Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Wanted: Allies

Since I began conducting interviews at the start of my third week here, I've been feeling drained of life, energy, emotion. While I haven't had much luck finding interviewees, those I have found have a lot to day, interviews typically lasting two hours, and even two-and-a-half on one occasion.

I've been conducting interviews with for sub-populations:
-mixed-race Koreans
-mixed-race Korean-American expatriates
-Korean college students(re: their attitudes about race and multiculturalism)
-service providers that work with mixed-race Koreans

And, the stories I'm getting from all four have made me feel trapped.

On Saturday, I interviewed two young men, one of mixed white/Korean heritage; the other, of mixed black/Korean heritage.

"We don't think we've experienced very much racism," they told me early in the interview.

But, when we discussed, later, why they wanted to move to U.S., I probed:

"Would you want to eventually come back to Korea?"

"No," they answer, "there's no opportunity for us to succed here. Korean society will only care about us if we become celebrities."

And there was also the mixed-race Korean-American activist I had lunch with. He moved here seven years ago, changed his names from American to Korean, and has been building a life here and doing what he can to empower the native mixed-race population.

"I don't really feel like I have many allies here," he told me over bi bim bap.

"...how many do you have?"

*Long, long awkward pause*


"...one organization?"

*Long, long awkward pause*

"One person," he answers, "...and, actually, she lives in Okinawa [Japan]."

What's become clear to me is that there is a political and social agenda to erase Korea's mixed-race population. It's why I've had such a hard finding mixed-race people(over the age of 18) to interview. It's why the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, with a team of 10 researchers, could only identify 50 mixed-race people(many under 18) during a seven-month study it conducted in 2003.

Why this erasure?

In this society that celebrates its, “unified bloodline,” mixed-race people embody the disruption of that bloodline--they are living legacies of the sexual exploitation of Korean women by foreign men. And Korean society just doesn't want to deal with the way it is complicit in this exploitation. It would rather ship these swarthy babies to the U.S. for adoption and create a social climate in which people of mixed-race who have the misfortune of growing up here can't possibly imagine leading fulfilling lives in Korea, yearning desperately to immigrate to the U.S. at first chance, or exiling themselves to lives of social isolation.

The reason I've been feeling so down for the past couple weeks, I've realized, is because there is movement here before. I was not working on any more sunny of an issue during the 10 weeks I spent in Washington, D.C. before arriving in Seoul. But, I was part of a tight-knit, hard-working activist community. Here, there is only erasure and silence.


Latoya Peterson said...

Hello Ma-keu (Mark),

My name is Latoya Peterson, and I edit the blog Racialicious. Can you please drop me an email when you get a chance?



amrevolutions said...


I can see that you've spent a lot of time doing some serious soul searching, and you have an impressive aware of race and identity, which was no doubt thrust upon you by being a person of mixed race in a complicated world.

With this in mind, I'd like to reach out to you. Please contact me at amrevolutions @gmail.com - and let's open up a dialogue. You haven't updated your blog in a long time, but I'm hopeful you'll read this and reach out to me.

Thanks, and I wish you luck...