Often times, I’m asked what it is about Korean culture and Korean people that I love so much. I talk about Korea and Korean culture so much that people often think that I don’t see any problems with Korea or Korean people. But that is not true. Korea is not a perfect place with little to no problems. The truth is that Korea has problems just like everywhere else. So here are 3 things about Korean life and culture that I do not like. Please keep in mind that this does not include anything about Korean American life and culture.
Koreans have a reputation of being some of the smartest people on earth. When you look at the number of products that are made in Korea, it is easy to see why. The world truly would not be the same without the achievements of Korean people. But at what cost did this come? The cost of too many lives. The stories of young children staying up late to study because of the pressure to be the best is shocking. But even sadder than that are the stories of young people committing suicide because of not getting into a SKY University. Because they were taught that if they don’t make it into a SKY University, than they will never have a good life and their life might as well be over. Truth is there are plenty of good universities that are not consider to be one of the top 3 in Korea. And there are other jobs that can be done and lead to happiness in Korea. The number of celebs that have committed suicide over the last 10 years because money and fame do not equal happiness is sad as well. I wish that more children were educated in the thinking that money and “success” does not always equal happiness.
Treatment of Older Ones
I was shocked to hear that almost 50% of people in Seoul know feel that it is not their responsibility to look after their parents and grandparents when they get older. This is in shocking defiance of what Korean tradition teaches, and is more inline with Western values. What also shocked me was to find out that you can sometimes be phased out of a job in your 40’s. Or you could be paid less money, even though you have experience and have a track record of being reliable. This does not lead to a bright future for many people. Older people have so much wisdom and knowledge to pass on to younger ones. To see a growing trend of disrespect is horrible in my opinion. To hear some say that there may be a growing suicide rate among the elderly is also heartbreaking. While adapting to new ways of doing things can be fun and necessary, it isn’t always productive or beneficial in the long term. Sometimes, traditions and culture are important to maintain identity.
Lack of Diversity
It is said that Korea is 97% Korean. Although only about 25% are supposedly considered “pure Koreans.” How does the lack of diversity cause people to act? Sometimes, it can cause people to be looked down upon for being different. This is true, at times, when it comes to marriage. There are a number of stories of Korean people who fall in love with a non Korean, only to be told not to do so because of what others may think. There is a notion that Korea is a pure country, and that non Koreans are not welcomed there. While this is not everyone’s thinking, and more people are welcoming of non Koreans in Korea, it can still be a problem. It’s hard to imagine why some Koreans would adopt attitudes from other cultures, but won’t adopt the people that live in those cultures. Maybe if something was done to show those Koreans what they are doing to others, things would be different.
There are other complaints that I could find about how life is in Korea, but I will leave it here for now. Just as Korea is not all good, it is not all bad either. If you haven’t done so already, take time to get to know about Korea and Korean people for yourself. Your experiences may be different than mine. Whatever you find to be true about Korea, I’m sure you will love the good more than the bad if you give it a fair chance.