14 Comments

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  1. Kevin Kim
    Kevin Kim October 13, 2008 at 2:17 am . Reply

    Great thoughts as always, man.

    Korean society is being pulled taffee-like in so many directions, and one trend is the overall decrease in face-to-face interactions, something that used to be the lifeblood of group-centered, Confucianistic Korean society. PC-bahng culture, home computers, and online shopping might be seen, especially by older Koreans, as eroding the social bedrock.

    To be fair, we deal with somewhat similar issues in the West, but I appreciate your look at how these tidal forces are playing out in Korea.

    Kevin

  2. Charles
    Charles October 13, 2008 at 11:37 am . Reply

    To address an early point in your essay, some places in the West are moving away from “the customer is always right.” In fact, I seem to be reading a lot these days about how the customer is not always right. The most obvious example to come to mind is David Chang of Momofuku in NYC. I suppose it could be argued that Chang and those like him cater to a special breed of people, and that with the advent of people like Gordon Ramsey it has suddenly become cool to get yelled at, but whatever the case, I believe the age of the customer being eternally and unequivocally right might be coming to an end. For now, at least.

  3. Val
    Val October 14, 2008 at 11:46 am . Reply

    the gendered patterns of consumption bit is interesting…what you said about the men feeling uneasy about women and their starbucks makes me think of something I read in this book (Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris) which said something about spinster clustering and how the guilds and town fathers were made uneasy by women forming households on their own, without being under the control of a male relative or (to a lesser extent) representative of the government or church (this is I suspect where you get the Magdalen houses in Ireland much later as well I suspect) and not just the idea of women meeting with women or women spending money but young women especially, quite possibly in this new interstitial state between childhood (controlled by parents) and adulthood (controlled by patrilocal in-laws) . . . that the Starbucks itself calls attention to the creation of this new young adulthood or whatever one might call it; not just the idea of women spending their own money on a foreign product, but the creation of a new state of being for women in general, as something other than married, widowed, or to-be-married. Of course you don’t see so much of the creation of that state until early in the modern era with the manufactories over here, arguably before the gin shops and after the beginning of the end for the guilds, which had already started shutting widows out….

    Very tried, but hoping that made some sense.

  4. Junsok Yang
    Junsok Yang October 14, 2008 at 5:53 pm . Reply

    I would have commented earlier, but I’ve been really busy lately. (and I have a make-up class in twenty minutes), so the comment is going to be short again. :)

    I think the general opinion is that consumer service is better now than it was compared to 1950s-1980s. Consumer service really rose in the 1990s as more markets were opened up to imports, and services became a very important competition factor for Korean retailers and manufacturers. (Maybe Lime should ask her parents or grandparents about how difficult it was to get a defective TV set fixed or changed in 1970s).

    Concerning emerging “consumer” culture, the “accepted” interpretation of Korean culture is that it has only recently became a consumerist culture, because until about 1990, Koreans saved a lot, and Korean consumer goods market was relatively closed, so Koreans did not have a lot to spend, and manufacturers did not need to pander to consumers. This mindset persists today. When policymakers and economists in America talk about increasing economic growth, they talk about increasing consumption; in Korea, the policymakers and economists emphasize increasing investment and exports (and cutting down consumption to increase savings to channel more investment). This view, however, is changing in the last five years or so.

    About female consumerism, I think you make some good points; and in many ways it may be due to changing culture and emergence of women. Traditionally men getting drunk like frat boys have been culturally acceptable (for at least last 100 years, probably longer); and women’s place was in the home – not going out drinking (coffee or soju). Also, until about 1990, most women depended on men (husband or father) for spending money, so if they consumed “wastefully”, people frowned on them. (Since women were spending other people’s money). I think Such views remain for both men and women even today. Many men (especially older men) do not like women spending money because of the traditional view of women, and the (probably mistaken) assumption that these women are spending money earned by their husbands or fathers; and many women (young and old, though obviously not all women) expect men to treat them and pay for everything because of that older traditional mind set. (I don’t know for sure, but I think younger men resent these type of women because women now generally have easier time getting first jobs than men, and women don’t have to spend nearly two years wasting time in the Army).

  5. Julia
    Julia October 15, 2008 at 12:45 am . Reply

    I go to Starbucks frequently (usually in Texas, as I live in the middle of it), and always get tea, because my body doesn’t handle coffee well at all.

    I’m curious as to what sort of tea you can get in a Starbucks in Korea, now.

  6. William G
    William G October 16, 2008 at 4:35 pm . Reply

    I’m curious as to what sort of tea you can get in a Starbucks in Korea, now.

    The sort of swill they should be red-faced about calling tea.

    The Queen would be aghast!

  7. Otto Silver
    Otto Silver October 17, 2008 at 1:18 pm . Reply

    Ti-Amo, a chain of coffee shop you might know have one location here in Two Thousand City. I have often sat there, the only man, and wondered about why I am the only man.

    Interestingly, over the last few months more men have been coming in, but almost always with their girlfriends. Once or twice now I have seen groups of guys sit there, actually having coffee, but it is so strange that they are the first things you notice when you enter.

    Maybe the growing number of men who don’t drink alcohol will slowly start drifting to the coffee shops?

  8. William G
    William G October 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm . Reply

    I like the green tea as well.

    But whatever they’re calling that stuff at Starbucks and the rest of the coffee shops here is, “good tea” it ain’t.

  9. @nan5o
    @nan5o November 7, 2012 at 2:45 am .
  10. […] review of the song (and especially the comments), and — for starters! — here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for more information about the “beanpaste girl” (된장녀/dwenjang […]

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