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[Opinion] Korea Opens up

Posted September. 03, 2002 22:30,   


Koreans have had two chances to prove themselves before the world. The first chance came in 1988 when the country hosted the Seoul Olympics and the second came earlier this year with the Korea-Japan World Cup games.

From outsiders’ viewpoint, including my own, Korea and Koreans have changed a lot since the 1988 Olympics. At that time, Korea exhibited its unique national characters, which were even close to chauvinistic nationalism. There were dubious calls in favor of Korean players in boxing finals. Offended by the scenes, foreigners came to conclude that Koreans are nationalists who do not know how to co-exist with others.

The Korean history also showed that this country had long locked its door tightly against the outside world. It’s no surprise because to them foreigners from the outside world were mostly intruders or aggressors. Given the somewhat xenophobic national sentiment, foreigners living in this country were not able to mingle with them so well.

That was until this year’s World Cup games. The World Cup brought a dramatic change in the way foreigners viewed the country. They say they found Koreans friendly and accepting while visiting Korea during the world’s soccer festival. Indeed, it was not hard to find people of different colors shouting Dae~han Minguk (Republic of Korea) in the sea of the reds.

Korea and the rest of the world was one in the red crowds. Foreigners are still excited about the spectacular scenes and their experience. One of my American colleagues who left Korea for another Asian country on business trip is saying he already misses his days in this country, especially the dynamic street cheering and street cleaning after games in which everyone became one.

The World Cup also instilled Koreans ‘Can Do’ spirit. True, I could find some lack of confidence among Koreans in the past. And I used to wonder whether the limits imposed on foreign businesses such as the ban on land ownership and stake participation (now it has changed of course) had something to do with their lack of confidence. I thought that Koreans might feel afraid that they would lose their own culture, identity and mentality against foreign forces if they opened up.

What I saw and the world saw during the World Cup games, however, was amazing. Koreans were no more self-depreciating before foreign visitors. They were cordial and accepting as equal partners. If this change continues and Koreans further learn to embrace different races and cultures, this nation will become one of the world’s leading countries. Yes, I bet on it.

Brandon Carr, Legal Consultant at Aurora Law Firm

Carr was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1969. He majored Administration at Maryland State University and went to the law school at Washington State University. He came to Korea 10 years ago and is currently working with Aurora Law Firm in Seoul living with his wife and two daughters.