Tuesday, November 09, 2010

G-20 and 'global etiquette'

One of the places where it has been easiest to observe the PR campaigns leading up to the G20 has been the in places connected with subways, as the police presence in subway stations has been growing for some time now (I first wrote about this in June, when I posted the photo below):

Changing trains at Gimpo Airport Station, I'm likely to see around ten police officers there a day, but nothing quite like these guys, who are likely more armed due to the fact that they are at Coex, the G20 venue:

On Line 9, with its trains and stations having screens which continuously replay the same ads, there are also several G-20 related ads, or at least ads I imagine are related, such as the one showing the subway police presence on trains and in stations as they tackle thieves and gropers

Above they take away a wanted criminal, and below is the video accompanying methods for preventing sexual harassment/groping.

I would assume that's meant to be seen by G20 visitors, though it's interesting that they are depicting groping in these videos - I'd imagine that's not the kind of thing the nation branders want to present to the world. One video which refers to the G20, brought to us by Seoul City and SK Telecom, shows both Koreans and foreigners enjoying themselves in Seoul/Korea, but the opening shot is certainly interesting:

That's actually a second or two too late - it begins with her kissing him on the cheek (the entire ad is in slow motion as well). The accompanying text reads "I made a family in Seoul "(but throws this '+a' symbol into the sentence which I don't get), much as the one below reads "I made a miracle in Seoul."

The image above is also reminiscent of this campaign during the last world cup.

What I found rather interesting the other day was a video in the subway station which showed people being rude, which then had a guy superimposed over these images of rudeness talking (via subtitles) about 'global etiquette,' making clear that knocking people out of your way and shouting into your phone loud enough to be heard in Busan are not ways to behave during the G-20.

These images make it clear what the global etiquette campaign is about (click to enlarge):

You can find out more about sunfulls here (sunny + peul ('repeul' instead of 'reply') maybe?). I wonder if the photographer deliberately positioned the western girl under that particular word?

A video about the global etiquette campaign can be found here as well.

Just in time for the G-20 is the Cheonggyecheon Lantern Festival.

The Korea Times also posted an article titled "It’s the foreign journalists, stupid!":
G20 is coming soon. And the Lee Myung-bak administration has decided to mount a massive charm offensive for the most important guests to the event who will shape the way the world audience will feel about the global gathering: foreign journalists.

The local daily, Dong-a Ilbo, said the government has embarked on a plan to “earn the hearts and minds of nearly 3,000 foreign journalists,” who will descend upon Seoul to cover the G20 conference.
Conferences like these always lead to security measures which inconvenience (or anger) locals, but parts of Seoul are taking the charm offensive in oversensitive directions:
Residents in Seoul’s Seodaemun Ward in the city’s west are baffled by their local authorities’ latest move to please the visiting VIPs. They say officials will halt operations at a waste processing facility from Nov. 10-12 for fear that the stench of food waste could tarnish the country’s image. The facility is located in an area through which the global leaders will be passing en route from Incheon International Airport to the capital.

Also ahead of the Nov. 11-12 summit, the Seoul Metropolitan Government this week launched a large-scale cleaning spree, involving more than 50,000 citizens and public officials. Divided into two stages, the project aims to first clean all roadside facilities throughout the city and then keep up their appearance until two days after the summit. (Yonhap News)
Is it just me, or is the phrase "keep up their appearance until two days after the summit" a little too obvious?

I'm curious to see how quickly (or if) the police disappear from the subways.


milton said...


+α (플러스 알파) is a buzz word of Japanese origin that means “and more” or “plus something extra” or “above and beyond.” Based on my own observations, it seems the word is empty business jargon in the same spirit of such English jargon as “synergy” and “paradigm.”

The term is now so common it merits its own entry in the 국어사전:


and from the indispensible 네이버 박사:


Unknown said...

in seoul, at least, the politeness campaigns and anti-pervert ads/vids have always been present in the subway for as long as i have lived here. on the newer trains the videos about loud talking and skirt-watching, as well as groping, have been circulating on the train tvs since 2008 at least. now they're in context with the summit. so what?

you know my argument, matt. the conservative media distributes reports of right-wing nationalism and supports the rumors created by ethnocentric and purity nationalists because it helps breed an overall discontent for progressivism in Korea and support for the conservative ruling elite. the wingnuts make the working and middle classes look stupid. and the english-speaking blogging community loves bitching about shitty treatment and absurd conservative campaigns and so is happy to represent Koreans who speak out as zealots and bigots.

if a person were to read your blog with its title, let's be honest, an objective person couldn't be blamed for believing that Korea and Koreans were purity nationalists. Koreans aren't, have never been, and Korea isn't. It's simply not true.

On the other hand, there is a fierce attempt at self-determination which is in fact an aspect of nationalism. And as in the US, there is a rather strong contingent of liberal nationalists here. I disagree with civic or liberal nationalism, but only because I'm a bit of an anarchist. It's important to point this out because it's too easy to conflate self-determination with exceptionalism.

And the Korean conservative ruling elite would like nothing more than for all of us who are concerned with Korean and the majority of Koreans to conflate the two.

The early protests have been lead by labor activist who are protesting about feared cuts to social welfare programs. The labor groups on the left that I know of are not purity nationalists yet they do want more self-determination for Korea when it comes to Korean workers. What's wrong with that? It may be nationalist spirit, but it's what class consciousness tends to be about.

That's the news I'm looking for from foreign bloggers in Korea. But nope. All I see is a perpetuation of the image that Koreans are intolerant, absurdly dogmatic and stupid. well, and sexist, too. you got that one in there.

David tz said...

It's pretty sad the government needs to mount a campaign to teach their citizens how to behave like normal human beings to their fellow humans in the world. Says a lot about Koreans and how they treat each other and others.

Anonymous said...

I've been told that after the same politeness scheme during the Seoul Olympics, things actually changed on a more permanent level. This is especially clear when reading outdated guide books-- which I unfortunately did before I came here. I was prepared for a much more jarring difference between Seoul and New York-- but I was pleasantly surprised.

kushibo said...

ah, milton beat me to the explanation.

I mean this as a compliment, though it's not going to sound like it, but as knowledgeable as you are, Matt, of the varoius zeitgeists found in South Korea, I'm surprised you didn't know what +alpha meant.

but the opening shot is certainly interesting:

That's actually a second or two too late - it begins with her kissing him on the cheek (the entire ad is in slow motion as well).

I'm glad to see more and more of such images sanctioned in South Korean media, though (as I addressed here) I think the level of acceptance is far greater than one would get from a steady diet of K-blogs.

I look forward to reading more about your thoughts on the G20. I wish I were there (though Hillary did stop by the Aloha State on the way to Asia in preparation for this).

kushibo said...

shotgunkorea wrote:
I've been told that after the same politeness scheme during the Seoul Olympics, things actually changed on a more permanent level.

Many changes occurred. Most notable (to me) was that until 1988, nobody wore shorts (outside their immediate living area) even in the muggiest summer weather, but from summer of 1989 and beyond, lots of people wore shorts, and from the mid-1990s or so it was the norm. I'm talking men and women both.

matt said...

Thanks for that. I had wondered over whether it was an 'a' or an alpha.

Gary Norris:
I hadn't noticed the anti groping ads before, likely because the lines I use(d prior to line 9's opening) did not usually have TVs on board. The subway police ads only appeared awhile ago on Line 9 and I've been riding it almost daily for months. There have been ads on Line 9 saying don't run on escalators and wait for people to get off before piling on, but nothing as comprehensive as the ads that have recently appeared with 'global etiquette campaign' and 'G20' on them (and surprisingly enough, I made a connection between the two of them).

I'm aware of your argument, which says that the right is nationalist and the left isn't, they're just 'self-determinist.' Unfortunately, the left can be just as nationalist in their means to that end, using racist caricatures of foreigners which differ from the propaganda to the north only by degree.

the english-speaking blogging community loves bitching about shitty treatment and absurd conservative campaigns and so is happy to represent Koreans who speak out as zealots and bigots.

I have no idea what you are talking about here. One more time, more clearly, with an example to illustrate, please.

I wasn't even writing on these topics when I started this blog, but it's nice to see I picked a name so open to interpretation.

That's the news I'm looking for from foreign bloggers in Korea. But nope. All I see is a perpetuation of the image that Koreans are intolerant, absurdly dogmatic and stupid. well, and sexist, too. you got that one in there.

You got that all from my post? Incredible.

I actually brought a 1988 guide when I first came to Seoul, and one day in Bucheon, as I stood on a bus roaring around corners, holding onto a hand rest with one hand and onto two heavy bags of groceries with the other, I looked at the people sitting down and remembered a bit from the book, which went something like this: "You're standing on a subway and feel your bag being moved; but it's not a pickpocket, it's someone who is sitting down offering to hold it for you." Just as I was thinking, "I guess that's changed, a women who was sitting down reached for my bags of groceries and set them down next to her. What perfect timing.

No, I wasn't aware of that term (interesting story about the sudden prevalence of shorts, though).

milton said...


Ethnic nationalism is a prominent feature of certain factions of the Korean left. This is not just a conservative fantasy. The Korean left is split between two groups: the People’s Democracy (민중 민주) faction and the National Liberation (민족 해방) faction. The latter is unabashedly pro-North Korea, anti-American, and ethnocentric. North Korea’s ideological system is neither progressive, nor left-wing in the traditional sense and is founded on the principal of the superiority and exceptionalism of the Korean “race.” Not the use of the loaded term “민족” in the Korean term for the NL faction.

The former group is more along the lines of what we in the West are used to when Westerners think of “progressivism” (equal rights, income redistribution, social welfare, workers’ rights, etc.). The latter group is represented by the insidious Kang Ki-gap’s (un)Democratic Labor Party. The former, by the less popular New Progressive Party. The mainstream left-of-center Democratic Party and news outlets like the Hankyoreh also lean toward the PD faction, though they tend to also focus on "traditional" progressive issues.

Andrew said...

Isn't it strange that the G20 etiquette posters don't feature any black haired Korean-looking people?

Moule said...

Hi Matt, your blog is always an interesting read.

Just a little detail: the text in the G20 ad reads "miracle" (기적), not "family" (가족).

Kamiza said...

What you say may be true, but it is so much fun to spot all the stupid things that some dorks come up with in K. Land.
Make a blog talking about the off-the-wall ignorant stuff Canadians or folks in the US so and I'll post there every day.

Come on, how f'ing common is it to have a racist group like AES hunting "misbehaving foreigners"
or city hall's like down in Daegu
(or was it Daejon?) a while back hanging signs on the street that say "We are watching you, all you foreign teachers doing private lessons." ?????
You can't make up stuff this bizarre and stupid.
How about the recent thing about no AIDS tests for "entertainers" but those for English teachers on E-2 visas? This is the land of the absurd and it is so fun to call such BS for what it is: BS.

Again, make that blog about the UK or wherever and the stupid crap going on there, and you'll get lotsa posters too.

I think Matt's blog title is perfect, even though Ole Lizzy Bishop was a total and typical arrogant White English bird--but that's what makes her books so fun to read!

kushibo said...

Exit86 wrote:
Come on, how f'ing common is it to have a racist group like AES hunting "misbehaving foreigners"

Not that I think there isn't absurd stuff going on in South Korea, but surely groups like the Minutemen, armed folks patrolling the border because the think the government doesn't do it, trumps the AES in some way, no?

kushibo said...

BTW, do you have a link to City Hall in Taejŏn or Taegu hanging up the "We're watching you" sign?

Kamiza said...

Hey Kushibo,
The Minutemen are the same as AES: dumb. I think it may be a never- ending endeavor to try and hierarchicalize the stupidity of stupid people/groups. In both cases, you have a bunch of dumb asses.

Good question about the Daegu/Daejon link. This happened
about five or six years back. I think I saw the picture on Marmot's or maybe good ole Daves.
I'll try to find it on those sites doin the search keyword game.
I'll post it here when I find it.

matt said...

Many Korean comics depict Koreans as having different colours of hair and light coloured faces (influenced as they are by Japanese manga, which do the same).

Actually, the first photo of the Korean woman kissing the white guy is a screen shot taken just before the text appeared in the video, which read 'family.'

Kushibo and Exit 86:
Here's the photo. The Korean language sign is quite interesting too, seeing as it uses the term "올바른 자녀의 교육," which is similar to AES's current name. They were originally posted here, and I posted the English language one here.

kushibo said...

Thanks for that, matt. So it was the Daejeon Foreign Foreign Language Association putting up the banners, seen here on a bus.

That's a bit different from City Hall doing it.

And continuing my theme of English teachers as akin to Korea's Mexicans, such threats by hagwon owners trying to use legal enforcement to protect their businesses are highly reminiscent of occasional efforts in Orange County (and elsewhere) to hold onto political power with threats of turning people into Immigration:

The Republican Party hired 20 uniformed guards last year to monitor Latino voters as they went to the polls in Santa Ana. The guards allegedly asked Latino voters for proof of their citizenship, wrote down license-plate numbers, handled one or more ballots and carried bilingual signs which read, "Non-citizens can't vote."

Before the election, Republican Party officials heard rumors that Democrats were planning to bus non-citizens to polling places to vote illegally, Republican leaders said.

And I'll preemptively agree with Exit86: That's also dumb.

seouldout said...

The origin of α is the world of finance. It's a measure of risk-adjusted performance. I could write gobs on it (I love risk and the analysis of it), but suffice it to say it's something every investor inherently knows, thought often not by the Greek letter. In both Japan and Korea you'll see +α used in investment advertisements.

Milton is right that in Japan it evolved beyond the constraints of finance.

On to the ad you saw on the subway. Obviously there's risk and reward in any marriage, but I haven't seen the +α used for solely Korean ones. Perhaps the ad suggests international unions are riskier, so the rewards need to be greater. Perhaps the rewards outweigh the risks, i.e., people see more risk than actually exist.

The Koreans were far more polite prior to the '88 Olympics. But Koreans do "politeness" differently. There's the inferior/superior relationship, and there's also the existence-of-the-unknown-being relationship. As a foreigner you're the unknown being, and you ought to be dismissed like an unknown Korean, but these campaigns elevate the foreigners' status, i.e., not only do you exist, but you and your needs not only deserve to be considered, Koreans needs to adapt to you. You're almost a superior.

Re short pants - not one of the hot politeness issue that initially spring to my mind. I had many Koreans tell me in '89, '90 and until '94 or so how lucky I was to be a foreigner because I could wear short pants - many called them "hot pants", but my shorts were about 5cm above the knee... hardly racy. And some ill-tempered men scolded me on the street - deservedly, I think, since I was guilty of the faux pas. Of course older Korean men would often roll up their trousers during the the hot summer days. I don't recall women having issues with shorts because they were already showing leg when wearing skirts. They got nailed for showing navels in '96 or so. The dawn of the baegop t-shirt was pretty darn exciting.

Kamiza said...

Cheers Matt on the daejon sign link. You saved me a ton of looking.

Ok,not City hall--that's what happens when you get such news from the dorks on Daves,etc. and not from a good site like Gusts.

Thanks again!