Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Propoganda Machine

I am beginning to have concerns about the Korean educational system. Recently, Japan has been taking several steps back toward a fair education with their denial of war crimes and rewriting of textbooks.

Before I go any further, do keep in mind that I have to temper my words carefully. The Korean government investigated some English teachers for a satire play.

The past week or so, I've become concerned about the state of Korean history. I've heard anecdotal stories from foreign English teachers who get chided by co-teachers or students any time they mention Japan. This issue came to my attention when I met my new class of "first graders." Under the Korean system the first grade students of middle school are about equivilant to 7th grade students in America.

One of the first questions out of their mouths were what I thought about Dokdo.

Dokdo is a group of good-for-nothing islands that Japan and Korea have been engaged in a war of words over since the occupation ended with the fall of the Japanese Empire. They are rocky and mostly uninhabited. No one really lives there except a small detachment of Korean soldiers to guard the rocks.

This seriously is an issue that just needs to die. I've read about it, and it seems that Korea has a sturdier claim to the land. However, the fact that teachers are drumming up this issue among students and instilling a sense of urgency and importance on this issue really concerns me.

Then I watched Arirang TV. Arirang is an international network that is basically a propaganda vehicle for Korea. It talks about how great Korean culture is, how superior Korean technology. There's a place for that I'm sure, but it really makes me draw back when they claim to have an incredible amount of influence over Japan (remember it was Japan who colonized Korea in 1905). Koreans take credit for sake for example. I watched an entire show where they claimed that Koreans traveled to Japan to teach the Japanese how to make liquor.

A larger disappointment came when I talked about my visit to the world's tallest building. I asked the students what the tallest building was. they ALL said 63 Building. The 66 Building is in Seoul, and as you can guess, it has 66 floors. Well, I brought the subject up to show off my pics of Taipei 101, the real tallest building in the world. According to Wikipedia, the 63 Building ranks 103rd in the tallest building category.

Come on Korea, there are some things you can argue about, but having students think yours is the tallest building? I don't know.

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