The Chosun Ilbo’s culture desk takes a look at a new word going ’round the Interweb—gukppong, a portmanteau of gukga (nation) and hiroppong (meth). The gukppong refers to being over-obsessed with matters of national pride, which usually manifests itself in cringe-worthy scenes of Korean reporters asking visiting foreign celebrities (such as Matt Damon, Quincy Jones, Robert Downey Junior and Will Smith, just to name some recent examples) stupid “Do You Know…” questions like “Do you know Gangnan Style,” “Do you know kimchi” and “Do you know Dokdo”; hand-feeding celebrities kimchi (ask Hugh Jackman) and making them wear hanbok (not that there’s anything wrong with wearing hanbok); or making celebrities do the horse dance (now a “
rightrite of passage” for visiting celebrities, writes the Chosun).
A prof at Kyunghee University said Koreans have this tendency to ceaselessly try to get affirmation from others of their superior social genetics through brands like kimchi, and that the “others” here are usually powerful countries or people from powerful countries.
The Chosun Ilbo also sited a couple of websites dedicated to translating comments by foreign netizens as evidence of this compulsion. Another prof at Korea University said this compulsion was an expression of insecurity, not pride. If you were really proud of your economic and cultural base, you wouldn’t need to show it, and this was evidence of insecurity regarding Korea’s place in the world, he said.
The term gukppong apparentlys started on DCInside’s history board, where it was used to refer to the guys who believe wild, unverified claims about Korean history (like Koreans founded the Mesopotamian kingdom of Sumer) and excessively whitewashed Korean history. A second prof at Korea University said it was gukppong to teach only that Korean was the first country to develop metal movable type without also discussing that unlike Gutenberg, Koreans could not contribute to the popularization of books. Or as the Chosun put it, you have to reflect on both the accomplishments and the shadows to be a culturally advanced nation (Christ, I hate lines like that).
The gukppong does have his opposite number, though—the gukkka, or the guys who constantly tear the country down with malicious comments like “Korea is a bigger failed state than Somalia.”
There is concern, however, that the spread of the term gukppong could create an environment in which more innocent expressions of patriotism—such as respect for the flag or support of Korean athletes active overseas—become impossible.
UPDATE: Speaking of Matt Damon and horse dances: