Monday, June 29, 2009

What Is Korean Culture, Part I : Are Koreans Rude?

I was reading this post at and the enormous number of comments supporting the notion that Koreans are rude, which originally cites an editorial from the Joongang Daily. The editorial states that Koreans are seen to be rude as

"Compared with other Asians, Koreans in general are known to be temperamental ("Why Are Koreans Rude?," Joongang Ilbo).

Here's my take:

We all know that Koreans are, of course, the most respectful people in all of East Asia (lol, I'm serious here).

My reasoning follows from Confucian Culture, which exerts a strong influence on Korean Culture and, moreover, it does so in a highly developed manner. I'd say it's so strong that Korean Culture is basically Confucianism and vice versa; Confucianism is no where more developed in East Asia than in the Koreas and much more so than in Vietnam, (barbaric, lol) Japan, and, even China, herself, respectively (Note, this follows from the historical fact that as the last truly Han Chinese Dynasty was conquered in 1644 by the Manchurians, Confucianism developed independently of China in Korea for centuries). And, no, I don't think Confucius (공부자, 孔夫子) was Korean. Of course, on the flip side, I'd probably say that Koreans may very well be the most racist and xenophobic people in East Asia as well.

A tangent here: I see a parallel with the United States here. Confucianism in Korea developed similar to how the ideals of the Enlightenment in Europe never really died, but lived on in the United States. And, actually they thrived here as they developed independent of Europe (for example, the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution of the United States).

Well, this my main post on the site there:

"That’s absurd. The only part of what I’ve read that seems somewhat understandable is the gap between how Koreans treat family and then friends and then strangers. There’s a much larger gap between each group than you might find in the United States. And, let me excuse myself first, before I say some very politically incorrect things. But, from a Korean perspective, or at least my perspective – I don’t want to speak for an entire nation, I’ve always found Southeast Asians and particularly the Japanese to be rude. When I mean rude, I don’t mean loud and shouting and emotional. I mean, just inconsiderate in speech and manner in the way they treat others.

When I was in Japan, I remember taking J-line or something (not the bullet train, but the same technology as the KTX train) and I remember giving up my spot to some grandpa probably in his like 80s or so and as coming from Seoul, I didn’t really think twice about doing it. But, my Japanese friend, and he was a very polite guy – I remember both his parents were teachers, thought it was crazy. He said in particular, “50 years ago…” people did that.

So, I feel from the opposite perspective, it’s the case that (and I’m replying in particular to that Filipina “lady”, who was talking about killing some rude Korean girl) from the opposite perspective it’s the Southeast Asians, Japanese, and those who come from societies without a strong Confucian tradition that are the ones that are seen to be rude. I believe a lot of other Koreans, who might not recognize that it’s this Confucian tradition, probably also feel this.

Now, if you said Koreans were racist, I’d agree 100%. The way in which Koreans treat let’s say Filipino/Vietnamese/Pakistani laborers are different than the way they’d treat Chinese or Korean-Chinese (Joseon-jok, 조선족,朝鮮族) laborers. Of course, this is different than the way Nigerian merchants are treated (who I swear to God, especially, when wearing American sportsgear, look “American”), and, of course, the simplest proof though: the way in which African-Americans are treated when compared to Caucasian-Americans. And, of course, there‘s the racism discrimination (i.e. regionalism) that’s practiced on other Koreans as well. In some parts of South Korea, Korean-American English tutors are paid less than Caucasian Americans just because they don’t look “American” (Me).

(The exact thread among the entire list of comments there is posted here: "Why Are Koreans Rude?" ROK Drop)

If you are somewhat sensible you might find some of the comments on that discussion to be extremely disturbing and, if you are a Korean that is native to the Korean Peninsula, then you might find yourself getting extremely upset. A word of caution here though. Don't take these comments too seriously (If you are Korean, or let's say, a Korean native to the Korean peninsula, then it might be safer for you and for those around you to not read them at all).

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