On Korean culture
I live in Korea (but am not Korean) so I think I can offer a unique (and rather personal) perspective on this.
First of all, most people here live with their mothers until they’re close to 30. It’s actually quite common for a man in his mid-20s and a woman in her late-20s/early-30s to not know how to cook, do their own laundry, iron, drive, wash the dishes or do anything outside of their job or schooling. Foreigners who live in this country have a dating rule where we assume Koreans mature at a much slower rate and therefore act six years (-ish) younger than their real age. They’re also unlikely to have many of their own opinions or interests as Korea is a top down, Confucian society and young(er) people don’t get to have their own take on things (this really is changing though).
The problem is that Koreans in Korea aren’t socialized properly, ever. Their parents (read: mothers) control every aspect of their lives. The only thing expected of them is to absorb information while they get pampered right up until marriage when the cycle starts over again. People go on and on about how difficult it must be to be a Korean kid as all they do is study. This is true. What is also true is that they never have to make a decision or take on any responsibility at all until they’re well out of high school. Just study.
Most Westerners had more adult responsibility at age 16 than most Koreans in Korea have at age 25-30. The average age of starting a first job for most Korean males is 28. Yes, that is correct. They’re more than a decade behind most Westerners.
So all of this makes a weird kind of sense when you think that South Korea was the poorest country in the world in the mid-20th century and is now one of the richest countries in the world. Any country/culture that does that, especially a culture as unique and introverted as Korea, will definitely fuck itself up big time in some very deep ways as is evident in some of the behaviours that are being talked about in this thread.
Koreans are also the most Confucian culture in the entire world. Age is everything. You really only have to be polite and respectful to those over you. Koreans take this to heart more than any other Confucian country. Adjumma (middle aged Korean women) are notorious for being the centre of the universe where ever they go. They have no qualms about cutting across six lanes of traffic because THEY want to or butting in line in front of a hundred people because THEY’RE older or basically taking anything from anybody because in their mind, they are the centre of the universe.
You’d think that when someone even older than them came along they would be put in their place… it doesn’t work like that. In the 21st century, the Confucian ideal of age got mixed up with flat out selfishness as everyone in Korea was trampling over each other to get to the top of the pyramid as is what always happens in developing countries discovering wealth for the first time…
Just let that sit with you for awhile and that should explain everything, including the Korean obsession with image/appearance and social class which is something unbelievable. I mean, if you’re Korean in Korea and you get too much of a tan then people assume you’re from South East Asia or they assume you’re an “impure” Korean which leads to them treating you like crap. Many of the women here wear layers of clothing in the summer while sporting ridiculous looking visors to combat this.
I’m not even beginning to touch on it. There is a lot of stuff going on here.
Suffice it to say, this situation doesn’t surprise me in the least. Koreans are taught to be obsessed with status, symbols of wealth (clothes and gizmos) and to show it off in any way they can simply because they can. They’re also taught that appearance is more important than what is underneath, that when it comes to doing any kind of work, quantity always supersedes quality and that being different is a horrible thing. These attitudes are ingrained into Koreans by their elders as these were the lines of thought that allowed the most homogeneous countries in the world to develop in the way that it did.
Young Koreans, being extremely well read and not as clueless as I’m afraid I’m making them seem, do realize this overall. They’re just along for the ride because it’s all they know. They really do want to move past this crazy, image obsessed, topsy-turvy, morally ambiguous culture that their parents have created but thanks to Confucianism, this can’t happen until all their parents are dead.
I will end by saying that things are getting drastically better here. Most of these problems are caused by the generation that grew up with nothing and then ended up with everything. It created a lot of fucked up people. Younger Koreans are often able to see past this and see things for what they are. I have tremendous faith in the Korean people, much more so than I have in my own culture for plenty of reasons.