That's why you need to understand the culture so that you can understand your partner and his/her family more. If you're not willing to do that, I seriously question how ready you are for marriage to anyone, period. 

December 22, 2014

Simon and Martina and the Problem With User Created Authority

Edited 12/25 - See bolded part of 4th and 5th paragraph.

There is a danger to the user created authority generated by popularity on social media. This is evident in the case of Simon and Martina, two Canadian English teachers living in South Korea who have gained quite a following on Youtube to the point where they have been deferred to as an authority for all things Korean and Kpop by many viewers and unexpectedly, the media like Al Jazeera. It is an unfortunate turn of events as they really do not have the authority to speak as experts on such matters, lacking the requisite language skills or understanding of Korean history or culture that comes from critical analysis, formal education, or experience. I am aware of this because they have posted that they feel like it is enough to learn enough Korean to get around and enjoy life there, but that they are not really focused on being fluent. So I was taken aback recently after watching a video of them talking about single mothers in Korea. I thought they generally focused on Kpop and their own reflections about living as foreigners in Korea, but when you talk about major social issues, there is an extra onus of responsibility. You're still responsible for whatever you write, but you should take extra care when writing things about a society because they are major statements that people might take literally. It's not just rambling about your opinions, but asserting a "fact" and that does affect a lot of people.

In their video, they make a number of assertions that are false and unfounded. The most basic being that there is no term for single mother in Korean. There is. It's '미혼모' , which translates to 'unwed mother', a woman who has had a child out of wedlock, not a mother who becomes single through divorce or widowhood. For the purposes of this post, I will focus on single mothers as it is used in the Korean context, which is women who bear children out of wedlock. They mention that when Koreans do talk about single mothers, that they only use the English term. They deduce that it is due to the fact that no such term exists in Korean. What they fail to recognize is that perhaps Koreans do not use it as much because there is less of a stigma to the term "single mother", being that it is an English term which is not connected to the past when Koreans had a less favorable view of the phenomenon. Based on the limited information and interaction they have had with Korean single mothers, one Korean single mother, Simon and Martina drew a false conclusion. This happens quite a lot in the ESL blogosphere because you have a group of people who are drawing upon an incomplete set of information about Korea due to their lack of social contacts, language skills, and understanding of the Korean culture. I recall reading a similar post by a female Canadian expat who claimed that Korean culture did not expect Korean men to be good providers for their families and it was only the influence of their individual families and NOT Korean culture that made Korean men good providers. This really made me scratch my head as the breadwinner role is a strong expectation placed on Korean men, much greater than in the U.S. or other Western countries where house husbands are more accepted. This Canadian woman had the experience of dealing with a Korean husband who did not do his part to support their family, so she mistakenly assumed that it was a common practice in Korean culture. That is why it's so important to study and understand another culture if you want to interpret it correctly. Otherwise, you are just projecting your own cultural models and going off on limited and incorrect information.

To truly understand the plight of single mothers in Korea, you would have to have a basic grasp of sociology, Korean history, and know enough of the Korean language to interact with the right people who would be able to direct you to the right resources. Simon and Martina are not in this position. They are English teachers with an interest in Kpop who have lived in Korea for a few years. You can live in a country for 20 years and still not know much about the language or culture.  They may be able to share their individual experiences as foreigners living and working in Korea, but they cannot share an educated or informed opinion about the country because they don't really have the skills to do so. They are basing their opinions on limited interactions with Korean single mothers and Korean society in general. As foreign English teachers living in Korea, they aren't going to get the full Korean experience because they are so sheltered. The people they work with speak some English or there is at least one person around to help them in English. In Korea, foreigners are not really expected to know much Korean or that much about Korean culture, so they are given a lot of accommodation that Koreans would not normally get. They are getting the filtered down experience that foreigners who don't make enough of an effort to learn the language or culture to great fluency do. Because when you don't take time to understand a language or culture, you tend to impose your own constructs of them based on your home culture or language, essentially projecting a Western view on a Korean phenomenon. Just because you have a hammer does not mean that everything needs to be pounded. A hammer is not right for everything as an understanding of North American culture does not always translate to understanding Korean or other cultures. There's a different tool kit required and until you learn the language and culture properly, you're just not going to have it.

A lot of Koreans look down on unwed mothers because they are not considered respectable. The view is that if you were a proper lady, you would wait until marriage to have sex. In North America, waiting until marriage is largely considered prudish or, at the very least, unnecessary outside of a few circles. You can still be considered a respectable woman even after having had multiple sexual partners, but of course, there are exceptions. Generally, it is considered par for the course in relationship and dating life. In Korea, that is generally not the case. Waiting for marriage is the proper thing to do and if you don't, then you are not respectable, you were not raised properly, you do not have the right values. Because Korea is a more traditional and conservative society, that is the prevailing attitude. I do believe that there is discrimination against single mothers in Korea, but I really disagree with what Simon and Martin said as well as how they said it. Because they do not present a balanced view of things and are making a lot of ignorant assumptions about Korean society. They say that the lack of social services is a reflection of the prejudice toward single mothers in Korea. Perhaps, in part. But ultimately, it is reflective of the social welfare system in Korea. In Korea, people are expected to take care of their families, including their aging parents. By "aging parents", I do not mean people who are in their fifties or sixties. By "aging", I mean people who are in their seventies and eighties, who probably need assistance with driving, etc. Yes, they are both aging, but the distinction is that one group can be independent, while the other group needs caregiving support. There are a lot of young couples nowadays who live separately from the husband's parents. In more traditional families, however, couples are generally expected to live and take care of the husband's parents if the husband is the eldest or the only son.In America, the expectation is that you take care of your children until 18, but it really is up to the individual whether they will go beyond that. It's nice to take care of your parents, but there is not as much of a stigma as there is in more traditional societies to put them up in care facilities. Koreans also have facilities for the elderly, but it is generally expected that if you are able to do so, you should take on the care of your aging parents. The Korean government is interested in cutting out any unnecessary spending, so why should they spend as much on an expense that is not as necessary as in Western countries who have a different social structure? I'm not saying that the Korean government should not increase its welfare spending. What I am saying is that it has not been a priority until now because social welfare has largely been the responsibility of an individual's family in Korea. In the U.S., the government has to take on a greater burden for the social support of individuals because the nuclear family is not as prevalent. There does need to be a balance in recognizing that not every one has a supportive family that can help them. But excessive social welfare is not the answer.

Simon and Martina believe that the Korean government should provide support to single mothers. I will disagree in part. Ultimately, it is the parents job to provide for their children. I understand the government's reluctance to increase social welfare spending for single mothers as opposed to providing support for two-parent families who have children. Single motherhood is not something that should be encouraged. I'm not saying that women want to have babies so that they can get government support. I truly do not believe that people want to be on welfare, but that they go on it because they don't know how to get out of it. Welfare needs to exist because sometimes, people do fall on hard times despite their best efforts and there does need to be a social safety net to support people. However, the lax attitude toward premarital sex and children born out of wedlock in the U.S. has led to the alarming rate of roughly half of all first-born children in the U.S. being born to single mothers this year (CBS News). You can blame a lack of birth control for some of that statistic, but a large part of it has to do with the social acceptability of cohabitation before marriage as well as the idea that it is acceptable to have a child without being married first. Birth control is not 100% effective. Even if it is 99% effective, I doubt that would be great comfort to anyone who is part of the 1%. There are too many people that believe that a child should not be a consideration when deciding to marry their partner. If you are not compatible, then you are not compatible and that is what needs to be recognized. At the same time, there is a responsibility to the child to do your best to give them a two-parent, stable household. The role of a mother and father are equally important and it is in the best interests of the child to be given that when possible. The statistics are also inflated due to gay couples and single women choosing to have children on their own through artificial methods. In the case of the former, of course, they're not going to be married because gay marriage has not been legalized in most states. In the case of the latter, I disagree with the prospect. It is best for children to grow up in a stable, two-parent home. I believe in a compassionate government that emphasizes personal responsibility, but if there is too much support, the burden is taken away from fathers to support their children from divorce. I believe that there needs to be stronger enforcement for getting child support from deadbeat dads and that is something I agree with in the video. Is there discrimination against single mothers in Korea? Yes, but they make it seem like all single mothers are discriminated against. But I will have to take Simon and Martina to task for a lot of their unfounded assumptions.

They make a lot of mistaken assumptions about Korea for various reasons:

  1. They are not critical thinkers. I got that the first time that I saw their videos. They mean well, but they simply look at the world in too naïve and simple of a lens. They don't know how to discern information properly. They lack the ability for critical inductive and deductive reasoning. For one thing, they say that there is no stigma against deadbeat fathers in South Korea. That is not true. There is. I don't know of any Korean who would approve of a man not paying child support or taking care of his own children. But no one is going to announce to the world that they are a single father so that other people could gossip about him. Where would Simon and Martina or anyone hear about this unless they personally knew a deadbeat father? The only way they would hear it is through idle gossip, which his baby mama, her family, his family, and their friends are probably not going to do considering the stigma of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. It's easy to hide the fact that you are a deadbeat father, but not so much if you are a single woman with a child living with you. Those are simply the facts. Are there people in Korea who might not care? Sure, but that doesn't mean that deadbeat fatherhood is universally accepted in Korea without consequences.

  1. They don't know enough Korean to know what is being said out there in Korean media and society. They have posted that they have no desire to be fluent, but just know enough to get around and enjoy their life in Korea. This is very different from having enough Korean skill to read the media and understand sociological reports and studies. They are mainly getting their information from Korean news in English and from their own Korean friends, both of which are limited sources. The Korean news in English is filtered to the interests of foreigners. Individual stories from friends are not representative of the whole.

  1. They lack a nuanced understanding of the world. They want the world to fit into their lens of convenience. The world cannot be reduced to sound bites. If you are truly committed to understanding, you won't stop until you get it. They're a bit too reductive in the way they try to understand the world and Korea. One does not have to have a PhD. in ethnic studies to understand the impact of racism. Nor does one need a PhD. in Korean studies to understand Korea, but one does need to approach things with a critical mind.

If you are going to write something, be intelligent about it. Do your research. Truly understand whether you are going to have the skills to understand what you are talking about. If you say something ill-informed, it is your responsibility to correct that. People need to be more critical about what they choose to put out. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from responsibility. If you truly want to inform the world, you need to be committed to understanding otherwise you are just going to spout out a lot of ignorant nonsense and end up doing a lot of damage. I don't understand people who say whatever is on their mind without any consideration for how it impacts their audience. If you want your words to mean something, act like it and take responsibility. Unfortunately, too many people are unconscious and just believe anything that comes to mind. Simon and Martina are well-meaning, but they do a lot of damage by posting such ill-informed videos on Korea. It's not just about wanting to do well. You've got to take responsibility so that you don't do more damage in the process. 

July 25, 2014

Why Kvetchpats Will Always Hate Korea

I believe the biggest reason why some expats will never have a good time in Korea is not due to the country itself, but the reason they came in the first place. This is the line that divides the kvetchpats from the other expats who truly want to have a great time in Korea and pretty much determines the experiences that each group will have accordingly. Kvetchpats generally come to Korea with a sense of entitlement, expecting Korea to conform to their Western expectations while differing on only a superficial level like food or dress. Because they have come from multiethnic countries, they seem to believe that somehow makes them more progressive in their outlook towards racism and social issues. They fail to recognize that being from multiethnic countries does not make one automatically progressive, but having a progressive attitude does. Then, there is the other group of expats who are truly open-minded, understanding that culture is more than just food or dress and willing to respect and understand the different ways of Korean society. They put forth the effort and they take on the responsibility to learn the language and understand the culture. They do their best to adapt to Korean society as they know that they are guests and it is up to them to make the most of their lives wherever they are.

Kvetchpats on the other other hand generally came to Korea to appease their own egos. They thought that they would get a free vacation, maybe doing a little work to earn money and have a free place to stay. They look to get what they can from Korea without taking much responsibility for how they conduct themselves or choose to create their lives there. So they will do as little work as possible at their schools, expect other Koreans to give them whatever they want, and not do anything to improve their own life situation. They will blog or comment on other blogs and forums where kvetchpats like to "blow off steam" and bash Korea. This cycle will continue until they finally get sick of living a miserable life and choose to leave Korea or change their attitude. I have seen a few kvetchpats change, but I don't know of anyone that has done a complete 360. I know that is definitely possible, but it goes to show how much work someone has to do to change deeply ingrained habits that have been present for a long time. Ultimately, it is about personal responsibility and choosing to be more aware, more self-critical about oneself. Until that choice is made, the cycle will continue. I know that many kvetchpats will insist that it is their right to be this way because Korea has made them so and so they will continue to give all their power to Korea and be its "victim". Yeah, I guess if you are a victim, there is nothing you can do and you are just stuck in Korea and your miserable life. It is astounding the lengths that some people will go to protect their "victim" status going as far as arguing vociferously for the right of expats to be homeless in Korea instead of being sent back to America where they would have more resources and a better chance to pull themselves up than in a society where they do not really understand the language and culture.

There are expats who actually make the most of their lives in Korea, starting from the same place as kvetchpats, at least in terms of working at schools and such. I know of an American woman who started out as an English teacher and then got an MBA at a Korea university, became fluent in Korean, and now has an executive position in the Korean agricultural industry. Yes, the kvetchpats will whine, but what use is Korean when only a few countries speak it? What use are your Korean girlfriends and friends and co-workers when you can't express yourself in Korean and have to get them to translate things? It is your life and if you can't see the value of being able to communicate and get what you want, I guess you're screwed and it will not be Korea's fault.

The real problem with kvetchpats is that they are completely out of touch with the reality of their situation. Instead of blaming Korea, they need to take responsibility and recognize what they need to do make their lives better. The power will always be out of their hands because they choose to make it so. You don't like Korea? Then, leave. They could save enough money to start again in their home countries, but they choose not to because they want to take the road of empty gratification, doing little work for as much gain as possible. The problem is not that Korea is such a horrible place to live. The problem is that until you take responsibility for how you live, think, and conduct yourself, including what you say and how you say it, your life isn't going to get any better.

Korea is not the problem here. The problem is that kvetchpats have given up so much responsibility that they have degraded themselves in the way they choose to live and be. They think that they can compartmentalize their misbehavior on forums and in their daily life and still present themselves as a good person the rest of the time. People don't need to have an experience to get negative vibes from you and that is what you create when you stew in the hateful, negative, and unfairly critical thinking present on those forums. It's to the point of unconsciousness and I believe that many of the kvetchpats on those forums have gotten so mired in that way of being that they cannot see what they are really doing. It's become an unconscious habit. Being hateful and bashing is just normal to them. That's just the way they are, so they can't see where they are going wrong.

I recently an example of this in the Korean media. In one case, there was a very famous kvetchpat blogger participating in a round table discussion with three other people who were Korean. This was an English language network on Korean television. I'm pretty sure that he is kind of aware that he is coming off as a bit awkward and offensive because he has toned down a bit from his earlier media appearances. Ironically, this individual is someone who could get a good job in the U.S. based on his educational credentials, but chose to come back to Korea for some reason yet continues to complain about how awful it is. During the round table discussion, you could tell that the other participants were kind of offended by this blogger because of his negative demeanor and somewhat harsh comments about Korea. At the same time, you could also tell by his facial expressions and unnaturally subdued manner that this blogger was aware of this and a bit embarrassed by it, so he toned it down a bit compared to what you would normally read on his blog, which is very emphatic and aggressively negative. This is a case of someone being a victim to their own dysfunctional thinking and not being able to do much about it in the moment because it has become such an ingrained part of him. You can't just be respectable the rest of your life while being hateful and degrading in others. Those things reverberate in ways that you may not expect or be conscious of. So it is important to be conscious and critical of one's thoughts and words otherwise you will create a life that you don't want and blame others when it really is your responsibility.

Keep blaming Korea and let's see how much better your life will get. The people who have a great life do so because they choose to take responsibility for it, not because they expect others to create it for them. Opportunity is what you make of it, not just what is presented to you.

June 14, 2014

Technical difficulties

My main blog, Monster Island (actually a peninsula)*, has a glitch or two and should be fixed sometime this month.

January 13, 2014

A Grave Injustice in the Dallas Dog Poop Shooting Case

Trial begins for Dallas man accused of murdering neighbors in dog-poop dispute (1.7.14)

Dallas jury hands down verdict in dog-poop revenge killings (1.9.14)

Fatal shooting tied to quarrel over dog feces

Man claims dog poop feud killing was self-defense

Recently, Chung Kim, an elderly Korean American man was sentenced to life in prison for shooting his neighbors over an ongoing conflict over poop, urine, and noise. To call it a simple dispute would trivialize the matter. Originally, there had been tension over noise and excrement, which his neighbors had consistently  dropped or sprayed into his yard by hosing down waste in their own balcony, which was over his.

"It is well-documented that Jackson and Stafford frequently washed dog feces from their balcony onto Kim’s. The condo’s homeowners association received reports of dog-poop dumping dating back to August 2012.
Kim provided photos of his balcony’s poop-streaked windows, floors and walls to a variety of entities. Animal control eventually took the couple’s dog away, but the poop problems didn’t end. In December 2012, after Jackson gave birth to her fifth child, the couple began tossing dirty diapers over their balcony and onto the unit below them.
Kim and his wife owned their first floor condo and had lived there for more than a decade . . . . . In addition to voicing his complaints with the condo association, Kim reported the excrement issues to the Dallas Police Department, the City of Dallas Health and Human Services Department. Condo maintenance supervisor Keith Morris said he was aware of the ongoing dispute between Kim and his neighbors.Morris said he had personally cleaned Kim’s balcony on at least two occasions, and once used a power washer to remove the poop (Culture Map, 1.7.14.)."

He had brought this matter up with the police, the health department, as well as his homeowner's association. Unfortunately, they did not do much in the matter except for clean his balcony in the case of the homeowner's association. Animal control took the neighbors' dog away but after their fifth child was born, they "began tossing dirty diapers over their balcony" and onto his unit (Culture Map, 1.7.14). After a year and more of aggravated stress without much resolution to the problem, the man decided to confront his neighbors after they had dumped dog poop on his front door and patio. According to the Star-Telegram:

"Investigators believe that Michelle Jackson and Jamie Stafford, both 31, dumped their dog's excrement at the front door and on the patio of downstairs neighbor Chung Kim, 75, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
During a subsequent argument, Kim "produced a handgun" and fatally shot Jackson as she stood outside her front door on her balcony, the affidavit stated."

On 1.7.14, Culture Map also reported that:

"Carlata Robinson, the condo’s HOA president, testified about the extent of the animal and baby feces on Kim’s property. She said the amount, location and frequency of the feces made it a health issue.
On January 31, 2013, more poop appeared on Kim’s balcony. This time, instead of being washed down from the balcony, it appeared to be piled up deliberately on Kim’s property.
“This issue has been ongoing for months,” Robinson wrote in an email the same day to the HOA board about Jackson and Stafford’s behavior. “Mr. Kim is about to reach his breaking point.”

There was a heated confrontation and he shot several bullets, which ended up killing the couple. I don't condone the way he handled it, but I don't think his neighbors were without fault either. It was not a simple matter of a crazed man who decided to "settle" things through violence. He had taken all the reasonable measures to settle the matter by going to the police, the health department, as well as his homeowner's situation. But they did not do much except for get rid of the dogs. Evicting the tenants is not always such an easy process. There are legal standards that need to be met, which may take a long time. I don't understand why the police could not charge the neighbors with a harassment violation or a violation of the public space like vandalism. I'm not sure that vandalism would warrant jail time, but I think that it might have been a deterrent to the harassing behavior of his neighbors and might have given his homeowner's association more legal ground to evict them. Graffiti vandals do get charged, so I do not understand why something that is much worse than graffiti, a public health violation as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress, not up to legal scrutiny. Unless laws in Dallas are grossly different from those in the rest of the United States, we have a case of incompetence by the authorities. We have an elderly man who felt overwhelmed by his living situation and the constant, daily emotional distress it caused him due to the incompetence of the legal system. Thus, the old man had to put up with this torment for a long period of a year and several months. Some people say that he should have just moved out, but that is very blasé. Not everyone has the means to move out. This was a retired old man on a limited income, so just renting another place may have been a strain on his resources. His defense attorney, "Warren[,] pointed out that Kim had no prior issues with the homeowners association. 'He's been there for years, and this couple comes in and in a matter of months, shakes up his world (Culture Map).' " There was no mention of previous issues with Mr. Kim during the trial, which the prosecutor would have brought up because it would have bolstered his case, so I think we can safely assume that he had no prior issues before these neighbors moved in. It was only after he had gone through all the legal channels available to him and finding poop on his front door and balcony did he decided to confront the neighbors on his own.

You can look at a matter like this and say that it is silly, but if you can imagine having to deal with the emotional distress of poop flooding your yard on a daily basis and not just clean poop that you can pick up and throw away, but poop that is drenched in water so that your whole yard becomes a poop drenched mess, then I think you would be more sympathetic. The man had been through a lot at that point. He was weak and elderly. People don't appreciate how vulnerable elderly people can be. Their bodies and minds are weak so they just can't take these kinds of assaults in the same way that younger people can. If he had been a forty year old man, it would have been a different story, but I still think the neighbors would have been culpable for some of the situation. Just looking at pictures of the man, you can tell that he is of a frail mind and body. That doesn't excuse shooting people at any hint of anger. There should be consequences for what he did. At the same time, he was under severe emotional duress and so the shooting was aggravated. By the actions of the neighbors and the inactions or impotence of the legal system, he was made to feel that he had no recourse. Elderly people spend a lot of time at home and so it's important for them to have a peaceful environment as any change in their environment would affect them greatly. This situation was not just a minor inconvenience. It was vigilant harassment and emotional terrorism. His neighbors felt free and audacious to "get him back" for having their dogs taken.

One can make an argument for dog poop laying on the ground to a certain extent as that's where dogs need to go. That still does not excuse leaving dog poop on the ground. However, one cannot make the argument for a child's feces to be on the ground when his parents intentionally throw it over their balcony or drench dog poop with water so that it floods into their neighbor's balcony. Can you imagine having to deal with that day in and day out? Dog poop, repeatedly thrown not just a pile thats easily swept up, but liquefied dog feces [poured] on the windows, walls and doors, multiple times. Over and over again, Mr. Kim tried to rectify this in a civil manner (Culture Map, 1.9.14.). In an earlier article, it was mentioned that "Kim provided photos of his balcony’s poop-streaked windows, floors and walls to a variety of entities (Culture Map 1.7.14)." Can you imagine being an elderly person who spends a lot of time at home having to live around such people and having to deal with their concerted harassment day in and day out? Older people are generally weak, so it would have been a great hardship to have to clean up his whole yard EVERY SINGLE DAY or perhaps every time the child's diapers got changed. Can you imagine that? It would be difficult for anyone, young or old, to deal with on an emotional and practical level. The old guy felt trapped because he had taken all the measures he knew how and I don't believe that he should have had to do more than calling the police to rectify the situation although it would have been the best for him if he had not shot his neighbors. He did much more than most people would have done by contacting the police, the health department, and the homeowner's association. I can see how any reasonable person, especially one of such advanced age, would have been taxed by the situation on a legal, emotional, and practical basis. The fact that the jury indicted him for capital murder is a grave injustice and suggests that they really did not take into his emotional capacity at that time.

What he should have gotten is the insanity defense as he was under great emotional distress and limited mental capacity. The guy is 76 years old and so, he does not have much longer to live. Even without that consideration, he should have gotten the insanity defense and sent to a facility for evaluation until he was deemed to be mentally stable by a psychiatrist.  He had to endure a lot of emotional distress on a daily basis for months and months, which caused him to reach his breaking point as Robinson, the president of the homeowner's association warned of. I just think it's sad that he gets life in prison for something that he was greatly aggravated into doing. He did not shoot at the first sign of dog feces. He went through all the legal channels to get the matter resolved, but the authorities were too inept or impotent to take any effective action, except for getting rid of the dogs. I cannot understand why the housing association could not evict the tenants after fair warning like maybe two times, but there are certain mandates that need to be upheld in such a process and without the backup of the authorities like the police to charge the tenants with anything, I don't think there was much they could do unless it was explicitly stated in the housing contract.

It is sad that there are children that will grow up without their parents, but at the same time, these people need to be held accountable whether or not they have children. It was unfortunate that the authorities were too inept to do anything about these individuals, but there are consequences to affecting others in a negative way. Based on the reports of how the neighbors acted, I really don't think their children are going to miss out on great role models. These are people who acted as animals, throwing feces on a daily basis over their neighbor's balcony. These are people who willing trashed their own balcony by leaving or throwing feces onto it and washing over it with a hose so that the water would flow into and drench their neighbor's yard with fecal matter. These are people who chose to "take revenge" on their neighbor because the authorities made them give up their dogs as a result of their own negligence and harassment.  These are people who feel that they can do anything they want without regard to the consequences. These are not civilized people who have the basic understanding that other people need to be treated with respect. These are individuals who feel that they can do whatever they want and will only comply if it threatens their personal interests or you have power over them. They may be nice to their family and friends, but have little regard for others who have no value in their eyes. These are the people that the elderly and vulnerable man had to deal with for months on end on a day-to-day basis, so I do not have much sympathy for them. Sometimes, the response to an action may be too much, but at the same time, if one does something that is hurtful to another, one cannot be outraged when the other person reacts in the only way they know how to protect themselves. We cannot say, "No, you have to protect yourself in this way." We can say, don't go crazy in how you deal with something, but some people are led to that point by their aggressors like in the case of this man. If the old man were more emotionally resilient and mentally tough, perhaps it would be reasonable for him to "rise above" the situation and find other ways to deal with it. But in this case, he was frail and elderly and emotionally exhausted due to the situation and he took all the reasonable channels to address his concerns yet they were not resolved. I believe that he did the best he could based on his age, physical and emotional condition, as well as resources. The conditions he was forced to deal with on a day to day basis would have brought about charges of criminal neglect had he been a parent or caregiver of someone that was mentally ill. But in this case, there were no such charges. So he had to deal with the matter the only way he knew how.

I don't believe that he set about to kill the neighbors, but he did have to arm himself as he needed to deal with these barbarians and that is saying a lot as I am generally not in favor of guns in the home. This was an extreme situation. Had the neighbors been civil enough to just take responsibility for their mess and leave it at that, the matter would have been resolved, but instead, they chose to continue to inflame and instigate the matter by continuing their ongoing harassment of the old man. If you are ever in this situation, obviously, guns are not the answer. But I don't know how much presence of mind you can expect from someone like this man in this type of situation. It would certainly be different if he was in his forties. One would certainly expect more presence of mind, but by the time one gets to this man's age, typically there is a feeble mindedness that occurs unless one is proactive about their health. He wasn't a super healthy old man, but one that was frail and at his breaking point.

I hope that he appeals his case, which I am sure that he will do based on the comments he made in the second Culture Map article. and that he testifies to the new jury so that they can see the kind of emotional distress he had to endure after going through all the proper legal channels and still not having the matter resolved. I believe that if he had testified in this trial that the verdict would have been more fair to him. But because the jury was only told of the poop incidents from second hand sources, they did not get a real understanding of the suffering and injustice he had to go through. There have been cases where soldiers who had fought in Iraq were acquitted from mass killing due to post-traumatic stress disorder. Now, of course, the man was not threatened with violence, but the emotional distress is the same. He did not go off and kill some unknown civilians like those other cases. He went to confront his neighbors over a long simmering dispute and ended up shooting them in the process. He would not have had this distress if they had not consistently harassed him for months on end. So they are not innocent victims, but guilty of bringing about the type of situation where they would have been confronted with violent emotions. They were willful agitators of his emotional distress and are guilty of that part in his "crime". You don't want to set a precedent where people are blasé about shooting anyone at a hint of anger. At the same time, you have to be understanding of certain cases where the individual had been put through so much stress that they could not have the presence of mind to make the rational decision. I would say that his lawyer would have an argument in temporary insanity. By the time the old man had confronted his harassers, he was literally at his wits end. Mix that with gun possession and you have a dangerous situation. 

November 11, 2013

The Core Problem With The Korean

The Korean has hurt and offended a lot of people through his blog. He does not recognize this because he feels justified in his humiliation and intimidation of others. To him, life is a game where there are winners and losers and it justifiable to do whatever you want even if it means harshly crushing weaker opponents. That's why he felt so justified in attacking Malcolm Gladwell. It is evident from his tone when writing about his problem with Gladwell that he really relished and enjoyed putting a New York Times bestselling author "in his place". But when gently corrected by Chris Kahn about an error in his own writing, The Korean sheepishly bowed out of the conversation, downplaying how wrong he actually was. Because on same level, The Korean knows that the same harsh judgment that he attacks others with can be used on him. Yet, he refuses to learn from that and give others the grace that he cowardly requests of them when he errs. I have read The Korean's blog from the beginning and recognize now that he is just a bully who gets off on one-upping others. He's not really interested in the truth about Korea or anything. He just wants to show off how much he "knows" to feel better about himself. And he will do whatever he can to assert his own superiority because deep down, he is a very insecure person who is not willing to look at his own shadow. That's how he is able to write humiliating posts of people who send him grammatically incorrect emails and even threaten readers when they disagree with him.

He believes that he is so superior because he was able to learn English in two years to fluency. I know of a guy who learned Japanese in one year and got good enough that he was hired by a Japanese company where they only spoke Japanese. As great as that is, he is not arrogant and genuinely wants to help people, giving free advice to others who want to learn as well. Compare that with The Korean who looks down on and feels justified humiliating native English speakers who don't speak as well as him because he thinks that it is due to laziness. I have news for him. Not always. Some public schools in the U.S. are so poorly funded and staffed that they are like third world countries. A lot of students get passed even when they lack basic reading and writing skills. But do you think Mr. Know-it-all recognizes this? No. Because he is so stuck in his ivory tower believing that everyone has the same privileges and opportunities as him. Not all Korean parents are able to whisk their son off to America because he has problems adapting to high school in Korea. The Korean claims to have gotten good grades and I can believe that, but in that case, most Korean parents would not be so indulgent as to whisk their son off to America because he has problems with the Korean school system. He wrote about this and later removed it from his blog, but it sounded more like an attitude problem on his part than anything. He also wrote that he scorned the other Korean students at his American high school for not working hard to learn English as quickly as him, neglecting the fact that it is their right to learn as they please and he was not exactly learning for the good of humanity. He had to learn English for his own SELF-INTEREST so that he could do well in high school and go to a good college. He even bragged about being privileged to attend a predominantly Korean high school where he was able to submit a biology exam in Korean and still get a good grade on it. So he will take full advantage of the opportunities when they suit him, but look down on others who don't. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do well, but that does not give you the right to look down arrogantly on other people and be mean to them as a result of that. You can water down your writing so that it makes you appear more "modest", but ultimately, it is what is in your heart and mind that determines that. If you are truly a modest person, then you wouldn't have to fumble with your tone so much because your writing would naturally appear that way. Saying "I don't mean to be immodest" does not take away from your arrogant tone and people can tell when they read your writing whether you are being sincere or not. It always comes through.

Ultimately, it comes down to an abuse of power and a lack of integrity on The Korean's part. Based on his later re-edits of his blog to present himself more modestly, I really don't believe that he has the intent to look at himself honestly and be a good person. He can't see the truth of who he is because he is someone who is very caught up in his own self-glorification and will abuse his power to get that. As long as OTHERS see him as a good person, he is satisfied that he is. Even with all of his legal education that provided a lot of training in critical thinking, he is unwilling to apply that to his own life and his own self. If you're not willing to be self-critical, how can you take full responsibility for your actions? You can't. You're just going to do whatever you want regardless of the consequences. The Korean has hurt a lot of people through his blog whether it is through the actual posts or comments section. He has verbally abused, intimidated, humiliated, and degraded others through his speech and he is unwilling to take responsibility for that.

He acts like he is so progressive and so open-minded, but the truth is that he is quite bigoted in a number of respects. He has tweeted that he hates people from a certain region of Korea. But more than ethnic, I believe that he is a political bigot at his core. He claims to be for freedom of speech, yet he is disrespectful and intimidating to those who disagree with him respectfully. He's an internet bully who will use his credentials to challenge and threaten others yet cowardly sneak away when his own errors are brought to light. The Korean is one of those selfish people who believe they are good because they are nice to their friends and family and go to church. But how does he treat others that are not of his circle? Not very nicely based on what I have seen. The people around him may be oblivious to his flaws because he is so nice to them, so it is up to others to tell him he is wrong and hold him accountable for that. That's part of the reason I wrote this post because I believe that if no one says anything, then The Korean will continue to be as he is, abusing his authority and hurting other people. I believe that people should be critical about whatever they read on the web, especially when it comes from an anonymous source. But people may write all they want. Ultimately, it is up to The Korean to decide how he will act. As long as he sees something, he can't feign ignorance. He can dismiss all the criticism as nonsense or he can actually be self-critical. Whatever the case, I'm pretty sure it will take a while before he really behaves because old behaviors don't just fall away so quickly. The Korean is too satisfied to live in his own self-glorified cocoon of Korean "authority", but I believe that some day, he will have to face his own darkness with true humility. He has stated before in the comments section of his blog that he believes that he does not have to apologize for things that have long past. That somehow time negates all wounds. This is very ironic coming from a lawyer whose responsibility is to understand the true meaning of justice. Of course, this is not always practiced and from his own behavior, it is evident that he has no qualms about abusing his authority and power. It is so disappointing to see people who have been given the great advantages of a good education squander it away for their own personal gain and ultimately, their own moral decline. I really think people like him should not be rewarded. It would be great if people stopped reading his blog, but I admit that he does write some interesting things even if I don't always agree with him.