Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Korean imperialism redux: Occupy Clown

With thanks once again to Joe of ZenKimchi for pointing out the link, we have this article by Paul G. Lee of Net.Sidebar titled "The Right to Occupy McDonald's." Lee is a Korean-American, but he feels embarrassed by the old guys, and makes almost exactly the same points that I made in my post re: the likely American perspective on this situation. Lee writes:

As a Korean-American, this incident makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because I think the Koreans are wrong. Sorry, Grandfather, Grandmother, Elder, Deaconess, but aren’t you the ones guilty of being rude? Aren’t you the ones that are overstaying your welcome in a fast food restaurant, and then once met with authority, galvanizing the Korean community about some non-issue?


At first, McDonald’s calling the police seems a bit excessive, but if I understood correctly, the actions of the seniors [were] tolerated for months before the authorities [were] called to resolve the non-compliance.


To me, it seems like this group of elderly Korean men and women have the cultural expectations that come with being an elderly Korean man or women. Utmost respect. Immunity to error. Compliance from those younger than them. Except that this time, they expect this from an establishment as synonymous with America as Ford, Apple, Google, or Microsoft. This is the difficult part because for as much as America is a nation of many peoples, not one of those peoples should disruptively insert their personal cultural expectations into our businesses. These Koreans were breaking an unspoken social rule, and should quickly dissolve the attention that they are receiving from the media by moving their gathering to another location. It is starting to reflect poorly on the Korean community.

In that final paragraph, Lee alludes to the cellular cultural understanding that I referred to in my post: when you're inside a business, you respect what the business wants. As e-friend and ex-blogger Brian Ridge put it to me in a comment regarding the McDonald's manager: "His business, his rules."

Earlier on, Lee writes, "Aren't you the ones guilty of being rude?" This corresponds to:

If disrespect is the issue, as the Korean side contends, then it's the old guys who shed first blood by wearing out their welcome—not once, but for five long years. If anything, Americans might say, the McDonald's branch showed remarkable restraint in not calling the police before now.

When Lee writes on the elders' cultural expectations, this reflects what I had written:

Korean culture doesn't teach old people to be humble; it teaches them that they've earned a high place in society simply by surviving so long, and that has the unfortunate effect of spoiling the old, who often act like children in this society.

I, too, have trouble seeing how any of this is supposedly racist. People appeal to racism far too quickly. Racism, as a buzzword, is often a crutch for those who can't think. I can see how this is a cultural issue; Lee and I also agree on that point. Did the old guys have a right to overstay their welcome for five years? From the American perspective (and since this case is happening in America, it's the American perspective that overrides all), no. They didn't.

The major difference between Lee's article and my first post on this issue is that Lee is more direct in laying out his feelings. I've tried to be a bit more even-handed in my approach, and I stand by that. At the same time, I admit I do feel my sympathy for the old guys draining away. As Lee writes, there are plenty of places for Korean seniors to gather in that particular community; there's no need for them to be hogging the McDonald's. And as I mentioned in a different post, I'm pretty sure that the new "sit for one hour" rule is going to be just as thoroughly ignored as was the "20 minutes" rule: give the fogeys an inch, and they'll take a mile. Only this time, the new Komerican manager will be constrained by culture from saying anything. Old guys win. At least until they start dying off.


1 comment:

Charles said...

The racism thing really rubbed me the wrong way, too. If they had been kicked out because they were Korean, that would be racism. But they were kicked out because they were hurting the business. Just because a group shares a trait doesn't meant that action against that group is because of that trait. Had they all been women, would it have been sexist?

(Answer: Probably. *sigh*)