Monday, August 14, 2006

politics of naming

I'm not normally one for analytical posts too far off the mark of labour and political issues -- not that I actually post much other than current events anyway -- but I'd thought I would throw in some culture commentary for once, just because. Today's post is the connection between the naming and class valourization and is a hat's off to some better posting on this sort of thing over at antti's blog. A while back, perhaps a long while back, he posted briefly on the renaming of some of the old hillside squatter communities in Seoul and the effect this had on land values which went up once the apparent stigma (others might actually be proud) of the name was removed for middle class apartment blocks now in these areas. My post today, however, is on a similar but related theme.

As I was coming home this evening in a taxi (I visited tae ju ri and came back late) I couldn't help but notice the name of a new luxury apartment called enrichia. The is not the first use of a name like this I've see, but perhaps it was the -ia rather than the -pia (my personal pet peeve -- I'm not sure why) that got me thinking about other weird names. Enrichville, Richtel, even 'Richevil,' I'm sure there is a Richpia too; I've seen these on other complexs, or something very near to that. I've also seen lots bars and restaurants with names like nobless oblige, ennoble, nobel, etc, not to mention plenty of bobos (bourgois bohemians) and a few yuppies in the names (all used in the positive sense, as if this was something you would want to be), etc.

As far as I know from Antti's the renamed districts have pretty normal names I wonder if there is some connection, however, between english names in particular and class ideology. It just seems easier to do in English. Keep in mind that these are expensive apartments, the most expensive ones in fact. Whereas back home it is more often the not so nice apartments that have the ostentatious names.

What is so curious about it is that the names used are actually pretty crass and offensive. Noblesse oblige is only used sarcastically anyway, if you called yourself a 'noble' people would think you are a snob, and who would actually want to be called a bobo or a yuppie as a point of pride anyway. And if I told someone that I live in 'richville,' well, I just don't know... As for signs in Korean, I've just never seen anything in Korea that says "be a Yangban" (anyways, dear readers, please supply me with these if they do exist) or some slang equivalent of "snotty kids from Gangnam," perhaps "Chaebol Kid" would work, neither have I seen a "Puja Maul" so I have to assume that here English operates as some way to be classist or advertise class in a way that is well, kinda creepy and unsettling to an outside viewer.

I realize that inequality is certainly going up here, but it is no where here as much as it is in America. So, how does one actually select to go to such a place and what are the implications. How does it sound? "Hone, let's go to noblesse oblige tonight, they have really good Anju, and after that we can visit your sister in Richville." "Sorry babe, they said they were going to the Yuppie cafe."

Anyway... besides this brief foray into anthropology, I'll be back to more labour and other news soon.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, c'mon Jamie! K's and my home away from home was the "Noblesse" love hotel in Maseok. Indeed, I felt nothing less than supremely grand and noble as i uttered "no-beul-less-suh HO-tel, ka ju say yo" with a swelling, er, chest enroute to the long-anticipated arms of my also supremely noble love who awaited me.

    Our twice monthly conjugals just wouldn't've have been the same had we chosen the more pedestrian "Love Party" down the street.

    Is the Richville you mention on Hannam Ro? I wonder if there's more than one...