Conflict Among Ethnic Groups

Running head: Ethnic Group Conflict: North and South Korea Anne Solomon Diversity and Cultural Factors in Psychology/PSY450 Professor Iman Turner July 31, 2011 Ethnic Group Conflict: North and South Korea North Korea and South Korea have been at odds with each other for generations now. This has affected how each culture has developed from the other. North Korea is a strict communist regime, whereas South Korea is a republic. Conformity is different for each individual culture as well as social perception and cognition.

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What is considered conformity in one country may not be considered conformity in the other. However, in recent years there has been an attempt to reconcile the differences in the two domains. Leaders have met and tried to find ways to reconcile the tension between the two regions. The United States has intervened and as long as the communication remains open there may be some hope for some type of agreement. Furthermore, there are social perceptions that would need to be addressed before the conflict between the two groups is resolved.

The similarities between the two countries may seem obvious. They share the same geographical regions, and as far as climate and population are concerned, they are about the same. The similarities end there however with North Korea is a communist country and South Korea is a republic. North Korea has strict rules and guidelines that must be followed and adhered to, while South Korea is not as strict. In North Korea, religion is strictly regulated, while in South Korea one can choose his or her religion. North Korea has very limited contact with the outside world through media outlets.

What the people of North Korea see and hear is strictly controlled by the government. Until the end of World War II, Korea was a unified nation under the control of Japan. When the Japanese surrendered at the end of the war, Korea was divided into two separate countries, which was divided by the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union had control over the north, while the United States had control over the south. North Korea became a communist country, while South Korea became a republic. North Korea also established a “closed door policy” that severely limits contact with the outside world, (Lee, 2001).

The concept of conformity is “the act of matching beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors to what individuals perceive is normal of their society and social group” (Kelman, 1958, p. 54). Because North Korea and South Korea are ruled by two totally different regimes, it is quite possible for one to perceive what may be normal for one may be thought of as different to the other. North Korea has a strict communist regime that uses its power to control and keep its citizens in line. South Korea is a republic which allows its citizens to have some say in their government.

While outsiders may consider the laws and rules of North Korea very harsh, it is what the people are used to and what their beliefs are. Each country conforms to its values and believes that their attitudes and behaviors are normal. Social perception is “the perceiving of attributes, characteristics, and behaviors of one’s associates or social groups” (Kelman, 1958, P. 55). Social cognition is the study of how people process social information, especially the encoding, storage retrieval and applications to social situations. While it may be easy to study social perceptions and cognition in South Korea, it is harder to do so in North Korea.

One must realize that North Korea is a much closed country and does not react well to visitors. However, one can attempt to explain it better by comparing it to what is known about other communist countries. Social cognition is basically the way people learn about and respond to social settings. When one is associated with a particular group, one begins to assimilate or adapt to the rules and the regulations of that particular group. In the case of South Korea, there are many groups to choose from. For instance, religion is not regulated in South Korea.

A person joins a religion and adapts to the teachings and the ways of the religion. In North Korea, however; religion is severely restricted; one may say that the “religion” of North Korea is in actuality the communist teachings and ways which involves politics. Social cognition is learning and understanding how people adapt to the social situations that they are in. How one learns to, and conforms to the particular social group that they are in. In effect, how one learns to socialize, and also store the information in order to retrieve it if the situation arises again.

If North and South Korea were to merge into one unified Korea, there would be many social perceptions that would need to be worked through. For example, in regards to religion it would be hard to help the North Koreans realize that their religion is probably propaganda meant to keep them in-line. For many years they have been taught that their ruler is their “father” and must be revered as a type of deity. They have not been allowed to explore other options concerning religion, and it would be very hard to explain that there is a choice.

This can very much sum it up for everything that North Korea does. Their whole lives are centered on their ruler and what he tells them to do. They are not supposed to have any type of free will or thinking at all. In order for all of Korea to be restored there would need to have people available to help the North Koreans begin to think for themselves. There also would be a need for a period of change for both sides, and there would need to be much assistance for all Korea to be unified once again. Conformity is a very different thing in North and South Korea.

In North Korea conformity is about being one unified group that acts and thinks the same, depending on what the government tells them. In South Korea, there are many different social groups that one can choose to belong to or not. Social perception and social cognition are very different in each country. Perception and cognition are closely regulated in North Korea, and more lenient in South Korea. For the two countries to become one unified nation, there would almost need to be a deprogramming in North Korea in order for the population to begin to think and act on its own again.

Conformity should not be giving up of one’s internal values and beliefs but deciding to adhere to the majority of the community for the good of the community. Conclusion In conclusion, most cultures act within the natural conformity of its people. Korea is no different from any other ethnic group going through conflicts. One believes that he or she is right and the other is wrong. Usually it concerns power and boundaries and so whether it is a matter of right or wrong; better or worst conflict will always exist. One may hope that groups that live among coexisting boundaries may find a happy medium where he or she may live at peace.

Furthermore, there have been efforts from both North Korean and South Korean leaders to attempt some type of common ground. This may prove to be a step in the right direction. However, North Korea is so rigid and controlling in the people’s view that it would take decades to try and reverse or teach conformity to South Korea. Sometimes it is maybe best to leave alone. Cross-cultural psychologists faced with the dilemma of who is right and who is wrong in this culture would prove to be a farce or failure nonetheless. References Kelman, H. (1958).

Compliance, identification, and internalization: Three processes of attitude Change. Journal of Conflict Resolution (1)51-60. Lee, H. (2001) North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress. Greenwood Publishing Group. Politcal Conditions (2011). North Korea Country Review, 10-45. Retrieved from EBSCOhost July 26, 2011. (Shiraev E B Levy D A 2010 Cross-cultural psychology: Crtitcal thinking and contemporary applications)Shiraev, E. B. , & Levy , D. A. (2010). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (4th ed. ). Boston: McGraw Hill.


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