So, The Korean did a post to answer questions about black folks working in Korea. Granted, I've been here less than a year but I felt it was pretty much on point. I was a bit disappointed that the post descended from the topic at hand to something that some weird, trolly white guy wanted to talk about (the flaws of Korean nationalism) as it always does whenever a topic concerning black folks is brought up in a "non-black" forum. This same guy--as per the course--suggests that 'people of color' should avoid Korea in favor of China or Japan. Korea might be an awful place for a bunch of reasons but not in particular for being black...

Here's my full length response to the post since I only left a truncated version there:

[Can we delete all the 'angry white man' comments already?]

Back to the topic at hand...

Dear reader,
Have you been black all your life?

If you answered "Yes", to the above question, you are indeed prepared to face 'racism' in Korea!

What you will experience in Korea is not much different--and in my personal opinion--less annoying, than what you would experience in the United States. Unfortunately, guys like Scott are living and working in Korea, and they've brought all their baggage with them.

Still, unless you're from a multicultural mixing pot like SoCal, NYC or The Bay, you're probably used to guys like him. (Otherwise, you may want to read Expat Jane's post on Ugly Americans to get up to speed.) For the most part, racism isn't what you should be worried about, it's the culture clash you'll have with your employers that might wear you down...

If in fact you do speak a little Korean, people will probably look at you like you have two heads before they break into applause or something equally silly. I once exchanged names with a Korean guy at a club and spoke a few basic phrases (nice to meet you, etc.) and he flat out kissed me. Granted I think he had taken in a fair share of liquid courage before that...but you get the point. Korean Koreans are AMAZED that any non-Korean can speak the language at all. (Perhaps this is because of 'racialized thinking'.) So your efforts will not go unnoticed.

So basically being black, people will have it in the back of their heads that you can sing, dance, play basketball and maybe even rap. (Is that new?) I've been earnestly asked about all of the aforementioned except for rapping...and that was in New England! I'm far less annoyed with ignorant Koreans than ignorant white folks in the US because being in the US, there's no excuse. I don't like playing 'black ambassador' when I'm in my home country. Here, that's to be expected.

As for work options, I'm only aware of one black person in Korea who scored a pretty prominent position at a Korean company, Leslie Benfield who works for KOTRA doing editing. She's fully bilingual. She was on the 'Foreign Beauties' show for quite a while and was made a spokesperson for friendship with North Korea or something or other. At the same time, I've met an Indian guy out here who's an engineer and a Singaporean Chinese guy working in international shipping logistics. I'm not sure whether or not they're employed at Korean companies but those random jobs do exist for those who are qualified.

lol Yeochin to working on Saturdays. My school made up for it by asking me to do afterschool classes 4 days a week. Now that my fragile, American body is run down from 10 weeks of 11-hour days, everyone's freaking out over my "health." he he. Even though it sounded crazy to begin with, I was real cool about it when I first got here. One nasty flu and stomach ulcer symptoms later, I think they'll take my request for fewer hours more seriously next semester.

I won't sugarcoat the fact that more than one friend who works with young kids has had to endure "gorilla," "brown=poop," or "black=ugly" comments. (In none of the incidents was it directed towards the teacher.) At the same time, the little brats have been apologetic when confronted. I remind myself that this is coming from a country of kids who regularly call each other "monkey" and variations of poop are used as 'cute' pet names. Before the US elections, a friend asked one of her elementary students, "Why would you like John McCain to win the election?" to which he answered to her face, "Because I hate black people," and walked off. Well, hot damn! Was that kid raised by David Duke? Those moments do suck. Still, there's nothing about that mindset particularly unique to Korea. I'd more expect to hear something like that in the States.

As for me, when you're out here doing the expat thing, people always ask, "How long are you gonna stay?" At this point, my answer is as long as it's fun. As long as I find the idosyncracies of Korea amusing, it's worth me being this far away from home. When that seriously changes, I'm out. I wouldn't recommend raising brown babies here but neither would I recommend New England or the Deep South. So everything is absolutely relative. This is the piece of the globe I should be inhabiting at this time.

7 comments:

Miss Fluff said...

Interesting topic.

I've never visited Korea. But, I would imagine that there would be some shock and curiosity, at first, for the people living there. I remeber visitng Japan, and always having little children, look up and stare at me. Even the babies, seemed to.

It's not easy being an outsider. But, being an outsider, and black always seems to stir up a debate for people. Can't we just be, live, and work wherever....just like anyone else?

Apparently, with issues like this facing us, it's questionable.

Roboseyo said...

"How long are you gonna stay?" At this point, my answer is as long as it's fun.

--that's one of the best answers I've heard to that question.

Good post. Thanks.

cocoluvsjapan said...

Wow, this is such a cool blog do you find korean men to be attractive by the way?

t-hype said...

hey coco,
i've seen a decent number of korean guys that are THE hottness. overcoming korean culture is another thing altogether...

at this point in my life, i want a permanent relationship that will lead to marriage and that (as opposed to a hook up) is a bit unlikely with your typical korean guy.

i'm curious to know how things are in japan tho...

cocoluvsjapan said...

Miss Fluff, I love your comment it's not easy and esp. if you're black. Yeah, Japan can be tough to live at times esp. since you're always the outsider and another mark is being black. But hey when you go to a nightclub here a hip hop one all eyes are on you!

The guys here in Japan are pretty attractive in my opinion, but weak. They don't like to fight when they need to and I hate that! It's hard to explain everything about Japan in one full comment though. But here I think they're use to forienger but they might be at that stage where they're starting to get annoyed with it. Sometimes, you'll have days where you'll feel fine and other times you'll feel unwanted. The one thing about here is that it is a fashion conscious country. Everyday is a look good day wear sweats and prepare for total awkardness!

Juanita said...

Quoting from your blog...

"Dear reader,
Have you been black all your life?If you answered "Yes", to the above question, you are indeed prepared to face 'racism' in Korea!"

I agree with you! I feel that fifteen years in Virgnia has prepared me for South Korea! Oh, the stories I can tell you!

Before I left, people came out the woodwork giving me reasons not to go to South Korea. Since I was known as the shy, quiet girl, people thought I would cave in and change my mind, but I boarded the plane anyway. I figured that things couldn't be any worse than what I had to put up with in Virginia.

Now that I've been here for over two months, I'm enjoying myself here. When I tell people that I'm having the time of my life, they're usually shocked, especially guys. When I'm out and about, I feel rather safe here and people generally don't bother me. (Some of them stare, but that's about it.) I've made some great friends who are thrilled that I'm interested in their country, language, and culture. They don't seem to care that I'm black, either.

Yes, I heard all the rumors, and I admit I was scared to death. I almost didn't apply for a job here! I'm glad I took a chance, and now I'm living a more exciting life!

Juanita said...

I forgot to add something! Thank you so much for posting information on Leslie Benfield! I was wondering what happened to her? I first saw her on the "Chat with Beauties" show and was amazed at her fluency in Korean. Seeing what she has accomplished and where she is now makes me want to hit the books even harder!

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