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Korea: How Much Should One Ethnicity be Emphasized?

The emphasis on one ethnicity (danil minjok) in Korea society has become a problematic issue in international society. A news clip is below.

A United Nations committee has urged Korea to recognize the diversity of its society and overcome its obsession with racial homogeneity. The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that Seoul promote awareness of human rights and embracing different races and ethnic groups through instruction at public schools. The committee in a report also urged special education on the matter for judicial workers such as police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges. The report also proposed the overhaul and introduction of systems and laws banning discrimination against foreigners, migrant workers and mixed-race people.

There are a lot of bloggers who have had the same opinions and support the suggestion.

기회가 되어 해외를 떠돌아 다녀보니…우리나라가 단일 민족이란 것이 언젠가 세계로 나가는데 큰 장애가 될 것이라는 느낌을 받았다. 우리나라에서는 외국인이 지나가면 되게 신기한거다. 어느 나라? 여행 왔나? 출장 왔나? 외국인 노동자? 불법체류? 온갖 상상의 나래를 펴게 된다.
그러나 외국 특히 미국의 경우에는 내가 출장을 가서 지나가도 누구 하나 내게 관심을 갖지 않는다. 나 또한 잠시 머무르는 사람이 아닌 그냥 그 사회의 일원 같은 편안한 느낌이 든다. 하지만 아르헨티나 갔을 때는 동양인이란 이유 때문에 굉장히 낯선 느낌을 받았다. 그야말로 내가 거리를 지나가면 주변에 있는 아르헨티나 사람들이 신기해하는 눈치다. 어느 나라? 여행 왔나? 출장 왔나? 외국인 노동자? 불법체류? 아마 이런걸 생각했으리라…
더군다나 요즘 혼혈이 많아지고 있는 추세이다. 또한 외국인 노동자도 많아지고 있다. 슬슬 준비해야한다.지하철에 외국인이 앉아있으면 보통 옆자리는 비워져있다. 특히 흑인이거나 동남아 사람이면 더욱 그러하다.
이건 정상적인 사회의 모습이 아닌다.
여태까지는 단일 민족이란 것이 긍정적인 효과였으나 세계화를 앞둔 이 시점에서는 부정적인 효과인 것 같다.
국민 모두 넓은 시각을 가지고 바라봐야 할 것이다.

Owing to several chances, I have been abroad… I felt that Korea’s one ethnicity will be a big obstacle to communicate with the rest of the world. In Korea, people gaze at foreigners on the street. Which country? Tourists? Business trip? Laborers? Illegal migrants? We’re trying to guess who they are with such imaginings.
When I went to America on a business trip, nobody was interested in me. As for myself, I was also comfortable feeling I was a number of society. But when I was in Argentina, I felt strange because of my Asian look. When I walked on the street, everyone looked at me with mysterious eyes. Which country? Tourists? Business trip? Laborers? Illegal migrants? They must have thought about these questions…
The number of mixed-blood (hon-hyeol) in Korea is getting more and more. In addition, it’s easy to run into foreign laborers. We should prepare for these changes. If there are foreigners in the metro, the next seat is empty. Especially if they are racially black or Southeast Asians, it’s more likely.
It’s not a normal society.
While one ethnicity has positively affected our society, it will cause the negative influence in this coming globalized world.
We people should have broader perspectives.

On the other hand, not a few bloggers ask why the UN takes negative perspective on one ethnicity.

1. 단일민족=순수한혈통=좋은것->우리민족 우수한 민족……

이런 해석부터 정말 피해의식에 쪄들었다고 밖에는 볼 수가 없어요. 이건 어떻습니까?

2. 단일민족=우리 가족을 사랑함=그 만큼 다른 민족 인정=세계평화

남에 나라 밟은 적 없는 대한민국이라면 2번 논리쪽이 더 어울리는 거 아닐런지?

1. one ethnic group=pure blood=good thing our ethnic group, superior ethnic group…
Why do they think this way? I think this kind of interpretation is from the feeling of being victimized. How about this?
2. one ethnic group=loving family=recognizing other ethnic groups=world peace
As Korea has never attacked other countries, isn’t number 2 more suitable?

There are many opinions against what the UN suggested, insisting on one ethnicity.

UN에서 한국이 단일민족의 정체성을 유지하는 것에 대해 간섭하는 것에 대해 몇마디 적습니다.

민족이라는 것은 오랜 시간동안 형성된 문화적 공동체 이며, 우리 민족은 수천년에 걸쳐 한반도에서 비슷한 혈통의 바탕위에 문화적 공동체를 만들어왔다. 물론 중국,만주,일본 등에서 이주해오는 사람들의 피가 유입되긴 했지만, 우리의 문화적 공동체에 동화되어 우리민족의 일부로 흡수되었기 때문에 문제가 없었다.

하지만, 지금 처럼 수만,수십만의 단위로 외국인들이 유입되어 자신들의 정착촌을 건설하고 자기네 문화공동체를 만들어 우리와 대립하고 우리나라 안에서 자신들의 세력을 구축하려 한다면…. 이는 결코 작은 문제가 아니다.
수만, 수십만 나아가 수백만명의 세력을 결성한 외국이주민들이 한국정부에 한국을 다민족국가로 규정하라고 압력을 넣고 나아가 자기네 조상들의 역사도 한국사에 편입시킬 것을 요구한다면 어떡게 할텐가.

미국은 처음부터 원주민을 말살한 땅위에 여러 국가,민족이 섞여만든 다민족,다인종 국가였지만 한국이 미국과 같은가? 우리 조상들이 외세의 침략을 이겨내어 한반도 라는 공간을 물려줬고 중국에 동화되지 않고 우리 고유의 문화적 정체성을 지켜내어 조선민족,한민족이라는 문화적 정체성을 물려주지 않았는가…

이민자를 받지 말자는 것이 아니다. 그들이 소수로 들어와 우리의 문화적공동체에 동화되고 편입된다면 무엇이 문제인가. 하지만, 지금처럼 수만, 수십만의 유입을 방치해 그들이 미국내의 차이나타운, 재팬타운, 코리아타운 같은 자기네만의 문화적 공동체를 우리나라안에 만들어 세력화하고, 끝내는 자신들이 이 땅의 주인인양 행세하는 것은 막아야 한다는 것이다.

초국적자본은 세계가 단 한개의 경제질서,문화로 통일되는 것이 이윤추구에 적합하므로 국가,민족 이라는 개념이 없어지기를 바란다. FTA를 통해 상품,자본,노동인구의 자유로운 이동을 촉진시켜 한국같은 민족, 문화공동체를 다민족화 시켜 소멸시키려는 것이다. ..

I would like to write about the UN’s comments on Korea’s one ethnicity. Ethnicity is a cultural community that has been formed for a long time. Koreans made the cultural community based on similar blood on the Korean peninsula for several thousand years. Of course, there were people from China, Manchuria, and Japan. But they were assimilated with us, so there was no problem.

But tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands for foreigners rush into Korea and establish their own towns. Then, it would not be just a small problem if their own cultural communities are against ours and intend to build up their own authority. If these people give pressure to the Korean government to change Korea to a multi-ethnic nation and request their ancestors’ history be put into Korean history, what will we do?

While America is a multi-ethnic and multi-racial nation after they massacred aboriginals, Korea has a different story. Our ancestors retained the land against many attacks from the outside and didn’t assimilate into China. They left cultural identity, Chosun people and Korea people, for us…

I am not saying we should not accept immigrants. If they come here and assimilate into our cultural community, it’s not going to be a problem. But we should block several ten thousands and hundred thousands from coming and establishing China Town, Japan Town, and Korea Town like the US, and behave like they’re the owners of this land.

Multi-national capital prefers that all countries unify with one economic order and one culture due to better profit. They want to abolish the concepts of the nation and ethnicity. Through FTAs, they would like to facilitate easy movements of products, capital, and labor population, and, therefore, they would like to abolish one ethnic and cultural community, like in Korea, through multi-ethnicities.

Other netizens think that one ethnicity does not cause discrimination, but that the problem comes from capitalism.

헌데 제 생각과는 조금 틀리네요.단일민족 이라서 인종차별 하는것이 아니랍니다.다만 없는사람 없는 민족을 차별하는것 이죠.제가느낀 한국인은 인종도,민족도 상관 안합니다.오직 잘사냐 못사냐로 차별합니다.외국계 라도 일단 백인들은 한수접고요,같은민족 이라도 없으면 무시하고 차별합니다.

I have a different thought. I don’t think that, due to one ethnicity, we have discrimination. We discriminate against people who don’t possess and ethnic groups who don’t possess. Koreans I think don’t care about race and ethnicity. The importance is whether the other side is wealthy or not. If they’re white people, it’s a different story as well. Regardless of the same ethnic group, they still disregard them if they’re poor.

Interestingly not a few bloggers link the importance of one ethnicity to unification between North and South Korea.

단일민족은 북한과의 통일을 위한 큰 힘이다.
한국이 다민족 국가가 되면 북한이 과연 우릴 같은민족으로 봐주지 않을것이며
통일은 더욱더 힘들어진다.
유엔의 말도 안되는 민족말살정책에 순진하게 놀아나면 안된다.

One ethnicity is the important power in order to unify with North Korea. If South Korea becomes a multi-ethnic nation, North Korea will not look at us as the same ethnic group and, therefore, reunification would be much harder. We shouldn’t be tricked by the UN’s absurd comment.

Here is another opinion.

딱 하나만 묻자.

진보들이 목숨거는 통일에 대해서 한번이라도 생각하고 이런 글 쓰는거냐?

남북이 통일을 이끌어내려고 할때 훼방을 놓으려는 시도에 대해서 반박할 수 있는 가장 큰 명분이 뭐냐?

바로 같은 ‘한민족'이라는 단일민족이라는 명분이다.

일제 강점기에 들어서기 직전에 원래 조선이 하나였다고 주장하는 명분보다 더 확실한 명분을 버리겠다니 ㄲㄲㄲ

지금 남과 북이 유엔에 동시에 가입된 상황에서 말발이 먹힐 유일한 명분이 단일민족이야.

미국놈들처럼 잡탕국가로 만든 다음에 북쪽하고 통일하겠다고 찌질대면 먹혀들거 같냐?

또한 이리저리 잡탕 사회로 된 상태에서 다른 인종의 한국국적자 애들이 통일 하는데 열렬한 지지를 보낼까? 걔들이 통일과정에서 필연적으로 따라올 어느 정도의 희생을 감수하려고 할까? …

I would like to ask ONE question.
Have you thought about reunification? Whenever we’re interrupted on mentioning the unification issue between North and South Korea, what is the biggest justice?
It is one ethnicity. Then now we want to throw it out? North and South Korea are separate members in the UN and now the one that makes us together is one ethnicity. If we make our country multi-ethnic like the US, do you think that it works to persuade North Korea to have unification?
Under the condition of a multi-ethnic nation, do you think that multi-racial Korean nationals will actively support reunification? Do you think that those people will put up with unavoidable sacrifies in the process of unification?


  • El

    My statement is not really directed to what was discussed above, but a generalization from what I have experienced. Living in Taiwan for a good amount of years now, I’ve never realised or understood why people can be so racist, it’s doesnt matter your what your ethnic race maybe but I have seen certain reaction toward black people. Then I said to myself for a very developed country technology wise their minds are very small minded and uneducated about the different kind of people/race. Should race really matter, I don’t think so. No one is superior to the other, same color of blood, same flesh, the only thing different is skin color. I think people who are racist are ignorant and uneducated about the world.

  • mahathir_fan

    Korea’s minjok is a fantasy. There is actually no such thing as a Korean race.

    Korea is a multi ethnic society. Koreans actually originated from different racial stocks, the Koguryo in the North, and the Sam Hans from the South and many others.

    There is no racial relationship between the 2 primary racial stocks, the Koguryo northern stock and the Sam Han from the South. In my opinion, the Koguryo tribe is more closely related to the Northern Chinese tribes than they are to Sam Han.

    So it is a myth that Koreans are of “one” race. It is actually made up of many different races than later were united to be called “Koreans”.

    In accordance with this United Nations call, I call on Korea to stop using the word “Koreans” to refer to their race, but to revert back to the original naming convention used by their forefathers. A nationwide study must be made for every Korean to trace their roots back to which tribe they belonged to. Then the racial designation of their race should read Koguryo, Sam Han, or Silla, or Balhae etc. etc..

    Koreans must realize that they are from different races, some are Koguryo, some are Sam Han and embrace this multi ethnicity.

  • Reading between the lines of many bloggers’ posts on this topic, I get the feeling they’re asking, ‘Why are outsiders telling us what to do?’ Entirely understandable. However, as the saying goes, it’s hard to see what’s right under your nose (등잔 밑이 어둡다 is a nice Korean equivalent).

    Many migrant workers, English teachers and businesspeople in Korea face discrimination on a regular basis. It’s so endemic and habitual that most Koreans rarely notice. Korea’s changing fast and it’s getting a little better with each generation, but it’s still there.

    Many comentators also seem afraid that ‘opening up’ to the world will dilute the Korean identity (for which I understand the ‘one blood’ idea as a metaphor, now the literal meaning has been discredited). However, being more tolerant and treating all people with equal respect doesn’t necessarily entail this of course. Moreover, look at the diversity of modern Korea and you realise life in Korea is as varied as any other country.

    Educating children, adults and law enforcement agents would definitely help start to break down the ignorance-based suspicions many Koreans feel towards outsiders. I wish them good luck.

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