Elwood 5566

Too Much Play

Posted in Education, Korean children by 노강호 on January 16, 2011

out of trouble

Sleeping in the classroom is something I’ve never seen British kids do and usually they have so much energy that whenever there is a break they play and run around. As an aging teacher however, though I disagree with the amount of time Korean students study, I prefer a society where teenagers are kept so occupied that they have little energy to waste and no time to loiter on streets causing trouble.

Westerners are quite defensive of the extensive time their youth are permitted to play and will generally condemn Korean culture accusing it of taking away or even obliterating childhood. The fact western kids have had their innocence annihilated by exposure to a range of unhealthy influences, one of which is the concept of ‘being a teenager,’ passes unnoticed. In Europe, British teenagers  are more likely to be either poxed to the max with sexually transmitted diseases or pregnant and this year condoms (Hotspots) for prepubescent boys are due to be made available in the UK. In UK, the C-Card system provide boys as young as 12 with a card which can be shown at football grounds, scout halls and special designated centers and by which they can obtain condoms at the tax payers expense (Times UK).

condoms for prepubescent boys

Why are Brits and Americans so critical of the Korean system? Wouldn’t energies be better spent trying to find solutions to the myriad of problems that western teenagers cause society and their own peers rather than bemoaning how Korean students have no time to play?  Personally, I would have thought that any sane society would want to curtail teenage free time thereby taking them off the streets and improving their potential. Even as a teenager I found the practice of teenagerism vacuous and boring. Rock music, dancing, partying and fashion never really interested me and I doubt I was alone.


high school students

And what is the nature of the ‘childhood’ that Korean children might miss out on? Let’s see!  Not needing to clad the face in make-up if you are a 13 year old girl, or not being obsessed with the fact that you don’t know how to tongue sandwich or fellate your 12 year old boyfriend. Not having to give allegiance to one of the tribal youth subcultures which will alienate you from both other teenagers and your parents. Not having to spend time and money consuming music which often has the same artistic merits and durability as chewing gum. The list is extensive…

We give children and teenagers so much space and freedom and imbue them with notions of rights that many, but to be fair by no means all, eventually find it difficult to behave or act appropriately in other social settings. When I am with western kids I am often reminded of the gulf that separates our worlds but conversely,  with Korean kids I am reminded how much we have  in common. It is strange to feel a closer affinity with Korean teenagers as a foreigner than with British teenagers as a fellow native.


keep them occupied


In Britain,  most kids finish school around 3.00 pm and with many school subjects no longer requiring homework,  they are left with ample time to both enjoy childhood and when bored, get pissed or contract chlamydia or one of the other staple poxes on offer. How much ‘childhood’ do they need? What kind of a ‘childhood’ do we think we provide for children and youth now we have allowed  tweenyville, that is those years encroaching on being teenagers, to have been sexed up and sleazified with thongs, poll dancing kits and baby condoms?  I would imagine the stress and angst such precocious pursuits add to their already confused minds, enormous. I’ve known many decent teenagers but quite often they themselves do not like teenagerism or indeed, other teenagers!  Sometimes it seems that the most vocal of advocates  of the merits of allowing kids to, ‘enjoy their youth,’ are adults looking back in nostalgia.

Teenagers need ‘banging up,’ not in a sexual context, but in way which restricts their free time, whom they associate and identify with, and which more closely prescribes what they do. So, when I see teenagers and students collapsed on their desk in classes, or twiddling their pens between their fingers with the dexterity of majorettes, I know the directed time which chains them to study is working and both them, adults and society are better for it.

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© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.


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8 Responses

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  1. Breda said, on January 17, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Yikes. Seems like there’s gotta be another option besides loads and loads of studying and STDs.

    • Nick said, on January 17, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Yes, the answer lies somewhere in between plus a smack around the head on occasion or a bunch of press-ups. Just my opinion!

  2. Brandi said, on January 17, 2011 at 5:09 am

    I agree with you.
    I’d much rather my child to be exhausted from study than out getting herpes.

  3. shotgunkorea said, on January 19, 2011 at 7:26 am

    I agree that there are better ways to spend one’s time as a teenager than by drinking heavily and being sexually promiscuous, but often times the loudest complaints I hear about the Korean educational system are not coming from foreigners, but from Korean parents themselves.

    Often times mothers of my students lament that their children spend all their time indoors, unable to interact face-to-face with other children outside the confines of school, however they are still shocked by some of the stories about how my middle school students back in Brooklyn used to behave.

    • Nick said, on January 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      Thanks for the comments. I too have a bunch of British teaching stories which usually shock Koreans and of which I’m also ashamed.

  4. prestigeekorea said, on January 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Agree. When my wife even mentions sending our future kids to study in the USA, I cringe.

  5. Jim said, on January 13, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Although I agree there are better ways for British teens to be spending their free time, I have to disagree with some of the things you say. I would rather my child be tired from a combination of study and outdoor exercise, rather than being exhausted solely from studying from morning til night. Exercise also plays an important role in a teenagers life, playing football with friends or for the school team provided me with some of my most fond memories. I don’t believe for a second that allowing the kids to have some autonomy automatically means they will contract STDs left right and centre! If they can’t look people in the eyes because of a lack of social interaction, then there is definitely a serious problem. 5 hours sleep a night is not enough for an adult, let alone a growing teen! Of course this is only my opinion and this is a complicated issue.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on January 15, 2012 at 2:34 am

      Thanks for the response, Jim. I don’t think constant studying is the answer, I make this point in my first paragraph. I should also add, that for many children, ‘study’ after school often includes taekwondo, hapkido or comdo classes.

      The issue is complex but it needs to be acknowledged that in Korea almost no drugs are available,the Korean teenage STI infection rate is currently some 10 times lower than that of the USA, Korea has one of the developed world’s lowest teenage pregnancy rates, it is one of the safest countries in the world (unless you frequent areas occupied by American forces,) and with a current policy of censoring celebrities who take drugs or are involved in scandals, there are few degenerate role models to influence young people.

      Western cultures have given teenagers too much freedom and little or no responsibility. Many can’t even take responsibility for their own future. At every level we cocoon kids and molly-coddle them and at the same time we have allowed them to become voracious consumers, especially of teenage lifestlye sub culture identities which often dictate/inform body language, language, and consumer choices in clothes, music, cosmetics, sports and hobbies etc.

      I don’t blame teenagers at all for this situation. Western society as whole pretends to care for its young people, it is obsessed with child protection, and paedophilia to the extent that the misdemeanors of a minority now inform all social interactions between adults and young people. Meanwhile, and politicians and bureaucrats are constantly re-writing and re-inventing social policies on the welfare and education of young people but what they really lack are in some cases decent parents, wholesome role models, a code of behaviour which citizens will challenge when broken, rules and responsibilities, and occasionally a smack around the head! And they need to feel they belong to a community rather than existing on its periphery.

      Korea is not perfect and Korean education is stressful for young people and Koreans generally work too hard, but I have to say, and not all westerners in Korea would agree, that I feel more human as a foreigner living in Korea, and especially working with young people, than I do as British citizen living in Britain.

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