Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interesting article about how Korean Americans -- including adoptees -- are received when they visit Korea.
Based on her interactions in South Korea, Babe says she can break down the attitudes toward gyopo into three types.

She described the first as "a person that's older who is sort of angry about you being a Korean but not being fully Korean." The second type is "very friendly and helpful" but sometimes "overbearing when they try to convert you or reform you."

The third are people who seem flummoxed and simply incapable of grasping her background.
The Korean agrees that this is a fairly accurate description.

South Korea's complicated embrace of gyopo (Los Angeles Times), through The Marmot's Hole.


  1. Huzzah for us gyopo enriching the Korean identity. Though personally I haven't experienced any of those three reactions listed in the article, it may be because I can speak Korean fluently.

  2. I found it to be similar as a white American in Korea, too. People either hate you because you're an American. Help you too much because you're a foreigner, or just don't understand why you don't little things about Korean culture and life.

  3. I love the rare person who makes no acknowledgment of my whiteness. For however long I interact with the person I feel no sign of being treated differently in any good or bad way. And yes, I'm speaking with the person in fairly proficient Korean. On topic, one time in a Daegu taxi my friend was yelled at for 10 minutes by the driver. The driver's accent became stronger as he became angrier. lol

  4. Hanging out with my Korean American friends (some kyopo, some adoptees), it's always a joke.

    "Foreigner? But... I think... your face... Korean??"

    It's as consistent as their well-rehearsed responses.

  5. hahahhaa

    i've been yelled at by many a taxi driver...
    especially in 2002, during the world cup/anti-american protests, i was lectured many times to "speak 우리말" (our language, obvs korean) when they would catch me speaking on the phone in english.

    "you are korean, therefore you must speak korean. english is for foreigners"

    etc., ad nauseum.

    i didn't know that this kind of reaction to gyopos was more or less unique to korea, however.. i would be interested in learning more about chinese/japanese reactions to overseas chinese/japanese people.

    also if these reactions differ based on age... after all it's much easier to lecture a gyopo high schooler/college student on "being more korean/less american" than it would be to lecture a middle-aged or elderly gyopo

  6. This type of reaction is not very different even in the US. I know of many white Americans who would ridicule those that do not speak English.

  7. I don't think that it is any different to that in other Asian countries, my passing through Seoul in 2009 (Dong Chun ferry from Russia) everybody thought I was Korean, the immigration officer did a double take since I don't have a Korean name
    because I'm not Korean.

    The silent trick works very nicely i.e. need something point and hold out money, I also managed to stay in a jingjilban
    for ages without being rumbled. Everybody I think thought I was being an ignorant little shit though as they would come
    and chat to me and I wouldn't realise they were talking to me.

    I go to Japan same thing happen same with Taiwan and China.

    HOWEVER after a couple bottles of Soju, Chinese, Japanese, Tawanese, Korean all look the same well maybe not the Koreans due to their obsession with facial surgery.

  8. "The Chinese Guy",

    Obsession with plastic surgery? You don't know what you are talking about.

  9. I got lectured by a few cops in Korea back when my language skills were less adequate. I think my greater reaction these days is surprise as to how, as a gyopo, I'm actually conversant in Korean. Perhaps many non-gyopos now just expect abroad born Koreans to lack Korean proficiency.

  10. @itissaid

    Hey even the Korean who runs this blog things there is a problem with plastic surgery in S Korea, riding around the Green circular line of the metro and Hongik university area in particular we rarely saw a face that hadn't been modified in some way, Asian people sure don't have eyes like westerners lest they alter them in some way. I can get the double eye lid effect by putting a saucer eyed expression on my face though.

  11. @Michelle: The Chinese have been emigrating overseas for centuries, first to southeast Asia for trade and for the past two hundred years or so to Western countries. Both the Chinese and the Taiwanese governments have cabinet-level ministries that deal with overseas Chinese, both to promote the teaching of Chinese language and culture to overseas Chinese and to encourage overseas Chinese to contribute to the home country. The Taiwanese government, for example, provided free textbooks for my weekend Chinese school, textbooks which heavily promoted "our" identity as overseas Chinese. (The school did not exclude non-ethnic Chinese, but most non-Chinese children dropped out after the first two years.)

    Because emigration has been such a normal thing, I think that it's less of a big deal for Chinese people to return to or visit China. I've never heard of people who are ethnically Chinese but who don't speak the language getting harassed in public, for example, although I imagine that it would still be socially isolating. I've noticed that in China, which is still a poor country, as soon as the locals find out you are from America they will assume that you must have money falling out of your ears and will therefore try to scam you. I assume they treat non-Chinese Americans the same way, although if you know even basic Chinese you usually know you are being scammed.

  12. Dear Korean,
    I just returned back from Seoul. Like you, I am an Amerasian. Many Koreans thought I was Japanese and Chinese. When I said my mother was Korean, they felt silent. They didn't say anything. I felt more foreigner in the country of my birth. Still, I am very proud of my homeland coming from nothing and becoming so dynamic!


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