(This post is part of the “Looking Past Korea” Series, my general wrap up on Korean culture. So far I’ve gone over superficial differences of Korea and cultural aspects that I think are over rated by foreigners. In this part I talk about the things that I think make Korea unique and different to Western Culture)
I’m not a military strategist but I hear that peninsulas are important strategic locations. Korea is a peninsula. Not just any peninsula at that, it’s stationed between two of the world’s major powers.
Throughout its history Korea has beaten back numerous attempts at conquest. However, with its small size and limited resources this was not an easy task. Mongolians, Chinese, Japanese and even their own country to the north have tried to take over the Korean Peninsula. That they have emerged independent is a testament to their will power.
They did not emerge unscathed. The Korean psyche has been built by the defensive nature of their countries history. Since their leaders consistently abandoned the people during these times of war Koreans have become understandably suspicious of those in power and the reason why they protest and call for the resignation of those who they elected to power only months before. The Korean people have developed a defensive mindset. Korea vs. the World, and no one can blame them.
Their location affects everything about their culture in some way. Everything stems from this. The same way it does in most countries. Because of it Koreans have developed a cliquish nature with their close friends and a stern distrust of outsiders. The word for foreigner literally means “person who does not belong.”
It’s the reason why Koreans join so many after school programs even when they are adults. If you are in the same group as someone then you are friends. It’s the reason why blind dates are so popular. You can not meet someone at random, you have to be introduced. It’s the reason why CEO’s that graduated form a university tend to favor others who graduated from the same university. It’s the reason why Koreans take their history so seriously, it’s a common bond with all other Koreans.
Protect the bloodline. Protect original Korean culture. Because if you don’t nobody else will do it and Korea will be lost forever.
A common bond through school, activities, living area, employment and others is what creates social groups in Korea. As Koreans are a social people these groups are very important.
But woe to the person who does not belong. You are an outsider who does not belong. You have no ties and therefore you might as well not even exist.