[GOING TO THE BLOGS]IN FROM THE COLD

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[GOING TO THE BLOGS]IN FROM THE COLD

After 10 days as the object of politicians’ fawning and media saturation, Hines Ward, the Korean/African-American gridiron star, goes back to the States on Wednesday.
Yet here in Korea, where football is unknown and mixed-race people suffer flagrant discrimination, the sudden elevation of Mr. Ward to hero status continues to generate widespread cynicism among bloggers.
“Unless things change drastically,” writes “The Lost Nomad” on his blog, “the best advice Hines could give [biracial] kids is to save their money for a ticket out of here.”
No one disputes that discrimination against biracial Koreans is a serious problem. What divides opinion on the blogosphere, however, is the significance of the Hines Ward issue: Is it a harbinger of real change in attitudes here? Or is it no more than a passing media circus?
For the host of “GI Korea,” much may hinge on Mr. Ward himself.
“If he stays active in the problem then maybe things will change. If not, then a month after he leaves all will be forgotten until the next famous mixed-race person comes around.” But, he continues, “President Roh and Koreans in general should have been addressing this problem long before Hines Ward showed up.”
Yes, they should have. Yet changing attitudes in a country that has for so long adhered to half-baked notions of racial homogeneity is bound to take time, and any help is surely welcome.
Commenting on “The Marmot's Hole,” “Michael” sees some grounds for optimism. “At least racial integration in Korea has not so far been accompanied by rioting, murders, and guys wearing sheets on their heads.”
So what? sniff other commenters. Koreans have simply never had to deal with a large number of ethnic minorities in their midst, so there is no comparison with, say, the American or Western European experience.
There may soon be. In a long post drawing largely on Korean-language reports, Robert at “The Marmot’s Hole” writes: “By [2020], one in five Koreans under the age of 20 will be multiracial, as will one in three newborns. With this, some expect Korea's foreign-born and multiracial population to become a political force like the Hispanic population in the United States.”
Quite a leap of imagination for anyone living in Korea today.


DEFENDING THE DEFENDERS
Nothing riles the legions of American bloggers commenting on Korean affairs quite like acts of anti-Americanism. This week, the fuse was lit by pictures of Korean protesters manhandling U.S. marines at a joint U.S.-Korean military exercise. Joshua at “The Korea Liberator” speaks for many when he says:
“The authorities had no excuse for failing to prepare for it. The response was also characteristically slow.”
Certainly, it beggars belief that just two policemen were posted on the beach, and as “GI in Korea” points out, one can only imagine the furor had one of the marines retaliated against any of the protesters.
Also doing the rounds in the blogosphere is a video montage of anti-American protests from the last year.
In a thick southern U.S. drawl, “usinkorea,” the video’s maker, purports to demonstrate how protesters are now eschewing violence in favor of “kite flying and bonfires with middle-aged mothers and families.” This, he writes on “The Korea Liberator,” marks last week’s protests as an aberration.
“The trend is clearly one of toning things down to win more acceptance from the society which isn’t in the mood (yet) for violent anti-US protests.”
Given Koreans’ frequent propensity for violent protest ― which can, as the deaths of two farmers earlier this year amply demonstrated, have tragic consequences ― if any group feels it necessary to tone down their violence to garner public support, that’s no bad thing.


by Niels Footman
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