Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Today around the water cooler the 3-S policy of Chun Doo-hwan came up in conversation.  One of my waeg colleagues asked what it was.

Sex, screen, and sports to distract the masses, dude.

Shouldn't one of those S's be soju?  hyuk hyuk.

Naw, they didn't need to promote that, as the drinking culture had been around for long enough that it was a given most Koreans would drink anyway.  But the government at the time did invest heavily in erotica, film, sports. . .keep the masses distracted and everything will be alright, right? 

It got me to thinking about distraction, and what works today in the Korean context.  Many a waeg on this fine peninsula has done at least some basic reading on just what Korean ethnic nationalism is all about. They are aware of the history of the concept and how it is different from nationalism in general and from many other types of community binding ideology.  They know it was a reaction to big powers, a term borrowed from the Japanese, who were intent on creating a pan-Asiatic identity to facilitate colonial administration.  They may even know the big names in the Korean independence movement who popularized the concept, adding real value by reviving or inventing Korean stories and myths that instilled pride in the people's bosoms.   Some are even aware of how Park Chung Hee made it a foundation of the Korean education system in the 60s and 70s, in response to the North Korean threat and to facilitate the rapid development that was ongoing; this is why you'll often get adult students who will talk about Korea's four unique distinct seasons, how the best rice is from Icheon, and the best apples are from Chungju.   And while some waegs will rightfully argue that this antiquated notion is still quite prevalent, an anachronism in a world that has largely stopped gargling with fascist flavored water, I wonder: are the majority of young Koreans still wearing blinders?

I keep hoping it's not the case.  Things certainly have changed in my 12 years in country.  While I definitely still see idiocy near everyday, I also see more critical personal reflection.  Or at least that's what I'd like to think it is.

Maybe it's just the red wine talking; the Homeplus express was having a sale after all.  But I'd like to think that these embarrassing notions of group identity are on the way out, being replaced by a vision that will serve Korea and the world better.  I'd like to think.  As a protip, it's easier to think this if you stop reading the papers, avoid large congregations of Koreans, and make decent friends; add some liquor occasionally into the mix and you're home free.

In any event, if any of you out there have some old Korean porn from that era, do share.  Purely for academic purposes of course. Email is in profile.


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