[LETTERS to the editor]The value of political correctnessIn response to Bae Yoo-jung’s column from your Dec. 12 Outlook section, I would first like to ask Ms. Bae how she would feel if she were in the position of the female professor who was introduced by a male peer who mentioned her age and said that she was still single so that the audience should set her up with their friends?
Having lived in Korea for eight years and worked with women of all age groups, marital statuses and professional capacities, including two years at a girls’ high school in Seoul, I know that all of the Korean women I have met and worked with would have been insulted by this comment, and at best would have sat quietly and tolerated the jibe. Wouldn’t they welcome a little political correctness?
But the matter goes deeper than Ms. Bae’s apparent assumption that political correctness is nothing more than a fad employed by Americans that Koreans find difficult to relate to because they are “relatively indifferent” to the cultural aspects of the language. Political correctness is more than an American fad and is only the face of a growing awareness that marginalizing people of different ethnicities, gender, income brackets or nationalities is wrong.
Ms. Bae shows the global nature of this trend among intelligent citizens by referring to the example of an Indian delegate offended by a Korean chairperson who referred to her as “Miss India.” This clearly takes the range of political correctness beyond the Anglo cultures that gave birth to the English language. At the conferences she mentions, how does Ms. Bae feel the German, Indonesian and even Korean female representatives responded to these examples of Korean men being unable to seriously refer to their female peers?
Ms. Bae suggests that “if [Koreans] are more conscious of the elevated political status of women in the international arena, we can reduce the risk of going against international manners.” How does she think Korean women truly feel about these “local manners?” Is this an instance of harmless cultural idiosyncracies lost in translation, or an outdated aspect of Korea’s social ethos being well expressed in a second language?
by William J. Tolley
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