Duc, sequere, aut de via decede!

When Tom Coyner was a Peace Corps volunteer, he found the root of Korean corruption was lying in the farming villages

November 20th, 2012 . by Errol

Later Tom found that it was lying everywhere and all the time.

“When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Korean countryside in the 1970s, virtually everyone lived in poverty by U.S. standards. Some lived in squalor, but the overwhelming majority lived simply and frugally. Those who were considered well-off at that time and place would nonetheless have been considered to be poor by American standards.

At the other end of the scale, Korean public servants were paid ridiculously low wages, as is the case in many developing countries. They actually needed outside income to live relatively comfortably and send their children to schools and universities. Often, the only plausible means for this large societal segment was to receive “gratuities.” One could normally count on having to pretty consistently pay 10 percent to get various matters handled.

The relatively well off (including “gratuity-boosted” public servants) often had an attitude that could be haughty given that their well-being was measured in the context of their villages and towns.

Social power, as defined within one’s social context, is the real corrupting influence. And the corruption is not limited to government officials and business tycoons.”

Tom Coyner, Joongang Ilbo, 19 November 2012

I remember a joke told by a Peace Corps volunteer that encapsulates the choleric envy of other bucolics who possess higher-level social status symbols.

What was the worst day in the Korean farmer’s life?

The day he heard his neighbour bought a cow.

What was the best day in the Korean farmer’s life?

The day he heard his neighbour’s cow died … poisoned by his wife … who then went to prison.

Two cows for the price of none!

In prison the wife died from loneliness, as her family never visited her … her husband was doing Korean man things … her son was too busy studying for the public service exam … and her daughter was on a “working holiday” in Australia.

With the money he received from his wife’s death benefit the farmer went out and bought a new suit … but not a new pair of shoes.

He then called at the local international marriage bureau and ordered a teenage bride from Vietnam.

His neighbour died from the unbearable heaviness of hwabyeong.

So endeth this tale of alcoholic, choleric bucolics.

Vietnamese Wives in the Korean countryside


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