Elwood 5566

Club Korea

Posted in 'Westernization' of Korea, Comparative, Westerners by 노강호 on February 28, 2012

I have a love hate relationship with Korean discrimination! Hating discrimination is obvious, but ‘loving’ it! Why? I hear you ask; because we’ve done such a good job fucking our own societies that the more opposition to the west, in any form, the better. I know, it’s puerile, Even though I’m a ‘wayguk,’ I can tolerate being an outsider if it is a barrier to the acceptance of some of the western values which are currently rotting places like the US and the UK.

Personally, I place quality of life above all else and as a foreigner in Korea, I have a far better quality of life than I would back home. Now, I don’t mean solely in economic terms, though even with significantly higher pay in the UK, I was never able to save half my earnings as I can in Korea, but in terms of things like access to health care, gyms, things to do after work, eating out, etc, etc. With many of the transactions I make in the UK, often ones accompanied with running and maintaining a house or traveling, there is an accompanying sense of having been suckered. The same sensation is evoked whenever I travel to countries where you have no idea of the relative values of things, perhaps because you are supposed to barter but in the process you know that the item you are buying is extortionately overpriced but there is nothing you can do about it because the next guy will rip you off just as badly – if not worse. I suppose  the feeling is akin to being divested of your dignity, a bit like you might feel if your house were burgled and it’s especially intense when you know the other guy thinks you’re a total fool for paying whatever you did. Transactions of whatever kind are always more tolerable, even rewarding, if you feel the deal was mutually beneficial and fair but unfortunately, in the UK, you’re usually exploited and there’s nothing you can do about it!

My sister recently wanted her son to see a dermatologist and was faced with a six week wait. Can you imagine waiting six weeks to see a doctor in Korea? I caught ‘red eye’ last year and went straight from seeing my own doctor to an ophthalmologist in the space of half an hour and both practices were less than 3 minutes from my front door and probably one minutes walk from where I work. Then there was the cost; both visits totaled less than £5 (10.000W). Meanwhile, to secure quicker treatment for her son, my sister had to pay £170 (340.000W). I gather in the US this would be significantly higher.

Then there’s my gym. I pay £50 (100.000W) a month for access to bathhouse, gym and jjimjilbang. I know there are cheaper places but it is my favourite bathhouse and is impeccably clean. Back home, even exclusive gyms pale into mediocrity compared to those on offer in Korea while all others are basic, usually just a gym and claustrophobic changing room. And of course, you couldn’t have a bathhouse in the UK without it being usurped for sexual purposes because in the west nudity and sex are conflated. Then there are the restaurants, singing rooms, jjimjilbang, pc rooms, twenty-four hour services, coffee shops and taxis to take you wherever you want at prices a fraction of the cost they are in the west.

However, these aren’t the main reasons I find Korean culture preferable to that of my home country. Unfortunately, it’s the British aggression, violence and apathy of British students that exiles me to foreign shores. I have much experience with aggression and violence and due to my military background and training in taekwon-do, I worked in several different places as a bouncer while I was a student. One such place was in a MacDonalds in a fairly mediocre town. I doubt there is one MacDonalds on the entire Korean peninsula that requires a bouncer – except perhaps when they are in the vicinity of US military bases.

Now, to give you some idea of the kind culture I experience in the UK, in a fairly average British town, let me share a piece I wrote around 8 years ago. The extract is taken from my blog, Scumland UK.

Outside the local newsagent, which is only a few minutes’ walk from my front door, I am treated to the headlines of the newspapers, all utterly depressing. Of course, I know I shouldn’t read them but I can’t help it. I’m the inquisitive type of person, the type who if I think I’ve stepped in dog shit will poke it with my finger and then sniff. Newspaper headlines have the same magnetic allure and very often cause the same repugnant reaction. ‘Boy knifed in a school playground,’ reads the headline in the national press. This story has some local significance as only a few weeks earlier a teacher colleague told me about a 12-year-old girl who had been arrested on the school premises for producing a carving knife with which she intended to kill her ex-boyfriend. The police were called to the school and took her away in handcuffs. Come to think of it, that was only a few weeks after a local teacher was beaten senseless by a gang of nine boys after he tried to break up a fight. Another school has recently installed a metal detector at its points of entrance in order to detect those arriving for lessons carrying knives. Meanwhile, the local newspaper contains a massive headline about increased disorder and yobs terrorising the drivers of local bus companies.

I’ve been standing at the bus stop for over half an hour despite the fact that buses are supposed to service this stop every twenty minutes. As I am wondering whether yob behaviour on buses is the result of them arriving late, a girl of about 13 passes on a bicycle, all her stomach is exposed and as she passes I notice that her buttock crack is totally visible. Am I supposed to find that alluring? I’m not talking about just a centimetre or two of crack but almost half her backside. I wonder if her parents allow her to expose so much of her body in public and I conclude that her Daddy and his mates probably find it very erotic. However, I’m not too shocked as recently I saw a girl at the same bus, stop and of a similar age, wearing a black T-shirt on which was emblazoned, in lovely gold letters, ‘Fuck Me.’ I can’t remember if the words were mitigated by the addition of an exclamation mark, on a young girl it doesn’t really matter.

Once on the bus the assault continues; a young mother is sat with a baby in a pram. I can’t help but begin assessing her character and remind myself not to assume too much on the basis of stereotypes. While you don’t solely judge a book by its cover, you can certainly use it to make a formative assessment. I know for example, that if I pick up a book and Jane Goody or that Jordan person whose surname I don’t know, is on the front cover, I can assume its going to be superficial crap with smatterings of smut.  The young mother has enormous hooped earrings and a cheap, blue tattoo has been branded onto her hand by a tattooist who was clearly pissed. The tattoo intrigues me as I cannot discern whether it is a rose or a red cabbage. The difference is important in my assessment of her; a representation of cabbage would constitute some kind of statement, be it artistic or intellectual and I would be tempted to ask her what the cabbage symbolized. A rose however, would simply constitute a brand and might easily be substituted by a number.

Now I’m on the bus my mood has improved and I tell myself not to be such a negative, nasty person and at just that moment, just as I am about to reconcile myself with society, she goes and spoils it all; her mobile phone rings, not a discreet ring but some cacophonous jangle that stuns everyone within earshot. Next she begins shouting into the phone in that horrid Estuary English twang which political correctness demands we respect. ‘What the fark do you wan now? I already told ya, I’m on the farkin bus! What d’ya fink I’m farkin doin? I’m dropin’ the baby at me mum’s and I’ll met ya in town. Like I farkin said already.” Her baby stairs at me, its big eyes full of wonder. I want to smile at it but its grotesque mother will probably get aggressive and assume I’m some pervert. Hundreds of thousands of babies have been born to such hideous parents and yet no rhetoric or public debate seems to exist which calls into question their parents’ ability to rear children. Having a mother like this freak is child abuse but questioning parenting is a social taboo.

It’s a hot afternoon, probably the hottest day of the year and as I get off the bus I’m thrust into the middle of a small crowd of teenage lads, all aged 16 upwards, stripped to the waist and drinking from cans of beer. You can see the aggression and sense it in an aura which engulfs them like a plague. Aggression snarls their baby faces; it pervades the gait of their walk, a sort of strut which involves little steps; like they have pokers or shards of peanut debris up their arses. Their tight arsed strut is accompanied by an exaggerated shoulder swagger and arms swing at a forty-five degree angle to their bodies. Their beer cans, their gait, their little gang, their aggressive faces warn all on-comers not just to step aside, but to ‘fuckin’ get out-of-the-way!’

Friday afternoon is never a good afternoon to travel into town as even in the late afternoon the assault to your sense and sensibilities can be particularly fierce. The experience is intensified if it’s a school holiday. In front of me a boy lurches from side to side, clearly drunk. As with most of the other trash I’ve encountered in the space of 45 minutes, traveling from my house in a small village, into the town center, he’s a teenager. For the benefit of some approaching girls he opens the front of his jeans, sticks his hand down the front of his black boxers and contorting his face in a lustful manner, asks: D’ya wanna suck me fuckin’ knob, gals?’ The girls giggle, clearly honoured by the attention of this slob. I try to ignore him but he steps into my path, flies still open, hand still in boxers. ‘Hey mate, give us a pound!’ It’s more of an order than a request. I’m tempted to ask if he is touting for business given that his hand is still rooting in his boxers and his jeans are fully open at the front, but somehow I don’t think he would comprehend my humour. I ignore him. ‘Fuckin wanker,’ he calls after me.

Eventually, I arrive at my destination but worse is yet to come; I have to escape from this hell hole on the ten o’clock bus and the High Street, like so many other British towns, is no place to be at that time of night on a Friday evening, or indeed any evening! I only have to walk about a third of a mile to my bus stop but it is like walking through a zoo where the animals have been freed from their cages. The streets are crawling with loud, brash, aggressive, drunken youngsters. A lad is vomiting in a doorway; he sees me looking and gargles inarticulately, something with the word ‘fucking’ in his sentence. In the recess to the opening of one of the town’s most prestigious department stores, a girl is squatting; her stupefied eyes struggle to focus on my passing blur. Supported by the store doors against which she has collapsed, piss streams out from between her legs onto the marble floor which only a year ago the Queen herself walked on. However, she manages to retain some dignity by not pulling down her jeans and underwear. In another alleyway’, one that formed part of the original grid system when the Romans occupied the town some 2000 years ago, I notice a young teenage girl laying face down on the floor, her hand clutches a cheap handbag. She is scantily dressed with the obligatory exposed stomach and cheap, tight t-shirt that hugs her pubescent contours. Her friend, or should I say ‘mate,’ shouts at some passing men: ‘Don’t just fuckin’ look! Help her!’ The girl on the floor lifts her head and with a strangulated moan gargles vomit onto the payment. Like a marionette with severed strings, her head collapses back towards the dirty pavement, her hair and gargantuan hooped earrings cascade over her alcoholic sick. The passing men ignore her and walk by. This is someone’s daughter lying comatose on a grotty pavement, someone’s child and I wonder what sort of upbringing, what kind of society has led her to have so little self-respect than she is now lying drunk and dangerously vulnerable. If I was her parent I would be very concerned but then if I was her parent she wouldn’t be in this situation.

Outside the main night club a line of teen punters, mostly male, are being searched by burly bouncers before being allowed entry. Again there is that aura of aggression, the same nasty, scowling faces that warn you violence is about to erupt at any moment. You know you can’t make eye contact with them as to do so would invite hostility. They shout vulgar comments at passing females, adopt macho postures and grunt at each other and every other word is ‘fuck,’ ‘fucking’ or ‘fucked.’

Most of my friends back home hate the tone of Scumland UK and I can understand why; when you have terminal cancer you don’t like to be reminded, if you’re living in shitty conditions or your house stinks, you’d prefer not to have the fact rubbed in your face. And of course, people have different perceptions. Many British people have been completely desensitized to the nature of the society around them while others have never lived abroad and only experienced other countries as holiday destinations. Others, often the middle classes with managerial jobs and houses in the leafy suburbs, especially ones who earn a living out of the degeneration and decay around them, simply deny there is a problem.

Meanwhile, back in Korea, I lead a life in which I have never faced a threat on the streets or been insulted or assaulted as a teacher – all of which I’ve experienced in the UK. Hence, I’m in favour of any barrier to the spawning of western values in Korea which might change this. I’m what you might call a ‘wayguk’ separatist and in a sense would be quite happy if Korea expelled all foreigners and closed its borders. Yes, Korea has a multitude of problems and things that need improving but where in the world are young people so mild-mannered, innocent, the streets so safe, and pregnancy, drug and pox not a scourge on the young; where in the world is it possible to do a multitude of things on an evening at a price that doesn’t rob you of your dignity or put you in danger of getting your face kicked in!

On the peninsula,  you can speak fluent Korean and marry into clan-Korea but you’re never really Korean. You’re always on the edge. So many aspects of Korean culture conspire to highlight the fact you are a ‘wayguk.’ Even the language conspires to expose your barbarian genes. I forget the amount of times I’ve been talking to a Korean and wanted to mention, ‘my mother,’ ‘my sister ‘or ‘my university’ and stopped short because for Koreans such words are ‘prefixed’ with ‘our,’ indeed it would be improper to say ‘my mother.’ And in that instance in which I fumble for the correct pronoun, I am reminded of my foreignness. My mother is from a country thousands of miles away and clearly not part of clan-Korea, not part of the all-embracing ‘our’ sentiment and mentioning her or indeed a member of my family exposes my alien status.

Every time I go into a restaurant or shop with a Korean friend, and even if I do the talking, staff will confirm my ‘request’ with them, instantly marginalizing me.  They don’t mean to be rude, they’re just being helpful but it’s the irritating assumption that any wayguk trying to speak Korean has probably got it wrong and maybe wanted hot chocolate rather than coffee!   And how many times have you walked past people handing out leaflets on the street and they ignore you? Even this weekend I was walking into E-Mart and woman handing out leaflets simply let me walk past. Sometimes they turn their back or look away but she just looked and was probably thinking, ‘wayguk,’ he can’t read Korean, pointless wasting one on him.’ Imagine doing that in London! Apart from the fact that so many Londoners are clearly not… and there I run into a problem…clearly not what? Native? White? British? you wouldn’t dream of thinking,  ‘foreigner, they can’t read English.’ In Britain, it’s sort of taboo to identify anyone as a ‘foreigner,’ unless they’re clearly on vacation, and that’s one reason, even though they have contributed greatly to British culture, that the UK is in a mess and British culture currently seen as offensive, imperialist and something to apologize about. The UK has promoted every other culture, religion and ethnicity but its own and British culture is currently a dirty word which can be slagged off with impunity.

There are times when Koreans can be quite callous in their treatment of dedicated, professional foreign workers. Last weekend, one of my friends left his high school after five years service. Of course, it was never really ‘his’ high school and certainly not ‘ours.’ Many, though not all, foreign workers in Korea, are treated much like a rice cooker. The rice cooker has no ownership, semantic or otherwise over the school. The rice cooker belongs to the school and is a tool of the school and when it breaks or has a problem – you chuck it out. In five years he’d taken 6 days six leave, four after suffering a heart attack. Of course, this was partly because they would have chucked him out should he have been absent longer. Even when a parent knocked him down in their car, while on a mobile phone and on school premises, he only took two days off. As an aside, he received no financial compensation for the accident and the school did all in its power to make sure the parent wasn’t made to fork any more than hospital and doctors bills. You can trust good old ‘club-Korea’ to kick-in when threatened or protecting their own and it operates much like an enormous ‘old boy’ network.

In the same school, a Korean teacher with one years service, moved schools and in his last week was taken out for dinner and given the usually wadge of money in an envelope. In reality, he was only moving into the adjacent girls’ high school but as a member of ‘club-Korea’  he deserved the highest accolade. Meanwhile, my friend departed for the airport without even a handshake or a word of thanks from the principal! And even the school’s foreign, non-esl teachers with Ivy League / Red Brick qualifications, high salaries (in the region of 4 million won per month) and with apartments rather than one-rooms to house their families, all of which are flown to Korea by the school, receive the same rice cooker treatment. Yes, not all schools are like this but don’t get too complacent because you are rarely part of the school or the business – you will not rise through the ranks of management though, as is the case in some franchise hakgwons, they might pay you a little extra and give you some authority over other waygukin, never other Koreans, so that you can at least feel part of the program.  For most foreigners working in Korea, your status as a metic exiles you to loiter on the periphery.

Then there are the drug tests, medical tests and police checks – only for foreign E2 visa holders. But can you blame Koreans for this?  We don’t trust fully trained and qualified teachers, doctors, nurses in our own countries and even after intense screening, they remain suspect, so why should we expect Korea to open the crèche doors for those whose only qualifications are BA’s or MA’s?

Such treatment is appalling but I find it bearable because it helps keep foreign values at bay or at least slows the process of their possible assimilation. I can imagine some of the policies ‘wet’ western teachers would employ could they gain influential positions within Korean schools – especially ones with no practical experience of the problems faced by teachers in their own county. In two separate nationwide polls, around fifty percent of British teachers and parents were in favour of reinstating corporal punishment. Let westerners into the policy implementation process and it wouldn’t be too long before they’d be banning corporal punishment, banning any form of physical contact between student and teacher, empowering kids with all sorts of rights, teaching kids that every adult is a potential pervert and then allowing them to interview prospective teachers. Then, when the rot had set in, compelling teachers to take courses in class control, behaviour and riot management and then dumbing down the curriculum to make it entertaining for the kids who have little or no interest in study. The one thing I dislike about many westerners, is the overriding assumption, even in the face of extensive research on the tide of apathy, pox, violence, drugs and teenage pregnancy infecting their own countries, that their culture is somehow superior, that it knows best and is something to which Korea should aim. Indeed, many westerners assume that the westernization of Korea is both inevitable and desirable.

Don’t get me wrong however, because I’d hate to be Korean. Korean society is too restrictive, pre-determined, too work orientated and too homogenous. It’s a bizarre irony because the liberalism of the west that’s made me who I am and given me a strong sense of individual identity, is the same liberalism I don’t want to see polluting Korea. That’s a totally selfish stand point! I agree! As much as I love Korea, it’s as a foreigner who at one and same time is both an exotic source of fascination and an outsider.  And you can’t have it both ways; you can’t be ‘Korean’ without being enslaved to work or study and all those western idiosyncrasies which Koreans love about our personalities, and which would be deemed flaws in Korean society, would have to be drastically subdued.

But the process goes both ways! As much as Koreans blatantly use us either as metics, as foreign workers with limited rights, or as a tool to learn English, there are times when your foreign physog is an advantage and gains you concessions and privileges. I can nearly always walk into my local E-Mart without being asked to put my bag in a locker at the entrance. The poor English skills of staff always encourage them to look the other way when I stroll past. And over a year a foreigner probably gets more ‘service’ from shops and restaurants than the average Korean. My doctor once examined my stomach as I was stood waiting to cross the road, another time he gave me a tour of his surgery and I once had breakfast with his mother – do Koreans get such privileged treatment? Try sitting on first class of KTX with an economy seat ticket and there’s a very good chance the stewards will allow you to remain in the seat without asking you to move or insisting you pay more. And of course, whenever you want to avoid some question, some request, whatever, you can simply play dumb and say you don’t understand!

Yep! Living in a country which is both fascinated with your exoticness and does its utmost to remind you of your foreignness, chucks you a mixed bag. Personally, I feel life is much better stuck somewhere in the middle of this muddle, perhaps even out on the edge, than being given equality and running the risk the same problems will emerge that I have managed to escape by leaving my home country.

Creative Commons License
©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

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Scumland UK

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17 Responses

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  1. c2c8 said, on February 29, 2012 at 1:24 am

    I enjoyed this entry of yours. How do I start?

    On the youth of Europe:
    Coming from an Asian country, I was very disturbed whenever I see TV shows whose market are obviously the teen-agers. It is very vulgar and promiscuous in my perspective. And why is it like ‘nobody’ cares?

    During the riots last year, I think that was it. That’s the volcano starting its eruptions. It’s really the tip of the iceberg of all these youth problems. I am a bit informed about these because of my young friend who studies there and who is always scared.

    Nonetheless, on your last point, you said you don’t want to be a Korean because being a Westerner contributed to your identity now. I see your point.

    Going back to Europe:

    Maybe, just maybe, something was forgotten along the way. With all the confidence of the West, it took a leisurely walk in the 21st century and forgot about its absolutes. . .

    On Korea, I could relate since I work with them as well.
    They study to the extreme but they forget to be creative.
    They have a very competitive and men-led society…

    In conclusion, I would say we could follow this Chinese Proverb that says (paraphrased): When we eat, let us just eat the flesh and leave the bones. Let us get the positive things from both worlds and leave the ones that should be left.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on March 1, 2012 at 1:37 am

      Thanks for your response. I always get uneasy about posts of this nature which basically condemn western society and people can be quite defensive and hostile in response. Many people do not want to acknowledge the extent of rot in their society and worse, consider it a successful template to be followed by other nations. Yes, there are good and bad in all societies but ‘picking the meat and leaving the bones’, of all the options available, is something that is rarely pursued. I have little faith in people and less in politicians. History has demonstrated time and time again that you can populate an island of shit, and before long its population will be rallying to a National Anthem in which even the most hideous regimes are declared the ultimate, and the flag of Turdesville would proudly flutter in the wind. Meanwhile, the smell of shite and the fecal matter inhabitants have to wad through on a daily basis, would go unnoticed. And ironically. I write this on a day when there has been yet another killing spree in the USA – perhaps the world’s most degenerate, dangerous, fascinating and yet at times, inspiring nation.

      • c2c8 said, on March 1, 2012 at 7:36 am

        ” I write this on a day when there has been yet another killing spree in the USA – perhaps the world’s most degenerate, dangerous, fascinating and yet at times, inspiring nation.”——-> very well said.

        Well, I think its really a natural tendency to blindly believe that everything is perfect. I remembered a Filipino Scholar F. Sionil Jose who said that [in the case of my country at least], people are too close to the light that rather than being enlightened, they become blinded by it failing to see what is really happening. I think this is applicable to your discourse on western society.

        If a society can successfully overcome itself, i.e. identify its mistakes and weaknesses and of course, start addressing it, then that would be something worth emulating and truly inspiring.

  2. mamalazarus said, on March 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    What an interesting post. Many of your thoughts reflect mine–American born, was a youth worker in the UK for several years, still living in the UK, but now thinking of moving to Korea in order to experience a new part of the world and a system that might appreciate my skills a bit more. I’m surprised to see that many of the things that bother me about British culture also bother you…simply because I often wonder if I’m just being and arrogant foreigner and an ungrateful guest in the country. Even so–after seeing a young girl stumbling drunk and barefoot through the city casually vomiting over her shoulder at 5 pm one weekday, I have decided to get out. There are wonderful things about Britain and Western society in general. But there is something decidedly wrong about its approach to the care and development of young people’s emotional, spiritual and intellectual selves, and I don’t feel safe working with teenagers here anymore.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on March 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      So often I feel such posts and negative comments about Britain, alienate me. Of course, others share my sentiment but it is so comforting to have see that sentiment reflected in words. Thank-you.

  3. Cami said, on March 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Ah, I can relate. I have a whole personal rating system on my wayguk experience here in Korea. Good days- when I meet a sweet grandmother and we talk and she pats my childrens heads- those are Dokdo days. Bad days -when my daughter won first place but gets her medal handed to her after awards because no one wants to see the white girl on the podium- are Takeshima days. most days I try for Lioncourt rocks- what the US calls Dokdo on it’s maps so as to stay out of the fray. It’s smarter to just stay out of the fray…I may love Korea, but it will not love me back. problem is, I no longer have much love for the west, either. Guess I am just Lioncourt Rocks, the place no one knows of.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on March 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm

      Thanks for a great response. Seem a shame to waste them as ‘comments’ when they would make such an interesting post.

      • Cami said, on May 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm

        Too high a profile, I’m afraid. That would be the end of the competition for my daughter…if you haven’t noticed, Koreans definitely do not like bad press. And we are so easily identifiable!
        But thank you, here’s to more Lioncourt Rocks days for us all!

  4. jenkin said, on March 17, 2012 at 12:39 am

    Why don’t you retire in Korea?

  5. jenkin said, on March 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    In my opinion, Korea, especially any city out of Seoul or even the suburbs of Seoul, is the best retirement place in the world. I have made some travels to well-known retirement places such as Costa Rica, the Caribbean island, Mexico ( lake Chapala-Ajiji, Guadalajara, Sanmiguel Allende, Puerto Vallarta, Cuernavaca), Panama, Peru, Chile(Villa del mar), Malaysia, Canada Vancouver, Morocco, and so on. After the travel to those countries, I traveled to Korea for a month again and concluded that Korea is up in the sky, compared with them. Every country of the above-mentioned countries except for Korea has the security issue, even in the retirement towns, aka American enclaves.

    I can mention the conspicuous advantages of Korea as a retirement place, compared with other countries.
    1.security
    2.health care system
    3.public transport
    4.weather(we can enjoy the 4 distinctive seasons)
    5.Korea’s logistical location for travel to other countries.
    6.we can feel we are in the center of the world for trends, technology, information.
    7.we can enjoy the various natural environments within 5 hour driving – sea, lake, mountain, islands.
    8.inexpensive restaurants(no service charge!)
    9.well-maintained nature in the whole country.
    10.lots of trees throughout the country
    11.jjimjilbang throughout the country
    12.hiking culture
    13.inexpensive and high quality housing(officetele)

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on March 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      I awoke in the middle of last night with your comments in mind and then lay pondering them for an hour. Currently, in the UK, the ‘community’ charge, only one of the bills I have to pay, amounts to the same per month as the rent on my accommodation in Korea which is more than adequate for my needs. Thanks for the comments. A lot to think about!

  6. thesupplanter said, on March 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I went back to the Olde Country recently and was amazed at just how much I loved it. Admittedly, I was only there for a couple of weeks and ostensibly visiting as a tourist, I saw the place through new (perhaps rose-tinted) eyes. A beautiful country, with a rich history and culture. There’s so much to do, so much to see … in certain places.

    However, I do recall much of what you talk about. Bus and train journeys being trips of terror because of the louts, the aggression, the intolerance (yes, intolerance, something Korea is often accused of, but it’s alive and kicking in the UK despite the facade of open debate).

    I too dislike the imposed cultural superiority of many expats who feel the need to be critical of Korean culture without giving their own a stern examination, and further, without giving the slightest recognition of what has shaped Korea, its people, and its culture. I always remember that both of us enjoyed Mr Wonderful’s blog for many reasons, but mainly because he said the following truth: ‘I’m living in the most exciting county in the world!’ It is; the food, the culture, and the basic undeniable fact that your are living on a knife edge (even though it rarely feels like it). I found it a very relaxing and easy place to live, which is something very few, apart from yourself, talk about.

    Having lived away from Korea for nearly a year, I can in all honesty say that Korea is completely unique. It’s weird, arresting, sometimes bewildering, but most of all, fun! Simply, there’s so much to do, so much to see, and so much to learn.

    • 努江虎-노강호 said, on March 21, 2012 at 12:40 am

      Yes, you are right. I miss the green fields, damp air, roast beef etc. Oh, and roast potatoes and Elgar. I wrote a piece, two or three years ago, not yet posted, on the nostalgic, almost patriotic yearnings of an expat driven to prove he wasn’t a totally nasty, Brit basher. Living in Korean does make you appreciate the good things about home. Unfortunately, the reality is that my British council tax amounts to exactly that of the rent for my spacious one-room. Britain has history and culture and it can be beautifully quaint but it is hideously expensive, inefficient, backward, dirty, ridden by class and populated by some very unpleasant people. I don’t mind a class system, 15 years in the army and I’m okay knowing where I am in the pecking order but in topsy-turvy Britain, the lowest rungs of society, as well as foreigners, have been given too much influence in shaping the nature of the country. I no longer feel British – indeed, I feel more Britishness as an expat in Korea than a Brit living at home. In Korea, I have an idea of what it is to be British that isn’t ruined and tainted by reality but the moment I am too long back home and I realise that there really is no community, no sense of British identity – all there really is is a an historical ideology to which you can refer. Of course, you can buy Britishness, because it still lingers in the leafy suburbs, home to the middle classes (and I don’t mean the ones elevated to feeling middle class because they purchased their council home), and if you can afford to live here you can enjoy afternoon cream teas, the choral society, cricket on Sunday, trawling antique shops and quaint little book shops and it is so relaxing and refined that I suspect you begin to forget the quality of life beyond your leafy battlements.

      Is this Middle England? Whatever, it is home to most of those individuals who have so effectively collaborated in making any celebration of Britishness sinister and who strive so hard to help create the facade that we are all equal, or at least equal in terms of opportunity while conveniently forgetting that the roots of inequality are economic. Political Correctness is often a form of socialism which has been denuded of its most integral component, namely that of the power of money. You can have all the equality you want but if you go to Leafy Green Grammar, and mummy and daddy can read and buy books, the chances are you will do a lot better than little Johnny at Peckham Academy Super College with retard parents who are anti-intellectual. So, the politically correct approach is to forget the finances, promote the mantra that we all have equality of opportunity, and then start a hate campaign against grammar schools. Leafy Green schools, by virtue of smart kids and supportive parents, might be grammar schools, but even if they are not they are like them in all but name. And the PC approach naturally attracts the middle classes because it masks their privileged positions, it masks their economic advantaged, it masks the real force of division in society – money – or lack of it!

      Yes, I want to live in the leafy suburbs because I’m a snob and its where my tastes belong – I’d be a better snob than many snobs because I’m not a pretender and I’ve been a snob since I was a boy – I genuinely love opera, the classics, art and all the other lingerie that informs the middle-class package. The truth is I’m priced out of it! It is simply too expensive to maintain the British middle class life style partly because I’m single. If you’re partnered or married, a passport to Leafy Green isn’t too difficult. I could live in the likes of Aldeburgh if I was partnered and though I wouldn’t be part of the brigade who sip champagne and eat nibbles outside their second homes on the sea front, I’d be content with a civilised atmosphere, a little tea shop, Earl Grey and an opera score. My destiny, if I choose to return, isn’t so much the Del Boy land of Peckham, where the topsy-turvy world of anarchy is politely termed, ‘colourful,’ which is really PC code for ‘fucking hideous,’but some other ‘just’ environment, like most of the country, lacking amenities, culture, decent libraries, concert halls, populated by oiks living in a mish-mash world twisted and buckled by all manner of economic, religious, social and ethnic conflicts, and yes, at times coloured by them. And then, by virtue of state designated decrees, I could celebrate sanctioned Britishness by hanging out buntings when it’s the World Cup or ‘mixing’ with unknown neighbours when one of our Royalty marry, by means of a phoney street party. And of course, in the absence of culture, there is always Big Brother and Pop Idol the contents of which suitably replace all former notions of community, belonging and identity. If this is what it now means to be British, I don’t like it and most who do advocate new Britain are generally those who do not have to suffer its anarchy but, by one means or another can cushion themselves from it.

      What dismal prospects! Yes, Britain has some wonderful aspects: It has history, pockets of culture and quaintness and I love the Queen’s latest array of hats and Tescos do a great cream tea if your not partial to a ‘British breakfast’ of industrial sausage and oily egg. Unfortunately, I’ve been priced out of being British and will either have to remain British in Korea or sell my nationality by moving back to the homeland and ‘living’ in a place where, for an array of reasons, I will feel more foreign than I do 3000 miles from home.

      • jenkin said, on March 22, 2012 at 5:26 am

        Apparently, your major concern is the sharply reduced purchasing power and, as a result of that, the lower quality life in UK versus the nice purchasing power and, in turn, the higher quality life in Korea, which you are definitely looking forward to maintaining in the future. Your concerns about purchasing power got my attention, so I checked IMF statistics of GDP(PPP : purchasing power parity) of 6 major economies both in 2012 and in 2016 for the future estimates. The 2012 GDP(PPP) numbers and the future 2016 estimates are given by the International Monetary Fund(IMF).

        GDP(PPP) per capita in 2012
        Germany $38,815
        UK $36,731
        Japan $35,907
        France $35,804
        Korea $33,072
        Spain $31,067
        Italy $29,563

        GDP(PPP) per capita estimates in 2016
        Germany $44,364
        UK $42,058
        Japan $40,806
        Korea $40,777
        France $40,567
        Spain $35.213
        Italy $33,884

        The above-GDP(PPP) figures are on the basis of the official statistics.
        However, if we take the black market in account, the result would be quite different.
        The size of Korean black market is reportedly amounting to 29% of its GDP, which is much bigger than those of the other economies(about 10% or so of their economies). So if we take the black market in account, GDP(PPP) of Korea in 2012 would be $42,662, which is most likely higher than that of UK although the black market of UK is taken into account. I suppose that is why you enjoy better quality life in Korea than in UK. And this trend will go on in favor of Korea according to IMF estimates.

      • 努江虎-노강호 said, on March 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm

        You seem quite knowledgeable about the economic side of things. I tend to just know where I get better value for money. Though I stressed the economics in my response, there are various other factors I find compelling, but because I have ranted about them before, omitted.

        First, would be security – you’re simply safer in Korea and treated with much more civility than back home.

        Then, quality of life is a major factor. Even with more money in the UK, there’s not a lot more you can do, unless you’re living in London perhaps. The cinema, occasional theater or concert. Even the best gyms are shit compared to Korea, There are few marital arts schools not operating out of a dirty church hall, or someone else’s gym and there are no jjimjilbang, mogyotang, pc bang or noraebang. But there are plenty of bars where you can drink a pint, watch a soap drama, the latest football match and listen to someone else’s choice of pop music all at the same time.

        Thanks for the response

  7. Alejandro Castro said, on May 6, 2012 at 1:08 am

    Thank you for this entry. I now live in South Korea, and what you have written – as someone who consideres staying longer – these emotions that you state and realities that Korea faces is so true. I’m from the USA, but the youth there, too runs with the same trends as those of Western Europe. Student empowerment in which the teacher is stript of any tool to help maintain classroom management. Teen pregnancies, and ever growing list of things wrong with our own society. It sometimes saddens me to realize that one day, because of western influence, this may perhaps come to occur here and poison that Korean naïveté. Yet, as someone who is trying to assimilate here (this is my 1st year in Korea), I find it that there’s always a constant reminder that 1) you are not a Korean and 2) you’ll never be Korean. Perhaps, as you stated, we come from countries that embrace diversity and take it and make it our own; therefore the idea of excluding someone that is not our nations origens is taboo. It’s daunting to be here, as you are constantly challenged with your knowledge of Korean, Korean social norms and all the baggage that comes with being Korean. Yet, it’s also liberating, since like you said, we get extra perks for being interested and warm westerners, or we don’t have to follow every confucian rule.

    There is as you said a sense of mixed emotions about this that makes Korea so interesting, exotic, tiring among may other things.


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