After The Korea Times published my article, some people agreed with most of what I said. Others might think that I was pretty biased. Besides, the producer of the Café Seoul podcast wanted to request an interview with me, because my article has become a discussion topic among expats in Seoul.
Anyway, my column has proved to be controversial and sensitive. However, I want to write about the same issue again to reduce misunderstandings between Koreans and foreigners. I also aim to promote cultural awareness between locals and expats by touching on a provocative theme.
I like to drink beer, especially during the sizzling summer. I drink a beer fast to cool down. Spending two minutes drinking a beer is too long for me. I watched a movie star advertise a beer brand on TV. He expressed his pleasure after consuming it. His actions provoke TV viewers to think of beer and drink it more and more.
On the contrary, most foreigners talk over a beer and they don't eat the side dishes such as dried squid, snacks and fruit, which average Koreans usually enjoy with beer. Hence, Westerners are more economical than Koreans when they drink beer. They don't have to waste a lot of money on eating food with beer. Nevertheless, I still don't understand many foreigners who take 30 minutes to drink a draft beer during a conversation. These foreigners drink a beer too patiently.
In Korea, seniors generally pay the money for juniors when they go out together for dinner and go to the bar to hang out. I definitely say that Koreans have an immaculate virtue, which foreigners cannot think of. A senior feels the responsibility for taking care of juniors by treating them to some food using his money. The juniors meanwhile feel happier to know that their seniors are willing to care them. Later, they will show more sincerity to their seniors. I think the unilateral trade from the seniors is the steppingstone to progressing favorable friendship with the juniors.
In a nutshell, Koreans are so generous and benevolent. I wonder if this character originates from a "collective society," in which people prefer "we" to "I."
I think that Koreans are more polite and respectful to the old. I also think foreigners should learn from Koreans about how they treat the aged with courtesy. A British friend of mine alleged that he could punch an elderly person if he is lazy and an alcoholic, while I said that we should embrace them whatever they do.
Westerners are even reluctant to give special favor for an old lady. For instance, when I was in Brisbane, Australia, I saw a vacant seat on the bus stop. As I was a conventional Korean man, I was supposed to yield it to the old lady who stood right next to me. At the moment I found a young lady staring at me so unkindly and sharply. She seemed to be extremely upset with me. She wanted to take the seat for herself. She never cared about the person who was at least 70.
I think that Westerners hardly regard the elderly as important and trustworthy. Worse, they make light of them, because they are physically weak. What I am saying is that ''All men are equal" does not make sense in this regard. We should be more attentive to the old who have devoted their life to the community. They are worthy of being loved and revered whatever they are.
On the other hand, I saw a Canadian friend in a bus who has lived in Gwangju for over 10 years. He was willing to give his seat to the old lady after finding that she was standing right behind his seat. I thought that Korean society has taught him how to respect the old and that a desirable tradition in Korea has affected him in a more positive way.
The writer lives in Gwangju, which literally means the "City of Light." His email address is email@example.com.