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Date [ 2012-12-29, 12:15 ]



A look at what Malaysians think of Koreans and Korea!

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) by Ramani = Way back in the early seventies a group of Malaysian workers were sitting in their base camp in the Bukit Tinggi area, Pahang.  The nearby mountains was where the Genting Highlands Resort would later rise up. But for now, a  new road was being carved on what was to become the Karak Highway.

“Were were working for Koreans,” informed Edwin George.”I would say this was the first major construction job given to them, based on then PM Mahathir’s LOOK EAST POLICY. My friends and I, fresh from leaving school had joined the road construction crew and were now engaged in digging a tunnel through the mountain to the other side.”

Quipped Thomas Chang,”We soon found out the Koreans were hard task masters. We worked non-stop except for meal breaks. Sometimes it was dark by the time we went to bed.”

Added Lawrence Samuel, ”Once they realized you were a hard worker, they treated you well. Problem was, sometimes you had to join their soju parties. My first taste of rice wine! Those Koreans could hold their liquor well and get up fresh next morning for work! Unlike us, for we would suffer. We had great fun watching their faces turning a fiery red.”

Matsun Din put in his words, ”All of us were happy, more so our Korean bosses as the two sides of the tunnel finally met. Today, it gives us a sense of pride as we drive through it, well lit and still holding firm.”

Malaysian Students learning about Korean Food
Today of course for many Malaysians it is all entertainment fluff. Many do not realize, after the Karak Tunnel, Korean engineering
went on to build the Penang Bridge and the imposing Menara Maybank. They, especially the younger generation and the ladies are into Hallyu which has now flowed in as K-POP.

Johari Salleh, an accountant, knows nothing much about Korea the country. He sounded very vague but came alive at the mention of Korean dramas. Winter Sonata, that highly popular drama, is still fresh in his mind.

Working for Astro’s customer service, Sharifah Idris, was long hooked on Korean dramas. “A Love to Kill, Scent of a Woman, Beethoven Virus” – I liked all of them,” she gushed. Tan May Lan keeps abreast with such new dramas as ‘Haeundae Lovers, IRIS and My Daughter Sea Yong.’

Felipe Rozario, goes for the historical stories.”Being a man, I find the dramas rather mushy, Korean men always cry a lot there.

Historical stories – I learn about Korean history – King Gwanngaeto the Great, the Emperor’s Dream.” For John Tan it is the technical aspects. “Though it is just dramas, the sets are spectacular, the costumes so rich and the battle scenes are vivid and strong. They really seem to spend a huge amount on these dramas.” 

Housewife Chellamah is a lover of Tamil dramas. “But I watch Korean too as our cultures are so similar. I did not realize Koreans call their fathers ‘Appa’, the same as us. We say ‘Amma’ for mother, they say ‘Umma.’ And like Tamil dramas, the mother-in-law rules the roost! We also pay respect to our elders by bowing or touching the feet. My husband told me, this is because Emperor Vikramathithen once ruled from the Middle East down to Korea. This is such an interesting aspect of history, isn’t it?”

But Aisha Farid is getting rather tired of the dramas. “It is always like this – A loves B, but C loves A too. So a separation occurs caused by C and you can guess whether the lovers are going to stay apart or come together finally. This was what happened in Rain’s ‘A Love to Kill” where both of them die in the end.”Yeoh Siang Yee agrees with her and says,”I was watching Discovery Channel where actor Lee Byung-hun commented Korean directors like to churn out dramas fast and furious, believing more in quantity than quality. He said if they don’t change they will lose out.”

Perhaps this is why there is so much interest in K-Pop.  Sharifah’s two daughters, Siti Noor and Kamariah are crazy about these pop idols. “I just listen to the songs of Super Juniors. Did you see the girls from eight countries who got a date with SHINee? I was so envious of that Malaysian girl who got it!” Kamariah enthused.

So riding high in the forefront of Korean entertainment today, are not the dramas, but K-Pop! Leena Yong, a college student, seemed to know what was happening. “It’s not on Malaysian tv yet so I get it on videos – Survival Audition K-Pop Star. Imagine this reality show can turn you into a star!” She was referring to the preliminary auditions held in Europe, China, USA and down to Brazil.

Lee May Yong is very excited girl these days. Reason? She began, “Haven’t you heard K-Pop’s biggest stars are coming to Malaysia, here, to Malaysia. My friend told me, Psy is coming in March.”

By now every one knows this is Korean who put Korean songs on the world internet with his Oppa! Gangnam Style achieving over 40 million hits.

“Then there is NU’JEST, Super Junior M, BtoB and EXCO-M, May Yong continued. “I am checking the net to see how to get the tickets for the Samsung Galaxy 27th Golden Disc Awards next month at the Sepang International Circuit. There will be Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, 4Minute, KARA,” and she paused, unable to catch her breath anymore. Akin to the Grammy Awards, this is the second time the event is being held outside Korea and text is flying among Malaysian teenagers.

Yeoh Ah Seng, a retiree, held a more in-depth view of Korea. “Did you know that 90% of the people are very good savers, with their money in FDs? They were one of the early dragons, along with Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. They are one of the most advanced countries in the world and are giving the Japanese a good run for their money. Look at the heavy industries – building ships, skyscrapers and cars – Hyundai has moved so much forward. I am surprised at the number of Korean makes on our roads. Kia is another good example! Then there is their ICT push – everyone seems to be buying Samsung Galaxy III now. Where is Nokia now?”

Pritam Singh, a lecturer, was of the opinion that, ”Yes, they are well advanced, producing from cameras, television, computer sets, washing machines, fridges to cam recorders and beyond. But I feel where electrical and electronic goods are concerned, they are not as good as the Japanese. Probably they need another 10 years to catch up.”

Rajasegaran, who has just began work as a laboratory technician revealed that he had been to Seoul recently. “I took a holiday, just before I began my working life. Boy! was I in for a surprise – the city was so clean, public transport was excellent and it was safe to walk nearly everywhere, Then I realized this was the city that had hosted the World Cup, the Asian Games with almost all its citizens having access to broad bands…”

There were some, who felt that Korea was losing its identity. Tun Alwi pointed out that,”K-Pop – why does every other singer has to dye the hair a bright orange or red? The songs sound just like any Western recordings except the language used is hangul!


Another felt that, ”I feel strongly they are not innovative, taking electrical and electronical goods, like cameras, video players, stripping them down, then rebuilding and branding it as their own.” He had no specific proof of this but said” …just my gut feeling.”

Perhaps, John Berridge, a Eurasian executive sums it up best,”Korea – it is exactly where Japan was in Malaysia some 30 years ago. Our people said Japanese cars were built out of tin-can sheets. But look what happened later – the Japanese simply pushed the Westerners out. History is repeating itself with Korea……?”


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