Sorry if you thought this was about kidnapping. It’s actually about stealing and children in Korea. SEE WHAT I DID THERE? HAHAhaha… ha…
So far, I’ve lived in four countries around the world—US, Germany, Austria, and South Korea. I’ve traveled about forty countries around the world. I’m not gonna list em here, but you get the gist. I’m a well-traveled broad.
Ever since I studied abroad in university, I’ve had a penchant for living elsewhere. I love the challenge of being outside my comfort zone. It’s crazy to be the strange one getting the stink eye in a foreign land because you chew with your mouth closed. It’s eye-opening to realize how much the world is exactly like home. And how much it isn’t.
Cultural Wednesdays will be a chance to lay down some global knowledge and muse over the many unfamiliar ways, ideas, logic, and beliefs that exist in a culture I’ve lived in or experienced. It’s gonna get reflective, analytical, and maybe a bit intense. Real talk, y’all. Cause ain’t nobody got time for anything less.
Right now, I live in South Korea, and it has an abundance of strange-to-me behaviors present in its culture. Let’s tackle a couple of them.
1. Stealing isn’t a thing.
Recently, I visited home for three weeks. I arrived to San Francisco airport—”WELCOME HOME!” and cue the river of tears—and dropped my stuff at the gate to wait for my next flight. I had to use the bathroom, literally twenty feet from my seat. I walked five feet before I stopped.
Two thoughts: 1. Oh, shit. Someone might steal my stuff. 2. Oh, shit. Someone might think I’ve planted a bomb.
In Korea, I never, ever think like that. If I set my stuff somewhere to keep (like in a bar or at the bus terminal or the airport), it will still be there three hours later with everything inside. If I leave something behind (like in a bar or at the bus terminal or the airport), it almost always ends up at the lost and found, or the police station, or in my mailbox.
Koreans don’t steal.
Which is splendid for me, who has a reputation of forgetting things that are not attached to me (and sometimes things that are).
The main question I hear: Why? And I think it’s the idea that Korea values the community and its reputation over the individual. Saving face is a HUGE SOCIAL CONSTRUCT here. It is more important than literally anything—including the welfare of children (see below). If you steal, you are marring your reputation and Korea’s. As for community, Korea is homogeneous (aka they all look alike), and it lends to sympathy. If everyone is like you, then why would you treat yourself, reflected in those around you, so horribly?
2. Single mothers and adoption.
Having a baby out of wedlock is social suicide in Korea. The mother can be ostracized by friends and family, and her child(ren) can be bullied, teased, and/or ostracized in school, too. Aside from social ramifications, the Korean government refuses to provide any support–even choking off the menial funds charities already receive. Furthermore, Koreans and the government view a high adoption rate as a judgment of their ability to care for their children. And if the government believes it, then so MUST THE WORLD, RIGHT? ALL THESE ADOPTABLE CHILDREN ARE MARRING KOREA’S FACE, RIGHT?
And all this from a country so worried about the low birth rate, they offer extra money to families with children. Only families, mind you. Not to anyone birthing children, aka single mothers, but families with fathers and mothers. HAHA TRAGIC IRONY AT ITS FINEST. HA. Ha. ha… -__-
Want to learn more? Check out KUMFA, a charity devoted to helping unwed mothers. And The Dropbox (it’s on Netflix)—a documentary about a man who creates a dropbox for unwanted babies. Yeah, you heard me.