Just a response to a really interesting and honest post from The Joshing Gnome, whom I introduce for the first time here. Read it, then read my comment, which I reprint in post form here, since even my comments tend to be post-length. Yeah, I know. I know.
They're definitely acting out. In the classic sense. I used to work with kids like that at the alternative school, where they turn around suprisingly fast, relatively. Basically, they just have to be shown, for the first time, a responsible envrionment with adults in which the adults are not constantly scolding them and telling them they "can't" or "you're nothing" or some other form of constant negative.
You hear it enough, well, it becomes true. And in my experience at the school, a lot of these girls are sexually abused, either by an older male relative or a stepdad. Or they simply go in this extreme direction as a way of rebelling -- and given the ease in which you can mix burgeoning sexual curiosity with making a buck, say on the internet, well...
You see how this goes. In an a way, I see it as Korean society being so rigid in terms of the lives of kids, it's easier to rebel in prescribed ways. Curse, litter, date. Voila! Now, you're a "bad kid" beyond hope! Now, you can look forward to being summarily kciked out of your school (as several of my kids had been, in middle school) and effectively ostracized and stigmatized by your elders. Turn your increased anger into increased efforts to lash out at this process. Rinse and repeat.
Basically, our alternative school (which uses media to give kids something useful and later, marketable, to focus on and learn) had real counselors, with real backgrounds in social work (not homeroom teachers with a certificate) being extremely patient with the kids, until they realized that the adults were not going to yell at them and call them names, let alone hit them or worse. Some kids turn around; some don't.
One girl with whom I recently worked was a girl sorta like that. She chewed gum, thought she had sass, was loud, and cursed too much. And that was IN class. I could easily see her with her friends on the subway, egging each other on.
But she took a love for photography for some reason, and she had an eye. Who knew? Well, that's the point of the alternative school. For one kid, it might be photo; another video; another, tweaking pics in Photoshop; for another, 3-D animation.
She was taking really bizarrely wonderful pics with her digital camera, and she was starting to get really possessive about using MY camera. Although handing this bouncy and too-carefree kid my camera and lens made me uncomfortable at first, she did treat the camera far differently than anything else, especially anyone else's. She was ginger with it, and took time to take her bizarro-angle pictures with my wider lens.
She wasn't from a poor family, but from an average family that simply had been having trouble handling her. They bought her a camera, the same DSLR model I had, which I receommended she get now used, instead of the sparkly, newer-version of the same. She took too it, and is a photo nut last I checked (haven't taught this semester).
These kids can be helped far more easily than say, kids who are stuck in a subculture of drugs, gangs, guns, and other kinds of structural violence you see in the US. These kids just need to be provided an alternative path, instead of the "conform or die" path offered them in Korea. Unfortunately, the SSRO.net school I worked at serves about 10-15 kids at a time. That's all they can handle, really.
I'm glad you were able to see things from a broader perspective than the "punk kids! get off my lawwwwn!" many tend to see them from. And maybe someday, some of ya'll would like to volunteer at a school like SSRO.net? Guarantee it'll be rewarding, albeit sometimes frustrating. Caveat: the more Korean you know, the better. Not for the adults, but for the kids, who generally have no English, given that most of them aren't exactly the Korean wunderkind you hear about in the NYT. Anyway, whatever -- I'm sure that the help would be appreciated, especially from foreigners...expensive foreigners.
Although it would be likely not actually resulting in the kid learning any English on a real permanent level, anyone teaching English there would be vastly appreciated. It would be a madhouse trying to keep the kids focused, but you'd have fun and actually get to know the kinda kids Joe talked about in the subway. And you wouldn't be speaking all that much English, anyway. It'd be just sort of another "teaser" for the one kid who might latch onto it, or have the experience with a foreigner spark another mental connection or jumpstart an interest. Media activities IN English would also be fun...