Thursday, April 1, 2010

What the ... Junior?!?!?

I remember reading on some site, one of the Kamikaze Kimchi Kommando variety, about the Senior-Junior relationship. Someone was praising it. He went on about how great it was. How it fostered respect. How the whole Confucian system is what makes Korea great. Kind of funny coming from somone who had been born in America and never really had to put up with the Senior-Junior stuff daily. So I quickly forgot about it.

This week it came to mind again. In one of my classes they had to do an exercise that would have them talk to one of their "friends" (classmates) and write down their answers. Well, that ended the exercise. There are age differences between the students. They had a hissy fit because they would have to say someone who is a senior or junior was a friend. They have no qualms about saying big brother or sister but god forbid in a writing exercise the word friend is used. I tried to change gears and say "Ok. Use classmate not friend." But the damage was done. Their cultural imperative would not let them do that. Friend was mentioned. End of exercise. Move on.

It struck me just how seriously fucked up the senior-junior concept is. (Ok, I already knew that, it just brought it to mind again.) You can't do an exercise because the word friend is used and not classmate. This wasn't a case of them not wanting to do the exercise, it was all about using the word friend. We did the exercise the next day, not in the book, with classmate in the place of friend and they did it with no problem.

It often leads to bullying here. The older student in the name of "helping" the younger student learn will smack them around. I have had more than one run in with this type of behaviour. The strangest involved a runt of a student named Harry. He had great English and wanted to study and live in America. Then there was Bob. Bob was TALL for his age. Harry was in grade 8 and Bob grade 6. Harry and a couple of other "seniors" terrorized Bob. Harry was the worst of them. When he brought the BS to my class I ended it, at least in my class. Bob actually said "He is my senior so I have to put up with what he does." I told him that in Canada someone would have kicked the shit out of Harry by now. I always hoped Harry's dream came true and he went to High School in America. I wonder if he would last a day before a "junior" kicked the shit out of him.

This is one of the things that was screwing the Korean National football team. The younger players had to pass to the older players so they could score. Even if the younger player had a better scoring chance or was more skilled. It was one of the first things Hiddink changed when he took over the team.

It is one thing to have a kind of mentor system going with the Senior helping the Junior but that isn't how it always goes here. As with so many things in Korea it gets taken to extremes. If you are older you are right even if you are wrong. You must let the older player get the goal. Then you have some twat who didn't grow up under the system wax poetically about how great it is. I hope he gets to experience it first hand. As the Junior.


  1. This gets me too. It's not even logical, it's just blindly respecting someone because they're older than you. At least make them earn it somehow, like not being an asshole!

  2. Yeah.

    I only ever saw the BS work out well once. In my 1st year there was a class with an older man in it. Great student. A new student came in and wanted to dominate the class. He took a contrary view to what anyone else said. He just argued and argued. Finally the older guy had enough. He basically said this is the right answer. I am older than you so it is right. Now sit down and be quiet. THAT shut the guy up.

  3. Logic doesn't come into play in Korea... People just do what is expect of them.

  4. KRD

    That is true. I guess sometimes the mindlessness of it still surprises me.

  5. My worst student pulls this shit all the time. Seriously fucks up my class. I kept calling him on it, but eventually I had to go to my director. Who backed up his position as being the right one. "It's the way we do things in Korea, blah, blah, blah..."

  6. They do learn this shit young. Much like the way they learn to mook about.