Thursday, 24 November 2011

Wangdda -- Korean Outcasts

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I have two wangdda in some of my classes this semester. A wangdda 왕따 is a type of social outcast in Korea. (The Japanese equivalent is lijime.) In a group orientated society, being a wangdda is unimaginably hard. To become wangdda could be quite arbitrary like being bullied at school usually is. In general, however, any sign of being a little different, could have you ostracised. What bothers me though is that I always thought wangdda to be children's phenomenon. Korean school children would pick out a student and bully and ostracise the child.

I never expected it to continue into adulthood. The two wangdda are not bullied, but they are completely ignored. While this ought not generally be a problem, it is whenever I require students to do group work. I would assign these students into groups, but find that the other students completely ignore them. Once the groups had to do presentations and I think I heard this one group actually telling the one student not to come to class during the next class. I might be mistaken because my Korean is not that great and I wasn't standing close to the group when they spoke, but that is what I thought I heard. It is a big challenge to teach a class where such covert ostracising is occurring, especially a skills oriented class like Conversational English that constantly require pair work and group work.

In an individual society it is difficult to be ostracised, but individuality is often celebrated so that once you are an adult, it becomes okay. I remember that in school I was sometimes ostracised for being the weird, sensitive, artistic boy. As I got older it became easier, and by the time I went to university I found out that there were many other freaks just as weird as me and I made a great group of odd and creative friends. In Korea it is different. There are not that many subcultures and students that stand out as individuals are actually quite few. In fact, I often encourage and compliment any students that show originality and uniqueness, since these are values that I treasure and are probably undervalued in Korea. There's a famous idiom in Korea: The nail that stands up gets hammered down. I try to build up those lonesome nails; hopefully they'll survive the hammering if someone valued them enough.

Read more about wangdda here,


BoerinBallingskap said...

The whole concept of wanggda is really sad. I often pity those students in my class. Although, thinking back to my own childhood, I can remember that we also had wanggdas in our class. I rather think it's a universal phenomenon.

Skryfblok said...

Yes, outcasts are quite universal, but I think in a group orientated society it is especially bad.

Ek het 'n snaakse droom gehad nou die aand. Ek het gedroom dat een die manlike wangdda wat in een van my klasse fisiek aangerand word en ek spring toe in en gebruik bietjie my krygskunstegnieke op die aanranders. Ek het nie gedink dat ek sodanig besorgd is oor die studente dat ek selfs oor hulle sal droom nie!