This is the the sixth and final post in a series. First post.

The Korean word for Korea is Hanguk, though you won’t hear this much in the TV News. Instead you’ll hear woori nara which means ‘our country.’ I asked a friend about this and she reckons that a TV news presenter who didn’t say woori nara would be thought not to care enough about his own country, and that’s not acceptable. Perhaps, though, woori nara is just a turn of phrase that doesn’t carry nationalist connotations. I don’t think that’s true. Recently a plane crashed and the news was occupied with establishing how many Koreans were on board. British news is just as bad in this regard but Koreans take it a step further. The formal Korean word for a Korean person is Hangukin. But the TV news presenter reporting on the plane crash was talking about woori Hangukindeul (’deul’ is a suffix indicating plurality). That is, translating non-literally, “our Korean brothers and sisters”, must more important than the several hundred other people on that plane.

Countries are at best a necessary evil. They inevitably look out for their own citizens (or at least, their own rulers) to the detriment of others in the world. Until countries are more united than they are now, the selfishness of nations will keep us all suffering, and some much more than others. Until they are so united though we really do need countries: the cultural, scientific and creative activities going on in the UK couldn’t happen without a government watching over economic interests. So the right attitude when thinking about one’s own country doing well on the international stage is a kind of sadness. If the British government does something well to my advantage as a citizen, I’m grateful in my own life, but I’m not proud of the nation and I don’t do any flag waving because I recognise that someone else almost certainly had to lose out to make this possible.

There are plenty of westerners that believe this. Unfortunately in Korea there are almost none. It is totally unquestioned that one should love one’s country and want it to do very well. The problem with this is that it’s a kind of illusion of togetherness and belonging. Koreans don’t care about other Korean people they meet on the street anymore than they care about people in other countries. No-one anywhere in the world cares like that. But they like to talk up their sense of belonging and celebrate their countries success over others. When it’s questioned they say that they feel they have to hold together because of Korea having been bullied in the past by neighbours like Japan. But once again this is just a way of changing the subject. It’s much easier for everyone to agree about how bad Japan is and how good it is to belong to Korea than to talk about the ways the ruling elite of Korea treat those further down so badly in so many cases.

A final anecdote from orangeman on

No, not quite. I can’t speak for others, but I don’t even like really spicy food. I don’t enjoy being in pain while I eat or dealing with it later on (if you know what I mean). But it gets on my nerves having the shocked expression from Koreans I have known for years every time something that they think is spicy is served to me. I have been at my school for several years, and in Korea much longer, and still all the teachers gasp and ask me if the food is too spicy at least twice a week. I’m not bothered because I think I’m some spicy eating stallion. It just simply isn’t spicy. Objectively and deomonstratably not spicy. But even if it is, it’s been years. Stop it.

It’s a microaggression. It’s reinforcing, probably unconsciously by most of them, that ‘we’ are different from ‘them’. Same when they compliment my chopstick use. Yeah, I’m not a new born monkey. I can handle using simple tools. You’re not some great race of Eastern mystics who have a secret eating device. The whole world has access to these things and they’re not that complicated.

This is the the sixth and final post in a series. First post.