A good piece in the NYT today on the "Korean wave" of popular culture that is washing over China of late:
From clothes to hairstyle, music to television dramas, South Korea has been defining the tastes of many Chinese and other Asians for the past half decade. As part of what the Chinese call the Korean Wave of pop culture, a television drama about a royal cook, "The Jewel in the Palace," is garnering record ratings throughout Asia, and Rain, a 23-year-old singer from Seoul, drew more than 40,000 fans to a sold-out concert at a sports stadium here [Beijing] in October.
The culture that flows from Korea, however, is a potentially contradictory jumble of hip-hop, Confucianism and Christianity (imagine the possible combinations: hip-hop Confucianism? Adept Snoop Dog...?). But the question I want to consider (and I am sure my friend Sperwer will set me straight) is: should we consider SK a "Confucian society" in light of its rapidly globalizing modernization?
Take these two quotes from the Times story:
They [South Korean movies and TV dramas] also show enduring Confucian-rooted values in their emphasis on family relations, offering to Chinese both a reminder of what was lost during the Cultural Revolution and an example of an Asian country that has modernized and retained its traditions.
But, then, this description of SK society:
Social changes that took decades elsewhere were compressed into a few years, as new freedoms yielded a rich civil society, but also caused strains between generations and the sexes, leading to one of the world's highest divorce rates and lowest birth rates.
This makes me think of American conservatives who argue that the US is a country of "family values," when it is, in actuality, a country with some of the highest divorce rates in the world and some of the worst child abuse problems anywhere. Is there a similar dynamic going in in SK (and in China as well), where there is a continuing, or even growing, insistence that it is a "Confucian society," precisely because the social practices (marriage and child-rearing) that are most fundamental to Confucian ethics are declining?
The Marmot noticed this story, too.