Captain A******

So this is interesting. A friend of mine brought to my attention the other night that the new Captain America movie is being released as “The First Avenger” instead of the “Captain America: The First Avenger” over here in Korea. Apparently, distributors gave international markets the option of shortening the title in hopes the movie could be profitable “anti-American markets.” But only three countries went for the shortened title: Russia (duh), Ukraine, and South Korea.

South Korean’s inclusion in the list seems pretty surprising. As an American in Korea, I don’t see much of any “anti-American” sentiment from the locals. Actually, it’s more of the opposite. If you were to ask my 6th grade students what country they want to visit (which I have), 95% of them would say “USA!” without hesitation. A ridiculous amount of people wear clothing emblazoned with the American flag or the words USA/American/any number of American cities (especially NYC, Brooklyn, and Boston, Massachoobats. In the country’s craze for English education, the American accent is generally preferred across the board, with many Irish, English and South African native speakers being asked to make their accent sound “more American” by their employers. So, that there’s any ‘anti-American’ sentiment is news to me.

But, I am living in Ulsan. And Ulsan very noticably lacks an American military base. According to the New York Times, people resent the continued American military presence:

“South Korea is another story. Although that country is one of Hollywood’s top-performing territories, resentment about the continued presence of the United States military runs deep. Marvel and Paramount worry that those feelings are particularly strong among younger South Koreans, the ones who powered “Iron Man 2” to $27 million in ticket sales in that country last year.”

In Daegu and Seoul, where there are many bases, it’s not too uncommon to see signs like this on bars:

So what’s their problem? Isn’t the US military always stepping in to aid South Korea in quelling aggressive threats from the North? Like when they bombed that island on the border a few months ago?

Of course, and I don’t think that’s what Koreans are resenting. When it comes to Korean citizens and US military co-existing in the same city, the relationship isn’t quite so …beneficial. The guy over at the blog Ask a Korean! already covered this in far more detail than I could.

But I did find a rather surprising, recent article about military crime in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, translated over on this blog. It’s a bit …one-sided, but all the more interesting because of that:

“Every night on the weekend the Seoul district of Itaewon is overrun with American soldiers. United States Forces Korea, saying that Seoul is safe for American soldiers, lifted its curfew and made it an unsafe place for Seoul citizens.

Jo Seong-hyeon reports…

With the US military having abolished the curfew last year, every weekend night Itaewon becomes a chaos of American soldiers and other foreigners.

The US military allows freedom at night but there is much unhappiness about it.

First, crimes by American soldiers increased 15%.

Serious crimes such as assault, rape, and theft all increased.

On the 26th of last month a woman passing through Itaewon was molested by an American soldier, and recently police caught an American soldier selling the party drug “Spice”.

[Nightclun employee: Drugs are a serious issue in Itaewon, too. I’ve seen it. It’s really serious. And they can infect young Koreans.”

The harm falls entirely on our citizens.

[Victim of violence by American military: I want to forget it… sometimes it comes into my mind and I get so upset… when those thoughts come I get so angry and I hate them.]

American soldiers cannot be stopped from going to prostitutues or secretly committing crimes even as they behave appropriately near nightclubs…

We must raise our voices to demand that our police power be increased in the areas ridden with US military crimes and that the US military strictly crackdown on US military crimes.”

Well, I guess their feelings are obvious.

poster comparison

Honestly though, how much can shortening the name really help this movie’s appeal in an “anti-American” country? The guy is running around in a red, white and blue uniform covered in stars and stripes! The name is the least of the problem. The Korean poster looks like it tried to downplay the Americanism a bit, but really, I don’t think they’re fooling anyone.

One last point brought up by another blogger was perhaps Korea just wanted a shorter name:

퍼스트어벤져 (poh-suh-tuh-a-ben-joh)

vs

캡틴에매리카퍼스트어벤져 (kap-ten-a-mae-ree-ka-poh-suh-tuh-a-ben-joh)

It is a bit long to fit on a movie poster, no?

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