Post #3: South Korean Nationalism

Zakaria states that a lot of people in non-North American countries tend to absorb tenants of North American culture, but do not see them as a part of cultures of North America, denying that they enjoy sharing a part of their absorbed culture with another one. However, Zakarian states, “In many countries such nationalism arises from a pent-up frustration over having to accept an entirely Western, or American, narrative of world history—one in which they are miscast or remain bit players.” The nationalism he is referring to is the evolution of this combined nationalism, where countries who have adapted aspects of more modern culture, but yet are proud of their country’s growth. Their national identity has evolved to balance these seemingly-conflicting ideas.

South Korean national identity has been described as, “a national inferiority complex has been intensified by suffering sexual enslavement, which embodies physical domination.” The article from The Conversation states that this has evolved from being sandwiched between superpowers China and Japan.

However, Korea JoongAng Daily states,

“‘[The coinage of gukppong] means that the hanminjok supremacy, or the principle that everything Korean is good, doesn’t work anymore,’ Shim Jae-hoon, a history professor at Dankook University, said. Shim says gukppong in that sense could mean fatigue from nationalism. Kim Ki-bong, a history professor at Kyonggi University, says ‘a word that ends with “ism” is usually an ideology. It’s a school of thought. But interestingly, nationalism is a highly emotional concept. That is why highly rational people are having a difficult time accepting [gukppong content rooted in nationalism].'”

It then further states, “But experts say unlike nationalism in the West, Korean nationalism can be divided into the right-wing nationalism and the left-wing nationalism. ”

Nationalism conflicts in South Korea have been arising in a way similar to that of the United States, which is conflict between the left and right-wing tenants. Right-wing South Korean nationalists identify South Korea only in the boundaries which currently encompass the country, and celebrate the country’s present success, much like Zakaria states. However, the left-wing nationalists in the country view their nationalism as the combined identity of North and South Korea as one Korea, with a strong distrust and dislike of Japanese peoples.

The highest occurrence of inequality in the region of South Korea occurs in the form of a gender divide. Historically, women would work in “pleasure houses”, servicing the military men while they were on assignment. They have always traditionally been in a position of lower power and status than South Korean men, and it is still a recurring problem plaguing women in the current Korean status quo. Korea Expose traced the manifestations of said gender tensions as they occur throughout the year in a traditional South Korean household. It shows how women are expected to cook all of the food for holidays, and also states that women are expected to do chores around the house while when men do chores themselves, their doing of chores is seen as a favor and not as an expected role in their life.

This gendered tension has evolved, Korea Expose states, to have created tension also between mothers and daughters. Like the previously stated differences in nationalism between generations, younger generations also are more progressive when it comes to the idea of traditional gender roles. Where young women ask for the help from men, expecting them to pitch in as they do not conform to gender roles, the older women then step in preventing the gendered tension from evolving. Essentially, the older women are stating the younger ones are wrong for asking for help from the men and they should be serving them. This gendered tension permeates all aspects of South Korean society, from politics to the daily life of a woman.


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