[KS] What's So Good about Korea, Maarten?*
mpmeijer at gmail.com
Tue Jan 30 17:22:00 EST 2007
> Dear All,
> I apologize for not responding to some of the intelligent criticism
> of "What So Good about Korea" posted on this site. I have been busy with
> publication activities beyond Korea and so lacked time to do this earlier. I
> do not not apologize for not responding to some of the balderdash that
> others have produced. Some folks really became quite emotional over my book.
> It is not my role to provide help and solace in these instances; a
> professional counselor will have to do that. Meanwhile, I have received some
> personal emails from list members that are also worth referring to.
> David Scofield asked the question how long I have lived in Korea and what
> access I have to the society. The most obvious response to this query is:
> Read my book. It is quite personal and, to some extent, autobiographical in
> nature and thus sufficiently informative when it comes to providing author
> background. Reading my book is something that some of the hotheads clearly
> have not done, and to them this suggestion may indeed be a radical
> proposition, or a commercial plot. But not to worry: At about 1,000 won in
> royalties a copy the foreign import will have to wait a little longer...
> Perhaps this is unfair to David, who, judging by the email information,
> writes from England where my book cannot be bought.
> So then briefly: I have lived in Korea close to seven years and have
> intensive and extensive contacts with Koreans. To tell the truth: I prefer
> the company of Koreans to that of members of the so-called expat community.
> I will resist the temptation to expound on my motives. I would like to
> reiterate that the Korean responses to my book (which is also available in
> Korean) have been very positive and appreciative. My elitist expatriate
> detractors might dismiss this, considering the "uneducated" general Korean
> reader incompetent to make adequate judgments about its contents (or his own
> culture...), or suggest that Koreans are just too polite to spill the
> I am aware of the divorce statistics David cites. Though it is quite
> obvious that the number of divorces in Korea has increased significantly, I
> approach these data with a substantial dose of skepticism, based on my own
> experiences. For example, I am a more or less regular visitor to parent
> meetings at the Korean public schools my children attend. Based on the
> data, perhaps a quarter of the parents attending should be divorced (even
> allowing a wide margin for childless divorcees or those with adult
> children). However, finding such people is a comparatively rare occurrence.
> (But they probably have not "come out" the critics would counter...) By
> contrast, my sister regularly encounters gay or lesbian "parents" at PTA
> meetings in the Netherlands, providing some understanding of the social
> conditions of the country... To me, statistics are not the last word and can
> easily be manipulated. So is somebody lying? I am not certain yet. But in my
> social evaluation I rely quite heavily on personal observation. To some of
> the astute academicians subscribing to this list this may seem horridly
> subjective. It probably is. But my conclusions are not baseless, though very
> displeasing to some, and in this instance an apology will not be
> Some have complained I am too hard on Koreans and Korean society; others
> have complained I am too soft. I don't think that I am needlessly hard. I
> certainly do not engage in the gratuitous verbal violence that some members
> of the expat community take obvious delight in (while condemning Koreans,
> other expatriates, me to the trash bin). My attitude in this is: ".......
> love it, or leave it." (Fill in the blank with name of country of choice).
> Though some seem to be weary of my professions of fondness for Korea, I do
> genuinely care about the country and the people. Indeed, if fault-finding
> were my only objective, I could be a whole lot more critical. But I would
> like to keep my communication channels with my Korean readers and with
> Koreans in general open. So I often intentionally pull punches when the
> temptation is great to let it all hang out. This may again seem unscholarly
> to some - because shouldn't we confront all the givens equally? This is my
> choice and it seems a fitting one, considering the outrageous (by western
> standards) subjectivity of the native members of this society. Maybe that is
> one reason why I like Koreans so much...
> With best wishes,
> Maarten Meijer
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