Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Asia vs. Asia (Series: Ugly Korean)

How does a Korean compare him or herself to a Japanese or Chinese person? In other words how do Asians compare themselves amongst other Asian populations. I am not talking about Asian Americans and their opinions of themselves versus each other. Rather I am curious whether or not Asians from Asia (Mostly Japan, Korea and China) see each other. This has been a fascination of mine for a long time now. And I hope I don't come off sounding European-centric or discriminatory.

For now I can only answer this question based upon my own opinion, knowledge and with some observations from Bo Kwan.

Perhaps lets talk about geographic size. China is obviously larger than both Korea and Japan. Yet Japan is larger than Korea.

As we all know these three countries have centuries of history behind them. During this time their borders were sometimes closed and open, there has been war and peace, but what I am interested in is how the modern day Chinese, Korean or Japanese views each other.

I think when searching for this answer there will likely be a difference of opinion between the old and the young generations.

For today's tidbit of exploration into this subject matter I am going to give an example of a recent observation I saw by Bo Kwan.

The other day we were lounging in my room and he was searching on YouTube. In the search criteria field he entered Ugly Korean
and came up with a number of results.

This video shows that during the 2002 FIFA WorldCup series Korea got away with fouls and wasn't flagged for them. Bo Kwan expressed how they were able to do this because they were playing at home. He also nodded and agreed with the video that indeed Korea played unfairly.

This just goes to show that as I start to explore the opinions Koreans and other peoples of Asia's opinion of each other that neither one country is innocent of possessing good and bad traits.

As Bo Kwan continued his search he found videos of how Chinese soccer players are more brutal than Korean soccer players.

The Chinese players here are playing against Japanese and it seems they seem not to hold back on being brutal. However, I don't have much experience in watching or understanding the game of soccer so I can't really say which country amongst this sport plays more bloodier than the other.

What was interesting was Bo Kwan's reaction and agreement that the Chinese played too rough.

The point of this post is not to delve into Bo Kwan's opinion but see the overall idea of one's perception of other people and cultures.

For now I can only understand this from my placement in America. Living in San Francisco I have become accustomed to hearing many different languages on the bus and around town. But diversity in America is not a new thing and has been around for ages, only depends on where you are in this country.

I am curious to know how Koreans embrace others from different cultural backgrounds. For now I believe that I am sure it is of no real big deal over there. That they coexist in a peaceful and sometimes hostile way. But I can't help but think that underneath the surface that some people may still feel some kind of historical and cultural opinion towards an outsider.

I hope I get the time to not just be an observer of this phenomenon abroad but get the chance to research it and understand it from all sides.

1 comment:

  1. My experiences suggests that a large number of Koreans are pretty uncritically negative toward Japanese, or Chinese, in a way similar to, but more extreme than, Canadians of a certain age and politics feel towards "Americans." That is, reflexively negative, but in an unexamined and ignorant way.

    That said, there is, in my opinion, at least a large majority of people who are much more reasonable, but just never bother to contradict the racists among them. It's one of those cases where racism is so thoroughly widespread in the Korean media that it's "normal" and when you point it out a lot of people say, "Oh, no, it's just..." They don't know what to say, so it usually trails off, because "racism" is "bad" and something Japanese people do, but not good Koreans.

    Those who do get it tend to be so embarrassed that a non-Korean noticed that they either laugh nervously and apologize, or get antipathetic and try to "educate" you as to why racism is "justified" by telling you the whole sorry history of Japanese colonial rule here.

    There are people who truly get it, but even then... my fiancée is a Korean and she recently came to me with a story about how some half-Korean kid in the US was hit by another kid in school and called a "f*cking Korean!" by another kid. They took both kids out of the room, made the kid who'd made racist remarks apologize, and given the other lessons on why racism is unacceptable and bad, as well as observing the half-Korean kid to see whether she was showing any signs of maladjustment or anxiety over the event.

    My fiancée was shocked, and suddenly understood why I refuse to have kids here or let them go to Korean schools, where it's more than likely a teacher would join in on calling a kid a "half-breed" (or, I'm afraid, use physical violence to reinforce how unwelcome blood-mixing is).


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