Korea, Expats and Amoral Familism (or Learning not to Feel)

In his 1958 book The Moral Basis of a Backward Society Edward Banfield used the term Amoral Familism to describe what he saw as the tendency of poor rural Italians to concern themselves only with the condition of their own family members to the exclusion of outsiders.  This, he believed, led to a society in which people were unable to work together for the common good.

Sociology is a crowded field, full of those desperate to make a quick and easy name for themselves without having to spend years immersed in dread statistics, and thus there are as many refutations of this idea as there are bearded grad students in Boston.  Since I entertain no fantasies about becoming a professional sociologist, you can consider my slight rethinking of the idea sincere, rather than a desperate attempt to carve out a niche for myself in the cutthroat world of academia.

Social consideration America and Korea

Amoral familism is an interesting idea, but I rather think it’s a little more universal to discuss society as consisting of a series of scales.  What amoral familism describes is a society in which people’s concern for others extends only to those in their own family, however drawing a distinction between those you care about and those you don’t is a universal human trait.  Those who fall outside of one’s circle of concern are non-entities, non-people whose fates carry no meaning to oneself.  Amoral familism is at or close to one extreme, in which one cares strongly for one’s family to the exclusion of outsiders.  In Banfield’s original example even neighbors meant nothing to the people of the impoverished Italian village he studied.  These people, who had suffered greatly in the course of World War II, were drawn inward and retreated into their families, whom they could always count on, rather than extending kindnesses to others without promise of return.

The other end of the extreme is basically what Jesus taught.  Love thy neighbor, as he said, means loving all equally, regardless of whether they are your family, friend, neighbor or even oppressor  This is represented in the above chart as ‘Total acceptance’.  This is also what is taught by many other religions and international organizations.  It is achievable in some dimensions but not all.  One can treat everyone that they meet with respect but to open one’s heart to everyone creates painful conflicts that tear one up inside.  It is wearying to care, after all, and universal compassion will tug your heartstrings a little more than is healthy.  This is why most people espousing this teaching mean for it to be taken with a grain of salt and a knowing wink.  There are a few homeless people who beg in front of the church I go to, and I don’t give them any money, nor do many other churchgoers.  God knows if every person walking into the church gave them money these beggars would make enough to take the rest of the week off.

What I have labeled ‘America’ is basically the system I was raised in.  One aims to treat those closest to you the best, family first and then friends, followed closely by acquaintances and finally strangers, but a certain base level of respect and consideration is extended to all.  There are situations in which this breaks down, naturally, but generally speaking the glue holding the whole system together is empathy.  One tries to be quiet in a restaurant or at a movie because they do not want to bother other people around them, and not because they are forced to by an outside force.  Smokers, driven by their addiction, need some steel themselves in some way (convincing themselves that those who do not complain do not mind; telling themselves that non-smokers are not cool) in order to inflict their habit on non-smokers, or else they simply take it outside.  Again, this is the ideal, not always the case of course.

In Korea, however, the circle of consideration defined by amoral familism is extended to one’s friends, so I would more call it amoral cronyism.  It has often been described by scholars much more learned and knowledgeable than me that Korea is an in-and-out society in which you are either IN, with full privileges and responsibilities, or you are OUT, with neither.  This is nowhere more apparent than on the subway, where it appears that everyone is on their way to a funeral.  People literally turn their faces off, I assume on the thinking that no facial expression is owed this sea of human obstacles crowding around them.  People on subways and streets shove, push, and squeeze by without acknowledging either their fellow pedestrians’ humanity or personal space.  It is like wading through the sea of lost souls in purgatory.  The other day I was walking out of a large supermarket with the blank, bored and supercilious expression that I clamp on whenever I am out on my own, so that nobody will try to talk to me.  Amid the ocean of bobbing human faces I spotted one that I thought I recognized.  It was a face I’d seen many times before, but never before had I seen it blanched of all feeling or human emotion.  It was my sister-in-law.  I stopped her and we both took off our thick masks of indifference, smiling warmly at each other and breaking the zombie spell.  Each of us asked the other “What’s wrong?  You look like there’s something wrong.  Why are you frowning?”

The differences between the two systems are evident from the beginning of one’s life as a social creature.  When American children do something disruptive or harmful (like screaming and running around a restaurant) they are typically stopped and asked “How would you like it if you were trying to enjoy your dinner and someone was running around screaming bloody murder?  I bet you wouldn’t like it.”  This is empathy training.  Empathy doesn’t just spring forth fully formed, nor does morality, despite what Richard Dawkins may think.  Korean children, on the other hand, are dealt with in different ways.  One common event in any Korean child’s life is when they are allowed by their absent-minded or distracted parents to play with, for example, a full glass of water.  They play, their parents happy for the providential moments of peace and quiet, until the inevitable happens, and the glass tumbles over, its chilly contents typically pouring into my lap or the lap of an innocent bysitter just like me.  Too late for one stitch, it’s now time for nine, and the child is absent-mindedly chastised while the parent wipes up the spill.  Another common Korean parenting technique is to tell the offending child that he or she looks like an idiot (바보 같애!) or is embarrassing or shameful (아이구, 창피해!).  The final cutting edge parenting technique prevalent in Korea is to tell the child that some unknown person (e.g. a man sitting across from them on the subway) or scary boogie man (i.e. the dreaded ‘man downstairs’ who is going crazy with all the running around he’s hearing) is going to come yell at the offending child.  Parents apparently think that these lazy half-steps towards disciplining their child are better than yelling, correcting or punishing.  Much more effort is put into teaching children how to bow and speak politely than actually being considerate or polite, with mixed results.

What this teaches children is that they need to be just good enough to stay on the good sides of their elders.  Rather than being guided by a moral center, they are instead constantly triangulating what actions they can get away with.  Korean society is full of this constant gentle push and pull.  Someone once observed that Koreans will typically enter negotiations with embarassingly outrageous figures in mind.  It is commonplace for a bill agreed on in advance to be haggled at the last minute, citing the deficient quality of goods or services rendered.  I have often encountered this kind of half-serious demand, and found that standing one’s ground for the briefest of time is enough for these demands to be abandoned with a sort of ‘It was worth a shot.’ of a grin.  These are the little proddings and pokings that these people have learned over a lifetime of dealing with blustery and capricious, half-assed authority figures.

Now of course I am confounding empathy, consideration, and public conduct, but are they mutually exclusive?  It seems to me that they recapitulate at every level of thought.  If you learn to obey your parents only when you are in danger of getting caught, why wouldn’t you bring that attitude to work?  If that’s how everyone in the country is raised, why wouldn’t that inborn inclination towards pulling a fast one be the guiding principle of your foreign policy?

Here’s the true dilemma.  I was raised in New York, a place which, like Korea, is known more for its warmth (Koreans call this concept, which they believe hilariously to be exclusive to themselves, jeong (정)) than its politeness.  I was also raised to be considerate of others almost to a fault.  If someone in the house is going to bed, I turn the TV volume down to the point of near inaudibility lest I disturb someone’s sleep.  The thought that someone is uncomfortable because of me is very disturbing, and the mere suggestion that I may have offended someone is enough to start a several-day period of soul-searching.  I learned this from my parents, family, school, and society.  Like most foreigners who come to Korea, my first time in a Seoul throng of shoving, sour-pussed pedestrians was highly frustrating.  Everybody was practically slamming into me but nobody was saying ‘Excuse me.’ or even acknowledging it.  I thought ‘Surely they’re bumping into me and not saying anything all because I am a foreigner.’  I couldn’t yet imagine a country where everybody treated everyone like this.

But of course that is the case.  I imagine that for the average short-term visitor to Korea this doesn’t matter at all.  People often complain about little old ladies cutting in line, but that’s a small price to pay to live in a country where you can teach English all day and drink all night, right dudes?  The issue is more acute for someone like me, with Korean family and a long term stated interest in the country.  The question at hand is ‘How should I behave?”  Should I “When in Rome” it, put on my game face and get shoving?  Or should I try to maintain some of the etiquette that I grew up with?  Should I be courteous and go out of my way to hold the door for people, knowing that the person I’m holding the door open for will probably get shoved out of the way by someone else walking the opposite direction?  Should I give up seats on public transportation for people, knowing full well that the favor will never be returned?

I think you can probably guess that I’ve decided that it is not worth the trouble of attempting to preserve my self respect in a moral vacuum.  I’m better off joining the churning throng of thoughtless, self-interested cads than attempting to stem the tide of rudeness all by myself.  This is the stuff that amoral familism is made of, and it’s made an amoral familist out of me. 

Here’s the rub: What is to others second nature is to me the result of an incredible amount of effort.  It’s hard to be rude when it’s not dyed in the wool.  I may rush to steal seats on the subway from old men carrying huge bags and then dip my head forward, close my eyes and pretend to be asleep while giving myself away by still deftly working my iPod, but unlike everyone else around me who’s doing the same thing, I’m feeling kind of guilty about it while they’re sleeping the sleep of the angels.  Or if I’m not feeling guilty I’m thinking with pride ‘Wow, I’ve really come a long way, I’m not even guilty anymore.’  When I don’t hold the door open for someone, I think to myself ‘You’re not stealing my time, lady.’  Everybody else not holding the door open for anyone is thinking . . . nothing.

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~ by Joshing on February 17, 2008.

25 Responses to “Korea, Expats and Amoral Familism (or Learning not to Feel)”

  1. I made jockeying for position on the subway a competition for myself. It made it more fun, and I got out that aggression that I had previously only gotten out knocking girls down while playing soccer.

  2. I like to be overly polite in places where people carelessly bump me. “Pardon ME, kind sir! Hope I didn’t cause you to spill your alcoholic beverage. How about that local sports team?! You have a nice day.”

  3. You seriously need to do more research about Korea. Instead, of making superficial assumptions, why don’t you talk to your Korean family members or friends and ask them why things are they way they are? And please don’t tell me that you’ve never met a polite person in Korea. I’m sure you have many blindspots regarding the level of civility in the US.

    You speak from a position of privilege, seeing Korea as the “Other”. I don’t care if you have a Korean wife. Being able to sleep with someone of another race does not make you “progressive”. Have you ever thought that to outsiders, the US may be an “impolite” society?

  4. I have met many polite people in Korea. I have discussed them in this blog, as well as discussing the many Korean people who have lamented this very fact (that there is little politeness on the streets here) to me and told me that their goal is to raise polite considerate children. I don’t know what your relationship to Korea is, but I suspect that you have not spent much time here, or that you are willfully blinding yourself to the actual conditions in the country, because it is a pretty non-controversial assertion to say that people in Korea are not exceedingly considerate of those around them in public places.
    As for your comment about my wife, I find it highly insulting and also pretty dumb, as I never stated that I am a progressive and, in fact, consider myself fairly reactionary. I think it’s pretty obvious that I have given a lot of thought to looking at the US. Is the US an impolite society? Perhaps by many standards yes. For example, Americans are certainly much less polite to elders than they could be. Of course it’s extremely difficult to talk about ‘impoliteness’ in general, as if it’s a simple question of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. By the standards I set out in the above post, is the US as impolite as Korea?
    I find your comments a real unfocused spray of poorly thought out jabs intended to offend (?) without really saying anything. Keep them coming, as they make great fodder for logical fallacy spotting.

  5. Thank you! I feel like a huge load has been lifted, seeing it so well explained. My friends and I discuss the rudeness of Koreans all the time. We have tried to teach our students common courtesies. But for the rude kids on the street, we have given up. We asked our Korean friend to teach us how to say in Korean, “Don’t you have any politeness?” So, when they yell at us or stare, we can yell this back to them. I think they don’t like to hear it at all. It’s fine when it only happens once or twice. But when it happens every day, whenever you go out, it’s a HUGE annoyance.

  6. “I’m better off joining the churning throng of thoughtless, self-interested cads than attempting to stem the tide of rudeness all by myself.”

    how true. but that makes you a self-interest cad too! viva la korea!

  7. Exactly, that’s just what I am now.

  8. i’ll never again be on the subway without thinking about “wading through the sea of lost souls in purgatory”

    Thank you for that…

  9. Regarding behavior in crowds, I remember experiencing the same shock you describe when I moved to Tokyo some years ago. It took me some time, but I’ve come to realize that there is some method to the apparent madness and there are actually “proper” and “improper” ways to push people around. I resort to those techniques only when absolutely necessary, but I still try to maintain my own standards as well as I can. I always offer my seat to people who need it more than me and never participate in the classic mad dashes for the last empty spot.
    I don’t do it because I expect anything in return from my fellow citizens but rather because my peace of mind depends on it (I grew up very far away from NYC, but I see we have had a similar education).
    My only area of activism inside the train is pissing off people who sit occupying one and a half spots by trying to sit in the half spot they leave empty, thus forcing them to sit like everybody else. I find most locals seem reluctant to do such a thing, but I consider it my civic duty ;-).

  10. it’s all relative, stop acting like there’s some kind of deep rooted primitivism in the Hermit Kingdom. You sound stupid like assuming Korean parenting is somehow inferior or less thoughtful. Stop being bitter, and at least be an equal opportunity critic.

    I’m a waegookin who lives in korea.

  11. I agree with your point that you make about raising children to be ‘polite’ without actually ‘being’ polite. Empathy is not a life skill taught, which is a pity. Children need to be taught to be considerate of others besides themselves. Unfortunately, many Asian families do not feel the need to teach consideration beyond the family. Empathy for others was something that I learned through school, mentors, and books. Having said that, I will disagree on other points. You say that Koreans only lazily half-discipline their children. Yet, you don’t mention how ‘Americans’ discipline their children beyond the brief restaurant example. Do they not use the same tactics, as well, besides also ignoring their offspring? Does the bogey man ring a bell? Monster in the closet? Bribes? When was the last time you went to Wal-mart on a Saturday afternoon where kids run rampant and talk back to their parents? I think you should take note of the different parenting techniques in both countries, but you would also do well to be an ‘equal opportunity critic.’ Although I have not been to Korea, I do have a unique outlook as I am American, Asian, and know many Koreans.

  12. You have made a very interesting and logical analysis of the behaviour of Korean society. I am a Korean, born in Japan and raised in Canada. I was 42 years old when I made my first trip to Korea (a few years ago) and I was really shocked at how rude people were. From bus drivers chastising me for carrying in a bag that was too large to a cab driver, trying to cut into a cab line behind us, leaned on his horn as I was loading a very elderly aunt and 14 pieces of luggage into a cab. I turned to him with my palms up, gesturing “what do you want me to do?” He started flipping his wrist gesturing me to move out of the way. That is when I lost it and gestured for him to get out of his cab and come to me. At this, he lowered his eyes, turned away and stopped honking. Another odd thing happened when I went to a cigar bar at the Hyatt and met an American jazz singer. She was on contract with the hotel and had been in Seoul for about 3 months and met only a few people that would socialize with her. She mentioned that in Japan, she would have had a bunch of friends and a large and busy social circle. After my trip, which I didn’t really enjoy (except for seeing family, drinking Soju in street bars, and the food), I realized that I was much more Canadian than Korean and I don’t think that I would ever want to lose the politeness that is a characteristic of my country. I think that people are capable of learning from a good example and I would think that acting badly like everyone else would only hurt your moral being. Besides, kindness and politeness should be done without any thought to personal benefits. It is better to give than to receive.

  13. I love the ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude everyone is emitting in this discussion (heavy sarcasm intended).

    I don’t think it does justice towards your own country by making it condescend on and humble another. I am a Korean-New Zealander and having Korean parents bring me up from childhood, I do not think I am any the poorer. I have spend most of my days in New Zealand but have lived in Korea and Australia and have been to the States. The latter especially, I do not think as having any superior ‘ettiquette’ nor ’empathy’ than Koreans, and certainly not Aussies nor New Zealanders. New Yorkers, Chicagoans, they push, they shove, they refuse to apologise. Almost uniformly, they steel their eyes and their hearts with a “it’s your problem, not mine” attitude.

    Many apologies for the generalisations, the preceding ones as well as the following, but that’s the way it is in the big cities. It is simply too easy to don facades and not care. It is in the rural areas that one can experience benevolence and ’empathy’ (seems to be quite a favourite word).

    I think it is injustice to simply lodge the culpability onto poor parenting and societal pressures; more so when this is then bluntly carved onto a particular ethnic group of forty-nine million, for the sake of simplicity and nationalisit pride.

  14. Hi Nahmo,

    First of all, the Korean ethnic group has far more than forty-nine million people, and they live the world over, and your parents are included amongst them. I cannot presume to paint the entire ethnic group with a brush that broad, because I have never lived in North Korea, or among the Zainichi Koreans or the Sakhalin Koreans or the Kowis. I can, however, speak to what I’ve seen here in Seoul and the surrounding suburbs, and I can be reasonably assured from my exposure to the rest of the country through media, blogs, news etc. that the rest of South Korea is largely similar to Seoul.

    Having thus qualified the above post, I am more focused on a particular parenting style and its effect on the people who grow up within it than on the culture at large. I do not think that the Korean ethnicity is saddled with a single parenting technique for all eternity, and modern Korean history and the people I know bear this fact out.

    It’s patently bad. It’s just a bad way to raise your kids, and there’s no good reason to defend bad parenting, especially national pride. And those South Koreans who do not raise their kids that way have no call to defend it, and you’ll find ifyou ever sit down and talk with some that they do not.

    “I think it is injustice to simply lodge the culpability onto poor parenting and societal pressures; more so when this is then bluntly carved onto a particular ethnic group of forty-nine million, for the sake of simplicity and nationalisit pride.”

    I don’t understand what you’re saying here. Are you saying that my argument is for the sake of national pride? Because I think if you keep reading my blog you’ll find that that is most certainly not the frame of mind I write from.

    As for your experience in America, I can’t speak to that at all, because the experience of my wife and myself there was totally different.

  15. Hi again.

    Please do not misunderstand me. I respect your interpretation and acknowledge that the facets you have perceived may have some validity. As for the statement about (sorry about the mispelling) nationalistic pride, I was addressing the comments before me. I felt that some were using this discussion as a convenient medium to express their animosity and disillusionment with Koreans and their country from past experiences rather than to conduct logical arguments.

    As for my argument, I think you’ve given me all the points. As you’ve said, your experience of America has been very different from mine. You have also said that you base your judgement on the entire South Korean populace on a selected number of Seoulites you have met and through second-hand media. Could it not be that I have perceived an aspect of America that you had not, as you claim to have perceived in Korea? Moreover, wouldn’t the comparison be uncannily valid and accurate, both of us being ‘outsiders’ in each others’ countries?

    Lastly, you make no reference to the suggestion that this issue may not be confined soley in Seoul (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and South Korea, but may be a general trend in large urban centres in developed countries. I don’t think that my point is indisputable and absolute, and I dont’ claim to be qualified to be a sociologist, but I think it may be just as valid as your interpretation, and at least an arguable point.

    I’d like to stress that I don’t mean my discussion to be belligerent. It’s just that I am very much against stereotypes, having suffered its negative consequences. Also, I find the claim that a system of parenting which you argue a population of 79 or 80 million generally follows, which has been developed for thousands of years, be so inherently wrong and flawed, difficult to agree with.

  16. Hi Nahmo,

    Let me take your comment point by point.

    “Please do not misunderstand me. I respect your interpretation and acknowledge that the facets you have perceived may have some validity. As for the statement about (sorry about the mispelling) nationalistic pride, I was addressing the comments before me. I felt that some were using this discussion as a convenient medium to express their animosity and disillusionment with Koreans and their country from past experiences rather than to conduct logical arguments.”

    -I think I understand where you’re coming from fairly well. I am curious as to what facets of my perceptions you feel may be valid, as you haven’t really mentioned what those may be. I actually do agree with you, that occasionally such arguments can take on an unsavory tone, and it’s something that I try hard to avoid.

    “As for my argument, I think you’ve given me all the points. As you’ve said, your experience of America has been very different from mine. You have also said that you base your judgement on the entire South Korean populace on a selected number of Seoulites you have met and through second-hand media.”

    -Slight misrepresentation: I have based my opinions on my personal experiences with a vast number of Seoulites, who as you know mostly have moved there from every corner of the country, as well as South Korean media reports about real South Korean people, and South Korean media products for a South Korean audience ostensibly depicting South Korean people as they are.

    “Could it not be that I have perceived an aspect of America that you had not, as you claim to have perceived in Korea? Moreover, wouldn’t the comparison be uncannily valid and accurate, both of us being ‘outsiders’ in each others’ countries?”

    -How long were you in America? I don’t find the comparison to be uncannily valid and accurate, unless you married, lived and worked in America for many years and found what you described to be the general case.

    “Lastly, you make no reference to the suggestion that this issue may not be confined soley in Seoul (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and South Korea, but may be a general trend in large urban centres in developed countries. I don’t think that my point is indisputable and absolute, and I dont’ claim to be qualified to be a sociologist, but I think it may be just as valid as your interpretation, and at least an arguable point.”

    -I don’t consider myself qualified to make that point either. I have no idea if this is a trend in developed countries. I do believe, however, that this is no trend in Korea, and that it didn’t come from development, as it appears to be practiced more prevalently by the older generations than the younger ones.
    Anyway, my argument was not about whether or not it was a Korean trait, it was simply that it was bad. Frankly if it is a trend in developed urban centers then I think it must be stopped wherever we may find it.

    “I’d like to stress that I don’t mean my discussion to be belligerent. It’s just that I am very much against stereotypes, having suffered its negative consequences. Also, I find the claim that a system of parenting which you argue a population of 79 or 80 million generally follows, which has been developed for thousands of years, be so inherently wrong and flawed, difficult to agree with.

    -Again, I claim only that many many South Koreans practice this form of parenting, not every ethnic Korean in general. Also, the idea that such parenting had been developed over thousands of years (not one of my assertions) is a simple argument from antiquity and is better left untouched. Nobody likes stereotypes, but there is one point that you have not addressed that I am curious about: Do you agree that this form of parenting exists and is fairly common in South Korea?
    Also, I understand that it is hard for many, particularly those who, like you, have been educated in the West in the past thirty years, to accept my argument that a way of child-rearing which is widely practiced by people in a culture other than my own is ‘wrong’. I am not a cultural relativist, however, and I am equally comfortable calling out the parents on ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen’ as unquestionably wrong in their parenting style. Some things are right, whether popular or not. If you can’t agree with me on that point, then we’d better leave it at that.

    Nahmo, I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your well thought-out, thorough responses, politeness and thoroughness. It is a true pleasure to talk to someone who can really test your ideas and probe every angle for weaknesses.

    • I think it would be more interesting and insightful if you actually did a scientific study about familism trends between Americans and South Koreans that used REAL data, instead of some graph you made with photoshop that just shows us your racist bias, visually.

  17. Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? Haha, it doesn’t matter. I thoroughly enjoyed it too. It was good practice for a couple of upcoming essays. Thank you for the experience.

    Just as a side note, I really should have made concessions, as you have done, but I think I was too engrossed in my own argument. I have had experiences which led me to acknowledge some validity in your argument, incidents such as a Korean mother with a rebellious son who was so convinced that it was his peers who had made her son ‘corrupted’ that she angrily phoned one of his mates to cease any relationship with him and discontinue attending the same church (which I think conforms to your model of amoral cronyism); only to (embarassedly) apologise later.

    However, I still stand by my views and believe that there are many different interpretations of ‘right’ (aside from the most fundamental) and that what one considers to be ‘the correct way’ cannot be the same for another. I consider this ambiguity a beautiful aspect in life.

    As for my opinions of the United States, they were purely first impressions only and the parallel I drew was merely that the colours of the lens through which a foreigner sees a country would be different from the lens through which a native sees the country (s)he grew up in. Also, I would never equate my brief visit to the life you have made in five years and I apologise if I have offended.

    Thank you.

  18. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  19. Sign: wdpad Hello!!! wmxdt and 9264wstqnwrgzn and 9774 : Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post! nice! I just came across your blog and wanted to say that Ive really enjoyed it.

  20. I have enjoyed reading your post, however there are a few things I would like to add. You have not mentioned the wide-ranging, systemic effects that the Japanese occupation (failed colonisation) and two horrific wars have had on the Korean psyche. I believe that the abject poverty that Korean people have experienced in the past and the extremely rapid economic prosperity in the automotive and IT industries explain the fierce Korean national pride and rampant cultural protection. Also, there is the huge role that confuscionism plays in ‘amoral familism’. I think Korea is an extremely conformist and competitive society, making it extremely consumerised and this trend necessarily rejects all humanitarian ideals as people are immersed in a bubble of self-interest, which is not questioned at all. Add to this the social isolation of this peninsula (island) from the global community, which is compounded and continued by the above mentioned national pride and cultural protectionism. At the same time, there is an immense romanticisation of American culture, however Koreans seem to have rejected the humanitarian thinking and empathy which is far more common in American society. I still think this is a result of Korea’s abject poverty in the past. Remember after the depression caused by the second world war? I wasn’t around yet, but people became very close and nationalistic as they survived such a blow to their societies. This recovery happened a lot faster in Korea as a result of the obsession Koreans have with education, which is another tenant of Confuscionism, and so people because more prosperious very fast, still remembering the poverty of the past and being protective of this weathy, never wanting to fall back into the gutter. And then there is the propaganda produced by government, scaring Koreans into believeing that if reunification was to take effect, their wealth would be stolen. Remember too that there is no welfare system here, so family is welfare. I think that’s enough ranting. I would love you to tackle some of these issure, especially the legacy of the Japanese occupation and confuscionism. Thanks!

  21. please excuse my typos!

  22. what the i love korea

  23. I was basically researching for points for my own blog and
    came across your own blog post, “Korea, Expats
    and Amoral Familism (or Learning not to Feel) The Joshing Gnome”, would you mind in cases where I personally employ several of your own tips?
    Thx ,Lucia

  24. This is exactly the third blog, of urs I really went through.
    And yet I really enjoy this particular one, “Korea, Expats
    and Amoral Familism (or Learning not to Feel) The Joshing Gnome” the best.
    Thanks ,Darrel

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