Saturday, December 06, 2003

Korea notes

The Marmot writes a post titled "Don't Go, Big-nosers!" It features a political cartoon depicting a departing American military, Korean politicians shouting "Don't go!", and one US soldier turning around to grouse at the politicians, "You want to be constantly anti-American?" The Marmot points out the huge noses placed on the US soldiers, but the ensuing comments thread also yielded a good deal of treasure. I want to steal from the Marmot's commenters and quote them in the light of day here. One humorous observation by the Flying Yangban was:

I noticed that there are only honkies in the US army in that cartoon. Where are the brothers?

Readers in Korea will be well-aware of this, but for those of you not in the know: if you think white racism against blacks is bad in America, wait'll you see Korean racism against blacks. The general rule in Korea is: the darker your skin, the less we like/trust you. Some Indians break this rule by speaking incredibly fluent Korean and nabbing the high-end tech jobs (unsurprising; American companies outsource a lot of their tech work to India these days), but this is still very much the exception, and Indians of all castes (pardon the pun) still experience a good deal of racism in Korea.

Peter Schroepfer of Oranckay writes:

Dunno about others but I sense a minor strain of discourse among the [Korean] Left that either (1) doesn't want the Americans to get upset about anti-Americanism, or (2) doesn't think it would be becoming of the US to get upset about anti-Americanism.

If (1), then you wonder why the heck not and if (2), then it confirms my suspicion that alot of anti-Americanism originates in unconscious but higher expectations for the US than for Korea or other countries.

Something like this is at work in America when you're talking about power dynamics and racism: minorities say, "We're the little guy, so it's less harmful (i.e., more justified) for us to be abusive of whites than it is for whites to be abusive of minorities" (think: Robin Williams's ethnic Arab jokes in his Broadway routine; compare with David Chappelle's "white police officers sprinkling crack on blacks" routine-- which I found hilarious). Koreans, long used to viewing themselves as "the conquered" or as simple victims of the outside world, may very well be doing the same thing: "America, we're the little guy, so you shouldn't be so upset by our anti-Americanism. After all, it's only to be expected. You, however, need to watch your arrogance, because you're a huge, powerful country compared to us." I don't want to make sweeping judgements about that dynamic, whether we're talking about US-SK relations in SK, or majority/minority relations in America, except to note that the dynamic produces a lot of PC overreaction.

But the comment that most caught my eye in this thread was-- surprise, surprise-- the Infidel's, which I quote here in full:

The Korean Left is falling into the same mind trap most marxists can't resist, because dialectics posits conflict into the very fabric of all group relations. Even if the Americans are sincerely looking at South Korea as a liability, because of discontent, the left has to create an imaginary divide between those Americans who want to stay and those who want to go. And then, it has to interpret Rumsfeld's remark as some kind of inside joke Rumsfeld the bureaucrat is using to fight with the State Department.

South Koreans just don't understand how deep the isolationism runs in American thinking, because Koreans are such victims, that they only see winners who are imperialists and losers who are conquered. Washington after Munich and WW2 sees the world as either a chessboard with America on the white side, or as the Old Europe America needs to ignore and isolate itself against. Koreans are also so cynical they could never just accept or admit that there is such a thing as loyalty between allies.

On the other hand, the South Korean right is probably just ideologically bankrupt. Although I would never question its loyalty, I'm sure it would murder to stay in power if an emergency presented itself. And the same for the left. No, what surprises me most about that cartoon is that it uses Rumsfeld to dramatize South Korea's party divisions. It almost screams the message, "Without Washington We Koreans Will Kill Each Other!"

I think this is an extremely perceptive observation, and I'm still chewing it over. His point about American isolationism is well taken: in my family, we'll have moments, while watching the news, where one of us will go, "You know, maybe we should just pull out of Location X. Let 'em deal with the problem themselves," only for another of us to reply, "It's too late; we're too plugged in." And the Infidel's last line rings very true to me: Koreans are insecure about losing their training wheels, but it really is high time for the training wheels to come off.

Moving over to Korean baseball...

Regarding Lee Seung-yeop's purported whininess, and the state of Korean sports journalism: my buddy Thomas St. John, who's a contributing writer to the Korea Times, wrote to me about the tabloid nature of Korean sports journalism, where bullshit often gets reported as fact. Over two emails, here's what he says:

[first email]

If I were getting all of my quotes from the tabloid
sports papers, I would think he is a whiny bitch also.

He has never said most of the things in print now and
even had to have a press confrence where he told
people not to believe anything that they do not hear
from [him] on the radio or actually see him say on TV.

Things will work out well for him but with all the
free agents coming out now and more on the 7th,
literally anything is possible. So many first basemen
[being] available is not helping things either.

Sure he wants his money but he knows that the KBO is
hardly known outside Korea and he is a no one in the
market. The sportswriters are making up things
LITERALLY. Lee has a million things on the table now
and all is about where he signs. Contract first and
all else will fall into place.

Can't go into more detail but it will be made clear
what he is doing and why he is doing it a few days
after he signs.

[second email]

Quoting a sports newspaper or any Korean paper for
that matter is like quoting the National Enquirer.
Literally that bad. Real papers like Chosun Ilbo get
their sports from these dorks also.

US MLB writers get their info from the translated

That is why things are so fucked up now.

Every reporter is getting in the way here. It is the
usual thing where every younger Korean is EVERYONE's
son or daughter and they feel like they must say
their piece. Some, unfortunately, have a newspaper
column to do this and the 'editor' NEVER checks a
single story for accuracy. I have been told this by
reporters personally. That is how they get away with

I don't know what this adds or subtracts to issues bouncing among Koreabloggers, but there ya' go.

No comments: