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한국 리�?¬íŠ¸ (Korea Report) by 왕 샤오ë§? (Wang Xiaoling)

Lime, my girlfriend, was reading a book by a Chinese exchange student named Wang Xiaoling (I’m guessing, from the Hangeul 왕 샤오ë§?) who’d visited Korea, called 한국 리í?¬íŠ¸ (Korea Report). She was quite excited to find another Asian voice criticizing Korea in the way she does, personally, and doesn’t see others around her doing.

Generally speaking, I, of course, cannot read the book. (I did trudge through a couple of passages she pointed out to me, but the whole thing would be waaaay too hard for me.) But I can repeat a few of the things that Lime translated to me with glee. I offer these with the caveat that (a) I may be misremembering what Lime quoted to me, (b) Lime’s not a translator, and (c) she was probably simplifying some of what she’d read for the sake of brevity.

There were some very interesting photos included in the book, and one of the most interesting was shots of a Chinese campus. The shots showed a wooded area, empty of people, and then, (one would presume) later in the day, the wooded area full of people calmly, quietly studying. This was supposed to be in contrast to students in Korean universities, who stand around in the outdoors doing anything but studying, according to the author of the book. (And she had attended Kyunghee University, which Lime tells me is considered a relatively good school.

Interesting, and I wish there were a version in English, but… well, there isn’t, and won’t be.

More interesting were Lime’s comments about the future of Korea. She said that among Koreans, the nation is widely compared — during drinking discussions, but never when sober — to Argentina. She actually used Argentina as an example of the kind of collapse a lot of people are quietly, desperately expecting to come to South Korea eventually… and which others are, apparently, often using. Corruption rampant; politics out of control; the gap between rich and poor widening: well I don’t know how it measures up with Argentina, but I do know that I feel much less alarmist now, hearing that others see things this way too.

So much to change, and reasonable portions of the beginnings of solutions are not so impossible that they couldn’t be attempted… educational reform is totally possible, for example. But it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. Is it this way in every society?

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