I think Koreans will find it difficult to understand why foreigners are so annoyed by Korean nationalism. I’m not someone ignorant of Korea’s history and struggle to get where they are today. It’s actually amazing that the small, once impoverished country is now Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Korea is a truly unique success story.
However, I do have to disagree with you when you say Koreans don’t claim their culture is superior. They actually do this, and frequently. And it’s both extremely unflattering and abrasive, mostly because they do it in conjunction with belittling the cultures of other countries.
Some examples of this sense of superiority can be seen in the way they promote their food (“healthier than every other kind of cuisine”) tourist destinations and written language (“Hangul is the most scientific written language in the world”)
It seems that the main goal of Korea’s “Hansik” campaign, or Korean food campaign to promote its cuisine internationally, is to discount other international cuisine. Instead of focusing on the vibrant flavors, colors, etc. of Korean food, the campaign repeatedly talks about how much better Korean food is than the food of pretty much every other country. It claims it’s healthier than the Mediterranean diet. It claims that while Western diets will cause obesity and a slew of other ailments, Korean food promotes health and longevity.
Why can’t they simply focus on how delicious Korean food is? There’s no need to compare it in a negative way to the food of other countries. A while ago I actually saw an article about the Hansik campaign in Europe, and the backbone of the entire street campaign was basically to talk about how much better Korean food was than European food. I wish I could find the article, because the posters they had made were particularly cringe-worthy.
And while Koreans will go on and on about how Kimchi is the greatest food ever invented and how it can cure a million ailments, no one here will ever talk about how it is strongly linked to stomach cancer, which is ten times higher in Korea and Japan than in the U.S.
So yes, I have no problem with someone promoting their culture and being proud of their country and heritage. That’s admirable. But promoting your own culture by looking down on other cultures with an air of superiority is obnoxious and pompous.
It’s like having that one friend who is super braggy. Even if they are deserving of praise for whatever it is they’ve accomplished or overcome, no one finds that kind of egotistical behavior endearing, and it certainly isn’t going to garner anyone’s respect.
Not trying to be rude, but don’t you think American’s are just like this too?
I mean you mention their pride in Hangul (which is actually considered to be the most logical alphabet/writing system in the world by most linguists) But American’s act like English is the best language.. and EVERYONE needs to speak it..no matter where they are..
Then about the diet.. even American’s do the same thing. People who are vegans think being a vegan is the BEST option, or people who are gluten free think that being gluten free is the BEST option (which neither of these are necessarily true.. but might have some truth to them) and so on and so forth. And our fast food restaurants are spreading around the world like wildfire. That’s why this guy bulldozed a McDonald’s in France.
While most Asian countries were being infected with bird flu, Koreans missed out on it because of the kimchi. So, there is some truth to their promotions, even though they are exaggerated.
I agree that it can be obnoxious when people are overly prideful of themselves and their country/culture… but a lot of people do it. and it seems that all the foreigners in Korea are on your side, but none of the Koreans… does that not say something to you?
I mean.. Foreigners come to america and talk about how terrible the language is or the customs.. etc. etc. and I even get a little irritated, because it is America, and they knew what they were getting into when they came here.
It’s hard to look past yourself and see your own flaws, but it’s super easy to point out others.
and I’m sure this will get me nothing but hate from everyone who agrees with you, but I’m prepared for it.
I would say, just have some patience with others.
Yes, many other people do it, obviously, but what I was referencing is an attitude that greatly pervades Korea as a whole. I don’t think the same can be said for America, actually.
Sure, there are a lot of Americans who are self-righteous and have the whole “AMURKA!” attitude, and I also find them extremely obnoxious and choose not to associate with them. But it’s far from a nation-wide mentality. Maybe people are just chilled out on the West Coast, but pretty much everyone I’m acquainted with is either patriotic in a normal way, or they’re self-deprecating and just make fun of America’s awful health care system and all of its other flaws. I would say that if you’re going to compare Korea to another country with an over-inflated sense of national pride, you should probably use Canada as an example. A huge majority of the Canadians I’ve met here never pass up an opportunity to throw in little barbs about how great their health care is, how low their crime rates are, etc.—especially compared to the U.S. Again, really obnoxious. (*Not all Canadians do this! Ronit, one of my good friends, never bashes on America or brags about how great Canada is ^^)
I also don’t think most American’s think English is the best language in the world and everyone needs to speak it. Sadly I do know people with this mentality, but it’s not something most Americans think. The U.S. is the world’s largest economy, so naturally it’s beneficial for other countries to know English. Korea agrees. That’s why I’m even in Korea right now.
About the diet: You mention vegans and people who are gluten-free, but you’re talking about individuals or small groups of people. Again, I’m talking about a nation-wide attitude. The food campaign is a government-run campaign. You’ll hardly see a similar campaign in the U.S. that talks about how our food is superior to everyone else’s.
As far as the spreading of fast food restaurants, that’s just globalization in action. Americans fully recognize how terrible our fast food is. Some French dude may have bulldozed a McDonalds, but it was an American filmmaker who made “Super Size Me.” Yet, as mentioned in that LA Times article I linked to, the Korean scientists studying kimchi refused to even go on record to state that kimchi could potentially be harmful to people. One said, “I’m sorry. I can’t talk about the health risks of kimchi in the media. Kimchi is our national food.” Another said, “This will never be published in Korea.”
And of course hardly any Koreans are going to agree. It’s a criticism of their culture.
I’m not saying America is without its faults and that Korea is a terrible place. There will always be cultural quirks that foreigners can’t stand. I found quite a few when I lived in Italy. There are some things I love about Korea, but this is just a huge irritant that seems to get more irritating the longer I stay here. And obviously I’m biased since I’m a foreigner.
Also, my patience is all gone, which is why I’m currently making my escape plan ^^
That’s all I’m gonna say about it. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. It’s what makes the world interesting.