Korea and the Americans - 75
America is a controversial subject in Korea, yet without at least mentioning the relationship, one could not fairly write a book about Korea, such has been the influence of the U.S in recent years. There was an interesting headline in the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ entitled “…Korea is united over one thing – anger at the US”. The article described how the two Koreas are tied together in their “…desire for freedom from outside pressures, so often expressed and so rarely fulfilled”.
Koreans seem to have a thirst for freedom from American influence yet many young people dream of moving or studying in America and frequent American retail outlets. The relationship to me seems like a mother-in-law and son-in-law. The son (Korea) wants to gain independence for his and his own family (the people of Korea) but the mother-in-law (the U.S.) wants to have a say in everything.
Mention America in Korea and one person may talk with excitement and his/her friend may talk with disgust, while others talk with outrage at America whilst simultaneously planning to move to America. Many people worldwide have anti-American sentiments, but what makes it different in Korea, is that the desire for American trends and American English. As a teacher from England rather than America, I was rejected even before getting interviews, when I first arrived in Korea. This was because I did not speak with an American (or Canadian) accent.
British English (which is arguably more accepted worldwide and spoken in many Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore) was not acceptable. Some Korean students are now gradually beginning to choose the U.K., especially for some design courses, but America is still far more popular. Despite the confusion over America’s relationship, there are understandable reasons why Koreans are keen on America and American things. It would easily be possible to write a whole book about the Korea to America relationship, but that is maybe one for the future. The relationship is not easy to explain, with a lot of history and events defining the feelings.