korea is unnervingly complex. it has such great advancements in technology (samsung, LG, the high-quality and forever-loved-by-me KIA motors), transportation (efficient buses, high-speed trains, and smooth, serene subways) and even in aspects of its educational system (hey, they hired us didn’t they? oh, and they’re looking at using digital textbooks, which sounds pretty cool too).
but in some ways, korea is still ancient, archaic even. it’s traditions and customs don’t always mesh well with the modern, new way of doing things. there’s the endless bowing, the honorific language system, the idea of giving respect to anyone who is even 1 year older than you, and the fact that i’m taking off my shoes all the time to enter temples, homes, school, and even restaurants. there’s still a lot of sexism and racism in this culture, which is surprising to see in a people who all carry iPhones.
one way that korea seems to be behind (in my humble opinion) is the area of common medical knowledge. there are 2 recent incidents that illustrate this well:
1. i have been sick for the past few days. a nasty sore throat, cold, coughing, slight fever, the works. i’ve been trying to take it easy, but i’ve still gone to school and taught, as expected (in this culture, you don’t take sick days) and my co-teachers have come up with an endless stream of reasons for why i am sick. “you must be sick because the weather is colder.” i shrug and say, yeah, maybe that’s a possibility. “you are sick because you wore a short-sleeved dress last Tuesday.” really? you remember that? huh… okay… “you are sick because we had Open Class last week and you were nervous.” well, okay, if you say so.
2. today, we are having a “teacher’s health day” which means our office will do some sort of bonding activity together this afternoon. the teachers all agreed that they wanted to see a movie. we spent the morning looking up possibilities in english, and only found 1: the 3 musketeers. not exactly my top choice, but it was nice of them to consider me. then, a pregnant teacher noticed the movie was in 3-D and seemed concerned. my coteacher explained to me at lunch that if a pregnant woman sees a movie in 3-D, it will “harm” her baby. huh? you seriously believe that? ok, well then. looks like we will watch a korean love-story (which i don’t mind, i’ll just eat popcorn and get paid to space off for a couple hours. no big deal). i’m just surprised that educated adults in this culture still subscribe to these notions.
but then again, i guess every culture has their strange superstitions (knock on wood, don’t break a mirror, and don’t open that umbrella indoors).