This is perfect. According to the BBC News, South Korea wasted more food last year than the total amount of food available in North Korea. And it’s not by any means a surprise, to me at least. I’ve noted a few times to my waeguk-in coworkers at my university in the faculty cafeteria that the sheer quantity of uneaten food scraped off the socketed plastic buffet-trays is staggering. I’ve thought it was odd that we three Canadians tend to scrupulously clean our plates, despite the fact that we all grew up in more-or-less affluent, middle-class backgrounds.
Post-modern Ironic Self-Referential Rockin’ Musical Interlude (courtesy of Ben Folds)
Y’all don’t know what it’s like
Being male, middle-class and white
Repeat X 4
It gets me real pissed off, it makes me wanna say
Repeat X 3
Conclusion of Musical Interlude.
Meanwhile, it seems as if most of the Korean teachers and staff habitually take much more than they can eat, and blithely scrape the uneaten excess into the hole in the dish-table. Elbow elbow, wrist wrist. With the famine in the North, and poverty only a generation or two in the past for many people, I thought it odd. Perhaps it can be explained by conspicuous-consumption boasting : “I’m rich enough to waste food – look!”. I don’t know.
(I’ve always wondered with a shudder if Korean restaurants recycle the leftovers from those dozen half-eaten side-dishes of which they are so proud, knowing deep in my heart that the answer is probably ‘yes’, once they’ve fished out the cigarette butts.)
What I do know is that Korea is nuts-deep deep into the terminal nightmare of consumer society – disposable, convenient, one-use-only, individually-wrapped, chrome-plated and dying of cancer choking on the factory smoke, lost in the middle of vast grey concrete plains littered with trash. Not enough room, too many people, too many cars, too much of everything except tranquillity and quiet contemplation, and the Faustian trade-offs that were made in the past few decades are coming back to bite them in the ass. Screaming for a bigger piece of the pie, possessed by a crippling obsession with the appearance of affluence, with appearance over substance in general. The sentimental tears shed over the televised temporary reunions of families separated by war for half a century dry up pretty goddamned fast when it comes to giving up your own hard-won wealth and comforts.
And this, at root, is why most Koreans dream of reunification deep in their hearts, but do not for a second want it to happen up in their minds, at least not anytime soon. The lessons of German reunification are not lost on people, and if there were a chance that the slowly recovering economy were to be derailed again, if there were the remotest possibility that I might suffer in the short term, says Mr Kim, well, no thanks. If it’s not said in so many words, not something that is even consciously thought, what it still amounts to is : Let ’em starve. [thanks Lia!]

Cake? What the hell’s that? comments.

Thoughts That, If Not Deep, Are At Least Wide, Uncrappy