Korean figure skating sensation 김연아 is known as "Yu-Na Kim" to English-speaking countries, although the proper Romanization of her name should be "Yeon-A Kim". The Korean had previously heard that Kim deliberately chose the wrong Romanization for the ease of pronunciation for anglophones, but he wanted a confirmation. While searching the Internet for the confirmation, the Korean ran into an interesting article on Chosun Ilbo, written about a week ago. Translation is below.
[Op-Ed] Why Call "Kim Yeon-A" as "Yuna Kim"?
I turned on the TV at my hotel in Vancouver, and I heard the announcer say:
"Yu-Na Kim is well known in Canada as well. Yu-na has been training in Toronto. Right now the screen in the rink shows 'Kim Yu-Na,' but the reason why we call her 'Yu-Na Kim' is..."
It was right before the figure skating short program. CTV, Canadian broadcasting company that was exclusively showing the Winter Olympics, was introducing Kim Yeon-A as a likely candidate for the gold medal. The program was showing the stock photo of Kim Yeon-A as a child wearing colorful Korean traditional clothes. The announcer continued:
"In Korea, Yu-Na Kim is called 'Kim Yeon-A.' The family name comes first. But the reason why we call her 'Yu-Na Kim' is not because we changed it into what we are used to, but because she introduced herself as 'Yu-Na Kim' when she first came to Canada."
As the program went on, the announcer repeated this explanation three times, that calling Kim Yeon-A as Yu-Na Kim was not at all meant to ignore another country's customs and apply the Canadian standard. That day CTV only showed this introduction but did not broadcast the game in which Kim participated; instead, it showed Canada-Germany hockey game that showed at the same time. [TK Note: The reporter apparently did not know that the figure skating actually showed after the hockey game.] While it was a little disappointing, it was natural given that hockey is Canada's favorite sport.
Although I could not see Kim's performance live, the small explanation from the announcer was the most unforgettable thing in my one week stay in Vancouver. It was about how to be respectful and considerate to those who are different from us, how to live together in a mixed manner. I brought this up at a dinner with local Korean Canadians, and a Korean Canadian who worked at a school district office added:
"One time, there was a fight between two Korean students at an elementary school in Vancouver. The parent went to the student who fought with her son and told him, 'You shouldn't fight like that, because Koreans have to stick together.' The school heard of this, and called the parent. 'Why did you call him a Korean student? There are no Korean students, Chinese students, Canadian students at our schools. They are all just students.' When I read this report, I thought the ideas of 'one people' and 'patriotism' that we are used to may be seen as 'exclusionary' and 'totalitarian' to others."
Of course, there were cars in Vancouver draped in the Red Maple Leaf Flag during the Winter Olympics. There were people who were chanting "Canada, Canada" while wearing a hat and a cape made with a Canadian flag. But the majority of Vancouverites seemed to find these scenes -- in which "the people stuck together" -- unfamiliar, although they are nothing more than cute little gatherings compared to Korea where the heart of Seoul would be totally filled.
Vancouver is a multiethnic, multicultural city. Other than Canadians, there are Chinese, Indians, Iranians, Filipinos, Vietnamese live mixed into the city. There are also about 70,000 Koreans, including study abroad students. But this city has rarely seen discrimination based on skin color and language emerging as a problem. There is a separate court for human rights, and a lawsuit is filed immediately if such an insult has been felt. Regardless of the result of the suit, the fact that one was sued is enough to cause embarrassment.
For us who have lived while holding "one people" as a point of pride, such "bouquet society" would likely be impossible. Regardless, we have no choice but to live mixed in with people who are different from us. There are more than a million foreigners in Korea. Korean-Chinese build the apartments in which we will live, young Filipino men run the machines in Ansan industrial complex and Sri Lankans ride the boats on the East Sea. Above all, the Southeastern Asian women who do not even know our language are giving birth to our children in rural areas. Those children probably will not know why their face is different from their friends' at first.
How are we receiving these people who have entered our society? In treating these people as "different," do we not have a sense of superiority hiding in our minds? Past the Vancouver Koreatown, there was a cheap restaurant on the roadside that had a sign saying "$5.99 Lunch Special." The owners were a Korean-Chinese couple who previously worked in Korea. "My co-workers used to look down on me because I was a Korean-Chinese, and my wife was being shunned by other employees at the restaurant in which she worked. You could say the discrimination we experienced in Korea turned into our benefit, because it made us decide to come here."
The world is relative. We, while behaving like this, become upset at small discrimination experienced by our family who immigrated, and surprised when Korean study-abroad students are attacked in Russia.
[최보식 칼럼] '김연아'를 '유나킴'으로 부르는 것은 (Chosun Ilbo)
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