Jews, Koreans, and Prejudice (editorial)

Hello. This is prof. AKIA with an editorial which is basically an excerpt from my Korean movie “Veteran” (2015) Review. If you have read that review, there is no need to repeat the experience. If you still want to, bless you.






Money, Jews, and Koreans
Recently, a Korean made a claim that Koreans are not racially prejudiced against Jews. And I agree and somewhat disagree at the same time.

“Jew” is not used in any derogatory manner here.

Compared to the numerous other peoples in the world, Koreans’ contact with the Jewish people are rather minimal. And the Jewish people, while not as numerous as some, are one of the more famous ones. I do not think a majority of Koreans will even recognize the most orthodox looking Jew if they were standing right in front of one. Thus, the possibility that we would pick up on more subtle ques is low.

This makes the Jewish people more like a fictional mystical people like the Hobbits to Koreans. As a result, Koreans are free to make up their own image of who Jews are by which I mean self-indulgent interpretations. The most obvious fact that Koreans first notice about Jews is the whole “diaspora” thing. We think “Jews suffered a lot. We also suffered a lot. So we are similar.” This creates a rather superficial but positive connection in the mind of a Korean. The fact that, if you get down to brass tax, it is rather embarrassing to compare the two, does not really enter a Korean’s mind. This is part of what educated Koreans call Koreans’ tendency to cosplay being the victim.

We Love to do that!

The next positive connection is made after overhearing that Jews are very into educating their children. Koreans think “We also do that!” since Koreans tend to fetishize the appearance of being educated. This goes way back to the past when Philosophy department scholars formed the ruling class of old Korea. Thus, now we spend tons of money to educate our children without actually educating them. In any case, this is a reason why Koreans publish books with titles like “How to raise your kid like a Jewish mother.”

While this is superficial, the image of the Jewish people Koreans have here is positive. But there is another side to this. Once you start to get into other elements associated with Jews, very familiar words regarding the Jews start to come out.

Filthy.
Greedy.
Money grabbing…

Some Koreans suddenly turn into Mel Gibson.

The reasoning behind this phenomena is intriguing to think about. Some of it comes from imported views of Jews that rubbed off on to Koreans. But I think this is not the whole story. The fact is that very few Koreans have had firsthand contact with Jews in the first place. So, even though we might have picked up some bad ideas, why did it stick so strongly? This makes me think how much of this is actually about any racial elements and how much it is actually about the social roles Jews are commonly associated with.

Money and business is a very touchy subject for Koreans. For most of the last 600 years, people dealing with money were seen as barely being above a slave. People who were merchants or in other business professions were shunned by the socially dominant scholarly class. Within the culture, dealing with money was seen to be a state to get out of quickly.

Think of it as being a pornographer in the 80s.
Make your money and get out.

Things have slowly changed over the last 100 years but this prejudice still strongly lingers within the culture although selectively. By this, I mean “if I do it, it is okay. If anyone else does it and better, it is filthy!” This makes “Jaebols” an easy target. Thus, the rather contradicting image of Jews can be linked to this “Social function / Job” prejudice Koreans have.

That was a long way to get to my point!

Jaebols and Prejudice
Watching “Veteran” (2015) ends up being rather uncomfortable as it is vehemently prejudice against a social minority within Korean society. Does it matter that they have money? Some would say yes. Other would say no.

But the thing is that money didn’t save the Jews of west Europe during WW2.

You could make a “rich” bashing movie work when you focus on an individual and do not further extrapolate the negative traits of the villain to a wider subset of people. After all, there are always bad apples amongst any loosely categorized group of people. “Veteran” (2015) goes over this line as it tries to say that the villain is a terrible sub-human being and the others within his social grouping are no better.

It is interesting watching this movie as the movie checks down every general slander, which existed even before I was born, that has been laid upon the subset of Koreans arbitrary titled as being “Jaebols”. They are sexually deviant. They are child molesters. They are drug addicts. They are mobster. They abuse actresses. They have bastards with those actresses. They abort those bastards against the mother’s wishes and etc. If this think about the hero’s motivation in this avenue and replace the villain “Jaebols” with a villain Jew, things get rather clearer and ickier. His sudden dislike of the villain makes more sense.

In many ways, the popularity of this movie is very revealing of Korean society. The negative feelings towards the so called “Jaebols” is at the highest amongst the population it had ever been in the modern times. This phenomenon is quite interesting as the Jaebols’ socio-political power has dwindling over past 15 years while still basically taking on the brunt of the tax burden in Korea. Just think of the fact that about 49.5% of the Korean tax payers with income do not pay any direct tax after deductions.

It is something to think about.


This was prof. AKIA with an editorial. Some food for thought.







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