From my personal experiences, and also according to my acquaintances’ anecdotes, it is just so hard to have a good, healthy and rational debate with Koreans (some say Chinese, too). I am not talking about how Asians and Westerners differ in building their logics. A lot of Koreans just cannot detach their emotion from what is discussed, let the topic be sexual minority, recen politics or childbearing. In addition, Koreans seem like they just have to shove this “South Korea is #1 in everything” idea to everyone else’s throat. To many Koreans, if you question that, you are flat wrong or flat stupid, because (to Koreans) it is universal truth and they have a mission to make sure everybody agrees with them. They just can’t bear a single negative opinion on their home country (yet it seems like they have a tad more tolerance of white European foreigner saying negative things than their fellow Korean-looking foreigner saying it).
Making the matter even more complex, I am a biological Korean who does not feel that much attachement to South Korea, grew up in typical American way – speak up and be yourself! – and have very objective parents. In college, I was anxious when another Korean student started bashing on Japan. If I stand up for Japanese, I’ll be the witch. Stuck between American and Korean pals put me in a complex situation. The Korean student wants to spread his mission mantra; American either disagree or unwilling to listen this mantra. And I was in dilemma: I want peace, but if I say “let’s talk about that one some other time” or “Errr…I don’t think so,” I’ll be the most wanted person among the Korean community. On the other hand, if I join the “South Korea #1 in everything” mission, I’ll probably become just another “that Korean girl.” Oooh, what do I do, what do I do? Can we just all be happy and peaceful together forever?
I am not a pitbull always on a search for something to kill; if I sense the ugly argument looming, I usually cut it out or leave the place physically. But what if another person gets all emotional and keeps throwing at you, unwilling to accept and see the difference as it is – even more just because I am Korean on facade with native language skill – what should I do? How should I behave yet be myself, under a culture that frowns upon being direct and firm? Especially when people like me – who knows the language well and have the looks – tend to get a lot more cold eyes and disadvantages, because I think differently yet have all this external qualities of “one of them?”
As time goes by, more and more I realize that every good work – good communication, good sports score, good craftmanship, good performance – is not a just one man’s work. Everything has to be in its place, doing its job, giving its best. Likewise, a good communication is a two-way road; everyone has to be willing to listen and agree, as much as they are willing to speak. If another person is not ready to agree or listen, it won’t work out at all.
St. Paul is known for his missionary work in Greece. He converted many not by lecturing, but engaging into a dialogue – he visited the town’s plaza and academy almost every day, having a sincere discussion with Greek scholars. In the past, I used to think it was possible only because of Paul’s awesomeness. Now I re-think about this, it was possible because the Greeks knew the basics of debate. Back in ol’ days, dropping by your local academy or plaza and engage into a discussion was a form of popular entertainment. They were ready to listen and speak. Would St. Paul’s missionary work through conversation be that succesful, if he were with hunt-and-gathering primitive tribe in Amazon? (No intention of talking down of the primitive forest-living tribes, I am just throwing this as an example of people who are not quiet ready for debate, listen, and able to accept the different opinion or belief).
The more I think about it, I feel that the good communication does not happen with one genius. Both sides need to be ready to listen and accept the difference and study how different they are from each other. If there are more people in the world who are willing to listen and accept the difference and diversity, the world peace can be found right around the corner. But sadly, as Machiavelli said, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”
I guess mankind still has a long and winding road to the world peace.