Are Korans Open to Other Cultures?

As a rule, Korean people would really like to be open to other cultures. Actully, they really try to be that way. There are challenges to being so, however, and it takes some hard knocks usually in order to begin to define what these challenges are. There are some inhibiting attitudinal constructs in the Confucian philosophical framework that are designed to reject differences, and they are at first unconscious to Korean people, but are exposed and defined through the crucible of intercultural exposure.

Confucian social order was a deliberate design intended both to optimize and freeze social structures and norms. It works pretty well to resist tolerance toward cultural difference. In fact, this again is largely what Confucius intended it to do, and a pollyanish desire to tolerate quickly runs into Confucious, who is a pretty tough customer even though he has been dead for 2,500 years. Even when Korean people begin to realize this so that tolerant/intolerant behaviors can become choice for them instead of socially programmed reflex, it is still hard to really open up for a couple of reasons.

First of all, there is an aversion to addressing problems directly. The cohesion of the society allows for problems to be covered over and managed rather than solved. In some way, maybe solving problems means change, and admiting problems means admiting that society is not really optimized after all. This is anathema to strict conservatism, and that is what Confucian philosophy is all about. Cross culture interaction does create friction, which intellegent adjustments can reduce. So one has to realize what is causing the tension and do something cause and effect related about it. It isn’t always as simple as just having a smile and a willingness to engage.

The other big issues, as I see it, is that Korean people have to operate within Korean society, which is very specialized. If they turn down their Korean behavior in order to be more practically open to foreign cultures, they have to be able to turn it back up again when they go back into their normal every day lives. Developing a responsive switch is hard for them, it is a personal journey, it is often painful, it takes time, and there just isn’t much opportunity to flip (practice) the switch, so it sticks.

So yes, Korean people are open minded and want to be interculurally accepting. However, there are practical impediments to their doing so, and there is the rub…


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