Saturday, May 26, 2012

Morals in Korea

It is easy to travel to new places and become uncomfortable with a culture that is very different to your own.  This happened to me in the first year that I lived in Korea.  These days, I understand much more about what is going on and I can accept, without having my mind blown too greatly, why people are doing what they do and calmly deal with it.  Just recently, however, this greater level of understanding is not helping with some of the moral issues that appear to be continually cropping up, and I'm starting to become a little annoyed about them.

At this juncture, I should add, that as far as my own personal treatment is concerned I have very little to complain about.  It is on the behalf of others that my patience of your average Koreans' moral behaviour is starting to wear pretty thin.  Their moral compass is highly influenced by Confucian group culture, with social cohesion being the greatest ideal.  They have a duty to others and this is expressed in their behaviour.  Sounds great, but this duty doesn't stretch as far and wide as it should. It tends to sit mainly within small groups, such as family, friends, and work colleagues, others can quickly become outside of the group and therefore their moral sphere.

Korean people are amazingly honest, but surprisingly mainly to strangers and not to their own family. In the family setting lying to parents appears to be far more tolerable than being honest with them in a disagreement.  In my experience with my parents in-law, they would much rather be lied to, even if they really knew it was a lie, than face up to the truth that someone in their family wasn't going to do what they wanted.

For an example of this, when I went to Indonesia in the winter it was over Korean New Year, an important time of year.  It was, however, the only time I could go away and I wasn't about to lose the opportunity to travel.  My wife told me that her parents wouldn't allow me to go at Korean New Year. My response to my wife was something along the lines of, 'that's funny because I wasn't asking them, I will go if I want to, simple as that.'  My wife, knowing that I would never back down and her parents demanded their family be together over New Year, concocted a bit of a porky pie and told her parents that I was visiting my family in England.  This they would accept because of the importance of family in Korean culture.

So, I went to Indonesia and all was fine and they didn't even ask about my highly tanned skin on returning (a very odd occurrence for England in January). My guess is they might of half-known that it may have been all an elaborate ruse, but the power of denial is a very strong force in Korea.

The above tale shows essentially some of what is different about or cultural values.  In Korea they value respect and status, and in England people value honesty, fairness, and freedom.  This is a great example of how clashes can happen.  I value freedom and the ability to choose what I want to do and when I want to do it, I am never going to allow someone to not allow me to do something.  My parents in-law value respect and could never allow me to leave the family behind on such an important occasion for my own selfish reasons, it would not be respectful to them as parents.

Because respect, social cohesion, and status within the group is so important perhaps this is why they are so honest among strangers.  If you are going to lose your passport, wallet, or phone, do it in Korea and you will have an excellent chance of getting it back.  When wallets are lost in Korea most people put them in a mail box and then the postman gives it to the police.  The police then find you as everyone has an identity card.

I wonder if this is because everyone is genuinely kind in Korea, or whether it is because of a social duty and stealing, found out or not, would lower a Koreans' status in society as their duty was not performed.  This great concern for how one is perceived within society is also a major factor in the apparent lack of a class system here.

I live in the cheapest apartments in my city and no one there appears to be any different from anyone else and I rarely have any problems.  If I lived in the same kind of area in England, I am sure the 'chav' population would be in such great numbers, that I would be regularly bothered by them in a great number of idiotic ways.

Duty plays a massive role in Korean culture and its effects can be seen on a daily basis.  So many people live out their daily lives doing things they really don't want to do, seeing people they don't want to see, and being nice to people they really don't like.  They are constantly holding back their frustrations and putting a good face on things.  This is something, even though I am quite a patient man, I cannot do for any length of time and I find that although sometimes friends and family in my country can consider me quite aloof and unemotional at times, in Korea, like a bad poker player, I am constantly showing my hand.  If I am bored, tired, angry, upset, amused, or frustrated, despite what I thought previously about my good self-control, it apparently is written all over my face and I do a lousy job of covering it up.  I would hate to play a Korean at poker, they must be awesome at it.

My impatience, and the fact that I am not Korean and somewhat outside the normal sphere of acceptable group behaviour, does get me out of a great many duties and works to my advantage so I am not about to change anything.  I have an awful feeling that many Korean people live their whole lives under the dictatorship of their duties and rarely truly do what they want to do with their lives.  I often feel very sorry for them.  From about the age of 16, when they start high school, they have so many responsibilities (family duties especially) that if they were to go off their family's plan for them and travel, or have their own ideas about business or life in general, they would be scorned for being selfish.

On the surface of things, all is well in Korea and in many respects there seem to be far less problems in society because most people do what they are supposed to do and fall in line.  Underlying this, though, there is a troubling problem.  I am regularly shocked by the heartlessness of Korean people.  I believe this is caused because Koreans have a set way of doing things and duties to perform and anything or anyone that goes outside the normal line of duty is largely ignored or deplored.

Koreans are especially unsympathetic to work colleagues that show a glimmer of individual thinking. I documented this in my first blog, which was more of a rant on my wife's unfair treatment at work.  I am going to comment on a couple of recent incidents that have confirmed what I already thought about Korean culture, that it lacks an ability to empathize with people (and animals) and that because of this the their culture, and the culture of the Far East in general, is ultimately going to be morally inferior to that of the West (not just different, inferior).  Western societies have their problems for sure, but I think people generally care more genuinely because of their ability to empathize with others based on an individual assessment of the world, instead of a group vision of it.

Far Eastern people in general can treat anyone or anything perceived as outside the group or ideal rather shabbily and even brutally sometimes.  This holds true on a small scale like people who don't fit in at work or school, and mistreatment of pets, to rather large scale matters such as major animal rights abuses, the ultimate totalitarian regime in North Korea, and human rights abuses in China. 

I believe that even the crimes of Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin can be explained well through the culture of valuing the group over the individual, encouraging our natural tendency to tribalism.  Many religious people attribute the above to a lack of belief in god, but surely if they were to travel to this part of the world they could understand that there is a massive difference between your average Western atheist and Eastern atheist.  Their values and ways of thinking are completely different (and how can a lack of belief motivate you to do something?).

A Western person values their freedom the most, and a Far Eastern person tends to value their status within the group the most.  An over-simplification this maybe, but it has an effect of explaining an awful lot of the differences between the cultures.

Below:  Portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.  How can such a regime come about?  Are the core values of North and South Koreans so different?  I see worrying similarities between the dictatorship of North Korea and the behaviour of some people, families, and especially many workplaces in South Korea.

I have already mentioned the major isuues involved with this way of thinking.  There are also some smaller things that seem to be a part of everyday life:  Racism is a big problem, and any mixed race children or children from a different race other than Koreans, can have huge difficulties at school as they reside firmly outside the 'pure Korean blood' group and therefore often seem outside of moral consideration.

Domestic violence also appears to be a problem.  Anyone living in my area in Suncheon may well have heard some blood-curdling screams lately coming from a nearby apartment; it turns out that they were from my wife's friend in an apartment over the other side of the street, who had been going through an abusive relationship with her boyfriend.  My first reaction was to call the police for concern for her safety, but thought their next door neighbours might have done it.  My wife said, however, that Koreans always stay out of such matters and the police are rarely concerned and usually just tell the woman to calm down and leave them to it (if they are bothered at all).

Trust me, if you had heard the sound of the scream at 7am on a Sunday, you would have been concerned, but it seemed as if the whole street wasn't.  Recently, because of a few cases of domestic violence turning to murder, police have been encouraged to take these matters a little more seriously.

When we called the police, they showed up and talked to my wife's friend and them left them fairly swiftly, despite the fact her boyfriend was hammered drunk.  Watching from across the street at our own apartment they didn't even go in the apartment and appeared to only speak to her.

Animal cruelty also appears quite widespread here, with various major and minor instances rearing their ugly head from time to time.  A fairly recent incident involved how the Korean government decided to deal with a minor outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the pig population.  They decided to cull over a million pigs in the most disgusting way possible; they tipped them all into pits, on top of each other, and buried them alive (thousands at a time).  I have a video of this below, fast forward to about 2 minutes, and be warned it is painfully disturbing and upsetting.



It is worth mentioning the dog-meat trade also in Korea, which is technically illegal here, but not too many people bat an eye-lid when they see dog meat served in restaurants and when dogs are seen on trucks in tiny cages. 

Most people don't eat dog-meat in Korea, especially the young, but there is not enough collective public outrage against the illegal dog-meat trade, so nothing is done about it.  Many Koreans are still in favour of eating dog-meat will give the argument that pigs are a similar animal in intelligence and we eat them.  This is only a slightly valid argument, as the dogs in Korea are kept in appauling conditions and they tend to have a nasty habit of beating them to death because they rather strangely and cruely think that doing this improves the flavour of the meat. 

One does also worry about a culture that can mistreat a valued and close friend of the human species for thousands of years.  If they can treat our closest animal allies in this way, then there is a slippery slope argument that says this could slide its way down to mistreatment of people too.

There have been two articles on the news lately of dogs been tied to the back of cars and dragged down the street, with one dog dying as a result.  Generally speaking, the treatment of their pets is not up to the standards we in the west would consider acceptable.  If I was in England, I would have reported numerous people to the RSPCA (Royal Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals), even one of my uncles in-law, whose poor dogs are chained up outside their house with little shelter in all weather and, as far as I can tell, never walked or allowed to explore anything other than the view of the house for their whole life.

It would, of course be wrong of me to suggest that all Koreans don't care about abuses such as this, but it shouldn't be wrong to point out that there is an undercurrent of heartlessness for such instances generally in this part of the world, and although not exclusive to this part of the world, there does appear to be more problems here.

I am obviously not suggesting that all Far Eastern people are bad (I wouldn't have married one if I thought that) and I am also not suggesting that all Western people are good and that we don't have moral issues in our culture.  I cannot help but point out, however, that frank discussions about morals, a tradition of questioning authority, and generally standing up for the vulnerable in society, appear to be making greater strides in Western culture, we have come further and are the world leaders in this department. 

Many of whom stand up for the rights of others are ignored by government, and we do have a disturbing gap between the rich and the poor, and still ignore much of the third world, but moral progress is being made.  I don't see such marked moral progress in the Far East and I am concerned that, because of the fundamentals of their culture, even as they become richer, more highly educated and powerful they will continue to be slightly reticent in defending the rights of others when they exist outside of their community and sometimes even the ones inside it too.

The USA are often scorned by the rest of the world for being a super-power but for all their faults and those of other major Western countries, can we really imagine the world being a better place if the countries of the Far East dominate the world and become super-powers themselves?  At this moment moral standards in South Korea, and the Far East generally, still have a long way to go.

21 comments:

  1. I didn't bother taking your blog post seriously after you stated that the "Far Eastern" moral compass is inferior to that of the West. You did raise a number of great points and observations, such as how Koreans tend to be honest to strangers, but not to those in their immediate sphere of friends and family.

    Your argument for the inferiority of Far Eastern moral standards (which in itself is an extremely misguided concept, as the cultures of China, Korea - one could even argue South Korea and North Korea - as well as Japan, all have rather different moral and ethical traditions) falls short considering that you've chosen to disregard a number of important aspects of Korean culture. 정 (jeong) and 한 (han) are incredibly crucial to not only the collective moral fabric of the country and its people, but also play very huge roles on an individual, daily basis. You observe that Koreans are "heartless" and lack the ability to feel and empathize, and yet Koreans are generally considered to be the most emotional and red-blooded of the East Asian peoples. This is, of course, only a stereotype - much like many of your accusations.

    You ask how "such regimes" can come about, and yet you fail to realize that these regimes are the products of Western moral thinking. The US and the Soviet Union were the two (Western) nations that brought about the division of the Korean peninsula, driven by their individual systems of, respectively, democracy and communism. If you think Koreans in 1945 had any real opinion on either democracy or communism, then you're misguided. I thought this was common knowledge, but I guess it's not.

    Then you talk about dogs and animals. Oh, the Westerner's perennial gripe. Besides the obvious subjectivity when it comes to this issue, I guess you're unaware of the obvious ethical mistreatment of animals in the West? It's funny, actually, because some of the most visible and prominent members of PETA, which itself is perhaps the most prominent animal rights organizations in the West, happen to be Korean.

    Really, I could go on and on about how blinded you are by your own subjectivity, but that wouldn't do much. I suggest next time you try to engage in a frank discussion on moral traditions (of all things!), you educate yourself a bit more!

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  2. Thanks for the comment. I apologise for my frankness, it is my just my style of writing.

    I think you are absolutely right that I need to educate myself more. I am not an expert on Korean culture, you are right. I am going by what I see every day and my Korean wife often agrees with me on this, especially the lack of empathy. I am afraid lack of empathy seems an inevitable effect of group-centred culture. You can't get away from the fact that if you are thinking as an individual you are much more likely to be able to see where other individuals are coming from and when you don't have a duty in the group you can act in more genuine and sympathetic ways. When someone is not performing their duty in Korea, Koreans can be rather harsh on them.

    There are, of course, many animals rights issues in Western countries too, but having a few prominent members of PETA is not enough. Why aren't these people getting the message across in Korea as a whole? You just don't see animal cruelty in western countries on the same scale I'm afraid.

    Finally, actually, my experience is solely with Korea really. If I am generalising about far east culture it is based on what I have seen in Korea. Therefore, if I am misrepresenting anyone it should be the Chinese and Japanese as they are the people I have had least experience observing.

    Please don't think that I believe that Korean people are bad (far from it) and I do understand their recent and rather painful history. Whether it helps that I make the blanket statement that I think our moral system is generally better is certainly debatable, but I do think it, sorry.

    I thank you again for your comment, apologise for any offence you might have felt. Every time I read a good reasoned and passionate response to my writing (which yours was) my eyes are opened a little more.

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  3. As a vegetarian, I have to say your point about dogs and pigs being different is illogical. My perennial gripe with meat-eaters is that they condone the killing of one sensitive and beautiful animal for another. Hypocrisy is another name for it. If you don't think it's right to kill dogs, then you should also be appalled by killing sheep or cows. Why are you disgusted by pigs being killed in their 100's, buried alive, when chicken farms across the west take male chicks and place them in large containers and crush them to death and not because they have some disease, just because they have no 'use' so they don't want to waste money on feeding them.
    Raising, keeping and killing animals is barbaric however you do it, all the Koreans are doing is showing it at its most honest. The reason you are shocked is because you have grown up being shielded from the ugly truth of where your food comes from. In Korea you don't have that luxury and that's what bothers you, because it makes you question your own morality of eating other animals.
    So next time you see those dogs in the cages and feel sorry for them, think about the pigs and the cows and the chickens that have died in their 100's, murdered needlessly and painfully, simply so you can choose which animals are ok to kill and which are not. Next time you see those dogs, hopefully the pig you ate will make you feel guilty too.

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    1. I 100% agree with you on everything here, but your tone was judgemental without knowing enough about me. I have made your exact point before on another blog about abortions regarding treatment of animals. I was vegetarian for over 10 years, the reason I am not now is because it is harder in Korea for various reasons. However, you are right about the morals of it here, and I struggle justifying eating meat and feel guilty about it.

      This post was not about vegetarianism but about morals, so I think my point about dogs stands:

      "One does also worry about a culture that can mistreat a valued and close friend of the human species for thousands of years. If they can treat our closest animal allies in this way, then there is a slippery slope argument that says this could slide its way down to mistreatment of people too."

      Logically you are right, there is no difference between a dog and a pig but we have a naturally strong relationship with a dog and I think it does speak of a lack of compassion generally about a culture that treats dogs badly. I think you would have a far harder time convincing the Korean population of the ills of eating meat because of this. Indeed, finding vegetarians here is almost impossible, they don't even consider animal welfare in most cases, whereas at least Western countries do in many respects. The pig dumping incident proved this. The incident went largely unreported and ignored by the public, would that happen in the US or the UK? I think not. Therefore, you will have a much tougher time convincing Korean people over the treatment of chickens, but in the future I am confident that Western countries will improve. I do not share the same optimism about Korea.

      I can detect your moral outrage, and I understand it. I think there is a lot more going on inside animals brains with regards to feelings and thoughts than any of us would be comfortable with (this is brought home in people who have owned a dog), considering the way we treat them. It is our moral obligation, if we want to eat them, that we rear them with freedom and kindness and kill them ethically. However, even then I can't really justify eating them, animals are sentient beings that deserve not to be used by humans for the simple pleasure of taste.

      If it is any consolation I try to avoid eating meat in Korea, but I cannot say I am a full vegetarian anymore, as I said it is something that I struggle with and can't justify. I move to Australia next year, I will have no cultural excuses then. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. I Liked your article alot. I have been to Korea 3 times and to Hong Kong and Thai land once, and being a Canadian, I do not understand their culture and way of thought, at all.

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    1. Being married into it, I think I understand it. Sure, there are good and bad people all over the world, but when you value the group over the individual, the vulnerable are open to abuse and suffering and I see this regularly in Korea. I also see freedom and equality as values that trump status and respect.

      This, of course, does not mean that all Far Eastern people are immoral and Western people are better (If I thought this I wouldn't have married a Korean), just that Western core values may encourage better behaviour towards others and especially those that are vulnerable or people who you are not familiar with.

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  5. I really appreciate your post, and as a American anthropology major with many East Asian friends, I have come to the same conclusions about virtually every issue you've brought up. I don't wish to insult you, but i think the points you've made are, for me, arguments against Europeans and other whites marrying Asians. As you have noted in one of your comments, certainly not all Koreans and other Asians have lower moral standards, and of course not all white people have higher standards. But I believe that white culture and societies (specifically and especially western europeans and their diaspora) are uniquely moral, and have high frequencies of moral people, in a way that surpasses the rest of the world. I don't see other cultures truly ever trying to reach these moral levels either, especially not East Asians. With western countries having high immigration rates and low white birth rates, white ethnicities and the cultures that created them are endangered species, in a very real demographic and biological sense. I wish you and your wife the best, but I hope that the majority of white people like you (you seem intelligent, fair, and morally conscious) choose to marry each other, and not members of other races. I say this not to be hateful or offend you, but because I believe that the all the cultures of the world benefit from the existence of western culture and its morals, and that one of the best ways to ensure the existence of those values is to preserve western peoples.

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    1. I am not offended, but I can imagine that others would be, regardless as to whether they are married to an Asian or not. What you are saying is the kind of thing lots of people will label as racist and become extremely angry about. However, I respect you for having a strong point of view and for making this argument and although I disagree with you about some of the details, I can understand the principle you are trying to get at.

      I do understand your point and I think it is especially pertinent when it comes to the Muslim faith in Europe. Although Islam is not a race, many advocates of the faith have stated that they will eventually take over Europe by breeding us out. In time, there may be a danger of this happening and judging by how the Islamic world is run this is a worry.

      However, I think the main problem is with ideology and culture, not race. As far as I can tell, black people that are not under-privilaged living in Western countries embrace Western culture and ideals as much as White people and the same goes for most Asians - of non-Muslim faith - from the Middle to the Far East and are just as moral as White people. Every single racially Asian person I know in Britain simply has the same ideals as everyone else I know who is British.

      When my wife and I eventually have children, they will probably look more Asian than White (although Koreans may say the opposite) but I don't see that has any bearing on the culture and morality that they might favour and promote in the future. Although my wife is Korean, she is very Western principled so it is likely that our children will be brought up in a Western mind-set (and we will raise them in a Western country). If anything, I would have thought cross-cultural couples like myself might help to forward the cause of Western moral principles and understanding between the cultures in Asia.

      I think the influx of foreigners into Korea has changed some attitudes and morals in Korea and it can be witnessed when you talk with young people. Young Koreans always make me optimistic, but I agree that older generations seem completely oblivious to change in Asia or questioning their moral behaviour at all. Because the culture benefits people of age and maleness, I believe there is an unfortunate consequence of young people losing their open-mindedness and their ease with Western values when they become older as they see the benefits of embracing the old values to themselves. However, I am sure that many are breaking free of this and change will occur, although slowly.

      The great thing about Western moral principles is that they make sense, they work, and in the end people can be persuaded round to embracing them. There are also things we can learn from other cultures also and because of our principles of debate and free speech we can embrace them as well.

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    2. I have some comments..what people call "western moral" like sympathy, equality, democracy, the value of the individual/person today is thanks of christian values that were being built over centuries. Before Christianity, I believe the morals of "Europe" were not so different than East, the romans, the barbarians are example of that. Yes, east in general has a collective vision and you gave China, North Korea as examples, but they are "extreme" because they are communists. Communism is also a collective regime and only produces indifference, poverty, corruption, concentration camps "gulags" ( China today has concentration camps, North Korea also has it too ) violence, dictatorship everywhere... Africa suffers of poverty not because lack of financial donations from USA for example, but because of this communist/socialist ideologies that african leaders adore too and implanted there. It's easy to understand why they adore, the communist leaders are very rich, many african leaders are millionaire, also Fidel Castro in is...while his people suffer many privations.

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    3. While I agree that much of our culture and many moral intuitions have a Christian base, I would fall short of crediting it all to Christian thought.

      I think the enlightenment has to take a lot of credit for improved moral standards and often the church has stood in the way of moral progress. For one current example, think condoms in Africa and indeed contraception generally in overly-populated and poor countries where family planning would be of a significant advantage.

      If you will then say that Christianity paved the way for the enlightenment and scientific and moral progress like no other religion, you may be right. However, if it did have a great hand in causing the improved moral standards of today, that does not mean we still need it and indeed I think we have moved on from it and no longer require the principles of Christianity to aid us in living a moral life. Moral philosophy and science are far better tools for the purpose of moral development.

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    4. When it comes to communism, I think it is no surprise that this area of thought is popular in the Far East as it fits in with their cultural thinking. Africa is a trickier issue because you also have to weigh-up the effect of mass poverty. They also do not have the same culture of obedience to higher status individuals and this is clear by the tumultuous nature of that continent (I may be generalising across too wide a variety of countries here). When was the last time you heard of a rebellion in China, North Korea, Japan, South Korea, etc?

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    5. if you study the world history, different cultures constantly have been merged and a culture has changed and continuously transformed itself. What you see in the current society of South Korea is the aftermath of its rapid, forced modernization, Japanese Colonial periods, Korean War, and the chaotic nation building South Koreans diligently engaged with the last 100 years. Even in the early '70s, South Koreans still had to worry about getting their regular meals on a daily basis, and now they are economically one of the top developed countries. The cultural and spiritual sacrifices that had to be made for this past materialist and economic development for their basic survival was called " a miracle," yet the sacrifices made in other sectors of the society loomed large although it began to catch up now through younger generations. Now, do you know that historically, Koreans never invaded neighboring countries different from China and especially Japan? Traditionally, Koreans were remembered as peace loving, calm, and intellectual minded people. Severed from the past through the tumultuous 20th century, one wonders what may be the Korean features you are referring to. There is nothing wrong about insightful observation as you made while living in South Korea. However, we need to see the specific times and locations for which we are making our observation as things change over time. Historically, it is pretty commonplace to see Europeans and Americans alike were one of the most brutal groups when they invaded other cultures, wiping out the natives rather than coexisted peacefully. Think about what the British and Europeans did for the Native American Indians, who basically lived harmoniously with nature in in more spiritual paradigm different from our current extremely materialist capitalist society. The major weaponry such as guns and cannons that feudal Japanese so despised and stopped using in the 18th century were made in the West and imported. However, after a civil war using these disgraceful weapons, the Japanese banned the importation and usage of cannons and guns. If the Japanese whose history filled with Shugun's bloody fights and constant blood shedding thought the weapons were disgraceful, what do you think Koreans would have thought of it? The US is also divided into two parts. The messed up government and blind general public. I am a US citizen, yet I don't see any better morality in our western culture. I rather found them in Eastern Asian or native Indian cultures which did not rely on dualism. Observation is always good, but if I may suggest, you may suggest to add more insights and knowledge of the world history to your good insights.

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  7. As an east Asian, I usually think that werstern people is immoral. so Reading your posting is very interesting for me. Because many western country incluing EU has race discrimination and half century ago westerner made African slave. This is very cruel thing.

    East asis including Korea, China, Hong kong, Tiwan, Japan has confucianism culture. This is very important philoshophy for thise countries. Confucianism has high moral standard. It is focused on responsibility. Everyone in society has their own responsibility and has to do it. If you can't do this, many people in east asia see that you are a child. Most people in east asia know that following standard is hard but they think that life is not easy thing and adults have to do their responsibility. As accepting their responsibility, a child can be an adult in east asia.

    So you told that eastern is immoral because estern people is heartless. This is because they are not heartless but adults. In east asis, matured people is not expressing their own feeling openly, Just do their responsibility. They think that If someone cant do important things due to their emotion, someone is weak and a child.

    Surely, I know western people see many east people heartless due to these features. But In east asia people respect someone who doesn't be affected by emotion and do right thing.

    so Please don't miss understanding east asia countries.

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    1. I take your point, but 'doing the right thing' as you say in Eastern culture is doing their responsibility or duty. But what if someone or something falls outside of their supposed duties? There I see a problem because the philosophy is too rigid to cope with these kind of situations. It is those who we feel like we have no duty to that are most vulnerable to mistreatment, and treating such people/animals well, who have no connection to you and can't help you in return, is the measure of the truly moral person. It is purely doing good for the sake of being good. Embedded deep in the moral philosophy of East Asia is that really you only have moral responsibility to those you know, family, friends, colleagues, etc. This then stretches to people of your own nation. The lack of empathy I see towards those who are outside of people's duties is, quite frankly, shocking sometimes. This is why morality is better based on compassion and empathy than it is duty, which is why the East Asian philosophy of morality is simply inferior. I'm not saying Western people are always moral and East Asians are bad, of course not, but the underlying reasons to do good are better in Western culture, generally speaking.

      When it comes to discrimination, i think you should be careful commenting from an East Asian stand-point. I live in Korea, and it is by far more of a racist country than anywhere I have ever been. Racism exists all over the world, but in the West there are anti-discrimination laws that are upheld and when racism occurs, uproar is the result. In Korea, discrimination towards South East Asians, blacks, even Chinese in work, pay, hiring of staff, and even in common law is still extremely widespread. And god help any foreigner in Korea who gets involved with the police, if it is his/her word against a Koreans, they are screwed.

      Slavery was terrible, but I think you need to ask yourself, did East Asians keep slaves in the past? Yes. What would have been the result if East Asians had all the power and had a world empire first? Probably exactly the same. That's not to excuse it, but in the past before our morals were sufficiently developed as they are today, slavery was widespread in all corners of the world.

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  8. And plus I think emotional actiong is not moral one. If a child cries becasue he doesn't want to eat meal, is he moral one?. And If a child has a meal that he doesn't like, is he heartless? I think you should think what is moral and what is right thing one more time.

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    1. Strange comparisons here, think you would have to elaborate for me to understand your point.

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  9. For those which think that only Asians are cruel with animals:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2UHnOsfxhw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4c7Y_Wq1bU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR67NeU22g8&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DdR67NeU22g8&has_verified=1
    Spain, which is a European country turned cruelty against animals into a cultural specific:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTWVDLOBaPo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ekd1lvvk95o

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    1. I do get tired of replies like this. Who on earth said that only Asians are cruel to animals???? Not me, that's for sure. Every culture around the world is more than capable of animal cruelty, I simply saw less compassion for animals generally when I lived in Korea than when I have lived in other countries. For goodness sake, basically the whole world eats meat from factory farms and that's cruelty on a grand scale.

      Before you send me a link to a video showing Koreans being kind to animals, I completely accept that there are Koreans that are kind to animals. This is not my point. My point is that there are differences in the treatment of animals and general trends can be observed.

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  10. Dear Chris,

    if you study the world history, different cultures constantly have been merged and a culture has changed and continuously transformed itself. What you see in the current society of South Korea is the aftermath of its rapid, forced modernization, Japanese Colonial periods, Korean War, and the chaotic nation building South Koreans diligently engaged with the last 100 years. Even in the early '70s, South Koreans still had to worry about getting their regular meals on a daily basis, and now they are economically one of the top developed countries. The cultural and spiritual sacrifices that had to be made for this past materialist and economic development for their basic survival was called " a miracle," yet the sacrifices made in other sectors of the society loomed large although it began to catch up now through younger generations. Now, do you know that historically, Koreans never invaded neighboring countries different from China and especially Japan? Traditionally, Koreans were remembered as peace loving, calm, and intellectual minded people. Severed from the past through the tumultuous 20th century, one wonders what may be the Korean features you are referring to. There is nothing wrong about insightful observation as you made while living in South Korea. However, we need to see the specific times and locations for which we are making our observation as things change over time. Historically, it is pretty commonplace to see Europeans and Americans alike were one of the most brutal groups when they invaded other cultures, wiping out the natives rather than coexisted peacefully. Think about what the British and Europeans did for the Native American Indians, who basically lived harmoniously with nature in in more spiritual paradigm different from our current extremely materialist capitalist society. The major weaponry such as guns and cannons that feudal Japanese so despised and stopped using in the 18th century were made in the West and imported. However, after a civil war using these disgraceful weapons, the Japanese banned the importation and usage of cannons and guns. If the Japanese whose history filled with Shogun's bloody fights and constant blood shedding thought the weapons were disgraceful, what do you think Koreans would have thought of it? The US is also divided into two parts. The messed up government and blind general public. I am a US citizen, yet I don't see any better morality in our western culture. I personally rather found them in Eastern Asian or native Indian cultures which did not rely on dualism or materialistic views of our life. Observation is always good, but if I may suggest, adding more knowledge of world history into your good insights would illuminate your ideas further.

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  11. I watch a lot of Korean dramas, and I am perplexed by the dishonesty between family members. I was uncertain as to whether this was accurate portrayal of everyday South Korean life or merely a trope used to drive the story. I can't speak with any authority on the other issues you raise, but you've confirmed, at least anecdotally, that saving face is a cultural imperative among Koreans...on the question of morality in general, I also came across this article that you might find interesting.

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/march/korea-moral-brain-031014.html

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