Saturday, November 27, 2010

OK. Lee Hyori gets it this time. 이효리

This is a little after the fact, but something had to be said.

Oh come on Hyori. I like Lee Hyori (이효리). What's not to like? She's cute, she's a super-de-duperstar in Korea, she's really fun in her TV appearances.  She's great, right?  Plus, my "fetish bingo" post about her is one of my most popular posts ever (and the one where I most often have to clean up trolls' comments)

She makes awesome videos and super-fun songs like U-Go-Girl, which is one of my favorite K-pop videos, mostly because Hyori actually seems like she's having fun when she dances, while a lot of the popstars out there seem like they're just playing a role, or going through the paces their trainers taught them (especially live: they're just not having fun.  The farther down the alphabet scale (b-list stars, c-list stars) the worse it is).

She's great, right?  Absolutely... except...

she was on CNN.go on November 11.

and here's what she says, according to the subtitles, starting at: 0.25 or so.

Seoul is a city with a long history.  There are two sides.  Many traces of traditional things on one hand...but it is a well-planned city where you can also see many modern designs.  Koreans are racially homogeneous. It's always been about one culture and one ethnicity.  So we have a strong solidarity above anything else.  And there is the emotional attachment that Koreans call "jeong" which relates to the brotherhood of the race.  This "jeong" is what bonds us tightly and makes us think of one another as a single family.

So... she gets a chance to introduce Korea to the world.

And she chooses to introduce the one-blood myth as the thing that will make people decide Korea's awesome?  I mean, really?  "The best thing about us is that YOU can NEVER be a part of our club!  It's nothing you did; you were just born wrong.  Isn't that great!  Come visit Korea tomorrow!"

As a non-ethnic Korean who plans to live the better part of my working life in Korea, I'm really annoyed by this one-blood stuff.  Really annoyed.  Because while there are many ways to define what Korean society is and isn't, it's one of the few that draws a circle in which I will always be an outsider, no matter how well I speak the language, no matter how dutifully I perform the jesa and the other rites, no matter how many little Koreans (correction: half-Koreans) I bring into the world.    It was a useful myth to generate identity during the Japanese occupation, as well as to help Koreans sign onto Park Chung-hee's development plans... but now that non-Koreans living in Korea have topped the one million mark, and in light of the fact there's NO WAY Korea could have been invaded two thousand times (as it's told) without a little bit of invader DNA mixing into the pure Korean gene pool (p.s.: why is it called the "mongol spot" if Korean DNA is pure?  Shouldn't it be called the Korean spot?)...can we please retire the one-blood myth?

(more on the one-blood Minjok Myth from the Metropolitician, who points out that the one-blood method of encouraging national identity was led by Koreans who had been studying European fascism.  And more again about race-based nationalism.)

"We have a strong solidarity above anything else" -- really?  Because if the one blood thing is true, then North Korea's gotta be included in that solidarity, but most accounts of North Korean refugees don't seem to support that ideal solidarity.  And ask ten South Koreans if they would wish for North and South Korea to be reunified tomorrow, and watch all the backpedaling and equivocations you start to hear.  "It'll be expensive.  It was really hard for Germany.  I don't think our cultures are the same anymore.  Maybe if other countries provided a LOT of aid...  Well, on second thought let's not go to Camelot: it is a silly place."

I'm sorry, but I call bullshit on any one-blood solidarity talk as long as 400 000 South Koreans will come out for a U.S. Beef protest, without seeing at least double that coming out for every protest demanding accountability for North Korea, and the fact they are still operating concentration camps to suppress their own people...(or, in Hyori's one-blood view, "our brothers and sisters").  Didn't hear a lot of "let's reach out to our brothers and sisters" rhetoric anywhere after North Korea shelled that island last week. (More of my posts about North Korea)

And then, just in case we hadn't already gotten the message that Koreans are way more specialer than others, so we should visit Korea and hope to become cooler by association (but really, that won't work, because we have the wrong blood, so we can't be part of the club... but I guess we should still visit Korea to gaze longingly at the cool insiders)... she trots out jung.

Has she updated her views on Korea since 1983?  And is this really what she thinks will win the esteem of CNN.GO viewers for Korea?

Now Jung is an interesting idea - my favorite piece on Jung is from The Joshing Gnome, who wrote "What is Jung and how can we kill it" (part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5) in 2008: one of my favorite pieces of K-blogging, and so good I hope he tells me before he ever takes his website offline, so I can copy his series and host it on my page, wherever that is.

Basically, Jung is a feeling of warmth, affection and intimacy between two people.  It can come out of a lot of things -- it's been used as the reason split-up couples get back together (they're just used to being around each other), it can be used to describe the feeling of kinship that rivals eventually develop, and it can also be used to describe that feeling when you feel like you've been old friends with someone, even though you've only just met them, or the affection by which two old friends can pick up exactly where they left off, even though they haven't seen each other in twelve years.  It's the applicable word for the way you can take one group of five people, put them in a room together for an hour, and they're still strangers, and you can take another group of five people, put them in the same room, under the same conditions, and they'll come out friends for life (cf: The Breakfast Club).  Group B has jung.  The Breakfast Club had jung (and not a Korean in the lot of them, was there?)  Group A doesn't.

Now, because there isn't a word that carries exactly all those nuances in English (or in most languages,) I've been told by Koreans that jung is a uniquely Korean feeling.

I disagree: Jung is simply a uniquely Korean word... but here's another word that doesn't exist in English: "schadenfreude" (feeling happy when something bad happens to someone you hate - for example, the way I felt when I saw this video of Brett Favre)

Now, the fact schadenfreude is a German word doesn't mean that only Germans can feel schadenfreude.  Germans aren't the only ones to go "Yeah!  Brett Favre is really annoying!  That clip was awesome!  Maybe this time he'll stay retired!"  In fact, when I first learned the word schadenfreude, the feeling I had wasn't one of confusion and lack of understanding; the feeling I had was recognition: "So there IS a word for that!"

And it was the same with "jeong" - I was glad to learn the word, because it's a great, useful word that describes an aspect of human interactions in a clean, simple way.  It hits the nail on the head better than any English word I know.

I'm sorry, Hyori, but jeong doesn't relate to the brotherhood of the race, or you have to explain why most of my South Korean friends, as well as South Korean media, are trying to distance themselves from North Korea.  It isn't race-based at all, and making it sound like it's tied to Korean blood is ignorant, and wrong.  I KNOW jeong isn't race-based, because I've had classes of Korean students who just didn't get along, who filled hours of my life with awkward pauses and silences (and it wasn't because of their English ability: they were all intermediate) they just didn't have jeong.  They didn't talk together in Korean either, the night we went out for some beers, in a desperate hope that maybe that would get them talking to each other.  If jeong came from being Korean, they should have had it... but they didn't.

(And if Jeong comes from korean blood, will my kids have half-jeong?  Does the country we live in while they grow up influence that?  What about full-blood Korean international adoptees who can't speak Korean? What about ethnic Koreans in China? Do they have jeong? what about kyopos who can or can't speak the language?  What about a missionary kid who grew up in a Korean school and speaks fluently, but has blue eyes?  And when does jeong get passed from the (Korean) parents to the (Korean) kids, and can that only happen while physically in Korea, or while using the Korean language?  Could a non-Korean kid raised in Korea in a Korean family have jeong?)

And this kind of a description of Korean culture -- laced with undertones of racism and exceptionalism -- is badly miscalculated, if this is how you think viewers of CNN.GO will be convinced to like and admire Korean culture.

I like you a lot, Hyori, but you stepped wrong this time.  And I'm calling you out (fourteen days late).  And maybe the Hyori fan club is going to fill my comment board up with hate... but I'll just have to deal with that, because Hyori's view of Korean culture is outdated, and just ignorant, and as one of the people who is marginalized by the myths promoted in it, I WILL stand up and object to it.

I like you a lot, Hyori, and any time you want a private English tutor, just call me: we're the same age, you know.  But I hate what you said, and the way you think about Korean culture (if this is actually how YOU feel about Korean culture) because you're making me an outsider.

And I'm not.


Gomushin Girl said...

The best part about that "one blood" myth? It's totally and completely bogus - modern Korean genetics are a total mishmash of different groups, including Mongolian, Jurchen, Han and other ethnic groups from China, not to mention other people from all over Asia. Forget modern migration from other parts of Asia for work and marriage - there are records of Turks, Indians, Middle Easterners, and all kinds of people mixing with the indigenous population as far back as the Three Kingdoms period. Ethnically homogeneous my arse!

pitchfest said...

Yes! Racially incestuous... er, I mean homogeneous.

Anonymous said...

“ As a non-ethnic Korean”

Wow, that really rolls off the tongue.
Seriously? You never thought to just say White?

You're a white guy and an English teacher. Take your pick.

Roboseyo said...

Not all non-ethnic Koreans who are effected by attitudes like this are white, 21Tiger. There are indonesians, filipinos, indians, ugandans, nigerians, and other non-whites who have also made Korea their permanent, or semi-permanent home, and the fact these attitudes refuse to acknowledge their part of Korean society is a problem.

It's not just white folks, though I happen to be white.

Unknown said...

Let's hope the poster "Phil" from that KoreaBeat post on multiculturalism a couple of weeks back doesn't get wind of this, or he'll be over here pretty quickly spouting his racist rhetoric. hehe

Roboseyo said...

If phil doesn't, I'm sure somebody else will be happy to pick up the mantle.

Anonymous said...

I try to stay away from Korean issues as much as possible these days, but this grabbed me. I have at times found myself hating Lee Hyori less than other K-pop stars, but this interview bugged me. Not that it's surprising... From what I ascertained during my time in Daegu, Koreans very much still believe in that one-blood crap.

I also can't believe I'm getting drawn into this... but 21tiger is clearly a dick. What an ignorant thing to say. Indeed, many non-ethnic Koreans are not white and not Englisheee teachers. What an idiotic viewpoint.

One last thing comes to mind: My girlfriend is Korean-American. She was born in Korea but she is an American citizen. Very few people would dare deny this fact. If we were married and moved to Scotland, she would become a Scottish citizen - if she wanted - and I doubt too many people would be ignorant enough to deny her that right. But of course, in precious Korea, if you don't like it, you ain't Korean. I had a lot of half-black/half-Korean friends, born and raised in Korea. They spoke the language, knew the customs, but didn't look the part. They were not considered truly Korean by the "pure bloods". Pathetic.

End rant.

Chris in South Korea said...

While I'm not interested in defending a popstar against public ridicule, I would like to ask this: what SHOULD she have said? When asked to make a positive statement about her country and her people, the one-blood belief is a fairly safe thing to talk about from a Korean standpoint. It's not unlike the average American saying they're a 'Christian' when asked by a pollster - it's the politically correct, safest answer that's least likely to annoy or have a negative reaction.

It'll take a couple generations to rid the population of this belief - this belief, of course, has is far less damaging than, say, the racism or sexism in America during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.

Roboseyo said...

What should she have talked about instead? Anything.

One blood and "only koreans have jung" is something I'd expect, and let slide, if the half-drunk fifty-year old dude at the next table started into it; from a popstar/hero to many young people, representing the nation on CNN, I expect different. Wifeoseyo joked with me that maybe she didn't really prepare, and phoned her dad before filming to ask, "What should I say?"

What should she talked about instead?

-korean technology
-the economy
-the miracle of the han river
-korea's internet culture
-korea's b-boy scene
-the korean wave
-the four seasons (though how she approached that one might have been ridicule-worthy, too)
-the beautification of seoul
-korea's growing diversity
-youth culture
-traditional culture
-Koreans who are internationally successful (kim yuna, ban kimoon, etc.)

that's an even dozen, just off the top of my head.

Unknown said...

Makes good msuic? Where were on the two occasions she had to admit to plagiarised songs being sold to her+MNET haha

Oh I am a 'Hyori performing on stage and making a fool out of herself on variety TV' fan.

Now I read that, it just confirms some of my suspicions about her. She's so ridiculos, she must be so ignorant to have the guts to sprok about that on CNN. wtf.

The Seoul Searcher said...

I wrote about jeong (and what I believe to be its opposite, han) myself...

Hyori was definitely wrong to say those kinds of things, but can you really blame her? The woman is all about making music and got scouted as a high school student. She hasn't really put that much thought into the whole thing, and when asked to explain why Korea is so great, she said basically what has been fed to her.

Jeong is a feeling that can be felt by anyone, and you do have the right idea, that there's simply no English word for it.

The only thing I can say in Hyori's defense is that it is true that Koreans are more likely to feel jeong with fellow Koreans. And simply the fact of being Korean and having to go through the same expectations and filial responsibilities causes a certain familiarity to be felt amongst each other. Whether that has to do with same blood or simply social rules in a given society (hint, the latter) is the source of it all. Korea hasn't become a multicultural society until recently (or still isn't multicultural), so shared blood and shared culture in many peoples' minds (not only Koreans) often overlap.

Of course, this isn't a great message of how to promote Korea at all.

Anyway if you haven't already, check out my piece on han and jeong, tell me what you think.

Anonymous said...

Daniel Henney says the same one blood/one family thing in his CNN interview, even though a minute earlier he says he's half Korean. The guy grew up in the USA so one wonders where he got these ideas from.

Sure, he could be pandering to Koreans; Koreans who happen to understand English and watch CNN. Perhaps he forgot the target audience would be global, not just Korean. Either way, being of mixed blood and growing up in a multicultural country he should know better.

Anonymous said...

This kind of thing makes me feel like I'm reading Harry Potter-- what with "pure bloods" and all. Anyway, I definitely agree with Gomushin-- Koreans are not actually pure blooded no matter how much it is popular to claim so—to unnecessarily prove a point, my ethnically Korean husband has some red facial hair—where does that come from??

Also--I've talked about this with my students and the parents I teach after school-- it is very popular not only to talk proudly about the bloodline, but also to openly state that Koreans don't like black people or people from India. Obviously I know this is not unanimous sentiment across the country, but the mere fact that several people have stated this to me as though it were a cold, hard fact is troubling. As long as people continue to pretend like it is normal and acceptable to be prejudiced against others, nothing will change.

Unknown said...

Yep, this part struck me as odd when I first watched it as well... odd not so much that she would say it, but odd that of all the things she probably talked about (and I'm sure she was with the camera crew for more than 1 minute), this is what they decided to edit into her segment. I mean, maybe she did talk about all those other things you mentioned, we just didn't get to see it. (Heh... unless the rest of it was worse!) I liked the Seoul segments overall, but agree that this part was a little tone deaf considering the audience.

Unknown said...

fail. we should tie bounds between humans before races. races are artificial. there's just one race. the human race.

The Seoul Searcher said...


Not really related to the conversation, but races aren't artificial. While it's true that they are simply variations in the human species (aka the human race) to suggest that race doesn't matter is silly.

That said, Hyori shouldn't have said that pure race or the idea about it is one of Korea's strong points....

Anonymous said...

What Chris said about racism and sexism having far greater consequences... well, I guess you missed that one.

Sure, that belief may seem a little tiresome. But aren't you married to a Korean? Are you not working here? Do you not live a comfortable life? Stop me here if you see where I'm going with this. Just what constricting cultural barriers are you referring to there, Rob? As a 'stakeholder' in Korea's future (as you so put it), how are you affected in any way to lambast a successful public figure? You're not. Period. What she said is neither offensive, nor altogether as asinine as you make it out to be.

Koreans share that belief because their country was essentially obliterated after the Japanese occupation. They have clung to that sense of 'oneness' as a means of sticking together. And, from what we can see, Korea's done a pretty bang up job in the last hundred years, wouldn't you say? You being Canadian (and myself for that matter) haven't the foggiest idea of what that must have been like. I'm not saying that I agree with that belief, but I know better when to keep my mouth shut at the alleged insignificance/redundancy of it.

This pretentious, long winded diatribe of yours in itself should be the subject of scrutiny here.

Roboseyo said...


Please be a little more mindful of your tone on my comment board.

We talked about this on twitter a little.

Frankly, I disagree with you that I need to shut my trap: if nobody talks about these issues, where will change come from? Social change doesn't come out of governmental telepathy; it comes from people speaking out for change, and speaking, and speaking, until it happens.

Not everyone excluded by the one-blood myth lives a life as comfortable as mine. Ask some south-east asian factory workers if they'd prefer having their rights, and place in Korean society, defended a little more vigorously.

I don't want the one-blood myth to make my children feel like outcasts in their elementary school, and if you say I don't have the right to speak up about that, then I'm sorry, but we're going to have to agree to disagree, and probably leave the topic alone. Telling me I don't have the right to my opinion, or to express it, is as unhelpful as the old "If you don't like it, go home" trope. Call me pretentious, but what does that make the person who denies me the right to have and express my opinion?

By the way, my (100% Korean) wife agrees that Hyori's piece sounded ignorant, narrow-minded, and embarrassing... but she doesn't know what things were like in Korea in the 1970s either, because she wasn't old enough to remember... does that invalidate her opinion, too? And why should her opinion be more valid than mine just because she's Korean? Cultures change, and the myths a culture uses to identify itself can change, too: the minjok myth had its genesis as well, early last century.

What DOES qualify a person to speak out on social issues in the country where they live, in your opinion?

I'd like to know.


Jeong in English is comradarie because believing Koreans treat each other (people who arent friends) like one big family is dilusional. They treat each other in public more rude than i would treat an enemy. Koreans have no social service system and korean charity is a dream. One big family? Hardly.

Bluebird said...

I think you and your wife is being a little too sensitive of the subject. Korea isn't really a country like the US. There are a lot more "political" reason to emphasize oneness in Korea. Emphasizing the "oneness" is really important in Koreans because right now tons of outside factors threaten Korea's country and culture. They are still a divided nation with North Korea, different countries like China and Japan try to claim Korean stuff as theirs (I saw a recent post by a Korea who saw Kimchi and different banchan being sold as Japanese in Hong Kong, and there is a restaurant in New York called Gyukaku which also sells Korean food with awkward Japanese pronunciation and doesn't even inform the customers it's Korean food). China have also tried to claim Gojoseon and Goguryuh history as theirs also.
It's not really about blood. Hyori clearly emphasized "Hanminjok," not "hanpitjool." There are foreigners in Korea (mostly old generation Germans or Russians) that Koreans actually consider as their people.
Ever heard of Hail (Robert Harley)? People like him are accepted by Koreans. Koreans accept foreigners when they truly immerse themselves into Korean society. Clearly, ask any Koreans what nationality Hail is, and they'll tell you he's a Korean now.

My post doesn't seem very organized, but more on the political part. Koreans suffer the same thing together. Go through the same pressure and the same history. Do you think your children will care about going to the Korean military when they grow up? How about dokdo??? Koreans are afraid that interracial children and immigrant children will not care about these things and will make it more complicated for Koreans. Right now there are a lot of South-Asian immigrants in Korea, and most of them are in rural areas. South-Asian countries like Philippines said that they'll take their people back when there is a war between North and South Korea, even if they are technically Korean immigrants. I know that even native Koreans flee from their own country when there is something wrong, but it really seems wrong to me that foreigners are just ready to leave whenever there's something wrong with the country, not ready to defend the country or go through the hardship like any other Korean citizens...
With all the political pressure from the outside, I think unification of the North and the South, or some sort of a more peaceful relationship between the two as 2 brother nations, and really claiming Korean products and territories like Korean food and Dokdo will make it much easier for Koreans to have that "consolidated" identity they've been lacking since the Japanese occupation. Most importantly, the Chin-Il (pro-japanese) party needs to be controlled and monitored so that things like Japan claiming Dokdo and other Korean products as theirs won't be a likely thing in the future.
My point is, Korea has so many external pressures and internal problems right now. A country will be willing to accept foreigners when their own identity is in place and when they're fully healed from their past injuries. To me Korea has accepted some foreingers into their minjok, but they're not completely ready yet to accept everybody.

Roboseyo said...


1. I'm not from the US. And I'm not talking about the US.

2. "There are a lot more "political" reason to emphasize oneness in Korea"

change that sentence to the past tense. There WERE a lot of political reasons to emphasize oneness in Korea. Nobody's trying to erase Korean culture anymore, the Korean wave is huge all over Asia, Korea is a member of the G20 and all of the "big boys' clubs" and its economy is doing better than most countries since the 2008 subprime loan mess. meanwhile, Korea's population is becoming more diverse: foreigners in Korea passed the 1 million mark over a year ago.

Is going to the Korean military and caring about Dokdo what makes people Korean? You don't need to be one blood for that.

And lots of other cultures have things that are mistaken as being from other sources: I surprised my Spanish friend today by telling her that Leonard Cohen was Canadian. Her thinking he, and Michael J. Fox, were American, not Canadian, didn't make my Canadian culture disappear.

The Korean "identity crisis" is one of those things that can be manufactured if one focuses on certain details (the kimuchi thing), but of one focuses on other details (Samsung and Hyundai's status, Korean wave, etc.), it becomes apparent that Korea has nothing to worry about, and actually already IS a world leader, with its own distinct culture, despite its own people not always believing it's true.

Bluebird said...

@ roboseyo = Nobody's trying to erase Korean culture anymore.
I don't think that's true. Korea is constantly being pressured politically. Most people are unaware of the situations Korea is going through right now. Even in American restaurants Korean food is being sold as Japanese, and like I said, China claiming Goguryuh as theirs in the end will end up with Koreans not having anything to say about Goguryuh's culture. China has already registered 농악, korean traditional music, in Unesco as their cultural heritage,and that was fairly recent.
Kimchi is still being imported as Kimuchi in some US stores with no indication that it's originally Korean or with its original spelling Kimchi.

Also, sometimes it makes it harder for Koreans to promote their cultures in specific detail when a lot of their traditional artifacts from Shilla and etc are still being kept in Japan with no change of coming back here.

Really, I have to really disagree with you on this one. It's so obvious that Korean culture is being threatened.

Marc Hogi said...


Excellent post, and interesting comments as well.

Fortunately, a few things give me hope. Some of my Korean friends who don't buy into the "one blood" thing ("단일몬족론" in Korean). Also, when Koreans ask me the most difficult aspect of living in Korea, I usually tell them that this is it, because it creates a kind of "us vs. them" mentality (not unlike how you've expressed it). I've gotten different types of responses to this kind of thing, but at least they listen to what I feel even if they don't necessarily agree with it. Some have acknowledged that it is a problem.

I also have a few Korean friends that call me "hyung," and recently a student at my university used the word "jeong" to describe me. I'm sure that being conversational in Korean helps me in those cases. That's not a boast as much as noting that in noting in a few situations, we are able to transcend those barriers. By the way, I happen to be African-American.

One commenter noted that it could take a couple of generations for this kind of thinking to wear off, which I agree with. Like most of us foreigners who have made Korea our new home, there are still several situations where we will be the outsider (or outcast, depending on your point of view) no matter how much you try to learn the language or absorb the culture. But there are a few signs that it is changing. Even after posting this article on my Facebook, a couple of Korean friends responded positively to it.

Thanks again for this post.

d. said...

I refer back to what Chris in South Korea said most succinctly, “what SHOULD she have said?” His rhetorical question was not directed at alternatives with which you answered to. Rather, he was making a point about what is considered dominant discourse (I do not mean this in terms of majority opinion) in South Korea. Hyori’s point was about Korean solidarity (I do not deny the historical implements of how this came to be) and in putting forth ideas of race, brotherhood, family, culture and ethnicity, it seems rather apparent that these quasi ‘synonyms’ are used to support that claim of solidarity versus the one-blood Aryan Meinkampf ideology which many of us have been exposed to through largely Western discourse. Also note what Doreen revealed about the problems of translation, Hanminjok as opposed to Hanpitjool: no blood was shed.

What Hyori said has to be seen in terms of intention. Naturally, advocating this cultivated sense of one-identity is in itself a kind of segregation of the other. But that would also mean that because I support black solidarity, I would by default be ostracizing whites and everybody else. The fact that I prefer to eat alone means that I am being anti-social. All this is rather normative.

Heterogeneous discourse is a by-product of a western ideology whether you choose to attribute this to the holocaust, feminism or flowers. If we start axing the confidence of a nation built on a steadfast Korean identity, of being Korean, then we relapse back to the dark ages of looking at Koreans with myopic vision. Assuming that everything should be heterogeneous is as problematic as being homogeneous. I think it is important to consider other ways of thinking without needing to always collapse into a familiar one in which we are all used to.

That being said, if you read the latest edition of ‘The Rough Guide to Korea’ (Paxton 2008:7), you will find captioned under the header ‘Fact file’: “Ethnic Koreans dominate the populations of both countries, making them two of the most ethnically homogenous [original emphasis in bold] societies on earth.” Interestingly, not only the Koreans think so; it is ‘discursively’ so.

You mention that your Korean friends describe “Jung” as a “uniquely Korean feeling”, of which you read as “only Koreans have Jung”. This differs substantially from what can be read as: “Jung is about being Korean” in much the same way as ‘Gesellige’ is ‘Dutch, ‘Gemütlichkeit’ is ‘German’ and ‘Hygelli’ is ‘Danish’, whatever ‘Korean’, ‘Dutch’, ‘German’ or ‘Danish’ might mean. Incidentally, your experience of ‘Schadenfreude’ may need some adjusting: ‘Schadenfreude’ is making fun out of the mishaps of another, any other, not “someone you hate”. Or are they the same?

It seems to me that you have elected paths in which to situate yourself as being marginalized. Your gripe is not directed at Lee Hyori, but a national sentiment (like many other nationalisms) and dominant discourse in which you seem to have built up quite some resentment for. I am not saying that Koreans are all-accommodating to foreigners or ‘non-ethnic’ Koreans nor am I saying that it is a breeze in terms of integration, but attributing Korean solidarity as racism (a word which you explicitly use) is rather deterministic. My spiel here is also not meant to dispute your thoughts in terms of overall truth value, which for the most part I might even agree with. It is directed toward how you arrived at your position given Lee Hyori’s speech which stems from something every ‘good citizen’ would probably have said on air and which you find to be an object of contention.

Roboseyo said...

d. so...

what are you trying to say?

This is a blog, not a conference, so plain language will do nicely.

1. also, if you're going to use citations to sound smart, try for something a little more in-depth than "The Rough Guide to Korea". I've got some Dr. Seuss for you in response if that's the deepest you'll go in trying to sound academic as you refute me.

If you're going to assert that Korea really is racially pure, when the country's own propaganda states that it's been invaded 2000 times, I think the burden of proof is on YOU to prove that those 2000 hordes of invaders were all either eunuchs or monks, that they managed to invade so much of Korea, so many times, without leaving any DNA behind. (again: why is it called the "Mongol" spot?)

2. work on the logic in your second (the part after "but that would also mean...") and third (explain how that relapse happens more clearly) paragraphs: I don't see how the ideas are connected, nor how they relate to my main thesis. Focus your thoughts a bit more.

3. no, hyori isn't a scholar, and I'm not engaging with her piece on a scholarly level. Her piece is an example of a thought pattern which, as I said, chooses to define Korea in a way that does not allow me to be part of Korea. The ways of defining Korea are myriad, but as a guy who plans to live here, and probably have a family here, what's your problem with me being frustrated with a discourse that illegitimates my presence here, and would have my children ostracized as not "real" Koreans, when they go to school? Why the hell WOULDN'T I kick against such a thought pattern or "dominant discourse" with all my might?

4. finally, her piece is an attempt to promote korea... yet she chooses this kind of exclusivism and exceptionalism as the central aspect of her sales pitch to make non-Koreans interested in Korea. It's tone-deaf - she's using language that would impress Koreans, but that's not her audience. Preaching to the choir does not win converts: simply on rhetorical grounds, she's failed.

"Your gripe is not directed at Lee Hyori, but a national sentiment"

Well spotted. Would you like a cookie? Of course I'm not really targeting Lee Hyori here: she's just a popstar, and a cute one at that. But putting Lee Hyori in your blog post's title increases your google hits, silly.

Bluebird said...

and btw, your comment about mongolian spot just seemed a bit ignorant. Mongolians in the past travelled and migrated all the way to America, which is why Native Americans also sometimes have the mongolian spot. They travelled all the way to Korea and not many reached Japan. Mongolian spot just shows how much the ancient mongolians travelled there. You saying that the spots originated from countless of invasions that happened in Korea kind of urkes me because you fail to show your knowledge about Asian history in general

Roboseyo said...

So Doreen, you just told me that Koreans are originally Mongol, or at least mixed with Mongol blood, which means Koreans are not pure blood after all. ... am I missing something?

Did you read the posts by the Metropolitician that I linked in the original post? I recommend it. Are you sure that the one-blood ideology, which is a Koreanization of Japanese racial ideology learned from German thinkers who influenced Nazi Germany, is REALLY the thing you want Korea's popstars to reference when they try to promote Korea to the world?

Bluebird said...


I really don't think you're getting the point that me and the other comment were trying to point out.. hanminjok isn't about Korean blood. It's about people from one nation. the word for the select-blood is hanpitjool.

The point is that Koreans know where they're descended from. We're not stupid and think our ppl just dropped from the heavens out of nowhere separate from all the Asians out there. We know that ppl who are the current mongols migrated in the ancient times throughout mainland China all the way to Korea and South America (Native Americans)

Koreans think about the pureblooded-ness just by nationality, which btw a lot of Asian countries also do. A lot of conservative Koreans think that being Korean, not just the blood itself is unique due to its homogenousity. Yes Korea has been really a country full of conflicts and there have been "2000 TRIED" attempts of invasion (not necessarily successful ones and most Koreans defended fine, that's why the nation is here right now), but unlike Japan and China, it has been closed off to many countries for years. Japan and China have many ethnicities and even Taiwan has their own native tribes.

Koreans are their own natives in the land. They didn't really occupy the space of the original ppl there like Europeans who migrated and occupied England, France and the like, the North Americans, current non-Ainu Japanese, current non-Native Taiwanese and etc. You know the story. Select people from Gojoseon occupied Korea, divided into the big 3 nations (still spoke relatively similar language and had similar culture)that lasted each from 500-1000 years and then Goryuh, Joseon, and now Korea today. It's the fact that we stayed in one place for so long not open to any other particular ethnic tribes that makes us unique.

How many people did you hear this pure-blood from?? and do you know whether they mean by genetics, ethnicity, or "nationality??"

It's more like Nationality, and I think by saying "blood" you're really not getting the point. Koreans don't mean that they're marked by this specific DNA strands that makes them unique. The Blood is similar to the old western idea of being noble, but nowadays people use Hanminjok more which emphasizes the Nation as a whole in its history and experience.

Bluebird said...


Didn't you read my email?? I think you are being so sensitive because you are worried about your children's future which you think you have no control over because you find all these things about Korea that worries you, right???

Like I mentioned about the video, Koreans don't necessarily think of Jeong as only existing b/w Koreans. Sure Jeong is a Korean word whose description does not exist in the English vocabulary, but normal Koreans think Jeong just exist as an emotion pertaining to everyone. When my relatives watch foreign videos and see that the people are being so close to one another, they say that "oh those ppl must have gotten some JEONG while they were together in the movie." Does this mean my relatives aren't Korean although they've never set their foot on foreign soil their entire lives??
How many Koreans do you talk to Roboseyo?? Where do you get your opinions of Koreans from, except for your wife and dozens of Koreans at your workplace or school??? Do you go on Korean online websites, and see the big picture of people's actual opinions? Go to their debate sites for Damunhwa (multicultural society that Koreans are struggling and trying to figure out right now). Do you have Korean friends just your age, or from ppl both young and old??? How many of your neighors family do you know?? Do you try to go to the apartment meetings at all perhaps?
How much do you try to actually get to know the people or try to fit into their society, not just know its culture? Sure it's a great thing to go to the restaurants, eat their food, go to the cultural heritage sites once in a while, but how much do you really interact with the overall people there??

And you're right. this is a promo video. I've never seen Japanese or Chinese ads that were all that different. Main thing is, countries want tourists to spend their money there, not immigrate and be part of their people. Even the Japanese welcomes foreigners to spend money, not "gaijins" who actually be its citizens. Canada is a bit more open I guess, so for you I get how your attitude towards the Korean promo video came to pass, but even so, I've heard of countless of promos that says "EXPERIENCE our culture and be part of us for a while when you spend money here as a tourist," not "BE PART OF OUR SOCIETY FOR REAL while you visit and spend your money here, because that will mean tons of fun immigration office work"

Your kids will be fine. it's really up to you and your wife. Depending on what school you send your kids, the environment do you bring up your kids in, and how much you are close to the parents of the neighborhood children and those of your children's friends, the life that your children will live will really change. I think it's time that you start planning about how to actually be a part of the Korean society yourself so that your children have a better time there.

Bluebird said...

In North America, I still see, and experience people having trouble adjusting as second generation immigrants. From 1st generation all the way to the 3rd, people still have problems, no matter how open the society is. The problem your children go through have been faced by numerous Koreans, and people from other nations already for decades in North America. None of us had parents who could speak english, at least your children will have a mom who's more integrated in that society.
We tried so hard to connect two different worlds, translating and facing tons of racism because of our parent's accents, their jobs at drycleaners, restaurants, and convenience stores, but your kids are already half there because of their multi-racial status.

It will be hard for you, but remember that children of immigrants all over North America will know how it feels.

I think I'd rather hear a realistic view about a country rather than come here, expect them to be more open like Canada and the US and be disappointed at how closed off and conservative a lot of caucasian society actually are. Because that's what I and other people from Asian ethnicity experience every year being a foreinger in Canada and the US.

Roboseyo said...


thanks for your longer comments, and your kind words in the last one.

In a blog post, the posture I take, and the reaction I give, is sometimes expressed strongly; I recognize that my kids aren't the first, nor will be the last ones to experience the challenges of being multi-racial, multi-culture, in societies that aren't totally sure where they fit.

I often end my conversations with Wifeoseyo with the acknowledgement that things here have come a long way, even since I first moved here in '03; as usual, culture is changing too fast for those who'd gotten used to the old ways, and too slow for those on the margins. It IS changing; however, the way to speed along that change is to continue contributing this kind of voice, when these topics come up - not because I like picking on Hyori, but because this voice needs to be part of the discussion about Korea's future. So yeah, I strike a strong pose here sometimes, and don't pay due lip service to the progress that HAS happened... but spending all my time hedging and backpedaling would dillute my message into nothing anyway.

And yes, when I"m able, I'll be writing the same kinds of things in Korean as I do now in English.

As my language ability improves, I'm engaging with more and more elements of Korean society, and it's been very satisfying. There are some who seem to take me as a contributor to Korean society, and others more reluctant... but that'd be true anywhere.