[LETTERS to the editor]Cultural changes should not be fearedEven those without a professional knowledge of history know that cultures constantly change, and will continue to do so until the last human dies. People will retain the parts of their culture that please and suit them.
At the same time, they will take in parts of other cultures that they find them more desirable than their own. This is reality. Cultures inevitably change according to societies’ wants because, ultimately, culture is the people’s way of life. Therefore, I see globalization as a process of thedevelopment of cultures, which should not be feared.
Some might think that we now dress the way American actors and actresses do in Hollywood films. However, even as Koreans, we seem to prefer casual jeans and our Nikes. Hanbok, the Korean traditional clothing, and jipshin, traditional shoes made of straw ― symbolize the Korean culture that we value, but, to be honest, they are just not very comfortable or practical. In this sense, like in many other cultures, the Korean way of life has become more comfortable by adapting and incorporating aspects of other cultures.
Moreover, the disappearance of parts of culture is not always bad. Almost a century ago, the culture of slavery and segregation was predominant in all parts of the United States. Slavery has now disappeared and there are only small vestiges of racism left in the country. As in this example, the elimination of parts of a culture can be, in fact, sometimes beneficial.
“If you can’t beat it, join it.”
We can worry all we want, but nothing can counter the effects of globalization. Sooner or later all will be exposed to it whether we like it or not. Look at how globalization is even finding openings in the iron gates of North Korea as the market economy makes inroads into what used to be a closed economy. This is evident in the fact that there are now black markets for everything from Hollywood movies to Korean pop music in North Korea. As it appears, even the North Koreans have no choice but to come to terms with the power of globalization.
In its early history, Taoism and Confucianism were the only religions that existed in Korea. During the era of the Three Kingdoms, the inflow of Chinese culture brought Buddhism. When China lost power, it also lost influence. This was when Catholicism and Christianity entered Korea.
We sometimes talk as if our culture did not change before globalization; however, it is evident that even the gods changed in Korea before globalization. Koreans were probably resistant to these new religions at first. However, now, Korean society enjoys the availability of a variety of religions brought in by these changes. I, for one, am one of many very satisfied Korean Catholics.
Koreans may fear that, within the next hundred years, our grandchildren will only be able to see hanbok and jipshin preserved in museums. But I think we should remember: our culture does not define us, we define our culture.
by Koh Wan-gyu