Two days ago a Seoul National University professor wrote in the Korea Herald about the non-story. A couple of excerpts from Kim Seong-kon:
As soon as the magazine came out, however, our newspapers immediately began attacking the magazine, which soon enflamed the fury of readers who felt their pride was seriously damaged. Our newspaper reports wrote: "This photo essay introduces ungrounded rumors by stating 'love motels are also a rendezvous point for extramarital affairs.'" But is it not true that love motels are a favorite place for those who are having an affair? Korean reporters also criticized the opening remarks, which began: "In Gwangju, the neon lights of a love motel are never far from view. Young couples use love motels to enjoy a romantic night away from parental scrutiny." But is that not true as well?
Nowhere in the caption was a critique of love motels, and yet it did not mitigate the Korean readers' embarrassment. Reading the photo essay, many Koreans undoubtedly became discomfited and even furious with the fact that a side of Korean society that they wanted to hide from foreigners had been exposed by a foreigner and printed in a widely circulating English magazine. "The magazine should have declined such an embarrassing photo essay," wrote one reporter, "It will surely ruin our image." That was why people's anger was aimed at the people responsible for the magazine, and at City Hall, which subsidized the magazine but not at the writer herself.
I especially like his last set of points:
Instead of pretending that there are no love motels or reacting so sensitively to foreign criticism, we should instead try to build a society where no love motels are in business. When our society cultivates a high standard of ethics and a social atmosphere that properly restrains unbridled sexual dissipation, love motels will eventually go out of business. Meanwhile, we may get some comfort from the fact that young couples and people having affairs sneak into motels to spend brief but intense moments in other countries as well.
Therefore, we really need to have the capacity to boldly show our dark side to foreigners and generously embrace criticisms from them. It would be childish if we wanted only praise and compliments. We should be open-minded and able to laugh about foreigners' insightful observations into our culture and society. When our unchecked emotional response is unleashed, the outcome is almost always to our detriment. We should not try to hide things from foreigners; they know about our flaws and weaknesses more than we think they do. What are we trying to hide anyway?