Looking Past Korea: Series Introduction

I have to be honest. South Korea, as a topic has begun to bore me.

This sentiment seems odd. Despite the beliefs of some of my friends to the contrary South Korea is changing and developing rapidly. Questions about education and movements in film and entertainment are pushing Korean culture to places it’s never been before.

If a person were to leave the United States for ten years when they came back they would find it different. However, as happens with most developed countries, the changes would be superficial. It’s new paint on an old room, and maybe a new television. Also all the books would be condensed into a single MP3 file.

In the case of South Korea however, you could leave for ten years, come back and find a completely new building. A completely new culture would have arisen. I see it happening now, even in the past year.

Compared to the United States, the big brother with the nice job, South Korea is just entering college. It is about to undertake some serious social change. I can’t wait till they get hippies.

So why is South Korea becoming boring to me?

I found it one day when I wasn’t looking for it. The realization that, in essence, everything is the same here as it was back home in Michigan.

When you get down to the brass tax of it all people are the same. We wrestle with the same fundamental questions wherever you go. Love, happiness, money, power, respect, style, form, function, philosophy, war, peace, crime, punishment…everybody has the same questions, just in varying degrees. This applies to all over the world, not just Korea.

It’s telling that the single greatest culture shock moment I’ve had all year was when I found out that many Koreans prefer the dark meat of the chicken over the breast meat. They even give the white meat to the dog. This makes it very easy for Rachel and I when we order some chicken and watch movies, but I can’t get over it none the less.

When I first got here I was overwhelmed by the stylistic differences between here and home, but was that because I was trying to find them? Now when looking, I realize that everything I thought was so culturally different and important when I first got here can be found in a segment of American Culture.

Please tell me, what are the stylistic differences between this music video and “Romeo and Juliet” featuring DiCaprio and Claire Dames? When I first got here I would have been all over this.

I guess the more you compare apples and oranges, the more you realize they’re both just fruit.

Everything here can be compared to something back home. Every life lesson here applies back home. They may do things a little differently, but really it’s just like taking a different route to work. But eventually, everybody finds the quickest route and does, more or less, the same thing.

So I am bored. Why pay attention to a story if you already know the ending?

Because the journey is what’s really important.


So with that said I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at what I believe to be over rated when it comes to Korean culture; what I believe to be superficial yet vaguely indicative of the culture; and what I find to be truly important when it comes to nailing down the true cultural differences that make South Korea truly unique.

After all of this, here’s the music video that inspired this post. I don’t know what they’re saying but I feel like I’ve seen and heard it a million times before.


Filed under Culture, The foreigner experience, Videos

2 responses to “Looking Past Korea: Series Introduction

  1. “The realization that, in essence, everything is the same here as it was back home in Michigan.”

    Shhhhhhhh. One of the secrets of being an ex-pat is that while everyone else thinks you’re having fabulous adventures, for the most part, you’re living much like you did at home…

  2. Juan

    Granted people are people and we deal with essentially the same issues everywhere. But I think you underestimate one key fact; Korea is just a boring ass place…

    Off topic: It occured to me the other day that if westerners had never brought over the sweet potato to Asia there would never have been any Soju. I mean, really, could you imagine a salaryman drinking binge on just Makkoli…I cringe. I feel like Koreans don’t appreciate our contributions to their culture enough as they should.

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