중앙데일리

[PERSPECTIVE]An overseas Korean in search of her roots

Apr 09,2007
Kim Sa-neung
In this new feature we will be looking at the lives of a diverse range of foreigners who come to Korea to study Korean, their reasons for doing so, and the cultural and social issues they face during their stay.

Kim Sa-neung is a Korean-Japanese gyopo (a term used to describe ethnic Koreans who are born or live overseas) who is a living example of the deep ethnic ties felt by both Koreans and Japanese, and the adversity experienced by those who blur that line.
Both of her parents are Koreans born in Japan, who met through a gyopo dating service. The whole family maintains Korean citizenship, so none can vote in Japan, despite their lifelong residence in Nagoya.
Sa-neung’s Japanese name is Saya, given to her by her mother to save her from the discrimination that both her parents faced growing up as foreigners in Japan. She won’t let any of her friends use it in Korea. “I have a Korean name, and now I am in Korea,” she says stubbornly.
Her studies here represent an odd homecoming. She has come to a country that runs in her blood, but with whose people she has difficulty communicating. She is in level 3 in the Korean language classes at Sogang University, meaning that her Korean ability is good enough to get her a meal or a taxi, but not quite up to winning a political argument. Most of her friends in Korea are Japanese gyopo, she says. Young Koreans are welcoming, she adds, but she longs to penetrate the cultural shell, formed by language and historical conflict, that separates her from her true ethnicity.

By Richard Scott-Ashe


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