Surface-to-Troll Smackdown

If you troll my site, I will delete your comment unreplied to, unless it’s worth posting in a post of its own for a little mockery and hack’n’slash, because heaven knows on a long day, that’s a great stress reliever. Frex, the following comment that showed up on this post.

[email protected] | | 2008/09/16

I have a couple of things to say about that.

First, if I’ve misinterpreted your intention in your cunning comment, dear Anon, then I apologize. Feel free to attempt to explain your non-trollish intention. The anglo-Korean blogosphere has many unbalanced trollkin (ogres, trow, haugtrold, even the odd ogre magi) who go about leaving flaming baggies of feces on the doorsteps of anyone who writes anything remotely analytical or critical, and while you may not be one of them, I think you’ll need to explain how and why that is the case.

Hell, if your explanation is good enough, I’ll even post the comment. Of course, if it isn’t, I’ll probably just ignore you. Or invite anyone who feels like it to spam you at will.

Second of all, I think most Koreans would be either mildly amused or exhaustedly annoyed at the persistent ignorance necessary to believe that South Korea is still “poor.” When I wrote, “Poor students,” I was reflecting on the assignment that lies ahead for them.

You’re a few decades out of date, and in Korea, that actually counts for a lot. Yes, the economy will possible melt down here in the next while (… is that so different from the USA right now?), but the people I teach are solidly middle class on the global scale: the vast majority of them have air conditioners special fridges for kimchi in their homes, they nearly all dress impeccably (by their own standards, which ain’t cheap here), and not one of them is without at least two, three, or even four pieces of consumer electronics at *all* times. Their phones cost more than mine, their MP3 players are often fancier than mine, they mostly have electronic dictionaries or could have them if they wanted them, and so on.

Does poverty exist in Korea? Yes. Is poverty the explanation for the poor sex education in this society? (A poor sex education that has resulted in a high rate of [illegal] abortions, a frightening explosion of HIV, and low rates of safe sex practice here?) No way in hell. It’s institutional resistance, and a desperate desire by the older generation — who are the predominant consumers of the sex trade, incidentally — to bolster the idea that Korea is a “conservative society.” It’s not poverty.

And since this affects the lives of not only my students, but also a huge number of people I care about here — people whose spouses or children may contract AIDS, people who are likelier to be sexually or physically abused, people whose recourse to professional medical legal help in these cases is less than it realistically could be, people whose respect for their own bodies, and for their own sexuality — and that of those around them — is sadly choked off by embarrassment.

I’m not saying they have to talk about it with me. I’m not a sex educator, I’m a professor of language and cultural studies. I’m saying that it’s unfortunate they don’t get to talk about this anywhere, and I’m saying that it’s so very clammed up as a topic here that it took me a while to re-realize that this wasn’t marginalization of women, but sheer trepidation at the idea of discussing, in a co-ed setting, the changes bodies undergo in adolescence.

By the way, I’m not speaking as a “superior” white man who thinks “inferior” Korea should follow the West in every way. There are things that Korea needs to really resist following the West (ie. America) in doing, because it’s unlikely to work well for Korea. (Neoliberal economics, anyone? Increased militarism? Greater dependence on automobiles and faster guzzling of oil? Extremist Christian Protestants dominating politics?) There are other things that Korea handles better than my own culture does. But I am speaking as someone who lives here, who has a stake in the place, who cares about the implications of these things, and who is affected by them. Profoundly in some cases.

Could I finish out my contract and leave? Well, yes, I suppose I could. My fiancée is Korean, but beyond that and my work agreement, I’m not tied here legally or anything. It’s not as if I have to live under the Korean government, subject to its laws and to whatever developments Korean society undergoes. But I have done so for what is fast approaching seven years — woah! — and I will always have a degree of personal stake in it, fiancée or no: I have many good friends who live here and will remain subject to this society’s ups and downs, positives and negatives alike. Ex-effing-scuse me for giving a damn.

Third of all, what the hell? I highlighted how my own reaction as an undergrad wasn’t as different from my male students’, except in terms of social setting. I pointed out a social condition that, believe it or not, a number of the non-student Koreans I know find really problematic, sad, depressing, or counterproductive.

(Yeah, some female Koreans actually do object to the idea they need plastic surgery to compete in the job market. Imagine that! And imagine students being not quite worldly enough to get why that might be! Imagine university being a place that challenges assumptions, rather than just getting you a better job!)

And fourth of all, come on, don’t be a coward. Pseudonyms, even, are okay. But Anon? If you can’t be bothered to sign up with a username, then please don’t bother commenting. Anon is almost always the first sign of the stink of a troll’s passage.

And I don’t let trolls nest on my chunk of Internet-land.

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