Korea: Not Finnished Yet

Yet one of the most significant things Sahlberg said passed practically unnoticed. “Oh,” he mentioned at one point, “and there are no private schools in Finland.”

This country, Finland, is the anti-Korea. Rather than rewarding success and punishing failure, the Finns prefer ensuring that everyone receives a quality education, as opposed to the Koreans, who dwell within one of the most competitive societies in the world. Everything in this country is a fight; even the most mundane routines are epic Darwinian battles for genetic supremacy. People cut each other when they’re buying movie tickets or waiting at the grocery checkout line, and just a couple of days ago I saw a car speed up onto the sidewalk and drive all the way down to the next sidestreet rather than wait fifteen or twenty seconds for an opening to occur in the gray-white-black traffic. When I step outside and walk down the street I’m usually challenged by whoever happens to be walking toward me: old or young, big or small, handsome or ugly, they don’t want to move to the left or the right, because to do so would mean that they have lost, and that I have won, and that I am better. And yet in New York City, a metropolis wholly lacking in jeong, people get out of each other’s way; the foot traffic flows in purling rivers.

America is somewhere in between Finland, where real winners “do not compete”, and Korea, where real winners “crush their opponents to bloody, palpitating pulps”. I read part of this article from The Atlantic and talked about it with one of my Korean students yesterday, and both of us wondered how these strange Finnish ideas could possibly be transplanted to Korea: how can you take a classroom where children learn almost entirely by sitting and listening and replace it with a classroom where children learn by playing and talking? Is it even possible?

More importantly, this good Mr. Sahlberg has said that there are no private schools in his country. Imagine the consequences if private schools were outlawed in Korea, and if this law were actually enforced by the hagwon paparazzi—ordinary citizens paid bounties by the police to rat out illegal cram schools—and imagine what Korean parents would do with themselves if all of their children were forced to attend the same institutions. I think it would be great for this country, and that people would be a lot happier, after an initial period of absolute chaos; it would be terrible for me, however, since almost half of my income originates within the hearts of these competitive ajummas who, for whatever un-Finnish reason, are desperate to have their kids crush the kids who live next door.

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6 thoughts on “Korea: Not Finnished Yet

  1. Jonathan Hawkings says:

    You know man, I’ve found that every single article of yours that I’ve read sucks, and it surprisingly does. I mean, besides the fact that you don’t look happy in Korea, I have a feeling that, sadly, you think you are really, really smart. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not. And your blog posts are horrible.

    I still can’t forget the post where you wrote that you went hiking with some Koreans and you had difficulty engaging into a conversation and you wanted to impress them with your Korean skills so you started reciting some poetry or whatever to them. I mean, really? Wow. Dude, your social skills are over the roof, if you’ll pardon my sarcasm.

    And here comes another rubbish post comparing Korea to Finland and America. “America is somewhere in between Finland, where real winners ‘do not compete’, and Korea, where real winners ‘crush their opponents to bloody, palpitating pulps’.” Haha I mean are you seriously meaning this? America is the one industrialized country where you can see a homeless person at every street corner, and where walking at night by yourself is too dangerous to even think about it. People in Chicago’s suburbs are busy shooting at each others to ensure they get their turf for selling crack to pathetic addicts, and brainwashed people like you are busy writing about how Korea sucks. Casino capitalism, lack of social welfare, high violence rates; are we talking about Korea or the US?

    If you want to criticize Korea, go ahead, but do it intelligently. The last time, you complained about a middle-aged man who told you to get off a tomb in Gyeongju. You even lack the modicum of common sense necessary to realize that in this type of situation you were totally wrong and you have nothing to complain about, except for your ridiculous behavior which you should be too embarrassed about to even write about it on a blog.

    Good luck with your life, man. I’m sure Korea will continue to have a lot to offer to you.

    • hiddenconnections says:

      You know man, SUCK MY BALLZZZZZ!!!

    • Vib says:

      And now we are all laughing at the middle-aged man trolling on a stranger’s blog. To quote Steve Jobs, “By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others work and belittle their motivations?”

      • hiddenconnections says:

        Thanks for the support…I’ve tried the “what have you done?” schtick before with these people without any success. I also use it on myself. Just a couple of days ago I saw a (heavily-doctored) picture of Madonna on the cover of Vanity Fair and was like, Madonna, desperate for relevance, but then I thought, well, she’s on the cover of Vanity Fair, so she’s somehow managed to achieve fame and fortune, two rather amazing accomplishments that seem to elude most human beings, so she must have some sort of unique talent…

  2. hiddenconnections says:

    Okay Jonathan Hawkings, it is seriously time for you to come over from wherever you are, and suck my balls. They’re hooked up to a GPS tracker so that fans like yourself can find their exact position, down to the inch, from anywhere in the world, though their immense size sometimes messes up the coordinates and also makes it difficult for adoring commenters to get them down their throats. But don’t worry. We’ll find a way to force that big pretty salivating mouth of yours to open even wider than it already has.

    So you want a more intelligent response to “you’re a fucking idiot”? Jonathan, you just spent how much time stalking me, how much time composing a long response to my post, how much time checking back to make sure that I’d responded to you–what does that make you? When I see something on the internet I don’t like, I just move on and find something else, but for whatever reason you just keep coming back. No one’s forcing you to read this shit. What do you gain from coming here? How does writing to me relieve your own immense and obvious insecurities?

    But yes, you are a fucking idiot. Here’s why:

    1) What the fuck is wrong with reciting poetry?

    2) You say you see a homeless person at every streetcorner in America. This is proof enough that you have never set foot on American soil, know nothing about America, but still despise it for insecure reasons of your own. Do me a favor and take that bullshit somewhere else.

    3) Going on the tomb was wrong, but Koreans do it all the time, no one seemed to be around, I was following a pair of toddlers, and I meant to get down immediately after we got to the top. GO FUCK YOURSELF!

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