Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ave, Jason!

Jason is a Korean middle-schooler who lived in the US for about three years. He says he's new to YouTube, and he's just put out his very first YouTube video, "Dear Korea," which I thought was excellently done, especially for a kid his age. The expat comments below the video are almost universally positive and encouraging; I hope Jason makes more such vids.

I learned about Jason via Twitter, which is how I keep current with most things these days. A French e-acquaintance (we've never met in person), whose Twitter updates I follow, retweeted another Frenchman who linked to Jason's video and wrote:

Quand un ado sud-coréen démonte le système éducatif de son pays....

When a South Korean teen takes apart the educational system of his country...

Jason's video is bluntly critical of Korean education. I suppose he acquired his skeptical perspective after having spent three years in the American system, which doesn't place such an insane emphasis on investing time in one's studies. In Korea, seeming is often more important than being,* so seeming busy is often more important than actually being productive. If, in order to seem busy, a child has to sleep only three or four hours a night, then so be it: sleep goes out the window. Jason also notes that the Korean system works best for those who are "average," while those who are creative or individualistic are viewed dimly by the system: they don't "fit in." (This is reminiscent of the proverb, known throughout East Asia, that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.)

Jason also speaks ominously about the apparent correlation between a child's academic achievement and a parent's love for that child. Even more powerfully, he likens the Korean education system to the doomed Sewol ferry: it's a vehicle filled with good people, going to a wonderful destination, but it's heading for disaster, so what is anyone going to do about this? Jason wonders aloud whether we hapless bystanders will do nothing but mourn our losses and impotently mull over what we could have done.

These are pretty deep insights for a tween. I'd be hard pressed to hear such depth from American high schoolers, most of whom are too self-absorbed to care or to be critical about the system into which they're plugged.**

I have no idea what Jason's destiny is. He's already proven himself, in a single YouTube video, to be something of a cultural critic. I hope he doesn't curdle into a bitter cynic later in life. At the same time, I hope he doesn't become a wild-eyed, idealistic activist preaching fiery sermons from the mountaintop with febrile urgency. I hope he keeps his head and continues on the course he seems to be on right now. He's a smart kid, and likable. And I'm very impressed by his video.

*My high school's Latin motto is awesome: Esse non videri—or roughly, Being, not seeming.

**To be fair, I'd have trouble hearing this sort of depth from some of my own college students here at Dongguk, many of whom breeze through life quite uncritically.


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