[Letters] Pure blood no moreDressed in a clean white blouse with her black, silky hair neatly tied up in a ponytail, Kim Bo-kyung (a fake name used for anonymity) triumphantly marched into a classroom filled with other 8-yearolds. She looked forward to this day for as long as she could remember.
Despite her excitement, her Korean and Cambodian descent caused the other children to mock her.
“They called me names and stared at me whenever I tried to speak to them,” Kim said with a broken Korean accent. “So I just don’t talk in class anymore.”
Kim’s nickname is “chocolate pie,” because her skin tone is comparatively darker than the Korean kids. The boy who sits next to her occasionally talks to her, but only to order her around, or steal her money. Kim dislikes school so much that she tried skipping class at least once every three days.
Kim is not alone in her plight.
According to the Ministry of Justice, interracial marriages made up 13 percent of all marriages in Korea last year. The Justice Ministry also estimates that a third of newborn babies will be “Kosians” (Korean-Asians) by 2020.
Kim Eun-young, the representative of a social welfare network in Korea, explains that it is especially difficult for biracial children to adapt to a public-school environment. She adds that this is because many Kosians experience language barriers, having grown up in households in which their mothers speak limited Korean.
This hinders the childrens’ ability to be accepted by other students.
“Ethnic homogeneity has always been the core of national identity in our country, and children respond negatively to anything that contradicts what they are used to,” Kim Eun-young said.
A 8-year-old boy in Bo-kyung’s class put it in much simpler terms: “She’s weird.”
Such prejudicial perceptions cannot only be attributed to the immaturity of children. Korean society’s perception of South Asian immigrants in general have remained equally prejudicial, despite the continual increase of multiculturalism in Korean society.
Last July, a 20-year-old Vietnamese woman named Thach Thi Hong Ngoc, was stabbed to death by her 47-year-old husband, less than one night after she married him. The bride was not informed that her husband-to-be had a history of mental disorders, including beating his own parents three times in the past five years. This is far from the first time such an incident has happened. Two years ago, another 19-year-old Vietnamese bride, Hyunh Mai, was beaten to death by her husband, after an argument over her “curfew.”
By 2030, it’s estimated that the number of foreigners in South Korea will top 3.6 million, a whopping 7.2 percent of the population. Korean society is becoming less “pure blood” every second, but both the mainstream society and the government still resist accepting these individuals into society.
Until Korean society starts to accept its approach to multiculturalism, individuals like Bo-kyung, will have to struggle to seek acceptance in society.
Ji-yang, Korean Minjok Leadership Academy Class of 2011