Sunday, September 26, 2010

눈치: 대한민국의 제일 큰문제기 이다 (Update 1)

As a Korean, one of the great aspects of society is the respect of elders.
As an American, one of the great barriers to economic and social progress is the concept of 는치.

In Korean of course, the most basic of these is the idea of 존대말 and 반말.  This is a major problem. 

To speak properly in English, you can just use what I would call the neutral polite form.  In this way, you are not deferring to age or position.  You are simply being proper.  For example, asking someone's age in English is not acceptable.  In a business situation, it may even be illegal.  You cannot choose or reject a person on the basis of their age.  If you ask someone's age during an interview, and then reject that person, then that person can actually sue the company, and WIN. 

What does that mean as a Korean?  The best solution is to simply speak simply, and politely, without being deferential.
These are phrases which can be used during an introduction, without regard to the age of the person you are meeting.

(o)  How are you?  My name is JH Park.  (And then extend your hand for a handshake).
(x)  May I know your name?  (This phrase is not used in English, although it is gramatically correct).

눈치 makes Korean society too submissive, even when the younger/junior person is actually correct.

There are a large number of reasons that this is problematic.

Example 1:  a doctor gives you a diagnosis, and the patient just accepts it without question.  This is almost certainly blatantly wrong.  A patient is, at the end of the day, is a customer.  You should be able to ask questions, and get a second opinion.  Unfortunately, patients just listen, say "앟겠습나다," and then accept whatever words the doctor says.  This does not mean that the doctor is always wrong, but in Korea, the doctor is never to be questioned.  Who suffers from this process?  You, the patient.

Example 2:  Korean students need to be able to ask questions during/after class.  From the elementary school days, students don't ask questions and just nod as if they always understand.  I am sure that you know this.  As you get older, and the schoolwork becomes a little more difficult, wouldn't it have been better if you could have interrupted for a few moments, and gotten some clarification?   This continues on for an entire lifetime.  During lectures or presentations in a corporate atmosphere, the same thing occurs.  No one asks questions even if the presentation creates questions, and many other listeners would have had the same question.  Who suffers from this process?  You, the student/listener who would have gotten greater understanding if you had the chance to ask a question, but due to 눈치, you do not ask.

This list will grow and grow, as more examples come to mind.  Please send me your own examples!
What do you think?  Please feel free to comment.
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Be sure to look around the rest of the blog for other hints about communicating and learning English.

Have a great day.


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