AHA Edition 1—South Korea
︎Topic 1: Blind Obedience
︎Topic 2: Fierce Competition and Open Comparison by Shaming
︎Topic 3: Image Obsession



 TOPIC 1: BLIND OBEDIENCE 

BACKGROUND
Strict Korean social hierarchy leaves many Koreans with a heavy burden of obligation towards people higher on the social ladder, including bosses, parents, and seniors within a school or organization. The preferences, opinions, and desires of those higher on the social hierarchy are always prioritized, and one is expected to follow without question. In essence, respect is demanded and is unidirectional up the hierarchy. Voicing any opinions or objections at home or work is discouraged by the fear and shame of being considered a bad son, daughter, or employee.
PROBLEMS
– Independent thought is constrained and
discouraged, resulting in conformist mindsets.

– Creativity is inhibited.

– Relationships at work and home are rooted
in obligation instead of mutual respect.     

– Relationships between people from different
age group lack closeness or social intimacy.

– Superiors on the social hierarchy abuse their power. For example, the notorious nut rage incident, when a Korean Air heiress threw a tantrum about how she was served nuts on a flight.

– The ability to succeed within the company depends on how well you can make your boss happy using your sixthsense, noon-chi, rather than your capabilities and skills, thus hindering the success of organizations and the fostering of talent. [noon-chi: a Korean concept signifying the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others’ mood]

– People are expected always to follow orders and are left feeling “boxed in.”
  
– At home, the main focus becomes satisfying obligations and making your parents happy, not about individual growth orintrinsic motivation.


RELATED EMOTIONS
Resentment
Distress
Frustration
Helplessness
Resignation
Resignation


 TOPIC 2: FIERCE COMPETITION AND OPEN COMPARISON BY SHAMING 

BACKGROUND
Korea is a hyper-competitive society, especially when it comes to its obsessive competition around education and entrance to elite schools. Those who lack a formal university education often face social prejudice, and so children and teenagers spend 16 hours each day taking part in school-related activities to keep a competitive edge over other students. Enormous stress is placed on young Koreans, especially during exams; many young people lose hope and end their lives. The value around competition also plays out in the way people are cruelly and openly compared to one another at home and work. Harsh comparisons are drawn about one’s beauty, appearance, intelligence, and personal success. “Lisa is prettier than you,” or “Tom is doing so well. Why can’t you be more like Tom! Why are you so inadequate! Why can’t you achieve more! That’s why we are not getting the respect!”
PROBLEMS
– South Korea has the highest suicide rate among OECD countries.

– The culture places emphasis on superficial traits rather than on authenticity, and individual uniqueness.

– Cruel comparisons are disrespectful and dehumanizing, but Koreans openly shame others without even realizing it’s degrading to the listeners.
– For students, test scores are everything, including the key to a successful life.

– There is a narrow definition of happiness, leaving so man Koreans feeling that happiness is out-of-reach.

– Koreans feel inadequate, often in the eyes of one’s own parents.


RELATED EMOTIONS
Inadequacy
Anger
Fear of Failure
Indignity

Anxiety
The Burden of Life
Humiliation
Shame
Resentment

Bitterness



 TOPIC 3: IMAGE OBSESSION 

BACKGROUND
In South Korea, image is everything. The country ranks first globally for the prevalence of plastic surgery. It is alarmingly common for parents to pay for a child’s plastic surgery as a high school and college graduation gift, all so they can improve the chance of getting a job. You can even hire guests for your wedding if you don’t have enough friends or family members to come to your wedding. Being oneself and celebrating uniqueness is not a part of Korean culture in almost all social circumstances.
PROBLEMS
– Koreans obsess about how other people think of them. For many Koreans, most of their life decisions are based on outside approval.

– Many Koreans are resigned to believe that plastic surgery is necessary to be part of society. They are slaves to an impossible standard of beauty.
– Any personal choice or preference that is outside of the conventional image is considered abnormal, wrong, and idiotic.

RELATED EMOTIONS
Desperation
Insecurity
Inadequacy

Alienation
An Illusion of Beauty
Self-doubt

Superficiality
Snobbery


Mark
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