Elwood 5566

A Little 'Outing'

Posted in Comparative, Gender by 노강호 on April 9, 2010

Not suitable for Pumpkin people

I don’t want to turn this blog into a critique and rant about that shitty country from which I come, namely the UK. I have already expended considerable resources writing the backbone of two books focusing on my experiences of both British education and British culture. When faced with new experiences, especially ones culturally orientated, it is difficult, if not impossible,  not to relate them to the culture with which you are most familiar.  I’m not particularly bothered about accusations of being a ‘kimcheerleader,’ I have lived long enough and had enough experiences to have confidence in my opinions though I’m may not always be right. I am unashamedly a Koreaphile and reaching this acknowledgment has grown out of my relationship with Korea. Unlike a patriotic stance, which is conferred simply by being born in a country, my allegiance may change and won’t remain static and nonjudgmental. There is nothing particularly wrong with patriotism until it suggests that those who are not  are inferior, mistaken, or traitorous.  I prefer to give my loyalty to that I find most rewarding, especially in terms of quality of life. Why else would I elect to work thousands of miles from home for a salary inferior to that I could earn in Britain as a high school teacher.  Despite all the flaws with Korean society, and there are many, I have much greater respect and admiration for this small country than I do for washed out Britain. We might have a monarchy and an intriguing past, but Britain is a dirty, insular country whose once proud, if not questionable history and culture, is currently being swept aside in a politically correct invasion that condemns anything British while humbling before everything alien. The country for which I served fourteen years in the military forces, is now ruled by the values of the lowest strata of society and if you take any pride in something British or English you are a racist. Celebrate Christmas and you are suspect but come Hanukkah or Diwali and you can  light your candles with pride and everyone has to be reverent. Every cultural import into Britain has been canonised while the native culture is systematically demonized.

Recently, I was reading a post on Chris Backe’s AKA, Chris in Korea, in which readers were asked to respond to a photograph. ‘Are you racist?’ Chris asks. The post was interesting and sparked some lively commentary but what amused  me most was that before I had even read the article, I had judged the photo, ‘typically British!’   Indeed, by British standards, and talking as an ex-squaddie,  the photo was somewhat tame; nice pair of shoes, looks like his pants (not jeans), are pressed and a clean white shirt! The chances, are if I met this guy when sober, assuming of course, he is pissed, he’d probably be a decent chap. Hang around Daegu even at past midnight and kids from school,  in uniform, are still to be seen going home from the hagwons, study rooms and even high schools.  In my home town, Crappy Colchester, many adults avoid the town and that’s early evening! Pissed up people in the gutter, predominantly the same age as Korean high school students, puking and fighting on the streets,  are now a common site in most British towns and a point of  social and political concern. The ‘pissed up’  includes, pissing in public, fighting , vandalism and general anti-social behaviour all of which are menacing. Most unpleasant is a tension which pervades town centers and many other places, throughout most of the day, though specifically at night and which is the result of uniquely British form of  aggression.


Is Korea making you racist? (from AKA Chris in Korea)

My point? There is an ugly side to Britain, especially in terms of gender where men, especially working class men, and despite all attempts to render a facade of equality, Britain is still class divided, have to appear  masculine, ie: aggressive, sexually rampant, staunchly heterosexual and prolific boozers. And now, many women behave in the same Brutish way. It is difficult not to compare my Korean experiences with those internalized through my socialization in, and experience of,  British culture. No doubt there are plenty of horrid Korean men but I have experienced far more nasty Brits as a bouncer in a McDonald’s, in a town of 155.000 people, than on the streets of Daegu with a population somewhere around 3 million. Even on holiday in a quaint little German ‘dorf,’ my spaghetti ice cream was interrupted by the lurching appearance of a distant Brit ‘lad’  and two accompanying trollopes, arms wrapped about their breasts, flimsily dressed and tottering on high heels. Even before they were close enough to aurally confirm our suspicions,  their gait and their body language unequivocally  announced, Brits were in town!

I regularly find Korean men endearing and compared to many British men, they are both camp and effeminate. I do not intend this as a slur but as a compliment as I wish British men could temper their particular obnoxious form of masculinity. Personally, I find something uniquely British in photographs of individuals such as Wayne Rooney, and Vinny Jones who, even when not snarling an expletive, look like they just staggered out of prehistory. One reason I can’t abide watching movies starring Vinny Jones is his nastiness is too accurate, too realistic a facet more likely to do with his character than his acting ability. Yes, there are countless exceptions and Beckham  is much nicer but the problem football is having with homophobia, and the fact there are so few, if any, famous ‘out’ football players is a reflection of the games dominating masculine attitudes. Of course, I realise  Korea is far from accepting of homosexuality,  but at least Korean men aren’t so obsessively homophobic as  to aspire to a model of masculinity the purpose of which, as in the west, is to both to deflect any  suggestions of homosexuality in the ‘owner’ and to suggest it by contrast, in others. This might not be the intention but it is certainly how it operates.  In general, Koreans might have a dislike for homosexuality but that’s where it ends and their dislike isn’t  turned into an obsession which subsequently becomes a mandate and ubiquitous template for male behaviour.

definitely Brit


A common expression of Brit masculinity

When you work in a British high school it is highly apparent that British boys are under enormous pressure to appear both masculine and anti-intellectual. I have taught many British boys who are vile humans and who you could tell were vile before you even attempted  teaching them.  Yet, I have still to meet a Korean teenager who I can predict is going to be a violent criminal. And when it comes to girls, Brits seem  experts at producing promiscuous trollopes obsessed only with make up, tarty fashions and sex. Our rates of  teen alcohol consumption, sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy, all some of the highest in Europe, are testament to my vitriolic comments. Snarled at, threatened, abused, assaulted or jeered at , I have no experience of in Korea, but ask British teachers about their experiences, especially non-managers in non-selective schools, and it quickly becomes apparent such behaviour is general rather than exceptional.

And that's just the women!

Having thus painted a fairly lengthy account of the Britain with which I am acquainted,  I naturally find Korean ‘masculinity’  intensely refreshing and in many respects something to both celebrate and take hope in.

© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.

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