Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ask A Korean! News: The (Literally) Growing Race Problem in Korea

Ask a Korean! News will be different from any Korean news you can get from the U.S. It will pick up some news that Korean newspapers reported that the Korean thinks to be significant. Here is the first of the series.

I know all Asians look alike. They kinda do. But surely the most ignorant reader of this thing can probably tell the difference between East Asians (Korean, Japanese, Chinese), Southeast Asians (Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino) and South Asians (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi). With that in mind, check the above picture of adorable Korean children.

"Wait, what?! Those three in the middle are clearly not Korean at all! Do you mock my Asian-differentiating skills, the Korean?" would be the reaction of... (surprise) Koreans who live in Korea. And there begins this discussion.

Korea has always been a homogeneous country, and race relation was never much of a problem since, well, you need two races to fight each other. (Not to say Koreans were a peaceful lot. Oh no. They fought amongst themselves for other stupid reasons, like being from the eastern regions versus the western ones. But that's for another day.) A few times when Korea ever had foreign races on the peninsula, those foreign races usually tried to take over the country. Hence Korean people have a strong xenophobic streak.

Fast forward to early 1990s. Korea is now fully industrialized, and has been pretty well off for quite some time. Most people have migrated to the city for jobs and excitement, and the rural areas have become emptier and emptier until only old people, their first born sons, and cattle are left. The firstborns can't leave the family farm, so they're stuck. Problem is, they gotta get married and continue the family line. But no Korean women in their right minds would stick around the farms. So what to do?

Enter: the time-honored tradition of mail-order brides! Fine ladies from modest backgrounds in Vietnam, Philippines, and Thailand, for about $2,000, are shipped out to Korea for the sole purpose of marrying these dudes, having fed the bullshit that farmers are among the highest-earning, most respected professions in Korea. More and more came each year until one-third of all married men in the rural area are married to a foreign-born woman, according to a recent report. Amazing, isn't it?

(True story: when traveling around rural parts of Korea, the Korean saw advertisement that proclaimed "You don't have to pay until you're satisfied!" So if the mail-orderer was not satisfied, he can ship the lady back! I wonder if it's like a computer software, where you can't return it anymore if you took off the shrinkwrap. Okay, that's just disgusting. Let's move on.)

The fuckedupness of this situation has many levels. Domestic violence is a big problem, and so is unilateral divorce or abandonment. Still another is what to do with the "Kosian" children. (Korean + Asian, the terms Koreans use nowadays, as if Koreans are not Asian!) Since the phenomenon of mail-order bride began about 15 years ago, there are now enough interracial children to make up as much as half of the children going to school.

I don't want even to imagine what these children would go through as they grow up. As bad as race relations is in America, it still is the best in the world. Unless Koreans do something to radically change their attitude toward foreignors and interracial people (unlikely), wide-scale race riots a la Los Angeles or Paris in about 20 years is a virtual certainty.


  1. Hm, being a mixed child sucks because you get stereotypes from not just one, but two (or more) cultures, and (at times) the people from either family side will not accept you. So you basically fit in nowhere ;o

    But I find this post interesting not just because it talks about half-koreans, but because it mentions how there are a lot of them. Around where I live I've met enough half-koreans to start a gang XD (military brides) but seriously, it's almost like we are our own culture. Since it blends and whatnot.

    There was a point in time I had to live with a member from the white side of my family, and shit that sucked. The worst part is she would say "I could accept you if you were full korean or full white, but your mixed...and there are so many problems with mixed kids" I was only like...eight at the time so I guess she thought I would be stupid enough to just accept what she said as truth.

    It just makes me kinda angry...since I actually think we're more AWESOME for getting to have TWO different pieces of a CULTURE CAKE. /inferiority complex imminent.

    mmm, but interesting enough the korean side of my family was pretty accepting when I went to visit them...

    ....but maybe that is because of my dad's inheritance oTL

    UGH, but maybe this is all irrelevant since this is from a mixy in America as opposed to ...Korea...Oh and my parents actually loved each other. I'm sure there is a point to make somewhere out of this...too tired to know what. Just delete this if it is too off-topic XD

  2. First, I really enjoy your posts. I'm not familiar with the problems of mixed kids in Korea, but I did in America. I had many Eurasian or even Blasian friends, and they're either not Korean enough to be Korean or white/black enough to be white/black. Yet in America, they are still genearlly "accepted" because as you said in your other post, America is the seemingly least racist country because of it's melting pot exposure. I guess there are not "enough" Asians, so yeah halfie you can be part of my Korean/Asian groupy. Or maybe the halfie can find a white cliche that can accept her/him as the exotic token Asian of the "group". All in the all, I guess this just made me realize that racism exists, but there are degrees of it. I also, kind of argued a bit against your "America is the least racist country" now didn't I? Anyways, as someone mentioned, at least America, overall, doesn't have as many violent outbreaks showcasing inner racism, and I can be happy with that. =P

  3. > Unless Koreans do something to radically change their attitude toward foreignors and interracial people (unlikely), wide-scale race riots a la Los Angeles or Paris in about 20 years is a virtual certainty.

    I don't see this happening. There is no tradition of institutionalized violent protest as there is in France (which invented it) or America (home to the Black Panthers & Weatherman Underground and the broader culture that legitimized such groups).

    But we'll see. I've logged a prediction which I think fairly summarizes your words in a more precise manner: http://predictionbook.com/predictions/1869

    See you in 2030.

    1. Are you serious? Have you seen their protest over USA beef imports for example? These people know how to riot!


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