Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years

Living in Wonju South Korea, These Many Long Years: Version 2.0!

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm not Korean!

와 멋지다!
An ironic statement I hear from a lot of Koreans is just how Korean I am.

I eat Korean food, I speak Korean fairly well, I understand a lot of the culture, traditions and history.

This morning a coworker marveled at how well I understood the intricacies of how to sell a product to Korean housewives.  I made solid suggestions on product design and packaging.  Wow you are Korean he opined.

I wish I had a chonner every time someone said it; I'd retire.

The issue is that people confuse understanding and respect for complete assimilation and exultation.

This is where they are wrong.

I usually respond by uttering a small laugh and say no only 40%.  I don't mention how if push came to shove, I know that I wouldn't be considered part of the clan.  Nor would I want to be.

It is true that I've changed considerably in behavior and attitude.  You can't live in a place for over ten years without adopting mannerisms, behaviors and in some cases attitudes.

But Korea is a slippery place for the waeg.  I don't know a single long term waeg who will say that they have been completely accepted, even if you take Korean citizenship and invest hours learning the language.  Too many barriers to simple stuff.  Even if you take citizenship, you will run into walls that prevent you from rising.  I know a few guys who have taken citizenship and their stories are interesting.

I can't go to that last extreme.  While I love my adopted country, my home country will always keep a spot deep in my heart.  It is who I am after all.

So I wonder why they say that I am Korean, why they marvel at the fact that I am simply doing what any immigrant or guest worker should: show respect for your adopted country.  Is it so hard to imagine that someone from another country may actually consider Korean stuff worthy to learn about?

That however is the subject of a different post.

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