South Korea

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See also: Racism in South Korea, Korean War, Korean proverbs, North Korea, and Korea under Japanese rule.
Being born in South Korea is tantamount to entering hell, where one is immediately enslaved by a highly regulated system that dictates an entire course of life... The best thing for a South Korean is never to be born; the second best is to die as soon as possible. ~ Se-woong Koo

South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK; Korean: 대한민국; Hanja: 大韓民國; Daehan Minguk, literally "Great Korean People's Nation") is a country in eastern Eurasia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from the Kingdom of Goryeo, also spelled as Koryŏ. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with Japan to the east and China to the west. Roughly half of the country's 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents.

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Quotes[edit]

The life of South Koreans continues to suffer... South Korea, a country where official rhetoric in service of a lofty ideal could scarcely be more distant from a reality controlled by self-serving figures in power... An infernal feudal kingdom stuck in the nineteenth century... Onerous education and service in the abusive military are the norm. ~ Se-woong Koo
Koreans think very much in terms of national identity rather than individual identity. ~ Michael Breen
South Korea has a weak sense of 'state patriotism'. Koreans are indeed ethnic nationalists, but to their blood and cultural community, including Koreans in the north. They are one people. ~ Robert E. Kelly
Wade through the Forest of Emigration and leave South Korea altogether, finding freedom... South Koreans are already taking revenge on a society that they believe has failed them and is beyond redemption. The falling rates of birth and marriage... Not to mention the rising suicide rate... Destruction is not only a form of escape; it ensures the death of the system one so despises. ~ Se-woong Koo
I hate South Korea. ~ Kang-myung Jang
South Korea is arguably a repressive country even for its citizens... Social norms and fear of ostracization in this tightly knit and still largely homogeneous society work to muzzle rebellious mouths and break wayward pens. ~ Se-woong Koo
The awful state of life in South Korea; the long working hours, the high suicide rate and even the high price of snacks. ~ Anna Fifield
South Korea is no mythical kingdom where evil is always punished and justice prevails. It is more like a feudal aristocracy if we are to go by the obsequiousness this country’s political elite shows towards the powerful... South Koreans are used to seeing the government dole out special treatment for the all-powerful. ~ Se-woong Koo
Korea is my birth-land but I have found it to be an intolerant and racist and ageist society. ~ Nancy Adams
Given that South Korea ranks 43rd out of 175 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, one should not expect upholding public trust to be the priority of the political class in Seoul. ~ Se-woong Koo
South Korea's economic system in a nutshell; plebs must endure injustice for the national collective, for the future, for a better South Korea, but select bloodlines are needed at the helm, and therefore need not respect the basic rules that govern society given their naturally endowed gift. ~ Se-woong Koo
The idea that business talent is the preserve of the elite is not unique... What makes the South Korean situation special is that business talent here is ascribed in official discourse to blood as a way of legitimating monopolies. ~ Se-woong Koo
South Korea, as seen from the outside, is indeed that rare country that transitioned from poverty and dictatorship to affluence and democracy in a miraculously short time. Yet it is viewed by many people here as a crony capitalist state run by corrupt elites who have monopolized power and the national economy, fostering government incompetence and popular distrust of the state. ~ Se-woong Koo
South Koreans, who have a long history of political and social turbulence, including previous spates of political scandals and man-made disasters as well as an endless state of war against North Korea, know how to handle calamity with a certain aplomb. ~ Se-woong Koo
Koreans are immersed in their culture and are thus blind to its characteristics and quirks. Examples of group think are everywhere. Because Koreans share values and views, they support decisions even when they are obviously bad. ~ Peter Underwood
There seems something endemic in Korean neo-Confucianism that seeks to control knowledge from subordinates. I have never been in a culture where workplaces strive so hard to prevent employees from knowing what is going on, in order to maintain power. ~ Ken Eckert
South Korean society turned out to be one harsh world to live in. It was where everyone was connected based on the education and hometown backgrounds. In other words, you get promoted not based on your accomplishments but just because you happen to have attended the same college with your boss or you happen to be from the same hometown as them. ~ Ji-min Kang
South Korean nationalism is something quite different from the patriotism toward the state that Americans feel. Identification with the Korean race is strong, while that with the Republic of Korea is weak. ~ Brian R. Myers
The headlines are regular and morbid. A shamed celebrity or politician takes her own life, a student leaps off a bridge after being rejected from a first-class university, and an ailing grandfather commits suicide to relieve the financial burden on the family. South Koreans are under enormous pressure to succeed at work, school and in relationships, and to care for their families, fueling an abysmal suicide rate that is the highest in the OECD. ~ Geoffrey Cain
For a millennium Korea bounced back and forth between China, Japan, and Russia in northeast Asia. A wealthier, more confident Korea is now struggling against that continuing geographic constraint, unhappy... ~ Robert E. Kelly
There isn't much variety among the cars in Korea. But surprisingly, that isn’t the biggest problem... The biggest problem is actually the color of the cars: every single vehicle in Korea is gray, silver, black, or white. And I mean every... It isn't just that most cars are black, silver, gray, and white. It's that every car is one of these colors... You can walk around for fifteen minutes on a busy street in Seoul, looking at literally hundreds of cars, and not see a single one that isn't black. ~ Doug DeMuro
Nothing represents all of Korea, Korean people, Korean culture, everything about Korea, and all its tribalistic connotations better than their collective reference to the nation of Korea as "uri nara," literally "our country"... Whether it is the Korean soccer team, the Korean weather, the Korean economy, or anything else that means "Korea," they use the term "uri nara," "our country." So it is always "our country's soccer team," "our country's weather," or "our country's economy." ~ Jon Huer
Race-based ethnic nationalism is at the root of a clear division between the nation and state in South Korea... South Koreans do ascribe a relatively higher value to race than do other nations. ~ Steven Denney
The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. ~ Douglas MacArthur
Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. ~ Douglas MacArthur
The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. ~ Douglas MacArthur
South Korea is an extremely wired country, so has a lot to attack. Unfortunately for the South Koreans, North Korea has extremely limited internet connectivity and hence is a target-poor country. ~ Caroline Baylon
'Japanophobia' stems from Korea's national division. The Republic of Korea should be the anti-DPRK; it should be the successful capitalist twin competing North Korea into illegitimacy. But it cannot be, because North Korea manipulates the language of Korean nationalism to de-legitimize the south. ~ Robert E. Kelly
South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, more than double that of the United States. ~ Adam Taylor
Unlike most other countries, South Koreans actually become more likely to commit suicide as they age. ~ Adam Taylor
Although South Korea has the 14th largest economy in the world with a total GDP of $971,100,000,000 and with a per capita GDP of $24,800... The country can by no means boast about the international rankings of its universities. For instance, the best South Korean university places 21st in Asia and 164th in the world. ~ Paul Jambor
South Korea is a miserable existence. ~ Se-woong Koo
Koreans have a strong bond to people of Korean ethnic origin... That's why there is widespread mourning and collective guilt. ~ Sae-jung Kim
Koreans are just like big toddlers. Always behaving like children. No compassion, always pointing at something external when things are wrong. It's a very flat society where almost everything is measured by money or status. ~ Ib Yangin
Koreans unfortunately are nothing more than frogs in a deep well looking up to the sky and convincing the world that their piece of sky is the best in the world. My solution is simple, don't even try to change the society here, just build a high wall without gates around Korea... Nobody in the world will miss Koreans. ~ Ib Yangin
In Korea it's better to be a dog than a human. ~ Ib Yangin
American society, composed of diverse races and ethnicities, has a lot of tolerance of different kinds of people and can embrace them all as Americans. Korean society, however, is composed of a single ethnicity. It is more intolerant to people of different ethnicity and skin colors. ~ Sae-jung Kim
Korea, the state itself, in the south, has weak legitimacy and roots in Korean civil society. It is a half-country politically dominated by the Americans for decades, with institutions frequently copied wholesale from the U.S., with no obvious lineage to the beloved Chosun dynasty. ~ Robert E. Kelly
The war is a huge embarrassment. While the Chinese, Americans, and even the Filipinos got to fight, we were torn between ineffectual partisans and collaborators. So many collaborators in fact, that our country is still turned upside down by this issue a hundred years later. ~ Robert E. Kelly
The dictator-president who put us on the map was a collaborator... We even ripped off our economic model from the Japanese. All this is pretty hard to stomach, so we've therapeutically fashioned our political identity in part as the anti-Japan. ~ Robert E. Kelly
To live outside the realm of Chinese culture was, for the Korean elite, to live as a barbarian. ~ Carter J. Eckert
North Korea does not fixate on Japan the way South Korea does. The primary objects of North Korean enemy propaganda are the 'Yankee Colony' South Korea and the United States. Japan is surely a villain but mostly serves as a foil to demonstrate Kim Il-sung's early heroics and nationalist commitment. If anti-Japanism were a deep, Korea-wide sentiment, surely the north would use it more for legitimacy's sake, instead of the far-away Americans. ~ Robert E. Kelly
South Korea has built its national identity so much around Japan as a competitor, if not enemy, that it is difficult to move on. ~ Robert E. Kelly
How long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment? South Korea is a very very rich country. They're rich because of us. They sell us televisions, they sell us cars. They sell us everything. They are making a fortune. We have a huge deficit with South Korea. They're friends of mine. I do deals with them. I've been partners with them, no problem. But they think we're stupid. They can't believe it. ~ Donald Trump
We are defending them against North Korea, we're doing it for nothing. We're not in that position. When will they start to pay us for this defense? Isn't it really ridiculous when you think of it? They make a fortune on the United States and then they got some problems, and what happens? They call the United States to defend them, and we get nothing? ~ Donald Trump

A[edit]

  • It is not surprising that the older generation are seen as throwaways just as babies who are born out of the 'socially acceptable' norm in Korea are throwaways. Korea is my birth-land but I have found it to be an intolerant and racist and ageist society. Koreans strive to be perfectly socially acceptable. There is a social strata structure where lower speech is used for clerical and maintenance staff. They do double lid surgery do look more beautiful and ironically more western. Western, where they sent many of their throwaway babies who may end up looking more like them now that their surgeries are done. Heartbreaking. It is all just heartbreaking and hard to reconcile.
  • Korea is trying to attract both investors and tourists at the same time. In fact, anyone who has the slightest interest about Korea is welcome. Anything that can be promoted about Korea will be promoted by the government. That could be StarCraft, kimchi, Hangul, dramas, music, anything really... Korea is a small country whose international reputation has suffered from division and because of North Korea. And, believe it or not, during the 1980s, when major Korean companies started exporting products abroad, they did not want to advertise such products as being 'Korean'. That because in the minds of many, Korea was still a poor developing country which was still technically at war. Still today, Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Kia try to avoid mentioning that they are Korean companies because of that reputation problem, notably in the west... Korean newspapers and the Korean media in general dedicate a signifant portion of their stories to Korea's internal and external successes. You may see entire shows dedicated to Korean singers performing abroad in front of elated foreign crowds, foreigners studying hangeul in crowded classrooms... Korea being a small country, it will try everything to appear in international headlines. Claiming sovereignty over Dokdo and renaming the Sea of Japan the 'East Sea' is one of them. Anything that will make people notice Korea abroad other than riots or war is welcome.
  • Anyone who is African or African-American will tell you that they have trouble taking taxis in South Korea, that people refuse to sit next to them when using public transportation and that some stores refuse to sell them anything. Other complaints include Koreans refusing to speak English to them even when they do, or Koreans telling them outright that they dislike 'black' people.

B[edit]

  • South Korea has such a low birth rate that it could become the world's oldest country by 2045, with an average age of 50. If things continue at this rate, the country could even go extinct by 2750. All that aging is putting the country into some dire economic straits. Solving this demographic crisis will take more.
  • South Korea is an extremely wired country, so has a lot to attack. Unfortunately for the South Koreans, North Korea has extremely limited internet connectivity and hence is a target-poor country. Hence, the only option is [conventional] war - or convincing the North Koreans that they can attack them in cyberspace as well.
  • South Korea has developed into one of Asia's most affluent countries since partition in 1948. The Communist North has slipped into totalitarianism and poverty.
  • On behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its outpouring of support. America will never forget the sounds of our National Anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. We will not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa...

C[edit]

  • The headlines are regular and morbid: a shamed celebrity or politician takes her own life, a student leaps off a bridge after being rejected from a first-class university, and an ailing grandfather commits suicide to relieve the financial burden on the family. South Koreans are under enormous pressure to succeed at work, school and in relationships, and to care for their families, fueling an abysmal suicide rate that is the highest in the OECD group of developed countries. About 40 Koreans commit suicide every day, making it the nation’s fourth-highest cause of death in 2012. The relentlessness of these tragedies may be numbing, but the nation was shocked last week when a 29-year-old reality show contestant, in a bathroom at the guesthouse where filming was taking place, hanged herself by a hairdryer cord.
  • The Korean economic miracle was the result of a clever and pragmatic mixture of market incentives and state direction.
    • Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism (2008), Prologue, p. 15.
  • As South Korea shows, active participation in international trade does not require free trade. Indeed, had South Korea pursued free trade and not promoted infant industries, it would not have become a major trading nation. It would still be exporting raw materials (e.g., tungsten ore, fish, seaweed) or low-technology, low-price products (e.g., textiles, garments, wigs made with human hair) that used to be its main export items in the 1960s.
    • Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism (2008), Ch. 3, More trade, fewer ideologies, p. 82
  • Inflation is bad for growth—this has become one of the most widely accepted economic nostrums of our age. But see how you feel about it after digesting the following piece of information.
    During the 1960s and the 1970s, Brazil's average inflation rate was 42% a year. Despite this, Brazil was one of the fastest growing economies in the world for those two decades—its per capita income grew at 4.5% a year during this period. In contrast, between 1996 and 2005, during which time Brazil embraced the neo-liberal orthodoxy, especially in relation to macroeconomic policy, its inflation rate averaged a much lower 7.1% a year. But during this period, per capita income in Brazil grew at only 1.3% a year.
    If you are not entirely persuaded by the Brazilian case—understandable, given that hyperinflation went side by side with low growth in the 1980s and the early 1990s—how about this? During its 'miracle' years, when its economy was growing at 7% a year in per capita terms, Korea had inflation rates close to 20%-17.4% in the 1960s and 19.8% in the 1970s. These were rates higher than those found in several Latin American countries ... Are you still convinced that inflation is incompatible with economic success?
    • Ha-Joon Chang, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism (2008), Ch. 7: 'Mission impossible?; Can financial prudence go too far?', There is inflation and there is inflation, p. 149
  • Democracy has failed to dampen the right/left ideological schism, which is historically rooted in the early years of separate state creation. And neither the right nor the left is fully able to provide a convincing alternative vision of how democracy in Korean society can robustly develop and thereby enhance its quality. The rightists/conservatives, who continue to retain their predominant power and influence over the state and civil society, still cling to an old-fashioned, outmoded black-and-white ideology derived from the Cold War period. That ideology can no longer provide a political vision and values and norms pertinent to the post-Cold War era as well as a democratized, highly modernized and globalized social environment. Thereby they have failed to play a leading role in enhancing autonomy of civil society vis-à-vis the state, respecting rule of law, and contributing to bringing social integration and inclusiveness.

    On the other hand, the leftists have disappointed many people who expected that the entirely new generations which appeared on the political center stage in the course of democratization could play a decisive role in changing Korean politics. In recent years we have witnessed a growing disillusionment with the radical discourses and ideas as well as with their inability to develop a new type of party politics, deal with the socio-economic problems and provide a certain substantive model for ethical life.

    • Jang-jip Choi, "The Fragility of Liberalism and its Political Consequences in Democratized Korea" (2009).
  • Japan, a valued friend and ally of America, has made a significant act of contrition toward South Korea. The countries want to move ahead. If they can, they will see an economic and security benefit. The defense of Asia against North Korea, and the rise of China, will require far more cooperation from these partners. Ultimately it's up to South Korea to decide that the past is now the past. But Japan should continue to reflect publicly on the atrocities it committed, including the sex enslavement of women. It is a dark history.

D[edit]

  • There isn’t much variety among the cars in Korea. But surprisingly, that isn’t the biggest problem with Korean car culture. The biggest problem is actually the color of the cars: every single vehicle in Korea is gray, silver, black, or white. And I mean Every. Single. Vehicle. I tweeted this observation when I was there, and a few people responded cynically that this is also the situation in the United States. But while you might be tempted to say that, I need to explain that it’s on a completely different level in Korea. It isn’t just that most cars are black, silver, gray, and white. It’s that every car is one of these colors. What I mean by this is, you can walk around for fifteen minutes on a busy street in Seoul, looking at literally hundreds of cars, and not see a single one that isn’t black, silver, gray, or white. And then, while you’re musing at the lack of color on the road.
  • In most developed countries, the state and nation are understood as one, ergo the nation-state. That the nation, a group of like-minded individuals, puts its faith in the state as the institution charged with its protection and continuation ensures this link. In 'full faith and trust', as some would put it. However, due to Korea's peculiar, though certainly not unique, situation of having one nation but two states, there is more than enough room for separation between the nation and the state... Race-based ethnic nationalism is at the root of a clear division between the nation and state in South Korea... An absence of trust in the South Korean state has significant implications for the Republic of Korea's North Korea policy... South Koreans do ascribe a relatively higher value to race than do other nations.

E[edit]

  • There was little, if any, feeling of loyalty toward the abstract concept of Korea as a nation-state, or toward fellow inhabitants of the peninsula as 'Koreans'. Far more meaningful at the time, in addition to a sense of loyalty to the king, were the attachments of Koreans to their village of region, and above all to their clan, lineage, and immediate and extended family. The Korean elite in particular would have found the idea of nationalism not only strange but also uncivilized. Since at least the seventh century the ruling classes in Korea had thought of themselves in cultural terms less as Koreans than as members of a larger cosmopolitan civilization centered on China... To live outside the realm of Chinese culture was, for the Korean elite, to live as a barbarian.

F[edit]

  • South Korea is the most wired country on the planet, a country where it’s entirely unremarkable for elementary school students to carry smartphones, where the cell network is so good that people livestream TV on the subway. The flip side: South Korea is grappling with a growing number of digital natives who don’t know how to live an analog life... About 10 percent of Korean teenagers are Internet addicts.
  • Don't be fooled by the bright lights, the zingy K-pop music, the ubiquitous technology. South Korea is, in the minds of many young people here, a living hell; and they're not going to take it anymore. It’s a place where, according to a growing number of 20- and 30-somethings, those born with a “golden spoon” in their mouths get into the best universities and secure the plum jobs, while those born with a “dirt spoon” work long hours in low-paying jobs without benefits... Korea even has a special name: 'Hell Joseon', a phrase that harks back to the five-century-long Joseon dynasty in which Confucian hierarchies became entrenched in Korea and when a feudal system determined who got ahead and who didn’t.
  • Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines. That's why they're successful in life. I went to Seoul, South Korea, I went to Taipei, Taiwan. I went to Tokyo, Japan. That's why these people are so hard workers. I'm telling you, the Oriental people, they're slowly taking over.
  • If Korea begins to be seen as unreasonable and unwilling to work with Japan, at a time when Japan has made it clear it is willing to work with Korea, it will create more distance in Korea's relationship with the U.S.

G[edit]

  • Unification, as I have mentioned, can be a euphemism for conquest, a gloss for winning the war. The south's disagreement is in part due to the fact that they believe that the nation and state must be one, that a confederation is not unification, and that North Korea must be totally absorbed into the south, its state destroyed, and its people assimilated.
    • Roy Richard Grinker, as quoted in Korea and Its Futures: Unification and the Unfinished War (1988), St. Martin's Press.

H[edit]

  • I don't think most Koreans are yet capable of viewing themselves beyond a basic and superficial rose-colored lens.
  • In Korea we live on the floor, we sleep on the floor, we play on the floor, we do everything on the floor. So, it is very important to keep the floors clean.
  • South Korea has the second highest suicide rate in the world.
  • As Paris was for France, Seoul was not simply Korea's largest town. It was Korea. Government was a great vortex summoning men rapidly into it, placing them briefly near the summitry of ambition and then sweeping them out, often ruthless into execution or exile.
  • Nothing represents all of Korea, Korean people, Korean culture, everything about Korea, and all its tribalistic connotations better than their collective reference to the nation of Korea as "uri nara," literally "our country." The term is used quite unconsciously, and not necessarily intended for nationalism or jingoism. Whether it is the Korean soccer team, the Korean weather, the Korean economy, or anything else that means "Korea," they use the term "uri nara," "our country." So it is always "our country's soccer team," "our country's weather," or "our country's economy." A TV anchor was soundly criticized once for referring to the South Korean delegation at a North-South conference as "the South Side" instead of "our side." The question is, does this usage strengthen Korea's nationalistic tribalism or does it merely symbolize the latter? By contrast, Americans generally refer to their country as "this country" or "the United States," or "America," more or less as an objective reference to their nation. It would sound somewhat nationalistic or even jingoistic if Americans always used "our country" when referring to the United States. I never trust an American who refers to the United States as "this great nation of ours." By definition, a man who flatters his country flatters himself, and is likely to be in some "lying" occupation. Why is the Korean habit of saying "uri nara" worthy of our attention? Because it goes straight to Korea's most formidable referent that identifies, binds and captivates Korea, with all its promise of grandeur and greatness: its nationalism, or emotionally, its tribalism. It is a Korean habit to refer to themselves as "our country," whether or not any collective reference is consciously intended. To foreigners, this easy and unconscious habit of Koreans calling their nation "our country" can be unnerving as it gives the feeling of irrational nationalism and emotional tribalism.
  • From an American-western perspective, neither nationalism nor tribalism should apply to a nation that is a global trading partner and a technologically sophisticated culture with aspirations to be a first-rate world member. To Korea, things "Korean" are significant only because they are connected to Korea in a primeval way. Every overseas Korean or partial Korean who does anything, great or small, gets special attention because of the Korean connection. If a Korean musician debuts at Carnegie Hall, or a Korean golfer wins a tournament, or a half-Korean plays professional football in America, or a Korean-descent scholar is hired at Princeton, or a Korean writer pens a book in America, or whatever, it is a major story. And only because the musician, the golfer, the football player, or the writer is Korean, or part Korean, does the Korean media go agog over them as if they are true world greats. Years ago, during the World Cup, Korean commentators on TV were objective and astute in describing the games if they involved foreign teams. When the games involved the Korean team, however, the same commentators completely lost their objectivity and astuteness. They simply turned into unabashed cheerleaders for Korea, all the while calling the Korean team 'uri nara team'. Interestingly, the more Korea opens up to the world with big events, such as the 1988 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup, the less open Korea becomes. Long-term foreign residents in Korea are unanimous with their judgment that, instead of becoming a more global civilization, a more world-wise society, Korea has become meaner, less friendly, and more tribe-like with its successes. In their view, Korea has become more 'Korean', more 'uri-nara' after such international exposure.
  • Koreans are perennially engaged in a battle of will to name the body of water between Korea and Japan the ``East Sea." One newspaper lamented that 95 percent of world maps refer to it as the "Sea of Japan". The issue has Korea all riled up from time to time whenever one map maker or another refers to and marks the sea the "Sea of Japan." To Korea's great consternation, the name-of-the-sea struggle draws absolutely no interest from anybody else in the world (similar to the issue of the sovereignty of the Dokdo islets, which Japan also claims, calling them Takeshima). In spite of Korea's indignation, nobody seems to consider it significant, other than as a name to go by. Most Koreans shrug off a common-sense argument that might go like this: There is the "Indian Ocean," the "Gulf of Mexico," the "Philippine Sea," and many other such names that bear a specific country's identity. But no one associates that name with any kind of ownership of the waters. Certainly, no one thinks India owns the Indian Ocean or Mexico has claim to the Gulf of Mexico. Korea is practically alone in attaching such significance to a body of water between two countries. The Dokdo/Takeshima issue flares up at Japan's instigation, and Korea's reaction is predictably emotional and even violent. People have rallied in protest; some cut off their fingers in anger; some others attempted self-immolation; some even demanded a war on Japan. This Korean tribalism is one button those in Japanese know how to push whenever their own nationalistic mood strikes. Koreans fall for it every time. Many Korea observers keep reminding their Korean friends that the developed world, which pushes for open trade and internationalism, considers narrow nationalism a sign of arrested development, and Korea does not endear itself to the world with this practice. Not calling Korea "uri nara" may seem to be an insignificant step. But it would improve Korea's image beyond measure, as it would indicate that Korea is now mature enough to look at itself objectively and honestly.

I[edit]

  • In Korea it's better to be a dog than a human. Koreans are always obsessed with comparing themselves with the rest of the world in terms of GDP, scholastic rankings... After living here for more than three years among Koreans, I noticed that by far the general population of Koreans are just like big toddlers. Always behaving like children. No compassion, always pointing at something external when things are wrong. It's a very flat society where almost everything is measured by money or status. Most Koreans unfortunately are nothing more than frogs in a deep well looking up to the sky and convincing the world that their piece of sky is the best in the world. My solution is simple, don't even try to change the society here, just build a high wall without gates around Korea and go on living. Nobody in the world will miss Koreans.
  • Some of you may I think I am just bashing Koreans for the fun of it... I am just a tad cynical when it comes to Korean society after witnessing the social developments as of recent. Like the author wrote, nobody is willing to step forward to demand changes and willing to start making a change themselves. Always relying on the collective bandwagon to start rolling before getting on. It's pitiful. A French politician once said, every electorate gets the government they deserve. President Park was elected with some dubious influence of government agencies like the NIS. Nobody actually cared enough to take action at least demand a thorough objective investigation. Don't get me started about the impasse that surrounds the investigation of the Sewol ferry tragedy. It's a travesty of the first order. The Korean mainstream media, judiciary system, political system it's all warped and crooked. The only thing that seems to be working is capitalism... This is not a real nation, it's nothing better than your standard run-of-the-mill Banana Republic. I used to love Koreans for their passion and sense of justice, they have become scary cats that rather hide in a corner instead of manning the barricades and fight for their civic liberties like in Gwangju.
  • Foreigners who reside in the Republic of Korea are not permitted to participate in any political activities.

J[edit]

  • Although South Korea has the 14th largest economy in the world with a total GDP of $971,100,000,000 and with a per capita GDP of $24,800, having received a Global Competitiveness Index ranking of 11th place for the years 2007-2008, and a literacy rate of 97.9% for 15 year olds with the country being ranked first in reading, fourth in mathematics and sixth in science proficiency, for the same age group, by The Programme for International Student Assessment, the country can by no means boast about the international rankings of its universities. For instance, the best South Korean university places 21st in Asia and 164th in the world according to the Shanghai Jiao Tong Ranking system, while receiving a ranking of 51st in the world according to the Times Higher Education... Only six and seven South Korean universities made it into the top 400 list in the respective rankings.
  • People are stressed out by Korean society. They have all been waiting for somebody to bluntly criticize it... There's this atmosphere where we feel like we can't really acknowledge what we don’t like about our country. So I guess the book gave them some sort of catharsis or satisfaction... It’s a reflection of young Koreans thinking their country isn’t a land of opportunity but rather a society of frustration. When the older generation tells them to “try harder” or “make more of an effort,” it just doesn’t appeal to them anymore. Instead, they just think, “It won’t work anyway,” and don’t listen. They’ve been discouraged by reality and insulted by society, so they seem to want to reverse that insult on society. I see it that way... The slowdown in economic growth is not really Korea’s problem by itself. I don’t think the phenomenon of young Koreans dividing classes into “golden spoons” and “earthen spoons” is that serious compared to other countries. The problem with Korean society is that people don’t treat people in lower positions well. The feeling of humiliation these people suffer is immense. They don’t starve to death from not graduating from a prestigious university or working at a major conglomerate, but they still toil to achieve that goal. That’s because society humiliates the people who can’t reach that ideal. It’s too much; that’s the problem with this society.
  • If our society adopts a culture of mutual respect, it can solve problems even without economic growth. It can get rid of a great portion of stress in Korean society. People are insulted for being too young or being women, or get treated like a servant just because they work in the service sector. The Korean language has what we call an honorific form of language. Usually, young people use it when speaking to those who are older than them. But I think we can start this mutual respect by using the honorific form of language for one another regardless of age. This is one of my creeds... Koreans in their 20s and 30s are in a similar situation. One literary magazine called me the 'spokesman for youth' and I was quite embarrassed. Of course, I can’t deny that I’m interested in that generation compared to the others. They are the generation that came after industrialization and democratization, and the generation without any social responsibilities. However, I don’t want to speak for any specific generation. I will just continue to write about my concerns, and one day those concerns will speak for those in their 40s and 50s.

K[edit]

  • I am impressed by the boisterous and energetic tradition of people joining together and taking to the streets or the halls of power to speak their mind and effect change. Some view this tradition as a bit rowdy, but civil society’s heart beats loudly in South Korea, something that all democracies should aspire to. The Republic of Korea has impressive achievements: in the past decades, it has successfully transitioned from authoritarian rule to democracy and fostered one of the most remarkable economic transformation. The Republic of Korea also plays a leading role in the promotion and protection of human rights at the international level. It currently holds the presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and has co-sponsored a series of key Human Rights Council resolutions, most notably the one establishing my mandate; on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests; and on civil society space. It has been an arduous journey, but South Korea has taken its seat as a democratic nation.
  • If I could emphasize one message to the people of South Korea and the Government today, it would be this: the project of building democracy and human rights in South Korea is not over; indeed it never truly is, in any nation. What we have is a structure, and our solemn task as governments and citizens is to continually build upon that structure, strengthening the foundation, cultivating its resilience. It is inevitable that this structure will crack over time. That is the nature of democracy. What concerns me as I conclude my visit to South Korea today is how the Government is addressing these flaws. I sense a trend of gradual regression on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – not a dramatic shutdown of these rights, but a slow, creeping inclination to degrade them. Even the courts which should always interpret laws in favor of rights have recently been moving towards restricting rights rather than expanding them.
  • When I finally began to settle in South Korea, I noticed that South Korea was a highly individualistic society where you don’t know who lives next door and you shouldn’t try to find out, either. In South Korea, you should always be cautious of strangers who do you favors and you could be sued for swearing at someone else, all of which is inconceivable to North Koreans. During my three months at Hanawon, we went on an excursion to numerous industrial complexes and I dreamt big about my future. But South Korean society turned out to be one harsh world to live in. It was where everyone was connected based on the education and hometown backgrounds. In other words, you get promoted not based on your accomplishments but just because you happen to have attended the same college with your boss or you happen to be from the same hometown as them.
  • Korea goes too far the other way with an I.D. card. When you buy stuff on the internet from Korean analogues to Amazon, you need to punch in your national I.D. So if you order a book or movie from the internet, it is tagged to your national I.D. number with an e-vendor. Kinda creepy.
  • I went through the legal immigration process; let them do it too. Yes, it is a pain. Yes, I pay the Korean government a lot of money for some silly stamps, and I wait forever in some stuffy room for a bored bureaucrat to glare at me. But it's not 'Orwellian racial profiling'. Come on already. You're a guest in someone else's house. You know the rules are going to be a little tougher, and you should accept that, because you choose to go there. That is their system. You must respect it; you can always leave... If you think the U.S. rules are burdensome or racist, try living in Asia or Europe! Dual citizenship is nearly impossible. The Korean government makes me renew my visa every year, even though I am long-term employed resident foreigner with property, education, and all that. They make money off the foreigner population by requiring annual visa renewals, but it is also a way to check up on us that we aren't screwing around too much... If I were a publicly known illegal immigrant in S.K., I would last about five minutes before being shoved onto a plane.
  • Mercifully, Korea entirely lacks the endless budget shenanigans that have crippled American politics for thirty years, with its regular threats to basic safety-net programs like Social Security.
  • While the Korean public is deeply suspicious of Japanese motives, most Americans are not. The notion, widespread in Asia, that Japan is frequently on the cusp of re-militarization and renewed aggression in Asia, is not shared in the U.S. Indeed, American officials and commentators tend to find such suggestions fantastical. Similarly, the Japanese-Korean maritime disputes are simply not seen as the existential crises the Korean public and media insist they are. That Korea would use force against Japan over Dokdo, for example, which President Roh is now known to have endorsed if necessary, would strike most Americans as exceptionally myopic. That is, most Americans would be shocked to know U.S. allies right next to China and N.K. were fighting among themselves.
  • To demand that the world use that term insists that the rest of the planet view bodies of water from a Korean perspective, which is a preposterous request. The name itself implies absolutely nothing.
  • South Korea's animosity toward Japan, although rooted in history, is also an outgrowth of nationalist confusion caused by the division of the Korean Peninsula... Unlike many western countries, in South Korea the left is nationalist, dovish on North Korea, while the right is 'internationalist', or pro-American. All of this sows confusion in the mind of South Koreans about the direction of nationalist feeling, which makes Japan an easy, clarifying symbol, a lightening rod of sorts. Here, Japan, because of its colonial record, becomes an easy outlet for Koreans of all stripes to unite and prove their nationalist credentials... South Korea has a weak sense of 'state patriotism'. Koreans are indeed ethnic nationalists, but to their blood and cultural community, including Koreans in the north. They are one people. But the actual Republic of Korea, the state itself, in the south, has weak legitimacy and roots in Korean civil society. It is a half-country politically dominated by the Americans for decades, with institutions frequently copied wholesale from the U.S., with no obvious lineage to the beloved Chosun dynasty, and a closed political-economic Seoul-based elite, 'Gangnam Style', that alienates much of the country. The result is a poor sense of a distinct South Korean identity and weak commitment to corrupted, distant southern institutions. In this context, Japan is a useful other against which a southern state identity can be constructed. Hence the exaggeration of Korea's otherwise defendable claims against Japan.
  • Korean security is still highly dependent on the U.S., so an open split with Japan is perilous, because Japan is still the anchor state of the American alliance architecture in Asia... China may focus on regional supremacy, as it did in the past, and Japan may, in turn, focus on preventing Chinese hegemony. But Korea's strategic focus is much more immediate and narrow; preventing domination by its much larger neighbors. For a millennium Korea bounced back and forth between China, Japan, and Russia in northeast Asia. A wealthier, more confident Korea is now struggling against that continuing geographic constraint, unhappy that yet another outsider, the Americans, seem to be manipulating it... Korea doesn't want to be pushed around by powerful outsiders. But I am doubtful this can change; unless Korea were willing to openly break with the U.S. and unilaterally nuclearization to go it alone. Geography, demography, and Cold War division badly cripple Korean power. Korea feels that it is strong enough for the moment to resist an easy slide into the U.S.-Japanese 'pivot' tacitly aimed at China. But so long as it is a U.S. ally, the pressure will continue, and there is no obvious way out.
  • The war is a huge embarrassment. While the Chinese, Americans, and even the Filipinos got to fight, we were torn between ineffectual partisans and collaborators. So many collaborators in fact, that our country is still turned upside down by this issue a hundred years later. The dictator-president who put us on the map was a collaborator too, and we even ripped off our economic model from the Japanese. All this is pretty hard to stomach, so we've therapeutically fashioned our political identity in part as the anti-Japan.
  • 'Anti-Japanism' is now a form of political correctness in South Korea; public officials dare not bend. Particularly on the right, where many are the children and grandchildren of collaborators... South Korea has built its national identity so much around Japan as a competitor, if not enemy, that it is difficult to move on... Cha acutely observed that South Korea teaches a 'negative nationalism' of 'anti-Japanism', and that most countries would have accepted Japan's two big apologies in the 1990s, the Murayama and Kono Statements, and moved on... 'Anti-Japanism' is now a form of political correctness in South Korea; public officials dare not bend. Particularly on the right, where many are the children and grandchildren of collaborators.
  • In the west, much of the debate over how to respond to communism has faded into intellectual history. That acrimonious and largely unresolved split between right and left has, thankfully for all, receded. But in South Korea, it feels like time stands still. It is still 1982, with an evil empire, replete with gulags and economic collapse, threatening nuclear war, and all the McCarthyite paranoia that breeds in response. Just as in the west a generation ago, conservatives here see the left as appeasers, if not traitors, while left-wing parties think the South Korean right is unhinged and bellicose, driving North Korea into belligerence... In the west, much of the debate over how to respond to communism has faded into intellectual history. That acrimonious and largely unresolved split between right and left has, thankfully for all, receded. But in South Korea, it feels like time stands still. It is still 1982, with an evil empire, replete with gulags and economic collapse, threatening nuclear war, and all the McCarthyite paranoia that breeds in response. Just as in the west a generation ago, conservatives here see the left as appeasers, if not traitors, while left-wing parties think the South Korean right is unhinged and bellicose, driving North Korea into belligerence... The north and south are not morally analogous competitor regimes which deserve a similar chastising. South Korea is easily the better place on almost every conceivable vector, including importantly, the one privileged by the marchers themselves, the treatment of women. Does it need to be said that South Korea has elections, a free press, due process, nothing like the 'songbun' system or the gulags of the north, a female president, and so on? Given how obvious this is, I found it worrisome that the marchers ducked these obvious distinctions in their various press conferences... The general culture is deeply Confucian patriarchic, habits that are slowly, too slowly, eroding in South Korea.
  • It is immediately obvious to anyone who has spent substantial time in South Korea that its people and its elites have an extraordinary, and negative, fixation with Japan. Korea's media talks about Japan incessantly, usually with little journalistic objectivity and in negative terms, as a competitor for export markets which must be overcome, as a rival for American attention, as an unrepentant colonialist, as a recipient of the 'Korean Wave', watch Korean analysts triumphantly argue that Japanese housewives are learning Korean, as a lurking military imperialist just waiting to subdue Asia again, and so on... South Korea's nationalism is negative, defined very much against Japan and, importantly, not against North Korea... North Korea so successfully manipulates Korean nationalist discourse that South Korea cannot define itself against North Korea in the same way West Germany did against East Germany. So South Korea uses a third party against which to prove its nationalist bona-fides in its national legitimacy competition with the north.
  • North Korea does not fixate on Japan the way South Korea does. The primary objects of North Korean enemy propaganda are the 'Yankee Colony' South Korea and the United States. Japan is surely a villain but mostly serves as a foil to demonstrate Kim Il-sung's early heroics and nationalist commitment. If anti-Japanism were a deep, Korea-wide sentiment, surely the north would use it more for legitimacy's sake, instead of the far-away Americans, or the preposterously mystical 'Baekdu bloodline'.
  • Hostility toward Japan is not just a political posture, but a part of South Korean political identity... Korea's grievances with Japan are very legitimate. Japan sexually enslaved Korean women into war-time brothels. It attempted to erase Korea as a cultural entity by coercing the use of Japanese, even to the point of re-naming people. There are still Koreans alive who went through this. Japan has not really come clean about the empire and the war, a point made not just by Korea, but in China and the U.S. as well. But Koreans do not stop there; they go over-the-top with things like the 'Sea of Japan' re-naming campaign with no obvious point other than to provoke Japan, unfounded claims that Japan wants to invade Korea again, equating bad Japanese behavior in Korea with the far-worse Holocaust, or that Liancourt is worth going to war over, even though a Korean use of force against Japan would almost certainly eventuate a U.S. departure from South Korea and dramatically reduce Korean security.
    • Robert E. Kelly, "Japanophobia" (29 March 2014), Asian Security Blog: International Relations of Asia.
  • 'Japanophobia', I have argued, stems from Korea's national division. The Republic of Korea should be the anti-DPRK; it should be the successful capitalist twin competing North Korea into illegitimacy. But it cannot be, because North Korea manipulates the language of Korean nationalism to de-legitimize the south. It instrumentalizes its control of Mr. Paektu, the mythic birthplace of the Korean people, and plays to Korean race-nationalism by regularly indicting South Korea as the globalized, bastardized 'Yankee Colony'. Pyongyang also enjoys enough sympathy in the South that an aggressively anti-DPRK foreign policy is impossible... The South Korea left often if confusedly excuses the north, and South Korea's most 'progressive' president, Roh Moo-Hyun, thought Japan and the U.S. were a greater threat to South Koreans than North Korea. This creates a weird dynamic. South Korean conservatives are 'internationalist', they support the U.S. alliance, while the left are the nationalists. Strangely then, North Korea and the South Korean left are more nationalist than the South Korean right.
  • Terrorism is not a serious threat to Korea, and it is important not to over-react in the wake of Paris. Korea is a safe place, and Korea’s Muslim community is not radicalized. Nevertheless, Korea, like all modern democracies, abounds in soft targets and vouchsafes the democratic freedoms that make it hard to prevent terrorism and criminal violence.
  • Eight out of 10 Koreans wish to emigrate... 78.6 percent said they would emigrate if they could... 47.9 percent of those who said they wished to emigrate were already preparing to leave.
  • Nowhere in the world does the past bear as much relevance to the present as in northeast Asia, where archaeology is employed for nationalistic and political purposes, to construct national identities, build state legitimacy, and even press territorial claims. Korea presents a unique case study in understanding the intersection of nationalism, politics, and archaeology in a world of nation-states, not only for the high level of historical consciousness that permeates Korean society, but also the division of the nation into two states. Each state, north and south, has used the past to serve the present in different ways, despite having fundamentally similar aims: to assert the cultural individuality and historical independence of Korea from ideological and often military aggression from its larger neighbors, China and Japan.
  • I have lived, and continue to live, in the belief that God is always with me. I know this from experience. In August of 1973, while exiled in Japan, I was kidnapped from my hotel room in Tokyo by intelligence agents of the then military government of South Korea. The news of the incident startled the world. The agents took me to their boat at anchor along the seashore. They tied me up, blinded me, and stuffed my mouth. Just when they were about to throw me overboard, Jesus Christ appeared before me with such clarity. I clung to him and begged him to save me. At that very moment, an airplane came down from the sky to rescue me from the moment of death.
  • At more than 35%, the gender wage gap in South Korea remains the widest in the OECD group of developed nations.
  • American society, composed of diverse races and ethnicities, has a lot of tolerance of different kinds of people and can embrace them all as Americans. Korean society, however, is composed of a single ethnicity. It is more intolerant to people of different ethnicity and skin colors. Koreans have a strong bond to people of Korean ethnic origin even when, as in the case of the gunman, a large proportion of their upbringing took place in a different culture. That's why there is widespread mourning and collective guilt over the gunman's behavior and its consequences. It's doubtful whether the South Korean reaction will really help anyone... In its guilt-laden reaction to the Virginia Tech massacre South Korea may be muddling America's healing process. The American reaction is that the crime was committed by a single isolated individual who happened to be South Korean, and that it's not South Korea that committed the crime. But South Korea doesn't seem to make a distinction in this sense... Is this something telling about Korean culture? Failure or achievement by a family member doesn't merely remain within the individual who made it, rather it becomes the shame or pride of the whole family... Koreans are in shock and concerned that this incident will have a negative impact on South Korea's well-built reputation and the future treatment of all Koreans in America. But it's solely Korea's perspective, and it's an overreaction.
  • Foreigners often point out that there are many awkward English expressions on Korean street signs, temple guideposts and restaurant menus. Surprised by the numerous mistakes, foreign residents and tourists may wonder if Koreans have invented their own version of English. The truth is that when composing something in English, Koreans tend to rely extensively on the Korean-English dictionary, which can be unreliable at times. Or oftentimes, Korean is translated directly into English, without consideration for cultural differences, nuances or colloquial expressions. Even worse, Koreans seldom ask native speakers to proofread or edit their English.
  • Korea abolished the colonial legal system, including civil and commercial laws. However, the country inherited and strengthened a wartime command economy. Regardless of wartime demand or socialist ideology, restriction on or abolition of a market and private property system makes it inevitable that the economy depend on command. In spite of political differences, that is why the two economies seem similar.
    On the contrary, however, South Korea returned to a market economy from a wartime command economy, and inherited a legal system and market regime before the Sino-Japanese War. The country regained monetary and tariff autonomy at the price of rapid inflation and retreat from an open economy. Experiences during the wartime command economy have also affected South Korea and caused government interventions in foreign exchange and financial markets. After policy shifts in the 1960s, which made the country’s economy more open and with less government intervention, South Korea was able to head into rapid economic growth.
    • Kim Nak Nyeon, "Japan’s Colonial Legacy to Korea with Special Reference to Economic Institutions" (2010).
  • Do you want to know what shocked me the most after arriving in South Korea? It was when I watched the news about a teenage girl who was in critical condition following an abortion. I had almost never heard of news like that in North Korea.
  • The Korean fetishization of human parts as medicine was an enduring phenomenon, invulnerable to modernity’s assaults and advances in science and medicine. And judging by the continuing imports of human flesh capsules from abroad today, there are still Koreans who desire to eat others, much to the chagrin of the South Korean state which has had to announce an official ban against the distribution. The allure of the human flesh, tantalizing for its transgressive implication and claims of restoring beauty, virility, and health, may have met the perfect conditions under which to thrive in contemporary South Korea: an obsession with diet and personal well-being that began with the rise of the middle class, an outsized health supplement industry that dabbles in dubious ingredients, and above all, the commodification of the human being in all its uses as a provider of labor, service, sex, and now it seems, life itself.
  • South Korea is a miserable existence... The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that South Korea has the highest rate of elderly poverty among member states: 45 percent of South Korean households consisting of seniors over the age of 65 make less than half the median household disposable income. Among seniors who live by themselves, that figure jumps up to more than 76 percent. In comparison, the OECD average is 13.5 percent... If I may put it crudely, half of all seniors in South Korea are poor. In this glittering, sparkling South Korea. In spite of the country's seeming wealth, the state support for the old is appallingly limited; South Korea spends the equivalent of 1.7 percent of its GDP on caring for the old, just one step above the stingiest OECD member; Mexico. Neighboring Japan, on the other hand, is generous to its seniors, doling out an amount corresponding to 8.9 percent of its GDP on the archipelago’s vast grey-haired population. Koreans are supposed to care about the old, what with the country’s longstanding respect for seniors and emphasis on filial piety. That is true, if we talk history or fairy tales. In far too many cases the older generation, having served as cogs in the engine of South Korean economy, is relegated to the sideline, picking up trash for money and receiving no one’s attention unless once in a while an OECD report comes out and reminds everyone how miserable life is for old South Koreans.
  • There is a welfare system in this country, but it does not always help the old. Having grown-up children can exclude you from basic benefits on the assumption that they will take care of you, whether they actually do or not. While free subway rides are nice, the pension system has a short history, and most seniors I know, unless they worked as public servants or professors or teachers, do not receive much from the state because they have not contributed enough during their productive years... The old continue to suffer, sometimes even killing themselves after giving up on life in South Korea. The suicide rate among the elderly is formidable in a country already known for its sky-high suicide rate: 28.1 percent of all suicide victims in South Korea are over the age of 65. And about two thirds of the elderly suicide victims endure extreme poverty before deciding to end their lives... Work is shrinking. As more people become old and more old people join the ranks of the poor, competition is increasing in the allies of Seoul and other cities, in the shadows of new malls and condos and office towers that stand oblivious of the suffering just around the corner. Brimming with seniors as it may be, South Korea is no country for old people.
  • South Korea is a deeply divided society, between the right and the left, the rich and the poor, the old and the young. Unity is an illusion and nationalism erupts only when the nation suffers a collective insult. Underneath, factionalism is ripe and allegiances run along the lines of family, education, profession, wealth, birthplace, and ideology. Consensus is rare... A less remarked-on development in politics is the dramatic rise of South Korea’s angry young men... Refusing to accept the truth of not being a somebody in a country where being a nobody is a fate worse than death, these young people lash out, unaware of their own moral degeneration... South Korea’s young people are dealing with a miserable reality. They undergo onerous education for a promise that their future will amount to something. But when they graduate, landing a covetable job is fiercely competitive. Costs of living are high, and renting a place of your own, much less homeownership, is near impossible for a single person without the help of well-to-do parents. Everyone says one should get married and have children, but the expense of establishing a family is daunting. Consumption is endlessly encouraged. Debts pile up. There appears to be no hope on the horizon.
  • Angry young men want vengeance but will not go after the rich and powerful. They do not have the courage. Instead, they are attacking the weakest, the most marginal, the most vulnerable. Women. Dark-skinned foreigners. North Korean defectors. Chinese Koreans. And now Sewol disaster victims and their families... The coal mine that is South Korea. It does not represent a new sentiment but amplifies the worst impulses already in existence. Theoretically this is a free country and people are given to expressing all sorts of opinions online. And abuse perpetrated by the weak against the weaker is not a new phenomenon either, manifesting as extreme bullying in schools, developing into violence in the military and ostracisation at workplaces. Rampant child abuse is also a formidable problem. While those issues require urgent redress, the brewing anger among the young at marginal communities is particularly disconcerting. That misguided rage is now shaping into organized entities, finding acceptance in political circles, and attracting support from so-called elites. It is beginning to infect the whole of South Korean society and breed new political discourse and even militant activism... Something similar to the current South Korean situation happened several decades ago in Europe: fascism. And history warns us that South Korea’s angry young men, if left untended, may become a monster no one can fully control, engulfing the nation in a downward spiral of more anger and violence. That prospect truly frightens me.
  • To be a South Korean child ultimately is not about freedom, personal choice or happiness; it is about production, performance and obedience... South Korean parents may never recognize that the current system is a direct assault on the welfare of their own offspring. But above all, the conviction that academic success is paramount in life needs to be set aside completely. South Korea may have become an enviable economic superpower, but it has neglected the happiness of its people... Before South Korea can be seen as a model for the 21st century, it must end this age-old feudal system that passes for education and reflect on what the country’s most vulnerable citizens might themselves want.
  • South Korea is no mythical kingdom where evil is always punished and justice prevails. It is more like a feudal aristocracy if we are to go by the obsequiousness this country’s political elite shows towards the powerful... South Koreans are used to seeing the government dole out special treatment for the all-powerful... Given that South Korea ranks 43rd out of 175 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, one should not expect upholding public trust to be the priority of the political class in Seoul... South Korea’s economic system in a nutshell: plebs must endure injustice for the national collective, for the future, for a better South Korea, but select bloodlines are needed at the helm, and therefore need not respect the basic rules that govern society given their naturally endowed gift. The idea that business talent is the preserve of the elite is not unique... What makes the South Korean situation special is that business talent here is ascribed in official discourse to blood as a way of legitimating monopolies.
  • South Korea is arguably a repressive country even for its citizens. In addition to the dreaded defamation law which can criminalize a wide spectrum of speech, social norms and fear of ostracization in this tightly knit and still largely homogeneous society work to muzzle rebellious mouths and break wayward pens... This reality means that if you are a foreigner living under the authority of the South Korean government, it makes sense to exercise careful tact and extraordinary self-censorship in public.
  • I have become numb to such stories about South Korean workers under extreme duress. If I took every story personally, I would not have sanity left for my own survival... Extreme. Intense. Extraordinary. There are not enough adjectives to describe the mistreatment of workers at the bottom of the South Korean employment hierarchy. The question, though, is why this state of affairs continues unchallenged... Not every South Korean interacts with workers — by which I mean blue-collar and service workers — with utmost courtesy. It is easy enough to see this just in entering a coffee shop, where staff smile and use the most polite form of speech to speak with customers, who often fail to accord on those on the other side of the counter the same token of respect. Harder still is to observe a single customer properly greet or bid goodbye to a salesperson... While abuses do persist everywhere, in some countries one can count on labor standards and regulatory bodies to ensure that being a worker does not have to entail surrendering one's humanity... South Korea, however, is not one of those countries... South Korea, as a rapidly developed economic powerhouse, has embraced and refined capitalism to the point unseen in other countries, a fact noted with no small amount of pride... The perniciousness of South Korean capitalism is unsurprising, given that the Korean Peninsula has been something of an amplifier for foreign systems of thought, often not for the best...
  • Confucianism is far more dogmatic and authoritarian in South Korea than in its birthplace, China... Add to the South Korean interpretation of capitalism the longstanding contempt for manual labor, a cult of education, and a century-long history of authoritarianism, first under the colonial regime and later under the military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, and Roh Tae-woo, and we have a highly regimented society where rules of politeness and one’s social standing depend exclusively on money, education, and power. Those without any of the three are doomed to suffer… South Korean workers at their wits' end often choose death, because it is the only weapon they have at their disposal for inflicting any damage on a hyper-capitalist system that treats human beings as expendable labor and disposes of them like garbage. Sacrificing one’s life is the only effective way to draw attention to one’s own plight, however briefly, like a shooting star that lights up the night sky before dimming down to nothingness… Workers will thus continue to take their lives. For all their expressiveness, South Koreans I know are not prone to expressing their grief, at least not until they can no longer bear the circumstance of their own lives. And as far as I can see, they live in an irredeemably bleak world, where they are regularly pushed to within an inch of the brink. There is no immediate hope in this land.
  • South Korea, as seen from the outside, is indeed that rare country that transitioned from poverty and dictatorship to affluence and democracy in a miraculously short time. Yet it is viewed by many people here as a crony capitalist state run by corrupt elites who have monopolized power and the national economy, fostering government incompetence and popular distrust of the state... South Koreans, who have a long history of political and social turbulence, including previous spates of political scandals and man-made disasters as well as an endless state of war against North Korea, know how to handle calamity with a certain aplomb.
  • One of the stories worth following in South Korea concerns young people’s disenchantment with their country... South Korea breeds systemic homophobia and sexual violence... South Korean masculinity is a layered construct, much of it based on traditional notions of manliness, and only recently served with a smear of BB cream on top.
  • The life of South Koreans continues to suffer from small injustices that reflect the existence of two realities here; one available only to those from the right backgrounds and another that is experienced by everyone else... South Korea, a country where official rhetoric in service of a lofty ideal could scarcely be more distant from a reality controlled by self-serving figures in power... An infernal feudal kingdom stuck in the nineteenth century... Being born in South Korea is tantamount to entering hell, where one is immediately enslaved by a highly regulated system that dictates an entire course of life. Onerous education and service in the abusive military are the norm... Become self-employed and eke out a self-sustaining but disreputable bandit-like existence on the margin of society, or wade through the Forest of Emigration and leave South Korea altogether, finding freedom.
  • South Koreans are already taking revenge on a society that they believe has failed them and is beyond redemption. The falling rates of birth and marriage; one of the highest percentages of youth between 15 and 29 who eschew education, employment or training in the industrialized world; not to mention the rising suicide rate among teenagers. All this may partly correlate with worsening economic circumstances but nonetheless serves to punish the state by withholding greater productivity and children the officialdom desperately seeks for the goal of maintaining and growing the nation. Self-destruction is not only a form of escape; it ensures the death of the system one so despises... The best thing for a South Korean is never to be born; the second best is to die as soon as possible... And in dying or running away to a foreign country, they gleefully watch the nation they leave behind burn and succumb to ruin. For the young South Koreans who have grown to detest their nation, the Republic of Korea — Daehan Min’guk — already ceased to exist some time ago. They now call this land Daehan Mangguk: the Failed State of Korea.
  • In South Korea’s racial hierarchy, men from developed countries are accorded the privilege of taking on a South Korean wife because their perceived economic and cultural superiority justifies such a union. In a similar logic, a South Korean man’s marriage to a woman from a developing country has increasingly gained social acceptance... Progressive South Koreans are less likely to speak favorably of multiculturalism, while it is the conservatives who have advocated for a more accommodating attitude toward immigration and diversity. It is indeed a strange situation, since in most countries the right are far more likely to be anti-immigration while the left are for inclusion and diversity. The radical South Korean left, in particular, even charge that the whole notion of multiculturalism is a conservative ploy, supported by corporations, to import cheap migrant labor and boost the flagging national birthrate all in order to suppress wages for South Korean workers... In pitying those they deem to be less than them, South Koreans can feel happy about themselves.
  • I see too many South Korean ajeossi lose it in the face of some imagined humiliation. This is the typical profile: an aging South Korean male — say 35 and over — who thinks himself God for unfathomable reasons, enforces a misguided sense of order that places himself (or men in general) at the center of the universe, and steps all over anyone perceived to be inferior. What binds these men is a singular conviction in the righteousness of their action, and profound puzzlement and even anger when they are rejected or confronted. The frequency of ajeossi meltdowns under everyday circumstances temps many young South Koreans including my friends to resort to a less-than-respectful epithet in referring to many of South Korean men middle-aged and older; gaejeossi. The term gaejeossi marries the word ajeossi; generally meaning middle-aged men; with a prefix derived from the Korean word for…dog. I have endured my share of them over the years: a mid-career journalist at one of the top three South Korean newspapers who had never known me until a conference but tried to hound me into helping him write his graduate school application essay in English; for free. I don’t care to recall how many times he called me until I severed all contact; a professor who pretended to bestow some great favor when he asked me to serve as his near full-time office assistant in exchange for a desk at his research center It was kind, but I already had a desk of my own, at home; a realtor who lied about the age of an apartment I was about to rent not once but twice and then flatly denied the whole thing when brought to task over his deception. Then there are the drunkards who shout inside subway compartments as if they were at beer halls, taxi drivers who try to take the long way around because I obviously look like a Japanese tourist, and diners who genuinely seem to believe that restaurant servers are servants in the medieval sense. They bellow, 'Eonni! Bring me two bottles of soju! Now!'
  • Should you meet a South Korean man, listen very carefully to the language he uses; if he has trouble remaining polite in his speech despite not being on familiar terms with you, there is a significant chance he is a gaejeossi... In South Korea culprits behind so many misdeeds of varying seriousness are aging men. And in a vicious cycle men behaving badly win forgiveness far too easily; the older the man the more understanding he receives. No wonder they feel empowered to get naughty all over again... Inevitable and unexceptional a fate for South Korean boys, coddled by overindulgent parents solely for the monumental achievement of being born male, indoctrinated into the macho culture by an abusive military system that celebrates brute power, and pushed into bearing responsibility for households. Marriage and parenthood and further aging bestow permission on men — and to a degree, women as well — to practice a less community-oriented view on life and adopt a more family-centric, selfish persona that leaves little room for consideration for others. “But I have a wife and children to feed ” is a familiar refrain at domestic law courts where sympathy pours in from the public and even judges if family’s survival is seen as a motivating factor for a crime. A “mitigating circumstance,” it is called. South Korea condones, even encourages gaejeossi whose responsibility is cast as first and foremost to himself and his family before society and others. It’s more than OK to be a gaejeossi if you are a father; your reprehensible nature is merely proof of your healthy paternal instinct, your commitment to some moral duty to uphold the patriarchy... South Korea is undergoing a difficult transition from this worldview to another, one that holds neither fatherhood nor age nor being male ought to be basis for privilege or recognition. But superficial traits like age and gender and marital status, not talent or moral character, continue to be used as cause for respect.
  • Over dinner one evening, a South Korean journalist friend posed what seemed like a riddle: “Let’s say there is a high school reunion. One classmate is a Samsung executive with a high-school graduate for a son. Another is a security guard whose son attends Seoul National University. Who do you think will be the envy of everyone at the party?” If you say the Samsung exec as I did, you may have some way to go before understanding how South Korea works. I am struck by how often South Koreans of a certain age refer to childrearing as jasik nongsa, literally “child farming.” The parent is farmer and the child his crop. Much as a farmer who fails to grow perfect produce is no good farmer, a parent who cannot raise a successful child is no good parent. And when parenthood is central to one’s identity — every ‘normal’ South Korean should marry and have children — a child who doesn’t meet the typical standard of success is not just doing himself disservice; he brings his parents down, too. One could be a Samsung executive or even president of the Republic of Korea, but without children of distinction there is bound to be gossip and sniping behind the back. South Korea is naturally famous for education fervor and parents who do anything and everything in their power for children’s success. Borrow money to pay for private education on the side. Buy or rent an apartment one cannot afford just to be in a better school district. Dictate every minute and hour of the child’s schedule so he grows up to be an academic superstar. The question is when this parental investment turns into bona fide ownership. I have seen enough South Korean parents act like they own their children. And when a parent lets his sense of ownership go overboard, disturbing consequences can ensue... Child abuse has long been considered a family matter in South Korea. Underreporting is routine... South Korean parents’ approach to childrearing amounts to abuse. It was almost a century ago that criticisms were first raised against the conventional Korean attitude toward children; 'As long as parents live, children have no freedom and are treated like slaves or livestock not unlike subjects of a feudal lord'.
  • We do not think much about the South Korean holiday that falls each year on May 5 — Children’s Day — but as Dafna Zur, my friend and specialist in South Korean children’s literature, notes, the very concept of “children” behind the day — eorini in Korean — was radical in 1920 when Japanese-educated reformer Bang Jeong-hwan first introduced it to Koreans. The idea of children as innocent beings deserving of protection and nurture was novel, and went against the existing idea of offspring solely as a source of economic and social benefit to the family unit... Forcing children to study is vastly different from beating them to death. But the two behaviors have in common the idea of children as property, not individuals in charge of their own destinies. Overbearing South Korean parents with whom I have tried to reason on behalf of students have a stock answer: “It’s my child so don’t interfere.” The father who cut up his own son’s body protests, “But I was beaten, too, as a child.” He says he was merely exercising his parental prerogative, punishing a wayward boy... Abuse of children share spots on the spectrum of parental attitude toward children, justified with identical words: “in the best interest of the child.” Parents supposedly know best, but if anything the child abuse crisis indicates that this conventional wisdom must be contested. The special law from 2014 broke grounds in recognizing that childrearing cannot always be seen as a matter of the private sphere beyond the government’s reach. But we must go much further than that. Laws can help but the next obvious step toward reducing child abuse in South Korea is to question the psychology of South Korean parenthood. In 2014, abusers in 77.2 percent of confirmed child abuse cases were biological parents. As long as parents are permitted to view themselves as masters of their children’s universe and exercise control bordering on psychological abuse, child abuse of more extreme kinds will not abate. To return to the story that began this essay, I wanted to ask which child was happier: the Samsung executive’s child who did not go on to university or the security guard’s Seoul National University-attending child. Perhaps both. Perhaps neither. We will never know because the story was never about happiness of children, only that of parents. Children’s wellbeing is of no importance when parental pride is at stake.
  • South Korea is saying goodbye to its immigrating citizens like never before. Some are leaving to avoid unemployment; others are just tired of the competitive nature of Korean society.
  • I had been studying in South Korea... Living there is HARD.

L[edit]

  • North Koreans now understand that South Korea is very rich. It is true, but there is a great difference between vaguely understanding something and having such graphic images of neighbors' prosperity flooding your daily life. As is usually the case, such pictures are liable to be exaggerated at first. An outsider in a rich country usually cannot immediately see the contradictions, problems and tensions that exist behind the sparking, glistening, glitzy facade. For the North Koreans, this picture of the South Korean prosperity would likely be seen as vivid proof of the complete failure of their leadership. The North Korean elite cannot even use the usual trick of putting the blame at the doors of their predecessors: This elite is hereditary, so the buck cannot be easily passed... The unavoidable spread of South Korean capital and information will put the North Korean government in a tight spot, to put it mildly.
  • Many South Korean politicians love the familiar platitude that 'unification by absorption is impossible'. What they really mean is that unification by absorption is not what anyone wants. They might be right about how repellent such scenarios are with the electorate, but things that are not wanted often do happen. Thus, we should think honestly and cynically about the challenges that Korean society will face if the increasingly dreaded unification by absorption does suddenly occur – most likely following a grave political crisis and/or regime implosion in the North. Perhaps we should not bother arguing about the statistical probability of such a scenario, but unlike the glorious fantasies of South Korean policy wonks, this is indeed what may happen. So, we must have a sober look at the problems a unified Korean state will face – and these problems are, indeed, numerous.
  • While South Korea is a heavenly place to North Koreans, North Koreans wouldn’t want to live in China ever. Most times, North Koreans think China is worse than North Korea. In North Korea, one can find derogatory terms and racial slurs referring to the Chinese and Japanese. But no derogatory terms about South Koreans exist in North Korea. Among South Korea, China, and Japan, the North Korean government may hate the South the most. But ordinary North Koreans? They hate Japan the most, and China is second only to Japan. But oh boy, North Koreans love South Korea and its pop culture and they want to live there!
  • Sixty years ago, at dawn on June 25, the Korean War broke out when communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. Over the next three years of fighting, about 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected... The Republic of Korea has emerged as an important partner of the United States in many parts of the world. Also, in the course of investigating and responding to the North's March sinking of our naval vessel the Cheonan, Seoul and Washington have closely coordinated efforts and expertise. In all these endeavors, we are not losing sight of the necessity of eventually turning the Korean Peninsula into a cradle of regional and world peace... On this significant occasion, all Koreans pay tribute to the heroes fallen in defense of freedom and democracy. I firmly believe that future generations in both countries will further advance the strong Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance into one befitting the spirit of the new age... On the sixtieth anniversary of the Korean War, I remain grateful to America for having participated in the war. At that time, the Republic of Korea was one of the most impoverished countries, with an annual per capita income of less than $40. In 2009, my country became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, the first aid recipient to become a donor and in only one generation. The Republic of Korea is engaged in peacekeeping missions in 14 countries to promote global peace. It will host the G-20 summit in November, and in 2012 the second nuclear security summit.
  • I am tired of reading daily articles on comfort women in the South Korean media. The group that hosts Wednesday protests in front of Japanese embassy, Chong Dae Hyup, is a leftist group with close ties to North Korea. The husband of its leader was arrested as a North Korean spy. Other members are also closely related to North Korea... The South Korean public, who doesn't know the background of Chong Dae Hyup, is being deceived by its propaganda. Chong Dae Hyup's goal is to drive a wedge into U.S.-South Korea-Japan security partnership... By publishing anti-Japanese articles on a daily basis, the South Korean media are harming South Korea's interests. More anti-Korean sentiment in Japan means less South Korean export to Japan and less Japanese tourists to South Korea. More serious than the economic loss is the harm on South Korea’s security interest. If the South Korean media understand this, why would they keep publishing these silly articles?
  • We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too... Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure?
    • Curtis LeMay in Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988).
  • What Korean young people need is not another top-down solution designed by the government, but a cultural ecosystem of empowerment that allows them to self-organize in various, creative ways to networks to share information, new initiatives or innovations. Korea must encourage the development of such networks and facilitate them through communication platforms or meeting spaces that her vaunted technologies and connectivity can perhaps facilitate. Give them back a sense of control over their future. I agree that culture and engagement can be difficult topics to tackle because they can mean different things to different people. What we do know is that organizational culture powerfully influences the performance and engagement, which, in turn, drive innovation and forward evolution. This is key to staying ahead of the competition curve and becoming a highly efficient and effective organization. In this case, the organization is the Korea. What's at stake is her future.

M[edit]

  • The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: 'Don't scuttle the Pacific!'
  • South Korean nationalism is something quite different from the patriotism toward the state that Americans feel. Identification with the Korean race is strong, while that with the Republic of Korea is weak... Koreans in both the north and the south tend to cherish the myth that of all peoples in the world, they are the least inclined to premeditated evil.
  • Korea's northern border remains easy to cross, and North Koreans are now well aware of the prosperity enjoyed south of the demilitarized zone, Kim Jong-il continues to rule over a stable and supportive population. Kim enjoys mass support due to his perceived success in strengthening the race and humiliating its enemies. Thanks in part to decades of skillful propaganda, North Koreans generally equate the race with their state, so that ethno-nationalism and state-loyalty are mutually enforcing. In this respect North Korea enjoys an important advantage over its rival, for in the Republic of Korea ethno-nationalism militates against support for a state that is perceived as having betrayed the race. South Koreans' 'good race, bad state' attitude is reflected in widespread sympathy for the people of the north and in ambivalent feelings toward the United States and Japan, which are regarded as friends of the republic but enemies of the race... Korea cannot survive forever on the public perception of state legitimacy alone. The more it loses its economic distinctiveness vis-à-vis the rival state, the more the Kim regime must compensate with triumphs on the military and nuclear fronts. Another act of aggression against the Republic of Korea may well take place in the months ahead, not only to divert North Korean public attention from the failures of the consumer-oriented 'Strong and Prosperous Country' campaign, but also to strengthen the appeasement-minded South Korean opposition in the run-up to the presidential election in 2012.

O[edit]

  • They're hardheaded, hard-drinking, tough little bastards, 'the Irish of Asia'.

P[edit]

  • In May 1961 when I took over power as the leader of the revolutionary group, I honestly felt as if I had been given a pilfered household or bankrupt firm to manage. Around me I could find little hope of encouragement. The outlook was bleak. But I had to rise above this pessimism to rehabilitate the household. I had to destroy, once and for all, the vicious circle of poverty and economic stagnation. Only by reforming the economic structure would we lay a foundation for decent living standards.
  • In Korea, physical education is not considered important as it is not regarded to be education, and therefore many schools lack high-quality gymnasiums and varsity athletics. Entering top universities is considered by many a top priority.

R[edit]

  • Chang-min bought a white sports car two years ago and then had it painted pink. Pink cars are rare all over the world, but they're a form of social rebellion in South Korea, where nine out of 10 cars are silver, black or white.
  • Japan and South Korea are both democracies that fear Chinese domination, yet the animosity between the two societies restricts what should be natural strategic partnering.

S[edit]

  • Pan-Korean nationalism undermines state patriotism in South Korea. Successive Seoul administrations have neglected to inculcate pride in the republic as a state entity.
  • Korea was a vassal state of China for much of the previous 400 years. This client-patron relationship that endured for centuries, coupled with the deep cultural, ideological ties, has left an enduring legacy of respect for China within Korean culture and has strongly affected the Korean psyche. Korea has been criticized for being quick to react to even the slightest transgression by either the United States or Japan, while China often gets a pass, even when the transgressions are great.
  • South Korea attained democracy in 1987 by means of a grand compromise between the military dictatorship and democratic forces. The resulting system however, has since been assailed across the ideological spectrum for its multiple weaknesses, which includes an over powerful “imperial” presidency and an unrepresentative legislature. These two issues have been central to the recent debate in Seoul’s political circles over constitutional and electoral reform, the need for which few have questioned, though divergent interests as usual compromise the likelihood that a consensus will be reached over the direction.
  • Discussion of unification is premature and can even be considered dangerous if unification occurs without such change. As the German unification experience shows, a shared ethnic identity alone will not be able to prevent North Koreans from becoming "second-class citizens" in a unified Korea. Even worse, because of higher expectations resulting from a shared sense of ethnic unity, a gap between identity, ethnic homogeneity, and practice, second-class citizens, will add more confusion and tension to the unification process. Thus, it will be a major challenge for Koreans to develop democratic institutions that can treat people living in Korea as equal citizens of a democratic polity. This task will be all the more important and urgent as Korea becomes more democratic, globalizes, and also prepares for national unification.
  • While South Korea has become a major economic power, it is surrounded by far larger players in Asia. It may never be able to play a leading role in shaping both regional and international affairs, but is currently looking for ways to assert itself on the global stage. These aspirations are typical of what scholars define as a Middle Power – an international actor that is neither small nor large.
  • The very idea of Korean racial purity is asinine. Koreans are already an ethnic mixture of indigenous peoples; Chinese, and Mongolians, and Japanese. If there's one thing the North Koreans excel at, it’s propaganda, and there's no denying that North Korea's racial theories have a certain inherent appeal in South Korea. Without bringing the level of this post down to a personal diatribe, my own recent visit to South Korea with my two children confirms that Hines Ward mania hasn’t transformed Korea into an open-minded society — not by a long shot... You'll see that South Korea's ruling party isn't above playing the 'ethnic purity' card against America, either.

T[edit]

  • South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, more than double that of the United States. According to one recent OECD report, [South] Korea had bucked a trend of falling suicide rates among developed nations, with suicide rising to become the fourth most common cause of death. Unlike most other countries, South Koreans actually become more likely to commit suicide as they age.
  • In 1910, the Korean Empire, which had been a vassal state of China, signed a treaty with the Empire of Japan that merged the two empires into one. The Korean royal family was absorbed into that of Japan. Japan was the successor state, and the Korean Peninsula became part of the Japanese empire, enjoying equal status with its other territories. From then on, and notwithstanding the undeclared war that Japan waged on China from 1937 onward and its 1941 sneak attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Korean subjects not only paid taxes to Japan, but also contributed to Japan's Pacific War by serving in its armed forces. There were even Korean voluntary units in the Japanese military, and Koreans such as Crown Prince Euimin and Hong Sa-ik reached ranks as high as lieutenant general. All ROK Army chiefs of staff from 1948 to 1969 were former officers of the Japanese army, and the same is true of former ROK president Park Chung-hee. Japan was the lawful government of the whole of Korea during World War II. Considering these historical realities, what position is South Korea in to commemorate the anti-Japanese war?
  • A group of Korean nationalists set up a 'Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea' in Shanghai in 1919. On October 10, 1938, the Korean Liberation Army (KLA) was set up in Wuhan, China. This force operated under the authority of the Political Training Board of China's National Military Council, which also supplied its provisions. In 1940, the Chinese Nationalist government based in Chongqing decided to provide assistance to the Korean provisional government and placed the KLA directly under the authority of China's National Military Council, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) dispatched military and political officers to guide its operations. Following World War II, the ROK established a government and set up an independent state with the U.S.' backing. Considering its history of dependence on China and the U.S., what justification does South Korea have for its claimed tradition of anti-Japanese resistance? South Korea is not the only place where peripheral Sino-centric thinking obscures historical reality. Taiwan's governing authorities are holding an exhibition in the Zhongshan Hall, the former Taipei city hall, to mark the anniversaries of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, China's victory in its war of resistance against Japan, and Taiwan's 'retrocession' to China from Japanese colonial rule. The exhibition glorifies resistance and martyrdom, and it embodies the outlook of a victor nation. Since its real purpose is political mobilization, it cannot be expected to present a fair account of historical facts.
  • I keep asking, how long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment? South Korea is a very very rich country. They're rich because of us. They sell us televisions, they sell us cars. They sell us everything. They are making a fortune. We have a huge deficit with South Korea. They're friends of mine. I do deals with them. I've been partners with them, no problem. But they think we're stupid. They can't believe it. We are defending them against North Korea, we're doing it for nothing. We're not in that position. When will they start to pay us for this defense? Isn't it really ridiculous when you think of it? They make a fortune on the United States and then they got some problems, and what happens? They call the United States to defend them, and we get nothing?
  • South Koreans, most especially the younger generations, are using the internet to vent out their frustrations with the country's society through online forums... The big shots and A-list people reportedly get away with the country' system with their wealth and network, while the 'commoners' work their way through their corporate jobs... Hell Chosun describes the present-day South Korea in the most upsetting and painful way, with some parts of it being evidently true, such as the hyper-competition among the youth - academically and at work - and the lack of permanent positions for newly graduated people to name a few.
  • Research is clear that Korea is one of the most xenophobic countries in the world.

V[edit]

  • Misogyny is still alive and well in South Korea... South Korean society encourages superficiality in women by teaching them their greatest attribute is physical... 1 in 5 women in Seoul has had cosmetic surgery, more than anywhere else in the world... In other words, society ridicules these women for attempting to capitalize on the only attribute it encourages them to cultivate. And the attack then broadly targets not only those superficial women but all women... A growing number of South Korean young men are increasingly irate at the gains women have made in gender equality.

Y[edit]

  • As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, et cetera, were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, et cetera. Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

See also[edit]

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