A study has found that five in ten elementary and middle school students think they can be friends with the children of multicultural families.
That finding is from a five-month survey of 1,725 elementary and middle school students in 23 schools in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do conducted by a governmental organization for teenagers (청소년희망재단) [TK Note: organization is called Hope Foundation for Youth] at the request of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지가족부). The students were asked about their feelings on their multicultural peers.
According to the study, 52.9% answered they could be friends with children from multicultural families. 9.3% said they could never be friends with such a child, and 37.7% were uncertain.
Of the reasons given for being unable to be friends, 40.4% answered “because of trouble communicating if they can’t speak Korean,” 33.5% answered “because I would be exhausted by nervous feelings about it,” and 32.3% answered, “because they have different thoughts and lifestyles from me.”
Other reasons included “their appearance and skin color are different,” (24.2%), “I would be embarrassed to be their friend,” (15.5%), and “I would worry about being ostracized,” (16.8%).
41.4% answered “yes” when asked if they consider children from multicultural families to be Koreans, and the remaining 58.6% were uncertain whether they could be seen as Koreans or foreigners.
The study found that girls, middle school students, and those with direct experiences with “multiculturalism” were more likely than boys, elementary students, and those without such experience, to shun children from multicultural families.
Also, the study asked the students to rate their feelings of mental distance from such children on a 5-point scale. The average response was 3.03, indicating a slight aversion.
Asked to use the same scale to rate their aversion to marrying a multicultural child the average response was 3.7, and 2.69 when asked if they would eat together with them. [TK Note: translation error here -- instead of "eat together", it's "sitting next to each other during class".]
In the article, "multicultural child" is the politically correct term in Korea for a racially mixed child. The article itself is interesting, but one must need to read between the lines to see how deeply racism is ingrained in Korea. First, this article, while describing the same study results, has a more positive spin than other articles -- for example, the article in Dong-A Ilbo or Korea Herald. That said, let us discuss each finding.
First of all, only half of the students positively think they can be friends with mixed-raced child. One in ten think they cannot be friends. That's a strong statement of racism, especially considering the reasons given for being unable to become friends with a mixed-race child. Simple difference in looks (“their appearance and skin color are different,” (24.2%)) is enough to stop Korean youngsters from being friends with a mixed-race child. (The Korean trusts the readers to reduce the Korean's statements by the applicable respective percentage points.)
Also notable is the answering students' ignorance on the issue of mixed-race children. The questionnaire was asking specifically for mixed-raced Koreans children living in Korea. Such children certainly speak Korean; for most of them, Korea is the only country and culture they have ever known. Yet these facts are not known to Korean students. Thus, they assume that mixed-race children would not be able to speak Korean (40.4% answered “because of trouble communicating if they can’t speak Korean,”) or that mixed-race children would not share Korean culture with them (32.3% answered, “because they have different thoughts and lifestyles from me.”)
Good old-fashioned peer pressure plays a role as well. Korean students appear to realize that even if they themselves are not racist, the Korean society in general is. Thus, the downgrade in status in becoming friends with a mixed-race child (“I would be embarrassed to be their friend,” (15.5%), and “I would worry about being ostracized,” (16.8%)) is a consideration becoming friends with a mixed-raced child.
The Korean identified this problem very early in the AAK! history. As a racial minority in his country of residence, the Korean is particularly attuned to the plight of other racial minorities. The second post ever on this blog was about the emerging race problem of Korea. (It was so early that it was before the Korean adopted his third person-speak.) And the Korean still stands by his conclusion that he wrote in that post: "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."
The Korean is slightly relieved by the fact that at least some in Korean government see this as a problem. The Dong-A Ilbo article concludes with a quote from an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare: "This is a survey that shows an urgent plan for multicultural children is necessary," and added "I understand each ministry is forming a plan for multicultural children." While Korean government provides no shortage of inane initiatives, when it does succeed, it succeeds spectacularly. The Korean truly hopes that would be the case for reducing racism in Korea.
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.