Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I see Koreans

Just today, I was walking home from school during my break and saw a kid approaching me.  He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and a baseball cap.  I glanced at him and thought, that it was strange for a foreigner to be walking the streets of Gohyeon alone.  I looked again, and realized that he was Korean.  He had the slanted eyes, and the rounded face.  His light skin and clothes had "fooled" me.

I work with Korean kids five days a week. I suppose they are becoming the "norm" to me so much that I don't even consider their Korean-ness.  I actually have pondered whether my students would even stand out so much in an all-white environment.  Some of them are "black face" (a term the Korean student use to mean a felloo Korean is dark-complected).  However, some of the kids have skin that is lighter than mine.

Now the adults are easy to tell apart from caucasians.  The sun-baked, soju-pikled skin of the men give them away.  And the trying too hard to be white skin of the ladies give them away.  Its still difficult for me to think of my kids as differnet from the ones I taught in America.

Ask a Korean! has a great post about telling Koreans apart from other Asians.  His categories are more comlete than I would have been able to imagine.  So, for those who don't have regular contact with Asians, or want to hone your racial recognition skills, its a good read.

Please note:  even Koreans don't seem to always be able to tell other Asians apart.  They will insist that they know a Japanese person when they see him or her, but the truth is they are wrong all the time.  I have known Filipinos, Chinese Malasians, and an Indonesian women here in Korea.  All of them have stories where Koreans have approached them in the bus or in the market and were confused when my friends didn't understand and couln't speak Korean.

So try as you might even being as an Asian doesn't give you some magic power to distinguish between races.

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