Sunday, May 25, 2008


A different Brian, linked recently to an interesting post by the Gypsy Scholar, who quotes [with a set of adjustments] extensively from a book by Bruce Bawer. I am uncertain what the post is about.

JeollanamBrian uses the word Gangwondon't, which is kind of clever, except that the article only appears to be about Gangwon Province or South Korea in general.

The style is brilliant; the post describes the unfortunate but not surprising reaction of the proprietor of a B & B to an American. Briefly, the American and his friends are treated badly, they complain mildly and are vilified by the proprietor and the local media.
The article ends:
For me, the episode raised a few questions. Why had the South Korean press paid so much attention to a mere travel article? Why had it then been so eager to repeat a cartoonish lie and obsess over it for days? Were these actions reflective of a society more serious, more thoughtful, than the one I'd left? Or did they reflect a culture -- or, at least, a media class -- that was so awed by America as to be flattered by even its slightest attentions, but that was also reflexively, irrationally belligerent toward it?

This sort of story will sound depressingly familiar to many expats living here in South Korea.

However, the story isn't about South Korea at all. It's about an experience that Bruce Bawer had in Norway and recounts in pages 96-97 of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. Another, shorter version of the story can be found online, in Bawer's article "Hating America,", Vol. LX, No. 3: Autumn 2007.

Here's the code for deciphering the story posted above: Korean = European; South Korea = Norway; Gangwon-do = Telemark; The Hankyoreh = Aftenposten; Hanwoo (i.e., Korean beef) = reindeer; South Korean = Norwegian; Grand National Party = Conservative Party; and MBC = NRK.

Again, although the story is of bad behaviour, it seems entirely believable that it happened in Korea. I think the idea is clever and the fact that I believed it, when I thought it was set in Korea, says a lot about anti-Americanism in Korea and my own prejudices as well.

Still, as it is not, in fact, about Korea or Gangwondo, it seems unfair for Brian to describe it that way. The Gypsy also links his point to the naivete of most American travellers, which, well, ...I'm a simple guy and wasn't sure what the point was.


Brian said...

Awww, please don't misunderstand. My point with "gangwonDONT" was just to be clever, and if there had been a story about Jeju-do I would've used the same line. I realize the article was not actually about Korea, and that Gangwon was probably randomly chosen. I'm sorry for slandering your province, and I'm surprised people took offense to it. To be honest, I think most people will realize that I'm just joking around . . . and, well, to be honest I don't think most people even know what Gangwon is, or that it's a "do." I've only been to Chuncheon up there, but I had an excellent three-day vacation.

kwandongbrian said...

Yeah, probably I am just projecting my own problems on the article. I skimmed through it once and left thinking what a jerk that Gangwon farmer was. I forget why I read it a second time but only after that second read did I catch on - it was pretty clear and probably was obvious - but I completely missed it the first time.

I felt the Gangwondon't bit was clever. Again, describing my own limitations, I think of province as do (doe) and not do (doo). Similarly, a while ago I read about a 'bow string' and wondered why the guy didn't say rope - who uses a string to tie their boat to a dock. It took me a while to recognize the writer was describing 'bow and arrow', not 'bow, port, starboard, stern'.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hi, Gypsy Scholar here. I chose Gangwondo merely because it is mountainous and isolated and therefore would fit well the scene described in Norway.

My point? . . . Well, I intended to show that 'we' American expats can easily misinterpret Korean anti-Americanism if we lack a larger context. Now, I've lived elsewhere as an expat, so I've experienced anti-Americanism in various places, and when I read Bawer's anecdote, my first thought was that this could easily have happened in Korea (or elsewhere).

So, I took liberties, but only to provoke thought, and I'm sorry for the confusion.

(Deep, Lee Myung-bak-style bow.)

Jeffery Hodges

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kwandongbrian said...

I wonder if there is blog worthy material in my apparent humourlessness. Am I turning into an old crank?

I guess we both apologize.

As I stated in the original post, your post seemed entirely believable with your changes so you were right to make them for comparison's sake. I've got another comment that will fit better with your post so see you on your blog in a few moments.