Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Response(s) to the MBC report

The below video, titled "Shocking Report: Foreigners Dating Koreans Conspiracy! — 충격보기: 외국인과 교제음모!" - a parody of the dreaded MBC report - was posted on Youtube yesterday.

Good fun, and well made, too. I'm not so sure about the Nazi reference, but references to similar home-grown groups (like Yi Pom-sok's Korean Youth Corps of the late 1940s) would probably go over everyone's heads.

Regarding the MBC video (which I looked at here and here), I thought this paragraph from John Ralston Saul 'Reflections of a Siamese Twin: Canada at the End of the Twentieth Century' was interesting:
The professional victim is a professional innocent. As the one to whom things are done, the victim has no responsibility. This is a comfortable position of passivity. And, although it is difficult to give meaning to such a phrase, this is the classic description of a colonial mind-set - that of the passive victim. Not that there is necessarily any catastrophic level of actual victimization. But if this sense of victimization is kept at a level of repressed hysteria, then it becomes impossible to distinguish in any useful way between real cases of injustice and the psychotic state. In both cases it is the mind-set which will determine how each event will be interpreted. And in general it is easier to mobilize a sense of mistreatment over the mythological wrong than over the real.
Perhaps in regard to this I could talk about the belief that Americans were trying to send diseased meat to poison Koreans, the East Sea / Sea of Japan 'dispute,' the way Japanese claims to Dokdo are blown out of proportion, or Corea vs Korea, about which, after debunking the idea, Kushibo said
"If anything, these fabrications diminish what has actually happened to real people at the hands of the Japanese. It is an insult to the Comfort Women and the forced laborers, for example, because it says to those people, "Sorry, but your actual suffering is not enough for us to whip up anger against Japan, so we have to make stuff up."
I also found it interesting how, in the furor over foreigners in China that occurred in May (see here, here and here), CCTV anchor Yang Rui's comments on his blog (translated at Rectified.name) also portrayed China as being the victim:
Philippine soldiers forced Chinese fishermen at gunpoint to take off their shirts under the baking sun. If the [Chinese] maritime patrol boat hadn’t gotten there in time to stop their humiliation of China, these Chinese people who had been fishing near their own country’s territorial waters might have been arrested, fined everything they owned — some of them might even have been killed and thrown into the ocean to hide the evidence. Western media doesn’t report that. I tell the truth, and they accuse me of engaging in monologue, not “Dialogue.”
As I'm not really familiar with the way in which nationalism plays out in China, I found that interesting (considering especially how China is perceived by its neighbours and the west). Not that it should be surprising, of course; the Saul quote above refers to regional feelings of victimization in Canada, and the lack of responsibility which accompanies feelings of victimization certainly make it attractive wherever you are.

But, having mentioned MBC in relation to the quotation above, I should note that I wasn't referring to the portrayal of Korean women in the video. I thought this sentence in Saul's paragraph on feelings of victimization worth considering: "[I]t is the mind-set which will determine how each event will be interpreted."

The foreigners and their Korean significant others at the 반MBC Facebook page - who put up photos of themselves as parts of happy couples or families - mocked the idea put forth in the MBC report that the women making up the Korean half of the equation were 'victims.' Judging by some of the comments there however, it would certainly seem that some people feel victimized:
I got my western foreign friend raped by a Korean man in here...anyway who cares,,, Korean will always treat us as foreign objects...right or wrong the foreigner here, is a trash. There iis no way a foreigner will be treated as a local...
Or from this column:
However, to be accused of coming to Korea to sleep with Korean women, commit acts of fraud, of being a heavy drinker, carouser and spreading AIDS, I feel like MBC has raped my family.
Or "Let them feel the full brunt of the opposition to their vitriolic racist tripe."

These are not statements which encourage reflection or apologies, and I can't help thinking that a "sense of victimization [...] kept at a level of repressed hysteria" might describe the first two examples, while the militant force of the latter conjures up images of Spartacus preparing his slave army for battle, convinced of his moral superiority over the Romans. Some of the posts there had me wondering if I should expect several incidents of self immolation in front of MBC's headquarters.

At any rate, if the comments translated here are any indication, it seems netizens who were aware of the foreign furor over the report were generally critical of it, though as one person said of the 'silent protest' in front of MBC, "They are protesting in Korea, yet what’s up with all those English picket signs? They basically look down on us, so they had it coming." The signs in question can be seen in this article, and certainly left me scratching my head; the couples were made up of both Koreans and foreigners, and yet no one thought to write placards in Korean? It's not difficult to see where the attitude of "They basically look down on us" comes from; even the Japanese person who 'vandalized' the comfort women statue took the time to write 'Takeshima is Japanese land' in Korean.

As for "I feel like MBC has raped my family," that comment was clearly not meant to communicate hurt feelings to MBC (it was in English (again), after all), but to provide to those who already agreed with him an over-the-top, visceral metaphor for the victimization they felt as 'targets' of the MBC piece (despite MBC making it clear they meant to target 'senseless' Korean women). That these readers were mostly male, and that criticism by female readers which described the use of the term 'rape' as being just as offensive as the sentiments in the original MBC video was met with a response which justified its use and ignored their concerns - much as MBC had done in regard to the original video - made for quite a bit of irony.