On bad seonbaes.

Now. I don't have many. So clearly this post is not going to be about me. If you'll forgive me, I'm going to go a bit off track today and talk about, of all terrifying things, my boyfriend.

He's currently the 막내 (most junior) at his company. And this is his first real long-term experience with the hierarchy in a work environment (other than the army, obviously, which I think most men just assume will be horrible anyway). Which could explain why we have differing opinions about the nature of the hierarchy. I entered into the hierarchy with good 선배 (seniors), and have had mostly good seonbaes throughout. His are utter shit. They do all of the bad things good seniors are not supposed to do, and fail to do all of the good things that good seniors are supposed to do. They withhold information, blame him too harshly and take every opportunity to talk down to him or make him feel like shit.

One senior -- the senior who is most knowledgeable in Busan's direct department and therefore the one he is most reliant upon -- refuses to even speak to Busan, unless Busan's been to church with him that week. It doesn't matter that Busan's family are Buddhist, or that Busan has given it a fair shake by attending a few times. It doesn't matter that he has declined politely. Busan hasn't become a Christian on demand, so this senior will have nothing to do with him.

Another recently chastised him for being, of all things, poor. Apparently Busan is sinning against both his ancestors and his future offspring by I guess refusing to make more money. Because obviously Busan wants to be in the situation he is in, and is relishing it and doing everything that he can to prolong it. And it has nothing to do with this senior, who refuses to help him extend his knowledge and capability in his field so that he can move up on the pay scale, or move to another company that doesn't have such shit pay.

I won't even get into the prostitutes, and what they have to say about Busan not participating in that. (In case any of you have doubts about that being a waegookin urban legend, it fucking well isn't.)

They force him to do their English grad school work, and try to force him into setting them up on blind dates with my friends, even if they are married or already have girlfriends. And now it's crossing over into our relationship as well.

This weekend, we both had Monday off and were planning a big beach trip with our friends. That, for various reasons, fell through. But at the last minute, we decided to go ahead and take a trip ourselves. We had no idea where to go, and didn't want to go to any of the places we'd been before, so we settled on just choosing a place that wasn't too far, going and seeing what we could make of it. Of course, we did this together. Because I'm an adult and I can have a say in things as well. We chose Jeonju, even though a couple of my friends who have been before bawlked about it and warned us that there was little to see and do. We knew going into it that there not very high opinions of the place, but it was near enough and not going to be too crowded, despite the holiday. It's also the hometown of one of Busan's close friends from his time in Japan, who he hasn't seen for going on two years now. It was a good chance for them to catch up, and us to just get out of town and have some quiet time together outside of Seoul or Incheon. Plus, I really like the Jeollas, and haven't had much of a chance to see Jeollabuk-do.

And it wasn't that exciting. But the makgeolli was the best I've ever had, and we had a good time.

Today, at lunch time, a text came through: Busan's seniors had asked about the weekend away with his girlfriend and he had told them, presumably, that we had gone to Jeonju and had a nice time. They responded by telling him that Jeonju was shit, and that they couldn't believe that he had taken me there, where there was nothing to do. He was texting to apologize, because they made him feel so bad about it.

Cocks. I hate them. Every last one of them. They're all shit, each of them in their own special shitty way. And I hate that he has to answer to them, and rely on them. He's not allowed to talk back or stand up for himself, and he's expected to take their word for thing and trust their input. And he does. And I don't understand why.

Every time he comes home from work and reports one of these horrendous conversations to me, I let loose about how shitty their way of thinking about things is. He says he wishes he could keep me in his pocket and pull me out when they get going to tell them off, or to remind him that their opinion about just about everything is shitty.

Busan can be a ridiculously stubborn person at times, but I have noticed a tendency with him to only really be stubborn with his juniors (his little brother and myself, to name two examples -- although he's not terribly stubborn with me). With his seniors, he just folds. And not just on the outside -- on the inside, as well.

Being a seonbae in Korea is a lot of responsibility. Busan's seonbaes tell him that they reason they are so shit is because their seniors treated them the same way. I tried to tell him this weekend, over said makgeolli, that he will have his chance to learn from this, and become a good seonbae, rather than a bad one, as a result. He says he knows that he should, but doesn't really know if he will. We learn from examples, I guess. But we should learn from others' mistakes as well.

I don't know what the point of this post is, really, other than to express that I'm starting to really understand why my view of the hierarchy might be a bit lopsided. I like it, when it's done in the right way. I think it's important to have people to look up to, to guide you and whom you can trust to set you straight when you go off course. You have to have some amount of unquestioning respect in order for that to work. But people aren't perfect, and more than few are also unkind.

Mostly I wish this fool would just give up this company entirely, and go find one where his seonbaes will support him the way that they should. Who won't get on his case for not wanting to participate in company brothel nights, or stick him with the bill at dinners. At the very least, I hope he keeps his head about him and realizes that these are not people he wants to in any way emulate or actually look up to. Because they're horrible. And they're making life not only not easier for him, but more difficult.

I don't envy Korean men, is the long and the short of it. Company life is kind of a mess sometimes. But you can't really expect to marry well and support a family without it. There have got to be good companies out there, and I hope that someday he will get up the courage to walk away and find one.


Sidney said...

this is awful. ugh. tell busan to quit and go become an engineer at hyundai so keunseok can become his seonbae and they can become bffs and live happily ever after.

Bonnie said...

Hey, don't knock Jeonju! It's my home! You're right, it's NOT exciting (not compared to Seoul, anyway- a lot of people I know would take it over Incheon or a lot of cities near Seoul, though). But it has its charms. Aside from going to the Hanok Village and discovering all the cute cafes near Gaeksa, and all the makkoli places and yummy food, there's little to keep you occupied for more than a day. To do a trip right you've got to spend a good part of the day in Jeonju and then another part of the day (and a night and another day) in nice countryside spots nearby- Maisan, fortress at Goch'ang, even Geumsansa and Moaksan right outside of Jeonju.

Anyway, sorry to be off-topic. I feel for your boyfriend and hope the situation improves somehow.

쏘냐 said...

so.... our company never fires anyone, but they would kick people out immediately for crap like forcing religion on an employee or asking a junior team member complete their senior's non-company-related homework. the whoring and hazing... seem to happen (though i've never heard of somewhere that bad/often before, EVER). but the other two are a clear case of exploitation. if his company is a subsidiary he could get them in huge trouble with the managing firm. he'd lose his job in the process obviously but like. yeah.

anyway that is an incredibly effed up situation all around. i hope he gets a new job as well.

Anonymous said...

i'm going to go off topic for a second here too, and say that i lived in Jeonju last summer while participating in an intensive language program - and yes, it is a fairly boring city, but its a wonderful city to live in. I'm going to second Bonnie's suggestion of Geumsansa, which is amazing. i'm glad you were able to visit Jeonju, however small and boring it may be, because it really is a cute place when you get to know it. i really want to go back sometime soon.

i also really hope the situation improves for your boyfriend. that really sucks. :[

Gomushin Girl said...

My heart goes out to him ~ My boyfriend quit his last job for similar reasons. It's hard out there right now, and I can understand wanting to stay even in an awful job with awful people rather than risk being unemployed for a long stretch. Still, I hope for both your sakes that he can find something better suited to the upstanding person he is - company life is really changing, but very, very slowly, and it sounds like his place is especially retro.
As for Jeonju ~ ok, so it doensn't have that much to do, but who cares as long as you can eat? The food there is incredible, and sightseeing is pleasant way to pass the time between meals. Oh God, I will remember the 막걸리집 I went to until my dying day . . .

F5Waeg said...

Luckily I am exempt from some of that being a waeg. But when it comes to dealing with seniors, never tell them they fuck up bigtime, and be prepared to genuflect when you make the smallest mistake

Mr. Spock said...

Radio Star is a great club in Jeonju, my band played there and the owner is a cool guy. The house specialty drinks there have to be tasted to be believed. For next time!

suzanne said...

wow that is one fucked up situation. Hope everything works out for him.

JLR said...

May I offer a silver lining that you’ve probably already thought of?

You already know that this is not the last time this kind of situation will happen in his lifetime. I mean, hopefully he won’t always have seniors making him do their homework, etc., but he’ll have situations where people higher up in the hierarchy are giving him a hard time. So you are getting a glimpse of how he will handle similar situations in the future, and you can see how whether he shuts down, or tries to learn new approaches to difficult people, or takes it out on his juniors (which doesn’t sound like him), etc. And probably he’ll have the same kind of reaction to other frustrating situations that seem beyond his immediate control. And I know you know all this already, but the silver lining is that you have the chance to get a feel for how you handle it when he’s having problems you can’t fix, and whether his way of handling this situation is compatible with you. You’ll know if you can handle it. If his job situation and everything else in his life were going great, you might not see how he faces this kind of problem until you’d been dating for much longer and were even more committed.

So . . . yea for that at least?