Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Self Policing!


A necessary component of any established expat community is the self policing and self censuring done by it's members. Most long term salty waegs are well aware of the crazy ideas locals have about waegs and their ilk, and it makes no economic or healthy sense to constantly prove those ideas true.  Thus when a member of an established clique is about to do something crazy, like put the moves on the 'hot' 청소아줌마 at their school, he is reminded that he is a young man, that he can do better, and that the 청소아줌마s are generally reserved for drunk old harabojis to hit on.

That said, most long term waegs talk of how fragmented and relatively new the expat community is in Korea. Korea has not been a first choice for most waegs until recently, and in the past a vast majority of the population was transitory. This has changed, yet the self policing and more importantly the self reflection of the waeg community is still nascent, as is an established sense of place and belonging common in other expat communities that have more longevity in their adopted environment.

However, this creates a situation where waegs, despite knowing that they should behave better, and regardless of the many years in country or the connections to family they may possess, occasionally do something reckless or self destructive.  A simple explanation would point to the aforementioned lack of a sense of place and belonging, combined with the knowledge that full integration is essentially impossible; yet this ignores just how cool it is to sometimes be unfettered from most social obligation.

This is known as making the stereotype work for you, since if the locals are going to think crazy things about you, and remind you of what they consider 'typical' behavior of your group on a regular basis, it isn't unfair that locals should occasionally 'understand your special situation'.  Thus if the waeg is insistent on putting the moves on the 청소아줌마, despite warnings to the contrary, you give him his space.  Besides, it could provide ample fodder for mockery when he comes to his senses later.

More study is required on the disconnect between waeg psychology and the willingness / ability to assimilate within society, beginning with parallels between the waeg and other expats.  Investigation of the crazy ideas other majority groups have held about minorities, and how the minority group responded as the community grew should provide ample fodder for rumination, essential to any breakthrough for the community. The waeg is generally quiet, with only occasional bouts of insanity; however one area that requires examination is how waegs murder at a higher rate than locals, slowing the development of the community as these crimes are likely against other waegs, thinning the numbers. Research is ongoing.

Waegs do seem to exhibit a similar characteristic to other expat groups, in that they are quick to criticize the host group, while being more forgiving of foibles committed by their own who acted against the advice and collective knowledge of their peer group, since they were 'stressed out' and 'no one understands (them) me'.

Given time and focus, it is expected that the waeg will find a place for his shattered head, and see through the illusions, take off their blinders if you will; however, those who expect quick results should consider that most other expat groups in other countries still experience problems, despite their more established nature; to expect more from the waeg ignores that the process must be given room to play out to achieve fruition.  In the meantime, it is well to note that the waeg community is involved in self policing, albeit in a limited and somewhat disjointed way, reflecting the reality of the waeg's special situation. 

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