[This post is written by Nuna.]
While studying in China, I was approached by a group of 6 of my young Korean classmates (age 20-22), asking if I wanted to go bowling with them. I said I would be happy to go. After we agreed on all of the details – day, time, place to meet – they left. Soon after, they came back to my desk, and each one put a paper note on my desk listing the details – time, place, day, bowling. I had 6 identical pieces of paper on my desk saying when we'd go bowling. So, I looked at them and said "Okay. See you downstairs, Monday at 5 p.m. to go bowling." They went back to their desks. A few minutes later, they came back to my desk and said "We don't want to go bowling with you." And they each took their paper note back and left.
What did I do wrong??
Nuna guesses that they must have been Korean girls -- she just cannot imagine Korean guys doing things with notes. After Nuna discussed this with Umma (who is quite possibly the most cynical bluestocking in existence), Nuna has come up with three possible scenarios:
There are lots of reasons why you might be singled out for bullying. You may be considered to be too fat, you stare off into the distance a lot, your responses to the girls always miss the mark by 0.5 seconds, but most likely, the bullies just thought you'd be the easiest to pick on and get away with.
Here is another possible reason that may have applied to you: Nuna never found out why, but the average Korean believes that people who smile a lot is inferior in pragmatism/practicality/quick decision making/focus, and they are smiling because they are inherently stupid. This happens to be a barrier for most white people, since we are taught to smile when we meet the eyes of a stranger, and smile very often in our conversations to indicate our friendliness.
Another thing to note: do NOT smile too often to a Korean, or look at them too closely. The assumption, for some crazy zany reason, is that smiling or looking too often at a Korean signifies that you like them *that way*. Nuna made this mistake several times in which Nuna was smiling constantly out of discomfort in being forced into sitauation with grown male children of family friends, and then heard their mothers making fun of me for blatantly displaying my attraction towards them.
(Picture from here.)
Yet another thing aginst those poor white people is that Koreans feel that when a person with a coloured iris speaks to them, they are not really focusing on you, and looking somewhere over your shoulder. (Incidentally, Koreans favour dark eyes where the pupils are indistinguishable from the iris). When this assumption carries over, it is assumed that any nice thing you do is not out of your graciousness or character, but because you are too stupid/vacant/lights are on but no-one's home to take advantage of it.
What you experienced, if this was the case, was classic group cattiness. The entire point of the bullying was to illustrate in an obtuse manner just how much you didn't fit in the group, and how much the group feels that you are a deadweight that the group has let in out of charity. The six notes reminding you of a date, place and time you are now barred from going is a sort of "voting you off the island" thing. They're amused and flattered at your apparent attraction to them, which just proves how awesome they are, but no, they're clearly headed for Better Things.
Nuna would like to make a note here though: this happens across all races and cultures, and this is also perhaps why men in a bar are afraid of asking a woman out when she is surrounded by a group of other women who will all simultaneously rise to go to the toilet at random times. Nuna also experienced similiar things with groups of men when they were briefly in the company of a woman they considered too fat/ugly/loose. As far as Nuna can tell, Nuna has never been subjected to this kind of scrutiny because Nuna is almost as manly in her mannerisms as Margaret Thatcher, and she tends to strike fear into all women who wish to remain feminine.
2. There was a girl who liked you who was not in the group, and she backed out.
The premise is simple. Some chick likes you, but hasn't got the courage to ask you out one on one. Thankfully, one of the group members hear her pleas and decided to do a group thang, partly to see if you meet their approval to date her dear friend. Hence the overbearing thing where each group member has to absolutely make sure, for the sake of said friend.
And then the said friend backs out. Well, the reality of the matter is, they weren't interested in you that way for starters. You were a nice enough guy, but certainly don't belong chatting amongst a group of chicks, and whatever will you do if girl talk came up? Hence, there was nothing for it but to tell you it's off, and it was most likely off for them too. They never liked bowling anyway, what with the ugly borrowed shoes, carrying heavy weights and the slippery floor. They chose it because white people would probably enjoy that kind of stuff. (Koreans have lots of strange notions about what white people like.)
3. They found something/someone better.
The premise here is that they got a promotion offering a group discount if more than a certain number attended - who knows, maybe 10. In this case, you would not have been the only one that was asked, and because bowling would be out of their price range if anyone dropped out, the assumption is that you, the foreigner, would not understand/care about these things and be the most likely to flippantly change their mind. Hence the repeat confirmation.
At this point in time, you're probably saying "Hey, how the hell is bowling in China out of ANYONE'S price range?" Well, Nuna is going to tell you this: A lot of Koreans tend to arrange trips and whatnot "for the experience", and they already know to a certain degree they may not enjoy it. In this case, the larger the group, the more of the members are assuming and attempting to seek gratification from the vague idea that "SOMEONE must be enjoying this at least, and we should suffer for he/she is a member of our group".
Now, in this scenario, someone else either thought up of going to karaoke (they discovered Korean songs are recorded on Chinese karaoke machines too), which is infinitely better because you get to be drunk and nobody gets to see your smeared makeup in the dark room, or someone else who was invited wanted to bring a friend that was favoured over you, presumably because that person can speak Korean and things won't be as awkward. So you were considered inferior to that person because of connections ( you didn't have other friends who were in on this thing) and the fact that you were a "stranger" (they would feel they were forced to be on their best behaviour so as not to have you bitching about Those Crazy Gooks later on).
Curiously, in all their planning and counter-planning, they never considered the fact that flippantly deciding to kick you off the list is a pretty crass and rude thing to do. Either explaining the situation was beyond their capabilities, or they just didn't feel like explaining it to you.
Whatever the reason behind it, it ultimately boils down to the fact that the group of girls considered you to be not "in" their group and privy to the group's discussions and considerations, and probably didn't explain anything to you because they realised it would only make them sound catty and stupid. Just laugh off at their immaturity in getting themselves into a mess and handling the situation badly, whatever their reasons may have been. They're just kids whose parents paid to send them off to China, after all.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.