Sunday, July 8, 2012

Korea.. A Hierarchical Society..

I do not deny that I have not been in Korea that long comparable to the likes of many people I knew. Up to now, I have stayed in Korea for around 4 years. However, from the moment I arrived to Korea, the first people I met was a Korean. 

At the beginning, I do not know there were any foreigners living in my university so my friends were mostly Koreans. It was tough but with time, I matured and now, I take each challenges as if I have another puzzle to be solved.

I like to observe people too.

So far, there's one thing I cannot adapt here-It is the Korean culture of hierarchy in almost every environment. Elders are always respected no matter they are right or wrong, sometimes even juniors kowtowing to them so as to obtain good impression from the superiors. 

I think I am exposed to more Westernized environment. I questioned seniors/elders if I felt I am right, I ask when am curious, I follow orders but not blindly. In Korea, it's very rare to see students asking questions in class, students questioning professors' conducts were unheard of and promotion based on ability is not as widely practiced as promotion based on age.

Of course, I still have Asian values in me.

The other day, while having dinner with Koreans and a Chinese- Everyone were older than me, so I used honorific like "저는 (jorh nen)" instead of a more friendly term like "나는 (nah nen)" and ended my sentence with a "-요 (yo)" as to comply with the Korean style of speaking to the elders. 

Bulgogi (불고기)

So after a while, the chief of the organization entered and like they were been struck by a lightning bolt on their asses, immediately everyone rises. I was already halfway munching my beloved 15,000 Won (13 USD) 불고기 (Bulgogi) and have no choice but to stand up so as not to be the odd ones out. Then, the other Koreans began to act like as if a King had just arrived. Drinks were ordered and the rest, well, I don't really care.

When I am old, I do not want people to agree with me if I am wrong. I do not want people to hesitate and give me a vague answer rather than a Yes or No. I do not want my junior to act and pretend to be nice when any seniors or me are around.

Respect I felt, is not a God given right and it has no relation with the age of a person. It has to be earned. It's just that I felt Korean's culture of hierarchy will be huge impediment for its future growth in a long run. 

I hope in years to come, Koreans will be true to themselves and not be pretending to be nice just because the elders are around. Not all Koreans were like that but unfortunately they are the minority.  



fiqahlee88 said...

that's not quite of westernised for me...It's just the way we're brought up here in Malaysia. We respect the elders but we still could have a say and voice out our opinions. Plus we didn't have that kind of society here. We could be friend regardless of our ages as well,unlike Korea, where the circle of friend usually of same age,right? (correct me if I'm wrong)

Daye,Im said...
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Daye,Im said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm thinking about applying for graduate school in Seoul to continue on my biology studies, and I'm not sure if they offer courses in English. I'm wondering how difficult it is to take courses here in Korean? I minored in Korean and suppose I am "high intermediate" or "low advanced" level, but it's hard to determine if I would struggle too much. Are assignments also in Korean? Thanks for any information you can give me!

kyle said...


You are right but personally, I felt Malaysian education gravitates towards the more western side (British). Anyway, we are lucky to be brought up in M'sia and there is not much emphasis on age gap like what is happening in Korea. :)


Don't worry, mostly in graduate studies, being proficient in English is already enough. I have lots of friends doing their masters here even though they can't speak a word in Korean. If you can speak in Korean, it will be helpful as you can communicate with some professors or the ahjummas at the market better. G'luck!

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