Koreans Love Me, But Hate Me

31 Jul

Love always wins

Don’t read if  you’re not cool with truth bombs!

Whenever I tell Korean people about, everyone tells me that I’m doing such good and meaningful work. Koreans are very proud of their culture, and I am proud to be a part of it too! I see the beauty in Korean culture. I really do. I gladly share Korean culture with everyone, and for that, Koreans love me.

But at the same time, I am still a Korean-American–not a full Korean. I have a different way of sharing Korean culture than how Koreans might choose to do it. And for that some Koreans hate me (or at the least strongly disapprove of my stuff).

Take for example my video on Korean Punishments. I love this video. The punishments are things that I personally experienced in my life. This kind of stuff makes me feel super connected to Korea (which I love!). But some Korean people didn’t like the video because they thought I was criticizing the way Korean parents and teachers punish their kids. The fact that I talked about hitting children was a sore spot for some too. But the fact is… it’s a part of Korean culture. Nearly every Korean (older Koreans at least) experienced hitting from a family member or a teacher. Shoot, I experienced it, and I was a 2nd generation Korean-American living in New York!  To me, it’s a part of the culture that’s helped shaped me and also helped shaped Korea. And I think that’s awesome 🙂 (I was also glad to see youtube commenters experiencing the same things in their own cultures!)

I also just posted on The 5 Most Interesting People You’ll See on the Seoul Subway, and I’m sure there are going to be Korean people that are not happy with the post. There I write about blind beggars, feisty ajeoshis and pushy ajummas. Things that some Koreans think I shouldn’t write about. But these are real people that you’ll see on the subways, undeniable members of Korean society. And I think they’re interesting as hell. Many foreigners will only get to meet Korean people of certain backgrounds: educated Koreans, multi-lingual Koreans, Koreans with international experience, Koreans who are not poor. But I think that’s misrepresentative of Korean society.

There are things that people aren’t so proud of in their cultures (i.e. the reality tv show ktwon–although I must admit it is entertaining). But I embrace it all. I think it’s great that there are beggars that fake being blind. I think it’s awesome that ajummas don’t care and just shove everyone out if their ways. And who doesn’t like to watch a harmless fight between ajeoshis? I don’t want to be censored because to me, it’s everyone and everything, good and bad, that make Korea so interesting.

I see the beauty in all things Korea. Love me or hate me, your boy Keith is gonna bring it honest!


17 Responses to “Koreans Love Me, But Hate Me”

  1. Eddie July 31, 2012 at 10:37 AM #

    I ran into the feisty older ahjussi on the subway – my group was sitting on an area reserved for handicapped and elderly, but it was a pretty light train. In comes FA. Rather than sit on the spot across from us, he stares at us before berating us (in English) “Why are you sitting there? Don’t you see the sign? Are you elderly?” We said we were sorry, but there were other spots still open, and he got super pissed. But then our group leader (our Korean eomma) just ripped into him pushy ahjumma style “Oh you think you’re so badass talking English to them?” etc. etc.

    As a foreigner I definitely appreciate your articles – there’s always something new to learn! Thank you!

    • Keith Kim July 31, 2012 at 11:59 PM #

      Yea subway fights are pretty common. Thank you for your kind words!

  2. Doug 陀愚 July 31, 2012 at 11:48 AM #


    My limited perception is that Korean society is extra-sensitive about its image right now because it’s finally emerging from under the shadow of its bigger neighbors. It’s an exciting time but also some people may not be used to the sudden scrutiny.

    But I could be wrong. 🙂

    • Keith Kim August 1, 2012 at 12:02 AM #

      Doug, I think it might be a more national pride thing… but your guess is as good as mine

  3. Carlo July 31, 2012 at 1:40 PM #

    Your posts are always interesting. Let’s people see what’s behind the beautiful things we only see on TV 🙂

    • Keith Kim August 1, 2012 at 12:02 AM #

      Yea, definitely trying to show you the real korea 🙂

  4. Tommy July 31, 2012 at 7:12 PM #

    You are quite right, Master Keith. A diamond is known by all of its facets, angles, polish and inclusions and flaws. You cannot disregard any of them, as they are each a part of the whole. And just as in food, it is the unique that adds the spice and flavor, while the polished and ordinary makes for a bland experience.
    I appreciate the honesty with which you think.

    • Keith Kim August 1, 2012 at 12:04 AM #

      Thank you Tommy 🙂 I think everything makes Korea so awesome, not just the stuff on TV

  5. Melinda Childs August 1, 2012 at 12:46 AM #

    Sometimes the truth hurts. And the thing is.. some(or most) people who were born and raised in Korea might not even notice some of the things you talk about. So, when they see you talking about it, it might surprise them a bit.
    Like, I live in Atlanta, and when people from way down south GA move up here and start complaining about traffic or how rude someone was to them in a store, I’m always like.. “really? I don’t know what you could be talking about!” then I realize ‘oh, wait.. born and raised here.. I’m just used to the way things are.’
    So as someone who was raised in America, you can really compare the differences between there and here, as you see them, unlike someone who was born and raised in Korea.
    But I think you speaking on all sorts of subjects like these, whether they are “good” or “bad” is helpful to foreigners who want to visit and/or live in Korea one day. I really think it helps to ease the ‘culture shock’ and make people have more of an open mind that things aren’t always done the way they are used to in every corner of the world.

    anyways, I feel like I could talk a whole lot more on this subject, so I’ll just leave my two cents here. I say keep up with what you are doing and don’t let any negativity get in the way!

  6. Josh Tanaka August 20, 2012 at 12:52 PM #

    Whenever I make a comment about Korea, my Korean friends take them VERY personally… I tell them “dude, I’m just telling you what’s out there. You don’t have to be upset about it. I’m not talking about you”. But any comments about Korea in general upsets them.

    • Keith Kim August 20, 2012 at 2:20 PM #

      But Koreans love the positive stuff, no? 🙂

      • Josh Tanaka August 20, 2012 at 3:15 PM #

        Yes of course, if you are remotely Korean and if you are have a recognized achievement, then Korean media likes to claim you as “one of us”. 추성훈 and two half-black Korean basketball players in Korea who recently got their Korean citizenship weren’t considered Koreans by their peer and people around them until they had their break and media decided to cover them… I think the same could be said for 양방언.

        I guess what I was trying to say in the previous comment is that, the reason why some of your readers thought you were criticizing about the punishment culture in Korea is because they are quick to interpret things personally and polarize your position, even when you don’t mean to (or even when it’s apparent that you didn’t mean to).

        I’m sorry if I’m being biased but from my personal experience, I can’t describe Korea objectively in front of my Korean friends whatever remark I make is usually followed by a prolonged silence or an immediate change in topic, even when I’m making a point to say that Korea is interesting, much the same way you said in the last few lines of your article.

  7. Jae Shin September 22, 2012 at 10:54 PM #

    Part of being a blogger is getting lots of criticism. The bigger the blog, the more criticism it will get. My 2 cents: make sure you don’t mix “this is the truth” with “this is the way I see things”. The way you see things is really interesting, but there will always be people who will disagree. Some people may even attack you at the personal level, but that’s the way things are in the blogging world.

  8. Valencia Poh November 17, 2012 at 7:04 PM #

    Gyopo keith says so much true things that may be happening in korea!!! And I agreee!! It might appear inappropriate to old-fashioned minded or sensitive koreans, but i have also experienced mine similar thoughts about… korean ajeoshis. In fact I feel unsafe shopping in myeongdong becuz of them. o_o They’re really feisty!!
    And my point of view is based from a tourist. I am not korean based.

    Best wishes.

  9. yyann January 24, 2013 at 3:49 PM #

    Hi Keith! Loves your article and I truly agreed with you on the issues.
    I had long trips to Korea to gather some experience, and I had developed a love-hate relationships over there as well. =P
    People there are genuinely nice and helpful though. But when it comes to a negative comment or maybe just a remark, Koreans are usually quite sensitive over it and yeah, not one but most I realized! Afterall, I guess they’re quite sensitive on their images, am I right? ^^

  10. jidohero November 26, 2013 at 1:57 AM #

    Keith, I think the difference is that westerners are allowed to be cynical, whereas Koreans would never discuss anything that can be construed as downgrading Korea. There are some waygooks who rag on Korea – S#@$! Podcast, and it comes across as prejudice, disrespectful and just downright annoying. Seoulistic is awesome! Probably because of your gyopyo perspective.

  11. MalaaDalmatinka November 26, 2013 at 2:24 AM #

    Oh man… I empathise with you on this issue. Actually, I’ve found that it is not the Koreans living in Korea, but more so the Korean nationals living abroad who get extremely defensive about their culture, country, language, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I do it sometimes as well when people assume things about my own country (former Yugoslavia), but I do not jump at their throat or stop befriending them 😛 For example, I have a friend (whom I considered to be a close friend) with whom I was discussing the origins of the Hangul alphabet. I basically told her that upon reading historical records I found that a French missionary aided the then-emperor/king of ancient Korea in developing an alphabet that would cater to international trade and business development with the West (British and French empires mostly). I most definitely did NOT say I knew what I was talking about, but that I simply read about it… The friend disappeared for a few months until I sent a message and got the explanation about why exactly they no longer wish to speak with me: You insulted my country and our culture… Koreans never needed anyone’s help, yadi yadi yada. I apologized for something I didn’t even do, but I understand where the friend’s feelings came from. Bottom line of this rant is: people seem to protect their culture more when they are away from it (i.e. Korean nationals abroad).

    Continue the awesome work! Hope to meet ya someday in Seoul . Best,

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