Over at Three Wise Monkeys, Christopher Smith writes the unthinkable—that Westerners living in Korea may be contributing to their own occasionally besmirched reputations:
Can any sympathy be given for MBC’s program and its producers? Some might say that there is no smoke without fire. Are Westerners blameless and merely the victims of Korea’s insecurities about foreigners? After all, they do use the same word for “alien,” “외국,” as they do for “foreigner.”
A few weeks ago there was a foreigner beach party on Wando beach, Jeollanamdo, which every teacher currently working in public schools in that province will have heard about. The party-goers caused quite a number of complaints to come from locals that included too much noise, rubbish on the beach, topless women, and, worst of the lot, the vandalism of a closed public toilet, which was broken into and although without any plumbing (the reason for the closure), was utilized anyway causing what I would imagine to be a particularly unpleasant sight and smell.
The regional coordinator of public school teachers was quite rightly furious and sent a strongly worded e-mail to all teachers warning against any future misconduct and declaring the price that would be paid if the perpetrators are identified.
But this was all a one-off, right? I mean people from any country and any culture can have a bad day, and there are plenty of expats living in Korea who would turn their noses up at such behavior. While this last statement is obviously true, perhaps it is time that those of us coming from Western English-speaking cultures admitted that we have a growing problem with our moral behavior and reputation in other countries and especially with regard to Asian countries.
Not sure what the 외국 comment meant—we use “alien” and “foreigner” interchangeably, too. Or at least we used to, before we abandoned them both in favor of “immigrant,” used regardless of sojourn status or even legality of residence.
Besides that, though, his other observations ring sadly true. I by no means intend to discount the role racism and sexual insecurities play in the occasional displays of resentment expressed by Korean men at Western men. Much of the resentment, though, is based on racism and disrespect aimed at them by Westerners, not all of which is just perceived.
Sadly, the structure of Korea’s Western community probably doesn’t help. Between the English teachers and the GIs, you’re dealing with a lot of young men, the social constituency most likely to do stupid shit. This already troubled constituency is then hit by a double whammy—living overseas, the social pressures of their home societies no longer apply, and in Korea, the host society does not do a very good job of enforcing its social pressures on Western foreigners.
They are, in essence, free of social restraint. Most Westerners can handle it, but many cannot. We’ve all seen it, and more to the point, your Korean neighbors have all seen it.
Anyway, read Mr. Smith’s post in its entirety. The writer also has what seems like quite an interesting blog here, and I see he’s been to Indonesia’s Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, which ranks very, very high on my list of places to visit and photograph at least once in my life.
While we’re on the subject of misbehaving Westerners, NoCut News has run a four-part series on, and I quote the series title, “The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men.”
No, I’m serious, that’s what’s it’s called.
The inspiration for this, of course, was NoCut’s big scoop on the Western dude who secretly recorded himself having sex with Korean women (who has reportedly been sacked and is undergoing investigation).
Anyway, Part I deals with the ongoing saga of Chris Golightly, the American contestant on Superstar K3 who, according to the report, is now being investigated on charges of defrauding and blackmailing his ex-girlfriend. Most of the story, though, deals with him being a serious player. Or at least allegedly being a serious player. And a douche. Or allegedly a douche, anyway, with most of the testimony coming from his ex-girlfriend.
Since, as everyone knows, angry ex-girlfriends usually make the most reliable of sources.
Part II deals with websites and books on dating Korean women, such as this site, some nameless Youtube video I’d be keen to see and the book “Making Out in Korean.” The big beef is that many white guys come to Korea already with ideas about Korean women.
Part III is about drugs, and Part IV—personally, my favorite—deals with Itaewon’s night culture. This one is pure comedy gold, and ends with this money quote:
Of course, we don’t intend at all to defame all foreign men in Korea just by one nightime scene of Itaewon’s club street.
It’s true, however, that the foreign men this reporter saw on the street in Itaewon appeared to be nothing more than hunters chasing Korean women. It was filled with, literally, “white hunters.”
I assume they’re not referring to these guys.
At least the Nigerians can enjoy a break.
I wish I had time to translate these stores—their entertainment value alone is immeasurable.
Now, dear gyopo readers, before you get too giggly reading about the journalistic misfortunes of your more melanin deficient brethren, you haven’t been forgotten, either. In E-Today last week, one story on drugs noted that while native speaking teachers (i.e., whitey) needed to submit drug tests and criminal records, you guys—and by you guys, I mean F-4 visa-holding gyopo—did not, and this was a blind spot in Korea’s drug enforcement efforts. With the number of gyopo involved in drug offenses on the rise, this has led to calls for F-4 visa holders to submit drug tests and criminal records, too. They even got somebody from Anti-English Spectrum on record calling for strengthened controls on gyopo.
On a positive note, though, it appears—judging from this comment—that somebody in an official position has issued an opinion about the MBC program on foreign relationships.