Is there a Korean word for ‘boketto,’ the Japanese word for “the act of staring blankly out into space, devoid of any thoughts”? Probably not, but if such a term were to exist in Korean, it would probably have to be tweaked a little to fit the Korean context. Based on the definition, ‘boketto’ sounds meditative and dream-like, as though the person engaged in ‘boketto’ were at peace with his surroundings. The Korean equivalent would have to be something more competitive-sounding, like “the act of heedlessly maximizing self-interest while staring blankly out into space, as if devoid of any thoughts, thereby affording oneself the greatest amount of plausible deniability.” That’s about as complicated as that flimsy “jeong” term that goes out the window once Koreans engage in any form of transportation—only more apt.
One of the funniest explanations I’ve seen recently for why Koreans are the way they are comes from the blogger behind Sorry, I was drunk. His take on what guiding forces lie behind the Korean curtain is somewhat different from mine, but I commend him on his deadpan honesty, which makes for quite a funny read if you don’t read it with sand in your sourpuss.
I’ve been thinking, this irony and lack of introspection in this country is its biggest social problem. I would say introspection (self-reflection and honesty to oneself) is pretty much the most important virtue a modern person could possess. The same applies to a collective, but the collective can’t be honest if the individuals aren’t.
Koreans aren’t introspective because most of them live in their own tiny bubble. I’ve had a friend who said they’re too in their heads. Dr. Glover would say they live in the “unconscious.” Whatever you call it, it seems many Koreans go about their lives monotonously, without really realizing what’s going on around them. I mean that both literally and figuratively. On a literal sense, Koreans literally are not aware of their surroundings. While most people might perceive this as rudeness, I really don’t think it’s deliberate. Most people who shove into you or block your path probably don’t even realize they are doing it. It’s not like most people wake up in the morning with a plan to be an asshole that day.
I’ve said before in my “People of E-Mart/Lotte Mart” series that it’s amazing how much time I spend every day consciously aware that no one else around me seems to be similarly consciously aware of anything.
People here are rude because they are not conscious. I’m not sure it’s even rudeness because I think of rudeness as self-serving and selfish. While Koreans don’t lack in selfishness, a lot of behaviors I observe here also go against the logic of self-interest. Illogical and common-sense lacking behavior is certainly in abundance here. For example at my school, students will charge their phones and leave them out in the open on the hall way floors. Even if you aren’t concerned about theft, you would think putting your phone on the middle of the hallway floor would put it at risk of being stepped on by an equally oblivious passerby. It’s not just objects either. I’ve seen numerous instances of women leaving their strollers with the baby inside out in the middle of a sidewalk while they shop at a store. Wouldn’t you be at least a bit worried about potential kidnappers or at the very least, the baby being exposed the hot sun, cold weather, or rain (yes, I’ve seen a baby out in the rain by itself while the mom was shopping)?
Such behavior cannot be logical, let alone consciously made. It makes no sense for people to take a piss and leave their bikes perpendicular to a bike path so it would block all the other bikes. It also makes no sense for pedestrians to walk on the bike path when there’s a paved path made just for pedestrians, just right fucking there! I can’t count the number of times I had to swerve my bike to avoid hitting someone walking on the bike path while there’s an empty walkway right next to it. I really think these people are not aware of where they are or what they are doing. They are just living things that do stuff, but none of them are really alive.
It’s the only way I can explain why Koreans have no problem shoving others out of the way, but they don’t like it when it happens to them. It’s why they can spew racist garbage but be overly concerned about other groups of people being racist against them. It’s why they spit on poor countries and are desperate to be seen as advanced by others while being guilty of the same backwards shit they think they’ve distanced themselves from. Its why die-hard patriots will stay up all night to support their national soccer team yet will litter all over their beloved country without a second thought.
I’m okay with racists. I’m okay with rude assholes. But if you are a rude, racist asshole, you have to acknowledge and accept the fact you are a rude, racist asshole and that there are other rude racist assholes who will be rude and racist towards you.
I don’t care about selfishness either. After-all, human beings are all inherently selfish. We just have to admit to it and own up to it. Truly selfish people are usually not even aware that they are selfish. Most racists will probably tell you they aren’t racist.
I’m not really in the business of telling people how to live their lives. People will do what they do. I can’t really change the collective. But I think this prevalent lack of introspection and honesty is something that should be addressed. I believe it will be a step toward solving problems but if not, it’s at least conducive to a happier individual life.
If only the vast majority of other bloggers in Korea would dare to be similarly honest, interesting and funny (whether intentionally or unintentionally) when writing about Korea, then our little corner of the internet wouldn’t be so fucking boring day in and day out.