When I was a kid, I saw the study or experience of other cultures from almost exclusively one perspective: for the sake of self-knowledge (Clark 2000). The effort of studying other cultures, of avoiding being consumed by ethnocentrism, was not necessarily something that I enjoyed or found easy. To be honest, I always found cultures like those found in the Middle East and Asia particularly difficult to wrap my mind around and truly enjoy, compared with that of Italy, France, Scandinavian countries, and even Russia.
There is way to understand the reason behind my resistance to learning about cultures from this area according to Clark; by trying his ‘Forced Migration Game’ (2000)
1. If you were forced to migrate to another nation, what would be your top 3 favourite choices (you would be quite happy living there instead of your current home country)?
2. What would be your 3 least favourite options (under no circumstances would you like to live there)?
3. Examine why you chose these 6 countries. Was it lifestyle, climate, religion, health values, social constructs, politics?
By examining how I ranked countries from my juvenile perspective, I could understand some of my motivations for being less likely to understand or want to travel to Middle Eastern and Asian countries. My childhood was dominated by images of war, unrest, lack of political and social freedom, and unfriendly climates when it came to these countries. I only saw stories from these countries via a biased, ethnocentric traditional media (television, newspapers, some online media) or no stories at all, exemplified by this comment by 1970s CBS news journalist Eric Sevareid:
“The truth is that there is very little in most of the African and Asian nations worth anything in 20th century terms that was not put there by Westerners. The truth is that in spite of their talk about returning to their own cultural roots-remember Africanization-what they want to be is what the West already is.” (Clark 2000)
My priorities have changed since I have grown, and this is predominantly due to new media’s communicational possibilities, as technological change sweeps the globe and cultural boundaries are blurred (World Health Organisation 2014). In the Australasia region of which we are a part, I had seen South Korea chiefly in relation to its conflict with North Korea; it was predominantly on the peripheral of my ‘cultural radar’.
South Korea’s aspirations have been expanding to include domination of tourist and technology markets, and have in this process drawn me into its open embrace, through the communication of digital stories from native citizens like artist Lee Lee Nam (who tells digital stories through re-imagining traditional artworks through video), foreigners such as EatYourKimchi (who are excellent advertisements for South Korea, might I add), and Koreans like Jen from Head to Toe living outside of the country, who were previously all unknown to me before I could access them via the internet. These stories have opened my mind to new experiences (I really want to travel Asia now, whereas I only wanted to see Europe before), expanded my creative tastes (introduced me to KPop and Korean cinema), and enticed me to study other Middle Eastern and Asian cultures with a new fascination and determination.
Clark, L. E. 2000, ‘Other-wise: The case for understanding foreign cultures in a uni-polar world’, Social Education, Vol. 64, No. 7, p. 448, National Council for the Social Studies