Apr 29, 2012

Conversations with a Korean

Meeting with people from other cultures is always interesting, and it was exciting to work with Mr. Jinhak Seo, who is from Korea. Mr. Seo regaled us with nuggets of cultural information about Korea, and I found many of them interesting enough to note down. Maybe because some of the culture is so similar to Nepal, I found it very interesting. So here is Korea, in Mr. Seo’s own words:
Alcohol is important in Korean society, as Koreans like to drink a lot. So much so that we have the service of substitute drivers. Any time you get drunk, just call them, and the substitute driver arrives immediately. They will drive you home in your own car, and this is much cheaper than a taxi. Alcohol plays an important role in marriage as well. When a prospective son-in-law meets his father-in-law for the first time, the father in law pours him a drink. He then closely watches the young man’s behavior to see how he behaves with the drink. Yes, the young man must be a really practiced drinker, or else he will be rejected by his father-in-law.
Regarding marriage, in Korean culture marriages were traditionally arranged according to the horoscope, though they are not so popular any more. Every person born in the same year has the same zodiac sign in Korean astrology. Koreans like to joke about marriage and say that husbands and wives must have been enemies in the previous birth. Traditionally, the first daughter is desired for marriage. She is considered to be patient and obedient, as she learns a lot of chores and often has to yield to her younger siblings. In contrast, the younger sister is considered to be selfish. Though the first daughter is considered a sign of good luck and money, most parents want a son too. In the traditional teachings of a Confucian value system, having a son is considered a sign of strength. There are many couples who have daughter after daughter and finally stop when they have a son. Traditionally, the wife may even be abused for not bearing a son. In Korean society, the younger child is much pampered and coddled, and the son even more so.
Once upon a time, Korea had the policy of having only 2 children. The policy was not enforced by the government, as it is impossible to enforce other than by force. Rather it was enforced by social pressure. People pointed and talked about those parents who had more than two children. Long period of this policy led to a decrease in population. Today, the society has changed and the government encourages citizens to have more children. Mothers can take up to one year of paid leave after giving birth (3 month is full paid, and the rest is half paid), and fathers can also take a year’s leave at two thirds pay(maybe half).
Since Korea has a very good health care system, it is easy to take care of these babies and mothers. Doctors and medicines are all cheap in Korea. Even cosmetic surgery is cheap in Korea, so much so that for the price of getting a surgery in Western nation, people can get a trip to Korea plus cosmetic surgery. Koreans have realized the value of these calculations, and so nowadays, they advertise such vacation packages consisting of trip and cosmetic surgery.
Often, it is difficult for Koreans to do such calculations because the Korean language is so different from English. Koreans put zeroes after every two numbers instead of three. Every letter is pronounced as it is written, unlike in English where the same letter may be pronounced differently. Besides, even though most of Koreans do learn English, anyone who has good English speaking skills bound to get many opportunities and promotions in Korea.
Once Koreans come to America, there are so many cultural differences. For example, in America we address everyone by name, but in Korea we address them with a title, either brother, sister, uncle, or even the professional title. We often do not know the names of our friends’ wives, as we call them by a title, something similar to “teacher’s wife, or brother’s wife” (very similar to our own bhauju and bhinaju, I thought!)
           But Koreans make up for the lack of English by excelling in economy. Fifty years ago, Korea as one of the poorest countries in Asia, and Philippines was ten times richer than it. Today Korea is ten times richer than Philippines. This is partly because Korean technology is highly developed. The American internet is slow compared to Korea, as Korea is the country with world’s fastest Internet. Most people in Korea have a fancy phone and expensive car.
Despite being so technologically advanced, the Koreans are a very tragic people. If Koreans could be described in one word, it would be tragic. Our literature, poetry, music, films, all have strong tragic themes. We feel that only tragic themes can express the feelings of people who have traditionally lived a hard life and have no other means of expressing themselves.

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6 comments:

Troubled Thinker said...

Very interesting! I still want to go! Lol

avoiceinside said...

read your article in TKP...liked it!! in fact culture and trends in Korea are so similar to that of Nepal that if we change Korea to Nepal and Koreans to Nepalese..the most part of your article would simply be about Nepal...PS: people in Nepal would love to have a substitute driver service!!

avoiceinside said...

read your article in TKP...liked it!! in fact culture and trends in Korea are so similar to that of Nepal that if we change Korea to Nepal and Koreans to Nepalese..the most part of your article would simply be about Nepal...PS: people in Nepal would love to have a substitute driver service!!

JAY said...

kasto ramro article. dherai kura thaha bhayo korea ko barema.
i don't understand why they call themselves tragic. if they are tragic we are what? super-tragic ?
....nice criteria for picking up jwaisaaps, there are millions and millions of eligible jwais in nepal.

curly locks said...

Troubled Thinker: u shud definitely go
Prashant: Thanks for reading
Jay dai: Mero sathi ki chhori sanga kura chalaun ta :)

j said...

hos kura nachalau. तिमीहरुलाई जन्ती जान टाढा हुन्छ । मलाई दुल्हन फर्काउन टाढा ।

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