Monday, July 15, 2013

Trouble in Korea: Mad as Hell. . . (contains profanity)

Before I continue with this angry post I feel a disclaimer is warranted.

I consider myself a thinking man, an academic in some respects, an intellectual in others. Maybe it's presumptuous of me or even pretentious, but even though I tend to use a colloquial tone with this blog I generally try to refrain from using profanity and make a point of not discussing topics I am not well versed in. Still, the following event has shaken me so much that I decided it was right to use profanity to express my utter disdain for the actions committed. I'm sorry if my crass tone offends, but I am extremely angry that the following events occurred, especially since they hit so close to home. So you have been warned. And now, without further ado . . .    

I just came back from a year-long stay in Korea two weeks ago, and this pisses me right the f*ck off.

I couldn't even think of a picture to put with this. Today I read an article from the Washington Post that I found via Angry Asian Man, about a video made by two pieces of human garbage who happen to be in Korea and which has Korean netizens up in arms. The trash in question, two "Western guys," apparently began harassing a random Korean woman in a club. In the video the two piles of sentient refuse happen upon a woman who appears to be intoxicated to some degree. So what do these scum do? They harass her, of course! They begin commenting about her body, grabbing her by the hair, sticking their fingers in her nose and then her mouth, and when she finally gets them off her and walks off, they hurl insults at her and tell her to "go get plastic surgery like every other little Korean girl." There is a link to this article below. Read it and get angry as hell, and then continue reading this rant if you wish.

The article is very succinct and explains most of the problems I have with this incident, but I feel I should elaborate . . .

Now listen, friends, it's no secret that I am big on Korea. I study Korean history, language, and culture; I've been to Korea on three separate occasions and have spent almost a year and a half of my life there in total, and I have plans to go back in the near future. I have piles of Korean friends both in Canada and in Korea; I have been involved in two very serious and heavily invested relationships with Korean women whom I've loved and admired deeply and still continue to have good relations with; I've spent time with Korean families in both urban and rural Korea; and I'm seriously considering forming my future career around the country in some way. So yes, there is some bias here. However, I have to stress that this kind of shit pisses me off on a whole lot of levels beyond just being invested in Korea and its people.

As a Western man who has spent lengthy periods of time in Korea and who has had the opportunity to interact with Koreans both young and old in myriad settings, I know there exists a prejudice against Westerners, especially males. My former girlfriend and I experienced this stigma firsthand when we started dating. Her family and friends were worried that I was taking advantage of her and that I would be unfaithful or mistreat her, or was just after her for what was perceived as easy sex. It took six months in a long-distance relationship in which I remained faithful to her and eventually went to be with her in Korea for her parents to change their minds about me. Do I find this troubling? Sure, but I understand where the stigma comes from because I've done my homework. Westerners in Korea have had a bad rep for hundreds of years for myriad reasons, some justifiable and some not so much. However, the current attitude likely stems from the Korean War, during which foreign soldiers poured into the country to assist in the war effort.

Now as most of us know, many (but not all) military men aren't exactly paragons of what is popularly considered upstanding behavior, especially when they go abroad. These soldiers in Korea were no different; they were notorious (and continue to be) for dabbling in drinking, gambling, fighting, and of course prostitution. On top of that, some soldiers, perhaps through some feeling of entitlement or just plain misconduct, would harass and in some cases rape local women because, well, they could. And in many cases they could get away with it too, because they were military and could not be tried by local authorities. Some of the more "humane" of these soldiers would get into intimate relationships with local women, impregnating them in some cases, and then leave the country never to return (not in every case, mind you, but it did happen quite a bit in those days). There are quite a few such stories from Korea's past, and while this is a part of the PAST, many of these ideas about Western men in Korea continue to exist. Why? Because they're being perpetuated by dipshits like the two f*cktards in the article.

Now, I know stereotypes suck and are problematic and should not be taken as fact, but the sad fact is that a lot of people  recognize them. We humans have this nasty tendency to group people and things together, to categorize things. Yeah, it's dumb, but we do it anyway for some ridiculous reason. Let me put this bluntly: when people of one ethnicity go to a country where the people are not primarily of that ethnicity and do some dumbass shit that gets them in trouble, it reflects on EVERY MEMBER OF THEIR ETHNICITY IN THAT COUNTRY, WHETHER THEY ACKNOWLEDGE IT OR NOT. People who have had limited experience with things generally tend to judge similar things based on that limited experience. I'm not saying it's right, but sadly it's fairly understandable. Regardless, when people like the two shit-stains who harassed that woman do things like that (and yes, this sort of thing happens frequently in Korea and elsewhere), it affects me on a personal level. It affects Koreans who would associate with me on a personal level. It affects Korean women who associate with Western people on a personal level. This is because people will judge me and the aforementioned people based on these actions and what they imply.

And so when this sort of thing happens, I don't just get pissed off, I TAKE IT PERSONALLY. That's right, assholes. If I walk down the street in Korea with a girl, whether she be a friend or my girlfriend, someone will judge me and her based on what you did. I and people like me who love a country for what it is, who respect and love a culture because it captures our passion and imagination, who are in Korea and other countries because WE WANT TO BE THERE -- it is WE, my friends, WHO GET JUDGED FOR YOUR BULLSHIT. You shit on us with your actions. And so, on behalf of all the global citizens like me who are at the very least capable of respecting other countries aside from their own, who wish to understand other cultures and study them and live among them, who view the world with an open mind, who get hampered by stereotypes and wish to see them eradicated, I extend to you, and others who don't know the meaning of respect and global responsibility, a giant collective middle finger. In no uncertain terms, f*ck you.

Yes, I have passionately acknowledged on this blog before that people shouldn't buy into stereotypes, but people also need to be self-aware. After all, it takes two to tango. (Please don't misconstrue this as my casting the sole responsibility for stereotypes on those who get stereotyped -- that is not what I'm saying.)

Now here's the other part of this whole thing that pisses me off. This kind of thing doesn't happen only in Korea. It happens everywhere and it highlights bigger social problems that exist between men and women. I have heard and experienced firsthand cases of men ignoring a woman's personal space and disrespecting her free agency with all manner of inappropriate actions and suggestive behaviour while thinking it's totally fine. Yeah, this personally affects me too, because I would love to live in a world where a woman I have not previously met doesn't get defensive if I strike up a conversation with her in a casual setting such as a pub or a party. I would love not to have to worry about my female friends when they go home late at night. I would love for it not to be necessary for my girlfriend to call me when she's walking down the street at night because she feels uneasy. I would love to live in a world where women can do whatever the hell they want (within reason) without having to worry about assholes crashing their party -- and I'm sure most women would like that too. So on behalf of men who treat women with respect, who both love and cherish their relationships with womankind, whether they be platonic or otherwise and . . . you know what, f*ck it . . . on behalf of all the women in my life and those I have yet to meet, I would like to extend a second middle finger to all those who would mistreat them. SCREW YOU! (And that means a second "up yours" to the two shits I flipped off the first time.)

That is all. Rant over.

Join me next time for a post that is full of my usual optimism and mirth! Next one will be happier, I promise.      

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