“… For Your Nation…”

Okay, so, imagine you’re a trilingual Korean. When you’re interviewed by a certain nationalistic, ridiculous TV station — not that I’ll name it specifically, ahem — and they explain the ridiculously low pay they’re offering by explaining that you are, in being offered this job, given a chance to do work “for your nation,” which of the following do you do?

(a) laugh in the their face
(b) politely ask for more money knowing you won’t get it, and say, “Well, I can make more money teaching in a hakwon, so I think that would be wiser for me.”
(c) say, “Listen, you stupid poseur gyopo bitch, don’t tell me about good for my nation! How much do you make, while ‘serving your nation,’ huh? I speak three fucking languages, chiquita! I have connections overseas that you’re hoping to use! I have brains enough to know I’m worth more than that to you, but you have no hope of hiring me when you patronize me with nationalism like that, much less when it’s nationalism you think I grew up with and naively swallowed! Puh-leaaaaaze!”
(d) giggle to yourself about how this ridiculous building will look when shrouded in flames someday soon

You can probably guess which one Miss Jiwaku did. She’s a little more sane than me.

4 thoughts on ““… For Your Nation…”

  1. I’m sorry to hear about “Miss Jiwaku’s” awkwardly inadequate offer from that TV station.

    Of course it is idiotic for someone to cite working for a “nation” as justification for offering a low wage, but in Korea people even view the chaebols as representing a “national” interest.

    And we all know how altruistic the chaebols are. If anybody has any doubt of that, I would just recommend they read your snappy little short story “The Country of the Young.”

    Seriously though, a lot of working-class people in the U.S. believe fervently that assembling cars for G.M. or Ford is equivalent to working “for America,” with the idea of defeating “evil-doers” like Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, etcetera.

    I think a coldly factual statement such as “the pay being offered is inadequate” would suffice. Any histrionics would simply detract from communicating that the offer is unworthy and insultingly low.

  2. Yeah, she wisely went with option B. I’ve heard from others that there’s reason to believe they’re in financial trouble, but then, I have a former student working for the same pittance, very long hours and so on, at a more prominent station. I suspect it’s more about exploiting labour as cheaply as possible.

    As for the “national identity” of chaebols, it also comes up in the paper I wrote on using SF in Korean classrooms — the mining corp as a representative of Earth in Avatar vs. the national identity of chaebol corporations… ack, need to summarize that paper for a presentation at the end of the month! (In Melbourne.)

  3. I’ll pass on a funny anecdote I heard when I was working for “The Committee to Raise International Image (of Korea)”. During the 2004 Athens Olympics, the internationally successful chaebols (Hyundai Motors, Samsung, LG/GS) did not want to be associated with Korea because they were afraid that they would be linked with the “bad image” of Korea (e.g. financial crisis, North Korea, labor unrest). Go figure. (I seem to remember one of my graduate school advisors saying ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the incompetent.’)

  4. Junsok,

    Ha!The last refuge of the nonviolent incompetent, maybe. :)

    But yeah, I brought up the question to my students whether those internationally successful chaebols actually were widely associated with Korea abroad. (One of the claims made in that Business Across Cultures course, during a presentation, was that they were “raising Korea’s profile internationally.”) I asked where “internationally” was supposed to mean and then added that in Northeast and Southeast Asia (and India) my experience was that people know which companies were Korean, but not so much in the West… and the discussion dwelt for a while on why a Korean company might want to distance itself from Korea internationally. It was pretty interesting.

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