Do Koreans Hate Korean Things?


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Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

What kind of phone do you plan to buy? An iPhone. What vaccine are you hoping to get? Aster Zeneca. These are a couple of examples of questions and answers I would get from people regarding the choices people would make in Korea. While these answers are not odd on the surface, the reasoning behind these answers may seem odd, or just downright sad. And that answer leads to the question that is posed as the title of this post. But before we go into the answer of if Koreans hate Korean things, we should first focus on what this article is not about.

This is not an attempt to play up the model minority myth that has been introduced into Western society. The thought that, specifically, East Asians will give up any and everything to be welcomed by Western society and to will gladly betray their culture and heritage so that they will fell a sense of love that doesn’t exist. There are many East Asians, especially Koreans, who have a strong sense of pride in who they are and in what they have accomplished as a people. There are many who want to keep Korea “pure”, without any trace of non Korean language, ideas and people within the confines of the Republic of Korea. In fact, Korean pride has been viewed as being so toxic to some that even non Koreans who live in Korea wonder if they have become worse people for living there. So this isn’t a question of how do Koreans view themselves, but rather how do Koreans view the things that they have compared to the things that others have.

When asking about the preference of covid vaccines that were given out, a person I spoke to admitted that many were hoping to get the vaccine that was made by Aster Zeneca. The reason for this choice? Because some felt it had to be the best vaccine since it came from Europe. Some Koreans I’ve talked to have felt that some midrange cars manufactured in the US (or that used to be manufactured in the US) were better than the cars made by KIA or Hyundai. This feeling has even spread to people learning about Korean language and culture who have viewed Paris Baguette as a premium coffee chain, mainly due to the name Paris being in the title.

The truth is that Korea is like many other countries in the world. Things that are made in other countries are often viewed as being “premium” or “luxury” when compared to what is readily available to people where they live. If you don’t think so, look at how often people in the US desire European cars or clothes as a way to show off “wealth”. Some high end brands don’t even bother running commercials in the US because they don’t have to. Because people think it is high quality, some will spend an entire paycheck for an item they think will make them seem better than those who don’t have it.

The reason for mentioning this is because as pointed out in the previous post, it is felt by some that valuing non Korean items and words has caused some to feel they are better than others who only speak in Korean or who only use Korean things. To some, it’s as if they don’t value what Korea produces or take pride in speaking Korean in an intelligent way. From an outsiders’ point of view, Korea has become obsessed with taking things from other cultures and making it blend in with their own culture. If you don’t believe this, look at how Kpop was before people openly admitted being inspired by Motown and other Black singing acts from the US, and how Kpop has changed after that influence was clearly admitted to by stars within the industry. So much of modern Korea is based on what other countries have viewed as popular and cool.

While a few Koreans do seem to hate Korean things, the majority don’t and take real pride in all that Korean has accomplished. But Korea does seem to love non Korean things to an unhealthy degree. In the end, I hope that Korea doesn’t continue down a path of throwing away the positive aspects of Korean culture to adopt the ugly aspects of other cultures. If Korea can learn to love itself to a proper degree, it can benefit from the place it holds in the modern global community. Maybe then, Korean will start to see itself more as being cool for who Korea naturally is. If it does, Korean culture and language will live on and will continue to have many who seek to learn about it and adopt in into their own lives moving forward.