Southeast Asia has in recent years been bowled over by “the Korean Wave”, a fad for Korea’s popular culture. Known as Hallyu, it was unleashed as the state’s tool in the proliferation of Korea’s cultural influence and a foreign policy instrument, designed to strengthen the country’s political and economic relations with the Asia-Pacific in particular.
First, the exercise of soft power has proven counterproductive when left to the vicissitudes of Korean tourists. Undoubtedly representing the few, some tourists have been referred to as “Ugly Koreans,” behaving in a brutish fashion while travelling in the region. Some resorts were said to have banned Korean tourists because they leave their rooms in shambles after their stay. In 2001, in the middle of Indonesia’s Ramadan season, a group of drunken Koreans at a karaoke bar attempted to force waitresses to engage in sexual acts. Similar tales were told in Thailand and more recently in Cambodia where Koreans have been identified in the underage sex industry, as reflected in the report of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. (So they do it wherever they go!)
Second, aggressive Korean Christian missionaries have also diminished the adhesive quality of the Korean Wave.
Third, bad behaviour on the part of Korean businesses has also provoked ill feelings among the locals. Korean bosses have increasingly become synonymous with fraud, human rights abuse and people who are ignorant of the sensitivity of local cultures. Korean managers have gained a notorious reputation as being among the harshest and most abusive “foreign investors” in the world, with the term “military culture” employed to characterise Korean management practices.
Nonetheless, the negative aspects of Hallyu are repairable, particularly since Korea and Southeast Asia do not have any bad history between them, unlike in Japan’s case. Korean tourists, missionaries and businessmen need to be aware of the growing tension that has taken root in Southeast Asia against many Koreans over the years. An education program to guide Koreans on the traditions and other cultural practices of various Southeast Asian nations may well represent a viable policy option to limit the damage already done.
comments in parenthesis mine
I wonder just how many of them are actually interested in learning the culture of the country they are in? I doubt if their government even have cultural awareness programs designed to help their citizens adjust. Some Koreans (not all - with emphasis) have the mistaken notion that everyone will bow down to them. Others even have the notion that Hallyu is a mark of superiority - it took another level-headed Korean professor to shoot it down saying culture is a matter of taste not superiority.
Respect is what these nations are asking - not everything could be cured by MONEY. In fairness, there are efforts underway to make some Koreans understand other cultures just check out Korea.net (migrant workers' fair and the like) - how much it is getting through the natives is another story.
Keep it up! In the long run, it is their country itself which will suffer.
Its not only Korean Wave losing its influence - even the anti-Asian Hollywood's influence is diminishing. They have something in common - Korean and Hollywood Entertainment. They are both ethnocentric and both are headed for a huge crash.
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