SEE THE REST OF THE STUNNING TUMBLR THERE
I knew Korean Students Speak would eventually become a political tool for western expression on behalf and for Korean students. I take DK’s reservations about my opinions about the site seriously. That said, and with all due respect to my friend, now that it’s made Buzzfeed popularity and so is being linked all over the English-speaking Internet, I’m quite sure that my critique—that people will use the students as a mirror for their own perspectives and so objectify the kids’ bodies and messages—is actually more relevant. The photos Buzzfeed’s editors chose illustrate stereotypes especially white people circulate about Korean students in general mixed in with sentiments only a hateful asshole would criticize, thus making Korean students Universal Angels in Discourse.
But discourse is always about something, isn’t it? The Fulbright teachers have designed a social project that, like a machine, objectifies Korean youth culture in spite of its best efforts to publicly address the world itself, as itself. And this, in my mind, illustrates the pain of occupation. That, in spite of all efforts, the US continues to aggressively discipline Korean culture. In this case, with the capitalist market. It’s an inversion of 한류.
I want to think otherwise. I can’t at the moment. If you disagree, I’d like to talk about it. The Buzzfeed post really does present Korean students as blank pages and the photos chosen are meant to emotionally yank responses from liberal readers. I can’t help but hate the project with a passion.
I don’t trust projects that take the everyday and turn it into a spectacle of humanist relations that ignore the real conditions that create those relations. As a teacher and student, I see almost all of those images as wonderful bits of student life. Out of the school, in this silent medium where nobody actually speaks, capitalism speaks, I see something rather oppressive.