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International Marriage and Dilution of Culture

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International Marriage and Dilution of Culture

Postby trutherous » February 14th, 2010 6:35 am

I'm George.. nice to meet you all.

I started this post to share a piece called "International Marriage and Happiness, My Opinion" that I wrote in Korean a very long time ago. It was published in the Korean Central newspaper here in Los Angeles (link below) - I guess by posting this I am showing off a little, but I want to be clear that there were a lot of grammatical errors and spelling (맞춤법) mistakes in the original hand written draft I turned in to my instructor.

At the time I had lived in a Korean boarding house in LA for two years and was about to be married to my Korean sweetheart. I was taking a level 1 Korean class at LACC (Los Angeles Community College) just for the easy credits. In fact the class was so easy and the homework so boring (writing 가나다.. 50 times 등등) that I complained to the instructor (in Korean so 90% of the other students could not understand). He said if I wanted out of the homework assignments all I had to do was turn in a 5 page essay in Korean by the semester's end. He thought I wouldn't take him up on it but I did... "좋습니다. 제가 쓰겠읍니다. 아무 주제나 괜찮습니까?"

The instructor and his wife were extremely impressed by my essay, and since his wife worked for the Korean Central Daily, she asked permission to publish it. I agreed on two conditions: 1. That it be published in its entirety. 2. That editing would not change the intended meaning. It was published in two parts and I am placing a link to the photocopy here. Sorry if it is a bit hard to read, by the time I scanned it the paper was very old and worn. If it appears too small in your browser you can click/right click to enlarge or download. ... rticle.jpg

Many of my opinions have changed, but for the most part I still believe communication is the key element in any relationship.

In a country like the United States I think international marriage is no problem, after all, the US is somewhat founded on this principle. But I wonder if such marriage is a good idea for Korea. I worry a little about the dilution of Korean culture. Sometimes it seems the very things that attracted me to Korea in the first place are eroding away.
Last edited by trutherous on February 15th, 2010 3:03 am, edited 3 times in total.

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My response as a Non-Korean permanent resident of Korea

Postby Avelyn81 » February 14th, 2010 4:11 pm

I am a long term resident of Korea married to a Korean national. I am originally from the United States. You are entitled to your opinion and I understand your theory and perception of this matter; however, I couldn't disagree with you more. This post could last ages, so I'll make my response short. In a country as homogeneous and ethnocentric as Korea, I doubt that 1 percent of the population(foreigners, short term or long term) have a profound impact on the shaping of Korean society. First of all, a majority of those people don't speak Korean, so how can they express their ideas to the masses, and would the masses even listen to their opinion and cherish it over their own? Secondly, I would argue that someone who is married to a Korean and is living in Korea has somewhat assimilated themselves into society and is more influenced by their surroundings than vice versa. Lastly, I believe exposure to western media(Television, Movies, Entertainment, News, and most importantly the Internet) are greatly more influencial on Korean Society than several thousand Foreigners married to Koreans and living in Korea. On a side note, America has not always accepted Inter-racial marriage, in fact it was illegal until the late 1960's mainly to prohibit blacks and whites from marrying.

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Postby trutherous » February 14th, 2010 11:41 pm

HI Avelyn81,

Good reply. Though I get the feeling you didn't read the linked essay -which isn't about cultural dilution, and neither is this post really. I used a somewhat misleading title in order to engender participation, a 'hook' one might say.

I agree with you about the influence of western media and the Internet. Not to mention corporate western culture where Coca-Cola and Kentucky Chicken can walk through doors that political negotiation won't open.

Clarifying one point: I never meant that the US always welcomed international marriage, I meant that the US has always been made up of diverse cultures and peoples - with prejudice and struggles, nonetheless it has never been a single "homogeneous and ethnocentric" country. By the way, I use the term international marriage rather than interracial marriage because we are all one human race.

I am lifelong resident of the US, Los Angeles, Koreantown, and married to a Korean for the last 22 years... although I began studying Korean and living with Koreans about 3 years prior to getting married - you might say I was sort of adopted into the community... long story.

My first trip to Korea was in 1984, I already spoke a lot of Korean then so basic communication was not much of a problem. I stayed a few months and then returned to the US, where I had been living with a couple of Korean families together in one house.

Life gets busy, marriage - kids - work - etc.. After 25 years I returned last October to visit the land that now seemed like a mother to me... I'm still in shock. In many places there was more English than in Los Angeles Koreatown. Many things had improved but I got a strange feeling - a feeling like when I look at the plastic tomahawks and war bonnets in the shops along the I-40 going through Arizona.

Have a happy new year and happy Valentine's Day -- a bit late. I envy your stay in Korea - wish it was me.


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Postby Avelyn81 » February 15th, 2010 4:22 am

Thanks for the courteous reply. I understand your concern, I'm sure that Korea has changed a lot between 1984 and now. As the world becomes more inter-connected, changes like you have mentioned are inevitable for better or worse. When the 3 kingdoms period ended and Shilla absorbed Baekje and Koguryo, those two cultures lost a lot of unique aspects including possibly seperate languages. As someone who speaks Korean and Japanese( I lived in Japan for many years before coming here), I think the influence of the Japanese occupation of Korea between 1910-1945 which was an important developmental period technologically and industrially in world history had a profound impact on Korean culture as well, although it is downplayed. Although cultures are changing constantly, I don't believe that Korea's cultural heritage is in any significant danger. What I worry about is what type of metamorphosis Korea will take when and if North and South Korea reunify; not from an ideological standpoint, but from a cultural one. Those two countries have changed so much over the past 60 years, that I don't think they would feel comfortable with each other.

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Postby trutherous » February 15th, 2010 5:48 am

I wonder about the same thing. There are many factors that make reunification much more difficult than what happened in Germany.

I'm happy to see you know your Korean history. There are many Koreans here that do not know as much, mostly young people.


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Postby Happypie » June 6th, 2010 12:55 am

I'm actually the product of an international marriage, both my parents are Caucasian but grew up in different countries, even I have grown up in a different country to them. My Father is Australian and my Mother is Swiss, but I was born and raised in England.

I think what most defines my culture is where I was raised and also my language, my mother decided to not teach my sisters and I any German, so I don't feel as close to my Swiss roots. As a child I always preferred seeing my father’s relatives because I could actually speak to them. But I don't consider myself the same as my parents, as you grow up you make your own identity.

The thing that defines our generation is that we are more connected, I can listen to Korean pop music and watch Korean drama, so now I pick up Korean cultures and behaviour's. Don't you now act more Korean since learning about it? A hybrid of your own culture and those you have experienced, that’s how our generation is.

I don't think we will ever truly lose our home cultures but every generation is different from their parent’s one, we're creating a new identity as a "world" culture.

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Postby julia3202 » February 5th, 2011 5:56 pm

I'd say the smaller family size and modern mobility are going to diminish the sense of community in Korea, much as it has elsewhere. It happens in waves throughout any culture that industrializes.

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Postby trutherous » February 6th, 2011 5:36 pm

Wow -- this post is still alive?
When I started this post I hoped the controversial aspect of the topic would engender some discussion, but the interest was minimal.

Anyway, I think there is not any true or pure Korean 'culture' that remains to be preserved in these modern times. The last purely Korean culture, based on ancient tradition, Buddhist values, and Confucian ethics, seems to have ended along with the Chosun dynasty when the Japanese annexed Korea under colonial rule. However, this last "true" Korean culture was never as glorious or romantic as portrayed by some historians, owing to the fact that it was responsible for creating a huge social rift and rampant discrimination between the elite (royalty/nobleman scholar class -양반) and the peasant class (상놈). The resulting oppression and poverty that often arose from this so-called 'higher culture' was at times abominable. After being liberated from 36 years of brutal Japanese domination (8/15/1945 광복절), Korea (under pressure from Russia and the US) adopted more modern forms of government, and while political ideology and economic philosophy differs in the north and south along the lines of foreign influence, it has become clear that neither side is attempting to return to a monarchy ruled by Confucian ethics (삼강오륜 三綱五倫). Over the past 55 years, especially in the south, Korea appears to have become a culture of "adopt and incorporate whatever works."

So with globalization and foreign influence will Koreans every lose their uniqueness as a people? My guess would be "yes," probably so. In my most recent visit to Korea I discovered that nearly half the youth I came in contact with, had no idea (or were confused about) whose picture was on the 1000won and 5000won currency -- even while handling this money on a daily basis. Also, so much English is being incorporated into the Korean language that it is even conceivable that in 100-200 years a history book for Korean primary school students may be written entirely in English and contain a chapter stating "And in the ancient days, our ancestors once used our own writing system called Hangul, created by King SeJong."

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Hello George, Avelyn81, Happypie and Julia,

Postby timandyou » February 7th, 2011 2:30 am

Hello all - George, Avelyn81, Happypie and Julia,
"Thank you so much for the comment, (special "thanks" to George for bringing up the discussion)"
It's a social matter and issue so that I must be careful with my comment.
What's more, I don't know your (George, Avelyn81, Happypie) situation really... How possible do I know!!!?

All I know is this (this is from my experience)
1. (it doesn't matter who they are, what their nationalities are) people tend to be nicer or kinder to those who are "the have", "the cool", "the well-educated", "the strong physically & financially"...
2. (it doesn't matter who they are, what their nationalities are) people tend to be rude or ignorant or mean to those who are "do not have", "the ugly", "not educated", "the weak physically & financially"...
3. (not all but many people) judge others by their 'appearance' - what they have, their jobs, their money, their certifications, efc...

So... what can we do about that behavior above...???
"Nothing!" It happened when I was elementary, middle, high school, even in the army in Korea.
It happened I lived in Canada - my second home country.
It's happening to me in Tokyo right now - my work place.
And all I know is this - I can't change people but I can change myself ONLY!
All the pains, all the complaints, all the unfairness, all the mistreats... yes, we have a lot to say about those...
However, before doing so, look ourselves first deep inside of us...
I do not expect people to treat me nicer today or tomorrow... but I do ONLY expect myself to be NEVER looked down by others, by doing so... I protect myself, my future, my family, and my destiny.
Thanks all for the thoughtful comments,
새해 복 많이 받으세요~! "Happy New Year!!!" best,
Tim 8)

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