A proud ‘dark-haired foreigner’
The author is the head of the Today & People Team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
If it weren’t for Lee Isaac Chung, Youn Yuh-jung would not have won an Oscar trophy. I am talking about the American director whom Koreans call by his Korean name, Chung Isak. Unfortunately, he did not win an Oscar, but I want to congratulate and cheer him. It’s sad that I was reminded of the phrase, “dark-haired foreigner” as I watched his triumph, the ignorant expression that Democratic Party spokesman Lee Hae-sik used to refute a Bloomberg article, more precisely the title, in 2019. The Democratic Party’s vulgar commentary at the time got the idea because the reporter who wrote the article that did not please them was Korean. If you think about it, Chung is also a dark-haired foreigner.
He became a sudden hero, and fortunately, he was not described as “a stalwart son of Korea.” But he was unknown for a long time. He was lonely when he was teaching in Incheon. After he attained success by enduring the time of solace and negligence, we suddenly make a fuss and became proud of him. Dark-haired Korean politicians and diplomats jumped on the bandwagon to praise the dark-haired American. This is the country where people posted harsh comments about a reporter with Korean heritage for doing his job. It’s from 2019, so do you think it’s a bygone era? The wound of terrorizing comments does not heal over time.
Over the expression, “black-haired foreigner,” Lee said that it was widely used online. The fact that this term is circulated reflects the backwardness of our society. In reality, there are blond Koreans, dark-haired foreigners and Korean residents in Japan who don’t speak Korean but are proud of their heritage. In the shadow of Korean society, there are people who have to hide who they really are. It is backward to discriminate against someone or be jealous of them because of something they were born with.
A Canadian former editor at the Korea JoongAng Daily, where I worked for nearly 10 years, was furious about a column by a well-known figure about Koreans taking pride in being a single ethnic group. He delivered an impassioned speech that it was discriminatory to peddle this myth that’s not based on facts. He’s not wrong.
After Youn won the trophy, she said in the news conference that a rainbow has seven colors. She said she doesn’t want to divide people into white, black and yellow, or gay or not gay. “We are all human beings with the same warm hearts,” she said.