Monday, January 09, 2006

Korean Netiquette Graded F

Thats the headline of a Dong-A piece today. Most Koreans give there fellows in Cyber space a failing grade regarding politeness on line. More:

In particular, the respondents of the survey selected “insults, including abusive language” (57.4 percent), “personal information leakage” (47.9 percent), and “defamation, including the circulation of false information” (35.6 percent) as typical anti-netiquette acts. Those surveyed picked the “sex trade in cyber space” (19.4 percent) and “cyber sexual harassment” (15.3 percent) as the first things that should be eradicated as well. 

I comment on because of something that happened me me recently. I have lived in Korea for six years now, and have not learned Korean fluently despite various attempts. Further I am now stymied since I have learned enough day-to-day Korean that most learning tools are overly formal and incongruous with my daily life.

One language tape taught me a phrase first off I have NEVER heard in Korea. Considering its import, you would think you would hear it a lot. That phrase "ChiLaeHamNiDa" (my romanization is likely wrong) means "Excuse Me", again a phrase I have never heard in six years in the country. I also got a good laugh when they discussed how to say "no" in Korean. Anybody here long enough can tell you there are two basic ways to say "No" in Korean. One way is to loudly suck air through your teeth making a "sssssh" sound, that means "No, but maybe". Second is to loudly sound out "Ah-ssssssh" which means "definitely no".


At January 09, 2006 3:41 PM, Anonymous Choi said...

In your country there was an old saying: "Love means never having to say you are sorry".

We Koreans, likewise, are a culture of love. Examples, are Children's Day, and our emphasis on romantic love, marriage, and family. Koreans, therefore, don't use the word "excuse me" because ... it's understood. In fact, Korea is a large blood-related family filled with mutual understanding of an almost ESP-like mental communication... which you foreigners will never be capable of.

Somehow, I detect a subtle ignorant and mean-spirited criticism behind your pointing out that Koreans never say "excuse me".

Are you just another mindless Korea basher?

At January 09, 2006 6:29 PM, Blogger Dram Man said...

First, thank you for your response, it is always nice to know I am not talking to myself.

I see where you are coming from, but at the same time I disagree, socially speaking. I think it is rather important to include the niceties of conversation, whether you mean them or not. It just makes for a more comfortable day-to-day life. There is a reason these words exist, they should be used.

Unfortunately as I note, daily spoken Korea does not make use of these. I wonder if the lack of such usage inadvertently conspires with the anonymity of the internet to create the poor netquette the article refers to.

At January 09, 2006 6:30 PM, Blogger Dram Man said...

By the way a person who things "Love means never having to say your sorry" is certianly a person who has never been married IMHO.

At January 09, 2006 7:56 PM, Anonymous Choi said...


Yes, foreigners need to communicate apologies to each other in public but it's not really that necessary for Koreans. Koreans read each other on an intuitive level... as some foreigners might say, we have a "hive mind" where communication takes place on almost a psychic level; a sense developed by five thousand years of shamanistic influence making us sensitive to this kind of group sympathy.

We interact like bees in a hive; thus, explaining our seemingly chaotic ways that ironically are harmonious in result. Out seemingly lack of netiquette is really the give and take between Koreans. I have lived both in America and Korea ... Koreans have the advantage of an underlying unity that foreigners lack... and secretly envy.

At January 10, 2006 6:07 AM, Blogger Dram Man said...

The biggest problem with you comments is they are simply not supported by Korean society at large. A fundamental argument is Koreans do not need niceties since they are part of a family. Yet Korean society is rife with various examples of what means to polite. Everything from language to subtle body movement can dictate politeness.

Since such a complex set of polite behavior exists is strong evidence against your claim of that polite behavior is "unnecessary". There simply is a polite way to act in Korea even if Koreans have "ESP-like mental communication" as you claim. Unfortunately that rigorous system of politeness (as it is currently practiced in Korea) does not extend to day-to-day niceties to people at large, which is my point.

Finally I seriously doubt that I, or foreigners at large, are the only ones commenting on the coarseness of modern Korean life. Such opinions (usually the stereotypical older person scolding the young) all the time in Korean media about the lack of respect and politeness in Korea. So even internally there are voices that refute your argument, this once again belies your argument over the "hive mentality".

Finally if I had the choice between the polite friend and the coarse one, all things being equal, I am choosing the polite one. And no, I do not secretly envy the person who chooses the coarse one.

At January 10, 2006 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I appreciate what you are saying: a system of external Korean etiquette previously existed, but seems to have been abandoned by modern Koreans.

This is a perfect example of how a foreigner cannot truly understand Koreans, unless he is Korean himself. Your perspective about this matter seems plausible to your own Western eye, but it is erroneous. You fail to realize this external system of etiquette was from Korea's past caste system.
Only until the late 1800s did Korea outlaw slavery under pressure from interfering Western missionaries and Western influences.

Korean politeness and etiquette was not a social nicety nor civic mindedness among Koreans, but an oppressive institution of enforcing the caste system between landlords, Yangban, merchants, bureaucrats, soldiers and the back bone of Korea --- multitudes of slaves. Our culture is not based on your mamby-pamby Christian assumptions, but on power of the strongest.

For a Korean to show deference out of kindness to another without having a hierarchical relationship established, is interpreted as an un-necessary demeaning act of submission... becoming a nigger to another. In a modern democratic society -- such past oppression and humiliation is simply not acceptable.

For this reason we voted for President Roh: he promised us equal ... if not superior... status against the Americans.

For this reason also, don't expect us to be giving any courtesies to Americans. We aren't your niggers... who kow tow with niceties to a white master.

In fact, we are now reverse colonizing your country with the new relaxing of visa restrictions against Koreans entering America... including the ability to buy American homes. This is in preparation for the mass exodus of Koreans into America when the second Korean war is initiated. This, with a campaign to install Korean-Americans in the US government, will one day make America -- a Korean colony.

We are glad you are getting used-to working for Korean employers... it will be the destiny of all Americans, someday.

I expect to see you paying tribute someday by saying "thank you" and "excuse me" to your Korean masters... it will only be befitting.

At January 11, 2006 7:57 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Boy, that comment thread got weird quick...


Post a Comment

<< Home