Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I Know About Korea

A year from now, I will likely look back at these thoughts and think, "Holy cow, you didn't know the half of it." But for now, here's what I'm learning about Korea........................................................................................................................................................................................(for some reason unknown to me, Blogger in Korea does NOT want to let me edit or create spaces between paragraphs. Surprise! So please, bear with me.).................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Korean culture is very hierarchical. There are different depths of bows based on how old a person is and what their job is. There is both an informal and honorific language that you use depending on who you are speaking to. The Korean people are quite formal and very polite. Everything must be given and taken with two hands, as a sign of respect. There was a lot of hubbub a few months ago when U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, shook hands with Korea's President Park using only one hand. This stuff matters.................................................................................................................................... Korea is quite safe. As one of my co-teachers asked yesterday, "Are your parents worried for you being in Korea?" I said they were, just because Korea is unfamiliar to them. She mentioned many things she'd heard on the news recently about gun violence in America and said quite truthfully: "Guns are illegal in Korea. I think you are probably safer here than you were in America." Probably true........................................................................................................................... It's interesting living in a country whose history dates back thousands of years. Thousands. Their culture and art and music and architecture have roots and purpose from a very long past. It's pretty incredible. In the same vein, Korea has a very tumultuous modern history that, admittedly, I knew very little about. Korea was occupied by Japan and forced to speak Japanese, forced to change their names, temples and traditions were torn down and 200,000 girls and women were forced to be "comfort women" (sex slaves) to the Japanese millitary. To say that Koreans don't like Japan would be an understatement. I've been told it would be best simply not to talk about it.............................................................................................................. After this, the two parts of the country split (North and South, respectively) across the 38th parallel. The North wanted communism. The South wanted democracy. I had no idea how many families this tore apart, how many people want reunification, but at the same time, what a constant threat/reminder the North's presence is. They have monthly civil defense drills to prepare for an attack. The kids crouch under their desks, just like Americans did during World War II, but the difference is South Korea has been doing this for 50 years! ...................................................................................................................... Korea is small, but huge. The population is 50 million and the entire country of South Korea could fit into the state of Indiana. However, Korea is 70% mountainous, meaning that only 30% of it is livable space. So imagine 50 million people squeezing into 30% of Indiana. Crazy!.......................................................................................................... In 1957, Korea was the poorest country in the world--as their GDP was lower than Ghana--and now they have the 15th highest economy in the world. They produce all products of LG, Samsung, Kia, and Hyundai. As far as education goes, Korea ranks third best in science, second in math and literature, and first in problem-solving. It is incredibly common for a third grade student to attend eight hours of school, followed by English tutoring sessions that go late into the evening. These people work hard................................................................................................... In the West, we are raised to be individualistic. Koreans are taught to be collective. They do everything together. They take care of each other. When stocks crashed in 1997 and the banks owed money, Korean people lined up outside of the banks and donated money and jewelry and gold to help get the banks out of debt. The government didn't order them to. They just did it. They think, "What's best for Korea?" They are an incredible work force of people who work together to get things done...................................................................................................... Another recent example of this collectivist mindset: some nuclear power plants went down a few weeks ago. So the government asked if major businesses and schools could please stop using the air conditioner or at least use less of it to save energy. So they are doing it and no one is complaining. It's just what needs to be done. No one is protesting and complaining about how their rights are slowly being taken over by a socialist governement, they are just chipping in because that's what they need to do. When I got to school, they told me not to use the elevator. I asked if it was broken, they said, "No, we are just trying not to use any more electricity than we need." ....................................................................................................................................................

3 comments:

KendraKay at havemercyblog.com said...

this was fascinating! thank you :)

Carley Brown said...

I love how you share your life and experiences and how much you've learned about where you are. Loved reading this!

Ashley Barber said...

What an interesting perspective, I think I love Korea!