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  1. @bighominid
    @bighominid January 31, 2013 at 1:27 am .

    RT @gordsellar: New post: Meditations on Junk, #1: Ugly Koreans/Ugly Americans http://t.co/CiTO1fuE

  2. TKQ
    TKQ January 31, 2013 at 8:37 am . Reply

    That waa a great read. Hope to see more reflections on junk ^^

  3. @JamesTurnbull
    @JamesTurnbull February 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm .

    Meditations on Junk, #1: Ugly Koreans/Ugly Americans http://t.co/XbtpJw2A

  4. Steven
    Steven February 5, 2013 at 3:50 pm . Reply

    First of all: I love reading about SF culture in Korea. This is a side of Korea most expat blogs never even scrape the surface of. And from a Canadian, no less! But I have to take issue with your criticism of this book.

    I actually own this book! I found it in Kyobo back when I first moved to Korea, and it was indispensable in negotiating the dos and don’ts of basic social interactions.

    I found it telling that you described the ‘Ugly Korean’ side of the book as containing a large number of extremely inappropriate behaviours, and the ‘Ugly American’ side as stretching itself over a few minor faux pas, when in fact the book was very well balanced (On the Ugly American side: doing the ‘come here’ gesture with your index finger, jogging without a shirt on, shaking hands too firmly, etc.). Granted, some of the entries seem more like gentle prods for foreigners to no be opinionated jerks (i.e. ‘don’t complain that Seoul is dirty’ **people are actually that fucking rude to bitch to their korean friends about this? WTF?**), and a few of the entries towards the end just feel like filler, but as an introductory reference to manners in Korea, this book is quite useful.

    Notwithstanding your analysis of the particular page you rest the bulk of your argument on here, I would hope that you give the book a better read-through, rather than brashly throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


  5. Steven
    Steven February 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm . Reply

    Well, for starters, you win for mileage covered in Korea. I’m more of a frequent visitor, with no more than a couple years out of the last five. I’ve lived in Korea for travel, teaching (yep, did the gap year thing), and on business for Canadian companies, but rarely for more than six months at a time, and usually less than one. So I am admittedly naive. I’ve experienced many of the same situations you describe, but I haven’t lived in Korea long enough for it to really get at me.

    I approach Korea with the attitude of a guest in someone’s house (learning very early one that as a foreigner you will only ever be a ‘guest’ in Korea), and I saw this book as being a reminder to take your shoes off when you come in the door. As a foreigner, you will always be held to a double standard … a resident of a home can comfortably complain of the smell and the dust, but it would be the height of rudeness for a houseguest to do so. The book helped me understand why some people seemed mildly shocked when I did certain things (like gesture with my index finger), but the only folks who were really bothered when I messed up some of these ‘rules’ were the old trolls and the angry xenophobes — but every country’s got those.

    As for the many many exceptions to the rules listed in the book, I think it is important to keep in mind the generation of the author. Having lived in Korea for ten years, I’m sure you can tell more than I can how quickly things have changed there. His understanding of etiquette and his perception of foreigners’ behavior and attitudes is far different than the college students you teach.

    Regarding running without a shirt: I hail from Vancouver these days, so its actually hard to find someone here who actually jogs WITH their shirt on. And there were times when I first arrived in Seoul when I was tempted to rip my shirt off and go for a run (that desire was quickly extinguished when I first experienced the smog that blows in mid-spring).

    For most of my residency I lived outside of Seoul, and much of that was in the Jeju countryside. So I can’t speak to your experience in Bucheon because, well, Jeju is freaking fantastic. It’s like it’s not even the same country. It smells great. And the people are awesome. They’re like the Newfies of Korea.

    As for handshakes, the only people who would be disturbed by an overly-firm handshake would be your elders, so it’s a good thing to know if you want to make a good first impression. But, like you say the content of many of these tips is only as useful insofar as it can be reference for a newbie.

  6. KingSejong (@KingSejong)
    KingSejong (@KingSejong) February 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm .

    Meditations on Junk, #1: Ugly Koreans/Ugly Americans | http://t.co/z62ZYFfd: http://t.co/9B2ZfEay

  7. Carl Dusthimer
    Carl Dusthimer February 5, 2015 at 9:44 pm . Reply

    Hello Mr. Sellar,

    Your post was well written and I can see how some people might share your views regarding the content. However, as someone who has reviewed the book and taken part in revisions for various editions, I would like to make a couple of points:

    1. The book was not written as an anthropological study of Korean and (or versus) American (or Western) culture. Rather it was based on interesting observations by the author and other contributors about misunderstandings that arise when people from these cultures meet and interact. The author saw the need (and the value to readers) for a short, accessible volume to explain why we act the way we do.

    2. The purpose of the book is simply to help people who have not had the time (or inclination) to read about the place they are traveling to better understand the local population, and perhaps avoid some unfortunate misunderstandings. And further to encourage people to think twice about interpreting actions of others only through the lens of their own culture.

    Ugly Koreans, Ugly Americans is not perfect to the extent that people from any given culture do not all behave the same or share the same views. But it is an honest attempt to help people from different cultures understand each other better and provide its readers with one or two “A-ha” moments where they think to themselves “So that’s why they acted like that!”.

    By the way, the latest edition has just been published. Some of the outdated entries have been replaced and others refreshed. The author would be happy to send you a copy and would welcome your feedback, though constructive criticism aimed at improving the content would be welcomed most.


  8. MW
    MW March 8, 2015 at 7:37 pm . Reply

    Can you by any chance point me to a place to get a decently priced copy of this book? I’m not quite sure what is happening with the Amazon price but there must be another source. I’ve checked Kyobo and a few local book markets with no success. Is the author still selling copies?

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