[Letters] Toward a rainbow Korea
Every February since 1926, Americans have celebrated the national, social, scientific and political achievements of African Americans. This event, called Black History Month, is a time of remembrance - when Americans are reminded of the important people and events of the African-American diaspora that began with the slave trade of the Middle Passage. Through Black History Month, participants can promote acceptance while celebrating the young nation’s variety. Although America’s Black History Month has no direct bearing upon our own national calendar, we should apply some of its ideologies to promote acceptance and tolerance in South Korea.
Despite the long strides South Korea has made since availing itself to the outside world, the ugliness of racial bigotry still manifests within our borders. According to a May 2009 survey undertaken by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, South Korea was home to over 1 million foreign nationals. In a nation of over 50 million people, foreigners represent a tiny, but growing, demographic. However, our xenophobic tendencies remain strong. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination once criticized “that the emphasis placed on the ethnic homogeneity of Korea might represent an obstacle to the promotion of understanding, tolerance and friendship among the different ethnic and national groups living on its territory.” Our ethnic homogeneity has contributed greatly to our national unity. This practice, however, cannot linger if we wish to be a part of the greater global society.
As an ethnic South Korean, an immigrant and high school student, I have witnessed recently-immigrated Korean students in America struggling to fit into a new, vastly diverse society. At school, in order to simulate the assuring familiarity of homogeny, many Korean students congregate among themselves. Of course, America is not an infallible bastion of racial equality. According to a January survey conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 30 percent of African, Korean and Vietnamese Americans voters said they experience some prejudice.
Like swine flu, bigotry is a virus. It transmits orally, physically or mentally. There is no cure we can buy in a pharmacy or in hospital. As such, we must learn to incorporate understanding in our everyday life and become our own doctors. In order to combat this social disease, we should focus primarily in educating the future of our society - the students. Korean schools should embrace curriculums that foster understanding of diverse nations and cultures.
We, as Koreans, must work together to rid our society of this social illness and learn to respect people from different backgrounds, gender, race, religion and politics.
Korea should strive to become a more diversified society, where people, of all ages, beliefs and nationalities, can live freely.
Kim Yoo-eun, Kamiak High School
in Mukilteo, Washington
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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