Thursday, August 24, 2006

Anti-Consumption or Anti-Import

A few weeks ago I did a post on Anti-Import bias in Korea by siting the begining of the latest media craze, the "doenjang-neyo". In a new story in the craze, I would again like to point out the distinct anti-import bias this craze has:

Earlier this month, Sisa Journal, a domestic weekly news magazine, published a full-length story on the recent doenjang-nyeo craze. In the article, titled, "What we don't know about real doenjang-nyeo," two young women were mentioned as examples.

A 25-year-old "Ms. Kwon" was described as a shopaholic who habitually bought foreign brand clothes and undergarments whenever she flew abroad, and a 23-year-old "Ms. Shin" was introduced as a Starbucks coffee addict. The article identified them by their full real names, and published clear photos of them sipping coffee.

The women had little idea what would happen when the article was released on the magazine's Internet edition. The two were bombarded with online comments about "how vain" they were and that they were good examples of how some thoughtless girls could "wring money out of their rich parents to waste it abroad."

Again notice the gratitous attack on "foreign" consuption and money spent "abroad". The complaint here is not just consumption, but in someway on how consumption of non-Korean items is espeicaly wrong.

In case you wonder more, consider this handy guide from the Joongang Ilbo on how to spot a "doenjang-nyo":

A typical doenjang-nyeo is described as a foolish female who has no time to eat kimchi for breakfast at home but drops by a brand-name doughnut shop instead to have a cup of black coffee ― in fear of gaining weight ― while still chowing down on raspberry-filled doughnuts, sitting in front of the shop window to show that she is patronizing international chains.

During the day, she carries around a designer tote bag that isn't big enough to hold her schoolbooks ― it just looks prettier to carry thick books in one arm and the purse on the other. She sweet-talks her nerdy male classmates into buying her lavish dinners where she takes photos of herself (alone) and gleefully uploads them on her Cyworld blog at night.

She often carries around an empty Starbucks coffee cup to help her look more like a New Yorker and keeps sending text messages to her friends, asking such important questions as "Where did you buy that pair of shoes?"

Again, notet the attack on imports, not to mention the scandalous attidude of choosing dounuts over Kimchi at 7am. This whole trend is clearly not just about excessive consuption or even materialism in general.

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At August 24, 2006 8:10 PM, Anonymous tmc1233 said...

Tsk, tsk. The apparently enforced nationalism in the marketplace and in fact in all areas of life make Korea stand out like a sore thumb in this age of globalization. IMO, it is a very provincial and third world mentality that still pervades this society (sadly). How about if people adopted "live and let live" instead of acting like it is the end of the world because someone (God forbid!) drinks Starbucks or wears foreign labels?

If they are going to complain about excessive consumption, how about being fair and criticizing ALL of it? Geez, there is no paucity of ignorance in society.

At August 25, 2006 12:48 AM, Anonymous Mizar5 said...

No mention of the fact that Starbucks Korea charges double the price people pay in the US.

Or that even Korean goods are typically double or triple the price of equivalent goods in the US.

Foreign lables only provide another excuse to price gouge even further, and a price Koreans are too willing to pay in their perrenial pursuit of self-legitimization in the eyes of others.

The real issue is the uniquely Korean racial inferiority complex - which feeds an intense longing for esteem in the eyes of others through ostentatious overspending. This is a deeply Korean identity issue, and pervasive enough to drive most areas of Korean society - politics, education, and economics, and popular culture for example.

Continuous protestations of the superiority of Korean culture and genetics, combined with the constant whining about how misunderstood and abused Koreans are the by now well-known manifestations of a desparate attempt to overcome self loathing.

This is why Korean culture is essentially dysfunctional. Subtract this definative angst from the Korean psyche, and you would be left with a culture of sane, reasonable human beings. But they would no longer be Koreans.


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