[KS] Now On My Way to Meet Who?

Stephen Epstein Stephen.Epstein at vuw.ac.nz
Tue Nov 12 21:53:09 EST 2013

Dear Scott/Hilary/Werner and others,

I'll chime in here with basic agreement on what others have written in this thread thus far, and also would like to invite those who have more experience than I do in working directly with 탈북자 communities to contribute. As Hilary points out, there has been a fair bit of research coming out over the last few years that pretty much all seems to point towards South Korean multiculturalism being more interested in, as Scott aptly put it, radical assimilation and incorporation into the South Korean collective, especially for female marriage migrants, than a celebration of the difference that new immigrant groups are bringing to South Korean society. But this, perhaps, is hardly surprising. I have also written before about the "feminization of the foreign" in South Korea in the last decade which is very much akin to what Scott terms "gendered multiculturalism."

As far as "Now on My Way to Meet You" goes, there clearly seems to be an assimilation on the part of those to South Korea in accent/dress, but this also strikes me as virtually inevitable when a stigmatized migrant group perceives the drawbacks from adhering to their pre-existing identities and the rewards from passing as a member of the dominant society. In the case of North Koreans or 조선족 in South Korea, this readily becomes learned behaviour. (I was just reading a piece today on 조선족 responses to S. Korea's multiculturalism policies, and the author makes the point that her interviewees often preferred to speak in Seoul-standard Korean even among themselves when in public, knowing that their dialect can attract a negative response.)

That the participants on 이만갑 are "South Koreanized" appears to me part of the overall tension Chris Green and I identify in our article between the show's simultaneous desire for homogeneity and a presentation of Otherness. A further interesting question as far as "Now on My Way to Meet You" is whether this accommodation was further encouraged by the show's producers. (If they personally experience an alienation from their pre-existing identities that would seem to me to be a somewhat different issue.) The situation of N. Korean refugees/defectors is a bit different from other recipients of the benefits of multicultural policies in that theoretically from governmental perspective they have been citizens all along, because of the illegitimacy of the DPRK. Hilary, it sounds from what you write below that 탈북자 can benefit from 다문화가족 policies. Is that what the programs are termed in their case or are they given a slightly different title in recognition of the fact that they really aren't 다문화가족 as usually understood?

Best, Stephen

p.s. Just a note on the drummer for Busker Busker: he doesn't really have the option of passing in the same way as co-ethnics, and given his recent interviews on his experiences with S. Korean television, it does sound like these stylings were definitely foisted upon him by the show's producers.

From: Koreanstudies [koreanstudies-bounces at koreanstudies.com] on behalf of Werner Sasse [werner_sasse at hotmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 9:09 PM
To: list korean studies
Subject: Re: [KS] Now On My Way to Meet Who?

Dear Scott,
I quite agree.

Another point re "multi-cultural": All "cultures" are "multi-cultural" after all. We only have to scrap the boundaries of "sub-cultures", which are a (necessary for description, of course) construct existing only in the heads of social scientists and permeable as well as overlapping in reality. We have grandparents <----> parents <----> teenagers (very strong in Korea), city <----> country side, man's <----> women's, kang-nam <----> kang-buk, northern provinces <----> southern provinces, and many more, all in "one culture", although having their own and distinct value systems, life styles, and even language. I believe that we have a good starting point to overcome the "us <-> them" problem here.

On the other side: there was always an influx of foreign minorities, Chinese, Manchu, Mongols, Vietnamese, all of which have been assimilated, while leaving traces of the original cultures in their host culture.

The intense discussion about "multi-cultural Korea" can only be understood as a reaction to the "Danil Minjok" concept which was always strong as a reaction to times of national crisis. (Look also at the dates of the written/printed sources for the Dangun mythology...)
Anyway, just some thoughts.

> Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:24:12 -0800
> From: jsburgeson at yahoo.com
> To: koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com
> Subject: Re: [KS] Now On My Way to Meet Who?
> Dear Hilary --
> thanks for the response and link to your article, which I will have a closer look at over the weekend.
> I think that "multiethnic" would be a more apt term than "multicultural," if the dominant model in South Korea is largely unidirectional assimilation into the South Korean collective and culture.
> I gave a lecture on this topic myself several years ago in Seoul and Kwangju, and include the abstract here. I don't think I was the first to come up with the term "gendered multiculturalism," but I did arrive at it myself independently after long-term local observation. It's no coincidence, in my opinion, that the two most popular talk shows here over the years featuring non-South Koreans have been mainly comprised of young foreign females, and not men. In any case, here's a general outline of the lecture I gave, in late 2009:
> "These days we often hear in the South Korean media and from the South Korean government that Korea has entered a "New Age of Multiculturalism." The reasons for what I will call the Korean establishment's promotion of this idealized notion are complex, and for now I can only offer two primary causes or motivation here: First of all, the old national ideals of "Danil Minjok" and "Han Bando" (i.e., Reunification with the North) have come under widespread questioning in the past few years, and are no longer seen as realistic or desirable by many Koreans, and so a "Multicultural Korea" offers a positive alternative identity as the nation seeks to "rebrand" itself in today's globalized world. More to the point, this is simply a "good" international marketing strategy, as South Korea aims to attract more "multinational companies" and "international investment" here.
> "A second reason is driven by what we might call "gendered multiculturalism," specifically in response to the many "foreign brides," mostly from China and Southeast Asia, who have been coming to Korea since the late 1990s to marry Korean men, often older men in the countryside. These bicultural families, which presently number over 100,000, have in turn been raising a new generation of bicultural children, prompting the South Korean government to introduce a number of laws and policies in the past few years in support of such "multicultural families." Of course, from the 1950s and well into the 1990s, tens of thousands of "bicultural children" were born of Korean mothers and U.S. military service members, and quite a few more as the result of marriages between South Korean women and male native ESL teachers from Western countries, who have been coming to Korea in large numbers since the 1990s. However, the South Korean government traditionally felt no
> need to support such "multicultural families" at the official level, and the reason is fairly obvious: Gendered multiculturalism has only recently been embraced by the Korean establishment because it serves the interests of Korean men, which is to say the patriarchal structure here. This becomes even more apparent when we consider that the number of male migrant workers here from Southeast Asia and China is roughly four times that of "foreign brides" from these same countries, and yet the South Korean government continues to make it difficult for male migrant workers from developing countries to obtain permanent residency or citizenship here, and often they are deported in large numbers. Clearly, "multiculturalism" has a rather narrow meaning as far as official Korea is concerned, which is why I call it "gendered multiculturalism" in the service of Korean patriarchy."
> In my lecture, I sought to offer "an alternative formulation of multiculturalism here based not on ethnicity, since Korea will remain overwhelmingly homogenous ethnically speaking for the next several decades (reaching only 10% in 2050), but rather based on alternative values transcending race and ethnicity, which will ideally help Koreans better tolerate differences and diversity among themselves." I might note that although my Korean publisher made great efforts beforehand to promote the lecture to the local media – and it was presented both in Korean and English – not one Korean journalist, editor or producer bothered to attend in either Seoul or Kwangju, although large numbers of the general public did come (the lecture was in support of my last book, itself about "multiculturalism in Korea"). This would not seem to be terribly surprising, if indeed "multiculturalism" in Korea implies one-way assimilation, and as a consequence Koreans
> themselves, or more specifically Korean men, seek to maintain full control of the "narrative of multiculturalism" here.
> Cheers again,
> Scott Bug
> --------------------------------------------
> On Mon, 11/11/13, Hilary V. Finchum-Sung <finchumsung at snu.ac.kr> wrote:
> Subject: Re: [KS] Now On My Way to Meet Who?
> To: "J.Scott Burgeson" <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>, "Korean Studies Discussion List" <koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com>
> Date: Monday, November 11, 2013, 2:19 AM
> #yiv477253806 .yiv477253806Bold {font-weight:bold;}
> #yiv477253806 .yiv477253806Title
> {font-weight:bold;font-size:18px;color:#cc3300;}
> #yiv477253806 .yiv477253806Code {border:#8b4513 1px
> solid;padding-right:5px;padding-left:5px;color:#000066;font-family:'Courier
> New' , Monospace;background-color:#ff9933;}
> Dear List
> and Scott Bug:
> Just a quick response to
> Scott's thoughtful post. More specifically. I am
> responding to his questions regarding his
> interpretation of multiculturalism.
> On the
> surface, yes, multiculturalism does imply an acceptance of
> difference.  However, studies on multiculturalism in
> places such as the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, etc.
> reveal that in each location the meaning of multiculturalism
> is construed differently.
> There are
> many scholars who have done research on mutliculturalism
> (Han Geonsu, Andrew Kim, among others) in Korea and
> most would agree that the Korean brand of mc is one of
> assimilation. Multicultural programs at schools (of which my
> oldest child was a part) are aimed at teaching Korean,
> teaching 'multicultural' parents the fine art of
> making kimchi; essentially training non-Koreans (even
> children who are, technically and by nationality
> "Korean") to be Korean. Thus far, the focus of
> multicultural programs are of two general types: introducing
> foreign residents to Korean culture (free tours, prime seats
> at cultural events, etc)  and training members of
> 'multicultural families' to assimilate into Korean
> society. Members of the latter include families in which one
> spouse is foreign born as well as families of North Korean
> refugees.
> If you are interested, I will refer you
> to a recent article I published on the topic:
> 2012. "The
> Rainbow Chorus: Performing Multicultural Identity in South
> Korea." Seoul Journal of
> Korean Studies 25/1: 127-159.
> Sincerely,
> Hilary Finchum-Sung
> ---
> Original Message ---
> From :
> "J.Scott
> Burgeson"<jsburgeson at yahoo.com>
> To :
> "Korean Studies Discussion
> List"<koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com>
> Date : 2013/11/10 일요일 오후
> 3:19:52
> Subject : [KS] Now On My Way
> to Meet Who?
> I recently read
> Christopher K. Green and Stephen J. Epstein's "Now
> On My Way to Meet Who? South Korean
> Television, North Korean Refugees, and the Dilemmas
> of Representation" in the 14 Oct. 2013 edition of The
> Asia-Pacific Journal, and found it quite illuminating, as
> usual.
> One of the main themes of the essay is the
> "Otherizing" of North Korean female defectors on
> the show "Imangap," whereby the North is presented
> via their personal narratives as a quaint, exotic or
> pitiable backwater to the "superior" or far more
> modern, developed South (in a kind of hierarchized
> relationship). I don't normally watch much TV, Korean or
> otherwise, but I have seen a few installments of the show
> when in Southern hotel rooms, as well as odd clips on
> YouTube, and what struck me was how many of the woman had
> been thoroughly South Koreanized: Their North Korean accents
> muted or replaced with standardized South Korean accents,
> make-up styles overtly South Korean, and fashions as well.
> Having recently lived in NE China for several years, and
> interacting with dozens of young North Korean women there
> (none of them defectors, I should note, but there for
> various official or state-sanctioned reasons), the South
> Koreanizing of these women seemed obvious to me, and
> what I am wondering is if this struck anyone else who has
> seen the show as well? More to the point, is this so-called
> "South Koreanizing" at odds with the theme of
> "Otherizing" these women, or is there in fact a
> double "Otherizing" at work here, in the sense
> that these women have been encouraged to present themselves
> according to contemporary South Korean standards of beauty
> and speech, whether because of the producers or the broader
> South Korean society in which they now live, and are
> consequently further alienated from their own original, or
> primary, North Korean identities? Certainly there seems to
> be a process of standardizing and homogenizing at work here,
> and indeed I've also noticed that the American drummer
> of Busker Busker, Brad Moore, has undergone a similar kind
> of "South Koreanizing" subsequent to his
> appearance on the hit TV show "Superstar K": Thick
> oversized black glasses currently in vogue here in the
> South, an overly whipped South Korean
> hair style and a fashion sensibility that is distinctly
> South Korean well -- call it a rather conservative type of
> "indie preppy," if you like.
> In any case, if multiculturalism implies an
> acceptance and celebration of cultural difference, erasing
> or downplaying cultural differences would seem to be at odds
> with the much-heralded rise of "multiculturalism"
> in South Korea, would it not? Is "Imangap" simply
> another instance of South Korean
> "multiculturalism" actually being code for radical
> assimilation and incorporation into the South Korean
> collective?
> Scott Bug
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20131113/0b78c79c/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list