Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Recently our office was completely refurbished with fairly nice furniture.

We were moving one of the book cases today when I happened to glance at the bottom of the piece.

Stamped in big red letters were the words: Made in Vietnam.

I went to Vietnam a few years back.  One of the most striking things was this: huge swaths of the northern countryside denuded of trees.

I look again at my bookshelves.  I think of the tables in the conference rooms, the chairs in the cafeteria, probably even the wardrobes in my bedroom and my computer desk. . . made in Vietnam.  In the case of our office furniture, by a Korean owned company.

Now a subject that comes up frequently at work and with Korean friends is the whole issue of Imperialism.

In fact, it's probably the subject that gets me in the most trouble when I end up opening my big mouth.

I get annoyed because it usually involves a conception of Korea as the poor poster child for dispossessed peoples the world over being overrun by Evil Powers.  These days that means America.

Most of this stuff is fed to them in school.

Sure, plenty of examples can be found in Korean history to support the Han of victimhood.  The issue of whether Han is a suitable concept to describe modern Korea is beyond the scope of this stoopid blog.

What isn't is the irony of people complaining about being the victim of imperialism while perpetuating it against other less developed countries.

I call it Imperialism lite.

Hard core imperialism involves force.  Being forced to learn Japanese and give up their Korean names is a fine example.  Imperialism lite is economic exploitation, going into other less developed countries, buying up all their resources and maybe selling some of it back to them as manufactured goods.   Most of what is drawn out of course goes back to the home country.  That completely captures what the modern Korea is all about.

No longer can Korea be seen as a purely export driven economy.  Now its about creating new markets for basics that they manufacture locally where the resources are found.  Yes, some local people benefit, but most of the profits and goods end up back in Seoul.

But I suppose it is more nourishing to believe in the myths one has been fed through a lifetime then to take a good hard look in the mirror.  You often end up seeing things you don't like, and everyone just wants to feel good and have a good time.  Hey, I'm putting my brain and education to good work, by coming up with the best slogan to shout at the upcoming anti-American car protest!  And waegs should stop stealing our women protest!  But Koreans are allowed to buy South East Asian women and treat them as we see fit because of the special Korean situation.

Yeah, that kind of talk does really get on my tits from time to time. 

Luckily I can find peace in teaching my girls.

And alcohol.


Anonymous said...

The Korean wave is turning into nothing more than cultural imperialism.

We're the best in Asia. We're coming to your country. We'll be the best in your country too. Hwighting!

Anonymous said...

Damn Well written!!!

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