Dear US Media, please stop touting this “well, you see, it’s symptomatic of their culture” bullshit in your coverage of the Sewol Ferry Accident. Why do we have to have this conversation over and over again? Why do you insist on seeing this disaster, and every freaking disaster in Asia,as an inherent problem of Asian culture? Huh, it’s almost like you’re being racist. Oh wait, you’re TOTALLY BEING RACIST.
Yes, Korea is a very Confucian society. Yes, there is a lot more inherent respect for authority here and less open disagreement with authority here but that doesn't mean that Koreans are fucking sheep and that doesn't mean that YOU wouldn't have stayed put if someone in a uniform told you that everything was fine, and please stay in your cabin. You don’t think we all react to authority in strange and often unhealthy ways, do we need to talk about the Milgram Experiment at Yale?
I’m a twenty-nine year old American woman and I’m pretty sure I would listen to the fucking captain of a ship or plane or whatever, if they told me to remain calm and that things were going to be fine. Meanwhile, this was a ship full of TEENAGERS. Really, did they really listen to the captain because of some flaw in their culture and not because they were kids and he was the fucking captain? Yeah, yeah, you’re not actually saying “flaw” in your coverage, you’re not explicitly blaming Koreaness for this disaster, but fucking examine the implications of what you’re saying, okay?
AND, stop acting as if these kids sat there in cabins that were filling up with water thinking “oh, well, the Captain told me everything is fine so I guess everything is fine, because I am incapable of thinking for myself, because I am Korean.” Yes, people listened to the Captain at first (a man who, by the way, is currently under arrest for manslaughter because of his actions) but then the ship started listing to the side and eventually tipped over and capsized. People WERE TRAPPED IN THE SHIP BECAUSE IT WAS AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE. When the ship started tipping many, MANY people died trying to save other people.
Have you heard about Jeong Cha Woong? It was his 17th birthday. Here's what survivors said about him:
"He died after giving his own life vest to his drowning friend and hurling himself into the waters to rescue others."
Have you heard about Park Ji Young? She was a crew member on the ship. She was 22 years old. A survivor said this about her:
“I repeatedly asked her why she did not first wear a life jacket. Park just said that she would get out of the ship after making sure that all passengers were out. She said the crew including her would be the last (to escape).”
“Park pushed shocked passengers toward the exit even when the water was up to her chest.”
(Those quotes are taken from this article on the Korea Herald)
Do these people sound like lemmings to you? Does it sound like they were contentedly sitting in cabins while they filled up with water?
US Media, do your research and stop fucking acting like you’re providing “insightful commentary” when you tow out the same racist bullshit you always do when something bad happens in Asia. Yes, Asian cultures are different than your culture, BUT, that doesn't mean that cultural differences are always a factor in every fucking thing that happens AND if you want to start talking about how aspects of their cultures cause these disasters then you need to start talking about how your culture causes your disasters too.
I’m sorry to rant about this at you my dear, not-being-racist-about-this readers, but my Dad brought this up when we talked on skype today, as something interesting he’d heard on TV about Korean culture, and then he totally didn't get it when I said it was racist and that it happens all the time and I need to vent, because IT IS RACIST AND IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.
Also, everyone should go read Ask a Korean’s excellent posts about "Culturalism" and the Asiana flight that crash landed last year because he’s more articulate about this than I am and because there’s your proof that this is ALWAYS the discussion the US media wants to have, regardless of the varying circumstances and facts of the actual situations. “Oh, this flight crashed? Must be because they’re Asian!” “Oh, people drown on that ferry? Must be because they’re Asian!”
To quote from his post:
“Did Korean culture actually play a factor in the Asiana crash? Perhaps. I am in no position to question the expert, seeing that I am not an expert in flight safety. (Most of us are not.) Nor do I begrudge the fact that the expert probed whether a national culture impacted airline safety. It is important to ensure that flights are safe, and it would be irresponsible for the person in charge of the investigation to not examine all potential factors for the crash. If a well-supported research, backed by solid evidence, states that culture plays a role in airline safety, wonderful. That knowledge will make our flights safer.
But again, the point was not about whether or not culture plays a role in airline safety. The point was about culturalism. That is to say: why does this curiosity about the correlation between culture and plane crashes arise selectively? Why is it that, in the 2009 Air France crash, there was no discussion at all about the role of French culture in plane crashes? Why was there no discussion about American culture when a Southwest flight crash-landed in New York, mere weeks after the Asiana crash? (Is there anyone who sincerely believes that, in the upcoming NTSB hearing about the Southwest flight crash, there will be an expert discussing the American culture's contribution to the crash?) If national culture is such an important concept that must be examined to promote airline safety, why does the discussion about cultural factors never happen when a European or an American plane crashes?”