Monday 2 February 2009

Korean Tourism Organization Offers Tenure to Sociologist After His Article in the Korea Times Calls Korea "Unique"

In a surprise move, the Korean Tourism Organization offered Jon Huer tenure "at any Korean university he chooses" after publishing an article in the Korean Times' opinion page titled, "Why is Korea So Strange"

University of Maryland University College Sociology professor Huer's article draws a picture of Korea that exactly fits the goals and purposes of The Korean Tourism Organization, to present Korea as a unique and special, with traits and characteristics different from other places. He describes Korea's geography and language as the source of unique "Korean thinking"

He asks, "Why is Korea so strange and weird, contrary to what's on the surface? As a sociologist who has lived and taught in Korea for over a decade and as one who believes in rational explanations for all social phenomena, I am going to offer two explanations: geography and language."

KTO public relations manager Han Jeong-seok reports, "Mr. Huer's description of the uniqueness of Korean geography and language are a thrilling academic validation of things we have been trying to explain to foreigners for years: Mr. Han threw a sheaf of six-hundred pages onto the desk where Dokdo Is Ours was interviewing him: they were six hundred pages of promotional materials, beautifully designed, and printed in Korean. "Look how hard we've been trying to explain Korea to foreigners! None of this has made a fly-turd's difference."

"Mr. Han," Dokdo Is Ours commented, "These promotional materials are all in Korean."

"So what? It took thousands of hours to make them!"

"Most foreigners don't speak or read Korean, sir."

"Why shouldn't they learn? If they tried, they'd read that Korean is the greatest language in the world."

"I don't think that's how tourist promotion works, Mr. Han."

"You should learn more about Korea! Why do you hate our culture? If you don't want to learn more about Korea, you should go home!"

"Is that the KTO's official position?"

"Spend money here first."

According to Dr. Huer,

As for geography, if you take Europe as the starting point and expand your horizon in both directions, east and west, the Korean Peninsula is seen at the very edge of the world.

If Alexander the Great had pushed on toward the ``farthest point of the world," as he had originally wished, he would have stopped in Korea. Of all the nations he encountered on his eastward progress, the cluster of the tiny kingdoms now called Korea would have been at the very edge of the known world.

Indeed, Korea is virtually the remotest tip of the known world to Americans and Europeans. Korea's social structure, food, clothing, manners of living, language and other aspects of life are some of the ``strangest" the Western world has known about. Even Nepal, as remote as it seems from the Western sphere of things, is more familiar than Korea to the rest of the world. No wonder Korea's internationally-recognized moniker is the ``Hermit Kingdom."

. . .The expressiveness of the Korean language and the variations and shades of meaning it is capable of producing is mind-boggling to most Westerners. Even the commonest verb, like ``to eat" or ``to live," when combined as a compound verb ``to eat and live," is so loaded with emotions and feelings that only native Koreans can comprehend and communicate them among themselves.
In a brief phone interview, Dokdo Is Ours asked Mr. Huer, "Isn't Japan farther from the world known to Americans and Europeans? I mean, it's farther from the west than Korea. Shouldn't JAPAN be considere the remotest place from the West?"

"You should understand Korea more, man!" Mr. Huer screeched, "If you don't try to learn more about Korea, you should go home! It's hub dynamic unique well-being ubiquitous special sparkling I love you cutey fu¢k Japan!" He slammed the phone down, before Dokdo Is Ours could ask another question. Upon phoning again, Mr. Huer said, "I can't talk: my hand is pretty sticky after jerking off an entire culture," and hung up again.

When asked about the Korean Tourism Organization's offer of tenure to Dr. Huer, Konkuk University president Kim Hong-ju expressed misgivings. "This is an unconventional offer, to be sure. It's true SNU put a foreign professor on their tenure track, and we're jealous as hell, but for a professor to receive tenure at our school, they would have to go through the normal process of application, tenure-track application, and publication... to have a tourism organization offer a professor tenure on our school's behalf, on the basis of one article, -- we probably wouldn't accept that professor, and hope some other university did."

Numerous other university presidents and deans said the same, but asked not to be named.

If no university is willing to take Huer, the Korean Tourism Organization would be embarrassed, but they say there are positions "writing pamphlets and other promotional materials" open for a scholar who sees Korea the way Mr. Huer does, right at home in the KTO.

"And is this how you want Korea to be seen by the world, Mr. Han?" Dokdo Is Ours asked the Korea Tourism Organization p.r. manager.
Trapped by such immutable aspects of history and culture, Korea will remain strange and incomprehensible to the rest of the world for a long time to come.
Mr. Han shrugged his shoulders.

"Nothing else has worked."



Anonymous said...

DIO, I am still waiting for the tenure offer. Although I have a job at an American university it would always be nice to have my boss that I have other options. JH

Dokdo Is Ours said...

Thanks for stopping by, JH.

If you really are The JH, Dokdo Is Ours appreciates that you appear to have taken his/her satire in good fun, which is how it was meant.

All the best:
-Dokdo Is Ours