Monday, April 14, 2008

A little funny, and a lot sad

Racism against Chinese, Japanese, and even Americans is an issue here in Korea.  Feelings against foreigners is fueled by historical resentment, tabloid tv news programs, and even government propaganda lessons taught in public schools.

However, I was shocked at how the feelings toward outsiders could manifest in such hateful thinking.  I was working with a class on punctuation and capitalization.  I wrote ten sentences including the following:

there is a fire in china

I wanted students to capitalize both the beginning word of the sentence, the proper noun (China) and provide ending punctuation.

After they had finished with the mechanics exercise, I wanted the students to chose one sentence and write a short paragraph.  A very sweet girl who is new to our academy read her story.

I looked down at her story to find that not only did she miss one of the points of the exercise (that China is a proper noun) but also that the content of her sentences were a little disturbing.

Her "story" was on two separate pages that I put together for the scan, but didn't alter it in anyway.



There is a fire in china!  I'm happy because china peopre is bad peopre.  My mother is happy.  My father is happy.  My brother is happy.  My familly were happy!  My father said "China peopre is not beautiful"  My mother said "Yes, China peopre is ugly."  My brother said "Yes!  Yes!"  "Today my feel is very fun."  I asked to my mom.  I'am very fun.

After the student read this aloud in class, I asked the class if they thought that China people were bad (or ugly).  Roughly two third of the class roared that "China peopre" were indeed ugly.

Here's the thing that really bugs me: I have known four ethnic Chinese people here in Korea and they are ALWAYS getting mistaken for Koreans, by Koreans.  Koreans come up to talk to them in Korean, and are confused and frustrated when my friends don't understand.

If "China peopre" are as ugly as some might believe, wouldn't they be easy to distinguish from the beautiful Korean people?

I saw a teachable moment here and took the essay and photocopied it for my adult class.  I wanted them to correct the grammatical and spelling errors and to discuss the content of the paper.  I was equally shocked that one my students agreed with the young student!  He added that in his experience, Chinese people were dirty and didn't have good hygiene.  The people are in adult class and bright, college educated, and articulate.

Through my conversation with my adults, its became clearer what might be happening.  Increased economic competition from China and hysterical fear over unsafe products is being converted by the masses into bigotry toward Chinese.

Unfortunately, when these kids are getting it from all sides (in this case it seems especially at home) I have doubt how much impact I could have with a few classes a week.  This bigotry is one problem that Koreans will have to fix themselves.

1 comment:

  1. hi. I think some Koreans dislike Chinese coz China is under the Communist.

    And the Chinese behaviour nowadays are somewhat influenced by the Communist culture/brainwash they are brought up with in school since young.

    Actually, Korean culture has strong influence from the Chinese culture. (esp from the Tang Dynasty of China)

    I hope Communist rule in China will end, and the South Koreans can see the real, and kind-hearted Chinese without the Communist brainwash! :)

    To read about the evil of the Chinese Communist Party-


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