Thursday, June 9, 2011

Apology Set #3

As I noted here, a couple years ago I landed a very sweet gig that is based in Seoul but which I can do part-time online from Hawaii. I am working for the Korea Institute of Regrets and Apologies (KIRA). My job is to to read what English-speaking residents of Korea (ESReKs) are complaining about online and listen to what they're griping about in person, and then offering apologies or regrets where appropriate. My last apology set was quite some time ago, so we're well overdue.

We apologize that Korea doesn't look like a giant Minsokchon.

It used to be the opposite: everybody lived in quaint (some would say "backward") conditions and would go downtown to see the latest modern thing, usually from America, but now it's the opposite.

But I would implore you, rather than getting upset and feeling cheated that Korea is just another modern urbanscape, look at it as an homage to your country, wherever that is. The Korean people of the Rhee, Park, and Chun eras strived to have the trappings of modernity just like they saw in the movies. They wanted the things that you (or rather, people from your country besides you, but from your country) had invented so that they wouldn't have to go outside in the cold to tend the wood fire under the house, so they could conveniently get from point A to point B without walking, and not die from cholera. Sure, this isn't as photogenic and it has led to an increase in hamburger-induced diabetes and heart disease, but on balance, things are generally much better.

KIRA apologizes for anti-American protesters wearing Levi's, Nikes, and Old Navy. Yes, you're right, that's the height of hypocrisy (an ongoing theme we deal with daily at KIRA). They should either strip down or shut up.

KIRA apologizes that not every single person in South Korea shows effusive gratitude for the US military presence and says thank you to each and every American they see for intervention in the Korean War, including those whose families had nothing to do with the war and who might in fact be benefiting today from the on-going division of the peninsula.

Sure, we could go back to the days of Rhee, Park, and Chun, when kids were actually forced to write thank-you notes to GIs stationed in the Republic, but maturing democracy has sort of nixed that idea. In fact, that's why those darned protesters make all that noise. We would like to explain that they are exercising their right to free speech and they don't represent a majority, but even then, KIRA apologizes. We hope it doesn't hurt your pride.

KIRA apologizes that not everyone in Korea can understand you when you speak English. Frankly, since most Koreans have learned English through middle school and high school and the youngest Koreans have learned it since grade school, Koreans should speak English at least as well as non-Hispanic Caucasians speak Spanish in the United States, which is the fourth-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

Although one could argue that the percentage of people who can at least make basic conversation has gone up significantly in the past ten or fifteen years, there's no excuse for this one. Something needs to be done. I just hope it doesn't involve firing all the teachers we've got now. I'll go to bat for you guys if it looks like it's coming down to that.

In fact, KIRA apologizes for not every single document from every layer of government and corporation being in English. It's the international language, so what gives? Heads have got to roll on this one.

KIRA also apologizes for awkward-sounding English. Sure, it's not like anyone gets these things tatooed permanently on their bodies, but still, it's on a shirt, and that lasts for a long time.

KIRA apologizes for nationalism. Nationalism in Korea must scare the crap out of everyone. I mean, South Korea and the unified Korea which preceded it haven't invaded anybody for centuries, and that means it's just a matter of time before someone in the Blue House decides to go after, I don't know, Mongolia? We could take out their navy before lunch if we put our minds to it. Oh, and I personally apologize for this kind of talk.

KIRA apologizes for every parent who didn't want you dating their child. We could offer the excuse that they fear their daughter or son will marry you and then move thousands of miles away, they won't be able to communicate with their son/daughter-in-law or their grandchildren, or they just have a sneaking suspicion you're a pothead, but we all know the real reason is racism. Whitey just can't get a break from the ajumma brigade.

KIRA apologizes for K-pop. Sure, Koreans and most Asians may like watching attractive Korean males and females dance around and sing to saccarine lyrics and sappy tunes, but they really shouldn't because it just offends the ESReKs so.

And finally, KIRA apologizes for whatever else is annoying you today.

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4 comments:

  1. And what, may I ask, prompted this "apology"? I am assuming reading too many hate-filled ESL blogs. LOL.

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  2. This was one of those posts I started to put together when I was back in Seoul last time. It actually stems from several conversations over beer in Itaewon with friends of a friend I was staying with when a leak in my flat made the place smell all mildewy.

    Everything being apologized for was a gripe I've actually heard.

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  3. "Ryan Weaver first came to Korea in 2003 for a year and a half to work as an English teacher. He left Korea in 2005, and returning to Korea periodically to study the causes of expatriate failure among foreign nationals living in Seoul for his thesis."

    from http://www.koreataste.org/lang/en/en/magazine-en/columns-en/food-test-broaden-your-korean-culinary-experience-by-trying-spicy-food/

    Thought you might enjoy. Some people are taking this VERY seriously. LOL.

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