Thursday, April 15, 2010

Language and Globalization

In his article “The representation of mobile youth in the post-colonial techno-nation of Korea,” Kyongwon Yoon talks about the changing language of Korean text messages. He says that some Koreans believe, “mobile phone precipitate the degradation of the Korean language…increase in the use of new abbreviations and acronyms and also the frequent use of Arabic numerals and English instead of Korean characters in text messages” (Yoon 113). Korea is a country that wants to be extremely technologically advanced, but also retain its cultural and national identity. It seems like they want to move into the future while still remaining somewhat in the past. This is a futile wish, because if you use technology, you are connected globally and are forced to forfeit some aspects of your individuality. It is impossible to escape the globalization that comes with technology and media, because now every locality and country shares its news and events with the rest of the world as soon as or sometimes before they share it with their own people. We are all linked through global media vectors, and wanting to be advanced but stay homogeneous is not feasible in our modern society.

Yoon says that the Korean language is a “key symbol in the imagined homogeneity and purity of Koreans” (113). Therefore, the changes to the language represent the changes in their culture as a whole as a result of interacting with the world. The problem is summed up perfectly when Yoon says how threats to the language because of this technological revolution, “reflect Koreans’ dilemma in the process of globalization; while new modes of communication made possible by the new media technologies enable local people to revise their ways of communication, they also present a threat to the dominant order of local society” (113). A language is something that a nation can honestly call its own, and having that “marred” or “polluted” by outside influences is seen as a breaking down of the boundaries making up what people think of as “Korean.” It also shows that with globalization, no aspect of society or culture is safe; everything is vulnerable to the effects of the global village.

Reading this also made me think of the clip from Blade Runner that Matt showed in lecture. In it, there is a clear separation between the English speakers and the Japanese speakers, and the language barrier makes communication difficult. The two languages represent the two cultures coexisting/opposing each other in the futuristic society. I think that sort of thing is what the Koreans are afraid of happening- they want to keep their culture separate and the breaching of their language is the first step to that. Yoon even says the texting language is called “aliens’ language,” (113) because it can’t be deciphered by the older generation who isn’t familiar with the terms and characters. This divide of old/young, advanced/not advanced is similar to the division between the two cultures and between the older technology and the futuristic, superior electronics in the movie. The young people, the ones who accept change and are willing to bend to the will of global media, the “aliens,” are the ones who will live successfully into the future, and the older people, afraid of transformation and loss of national identity, are stuck in the future with a nostalgia for the simpler past.

Friday 11 AM Section

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