Teaching English in Daegu, South Korea!

Ok. Call me over sensitive but when people flip each other off I am slightly offended. My Korean co teachers…’oblivious.’ Recently, it has been a growing epidemic to catch students flipping each other off from across the room, drawing middle finger signs on the English room’s desks. All of these things they think they are being clever but no, they are not.

This is what they draw on the desks!

Does this sign mean the same thing in Korea as it would in the U.S.? If not, I am over reacting…but I don’t think it could have many more meanings….

Does anyone else have this problem? I don’t tolerate this behavior! I don’t care if they choose to do that with their friends, that is fine, they are 13 they will do that. Please, just refrain from doing it IN FRONT OF ME! In front of me, in English, when I only get to see them for 40 minutes a week! Come on!

I think its interesting the remorse they seem to have when I catch them and I ask them not to do that in here. Maybe they have that look down so much because they know all the teacher want to see it. Not me, don’t put on a show for me!

Yesterday, this middle finger phenomenon was taken a step further in a 6th grade class. One girl brought in the class picture of her class- taken on a field trip of some sort. As I am scanning all the smiling faces and peace signs ALL OF THE SUDDEN IN THE FRONT ROW 3 BOYS WITH BOTH OF THEIR MIDDLE FINGERS UP!!!!!!! WHAT??? No one else has noticed that?!!?!?  So when one of the boys walked in he came near me and I said:”Oh! I wanted to talk to you.” He begins to turn around and says “Oh! Fuck!”

Before I go on, this a 6th grader. I know I shouldn’t be irritated because when you’re a kid you learn all the bad words before you would ever want to learn; “That’s too bad,” but I had a point to make with this kid who is continuously disruptive and his bad attitude is contagious.

I told him: “Don’t say that! Don’t say that to me or in this class room.” He just walked away. I am ashamed of doing this but…I tattled and told my co teacher! She brought him over and spoke to him in a low calm voice in Korean for about 3 minutes. When he walked away all she said was; “He does not know what is he is saying.” THATS BULLSHIT!!! HE KNEW THE RIGHT CONTEXT TO USE THE WORD!!!!

Don’t play that game son.


Comments on: "Korean kids and their middle fingers." (6)

  1. Same, same. My 6th graders and even a couple 3rd graders love it. Today a finger flew at someone from across the entire classroom and the co-teachers don’t care. It’s so surprising…but that photograph story is to the extreme!

  2. We can’t bemoan this too much in Korea as they have learnt it primarily from western, and most specifically American culture. The westernization of Korea includes not just bad and inappropriate language (‘fuck,’ ‘gay’ etc) but the circumcision of teenage boys, fast foods, obesity and the general shift away from a society of hierarchical collectivity to one of individualism. The love affair with the west is even mutating Korean language.

    When kids use the finger or say ‘fuck’ however, they often have no real idea of its significance and I have never experienced it with the same malice as I would in a UK school. It is the motives and intentions behind the actions that are relevant and most Korean school kids are simply nicer humans than their western peers.

    I am not pro the western influence in Korea and the more experience Korea has of the west, the more it is polluted by our ‘values.’ Westernization will yield some positive results, but these will be outweighed by the degeneracy that now plagues our respective countries.

    Yes, they shouldn’t be doing that, but they learnt it from us and it’s going to get much worse especially now Seoul has made corporal punishment illegal.

    And interesting blog which I will now add to my blogroll. Thanks.

  3. Oh, and sorry, but I don’t agree that a boy that age would know the context of using that word! I’ve known plenty of Korean kids learn all sorts of obscenities from video games such as Grand Theft Auto and some of the more insidious American rappers. Sometimes they reel them of having no clue what they mean.

    They might know what the word refers to but they will have no idea of the complex rules that govern use of this word and of its subtle differences in meaning and application because these are socio-linguistic in origin and rooted in a culture beyond their own.

    I occasionally shock Korean kids when I use various expletives – they tell me the sound I make is very rude, though funny, but my point is even as an adult I really have no idea of the significance of these words because I have not learnt them through Korean culture, I have not learnt them through a socio-linguistic exposure but merely as an outsider who is mimicking.

    Don’t be too hard on them and try to understand that they really don’t understand the context of what are relatively new words learnt from western influences. In a sense, kids who use such words no more need punishing than would a parrot.

    • I’m not hard on the students. I was simply being animated for the fact that this is a blog… although, I am still shocked to see how many students use their middle fingers and draw it everywhere- still. It’s just now I understand a little bit more of where they are coming from.
      I don’t have ill feelings towards any of my students, but if I am here as a Native English teacher- my job is to teach the language and culture. I simply told them that is was a bad thing to do where I am from, so don’t do it around me. I can’t control what obscenities they use outside of my English classroom, but I can try inside.

  4. I loathe this whole notion of “pure cultures” and “cultural pollution.” Cultures and societies are dynamic; they choose to adopt certain influences and to reject others. These rejections can even be of the *gasp* traditional influences. Societies and cultures evolve – they are far from static.

    And as far as the students’ purported innocence in these instances (I also teach elementary school), it generally a load BS. They know what they’re doing and saying and what it means. When my friends and I studied Spanish, we always wanted to know the curse words first. And we sure as hell knew what they meant we said them. There is nothing puritanical about Korean society, nor any society for that matter (well, except for the Puritans, technically but that’s a whole other ballgame.) Kids are kids and they love to get away with doing or saying bad things.

  5. Nick come on. First, Korea is doing pretty well for itself and has dealt with intrusive Western and Eastern cultures for centuries upon centuries. I may also add that because of Western help and ideas, little Korea is one of the strongest economies in the world. From your examples of culture: circumcision is a personal and family choice not limited to Western culture, Korean’s love fast food and also have their own fatty foods, being an individual is awesome and rap is a great musical art form that does not rely on curse words (though admittedly some rappers do). Anyway, like EP said there is always change and perceiving some threat, or blaming “Western” culture for some change, is really simplistic and silly. Second, kids EVERYWHERE know curse words, rude hand gestures etc etc. Although they may have learned the ideas IN ENGLISH it’s not like the Korean language is without it’s own words for “fuck” and “gay” or the same concept as the middle finger (here you do the “got your nose” gesture familiar to Westerners as just a game) . There is simply a novelty to saying such words in another language which kids here do VERY MUCH understand. To propose that students are simply ignorant and happen to use words like “fuck” and “gay” in entirely the right context is also pretty funny. Kid’s will obviously not understand perhaps the entire history or variety of uses of a word but they get the idea and daily use it to the right effect. Your comment just seemed awkward to me and was filled with generalizations. Just chill out and take this blog for what it seems to be. You may have some beef with Western culture (your own culture!), but it looks like the author was simply trying to show her experience in an interesting way and relate what she observed.

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