Just a drop of Korean blood enough for news mediaFor most of the South Korean press, nationality seems to be a main concern nowadays.
Very few people have sympathy for those who joined the rush in recent weeks to the Immigration Bureau to relinquish their South Korean citizenship. All that flak is understandable when you consider that common joes like you and me had to eat Army chow for quite some time.
Yet, the same press that does not hesitate to criticize these people is very generous when it comes to hailing athletes who hold other citizenship but have ethnic Korean roots.
Nobody asks whether the person has dual citizenship or if he has done his tour with the Army.
Never mind if the person hardly speaks Korean nor identifies themselves as a Korean. Even though the person is a foreigner, we try to cling to the tinniest detail that could link the person to our great Korean pool.
It seems we are obsessed to find anyone that has achieved greatness in just about any field and when that person happens to be only one-fourth Korean or even less, we are sure to write about that person.
One perfect example is Hines Ward, a wide receiver in the American National Football League who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I like Ward for what he has done on the field ― not too flashy, always quiet but puts up the numbers year after year. But that’s it. I never identified him as a Korean.
And I never wrote about him when he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Yet, quite a few domestic papers, sports tabloids and major dailies don’t hesitate to put his name in the paper. And all this in a country where only a handful of people know that the biggest American-style football tournament here is called Kimchi Ball.
I bet Ward, whose mother is Korean, does not know the media here writes about him. And even if he does, I am damn sure he is proud to be an American. What about Michelle Wie? Same thing. She’s American. Korean-American if you like, but what connection does she really have to this country? Not much. She does not identify herself with the Gwangju massacre nor does she know how a “screw bar” tastes. And yet our quest for Koreans never ends. If Tiger Woods had Korean blood from his mother’s side and we surely would have written about that too.
How is it that we are so generous in handing out “Korean” tags so freely yet when it comes to other things regarding nationality we are so stingy? To completely exempt people from the military service just because they have been abroad is not fair.
There are those who have dual citizenship and still did their duty. But that does not mean these people have to endure the same pain. That’s nonsense. Alternative service that can utilize and maximize their skills would be the best answer. Having said that, we should seriously stop writing about those who “seem” to have a connection to Korea. Especially athletes.
by Brian Lee
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