Monday, May 10, 2004

Monday Koreafarts

The Blogger folks have changed the Blogger interface without first asking me, and it's fuckin' my shit up big-time, as Tarantino groused in "Pulp Fiction." Blogger's added a slew of new features to bring it up to speed with its competitors. Apparently, we now have the option of turning on comments (on a post-by-post basis, no less). We're now also able to archive posts in such a way that each post gets it own web page ("post page archiving"), a feature that gives me quite the woody. BUT--

The problem is that I've wasted the past hour trying to re-publish my entire blog so that everything's archived in the post page manner, but it ain't happenin'-- I keep getting "operation timed out" errors. Maybe my blog is just too damn big: I've got over 900 posts on here, and many of them are not puny, runty little things. Perhaps we're looking at cyber-constipation. Or maybe my blog is what so many detractors have claimed: a huge, pulsating, shit-encrusted hemorrhoid.

I'm off to teach a private class. Back later with some actual Koreafarts, most notably the current flap in cyberspace over the Tokdo problem. Folks gotta calm the fuck down about that shit.

... and we're back. In my class with Min-sung (the 9-year-old in Apkujeong) earlier this evening, we did some math and discovered that it would take us about 300 years to write out ten billion zeroes. Min-sung was very giggly over this, but it gave me the opportunity to teach vocabulary like, "grandson, great-grandson, great-great-grandson," etc., as we calculated how many generations of his family would be needed to complete the project. Good sexists that we are, we conveniently glossed over the possibility that the project might be completed by a great-great-great-to-the-Xth-power granddaughter.

But now I'm back home and ready to deal with Matters of Immense Import to You and Me.

I suppose I could digress, and tell you about how I took an amazing dump in the very nice restroom at Ch'angshin Station, Line 6, because my asshole was about to sing brown opera. I could tell you that it looked as if I'd shat a load of billowing tea leaves even though I don't recall eating anything remotely tea leaf-like. I suppose I could also tell you how, as I was riding the Line 6 subway, I saw my first-ever true freak of nature: a Korean guy sporting a mullet. It was a sight I'll take to my grave. No Korean should ever, ever wear a fuckin' mullet. Wooj is down in Georgia, Land of the Mullet, and he can tell you how fuckin' ugly they look on white folks. Now imagine that head of hair on a Korean. Having trouble imagining that? NO FUCKING SHIT.

I suppose I could digress like that, but I won't, because I think you're goddamn special, you brachiating asswipe.

Onward to the Tokdo issue!

Ever been bitten by a mosquito? Stung by a wasp? Nibbled by a chigger? If so, then you know that, even though these bugs are attacking only the tiniest patch of skin, it's annoying as all fuck. The Tokdo problem is a bit like that. The Japanese radicals who recently tried to "invade" the small group of islands collectively known as Tokdo to Koreans (Takeshima to the Japanese) were like the bug. Korea reacted the way I always react to mosquitoes: they slapped, with intent to slap the shit out of.

Was this an overreaction on Korea's part? Does it matter?

Those are the two questions being ably dealt with by both the Marmot and Wooj, each seemingly on opposite sides, but both not really in that much disagreement about the important matters.

The Marmot saw Korea's reaction as a laughable overreaction and kept up a jocular commentary. His post has spawned a comments thread (over 75 posts long, at this writing) that includes everything from good humor to mutual accusations of racism to threats to beat the shit out of someone (and since that someone didn't have the balls to name themselves, and referred to half-Koreans like yours truly as "mongrels," I'll say that Mr. Nameless can go buttfuck himself with a splintery broomstick à la Harry Potter and the Mysterious Prison Bitch).

Wooj takes the Marmot and others to task on several fronts. His strongest argument is his first:

That fact is, my friends, Dokdo belongs to Corea, and the Corean army belongs to Corea, period. So whatever the fuck we do with our own military on our own island is none of anyone else's fuckin' business. We can send in cruise missiles and destroyers and submarines to intercept the puny boat carrying the four right-wing Japanese imperialists if we want, and we don't need to give a rat's ass about what foreigners think about that. I say we send in even more, and show the world that we're not taking any more crap from shit-headed imperialists and will gladly kick their asses if they get any wise ideas.

I actually wish more Koreans adopted this attitude about many aspects of Korean society. Instead, I get the feeling that a lot of Korean sensitivity is rooted in two things: (1) a very painful history, from which the Koreas haven't yet emerged, and (2) the insecurity [justified, in my opinion] that comes with being a smaller power in the larger scheme of things. Nationalism, in any small country, is a way to compensate for (2). If you read some of the, uh, white folks' commentary in the Marmot's thread, though, you'll get the impression that Koreans simply can't control their emotions (though it's obvious some of those folks can't control theirs, either).

While there may be some truth to the claim about Korean emotionalism (I have a Korean Mom, after all, so I know about this personally), this is by no means the whole story, a fact that shouldn't be forgotten in the midst of spirited debate. There are a lot of Koreans doing embarrassing things in public, and many of them are in politics and therefore are on camera for the whole world to see. But it's not as if I'm living in a land of total chaos. As I listen out my window this evening, it's pretty quiet and orderly. I don't spend my day getting harassed on all sides, and Seoul isn't a city of smoking ruins and brick-smashed windows. We have to watch those over-generalized claims, folks. Truth is almost never found at the extreme ends of the spectrum-- that's my little caution to both sides of this issue.

BigHo's verdict:

1. The Marmot was in his rights to post his opinion. From his point of view, this seems to fit a pattern of overreaction and emotionalism. He can readily provide evidence for this-- and does, to some extent, in his comment on Wooj's blog.
2. Wooj is right to say that what SK does is SK's own damn business. I applaud this and wish more people showed this kind of backbone instead of hypocritically hemming and hawing about world opinion (which is, by the way, how I feel about US action abroad, too; we can't worry about everyone, and as things are, we already worry too much).
3. Wooj is also right to point out the US's own inconsistencies. I'm not going to have a cow about that, because I'm a political cynic, anyway. No one is pure. We may be tempted to talk about larger issues like "moral equivalency," but I don't think that discussion applies here, mainly because Tokdo is so damn small.
4. The Marmot and Wooj are in basic agreement, I think, about Tokdo belonging to Korea. I went and took a gander at the site to which Wooj linked; it's got a good, comprehensive history of the whole Tokdo affair. The way I read it, Tokdo belongs to Korea.
5. The basic disagreement seems to be over whether the Korean reaction was worth all the laughter. This is unresolvable, in my opinion. If you're Korean, and you've got a sense of history, then you're going to look askance at Japanese action, whether that action was sanctioned by the Japanese government or not. If you're an expat in Korea convinced that Koreans can be overemotional, you're going to see Tokdo (and perhaps even Wooj's reaction to the Marmot's piece) as evidence in favor of the "angry Korean" thesis. (NB: Wooj doesn't strike me as an angry person, based on a couple private exchanges, so if I were you, I'd suspend judgment. They say "everyone is normal until you get to know them." In cyberspace, I think the the rule is "everyone's an asshole until you get to know them.")

I haven't followed the Tokdo issue that well, so today's Stroll Among the Trolls was very educational. My own opinion, subject to revision, is that there are better things to worry about than a few tiny patches of land. But I empathize with the urge to slap the shit out of any mosquito that tries to bite.


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