Monday, February 23, 2009

Korean Students Love Marijuana

Not true, but flashy nonetheless.

It’s very foolish to do drugs in Korea. In fact, it's downright stupid. And if you gotta do it then at least wait until Korea is a memory. Between strict laws, witch-hunting Korean citizens and the risk of deportation, there is very little lure for the level-headed expats here. Still, some do it. For the average Korean citizen, the punishment is even worse both legally and socially.

In class this week, we're talking about drug laws, sentencing and a few other related topics, so today I started with a little open discussion about the perception of drugs in Korea, and marijuana was immediately brought up by one of the younger, “hipper” students. (Roboseyo has a funny little write up on his confusion with marijuana and the film “Marley and Me”.)

The student was speaking very openly about marijuana consumption in front of the class and even had to gall to ask me if I could assist him in his quest. I immediately told him to stop his inquisition, that that was not the aim of the discussion. I have no idea where one gets it anything in Korea, nor do I care to know. I don't want to deal with finger-pointing and he seemed to get the picture for about five minutes. But why was he so comfortable asking me in the first place?

When it comes to drugs, this man, like many of my students, has a very simplistic understanding of foreigners and foreign culture. Just as he was taught by mass culture, he believes most teachers are addicted to some sort of drug. The manner in which he was speaking to me resonated in stereotyped behavior and (outdated) drug-related colloquialisms. Having never been involved in any sort of Western counter-culture, he felt it was acceptable to ask for pot in front of an entire class while casually propositioning me to "travel to the US, get some marijuana and sell it to his friends in Hongdae". Why in the world would this guy ask such an outrageous thing in front of his peers? I was and still am baffled.

My theories:

1) He’s been indirectly exposed (not involved) to enough elements of Western counter-culture (probably television and film) that his curiosity now outweighs all of his naturally-honed Korean ability to fear all drugs.

2) He has such a warped idea of Western culture, from which he believes all of us to be involved with drugs and, since we are all addicted, it seemed acceptable to casually approach me in class as if he were simply asking for a higher grade. (Most likely)

3) He is a mole from one of these anti-foreigner groups and he’s trying to bait me.

4) Since he is the youngest student in the class (21), he is trying to play the role of the younger, rebellious youth that rejected society and blah blah blah…James Dean…blah.

5) He’s just a fucking idiot. (Also likely)

My guess? I think he’s a mixture of #2 and #5. Most Koreans think that all drugs are horrible and there is no difference between cocaine and marijuana. That view leads to alarmist reactions when they hear of drug use. Even an academic or legal discussion of drugs is not something I would recommend. But here’s this guy, trying to convince me that I would be rich if I smuggled dope in for his friends.

The other students in class were sheepishly smiling at his antics, but I’m certain that many of them were thinking that this guy is nuts and maybe a few of them were even considering calling the police. Alarmist yes, but this guy was asking for it.

I have since changed the topic for week to stupid Korean student's perception of what it means to be foreign.

Lesson one: Don't associate with douche bags.


Stray said...

I think most of my students are scared of drugs. I think they are scared about everything due to the daily beatings that can be received with one misstep. This article does make me curious to ask them about their perceptions regarding drug use, although the level of English present at my school is probably not sufficient to get anywhere.

The Clam said...

If you're teaching high school, then certainly.

Korean's view drugs on an equal plain of evilness and insanity. All of them are equally addictive and all of them are equally as dangerous. They "know" this so there isn't any need to look deeper.

And while we're on that inclusionary topic, "all foreigners are addicts" as well.

Prem said...

Or he could be stereotyping americans as potheads, and indirectly making fun of you. Making you look like foolish, and thats what i think makes the most sense, otherwise he is just an idiot