Saturday, January 15, 2011

What is a Korean?

Just over a week ago, in preparation for my Saturday class lesson on multiculturalism VS integration, I conducted a short survey of my students - all 19 of whom are high-level English speakers and are in the last or second-to-last year before heading to university - just to give you context. I asked students the following question: "What is a Korean?" in the hopes that it would invite all manner of answers. My motivation was to get a sense of where the class stood on definitions to determine citizenship for "foreign-looking" residents - or rather those citizens who would be less-successful in convincing their friends and colleagues that they were of a desirable "pure" parentage, and were themselves therefore also "pure-blood" Koreans. In other words: can people who aren't "Korean-looking" have any hope of becoming Korean citizens? As this country struggles with the "less-than-palatable" realities of opening-up its borders to more and more foreigners while striving to be "The World Best" in any internationally measurable sense, it's an interesting question to ponder, and a fun one to discuss with an eager group of students who are not used to approaching such taboo subjects in a school setting.

Above is the first photo listed after doing a Google image search for "Korean". Below are some of the highlights of the responses I received...

1) A Korean doesn't like boring things and a Korean wants results fast.

2) A Korean is a person who lives in Korea and lives and eats in a way that most Koreans do.

3) Someone who has lived in Korea for their lifetime and thinks that he or she is Korean.

4) Someone who has the racial mind of Korea.

5) Someone who is very passionate and has a little bit of haste from passion.

6) A Korean is a person who dislikes Japan and loves eating Kimchi. They are brave and adventurous people and don't like to lose. They are united very well.

7) A Korean is powerful and energetic!

8) A Korean is someone who really loves Korea, is proud to be Korean, and wants to be a member of Korean society, even if they look different from "native" Koreans.

As a Canadian, I'm simply approaching this issue from a different place. I have friends who are clearly ethnically Korean, but were born in Canada or the U.S., and they each identify more with their country of birth. This is such an easy concept for me to grasp. To most Koreans however - at least in my experience - this isn't the case.


Jason said...

#6 is the answer that I would have expected from many of middle school male students.

The last response is great and clearly shows that the student thought hard about the question.

I have always been curious about how students who left responses simliar to #6 obtain these ideas. I know that some of it comes from home, but I wonder how much comes from school, other classmates, or media.

Andrew Irwin said...

Two words - Extreme and contradictory.

That's Korea and all Korean people summed up perfectly. (Maybe I'm going out on a limb, but what do you think?)

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Well, I would certainly include those words in any one-paragraph definition, yes.