Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

Picture by Charles LeBlanc (flickr.com)
Why is it that so many people get so upset about Korea while living in Korea?  I have never sensed the same acrimony about living in Japan or South East Asian countries, not even China.  When bad things happen in these countries, people get upset and move on more easily than Korea, it seems.  Is it simply that Korea is attracting only angry Westerners to its shores?

This was something I was musing on the other day while one of my uncle in-laws was talking to me over some spicy grilled eel (one of my favourites) outside his house.  I was in a good mood, eating happily away when he started a conversation about England in comparison to Korea.  He started with history and said, "America and the UK have only short histories, not like Korea.  You know Korea has a great history that goes back 5000 years?"

Firstly, why he lumped the US in the conversation is anyone's guess (Roboseyo might have the answer), but I suspect that, try as he might, even knowing that I am not American, he still can't quite bring himself to separate me from them.  In fact, many of my relatives regularly ask me questions about the US, to which 95% of the time, I simply say, "I have no idea."  Despite this, the questions still get asked and the message has not quite sunk in that I almost certainly know more about Korea than I do the US.

I can't help but feel I would have better received his comment if he had just forgotten about the comparison between countries and just said, "You know Korean history goes back 5000 years?" and left it at that, and then we could have had an interesting discussion about Korean history (something he might also know something about), albeit in my rather shoddy level of Korean.  I guess what he said was true about the US, it does have a young history, but the UK, not so much.  And as well as the fact he clearly knew nothing about the history of the British Isles, he had a goading, belittling, and magnanimous tone that encouraged a defensive response.  If I had been American I would have been tempted to say (as I got semi-offended on their behalf), "Well, I know your country has been around a long time, but....." you can add any number of responses here considering the great influence the US has had and still has on the world and has had on Korea itself.

The same goes for the UK of course, I had an overwhelming urge to list everything great about my country compared to his.  Also, unless we are talking about a continuous culture, the same race, or the same borders, the history of almost any country goes back over 5000 years, doesn't it?  But why did I have this longing to bite back?  I am not normally like this, I am not always so overly proud to be British, in fact I hate patriotism in many ways.  Why should I really be proud of a history I had no part in, based on the mere accident of my birth in that particular country? Logically speaking, it has never made that much sense to me.

Perhaps I am simply not immune to an innate form of tribalism that we all have, or perhaps it was also a combination of factors, like the inaccuracy, the ignorance, and the magnanimity of the way he was speaking, with all the authority given to him by his age and status as an older man in Korea.  There is just something about a Korean older man who speaks with confidence and authority on something that he knows absolutely nothing about and in a way that is clearly self-promoting that raises my heckles.  This biting reflex may be a natural Western instinct to rebel against authority.  This freedom to question and even grill the views of the supposedly superior is a great thing, which of course has some disadvantages in our societies when it comes to law and order, but is necessary for progress and freedom of expression.

Now, the very act of disagreeing with my uncle in-law tends to cause a bite-back response from him as well because - even when he is dead wrong about something that he obviously knows nothing about - he simply is not used to being told so.  So what could have started out as a friendly and interesting conversation about history, has turned into subtle slights on each other's culture when he probably had no previous quips about the UK with me, and I none about Korea with him.  I was starting to pick up that this was indeed what was happening, so started to check my tongue.  He however, wasn't quite done.

Picture by Leonard Bentley (flickr.com)

Next came the inevitable comment about smog (I don't know how many times Korean people have brought this up to me).  He also added how much cleaner the air must be for me now I am in Korea.  I had to correct him on this by saying that we no longer have smog because we don't really use coal as an energy source anymore (I think we stopped having smog when my mother was a child).  Since we stopped using it, we now don't have smog and that sometimes we have fog because we are quite a damp country, but the two are quite different and should not be confused.  I held back from saying that the air quality in the UK is undoubtedly better than Korea because the weather comes from thousands of miles across the Atlantic ocean and not from energy-hungry China and other highly populated and therefore fossil fuel burning parts of Asia.  There is evidence also to back this up.

Bizarrely, on a trip to Suncheon Bay with my parents (who were in Korea for my wedding) we were interviewed by a woman working for Gwangju kbc television and she reiterated much of the same sort of stuff.  After a few questions about how we felt about being there and how beautiful it was, it came up again, the comparison question: "How do you feel about being in Korea in this beautiful nature compared to England?"  It was an odd and uncomfortable question and the tone suggested she wanted an answer something along the lines of, "Yes, the air is so much fresher and the scenery so much more beautiful than my own country."  My mother and I sensed the gist of the question and gave a measured response saying how beautiful Korea was but also how England was just as pretty and picturesque, but perhaps in a less rugged and mountainous way.  She didn't seem overly satisfied with those answers, but it was better than my father's; he simply said - in his rather strong London accent - "Well, I'm not really a nature person."  The look on the reporter's face was golden.

Suncheon Bay in the background, two idiots in the foreground.
I digress, so anyway back to my uncle in-law.  After a few more back-handed comments about my country he then got round to giving me advice about how to raise a puppy given to me by my father in-law.  It was like chewing on glass to have to tolerate being told terrible advice about raising a dog even more than it was being told about the failings of my country of birth (compared to the mighty South Korea), especially as I knew how he treated his own dogs when they were alive.

As I have mentioned before in a previous post, my uncle in-law had two Jindo dogs a couple of years ago, which he tied up in the driveway and that he never walked - they simply stayed there for their whole life - with no bed or significant shelter in the heat of summer, the cold of winter and in the wind, rain, and snow. This would have been enough for me to disrespect his views on animal welfare already, but when I asked my wife one day why they had disappeared from his driveway, she said that he had sold them for dog meat because they were getting old and he didn't want them anymore.  Only yesterday did I learn that one of those dogs was actually my own dog's grandfather.

Coincidentally, this all happened just a few days before South Korean professor Kim Seong-kon at the Korea Herald released an article about Korean mothers, which was perhaps the very definition of diabolically awful, ill-formed, nationalistic nonsense, and quite rightly received a number of rebukes, first at Asiapundits, then by the boss at wangjangnim.com, and then my favourite of all by Roboseyo.  Actually, I was a little peeved with Roboseyo's post at the same time as it said precisely what I wanted to say about how Korea can wind us all up the wrong way sometimes and their reasons for it, plus it was done probably a lot better than I could have done it.  So check it out and I won't repeat anything here, he at least saved me some time in writing.

So in summary then, I understand the difference in culture and I know that some things will just get my goat because they are different and it is simply not what I am used to.  I think I have the means to fight these kinds of feelings, but perhaps the biggest reason for me to bite is this nasty little habit that so many older Koreans have of dishing out advice that is not only not asked for, but is for their own benefit, self-promoting, ignorant, vindictive, wrong, and magnanimous all at the same time.  Then, running a close second is the other tendency some Koreans have to shamelessly promote their own country as the best, whilst at the same time belittling others often right in the face of that particular country person, without having even the tiniest snippet of knowledge about their country.  Yes, I think I have figured out why I get a little snappy sometimes.

I sort of get why many often feel compelled to do preach advice and to compare the rest of our countries unfavourably to theirs, and I do feel genuine sympathy for what has happened to Korea in the past.  I also know that I should just be the bigger man and take it all with a smile on my face, yet at the same time, sometimes it is perfectly natural and right to become a little annoyed with it all.  More importantly, perhaps it is even our responsibility to respond and be upset, to ourselves, to others, and to the perpetrators of this stuff themselves.




Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

If it makes you angry, simple, go fucking home! To "Grate" Britain. What other country in the world is so arrogant and conceited to call itself "Great"? It is not even a United Kingdom. Scotland are deciding whether to leave or not. Over 40% of the people in Northern Ireland do not want a United Kingdom. They want their country back and a United Ireland!


Your country has raped, robbed and pillaged the world. Stealing land and riches belonging to other peoples. The Maori, Australian aboriginals, the Irish. They were the first country to set up concentration camps during the Boer War. They have executed and massacred people without trial all over the world, India, Ireland, South Africa. I could go on.

It is not your fault that you are ignorant of your country's sins. It is not taught to you in school. So, until you do know what the country you love did, do not knock a peaceful country.

The only thing Great about your country now is being the lapdog to the US, who also have very little to be proud of in their short history. The only country to use atomic weapons, but wants to tell the rest of the world what to do. Threatening to bomb Syria over chemical weapons, ask the Vietnamese about Agent Orange.

Like Korea, Ireland too has a long history. Newgrange predates the pyramids! Ireland and Korea are both naturally peaceful countries who wish to be left alone. However both have been abused by bullying neighbours. Both have suffered famine and poverty, and both have risen from independence from their bullying neighbours to become market leaders in various sectors.

Korea and Ireland would like to keep themselves to themselves.

If your country is so great and you could have such a cozy life back in Surbiton or wherever, then just go home. Pay your TV Licence, your community charge, your road tax. Pay the second highest rate for petrol in Europe, even though you have oil in the North Sea. Korea has no natural resources, it imports what it needs. Still cheaper than "Great Britain" Get a mortgage! Please do it. Pay six quid in London for a pint. Please, if Korea makes you so angry, go home or shut up.

If you don't like teachers having rent free apartments, go home, pay 200 quid a week for a bed sit in Kings Cross.

I realise this has been a rambling piece, but I am so sick of people having a nice comfortable life and still complaining.

Please stop it or I will gladly send you directions to Incheon airport!


Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

What a mindblowlingly stupid comment from someone with the biggest chip on their shoulder.

Let's begin with:

 "What other country in the world is so arrogant and conceited to call itself "Great"?"

I'll give you three guesses what "대한민국" translates to.

Anyway, I think I said in the post the following:

 "in fact I hate patriotism in many ways. Why should I really be proud of a history I had no part in, based on the mere accident of my birth in that particular country? Logically speaking, it has never made that much sense to me."

So if I am taking no credit for any of my country's past achievements, I am not going to suffer with the guilt and shame of their misdemeanors either - many as there were and of which I am well aware of.

Even in the present I am well aware of my country's shortcomings, many of which you mentioned and they are precisely some of the reasons I am in Korea in the first place.  So does this automatically mean that when I go to another country I must like everything?  Perhaps you haven't read my blog fully enough to realise I have about as many positive posts as negative ones.  So should I forgo my honesty in writing a blog just because my country ain't that great and it did some bad stuff in the past.  Ridiculous.  It always makes me laugh when people criticise a post because I haven't written a book length essay explaining all the shortcomings of my own country.  It is a blog about South Korea (and in a great many of my blogs I do in fact write about the crapness of my own country in certain areas).

"If it makes you angry, simple, go fucking home!"

"Please, if Korea makes you so angry, go home or shut up."

"Please stop it or I will gladly send you directions to Incheon airport!"

Wonderful quotes from you and one that I am sure every immigrant to any country in the world will despise.  Honestly, you accuse me of arrogance!  Who the hell are you!  I will write whatever the hell I want, thanks.   My wife gets angry with Korean culture sometimes to, where should she go?

Immigrants to any country have every right to voice their displeasure because if they don't, this is how mistreatment becomes an every day occurence, not to mention unhappiness of being treated badly but having to feel grateful all the time.  It also benefits the country in question to voice sensible criticsm and frustrations with it because you really can learn from outside criticism.  All that should be asked of immigrants is that they should expect to be treated the same under the law as everybody else and follow it.  Silencing people's views is what totalitarian states do, so instead of telling me to go home because I don't like something, how about you not reading my piece or ignoring it, especially if you think it is so stupid.

Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

"Your country has raped, robbed and pillaged the world. Stealing land and riches belonging to other peoples. They have executed and massacred people without trial all over the world, India, Ireland, South Africa. I could go on.

It is not your fault that you are ignorant of your country's sins. It is not taught to you in school. So, until you do know what the country you love did, do not knock a peaceful country."

"Ireland and Korea are both naturally peaceful countries who wish to be left alone. However both have been abused by bullying neighbours".


Oh, really?  It's you that need a history lesson my friend.  Jeju Massacre:



"The only thing Great about your country now is being the lapdog to the US, who also have very little to be proud of in their short history".

Close to 1.8 million Amercian servicemen served and 36,516 Americans died during the Korean War-육이오 (my grandfather is a veteran of the Korean War) and more than 8,000 were MIA.  Also, America has welcomed 1.7 million Koreans to its shores. 

Thousands of British soldiers also fought bravely for Korea and died.  I doubt you've ever heard of the 1st Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, because you're very ignorant. 



The immense sacrifice of the allies in the Pacific allowed Korea to break free of Japanese imperialism. 

That's twice a country that "has very little to be proud of" fought and died for Korea.  Too bad you're too ignorant and spiteful to see anything past your own hate and delusions of grandeur.  You're a shining example of what Sumgder was talking about. 




Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

Thank you for your reply. I agree with you in so many ways. No country is perfect, all our home nations have their problems. I left my country, not because of economic crisis or anything like that. Just, the time was right for a change. I will never return to Ireland. Korea is my home and has been for 12 years. I am not married, I don't have the same legal priveliges as you do.However we are both guests in this country, like it or not. I intend to stay here the rest of my life if I possibly can.

You are also quite right, everyone who lives in a society has the right to voice opinions. But " Why does Korea make us so angry?" Who is us? Who are you speaking on behalf of? If this is the personal view of yourself, use "me". If it is the personal view of your wife and yourself, use "my wife and I" Don't speak for all the "immigrants" in Korea.

You mention immigrants to other countries despising my my comments. It was not so long ago and very common in the UK to see signs in boarding house windows, "No blacks or Paddies (Irish)". You say immigrants should "expect to be treated the same way as everybody else": Are you aware of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Still on the statute books I believe. In 1976 I travelled by ferry to Liverpool with 5 friends, all carrying UK passports. At the dock three friends were arrested and put in Liverpool Bridewell. The rest of us sent back to Belfast. No reason given. Citizens of the UK but refused entry to GB! Same rights for all. We had UK passports and were all professional, upstanding people. Refused entry. That's like going from Jeju to Busan, or New Jersey to Manhattan and being told you're not welcome.

Same rights for all. Up until 1971 not everyone was entitled to a vote in Northern Ireland, part of the UK.. 1971! Not so long ago, right? When people used their right of free speech,which you so dearly adhere to, they were gunned down by British paratroopers. Free speech? Entitled to have a say in the running of the country? Not in the UK in 1971.I guess that is silencing peoples' views! Big time! Yes, your countrty "did some bad some stuff in the past". Major things in comparison to your complaining like others about minor things which irritate you in our adopted country..

I said your coutry was arrogant, not you personally. I am sure you are a very nice person, as am I. It might sound like I am a republican, IRA hardliner. Quite the opposite, I am a quiet man, who likes justice, truth and equality. I never said your piece was stupid. As I have said, I agree with you in so many ways.

Just give it a rest about Korea, we are their guests. They are different, accept it, live with it, or go!

You're right all countries have faults. Just give it a rest!





Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

Yes I have heard of that regiment, as I am not ignorant. I believe they served on the streets of NI, picking up and torturing innocent people.

Maybe you are ignorant of the fact that many Irish also died in the Korean War. The difference being they were not ordered to do so, they volunteered, because the cause was right.


I do not negate the US's contribution to Korean freedom. Did they do it for love of Korea? After they freed Korea, why didn't they go home? They divided the country. Why are they still there? They want a foothold close to China and Russia.

Please do not call me ignorant, as I am not. I feel no hatred for any man. I certainly don't know where you got the idea that I had dellusions of grandeur. I am a working class guy from the back streets.

The original poster asked, who I was. My name is there, stlavery. Sean Thomas Lavery. It is not a nickname, Smudger and it is not written in the cyrillic alphabet. Nothing hidden, nothing to hide!

Truthful and honest and fair. That's all.

Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

All that stuff you said about the injustices of the UK I am in total agreement with, why would I support such things my country did?  I am not defending my own country in the least bit.  It has no bearing whatsoever on the ideal rights of immigrants in all countries, like I was suggesting.  My country was wrong, I agree they were wrong, we shouldn't do things like that, so can we move on?

What bugged me about your response was not the stuff about my country of birth, but the implication that I should not be able to voice what I honestly feel and think about living in another country, or at least to “give it a rest” as you are saying now.  As I said, my blog is by no means all negative on the subject of Korea, but sometimes inevitably things frustrate me and I will write about them sometimes, thank you very much.  What difference does being a guest make?  If you were invited around someone’s house for dinner and they insulted you, are you not within your rights to respond?  I am not swearing, advocating violence or anything else very sinister, so what is the problem?  If you really don't like it, don't read it, I will continue writing what I want to write.

Finally, I do like to get my blogs read (who doesn’t) and to do this you write posts that appeal to people.  Since I posted this blog on my site a couple of days ago it has been quite a well-received and popular one and I thought as much because I have often heard of other’s frustrations with Korean culture.  Hence the term “us” in the title, because I am aware that the annoyance in the foreign community is quite wide-spread.  Perhaps it doesn’t apply to every single one of us, but I think you are seriously nit-picking if you are criticising me on this; we have to write something in the title of a post to draw people in and I don’t think writing “us” was at all unreasonable.

PS: When I asked “Who the hell are you?” it wasn’t a comment directed at anonymity - which would be your every right and was something that never even crossed my mind – it was directed at the cheek of you telling me what I can and can’t write while living here (like you were president or a king or something). I thought I had made that quite obvious.

Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

Yes, you are ignorant, and everything I said about you is spot on. You showed that in your original post by using profanity, making uneducated/asinine remarks, and countering my statement with rhetorical questions, coveniently choosing to avoid the facts.

Now you are trying to make a straw man argument bringing up Irish soldiers (which have nothing to do with my point), and trying to save face by pointing out that you are so "enlightned" that you use your real name on the internet.  Congratulations.

If you are so interested in who I am, send me a PM.

Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

I don't wanna pick a fight or anything but the author is totally right in being able to criticise Korea or Koreans.  Just because we're "guests" here doesn't mean we should have to tolerate certain things nor just accept them without even being able to complain about them (on a foreigner website).  

Not to mention, he clearly likes it enough to live here.  I hate many things about Korea and some Koreans in general but if the good outweigh the bad, I'll keep living here. There's obviously some good/great things about Korea but we shouldn't have to kiss ass and praise Korea like Koreans do all the time. 

Your mentality that people unhappy with the country they live in should just leave is a terrible one.  I'm an American and I can't stand when Americans say that about immigrants or even other Americans.  It's a poor excuse to ignore and perpetuate issues. 

Re: Why does Korea Make us so Angry?

Why are you full of so much hate?

It seems like you have issues- you have a chip on your shoulder.

The OP is just giving us his own experiences- which most of us really enjoy.

Are all people from Ireland like you? I have never been there, but you sure show

a bad representation of your home country.