Koreans not tall enough?

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Every so often, a story breaks out of the Hermit Kingdom and out into the U.S. mainstream media. These stories almost never seem to put Korea in a positive light, often portraying Koreans as ultra-competitive, win-at-all-costs, my-way-or-the-highway type people.

The problem is that the stories are right.

Every so often, a story breaks out of the Hermit Kingdom and out into the U.S. mainstream media. These stories almost never seem to put Korea in a positive light, often portraying Koreans as ultra-competitive, win-at-all-costs, my-way-or-the-highway type people.

The problem is that the stories are right.

It’s one thing to have a stereotype, which often has a lot of beliefs wrapped around a grain of truth; it’s a completely different story when that stereotype is proven correct time after time. While I can’t speak much on how Koreans are perceived across the world, stories like these certainly don’t give you the mindset that these are people you want to work with. This one, from the New York Times, is simply the most recent:

With acupuncture needles trembling from the corners of her mouth like cat’s whiskers, Moon Bo-in, 5, whined with fear. But the doctor, wearing a yellow gown patterned with cartoon characters, poked more needles into her wrists and scalp.

“It’s O.K., dear,” said her mother, Seo Hye-kyong. “It will help make you pretty and tall. It will make you Cinderella.”

Swayed by the increasingly popular conviction that height is crucial to success, South Korean parents are trying all manner of remedies to increase their children’s stature, spawning hundreds of growth clinics that offer hormone shots, traditional Eastern treatments and special exercises.

“In our society, it’s all about looks,” said Ms. Seo, 35. “I’m afraid my daughter is shorter than her peers. I don’t want her to be ridiculed and lose self-confidence because of her height.”

Ms. Seo spends $770 a month on treatments for her daughter and her 4-year-old son at one such clinic, Hamsoa, which has 50 branches across the country and offers a mix of acupuncture, aromatherapy and a twice-a-day tonic that contains deer antler, ginseng and other medicinal herbs.

Because these mothers aren’t already spending their entire family’s income on hagwons, private tutors, and bribes gifts for teachers. It raises an interesting question: what happens when a parent gives their child every possible advantage and the kid still blows it? It’s only about looks because a culture makes it about looks – and the herd mentality wins again. There’s a lot more to say, but Korean Rum Diary has a lot more on the subject of height and plastic surgery in Korea. Continuing the NYT article:

Another mother at the clinic, Chang Young-hee, 54 and 4-foot-10, said her children had already experienced height discrimination. Both her daughters are college graduates and have good jobs, but when they reached marrying age, matchmakers regarded their short stature as a defect.

“It felt like a blow to the head,” Ms. Chang said. “I learned a lesson. If you fall behind in your studies, you can catch up later. But if you miss the time to grow, you miss it forever.”

Her daughters eventually married, but for the last four years, she has been taking her youngest child, Seo Dong-joon, to Kiness. The boy, now 15, knows his goal.

“If I’m tall, I’ll have an advantage selecting my future wife,” he said, holding an English vocabulary book, which he studies while exercising. “Short guys are teased at school.”

More women do like a taller guy… but there’s a lot more at play there. A good friend of mine in college was 5′ 2″, made no effort to be taller, and yet he had more girlfriends than I could keep up with. What did he have? Manners. Grooming. The ability to hold an interesting conversation. Last I heard he was doing quite well for himself, both professionally and personally. Sorry, but you’re going to get teased for one thing or another in your formative years: you’re too short / tall / dumb / smart / bad-looking / good-looking. You’re a bad singer / good singer / bad dancer / good dancer / bad dresser. You can’t possibly correct them all; even if you somehow became the ‘perfect’ height and weight, had the best teeth and were the best dancer? You’d still have bad breath…or burp at the same time. You get my point?

Short guys, worry about things other than your height. If a girl rejects you because you’re short, that’s more than likely their shallow / pretentious side showing (or her fear that her parents’ shallow / pretentious side will show if she takes you home). Short girls, chill. I’ll spare the sappy ‘be happy with who you are’ saying; instead, I’ll offer the ‘stop living your life by other people’s expectations’ saying.


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