Image : Cartoon dog, yapping viciously, running at the source of its frustration, all a-slaver, until – glurk! – it’s hauled up by the tether it forgot about, and sails into the air, landing on its back with a mighty whoomp! Little birdies commence to tweet around its head, in circles.
It’s a novel and fascinating facet of this new medium (to me at least) that people can immediately call you on your sh-t, either with kindness or rancour, and force you to think more carefully about your offhanded rants and screeds. I called the guy I linked to in my last post a ‘cretin’ and opined that he represented the worst of what his country has to offer. Joanne sent me an email and asked a few good questions about why I said those things, and I’ll try to respond in public, at a little more length.
Joanne points out that the main thrust of the professor’s article is that Koreans should not be ashamed of eating dog, and that criticism from the west shouldn’t make Koreans feel ashamed of their culture, and that these points, based on things I’ve said before, are very much in line with the wonderchicken take on the whole issue.
She also says, in my opinion correctly, that every culture has things of which to be proud and things of which to be ashamed, and that eating dog meat is neither, if one ignores the cruelty that is often employed in their slaughter. In this I also agree with Joanne, but the last point is an important one, which I’ll touch on in a minute.
So where do I get off calling the professor such horrible names? It actually has little to do with the point he’s arguing. I tend to agree with him that Koreans should eat what they wish, and let the west take care of their own backyard. I believe my suggestion to Koreans was to say “Kiss our hairy asses!”. I made this. If you steal it, please credit me. Thanks.My primary problem with the good professor’s essay lies in the politicizing of the issue, something that not only annoys the hell out of me, but happens constantly in Korea, for complicated historical reasons. He pulls out old chestnuts like the sovereignity and submissiveness ones quoted below, like (to paraphrase) “it’s a conspiracy against to Korea to make us import beef”, like “the attitude of feeling shame by eating dog meat, of humbly lowering ourselves, shifts the cause of the problem and only hinders the solution, spoiling our pride“, and “in many ways, Korea is historically and culturally among the top in the world, but it lacks not only in a firm pride and belief in a traditional culture, but also in a strong will to make it known worldwide” to quote a few examples.
It may well be because I have heard things like this about “Korea’s magnificent culture” so many times that each further repetition becomes an annoyance. When people tell me (as they do, all the damn time) that Korea is unique in that it has four seasons, I nod sagely. When I’m told that kimchi (which I love) is the greatest health food ever invented, I smile in wonderment. When someone insists that Hangul (the Korean alphabet, which may truly be one of Korea’s greatest achievements, I admit) is the greatest alphabet ever created, I agree that that may be possible. When a colleague insists that Cheju island is more beautiful than Hawaii and Tahiti combined, I murmur my amazement quietly to myself.
I understand, as much as it is possible for a waeguk-in to grasp, perhaps, that the Japanese colonial occupation in the first half of this century was one of the cruelest things done to a people, ever. The Korean language was banned, Koreans (for whom family ties are perhaps the single most significant things in their lives) were forced to take and use Japanese surnames, cultural treasures and temples were destroyed wholesale, tens of thousands of young women were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers, the litany of evil goes on and on. I understand how that, coupled with the devastation and horror of the Korean war, a scant few years after the Japanese were driven out, has resulted in a people that, considering they were dubbed the Hermit Kingdom before any of this happened, are still painfully sensitive about both domination and cultural meddling from outside. I understand that the slightly pathetic assertions of Korea’s uniqueness and marvellousness, perennially overplayed as they are, come at least in part from the pathologies that grew from the rape of the country at the hands of outsiders like myself.
But it’s time to let that go. Korea and its people are truly one of the wonders of this age, and talking Korea up in a whiny, wheedling voice like this professor does, smacks of the same tired, masturbatory self-justification that has allowed all that is bad about Korea to poison all that is good. The country is being held back by people like him, and it annoys me.
The last point I feel like I need to make is that every time on Metafilter or Plastic or even gotta-love-em lowbrow Fark that the dogmeat issue comes up, it is invariably the consensus that “Koreans should eat whatever they want,” with the proviso that the preference would be for the practice of beating the dogs to death to end. Now.
Koreans like this professor entirely miss the point here. The vast majority of people in the west don’t care much about the issue, except when it comes to outright cruelty. By glossing this, and by defending the entire practice of eating dog, which I and many others are fine with, he is implicity defending the abhorrent and evil practice of beating animals to death before cooking them. This practice, where it occurs, happens because the belief that the adrenaline released into the flesh of the fear-crazed animal as it is beaten to death tenderizes and adds more of the mysterious healthful properties the meat is said to possess.
This I can’t accept. And I can’t accept that all the defenders of dogmeat in Korea so far miss the point so badly – that this cruelty is the only thing most people in the West object to.

Korea-related, Uncrappy