Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Psychology in Korea

This is an article I wrote for our school's magazine. (It's written for ESL students)

When people think of psychology they often picture a psychologist sitting in a large chair taking notes while a patient lies back on a couch talking about problems from childhood and how this vaguely connects to their current difficulties. The truth is that psychology is a diverse discipline focused on helping people achieve optimum health through scientifically proven methods.

Enabling companies to hire the creative but unproven applicant who goes on to achieve a breakthrough in the industry; helping soldiers to readjust back to lives with their families after experiencing war; performing tests on the brain of someone who has been in a car accident; giving a child who has moved to a new school skills to help them adjust to their new environment: These are just some of the many ways psychology can help impact society for the better.

Why then is there often a misunderstanding and suspicion about the goals of those working in psychology and their treatments? People often think those involved in psychology can “read their minds”. Others might harbor a notion that psychologists invent problems in people in order to turn a buck on their naivety.

Perhaps it is because the mind is such an important part of the conception of our “self” and because there are yet many things still to be understood about the mind that these misconceptions persist. People are naturally resistant to the idea of someone probing about their innermost thoughts and feelings and somehow controlling them. In addition, some people may feel that to seek help for mental issues might indicate a lack of their own control over their body and could indicate weakness.

These issues are some of the biggest obstacles for those thinking about seeking mental help and following through on treatment. As a result of these prejudices, many people go without the psychological services which could be very beneficial for them.

Psychology is often misunderstood around the world, but psychology in Korea presents its own unique set of problems to be dealt with. Psychology has a comparatively short history in Korea and there are cultural issues that prevent psychology from being fully utilized.

Although there is some indication of psychological thought from early Confucian scholars, psychology as a scientific discipline entered Korea during the Japanese occupation and then progressed with Korean practitioners developing organizations and university programs in Korea. (Choi & Han, Psychology in Korea) As in other countries, psychology spread with its use as a tool in military candidate assessment and most recently amongst children in Korea. Finally, some companies such as Samsung and Posco have recently established psychological services in their organizations.

One of the main focuses of psychological research in Korea has recently focused on the applicability of counseling theories and skills that originated in Western contexts. (Seo, Kim, Kim, Applied Psychology, Jan. 2007) As Korean psychology continues to grow, practitioners need to adapt the field to suit the needs of the people. However, clinical methods and theory need to be based in science and not in broad generalizations. In particular, claims that individual behavior in Korea is influenced by societal values that are unique to this culture should be examined to understand the true dynamics guiding individual decisions.

Korea does present definite unique areas of need psychologists should consider. The effect of urban density on people, mandatory military conscription, the effect of military conflict, integration of foreigners into a relatively closed society, high suicide and alchohol abuse rates, and pressure from high expectations of success are some of the main issues psychologists can help individuals with. Psychologists will need to distinguish themselves as being able to offer unique skills apart from other social service workers that tend to address the physical needs of clients.

With the continued realization of the part psychology can play in Korea, the services offered will continue to improve and will be increasingly utilized. Psychology will have its place here as a trusted component in helping people to live happy and full lives.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The South will rise again!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How'd that get there?

Must have taken a wrong turn.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Off to Xingtao

...to find the real orange chicken.