gaejeossi

Gaejeossi Must Die

by

Ajeossi (n.)

  • a form of address for a male relative from one’s parents’ generation, excluding brothers of one’s father
  • a form of address for an unmarried younger brother of one’s father
  • a form of address for an adult male stranger
  • the title of a 2010 movie starring South Korean heartthrob Won Bin
  • men who are middle-aged or older and behave like assholes (synonym: gaejeossi)

If you think you are a petty sort, try to top this.

You go to a Chinese restaurant near your workplace with three colleagues. You order the classics: black-sauce jajangmyeon, spicy jjambbong and fried rice plus a platter of sweet-and-sour pork to share. The pork is first to arrive, accompanied by two small saucers of soy sauce for dipping. You ask for two more saucers (since there are four of you) but the server refuses, saying the policy is one per two customers. You fly into irrepressible rage against this gross injustice, accuse the restaurant of behaving like guards at Auschwitz and publish your wounded feelings in the nation’s largest newspaper, suggesting a boycott of the establishment by way of naming only three of the four Chinese restaurants in the area, the ones that apparently do not withhold extra soy sauce.

I am not making this up.

The opinion piece, titled “Two Saucers of Soy Sauce,” appeared under the byline of a Chosun Ilbo reporter in the same newspaper’s weekend edition late last month and became the object of nationwide ridicule for days. Journalists condemned the journalist who wrote it — the paper’s department chief no less — and even the conservative Chosun Ilbo readers joined in on the chorus of criticism, calling the public takedown of a Chinese restaurant over soy sauce an unfortunate example of gapjil: an act of impunity by someone powerful against a weaker member of society.

Gapjil indeed is something of an ongoing problem in South Korea, as exemplified by Cho Hyun-ah’s famous “nut rage” onboard a Korean Air plane at JFK one year ago. (It seems only astronauts in space missed that episode given the prolific international coverage.)

But as outrageous as the story of the Chosun Ilbo reporter is, I was close to shrugging it off because I see too many South Korean ajeossi lose it in the face of some imagined humiliation. This is the typical profile: an aging South Korean male — say 35 and over — who thinks himself God for unfathomable reasons, enforces a misguided sense of order that places himself (or men in general) at the center of the universe, and steps all over anyone perceived to be inferior. What binds these men is a singular conviction in the righteousness of their action, and profound puzzlement and even anger when they are rejected or confronted.

The frequency of ajeossi meltdowns under everyday circumstances temps many young South Koreans including my friends to resort to a less-than-respectful epithet in referring to many of South Korean men middle-aged and older: gaejeossi.

The term gaejeossi marries the word ajeossi — generally meaning middle-aged men — with a prefix derived from the Korean word for…dog. I have endured my share of them over the years: a mid-career journalist at one of the top three South Korean newspapers who had never known me until a conference but tried to hound me into helping him write his graduate school application essay in English…for free (I don’t care to recall how many times he called me until I severed all contact); a professor who pretended to bestow some great favor when he asked me to serve as his near full-time office assistant in exchange for a desk at his research center (It was kind, but I already had a desk of my own, at home); a realtor who lied about the age of an apartment I was about to rent not once but twice and then flatly denied the whole thing when brought to task over his deception.

Then there are the drunkards who shout inside subway compartments as if they were at beer halls, taxi drivers who try to take the long way around because I obviously look like a Japanese tourist, and diners who genuinely seem to believe that restaurant servers are servants in the medieval sense. They bellow, “Eonni! Bring me two bottles of soju! Now!”

(Should you meet a South Korean man, listen very carefully to the language he uses; if he has trouble remaining polite in his speech despite not being on familiar terms with you, there is a significant chance he is a gaejeossi.)

Why men, and why of a certain age? Cartoonist Park Soonchan says “There are still more men [than women] who get into trouble” in explaining why he doesn’t feature as many women in his socially and politically driven works. In South Korea culprits behind so many misdeeds of varying seriousness are aging men. And in a vicious cycle men behaving badly win forgiveness far too easily; the older the man the more understanding he receives. No wonder they feel empowered to get naughty all over again.

Consider the ruling Saenuri Party leader Kim Moo-sung, frequently accused online of being a gaejeossi by his numerous detractors. Famous for his verbal gaffes, he casually told an African exchange student at a recent charity event, “Your face is of the same color as a coal briquette.” When denounced as an embarrassment to the nation for that clearly racist remark (and making it as one of the top search words on the portal site Naver that day), Kim made an even bigger fool of himself with his so-called apology: “I had not realized I could be inflicting pain; I was just trying to be friendly.” Insensitivity expressed as a casual insult and incredulity at finding himself in the wrong are both classic hallmarks of an ajeossi gone bad. Yet Kim suffers no discernible damage to his political career, thanks to what a columnist at Kyunghyang Ilbo calls his “tough, macho image.” His core supporters — old people just like him — are content to uphold the belief that “men will be men,” that real men ought to be gaejeossi.

Until recently, becoming gaejeossi seemed all but inevitable and unexceptional a fate for South Korean boys, coddled by overindulgent parents solely for the monumental achievement of being born male, indoctrinated into the macho culture by an abusive military system that celebrates brute power, and pushed into bearing responsibility for households. Marriage and parenthood and further aging bestow permission on men — and to a degree, women as well — to practice a less community-oriented view on life and adopt a more family-centric, selfish persona that leaves little room for consideration for others. “But I have a wife and children to feed ” is a familiar refrain at domestic law courts where sympathy pours in from the public and even judges if family’s survival is seen as a motivating factor for a crime. A “mitigating circumstance,” it is called. South Korea condones, even encourages gaejeossi whose responsibility is cast as first and foremost to himself and his family before society and others. It’s more than OK to be a gaejeossi if you are a father; your reprehensible nature is merely proof of your healthy paternal instinct, your commitment to some moral duty to uphold the patriarchy.

The cult of macho assholes and the cult of fatherhood meet the cult of age, long considered a form of byeoseul in South Korea — ‘noble rank’ or special privilege — that allows the old to lord over the young no matter how intellectually deficient and morally bankrupt the former are. Try to hold a rational debate with a gaejeossi but your logic cannot prevail over men whose final retort is more often than not “How dare you speak this way! Blood on your head hasn’t even dried.”

You are practically a newborn compared to me, so shut up.

No doubt apologists for gaejeossi will point to the hardships the older generations have experienced in the course of South Korea’s development. Poverty didn’t allow civility. You are fortunate and affluent to be able to think about equality and political correctness. And they will likely add that it’s not just older men who behave like pigs; look at ajumma — middle-aged South Korean women famous for elbowing, pushing, demanding, loudly, to get what they want and, most of the time, getting exactly what they seek. Well, South Korea is not poor nor war-ravaged any longer (the technical continuation of the Korean War notwithstanding) so few should blame an external circumstance for personal action. And unlike gaejeossi whose antics reward them with an image more masculine than that of other men, ajumma suffer from being ajumma: They cease to be seen as women. Assertiveness is anathema to femininity in the South Korean conception of gender and ajumma pay a price for their impertinent encroachment on the domain of male behavior, for they are perceived as creatures as sexy as their functional, unflattering hairstyle: half-women, half-men devoid of sexuality.

South Korea is undergoing a difficult transition from this worldview to another, one that holds neither fatherhood nor age nor being male ought to be basis for privilege or recognition. But superficial traits like age and gender and marital status, not talent or moral character, continue to be used as cause for respect as gaejeossi determinedly cling to their self-definition as normal men, men among men, paragons of masculinity. A backlash against the established system, named “Taliban-style Confucianism” in some circles, from the emerging class of young people better educated than their parents and grandparents was altogether unavoidable and largely expected, and informs the increasingly popular criticism of the Republic of Korea as “hell.” Besides inequality and corruption, the very mentality of aging men who hold sway over this society, who embody irrationality (bi-hamni) and backwardness (migae) in words and gestures, who seem to think it acceptable to rage in the pages of a newspaper because of insufficient soy sauce and say a racist thing allegedly to express interracial friendship, bemuses, amuses and ultimately depresses the young who cannot help but try to distance themselves from their embarrassing progenitors and this country of their birth.

Not all ajeossi are dogs but too many of them behave as such. Gaejeossi’s reign, however, may be nearing its end: That we now speak openly of them as a phenomenon is itself an encouraging sign that change just might be underway, much as that very clichéd prescription for alcoholism reads: Realization is the first step toward a cure. And South Korea desperately needs to be rid of gaejeossi before progress can arrive.

Comments

comments

Se-Woong Koo earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and taught Korean studies at Stanford, Yale, and Ewha Women's University. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and Inside Higher Ed among other publications.

  • kimcheefartz

    Spot on. Older Koreans are entirely classless.

    • Michael Aronson

      You missed the last paragraph: “Not all ajeossi are dogs but too many of them behave as such.”

  • Aaron Crossen

    An enjoyable polemic. Korean men are very much indoctrinated into this ersatz system of false masculine privilege from a very young age, making the behavioral traits documented above difficult to unlearn; a sudden, unexpected and unlikely shift in the cultural tectonics notwithstanding, it seems to me that gaejeosshi are just going to have to die off before men that don’t fit the conformist masculine father/breadwinner mold can become comfortable with their own identities. It is true that attitudes evolve more quickly than ever, but Korea’s abstruse Confucianism has proven its staying power.

  • Michael Aronson

    This article was epic. I feel bad for having been ignorant of this term until now.

  • Albert Hahn

    While some of what is said here resonates, the simplistic logic, the knee-jerk classifications, the lack of a studied perspective on the root causes, the quick and easy broad brush strokes makes me question if this was really written by a Korean studies scholar. How about a more nuanced look at the lives of Korean males who grew up under military propaganda, war, gov’t sponsored repression? Or not conflating unseemly and boorish behavior with truly destructive, institutionalized exercises of power? Or not equating “the established system” as a “Taliban-style Confucianism”? (A statement which suggests the author does not understand Korea, the Taliban, Confucianism, or all of the above) Or instead of brushing off the process by which Korea modernized, to think about how the very unique, extreme, and relatively recent historical experience of Korea have had real consequences and costs on how concepts of masculinity, family, citizen, et. al have been ossified as well as contested? The role of a scholar is to do the very opposite of what is being done here: which is to take something that’s far too easy to bash and instead present a deeper understanding that goes beyond what just a wordier version of a facebook rant by a casual tourist. Is this viewpoint really what’s being taught at Stanford, Yale, Ewha, and passes for informed in some of the most influential media in the world?

    • James

      you’re justifying their actions because of their assumed perceived past? i’ve had hardship, but that’s no reason to force hardships on others. you need to check your emotional maturity. you clearly want korea to be a joke. because of each situation that happens that fits these child-like tantrums of grown adults, its embarrassment for the country. everyone notices. why don’t you?

      • Terry Lee

        “that’s no reason to force hardships on others” so true

    • Aaron Crossen

      There was no pretense of a scholarly examination of the modern Korean male identity here. Nary a footnote to be found. If you must insist of being tedious, consider what you have just read a primary document: this is what dissatisfaction with the status quo looks like. It’s why the sentiment, which is all that really matters, rings so true.

    • Michael Aronson

      “the quick and easy broad brush strokes”

      Did we read the same article?

    • Daniel Gerken

      I agree. This article does nothing but feed into prejudice and Western supremacism.

      • vvvince

        As I read the article it made me think about a current US presidential candidate and his friends. Older, racist, mysoginist, entitled men exist in every culture. This article just describes in excellent detail, how they are being called out for their inappropriate behavior in 21st Century Korea.

    • Rick

      So, in summing up all your heavily-worded prosaic defense, Korean men are justified in behaving just like spoilt children, along with the usual misdemeanor and temper tantrums… with the whole crux underpinning and promoting this societal burden being, yes, clockwork forgiveness and “understanding” granted to them on the sort of elegant silver platter you have attempted to proffer right here.

      Congratulations… Korean Apologetics fuels this whole gaejoshi culture that is bringing the very shame on Korea you’re hoping to shrug off and justify in a breath.

  • Joshua Weaver

    Author. Thank you. I’d like to shake your hand. 13 years in this country…. I now call my friends my family and this peninsula my home. But those of which you write about here (so truthfully and eloquently) are no family of mine. They are the burden of daily life and a noose around the neck of progress.
    The small joys they steal from us all everyday.
    The heaviness. The sighs. The struggle to understand.
    Thank you.

  • LAN

    Great interesting look at “Korean” culture. I wonder if the same is going on north of the 38th. Reads like a piece in playboy or other coffee-table magazine. Hey Albert your ideas would be fine for an academic journal but would bore the average reader.

  • Daniel Gerken

    Yet another deadset on extinguishing old ways and ushering in a homogenously Western liberal humanist world. Be careful what you wish for. These beautiful fossils of Korean Confucianism may be more precious than you think.

    • Michael Aronson

      “Extinguishing old ways”

      This assumes that being ornery and rude is an inherent Korean value, yet you never see media or tourism pushing such imagery.

      • Daniel Gerken

        When has media – an inherently propagandistic tool – ever represented the full complexities of a culture? For every value, there are the costs. Doesn’t make those values less desirable.

      • Michael Aronson

        My point is that nobody has ever claimed these are societal values worth preserving, except you. You really have your work cut out for you here.

      • Daniel Gerken

        These are not the values themselves, just expressions. The same thing happens in every culture. You have “good” expressions and “bad” expressions of that culture’s underlying values. But, sometimes the rush to eliminate all bad expressions – a particularly Western reaction – undermines the values and the culture themselves. Personally, I hope that there will never not be an anti-Western culture. We need it for balance.

      • Michael Aronson

        I agree with your first couple sentences, but the rest is complete nonsense.

      • Daniel Gerken

        Basically, I always hate it when people want to turn Korea into yet another Westernized/globalized/Americanized country. There is room enough in this world for both, and there are things that Korea offers that the West does not and can never offer. If that means you end up with a few raucous ajeoshis, so be it, but I don’t understand this gaejeoshi crap. All of the older men I hung out with were respectful and well-educated. The worst that could be said is that some were mildly patriarchal, but most weren’t even that. I think the writer is singling out a type that is actually not that common or problematic, unless you’re spending most your time in a very unrepresentative slice of Korea, which is something many expats tend to do. On the other hand, this guy is spewing straight up intolerance and borderline hate speech – a much more problematic behavior than his topic. A specific class of people is never a society’s problem, but thinking that they are and going so far to frame them as such is a serious one, and a habit not especially uncommon in Western cultures.

      • Michael Aronson

        “I always hate it when people want to turn Korea into yet another Westernized/globalized/Americanized country.”

        Then you must really, really hate Koreans.

      • F.K.

        “Mildly patriarchal” you say and it becomes obvious that you blindly defend something you probably feel fond of. There is nothing “mild” about patriarchalism in Korea. And have you ever thought about that you as a white man who has passed his thirtees himself (judging from your profile picture) wont experience the same as younger generations and especially women? To say it explicitly, you wont face the same discrimination.
        It seems like you have never considered this perspective because you think that “there is room enough in this world” for your “mild patriarchalism”. And that is why you can cooly use “culture” and “tradition” as an excuse for this discrimination.

      • Daniel Gerken
      • PK

        I dont have the Impression that you are willing to take any other opinion seriously but I will answer anyways.
        It does not matter whether I am talking about my own experience or not. Gender Inequality in Korea is a fact. Ever heard of the term “glass cealing”? That would be one example. The one who thinks he knows whats best for others is you with your “its their culture, they want it that way so we shouldn’t mess with it” mentality. Of course we should criticise contemporary problems of society. Historical or what you call it “cultural” background does not justify anything.

      • Daniel Gerken

        I urge you to do some research on transnational feminism. I am not concerned about patriarchy in Korea because I am not Korean, and I have not been asked by Korean women to help them. I AM concerned about Western colonial attitudes, racism, and cultural imperialism. Feminism and anti-colonialism are not at odds, but, historically, racism and orientalist attitudes have permeated Western feminist thought – ask any Black feminist. I urge you to dig deeper into the actual attitudes and values of the people you are concerned with before doing any kind of activism. Listen (from Abu-Lugod):

        “To quote Saba Mahmood, writing about the women in Egypt who are seeking to become pious Muslims, ‘The desire for freedom and liberation is a historically situated desire whose motivational force cannot be assumed a priori, but needs to be reconsidered in light of other desires, aspirations, and capacities that inhere in a culturally and historically located subject’ (2001:223), In other words, might other desires be more meaningful for different groups of people? Living in close families? Living in a godly way? Living without war? I have done fieldwork in Egypt over more than 20 years and I cannot think of a single woman I know, from the poorest rural to the most educated cosmopolitan, who has ever expressed envy of U.S. women, women they tend to perceive as bereft of community, vulnerable to sexual violence and social anomie, driven by individual success rather than morality, or strangely disrespectful of God.”

        Abu-lughod, L. (2001). Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others. American Anthropologist, 104(3), 783–790.

        https://transnationalfeminist.wordpress.com/
        http://anti-hegemony.tumblr.com/tagged/transnational_feminism

      • Beatrice Cha

        As a Korean, I do wish that these ‘gaejeossi’ would go away or something. Extinguishing every ‘old way’ is wrong, yes, I do cherish many facets of my culture. But ‘gaejeossi’ and these types of extreme patriarchy is one of those facets of ‘old ways’ that should be vanquished. Preservation of culture is less important than basic rights, equality, and basic respect for fellow human beings. I’m sure you would agree to this, at least. Socio-cultural norms do not precede respect for others, and I don’t like ‘gaejeossi’s treating me like a lesser being just because they’re older males. I think you are well-meaning, but perhaps your words are wrongly targeted, for many Koreans agree to this article, and ‘gaejeossi’ is one of those cultures that is better off gone, like son preference(which still leads to abortion of female fetuses, even in the present).

      • Daniel Gerken

        Thank you for your well-thought reply. The concern that I have – that I originally tried to make – is that changes do not come without costs, often unexpected ones. There are good things about American culture, but there are also serious costs with these. For example, Americans suffer from neuroses and meaninglessness in America due to extreme individualism, but no one talks about this seriously. They do not want to challenge Western ideas of freedom, personal rights and liberty. You often cannot eliminate the cost without eliminating the benefit because culture is a system. The question becomes what costs are acceptable or what is one willing to sacrifice for certain benefits?

        Also, you cannot talk about “basic rights, equality, and basic respect for fellow human beings” without defining what those mean – and those meanings will precisely depend on the desired culture. Respect for elders teachers, a premium on education, the association of one’s identity with one’s family, the support of collectivist thinking, the disdain of selfishness and the rejection of extreme individualism – these are just some of the benefits of Korean Confucian society that Western liberal humanism does not understand. Maybe you can eliminate “gaejeossis,” but at what cost? And, can you successfully acquire the perceived benefits of Western culture without losing the superior aspects of Korean culture?

        But, my biggest concern is that the implicit colonial nature of Western thinking and capitalism – with its false promises of human rights, equality, and material security – will result in a single global culture, which will be a global tyranny. Is it not better to have several options? To be able to transfer to the culture – with all its costs and benefits – best suited to you? Even if you cannot physically move, does not just knowing that a living alternative exists, grant one some measure of hope?

        So, (1) do not think elimination of undesirable cultural elements can be cost-free, (2) be careful who or what culture you appeal or ally to – Koreans currently have more rights, freedom and respect than any American does, and (3) embrace a world of diverse cultures, and resist mono-culture and globalization. I saw too much self-doubt in Korea. Korea can stand on its on in a fully Korean way. As an American, I am telling you you do not see the terrible cost of Western society and how it destroys people, literally and figuratively. It is a culture that can only sustain itself through conquest, internal and external, and, at any moment, we are precariously poised to fall due to our incessant and, in fact, growing need for oppressive and exploitative consumption.

        But Korea is not this way. A millenia-old non-European Enlightenment, non-Christian, non-Socratic culture, there are so many right things about Korea and the East, so much that is stable and humane, things that were never right or stable or humane in the West from the beginning. I hope that Koreans will see that heritage preciously, and guard it jealously. It may be a kind of salvation for the world, allowing us choice between a way with its gaejossis or a way with its fascists or a way with its religious fanatics or another way with its undesirable elements. I ask only people be realistic and admit to reality – that there will never be utopia, but that there may be better or worse, and best of all is choice and worst of all is monology, under which no other way of life or thought, with its all its blessed and concomitant woes and benefits is possible. Perhaps you or others will say this is absurd and I do not understand anything. Perhaps I don’t. We can only speak from our own experiences and demons.

      • Rory Ko

        Sorry to cut in. I was interested in the article because I befriended to a middle aged 60+ retired school teacher Korean man who also happened to be my neighbour where we live in Malaysia. He is a very polite like most of us Asians, but very formal, unlike us Asians in this part of the world. I am the only person in the whole condominium of more than 280 units of apartments that he talks too. He also claimed I am his ONLY younger friend ( I am 40+) in Malaysia and in Korea too. We get along well despite some language barrier. He comes over everyday for breakfast, tea and dinner, without his wife and daughter. I was uncomfortable at first but after meeting his wife and daughter, I understand that they have no say to whom he wants to hang up with and at whatever time he chooses to. He has become so comfortable that he could just walk in without any warning. It just amuses me sometimes. He becomes like part of the family all the sudden but one that demands respect as an elderly person. He has his warts and all, and even sometimes raised his voice whenever I didn’t do what he said. I thought it was just him. He met most of my local friends but chose to be reclusive. Then, I read this article. I just have to LAUGH OUT LOUD. By the way, I still have to address him as Mr Y, despite we spend a lot of time together. There is nothing about white supremacy here.

      • Luke

        When has culture ever been inherently valuable? You want to talk about a “homogenous, Western, liberal world”? Multiculturalism, much though I love it in theory, is too often used as an excuse for dehumanizing behavior, especially (and most ironically) for those who are in positions of power in other societies. Korean culture does indeed have many beautiful, fascinating facets; thoughtless, misogynistic jerks are neither unique to nor a valuable part of it.

    • Tina

      There are plenty of men who fit the gaejeossi mold in the West. I don’t understand how calling something what it is will somehow “extinguish old ways”.

      • Daniel Gerken

        If you think so, you’re falling into the trap. Korea is not the West. The incentives behind the overt behavior are entirely different. We should not apply Western values to a Korean context. But, the global shaming and enforcement of Western values – such as in this article and many, many others – promotes the erasure of Eastern ones.

      • Michael Aronson

        You see, promoting the idea that people should stop being assholes is actually a good thing. You yourself should give it a try.

  • Richard Menard

    Personally I prefer the term adjusshit, but gaejosshi works marvelously as well

  • adelina

    Ajeossi with class and manner is a national treasure. I’m glad I know more than one.

  • Tina

    In America we just call them assholes. They’re everywhere, unfortunately. Great article. I enjoyed learning the reasoning and some history around the term usage.

  • fleepelem

    Ajoshis would never say “Eonni” as that is what females say to older females translated as “older sister”. Ajoshis would say 누나 (nuna) for older sister, 아주마 for middle aged or old woman, 아가씨 for young bar girl, or 저기요 for employee/waiter. I appreciate the article’s overall message but the author needs to check his/her basic Korean terms.

    • riderofstuff

      actually, in restaurants, they do. It’s an antiquated exception not seen in textbooks. Not only that, women sometimes call older men hyung, when they don’t want to imply any romantic connotations but still want to acknowledge the respect that comes with age.

      • Daniel Gerken

        In five years in Korea, I never observed this. Maybe it happens, but I didn’t really see the behavior this article talks about either. I mean, I saw a lot of drunk ajeoshis and hung out with a lot of drunk ajeoshis, but I can’t say rudeness was ever really prominent. Certainly the contrary was, though – Koreans are the most polite and hospitable people I’ve met, way, way more polite than most expats I observed.

      • dogbertt

        I have observed this as well and was taken aback at first, until the “restaurant exception” was explained to me.

    • terpski

      You don’t know what you’re talking about. Please stop.

  • As a young Korean man I cannot help but thank you, Mr. Koo, for writing this and putting it out. Very well written- weaving a multiple current issues and viral/outrageous incidents into one context of the Korean generational gap and utterly uncivil nature of so many Ajjeossis out there.

  • terpski

    How’s this any different than the white male privilege in Western countries? Why does he fail to criticize white men and their privileged lives in America? He seems to be a self-hating Asian-American with an inferiority complex. I guess growing up as a minority in the US and a phony western liberal arts will do that to you.

    • Luke

      ….Or how about, this article isn’t about white men or Americans? I feel like you must be trolling.
      Want to talk about white male privilege? This is it, right here.

  • ytuque

    The writer is definitely making an important point. In my travels to over 50 different countries, S. Korea was the only country where I observed older people being more impolite than the young. Actually, it’s not even close as old Koreans are a throwback to feudal times.

    • Daniel Gerken

      Which is exactly what makes this so great. Where else are you going to see it, and for how much longer? It is beyond refreshing to see something different, and gives new hope that this world isn’t completely homogenized just yet. Rather than sweeping it away, maybe a few other cultures going this route would be better than the alternative.

      • Michael Aronson

        Well, we don’t have any Nazi countries anymore. Why don’t we bring one back? Isn’t diversity for the sake of diversity wonderful?

      • ytuque

        Traditional Korean culture is anything but refreshing.

  • Gaya_SB

    Thank you for addressing the ‘apologism’ that accompanies this behaviour, especially on the difference betwee the gaejeossi and the ajumma

  • 말 없는 마뜨료나

    As a Korean woman who has been suffering under the reign of Gaejeossi more than 30 years, the article was liberating. I enjoyed every single sentence including the title. Thank you.

  • Won

    Very nice! One small issue: most Gaejeossis don’t understand English … Is there any chance that you would like to translate this into Korean? (OR if you don’t have time, it will be my honor to do so under your permission!)

    • Terry Lee

      Infact, someone did translate this article in Korean

      • Won

        Thanks for letting me know!

  • Savvy Symbiont

    This is among the many ‘algorithm’ forms of psychology and behavior that prevail among native South Koreans. As a result Korean’s are often characterized as robots for the way they appear to behave. These Gaejeossi are literally programmed from youth to ignore many of their innate human emotions that later in life make it easier to be a happy and pleasant human being to be around. Among these software programs that are delivered through the education system in South Korea is VPL (Victim programming language). It is Korea’s long history of victimization that allows these Gaejeossi to justify their outbursts and pleas for for pity as fathers, salarymen and sons of Korean mothers who never allow their son to mature as functioning adults. It is very frustrating to be a middle aged Korean male.

  • Rick

    I see below, comments attempting to disparage the author’s scholarship and even deny him of his Korean ethnicity, BECAUSE he dare document things as they truely are in his mother land.

    I’ve been in Korea 12 years, and along with the growing accounts of the very behavior depicted above, in daily newspapers/news reports around the world, I can attest that this article is quite accurate, from my own experience. I majored in Korean language at university decades ago, and can readily understand the tone and nuancing of the gaejoshi postuering and passive-aggressive brutality inflicted on most of the society they leach off of…
    Korean girls/women often tell me they despise the way confuscianism is used here as a blunt, soul-crushing instrument, to demean and cripple people in the gaejoshi’s path, into mere manicans and puppets for his benefit and bass gratification.

    Out with Konfuscionism!

  • Dave Lee

    y’all need to calm the fuck down with the arguing. Korea is not gonna fail as a country because of gaejeossis. Saying otherwise is giving them way more credit and power they do not hold.

    Korea is just too dense of a small fucking country with too much pressure on everyone as a whole to live comfortably and well. Look at our suicide rate.

    Men aren’t the only ones suffering but the only ones showing it, probably because they feel/think that they can (“confuscius” culture?): the older you are AND being a MAN you have more “authority/privileges”. That’s probably a cause of how this “gaejeossi” shit all started.*

    The funny thing is that the tantrum throwing ones are more than likely drunk anyways. You always see them ahjeossis fucked up and being obnoxious. Mix bottled emotions and stress with alcohol and you’re gonna get something like this from EVERYONE.

    *Acknowledging this does not mean I support this, just trying to get to the root of the problem with what I believe is a very plausible theory

    At the end of the day, Korea needs a lot more change than just ahjeossis. They have been and always will be here. The difference will be when the younger generation now grow up and strive for change. Korea has developed too quickly and went through so much in its history. Through more development and passage of time, I believe that Korea will get better. Not just with the geojeossi problem.

    If you are reading and agreeing with the author, great, “Make Korea Great Again”. If you disagree, you should at least be able to acknowledge the issue instead of talking shit about the article.

    FINALLY, if you are disagreeing with someone agreeing or disagreeing, you fuckers can go throw your tantrums elsewhere. Put that shit in a newspaper for all I care.

  • Nic

    Now I have a word to explain why I hated being around my dad’s friends. And my dad.

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