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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Some thoughts on Korean culture

Warning: ranting ahead. If you want to hear beautiful sentiments about loving Korea, skip this post. Overall, I DO like it here, but this post doesn't touch on those reasons.

You've been warned.

Well, no ranting right away. There are some fantastic aspects of Korean culture. Their attitude toward the elderly, for instance. It's a rare case where three generations of a family don't live together -- when asked to give a run-down of who lives in their house, most of my students include grandparents as part of the total.

No one complains or has to be asked twice to give up his/her seat for an older person on the subway. You rarely see healthy, young people sitting in the seats designated for the elderly. It's a wonderful thing.

But -- there are just some things about Korea I don't understand.

A) You think No Child Left Behind is bad? Schools here leaves plenty of children behind with nothing more than a brush-off.

Last night I had dinner with two friends teaching English in the public school system. One teaches two advanced classes but requested a remedial English class as well to help the students falling behind. The answer from her principal: Nope. Those kids don't matter. You're job is to help the ones who are succeeding succeed further, and forget about the rest.

Other teachers have said the same thing. Korea passes its students on to the next level regardless of whether or not they fail classes, so what's the point in unmotivated students getting motivated or helping failing students? There's not one. As a result, many students are drowning while everyone else watches calmly from the shore.

It's a disgrace. We've had students here before with "high" English levels, meaning they did well on an English test. But try to have a conversation with these kids and -- nothing. Rote learning is the norm, conversation class is the rarity. It's a shame.

B) I abhor (trying not to use the word "hate" here) many older Koreans attitudes toward foreigners. Yes, there are plenty of people who are kind and helpful, but the way middle-aged Korean men treat me and my friends really bothers me.

How would they feel if it was their daughter or sister in a foreign country and everywhere they went, creepy middle-aged men made sexualized comments or kissing noises. I've had men pet my hair. Yesterday while waiting for a friend, a guy came over and said "hello," then stuck his hand out for me to shake. I did. He then said something in Korean, winked at me and walked away.

Something like this has happened almost every single day I've lived in Korea. And why?! What makes these men think it's okay to treat women this way?

Whew! Okay, I just had to get that off my chest. Sorry for being a total Debbie Downer -- happier post tomorrow, I promise.

1 comment:

  1. I'm So Sorry for that...Erin,,

    I apologize instead of them...

    They are insane...I feel ashame..

    if I was there with you, I would kick his ass as soon as possible.

    Thanks for coming to my party. Have a great weekend!!!!