Camp Catatonia links to me (thanks!), with some commentary, upon which I’d like to comment. Got it? Good.
There are some parallels between the experiences of foreigners in Japan and Korea, but there are also some very distinct differences. I would have to agree that, at least in their public faces, the Japanese tend to be ‘not openly outgoing and not particularly passionate people’, as characterized, but I would argue that that’s not the case for Koreans. As much as I hate to generalize about such a large group of people, I’m going to do it anyway. In my experience, the Koreans are a fiercely passionate people, warm-hearted to the point of sentimentality, quick to anger and quick to forgive, and in many cases completely lacking in that ‘inscrutability’ that westerners tend to ascribe to all Asian folks. As I’ve mentioned before, some call them ‘the Irish of Asia’, fully aware of both the positive and negative connotations that that phrase can elicit. To carry the analogy a little further, the Japanese would be the English of Asia – reserved, effete, cultured to the point of snobbery, at least in the face they present to outsiders. The Japanese tend to look down their noses at the Koreans, as the Japanese tend to do with most people who aren’t Japanese (again allowing for the fact that I’m making gross generalizations here). Korea has a massive inferiority complex, and a fairly large dose of ‘little man syndrome’ as well. They are desperate to prove to themselves, and the world, that they’re as good, no better, dammit!, than anyone else around. This manifests itself in risible statements, like “Korea has four distinct seasons, unlike anywhere else in the world,” which is one that newbie foreigners always run into soon after arrival and always scratch their head over, trying to dowse out a deeper meaning from what would seem to be nonsense.
I could go on, and I will, but not right now.