Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pearls before bloodlines

[Update at bottom]

While researching something else, I came across a December 2002 Donga Ilbo article about Hines Ward, predating Korean society going ga-ga over him by over 3 years. Now, the Donga's website has generally been the most unimpressive of the Korean Media's English language websites and the translations could often be quite bad (for example Hines Ward's first name is never used, which might be fine (really?) in Korean, but not in English). Anyways, one of the redeeming features of the Donga Ilbo site is that each article in English has a link to the Korean language article which inspired it. It's interesting glancing at the Korean article in this case to see how it was translated.

For example (let's ignore the spelling/grammar here):

"On appearance, he is an Africa-America. Part of him, however, contains the Korean heritage."

This is translated from "외모는흑인이지만 워드에게는 한국인의 피가 흐른다." "In appearance, he is black, but Korean blood flows through Ward['s veins]."

Interesting, the focus on blood. In this post I mentioned Sin Chae-ho's pioneering historiography 100 years ago in which he focused on the minjok, or Korean race/people as the subject of Korea's history, linking the minjok to the mythical progenitor Tangun. Not mentioned in that post was that he used the jokbo, or the family genealogical record, as the model for tracing the "one blood" race of Koreans back to Tangun. Perhaps you can detect the influence of this idea in a 14 year-old ethics textbook (translated by the Metropolitician here (another worthwhile post is here)):
The minjok can be defined as having been passed down the same bloodline, using a common language, and that which has lived on between a common history and culture that is the basis of a consciousness of a community of 'us' that constitutes the group. Therefore – just like how we are constituted from the same blood as that of our ancestors – the minjok is made up of the concepts of family, ethnic group, or tribe, we sometimes point to the race and call it a large family.
Korea's ethics textbooks are to change, however - in part due to Hines Ward's first visit to Korea after being named MVP in the Superbowl in 2006 - and North Korea, which has taken these ideas to frightening extremes, was not happy:
The words themselves take a knife to the feeling of our people, but even more serious is that this anti-national theory of “multiethnic, multiracial society” has already gone beyond the stage of discussion. Already, they’ve decided that from 2009, content related to “multiracial, multiethnic culture” would be included in elementary, middle and high school textbooks that have until now stressed that Koreans are the “descendents of Dangun,” “of one blood line” and “one race,” and to change the terms “families of international marriage” and “families of foreign laborers” to “multicultural families.” This is an outrage that makes it impossible to repress the rage of the people/race.
The North Koreans are better known for this outburst two years ago:
The North's delegation leader Maj. Gen. Kim Yong-chul started off an unfortunate thread by quipping, "Since the climate in the South is warmer, the farmers must be hard at work." His South Korean counterpart Maj. Gen. Han Min-gu of the South replied, "The population of the farming communities is actually falling, and many bachelors from such areas marry women from Mongolia, Vietnam and the Philippines."

Kim reportedly grimaced and snapped, “Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance -- I am concerned that our singularity will disappear.” Instead of contradicting him, the South Korean delegation said such dilution of the bloodline was “but a drop of ink in the Han River,” adding this would cause no problems “if we all live together." But this failed to mollify the North Korean. "Since time immemorial, our nation has been a land of abundant beauty. Not even one drop of ink must be allowed to fall into the Han River,” Kim thundered.

I was told that the media didn't mention (or it wasn't translated) that the North Korean eventually conceded that Korean blood would 'improve' these other races, but I'm not sure if that's true or not. At any rate, it was the final sentence of the original Donga Ilbo article that got my attention:

"Anyway, Ward is also a proud Korean."

The Korean sentence? "흑진주 워드도 역시 한국인이다."
"Anyway, black pearl Ward is also a Korean."

[Update - I knew I'd heard the phrase 'black pearl' before - thanks Brian]

1 comment:

Brian said...

Christ. I'm sure you remember the black pearl Venus Williams.

Interesting, word verification is "recoil."