Considering how many native English speakers they had around, and considering the theme was about embarrassing oneself, they might have been a little more careful about, um:
You know, I'm not sure a video designed to raise awareness of a huge event in Seoul should be titled "Korean vs. Foreigner." The banners atop the page direct to the sale's Youtube channel, where the video is second in the rotation. I know it's not intended to be mean-spirited, and I know the "fish out of water" theme is common on television here---and drives one of the most popular television shows---but I'm kind of tired of seeing foreigners who can't take off their shoes, who can't use chopsticks, and who generally make buffoons out of themselves. There are plenty of cultural differences touched upon in the video---well, depending which "foreigner" you are---that they easily could have been playful and educational at the same time. A foreign-made video most likely would have at least drawn attention to drinking at a place called "Ho Bar."
It wasn't too long ago that the Korean Tourism Organization came out with a "Korea Sparkling" widget designed to raise awareness of Korea---to other Korea-based bloggers?---through a less-traditional medium. One problem was the foreign character, David, was made to look like an ass in each vignette. Charles Montgomery criticized the widget on his blog.
Watching this widget reveals far more about what Korean thinks about foreigners (uncouth idiots) than it reveals any reason a foreigner would want to visit Korea.Here are a few of the scenes:
I watched this thing for about 15 minutes and jotted down its little scenarios, which I reproduce below. Seventeen out of the twenty-four scenarios unarguably reveal David (our waegook hero) to be a dangerous idiot. What kind of brilliant marketing scheme is that?
• David lands and is amazed that his host family comes out to pick him up.
• He steps into a room without taking his shoes off.
• He plays hacky-sack and, showing off, knocks a bird unconscious, leaving the hacky-sack on the roof.
• He messes up a pot at a ceramics festival
• He eats sam gyap sal correctly
• He drinkes Sikyhe correctly
• At the Lotus lantern festival he tries to hang lanterns and instead falls on his ass, dragging the lanterns down with him.
• At a tea ceremony he actually kind of gets it right.
• He knocks heads with a Korean woman while (apparently?) trying to kiss her.
• Kimchee makes his head explode in flames.
He took it to the Korea Times a little later:
I watched some 24 vignettes during my viewing, and in 17 of them, Dave, the foreigner, was represented as a dangerous idiot who brings danger and shame wherever he goes. In one case he kicks a Korean in the testicles, in another he falls off of a ladder while hanging lanterns, is hit with a stick and pierced by an arrow and shocks an entire family of Koreans by entering their house with his shoes still on.
These are not messages that would appeal to any potential tourist. Rather, they paint Korea as a dangerous place full of potential social pitfalls. It's possible that these vignettes are meant to be humorous. If so, it's another mistake. How many countries with more successful culture-tourism campaigns use Three Stooges-type humor for self-promotion?
It's not confined to misguided tourism promotions, either, but is found in pretty much every textbook for learning Korean or English I've seen here. Every English textbook in the public schools has something about foreign kids who can't use chopsticks, a picture or two of some dumb white guy in the house with his shoes on, and at least several substitution drills that involve spicy food. So rather than choosing something universal, or using Koreans trying to make themselves understood in English-speaking countries, they revert to foreigners embarrassing themselves in Korea. When I go back home I'll have to check if the beginner-level ESL resources routinely have Korean characters who go to a restaurant and disgust other diners by chewing like horses, or who shock other pedestrians by spitting everywhere. Perhaps there are also Korean characters who get busted for street racing, who gawk at "foreigners," or who can't decide which classmate to cheat off of.
Anyway, I'll reiterate it wasn't made to be mean-spirited or to be insulting, but I wonder why these themes keep surfacing. And, I wonder how they can continue to get foreigners to play these roles. I actually met one of the guys at the KOTESOL conference last weekend, if I had seen the video before then maybe I could have asked him.
There are a couple videos out there that present a different picture of South Korea through foreigners' eyes. Perhaps the best-known is "Kickin' it in Geumchon," made by three guys teaching at the Paju English Village:
And in July a set of three videos was posted to Youtube. Here's part one, which opens in Tokyo, and is introduced with by the following comment:
Let me invite you to travel Korea with me by first stealing you from the city lights to enjoy a strange and different pace underground. The subway was my friend and my enemy.