The Flip Side of the American Coin
In the deciding Game 7 of the World Series on Monday, November 5, lots of students crowded in the Student Hall to see the final innings between the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees. When Arizona's Luis Gonzalez got a hit, everybody cheered the D backs 3-2 win. They grabbed the World Series championship for the first time. When I heard their clamoring, I was suddenly under the illusion that we Koreans are members of the United States.
The two authors of "Bully America, I am alone throughout heaven and earth," however, take a different view. "We have the Korean Baseball League, and Japan has the Japan Baseball League. However, the American baseball championship is called the World Series. Even though university students usually have anti-U.S. feelings, they show interest in the socalled World Series. Through sports marketing, America establishes its supremacy: "We are the best! We have to know all the real aspects of America, not just the bright side."
When you visit the Kyobo Book Club website to find recent U.S. books, 1,000 books related with America, often making the bestseller lists in Korea, are searched. Of such books, Park Jung-chul and Oh Seung-hwan's "Bully America, I am alone throughout heaven and earth," published by Risu in Korea, provide a sharp insight into the U.S. and its people. Both authors are now students at Yonsei University. After briefly serving as KATUSAs (Korea Augmentation Troops to the United States Army) for two years, they planned to write down their thoughts about America. Because they felt that Koreans didn't have sufficient insight into the basis of U.S. society.
The book is systematic and analytic, rather than a common view of the U.S. Its short stories are seasoned with interesting episodes the authors experienced as KATUSAs.
However, what is most interesting is that they point out some facts, sometimes we usually don't notice. For example, in Chapter 5: "Everything Was Swallowed Up by the Image," they introduced the very famous war movie "Saving Private Ryan," starring Tom Hanks, to ask the question: If Private Ryan was a black American, would they have tried to save him? The writers's answer is "No." Private Ryan was white, middle class and had political propaganda value.
When we see the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and Hollywood movies, we become members of America in a second. According to the authors, its humanitarian image is just one way the bully asserts its power. This is just America's strategy to transmit Pax Americana.
Chapter after chapter, the authors help readers to recognize this insidious strategy by interweaving not only episodes with experiences in the army but also cartoons by the well-known cartoonist Lee Woo-il.
Also noteworthy are the authors' efforts to elucidate the American personality through in-depth observation. They explain: "We just lived in a U.S. base but we learned American's ideas and life style in this small U.S. society."
For example, he notes that Americans give priority not to collectivism, as Koreans do, but to positive individualism. Even though it sounds very selfish, the writer says that "our culture wants to know everything about someone's private life. That is to say, Koreans are always invading a person's privacy. That is unreasonable."
Despite some of the book's contents, which might be misconstrued by some Americans as unjust criticism, the authors clearly stress their merits. "We hope readers can duly appreciate an objective view of the merits and demerits of American society from a Korean standpoint," the authors said in the preface for readers. The book also gives Koreans a chance to see how the U.S. Forces in Korea perceive them.
Most students are usually interested in the positive side of U.S. culture instead of probing its realities. I think that this book will give you a chance to reconsider the U.S. and its people.
Kim Jung-yoon firstname.lastname@example.org
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