Shown above is the South Korea section of Pilot Guides. It describes the country as a “shrimp between whales.” Captured photo of Pilot Guides website

VANK takes issues with ‘insulting description about Korea’

This is the second of the three-part series about highlighting wrong information about South Korea on foreign websites or books. Korea News Plus works together with Voluntary Agency Network for Korea (VANK) for the series. _ ED.


Pilot Productions is a world-famous TV program producer, which came up with such a successful adventure tourism series as Globe Trekker. It won more than 20 international awards.

The outfit explains various countries on its Pilot Guides website. And its article about South Korea appears to make some people here not so happy.

“Surrounded by the economic and military giants of Japan, China, and Russia, the South Korean peninsula has long been a ‘shrimp between whales,’ as a Korean proverb describes it,” it says.

VANK founder Park Gi-tae points out that comparing the country to a “shrimp” is an insulting description.

“If we do nothing with such an insulting comparison, foreign readers may regard South Korea as a disadvantaged nation. They are also feared to have a mistaken understanding of Korean history,” he said.

“We have to let global citizens know that Korea was not a disadvantaged, incapable country by sharing many historical examples with them.”

Short for Voluntary Agency Network for Korea, VANK is a non-governmental outfit designed to promote a positive image of Korea by requesting foreign internet sites or agencies to correct wrong data about the country.

In fact, similar explanations are also found on other websites, as shown by RealClearHistory, which covers notable historical events.

“Koreans often use the proverb ‘when whales fight, the shrimp’s back is broken’ to describe their country’s victimization at the hands of larger, more powerful neighbors,” it said.

“China, as the largest and most technologically and culturally advanced society in East Asia, exerted the most important outside influence on Korea until modern times. In the 21st century, Korea became the focus of rival interests among neighboring China, Japan, and Russia as well as the more distant United States.”

Park noted that these descriptions might give negative impressions of the country’s long, independent history, which stretches back thousands of years ago.

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.