Friday, January 16, 2009

b.s. generalizations

A commenter in the Marmot's Hole whine cellar reminds me of this quote by B.R. Myers, who writes for the Wall Street Journal:
South Koreans may chuckle at the personality cult, but they generally agree with Pyongyang that Koreans are a pure-blooded race whose innate goodness has made them the perennial victims of rapacious foreigners. They share the same tendency to regard Koreans as innocent children on the world stage–and to ascribe evil to foreigners alone…
Oh, I know a lot of "foreigners" in Korea would love to believe this facile little stereotype, but alas, like so many things involving generalizations, it's only true where it isn't false.

I'm sure there are many Koreans who still subscribe to the "pure-blooded Koreans" myth, but a growing number — dare I say a vast majority — either don't think it is pure anymore and/or they don't care. This is a case of using the loudest voices of a generation ago to explain general beliefs today. 

As for Koreans being "perennial victims," well I'm not sure if most Koreans would put it that way. Certainly Korea has suffered at the hands of other countries over the past century, most notably the Japanese and, arguably, the Americans and Russians who divided the country and then the Chinese who aided the North; and a lot of Koreans are scratching their heads that after trying to do all the right things since the 1997-98 economic crisis, the economy is still tanking because of events beyond their control thousands of miles away. But I'm not so sure if that makes Koreans perennial victims to a majority of people.

And ascribing evil to foreigners alone? Certainly the idea that Koreans are good and pure is a laughable idea if you sit down and talk with almost any Korean about politics and economics. Koreans are the worse thing about Korea, many will tell you. Indeed, even if a lot of Koreans wouldn't describe it that way, it's easy to see that the worst critics of Korea are Koreans themselves. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again here: One of the biggest problems with blogs like Marmot's Hole and similar sites is that they give a highly selective — and therefore distorted — picture of what Koreans think about in general and how often. Tokto/Takeshima, for example, makes up a far greater portion of Marmot's Hole posts than it does stories in Korean news media. Marmot's attention to stories regarding foreign nationals (like the Canadian who is being investigated for allegedly molesting three first-grade girls) gives a skewed impression of gross persecution of foreign nationals. 

I'm not saying that it's streets paved with gold for international residents, but the impression from Marmot's and the reality are quite different, methinks. That is, unless you've fallen so deep into cognitive distortion that your negativity begins to shape your actual experience. 

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