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[PERSPECTIVE]Coming around on Korean culture

May 09,2007
Crystal Choi
Crystal Choi, a 28-year-old Korean-Canadian, didn’t use to be very fond of her parents’ homeland.
“I hated everything about Korea. I thought Koreans were so rude,” she said. Growing up in the small town of Delta outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Crystal didn’t have much chance to interact with the culture that went along with her ethnicity.
“I used to be so whitewashed,” she said. “All my friends were white.”
After moving to the Korean Peninsula in 2003, she had difficulty adapting to Korean life. She faced discrimination in her attempts to get a teaching job because she looks Korean; English schools would either refuse to hire her, or would only give her a job at a much lower pay rate than Western-looking teachers. During her first year she felt “miserable and lonely,” stuck in the gap between her outward appearance and the culture inside her.
“Because I’m not white, all the foreigners think I’m Korean. But all the Koreans think I’m foreign,” she said.
Upon hearing that she was of Korean ethnicity, locals would berate her for her lack of language and cultural skills. She used to lie and say she was adopted to avoid their spite.
“But I’ve changed so much,” she said. “I love the jeong here. I don’t think there’s an English word for it. It’s like a special bond between the people.
“It’s lucky I stayed, too,” she added, “because after a year I met my husband,” Philip Lee, a Korean-Australian she worked with. They will soon be moving to the United States to further their studies.
“Now I feel more Korean than Canadian, and I don’t want to go back. I love everything about Korea,” she paused, “except for the air.”


By Richard Scott-Ashe Contributing Writer [richard@joongang.co.kr]


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