Tuesday, 31 July 2007

hurting ourselves

I finally began actual research today!

After catching up with e-mails this morning, I took the subway to the outskirts of Seoul to meet with a professor who I was told is a "rare specialist on this topic in Korea." That I found him at all was a stroke of pure luck. With no solid leads for my research at the end of June, I started e-mailing dozens of professors in Asian American Studies and Korean Studies programs across the U.S. , trying to find anyone who knew something about mixed-race issues in Korea. A chain of four or so e-mails("oh, you should try e-mailing so-and-so"..."oh, actually, I don't really know anything about this; try so-and-so") finally led me to this guy.

As it turns out, this "rare specialist," does not actually specialize in mixed-race issues, but rather in migrant issues. But then again, given how invisible these people are, I guess even having a passing interest(and he certainly has much more than that) in mixed-race issues makes one a "specialist" here. We chatted for about an hour, and I learned a lot about the lay of the mixed-race land:

To the extent that there is a mixed-race "movement" in Korea(I put movement in quotations because their numbers are so small and their power virtually nonexistent), there are two factions. At the top of these factions are two men in their 50s or 60s.

It's unlikely that I'll get to meet with of these men, Park Geun-sik, while I'm here. Park is the face of the Korea America Association("America" being the key word), a decades-old private association of Korean and American(both white and black) descent. This particular faction of mixed-race Koreans takes great pride in tracing their heritage to the, "greatest country in the world;" they're not from those, "poor Asian countries," like other mixed folks. Learning about their attitudes reminded me of an e-mail exchange I had with a friend discussing how race and gender played into a decision I was making at the time. In one e-mail, he reminded me, "women can do as much damage to women as men have. (same thing for minorities...)"

Oh, so I'll also elaborate on what I meant when I said that the mixed-race movement has virtually no political power. Park's Korea America Association has no financial resources and meets out of his home; from what I understood, it is more discussion forum than political advocacy group.

I'm hopeful that I'll get to meet with Park's "rival," Bae Gi Chul, during my time here. Bae left the Korea America Association to start a pan-multicultural organization, one that includes, I presume, Kosians, migrant workers, and any other non-Koreans living in Korea. He's trying to add up the small numbers that compose each individual "non-Korean" population and create an actual movement, something more than the same-old ad hoc discussions in some guy's house that have been going on for decades.


chicago transplant said...

Hi there,

I just came upon your blog when I googled "Park, Geun Sik"...I'm also looking for him and am very interested in the mixed-race issue in Korea - particularly perspectives from those Amerasians born from the 1950s - 1980s. Although I'm doing a more open "identity crisis" study on Korea, the mixed-race issue is very much at the core of my research. Please contact me, I'd love to hear more about your experiences!

chicago transplant said...

ah, you can check out my current blog at http://boraroks.wordpress.com