Nationality: South Korean
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-17-19
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English
Main Piece: “In Korea if you work at a company and your team leader says you are going to drink tonight, you have to drink. It is is not acceptable to turn down the offer if it has been made for you. And ff you are either at a restaurant, a bar, or if you’re just sitting around with your boss and he is pouring you a glass of anything, you have to drink it. Guys are forced to drink, and if you are given a drink of any kind you have to drink the entire thing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it or don’t want the drink, it is part of the culture and the expectancy to finish the drink your boss gives you.”
Background: WP grew up in South Korea, and this is his first time in America so he has spent nearly his entire life growing up with customs such as this. WP made it clear that this is not simply in companies that are for younger people, but that this is something that occurs in almost every major job. When thinking about it, WP seemed to believe that this custom was to reinforce the idea of respect and obedience to your superiors. If you don’t follow your boss it is considered being rude, and along with that if you don’t listen to them and go along with this custom, then you will hardly ever get a chance to be promoted. The main reasoning for this, according to WP, is that if you “disobey” your boss and do not drink with them, then you would be considered someone who goes against their words. WP said that drinking is part of the professionalism in South Korea, and as such it is not a good look for your professionalism if you do not comply.And if you don’t do all the elements of the “society,” then you are seen as less than and unworthy of higher positions in the workforce.
Context of Performance: WP told me about this while we were at my apartment. I was asking him about his time in South Korea, and wanted to know if there were any customs that he thought were much different from Korean to American culture. Having now worked in both countries, WP could definitively say that he thought the custom of having to drink with your bosses and your colleagues, was far more Korean than American. Because as he said that he still went out to drink with his colleagues here, it was by no means mandatory and even less so with your boss.
Analysis: I found this piece to be incredibly interesting for a number of reasons. For starters, in America while it is certainly not uncommon to go out after work with your colleagues, it seems that going out with your boss is for very rare occasions. At least in my experience, there was always this worry from the boss that they would be showing favoritism or it wouldn’t be professional to go out and drink with their employees. The biggest concern for the higher ups was that they feared if their employees saw them as more of a friend than a boss, they would have a harder time controlling them. It would eliminate some of the fear involved with your boss, and thus the bosses would generally try to steer clear of being overly friendly outside of work with their employees. Additionally, in this era it would be very questionable if a boss was forcing their employees to drink. Especially with the debates about the pay gap between women and the problems associated with women in the workplace having less opportunities to advance, this custom would not be very acceptable in America. This would more than likely get bosses fired because especially after the Harvey Weinstein incident in Hollywood with Weinstein using his power to force women into doing things to advance their career, there is no way this would be allowed.