Friday, April 12, 2013
One of the greatest ironies of Korea* is that their name in Korean is "Han Guk", "One Country". And as Koreans, they refer to themselves as "One People". North Korea, Buk Han, is "North One", and South Korea, Nam Han, is "South One". So, One Country and One People, divided. Sounds like a teaching in duality, just one this missed by most of those involved.
I don't know much about the North One, but the South One is further divided by age, sex, salary, car make, apartment size/location (actually, mostly just divided by money, in general...). When you meet someone, you get a stream of questions that effectively place you either above or below them on the status pole.
One of the first things I was taught about teaching English here is that to motivate the students to participate, divide them against each other. Their competitive nature will drive them to do better than the other team. On the other hand, I find trying to get them to work together is very challenging. With occasional exceptions, boys and girls will never work together, and it's almost as unlikely that a child even a year older than another will agree to participate together. I've had students drop out of class because there were younger students in the same class.
Back to the bigger issue, since the One Country became two, they were competing to be the best, the biggest, the richest... Initially, the North One actually had the stronger economy but the South One caught up in the seventies. This drive to beat them is still evident, people trading their life for the benefit of the economy, putting money before all else.
I really don't think there is any winner, just a very noisy, sore loser.
*Korea is a mispronunciation of either the Goryo or Goguryo Dynasty that both traded with Arabian merchants in ancient times.