Korean Mindset on Video Games and Manhwa

This post is old, so what you see here may not reflect my current opinion and mindset, certain information may be outdated, and links may be broken.

The Brief Intro: I’m alive. I didn’t die over my hols. Rather I wanted to die when I returned to work today. Anyway, ’nuff said about that.

Flash back when I was a child of seven or eight. My uncle had brought over some kind of game console system. I honestly have no clue what it was. All I know is that I remember fondly playing some Mario game with my cousins. After that, I’ve been dying to have some sort of a video game console. It took many years for that wish to come true.

Why? Simple. Many, but I’m sure not all, Korean parents believe that if their child plays video games, reads 만화책 (Manhwa Chaek = comics books), and watches 만화 (Manhwa = generic term for cartoons), their brain will deteriorate, and they will become some kind of a stupid human being who will fail at school and life. Oh and they believe that these activities are for children under the age ten. In other words, these are not for any sane adults to partake in these activities. My mother, unfortunately, used to fit that stereotype very well. Therefore, it wasn’t until the summer of ’95 did I gain a GameBoy, and that only occurred when Dad and I visited the states without my mother. Then that Christmas, I finally gained a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, most likely to my mother’s dismay and reluctance.

This Korean mindset still pursues me till this very day. Take couple of weeks ago. My Korean relatives came over to celebrate my father’s birthday. I had plans to meet a friend that day, but I had plenty of time to kill, so I decided to play on Ubi, my Nintendo DS-Lite, in the living room since that was where the air conditioner resided. One of my aunt questioned her son in late elementary or early middle school about whether his game system and mine were the same. Then the following brief conversation occurred:

Aunt: Are you playing [insert some Korean word that I had no idea what it meant]?
Me: Huh? *figures that the mysterious word meant “educational games” — ie: Brain Age* No. I’m playing an actual game.
Aunt: Oh? You’re playing a game instead?
Me: Yes.
Aunt: You still play with games? [insert the obvious “at your age” disbelief in her tone of voice]
Me: *gives a tight smile and responds politely* Yes.

Pardon me, but isn’t the purpose of a hand-held game system like the Nintendo DS-Lite for casual and serious gaming and those Brain Age type of games? That’s how I view it. Luckily, nobody else brought up the subject of me, a twenty-three year old college graduate, playing games. X_X;;

I wrote up there that my mother used to fit that Korean mindset. In a way, I think she still does feel that way, but she had to become accustomed to her only daughter being such a dork over her toys and books. Comic books especially. I know she was not pleased about me reading Archie Comics and whatnot when I was younger, but there was this one day where she defended me from one of my uncles (who ironically happens to be the husband of the aunt who questioned me above) when I was in late high school or early college.

Uncle: *watches me read an Archie comic books while eating* 누나 (Noona = what younger males call their older female siblings/friends), you still let Tara read comic books?
Mum: Yes.
Uncle: At her age?
Mum: Why not? She reads all the time, and whether it’s comic books or not, it’s good for her. She still makes good grades. She knows how to study and have times for leisure activities.
Uncle: *shuts up and knows better than to disagree with his older sister*

Aigoo. While I understand Korean parents not wanting their children to become addicted to gaming and whatnot, I think if a child proves them that they are capable of balancing out school and personal activities, then they should be left alone. And what does it matter if a sixteen year old or a thirty year old someone wants to play games or read comic books? Hell, age is nothing but a number when it comes to these sort of issues. Just because games and comic books seem to target the younger audience, it doesn’t mean the older people have to be alienated from them!

As I type this now, I have no idea what the general Korean population feels about this. I’m sure the older generations are the ones who will believe in that mindset, but I’m guessing the younger generations, the ones who are exposed more to the western culture, feel differently about it. I know I fit the second group. I just wished the people in the first group would just not look it at as a negative thing. The way I see it, if most people can be addicted to watching television, then me playing games and reading mangas and comic books is the same bloody thing.


  1. Yeah, it is crazy how some people think. Blaming other peoples stupidity and craziness on movies and games…

    Thankfully, my grandparents didn’t seem to care too much as long as I was happy and doing good. I know my grandfather didn’t like me watching anime and reading manga and manhwa but he would still help me buy it online because he would rather me be addicted to that stuff than drugs or partying with crazy people. LOL

    And it hasn’t changed much over the time. I still spend most of my money on food, anime, manga, manhwa, and computer stuff. HAHA

  2. I think it’s more of a general Asian parent thing. It’s the same with my parents and I didn’t get a game console until I was in 6th grade. And that’s because my older sister bought it for us. My dad always nag about me wasting my time playing games and what not.

    I’m not sure if they know I read manga since I read them online. I’m sure they’ll tell me how I’m wasting my time and money if I buy the books and bring them home.

    However all that stopped last year when I was applying for colleges and getting acceptances; it finally somehow clicked to them that Thao’s not so stupid after all! I’m not doom to become a bum! I’m still surprised it took them that long to recognize it since I’ve always had good grades and stuff….

    Now I’ve also noticed the double standard for girls and boys. My cousins who are boys and older than me NEVER get criticized for playing video games, but I do. They play a lot more than me, yet the adults tolerate the gaming in boys more.

  3. So you’re too old for video games and comic books, but not old enough to decide what you want to do in your free time? *rolls eyes* Like Thao, what enrages me more is when people claim that those things are meant for boys, not girls. Oh if only they knew I like girls, too.

  4. Well i dont think its only korean mind. My granny and an aunt say me the same things; I’m gonna get stupid if i stay more at PC, watch anime, and so on. Then they also point out to the useless stuff I buy like figures and general merchandise.

    My mom was used to hate this kind of stuff too. But can’t really complain when I DO have good grades at school (years ago) or i actually have a solid work i’m going everyday.
    I play MMO at crazy times (back home at 7pm, dinner and start playing at 8-8.30pm, till something between 2am and 4am, and wake up at 8am for work :p)
    It’s crazy but actually i dont fail irl, thats why she accepted everything and shut up :)

    I see lot of myself in this post

  5. I think as long as you work hard, everyone deserves to do whatever they want to have fun no matter what their guilty pleasure is.

  6. I agree that a kid who can balance video games, manga, and whatnot with school should be left alone. If their grades are not falling, then there obviously isn’t a problem. Luckily, my parents didn’t mind that I like video games or manga. And well, they can’t say that video games are just for kids since my mom plays her DS Lite almost every day XD

  7. You can never be too old for video games. I still play them now sometimes (Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart, Tetris, Grand Theft Auto, Scarface). As long as it doesn’t interfere with your thought process or take you away from your responsibilities, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

  8. When I lived in Korea I saw the younger men playing video games for hours after work, while their young wives worked full time, PLUS did all the cooking, cleaning and child rearing. I think it’s a double standard – women are “too old” to play games while it’s fine for the guys to neglect their families to play at the local PC Bang.

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