Monday, May 21, 2012

Don't Imagine

The 2005 English Spectrum Incident

Part 1: English Spectrum and 'Ask The Playboy'
Part 2: The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money
Part 3: English Spectrum shuts down as Anti-English Spectrum is created
Part 4: How to hunt foreign women
Part 5: Did the foreigners who denigrated Korean women throw a secret party?
Part 6: The 'Ask The Playboy' sexy costume party
Part 7: Stir over ‘lewd party’ involving foreigners and Korean women
Part 8: The 2003 post that tarred foreign English teachers as child molesters
Part 9: Netizens shocked by foreign instructor site introducing how to harass Korean children
Part 10: Movement to expel foreign teachers who denigrated Korean women
Part 11: "Middle school girls will do anything"
Part 12: Netizens propose 'Yankee counter strike force'
Part 13: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 1

Part 14: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 2
Part 15: Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath
Part 16: Thai female laborers and white English instructors
Part 17: 'Regret' over t
he scandal caused by confessions of foreign instructors
Part 18: "Korean men have no excuse"
Part 19: "Unfit foreign instructo
rs should be a 'social issue'"
Part 20: 'Clamor' at foreigner English education site
Part 21: Foreign instructor: "I want to apologize"
Part 22: No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'
Part 23: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 1
Part 24: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 2
Part 25: Don't Imagine

On January 20, 2005, the Seoul Sinmun published the following column:
[Lee Jin's Sex & City] Don't imagine

Not long ago, while cleaning up computer files, Minsu found a photo of his girlfriend kissing another man. Surprised, he immediately wanted to hear the entire story from his girlfriend of how the photo was taken, but he resolved to quietly bring up the subject when the opportunity arose. So a few days ago, when his girlfriend returned from language training, he recalled that he had used her computer to organize photos taken on a digital camera.

Eventually, he called his girlfriend and asked about the picture. She had an embarrassed look on her face as she was sorry, and she admitted that, while carried away by the atmosphere, she had kissed another man at a new years party in the U.S. She explained that it was nothing more than a spontaneous, one-second kiss. It was a meaningless photo, but she added that she tried to delete if first as he might misunderstand her if he saw it.

When he first saw the photo, he imagined all kinds of things about his girlfriend when she did language training in the U.S., wondering "Did she cheat on me with another guy?" "If they kissed, couldn't they also have had sex?" His heart hurt by this, he shook with a sense of betrayal. However Minsu, with his cautious character, decided to first trust her. He knew he couldn't conclude from only a photo of a simple kiss that she had cheated on him. As well, he certainly wasn't at the scene and so could not accurately judge the situation. So he reserved judgement and believed her words.

A misunderstanding over a photo took place recently on the Internet, much like Minsu's photo. With a number of party photos being spread on the internet, the subjects of the photos are receiving a great mental shock. The photos are of some women and foreign men hanging out together, and were taken at a party hosted by a foreign English instructor job site which had received attacks because it had denigrated Korean women. At this level there was no problem, but photos of a woman wearing a wet t-shirt and dancing were problematic and coverage expanded saying "Korean women and foreign men had a group orgy party."

At first, some foreign instructors were condemned and criticized, but after the party photos were spread the Korean women were being attacked instead. With their photos floating around the internet, the women in the photos are not able to hold back their frustration. Even worse, their personal details have become known even to outsiders.

Because they were seen dancing with foreigners, they are suffering personal attacks and being treated like sinners by thousands of netizens. It was nothing more than a normal party. The photo of the women wearing a wet t-shirt through which her breasts could be seen of course came out because it was provocative and sensational, but there will certainly be different interpretations depending on the angle it's taken from or the mind of the person looking at it. Looking at this incident, the phrase "I only see what I know" keeps coming to mind.
While the women in the photos were condemned (especially in the internet media), there were a number of articles like this one which showed sympathy for them or criticized Korean men. In fact, the next day the Donga Ilbo would publish an article titled "Ugly Korean men... embarrassed to death"... stir over 'In-depth 60 Minutes'" in which it looked at the embarrassed reaction to an episode of ‘In-depth 60 Minutes’ which looked at the behavior overseas of Korean men. Not all of the reaction was embarrassed, of course; one netizen, who I think we can assume is male, said that Korean men were behaving just like men around the world, that the way it was reported was unacceptable, and that "The program should be deleted for its injury to citizens' pride." To shore up their position, netizens like this said that not too long ago, foreign instructors had written on a site... Clearly, for such people, when it comes to Koreans and foreigners, the victimization can only go one way.


kushibo said...

While this is interesting, at some point aren't you doing the same thing that other groups are doing: rehashing events from years ago in such a way that it artificially seems like the same things were not only commonplace then but also today?

Just a thought?

matt said...

There's a lot going on with this, well beyond English teachers, though that's what I imagine you are focusing on. So we shouldn't look at the discourse on 'cyber terror'? Because that's one of the first things I wrote about on this blog, and this incident, timed with the entertainer 'x-file,' ties very closely in with that. And the translations I've put up should help to make clear why it was that some spoiled girl who refused to clean up her dog's shit was eventually far more sympathetic than 'foreigners' cumrags' who dared to be photographed with 'yankees,' harkening directly to U.S soldiers, the misrepresentation of whom by leftist groups has been a concern of yours in the past.

kushibo said...

Sorry. Didn't mean you shouldn't do it. It's important to chronicle stuff, and you certainly are one of the best when it comes to piecing a story together.

I only meant that a downside of this is that it tends to freeze time at a period in the past, and it also tends to highlight people that may not be typical or representative as if they are the dominant discourse.

If the world moves on, would we recognize it? Do we let the negative past experiences of others inform our own experiences today and in the future? How valid are the impressions of an obsessedly sexist and racist band of bothers from seven to ten years in a country where, by your own blog title, ephemeral popular gusts are what substitute for public opinion. :)

It's an odd phenomenon in South Korea that from the mid-1990s to the present day, life for anglophones has gotten demonstrably far better in virtually all categories except pay, yet the griping seems (perhaps because it's concentrated on the Internet) far worse. (I'm not referring to you, but commenters are some bloggers, but they are citing AES and similar issues.)

On pay, the one area where there has been so much stagnation if not outright erosion, there seems to be far less grousing.

Anyway, I meant my comment not as a criticism but only as a point I'd wondered about as this series went on, especially as I saw others citing your series as signs of how terrible things are (present).

I was hoping to see your take on, say, the accused North Korean spy in the National Assembly and other such things. Or the Japanese consulate trying to block the "Comfort Women" plaque in New Jersey. There's a whole lot of new out there begging for the unique Popular Gusts perspective.

matt said...

Unfortunately, I just don't have time. I translated almost all of this series more than two months ago, which is the only reason there's as much content on the blog as there is at the moment. Take a look for the non E.S. stuff, and you'll see it's pretty thin on the ground. Hopefully I'll have more time in the near future.

As for 'gusts,' they're never entirely ephemeral, are they? There's often something of substance left in their wake. Be they new laws, changed public perception, or empty political promises. Though I'd hope people would notice the posts are dated 2005...