Thursday, February 24, 2011

Koreans are people too, part 2, or why Korean netizens aren't all apeshit maniacs

Korean newspapers, for whatever reason, like to talk about things without actually talking about them. Names of victims are never used, nor are faces shown, and television coverage of yesterday's horrific earthquake in New Zealand blurred out the names of businesses, as is custom here. So, I'm going to talk about a website that posts pictures of Koreans who have passed out as a result of drinking too much.

On the website in question, Koreans in English ranging from bad to awful have left death threats and messages tinged with racial and sexual violence. Anyone reading the comments could conclude, in keeping with past instances (eg Apolo Ohno), that Koreans are all slightly-deranged nationalists who react to any shortcoming of their country, perceived or otherwise, with profanity, death threats and violence.

However, much as Westerners point out in these situations that not all Westerners are bad people, not all Koreans are crazy. If you read Korean-language discussions of the topic elsewhere on the Internet, they're remarkably tame, dull and unconcerned with foreigners.

The first paper that seems to have reported on this is the Chosun Ilbo. Compared with the site itself, that has well over 100 comments, this article received ten comments. Here they are, translated (or summarized) to the best of my ability:

1. "It's not something to be proud of, but it's not like everyone in Korea is doing this. There are all sorts of people here. I don't know where the person who uploaded the pictures is from, but [drinking and passing out in public] is common with the exception of Islamic countries. It's worse in Russia."

Someone responds: "If Russia is first, then Korea is second. In twenty years in America, I never saw anything like this."

2. Something to the effect of "what about homeless people and trying to help them instead of this nonsense".

3. Every culture has problems like this. The Americans who did this were in the wrong, but the problem in the picture is a big one that our society needs to fix.

4. America has the same problem.

5. I can't really translate this, though I think it's insightful.

6. Alcohol is garbage. We must make a law to ban alcohol.

7. That's a bad idea, don't ban alcohol.

8. I wish I understood this, but I don't.

9. What's that blue thing on his back? (This is in reference to one picture from the blog)

10. Attack these biased blogs and websites right away and set them right. Post the addresses (of the sites).

Let's take the last ten comments from Twitter, not counting ones that just explain the blog:

1. A blog by the name of [blog name here] is uploading pictures of drunken Koreans for international (국제적) ridicule.

2. (A repsonse to #1) Time to stop drinking. (술좀 그만마셔라)

3. Foreign residents are running a blog called [blog name]. The pictures are funny...and embarrassing.

4. [Blog name] is a site where pictures of drunk Koreans lying in the streets are uploaded. I got really angry, but then I also considered that this is a shameful on our part. We should easy up on the drinking.

5. This is an overseas site with pictures of drunken Koreans. This is an international disgrace. We should drink and then sleep at home.

6. "Do these drunks represent us?" I don't understand this sentence: "단순히 그러한 모습을 보는 외국인의 시선은 놀림거리일 뿐인가 봅니다." I read it as something along the lines of "People who see drunks in the street only think of that sort of thing."

7. Today I read an article that made me feel really bad. A foreign blog is posting pictures of drunken, passed-out Koreans. What do you (well-known Korean Twitter user) think of this? I feel really bad.

8. These bastards are pretty funny.

9. I laughed but also worried about the people in the pictures.

10. I've seen a hell of a lot more passed-out drunks than they ever have.

There wasn't really any criticism of the people who uploaded this, which is surprising. People were surprisingly introspective, far more than they needed to be. I suppose, in this case, the status and actions of foreign residents are irrelevant to people who really just care about their own society.

I would also point out that discussion on Twitter is now dominated by the Japanese. I'm not sure what they're saying about it, hopefully it's motivated more by novelty than condescension towards Koreans.

For my part, I hope that the people posing with passed-out drunks in the pictures are identified and lose their jobs. There are retroactive explanations that justify this site, but basically it's the work of people who don't really see Koreans as human beings in the same way that they are human beings. Yes, alcohol culture in Korea is a disgrace, and yes, criticism is acceptable no matter where you are or how long you've lived there, but posting pictures of passed-out drunks is an awful thing to do.

1 comment:

holterbarbour said...

#6: How about "It looks like it's nothing more than making light of what's getting the attention of foreigners"