Friday, February 13, 2009


The Korea Herald's expat living section has a (translated) article written by a Grade 6 student whose mother is Japanese. Some excerpts:
Lately, I have been hearing people refer to my family as being "multicultural," but my family is just an ordinary family like any other. Up until now, there haven't been many cases where I have experienced particular difficulties due to the fact that my mother is Japanese. So why is there all of a sudden so much interest in differentiating between "normal" families and "multicultural" families?[...]

There are many kids who don't even know what a multicultural family is. When my teacher tried to explain the term "multicultural family" to the class, I felt really uncomfortable. Is there something unusual about multicultural families? I still don't get it. What makes me so special?[...]

I don't know whether I want to call my family "multicultural." But what I do know is that I want to work really hard and become a respectable person so that I can make people see that not only is our family not abnormal, but also that multicultural families are valuable to society and can help the world progress.

The article reminds me of an adult student I taught last summer. He traveled in Canada several years ago (working on farms in B.C.)(no, not those kind of farms) and that was where he met his future wife. The first time I met him he mentioned he was going to Japan for a vacation, and that he had been there many times, before finally revealing that his wife was Japanese, and he and his family were heading to Japan to visit his in-laws. It was interesting as he talked about the challenges his wife faced (similar to those of the girl's mother in the above article), especially regarding language. She spoke Korean fairly well, he said, but sometimes she would call him from the bank, say, to get his help translating something. He then looked at me and said, "I guess it must be difficult for you here sometimes, too."

One of the funnier moments was when another student in the class, a university student, asked him if his future in-laws opposed their marriage (they being Japanese and he being Korean, and all.) He replied, "My wife's parents didn't care. It was my parents who didn't want me to marry her." Somehow, I don't think that was the answer the other student was expecting.

While I imagine the children of most Japanese-Korean unions wouldn't stand out, acceptance is a slow process for those who do. The article linked to here also looks at such attitudes.

One of the first books published about a 'multicultural' family in Korea was Agnes Davis Kim's "I married a Korean," about which I've written more here (and scans of the illustrations from the book and information in Korean can be found here).

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