Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Me and My Big Mouth

Sometimes people say all kinds of crap without thinking about it too much.

This blog is a case in point.  I just speak my mind, when I should just sit quietly. 

Lately, Mr. Na two cubicles down has decided to be my friend. Any long term waeg will know what this means: some random person decides they want a waeg friend, sets you in their sights, and before you know it you are being invited to participate in Chorwon's World Famous Eggplant Festival. This usually isn't such a bad thing, since at times you actually can make a good friend, but often the 'friendship' devolves into lessons on how to properly appreciate and respect all things Korean. But I digress.

Mr. Na is a bit different in this regard: he has been bouncing his creative ideas off me. Today, he handed me a treatment for a script he's writing. He wants to make a movie, and he came by to ask what I thought of the idea. This was what I read:

Year 2044.  Resources are scarce, especially oil and natural gas.  Japan and Korea are on the brink of war over the valuable gas deposits around Dokdo.  After finally wresting control of the World Ocean Council and the International Cartography Association from the hands of a newly resurgent imperial Japan, the case seems finally settled as Dokdo becomes once again Korean territory.  However, Japan refuses to let full possession; if they can't get the gas, no one will.  They try to nuke the islands to prevent Korea from exploiting the resources, since this would allow Korea to become the most powerful country in Asia.  Their plan is foiled when the newly deployed nuclear shield, invented by Korean scientists, stops the missiles.  The world knows the truth, and Japan is isolated and faces extreme sanctions.

Mr. Na, who do you think will want to watch this movie?

Mr. Waeg, I hope to make it a short film that will be shown to elementary and middle school students.  They must be made aware of the dangers the future holds, and know that they study towards useful ends.  Their minds will create the technology that will ensure Korea's future, and they will be the diplomats and scholars who will cement Korean power in world organizations.  They know Dokdo is Korean territory, but they must know what that means and be ready to fight for it!

I felt my eye twitch, and looked at him.  Mr. Na, I know well the narrative that Koreans tell themselves about Dokdo, and I don't doubt it is Korean territory.  But quite frankly don't you think this whole Dokdo thing has gone too far and for too long?  I mean, all I have to do is mention Dokdo in front of a group of Korean kids and their reaction borders on the insane.  Isn't this more akin to what Machiavelli discussed in The Prince, where leaders should know and encourage the prejudices of the populace so that they can manipulate them when it is politically expedient?  Aren't you helping to create a generation of reactionaries instead of rationally engaged people?  How do you expect to aid in kids' education and help them become global leaders if you are simply teaching them to become jingoists, similar to the folks up north?  Just then my phone rang, and Mr. Na went off in a huff.

Now I'm sure Mr. Na is mad at me.  He wouldn't look at me and is obviously stewing.  He was simply trying to make small talk and be nice, to engage in conversation, and instead of just playing nice, I became asshole incarnate.  Who knows what the future may hold; maybe there is a need to present a strong united front.  So why?  I guess I was just thinking about my own kids, and how one day I expect them to come home and ask if I know that Dokdo is Korean territory.

Now, I do believe that stupidity is a universal constant, and I'm hoping he won't hold a grudge against me and that his panties aren't in a knot about it.  From experience, these types of conversation never end well.  You can't win and it's best to just smile.  When will I ever learn?


Chris said...

This means you have to enjoy the eggplant festivities alone?

F5Waeg said...

Guess I'll have to take a pass on it this year, yeah

Baek In-je said...

I was befriended by a Korean man in my field when I was in Seoul. We got to know each other a little bit, and I answered all his questions about myself, so he knew that I had been in Korea for 10 years at the time. He took me to lunch one day. The ajumma loaded the table with 7 or 8 side dishes. We talked a bit. Then my new Korean friend started pointing at the individual dishes and telling me what each of them were.
"Oh, this is kimchee? What is kimchee? Is it a fruit or a vegetable?"
I don't know why this naming of the dishes fucked me off so much, but I decided never to meet this guy again and avoided him.

F5Waeg said...

Ah yes, the typical: do you know the kimchi question. I'm not sure how they think you could live here for more than ten years, let alone ten days, without knowing the kimchi. There's a guy at work who pulled pretty much the same thing, and my reaction was pretty much the same as yours. They don't really see you as people.

Anonymous said...

Yes, finally SOMEONE to tell me everything I already know. I just wish there was more to any conversation than what the last 67 guys with shoe polish in their hair said to me before in exactly the same words. Deja vu. Groundhog Day. I go to the same store twice a week for 5 years, see the same check out clerks, yet we cannot get past conversation about my ability to have conversation in Korean. Real friends are only people who treat me like a normal human being, and I find they are always either extremely international, or totally uneducated. And rare. Sigh. It is pointless to understand what is being said when nothing of any interest is said.

F5Waeg said...

you've got a bad attitude, son. Best drink the Koolaid

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