What Is Jung And How Can We Kill It?, Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

On Monday we talked about out-sourcing social functions.  Tuesday morning we went into why there’s always a best way to do anything.  On Wednesday I showed you how Koreans make a big deal out of jung because it is their essential humanity asserting itself over their essential Koreanness.  Today I’m going to go back a couple steps and talk about how good ideas are changing Korea, and how good ideas beget bad ones.

South Korea has, since its inception, been reasonably open to foreign influence.  This openness is offset by a definite innate Korean protectionism, which seeks to take in as little that is foreign as is necessary while preserving as much that is Korean as possible.  Of course, as I said earlier, much of what we consider to be ‘Korean culture’ or ‘Western Culture’ is just a long list of practices, some of which are relatively good and others of which are relatively bad.  This is not earth-shattering stuff here.  Drinking like a Korean and eating like an American will both kill you.  So what?

So although plenty of cultural transmission has occurred from the West to Korea.  Most notably, Western legal traditions, democracy, and financial systems.  All good stuff, not because it’s Western, but because it’s time tested and has pretty much beaten out all the competition.

The problem is, you can’t open the door to good things without getting a lot of other useless junk as well.  Korea got democracy and spam at the same time, after all.  And the education system and the abuse associated with the education system came together as well.  Look at us in the US.  We got sushi and ramen at the same time.  The thing is, we’re not usually in a position to make these perfect determinations of what exactly is desirable and what is not.  We have to take the bath water with the baby, it would seem.

I call such things that spread from culture to culture on the strength of the culture of origin more than their own merit cultural junk DNA.  The question then becomes what is more likely to jump from one culture to another, something useful or something catchy?

Well, you know people.

Furthermore, how can Korean culture be changed to make jung the norm instead of the exception?

Find out tomorrow in the shocking conclusion of this series, only at the Joshing Gnome.

Part 5

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~ by Joe on July 3, 2008.

5 Responses to “What Is Jung And How Can We Kill It?, Part 4”

  1. Hi, Joe. I hope your fifth post will talk about this, but if not, two things:

    1. having links either at the beginning or end of each successive post, leading readers to the next and previous installment would be very considerate for a multiple-post essay.

    2. I’m very interested to know what you think about how big city life affects jung — because I often feel like this butting past people in public stuff is more a function of living in a crowded city than a reflection of a culture’s approach to other humans. . . and I’d be interested to read a discussion of how those same people who hit you with a purse to get to the empty seat on the subway before you, act in their own neighbourhoods, around their neighbours, as well as how Koreans’ treatment of strangers differs 1. in the countryside, 2. in their neighbourhoods of residence, and 3. on public transport (which I think is one of the most anonymous and dehumanizing arenas of human interaction anywhere) — even at the bank, people treat me more like a human than on the bus.

    P.S. My buddy who read these essays wanted me to tell you that even downtown Seoul’s nothing compared to the average city in India, or China.

    (more subway music: Broken Social Scene; Kevin Drew; The Fields, “From Here We Go To Divine”)

  2. Like I said, my grandparents were born in thatched cottages and they didn’t push people. I think there’s an underlying morality at work that just gets . . . exacerbated or attenuated when you plop it down in the city. I don’t think the city creates the behavior, I think the morality interacts with the city to create it.

  3. Robo,

    I experienced Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur differently than your friend — I didn’t find people as invasive of personal space or as inconsiderate of me (unless they were begging or trying to “sell” me random stuff, but that’s everywhere) — but I’ve heard that many of South India’s cities quite different and harsher. Also, I’m a very big person, and I was there in winter, when I imagine it’s slightly less crowded on the streets.

    My own response to the thatched huts to New York thing, I posted on the first post in the series. My only comment on this wonderful post is this:

    Korea got democracy and spam at the same time, after all.

    And here I was thinking, “Korea got the Internet and spam at the same time, after all.” Which is also true, I guess.

    I also think links would help readers get around this great series. I’ve linked it from my site, too. It deserves readers, despite my quibbling!

  4. “Drinking like a Korean and eating like an American will both kill you.”

    Classic line!

  5. […] about this topic… I recommend reading The Joshing Gnome’s description of “cultural junk dna” – bad/useless stuff spreads from one culture to another, swept along with the good […]

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