The Seoulpodcast, created by Joe McPhereson, is a production that has given me the ability to feel like I am still in touch with what is going on around the world and the expat community here. Sometimes the show can go far off base, but when it is on target it offers well rounded opinion and analysis.
There is one recent show that I find particularly noteworthy titled: SeoulPodcast #28: Super Party Blowout
Because it centers itself on whether or not expat bloggers are mostly Conservative.
Most of the panelists on the show have been here in Korea over 2 years. With this kind of perspective they know about the blogging history here and follow closely what is verbally exchanged throughout the net.
I have yet gotten myself into every expat blog, especially the popular ones.
One word: Conservatism
The panelists on the show tried to grapple with the question of whether or not some of the expat blogs out there are conservative. Whether or not there are too many conservative blogs to begin with?
Is there a disproportionate conservative bias in Korea ex-pats and bloggers compared to other places?
Hmm? Compared to other places?
The link is between people and place.
Let me explain:
Korean society is conservative. Yes they walk around wearing designer handbags, designer cell phones that broadcast live TV, there are flat screen TV's blaring in the doctor's office and the youth wear miniskirts. But this is just a mirage. These modern aspects are merely a shell projected outward. Inward, Korean people are instinctively conservative.
Remember I am getting this all from observation.
How is Korea conservative?
Wikipedia's take on South Korea's Conservativism
The liberal conservative Grand National Party is the most popular party in South Korea. Left-wing parties are unpopular among South Koreans, the largest left-wing party receiving only some 3% of votes. After decades of free market policies, free trade, and low taxation, South Korea is a major economic power and one of the wealthiest countries in Asia. It had one of the world's fastest growing economies since the 1960s, now highly developed and the fourth largest in Asia and 13th largest in the world.
Ok, so they are liberal conservative, but what does that mean?
Freedom & Virtue: The Conservative Libertarian Debate, edited by George W. Carey, includes a number of essays which describe "the tension between liberty and morality" as "the main fault line dividing the two philosophies." Conservatives hold that shared values, morals, standards, and traditions are necessary for social order while libertarians consider individual liberty as the highest value.
- Shared values, morals ... traditions
- Social order
I. Respect your elders and those in higher power:
- At lunch time at my school the Vice President accompanies the teachers for lunch. After we are about done eating, this guy uses his time to talk to the other teachers about classroom management.
- He is the only man in the room, the rest are the woman teachers.
- Everyone nods or looks down. Only a few make comments and when this is done the comments are light and not questioning.
- The man talked for the whole lunch hour, no one was allowed to clean up and leave.
- What I saw was one man talking in a stern way, while the woman below him nodded and went along. No thought of the "group" input was shown.
- It isn't necessary to be living with a Korean family to see this. News items and other television programming project this patriarchal concept.
- TV dramas show a woman staying at home, while the father and son come home from work or school. Both demanding to be fed.
- Woman have a tougher time getting a high paying / quality job at a big company. My boyfriend had interviews at some of the top companies in Seoul and whilst he was there he only saw 1 or 2 females. Yet things have changed from the past.
- This aspect is probably not completely typical across the board, but the overall social thought that woman end up at home, while the husband is out working permeates deeply here.
All of which brings me to the point of convergence and what the Seoulpodcast was touching on.
Expats in a Conservative world:
Logically it would go like this:
If you are deeply conservative and move to South Korea than living here may be your political and social paradise.
If you are deeply or somewhat moderately liberal / democratic than living here may your political or social nightmare.
Therefore the expat will likely end up in one of those two places. Either way, I actually think that the social issues and functions that are observed here are so conservative that no matter what area of the chopping block you come from, it all can be shocking.
I think with liberalism comes warmth and open-mindedness. Hell, I came from San Francisco! The capital of liberalism. The bums on the street would even say hello. If you stood in line at the pharmacy usually you could strike up a friendly conversation. Putting aside the fact that I don't speak Korean, in general I don't get the sense of warm friendliness here. I blame it on the conservative social framework.
Put a good 'ol American in to the mix of all this and you end up feeling alienated upon alienation. When I see other foreigners, I want to say hello and strike up a conversation. But I feel it would shatter the social code, of "keep quiet."
People like to talk, analyze and express themselves, and so they blog about it. If they like the conservative atmosphere than there is praise. If it is all too shocking than there is expression of disgust and ignorance.
Let's Conclude this Long Post:
My answer Joe for you Podcast is that I don't think the expat blogs are conservative. I think it is just that our surroundings are deeply conservative, and it affects the nature of our thought and the mechanics by which we came to Korea with.
But there are miracles within this society, as if one finds a small flower pop up out of the cement sidewalk. Because when you get to know some Korean people, you start to see that although they live by a conservative code, they are not zombies.