Sunday, May 20, 2012

"Gook" is a bad word

Dear Korean,

Lately, the guys at my school have started calling my Korean friends and I "gooks". At first we just thought it was an immature thing that they had made up, but it turns out that when my older cousin was in middle school, her math teacher called her and all the other Asians the exact same thing. Is it supposed to be a racist word or just another name to call Koreans/Asians?

Sincerely, Confused "Gook" Girl


This post is more like a PSA, because the Korean believes (or hopes!) that most people would know about this. But apparently, at least some people in the world does not know this, so here it is:

"Gook" is a racist term denoting Asians. In fact, it is right up there with "chink" as the most offensive term to describe Asians.

If you ever hear this term, do not let it slide. Get in the face of the slur-utterer and shake him/her down like s/he owes you money. Because the only way to get the racists to change their ways is to make them learn that they are fucking with the wrong gook.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

22 comments:

  1. I am so surprised that people don't know this. Wow.

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  2. Wait, a teacher did that, too?! That's lawsuit fodder. Where do these people live?

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  3. I echo Wanda's sentiment. Also, what century do these people live in? I thought slurs like "gook" and "chink" went out of style in the 1960s along with "chinaman."

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  4. Then again, here in Korea, foreigners are called 'wayguk saram,' Americans are called 'miguk saram,' and Koreans call themselves 'hanguk saram.' Opinions vary regarding just where the racial slur originated in American English, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence it is related to the Korean word that sound the same. Most Koreans I know who are in Korea are unaware of the emotionally charged English word for Asians in general. And many that I teach are surprised to learn it.

    Words change their meaning and vary their emotional impact due to context - it depends on who is saying it and who they are saying it to, and where the word is being spoken. This is also something people should know.

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  5. I'm from Malaysia, studied in Korea for few years, been to USA on vacation for a few months.

    I have never heard of this word before.

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  6. I live in Georgia and I have seriously never heard this word used before up until recently. The first time encountering it was about 3 months ago and that was on the internet. I guess that slur really depends on the region.

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  7. The word "gook has been used since the Korean war, but it actually goes back to the late1800 in the Philippines war.

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  8. I am just glad the person who wrote the letter did not know, hopefully this is an indication that it is being used less often and may one day actually disappear.

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  9. I would whip out the iPhone and record it. Then sue the school district. Sadly, nothing really gets done in the U.S. until someone sues someone.

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  10. Wait so nobody has ever seen a Vietnam film before? Forrest gump did not use it, they used 'charlie' but Platoon, Apocalypse now, Full Metal Jacket and a ton of other classic Vietnam films made in the 80s contained the word gook.


    Wikipedia even has an entry on it in films quotes:

    1968 The Guardian (23 Feb.), The Gooks [ Vietcong ] hit from bunkers and the Marines had to carry half the company back.[6]

    1979 M*A*S*H (TV show), "Go ahead, shut me up so I won't tell anybody how you save your gook friends!"[16]

    1981 With the Old Breed (World War II memoir), "There's an old gook woman in there that's been hit in the side real bad."[17]

    1987 Full Metal Jacket (movie), "We are here to help the Vietnamese, because inside every gook there is an American trying to get out."[18]

    1992 Romper Stomper, Multiple references in a film starring Russell Crowe about a neo-Nazi group in Melbourne, Australia. "I vote we get a 45 automatic and blow the head gook back to Singapore." [19]

    1994 Pulp Fiction (film), Used multiple times to refer to the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War.

    2000 John McCain' referred to his Vietnamese wartime experience, “I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live… I was referring to my prison guards and I will continue to refer to them in language that might offend.” [12]

    2004 Team America: World Police (movie), "I was so sure the ultimate terrorist was Middle Eastern, but I didn't realize he was a goddamn Gook. I'll never be a racist again.

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  11. I dunno...
    Have not heard anyone use the "g....k" thing at least since the mid-90's.
    And nowadays, with smartphones and all, all this girl has to do is click the "record" button and voila! Lawsuit!
    I'd say the dudes would be guaranteed suspension.

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  12. If words like this are being used by someone with full understanding of what they mean... it is simply unacceptable -- bring on the lawsuit. If the word is being used in ignorance (full or semi) then I think it is very important to confront the person who using the word, explain to them why the word they are using is wrong to use, and offer them the opportunity to stop using that word. As a youth worker, I always rebuke my kids when they use bad language and *explain* why the words are wrong to use. I often find that teens might know a word is questionable, but not fully understand the history behind why a word is *really* bad. Quite a few of the kids I know have seriously reconsidered the language they were using after receiving these kinds of rebukes. If teens continue to use these words knowingly, then consequences are definitely deserved.

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  13. I think it is just as bad as the "N" word. It should be treated as such.

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  14. I was wondering where in originated from. I was thinking it was some bastardization of 한국 or something like that, but someone above seems to indicate it comes from a Philippines origin.

    No one here seems to know what it means here. Everyone's like "미국에서 우리 yellow monkey라고 불리지?" Not sure where they get that impression. I sometimes tell people, but it doesn't really register as much to them. "Yeah, people say " "Oh, OK", and then they forget the word. I did know a Korean guy who called other Asians gooks but he was a bit of a freak.

    I'm always interested in where these things come from. I recently discovered that 짱케 originates from 专柜, zhuangui, which used to be an old word for 사장님 but now just means shop counter.

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    1. Gook originates from the korean war, I was told that it had to do with something about a korean word that sounds like mi-gook, men I or You (forget which one) and the americans messed up the pronounciation and just became gook.

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  15. I have just started studying the Korean language and one of the first words I learned is Hangook which means Korea. It seems like the word gook would have come from that.

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  16. The term “gook” is derogatory and is meant as an insult. Who ever uses that term should either be sued (especially if it is a teacher) or punched in the mouth.

    Although gook refers specifically to Koreans (just as much as Chink is to Chinese and Jap is to Japanese), most non-Asians don’t really care and use these derogatory terms interchangeably. I am a Korean American born and raised in the U.S. and have been called all of the above many times. I believe it is pretty much accepted that all Asians look alike to most non-Asians just as much as I am unable to distinguish a black man from Nigeria vs. Ghana vs. Ethiopia vs. Kenya. To me they all simply look African.

    Gook is a name Koreans gave themselves during the Korean war. When the American G.I.s first arrived in Korea after the North Korean invasion, they were greeted by South Koreans with chants of “MEE GOOK, MEE GOOK” which most of you know means something similar to “USA, USA” but in Korean. The American soldiers saw this and said to themselves those Koreans are calling themselves gooks! Ever see the 80s classic movie Meatballs 2 when the alien named Meathead gets his name? It’s kind of like that.

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  17. People in new zealand use the word gook all the time to refer to asians.

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  18. But Coreans are Gooks!

    =]

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  19. This is BULLSHIT! My friend who is FROM Korea says there is NO negative connotation to this term at all in Korea. It is like a root word simply meaning person. You people need to do your research.

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    1. This is not bullshit. Its just like me calling a white person, white trash. Which is completely unacceptable.

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  20. My problem is with Korean youths who I hear shouting loudly racial slurs at blacks for no reason and when I see groups of korean, vietnamese, cambodian, chinese and hong kong people get together and all I hear is n-word this, n-word that like it was the only word in their vocabulary. It makes me very sad they behave this why and why their parents don't correct them, many of my train rides from work have been ruined by such rambunctious teens, and the worst part is its not like these are uneducated teens who are just plain stupid. Many of them are university students who will go on to work in fields where they likely will deal with blacks in the real world like teacher, doctor, lawyer, police, fireman, mechanics, businessman and so on. To me it makes me feel like our country is going back 100 years.

    As for why Koreans called gooks, many vietnam vets and people who have family members who are vietnam vets or korean vets who live in bubbles with no asians mistakenly believe that gook isn't a slur. They hear their father, grandfather talk this way at war story time and since no asians around they think its acceptable. The issue need to be raised with the principle and teacher and if it continues sue their behind for racism, discrimination and toxic school environment.

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