Let me try and give you an inside look into the brain of many Korean people. This is an excerpt from a book and I've never read anything so on point to what makes Asia, Asia.
I can’t speak for your educational system, or, indeed, for that of any other country, but ours was based almost entirely on fact retention. From the day we first set foot in a classroom...Japanese children were injected with volumes upon volumes of facts and figures that had no practical application in our lives. These facts had no moral component, no social context, no human connection to the outside world. They had no reason for existence other than that their mastery allows ascension...Japanese children were not taught to think, we were taught to memorize. -World War Z
This is speaking of Japanese, but it's exactly the same here in Korea. Because they are just melting their brains with memorizing facts, they are not learning other skills that get them through, you know, life. What they are bombarded with in school (and all the many hours after school) really does not help them get through their day to day. It will help them get a higher education and possibly a good job, sure, but all those hours studying and not playing with others and learning the social aspects of life has a huge impact on how they think as adults.
Don't get me wrong, I am in no way saying that the Western mind is far superior than that of an Asian person. Not at all. What I'm saying is that because we grow up differently, we think differently. So while in, say, Canada or the US I walk into McDs and I want to get a sweet and sour sauce independent of anything else, I'm handed one no questions asked. In Japan, sweet and sour sauce comes with McNuggets and no other way. They will look at you blankly and confusedly, wondering why you would want a sauce but no McNuggets. In the end, you are without sauce because they come together and that's that and there's no way you are allowed to separate the two. (True story, I witnessed it). In the classroom, when there are some questions with no obvious right answers, my students have no idea what to do with themselves. No right answer, whaaaa? When the questions are why and there isn't an answer staring them in the face, a lot of my students just can't grasp it and squirm nervously in their chairs until I tell them what to think.
With the insane studying comes great things, though. I mean just look at all the crazy things Japan comes up with...and that's the result of hours upon hours studying. The American education system, I believe, is some of the worst, isn't it? But would I switch my education with one of a Korean student? Never in a million years. I like being able to think outside the box.
This isn't just my own opinion. It's just something that we expats know and deal with. It's also known to some Koreans. A Korean friend of ours, let's call him Kman, told me that on tests (Koreans are tested for anything and everything, even applying for jobs as adults) the logic portion is what they do the most poorly on. Again, I'm in no way saying my brain is better than a Koreans. I just wish I had more insight to why some seemingly simple ideas woosh right over my co-teachers' heads. Like turn the EFFING air con on when it's 95 degrees with 93% humidity. Yes, they are energy saving nutcases, but when my shirt is soaked from sweat and the kids smell awful because it's so hot...I mean come on. I don't care that the sun isn't out.
I walked into school yesterday, a sunny day, mind you, and the air in my office was still not turned on. I about lost it. I understand that it's not their fault there in my office, but they won't go say anything to the main office because that's not now things work here. You do not, under any circumstances, question the higher ups. When the Koreans are hot, the foreigners are ten times hotter, and all the Korean ladies in my office were fanning themselves profusely, so you can only imagine that I was on like Heat Level 9999273. Finally, after my first class, I walked back into the office and tried the button again. Miraculously it turned on and it worked in the rest of my classrooms after that, at least until 4:30 or so when it turns off automatically. But by that time it had cooled down tremendously and was very comfortable the rest of the evening. It's always a toss up when I get to school, and it's starting to make be beyond angry, but there's nothing I can do but keep my fingers crossed.
I also do apologize for all the air conditioning ranting :)