Sleeping Mountains

Reflections on life, literature, and culture.

Category: Uncategorized

The West’s Confucian Confusion: How More Confucianism Might Have Saved the Sewol

Traditional cultural values – those aspects that Europeans and North Americans often see as most foreign – inform Asian countries’ social contracts even today. When problems arise, it is these differences that are so often blamed by media. Bosmosis makes a good point that foreign cultures should be evaluated on their own terms. His post points out that it was not blind obedience that brought about the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16th, but the responsibility of authority figures, another integral part of Confucianism, that was lacking.

However, my concern is that problems are always pinned on those aspects of a culture that are most foreign to the observer. The idea that “I don’t understand the problem, so those things that I don’t understand about the situation must be the source of the problem,” does not seem logical to me. Is it really Confucianism that caused this accident? I hardly think so. Can’t we talk about negligence, which is all over the Japanese news here in Tokyo, and draw lessons from that very familiar cause of problems?


W henever a tragedy strikes Korea, many Western observers can’t resist the urge to attribute it to Korean culture. This tendency owes much to Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers, in which Gladwell attempted to pin a fatal 1997 Korean Air crash in Guam on Korea’s Confucian-inspired practice of showing deference to one’s guam1 seniors. Since Outliers , Confucianism is the prime suspect in just about every Korean disaster short of an earthquake, so when the Sewol ferry sank in waters off Jindo on April 16 th , taking with it over 300 young Korean souls, I braced for the wave of western cultural critique.

I wasn’t disappointed. Writing for the South China Morning Post, Andrew Salmon wondered whether the accident was made worse by Confucianism. Salmon noted that in the initial minutes of the accident, the captain ordered passengers to stay where they were, and most of them obeyed “even as the…

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Thank you.

It was suddenly midnight,

and I was going to miss the last train home.

So I called you.

You had been sleeping,

but said I should come.

So I did,

and after I arrived,

we couldn’t fall asleep right away.

So we lay in bed talking,

and you said something really inspired,

and I said you should write it down,

but you were too tired,

and we fell asleep,

and in the morning, we couldn’t remember what you had said,

but thank you for breakfast!

The omelette with mushrooms was delicious.

Meme of 4’s


Windows facing the Tübingen marketplace

It’s been a week and a half without a post! Where went my resolution? What happened to the promise I made myself to post three times a week? Perhaps that’s a bit much, you think. Perhaps you’re right. But there should be some consistency, should there not?

So here I have a post that’s not even really a food post. I’m so sorry! I should really take my camera to work and show you all the random Japanese sweets and bento lunches I eat every day. It’s pretty impressive, but I’m falling apart from being so super busy.

Thank you Paige from Come to the Table for tagging me for this meme. It’s a great way to give a bit more of a (admittedly random) introduction of myself.

Four jobs you’ve had in your life (all in the past!)

  1. First job ever was in a hamburger trailer at the Oregon State Fair. I quit halfway through the two week job, because of the unappetizing conditions and my over-friendly boss. I have not eaten at the state fair since.
  2. Teaching Asisstant for Children’s Education Theatre, a summer camp. I’m not an actor, though. I prefer power tools, lighting equipment, and the dark backstage, which I got to show middle schoolers all about.
  3. Carpenter for the Smith College Theatre Department.
  4. Volunteer as kitchen staff and barista at the Bazaar Cafe, Kyoto, Japan. I’m too busy lately to go every week, but I love the place. Read the rest of this entry »

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