Inside vs Outside

Here are two great quotes that go great together. The first is from an essay about Korean culture’s propensity do define the world in terms of ‘in’ (friends and family, allies) versus ‘out’ (strangers)

It turns out that all sorts of things in Korean society are explained by this distinction between “in” and “out.” . . . “In and out” explains why Korean students are so clean in their homes and so likely to throw trash in the campus streets – the street is outside their area, the territory of non-persons. The distinction is reinforced by taking off shoes in a house; the house is clean space, while “out” is for shoes, dirty.

Although the author, Yonsei University professor Horace Underwood, focuses specifically on students, the analysis extends to all aspects of Korean society. At the risk of offending some, I would say it makes Koreans excellent friends, only so-so citizens and, when you’re walking down the streets of Korea, particularly aggressive obstacles. To extend Underwood’s ‘in and out’ analysis, one has to go no further than the typical Korean home, the high-rise apartment building, which looks like this on the outside

and this on the inside.


Korean homes are typically very clean. The floors clean enough to eat off, unnecessary clutter usually banished to drawers and well-organized shelfs.

The outside of the typical Korean apartment block practically screams to the average American “Yes, we sell crack!”, filthy and never ever cleaned, with rust stains streaking the walls and small cracks spackled over in white, emphasizing the building’s age, (perhaps to drive down the apartment prices), never letting on the tidy little family lives going on therein.

Now here’s a quote from a Slate article about the various re-edits of the Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We see suburban Muncie as a sprawl of carefully arranged, nearly identical houses stretched out beneath a starry sky. But within those tidy houses, Spielberg finds chaos. Clutter piles on top of clutter in a family room that can barely contain its family. Conversations overlap but fail to drown out the television’s blare. And at the center of it all is a man already half-mad from all the commotion, unable to focus on his toy trains and stuck with a family unable to appreciate the whimsy of Pinocchio.

According to Underwood, Spielberg’s protagonists would be living inside out.

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~ by Joshing on November 24, 2007.

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