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Koreans and Asian Race Relations, USDM K-Rage

OK, I’m going to have to be careful, since I have Korean friends, and I don’t want to offend. Well, even if I didn’t have any, I still wouldn’t want to offend. I should probably play it safe and say nothing, but hey, I’m an honest, blunt SOB, so I’m gonna write this. I’m a firm believer in open, sensible discussion. Yes, yes, yes, I know I may get some flak from my liberal friends for not doing proper scientific research, but this is more of a reflection mixed in with some musings about race relations based on my personal experiences and those around me; my sphere. I need to write a post on stereotypes, but basically I’m of the opinion that they are simply poor laymen statistics with unpredictable variance, backed by no research, but instead, by pure, localized observation. “It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck…. SURPRISE, it’s not a duck! Oooooooh!” But once in awhile, it is a duck.

For the record, if it’s not clear already, I like Koreans, I like Korean food, I like Korean culture. In fact, I hope to learn Korean someday, and maybe visit South Korea.  Hell, even just saying “I like <ethnicity>” sounds prejudiced to me.

Having said that…USDM K-Rage amongst young Koreans, does it exist?  I’m going to stop with the PC-ness right about now, but yes, I realize even if it does exist, it doesn’t mean everyone has it, blah blah blah, standard issue disclaimer, always is never always. Never is never never.

About a week ago, I met some people at an informal tennis get-together. We went to Red Mango afterward (Korean-created btw, irony for later), and we started talking about ethnic foods, which lead to the ethnicities themselves. One of them, a young’n fresh out of HS, a young whipper-snapper who shall remain nameless, then made a joking comment that he didn’t like Koreans. He quickly apologized, emphasized he was just kidding, etc. etc. Don’t be hard on the lad, he’s truly a nice guy. I feel bad for even mentioning him, despite the anonymity, but he got me thinking.

I guess I didn’t know how to respond. My self, as I am now today, immediately red flagged the comment, where I may not have had before (but more on that later). My mind started racing. At first, I was gearing up for some verbal throw-down. Possible responses were coming up as all my historical knowledge came to bare. Then I got a hold of myself. “He’s a young one, you know how kids are.” Besides, if I did start spewing out stuff, I imagined information overload on his part. Picture Vader telling Luke he’s Luke’s father. “Nooooooooooo! It’s not trueeeee!”

Then my brain went into over-analysis mode, which it oft likes to do of its own accord. “Hmm, he’s Japanese. It’s possible he’s familiar with the current international politics between the Koreas and Japan, as well as past history. Perhaps his parents told him some stuff, possibly biased. Need more info.” Then I thought. “Dude (did my mind really address myself as ‘dude’? I don’t know), he just graduated HS. He probably isn’t familiar with politics at all, much less international politics. A lot of my friends my age have no f’n idea.”

Which then lead me to realize that….*I* used to think like him when I was in high school. Oh shit. Danger, Will Robinson! Yes, I admit it, back in grade school, I had a generally negative opinion of Koreans, particularly the males. And it was a sentiment that a probably statistically significant amount of my other Asian friends shared as well. No, I wasn’t hanging around a bunch of Asian KKK folk; it was a diverse group of Asians, who didn’t all know each other, and yet somehow had a common sentiment. I don’t know how many will remember or admit to it today. Actually, I just randomly asked one out of the blue:

I wasnt exposed to much koreans when i was young
in highschool yea, and they were kinda assholes

Me:the chicks weren’t too bad

no its pretty much all of them
if u werent korean they wouldnt be nice to you
unless u knew them or something
in highschool this older senior korean dude was prick
until he got to know me
then we were cool
cuz i joined his [Counterstrike] clan

The video game binds them!

So “Cool Tennis Dude” really got me wondering, “Where did these sentiments come from? Do they still persist today in grade schools (and possibly beyond)? Was ‘Cool Tennis Dude’ just going through similar experiences in his school days?” 1 week later (yesterday in fact), I was at Pink’s Hot Dog stand, and a group of Caucasians and one Asian girl were talking about how they didn’t like Asians (at least, that’s what I thought I had heard;  I didn’t want to tell them off for something heard out of context. And if I heard right, I think it was the Asian girl who was saying it all, which complicated matters). My friend (half-Japanese) actually heard more: “Asians have anger issues. Especially Koreans. Nobody likes Koreans.” How sad. Then I remembered one of my Chinese coworkers who had just graduated college at the time. She had expressed something similar one day at work. “They’re scary.”

So what exactly is/was the general gripe? Generally speaking, the stereotype was that Koreans were assholes, particularly the males. The females, to me, at least, were fine. Seriously, I’m going through all the Korean male kids I knew in grade school, and every single one of them was an asshole.  Wanna-be thugs. Sure, every ethnicity had the wanna-be thug subset, but even the fucking nerdy Korean dudes were assholes!  Hell if someone told me the reason it was like that back then was because there was some secret Korean Militia forming, I might half believe it. The only nice male Korean friend I had was in 3rd-5th grade. Then I transferred districts. 2-3 years later, he transferred in as well. Holy shit balls, he was totally different -> Asshole! He wasn’t just the same guy, who became snarky, he truly seemed like a completely new person to me. My friend who had also transferred earlier remarked the same thing. Wtf happened? We’ll never know. It’s one of those unsolved mysteries.

It wasn’t until I went to college where I met normal, sane Korean dudes (and super smart Korean women, woo woo! Haejin the mathematician, I wonder what happened to her). Maybe the males matured. But now that I think about it, the sane dudes were almost always immigrants. KDM (Korean Domestic Market) Koreans. That’s a car joke. KDM essentially would mean, built or available only in Korea. So, from my personal experience, the USDM (United States Domestic Market) Korean males tended to be assholes, whereas the KDM Koreans tended not be. Fascinating. See somewhat related musings regarding Jessica Ho.

So is there something there? It could be just sheer coincidence that people across multiple cities and multiple decades somehow ended up with the same sentiments. If not, what is the source of the hostility? Not enough love from Papa? Eh… Maybe Papa was not home much? Hmm…I’ve seen worst case examples of males like that, and it doesn’t quite fit the bill either. Did pappy bring the smack-down? Hmm maybe. Or did father-dearest give the broodlings (Starcraft joke, wah wah) a history lesson a little too early? This is my best guess, and it truly is just a pure guess. “Japan invaded Korea many times. They were hard and cruel.” “China was not fair with Korea in the past. They are pushy and bossy” (a sentiment many countries feel towards America these days, eh?). It’s that or, “Koreans are superior. NEVER FORGET THAT, BOY!” None of that really explains the disconnect between USDM and KDM. I have no idea, but maybe my previous link will shed light on that. This is all just musings anyway.

So while in college I met a Korean girl (USDM type), and the topic somehow came to the history of Japan and Korea, she bitterly replied, “Yes, I know what they did!” To be honest, I think she has every right to be upset about that. You wouldn’t decry a Jewish person for being upset towards Nazis. But now I wonder how early she was introduced to that knowledge. Looking back, I realize now my parents were very aware of atrocities committed during World War 2, but they largely shielded it from me, and kept silent on it. I’d hear the occasional obscure remark from my dad, “Those Japanese people are obsessed with sex!” But for the most part, they were silent. “Oh you like a Japanese girl? That’s nice.”

I eventually did learn about Japanese atrocities on my own, at around 15 years of age, maybe younger. It was inevitable I suppose. I had developed an eager interest in Japanese history. The new information definitely sparked rage in me, perhaps similar to what these Korean dudes were going through. It wasn’t so much the atrocities themselves that enraged me, although there are some really twisted examples that would make their Nazi allies shy away, but it was the general level of denial by contemporary Japanese. Totally blew my mind.  Do a compare and contrast vs Germany and Japan post-war, totally different. It took a long time for me to calm down about it.  Now I enjoy running circles around Japanese nationalist logic.

So that’s my ghetto theory. If you’ve got one, share. I’m wondering how a USDM Korean would respond to this. I should ask some of my friends.

And please, for the sake of the kittens, don’t have USDM K-Rage.

If you’ve been offended by this post, I apologize.

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2 Responses to “Koreans and Asian Race Relations, USDM K-Rage”

  1. Justin Liu says:

    Good story and good points. I thought I was imagining things at first/stereotyping but after a while I had to look for answers.
    regard this
    “I eventually did learn about Japanese atrocities on my own…It took a long time for me to calm down about it.”

    Yeah, it’s a wonder that this doesn’t get more attention considering how hard the German government came down on pro-nazi behavior post war. Still I hope that one day chinese people in general can let go and make peace. (my family was from an area that the Japanese ran their anti-guerrilla campaign of “three alls” “Kill All”, “Burn All” and “Loot All”. )

  2. Jarrod says:

    Justin touches on why other Asian countries are so hostile towards Japan. On one hand it seems wrong to hold the current generation accountable for the actions of one that’s pretty much dying off right now, but on the other, many see the modern Japan as complicit/condoning its past war crimes. Nazi Germany was arguably more criminal than Japan (at least in scale), but owning up to that history has done a lot to disassociate modern Germany from Nazi Germany. On the other hand, Japan’s official government position has been analogous to Holocaust denial–comfort women were 100% willing, Rape of Nanking didn’t happen, and Pearl Harbor was self-defense against American aggression. (At least, it did when I was interested enough to do the research a few years back. Things may have changed since.) I think the rest of Asia wouldn’t be unwilling to forgive Japan if it admitted its past mistakes, but Japan’s alternate denials and justifications shows that it is, at best, unrepentent, and at worst, biding its time to try again. Until then, you have this strange dissonnance between the pressure to associate with one of the most culturally and economically influential nations in the region, and this festering anger.

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