Thanks again for reading @koreangov. Why am I giving it up? I just lost the muse. I felt that the quality of my posts was beginning to slide a bit recently, and wanted to quit while I was ahead.
I'll also state clearly and in no uncertain terms that both the Twitter page and this blog were farce, spoof, satire, NOT official, and not sanctioned by any governmental body. However, it is truly telling that many people thought this WAS real...not despite the anti-Japanese rhetoric and statements of fierce national pride, but apparently because of them. Those were focal points of @koreangov precisely because much of those sentiments are grounded in mere conditioned reflex― and to that extent deserve to be mocked into nonexistence. I will not say that anti-Japan sentiment is entirely unfounded. There are some legitimate grievances.
Also for the record: I don't hate Japan or China or anything else my imaginary public servant office drone twitterer hates. Well... with one exception-- I really do hold Ssangyong Motors in very low regard. Both for its products and the behavior of its labor force.
I'm thrilled that @koreangov actually played a constructive role in bringing the ifriendly.kr page to public awareness (with the majority of credit going to Brian in Jeollanamdo) and seeing positive public pressure resulting in something actually, truly engaging of expats and tourists in Korea. I imagine that much of the sense of frustration that expats in Korea feel stems from feeling helpless in being able to fix something that should just be so easy to fix― whether merely grammar and syntax errors or more considerable injustices. Happily, this one got fixed. That felt fantastic.
By the way, I shudder every time I hear the word "foreigner." Back home, people that use the word "foreigner" in earnest to describe an immigrant are almost always doing so in an expression of xenophobia if not straight-up racism. Let's encourage the use of "expat" or "visitor to Korea" if at all possible. Or even just "tourist."
I love Korea, and feel that despite not being Korean myself, I feel I have earned the right to poke fun at Korea. I work here. I live here. I'm raising a family here. I pay my taxes here. That makes me a member of Korean society. I will not kid myself-- there are parts of Korean culture and language that will always remain foreign to me. But I'll never understand a good deal of western culture either. I love Korea because it has so much potential. I stay because every day I feel things getting better. Cleaner. Faster. Fairer. More creative. More open minded.
I do not believe as some do that Korea displays unfounded and excessive pride. There is plenty for people to be proud of in Korea, and plenty for the world to envy. I do, however, believe that much of that pride is misdirected. It is not, in my humble opinion, the alphabet, kimchi, or the distinctive seasons that will inspire and dazzle the world any more than the cuisine or climate of any other country will. Can you imagine the Arabic-speaking world promoting itself on the strength of its script or (mostly) desert environment? Heck, Ethiopians have a unique alphabet and 5000 years of history, but I bet that doesn't really excite anyone outside of Ethiopia much either.
What Korea should be proud of is the fact that it has turned itself from a smoldering pile of rubble 60 years ago into one of the richest countries in the world, not by winning the geological lottery and pumping oil, nor by luring tourist dollars to its tropical beaches. It has become successful through blood, sweat, and tears; through strong families in which the parents readily sacrifice everything for their children, and in which the children readily repay that debt to their aging parents. It has made its rise using the same means available to ALL nations, but it is one of the rare ones to actually roll up its sleeves and get to it. Work hard. Be loyal. Show your gratitude. THAT'S the uniqueness and greatness of Korean culture. Unfortunately, you can't build a tourism campaign on that.
Can there be improvements? Sure. My two cents of advice for the REAL Korean government? Focus on enforcing the laws. That's it. Get the thousands of police conscripts off the idling riot buses and, when there is no riot to quell, get them on the streets issuing parking tickets, traffic tickets, littering tickets and otherwise making sure that the laws on the books are ones that the people (and foreign investors) can rely on. Ensure that there are disincentives to bad behavior, and reliable means of address for victims other than fistfights, arson, violent and destructive protest, or other extra-legal "solutions." Investment and tourism, and yes, improved global brand rankings will follow.
I'll get a personal twitter account going and follow a bunch of people who had done me that kindness on the @koreangov account.
Honored to be linked in The Diplomat!
6 months ago