Seoul Journal; Casanovas, Beware! It Is Dangerous for Non-Koreans
Seoul Journal; Casanovas, Beware! It Is Dangerous for Non-Koreans

By Nicholas D. Kristof

    Feb. 2, 1998

She had been a 21-year-old Korean college pupil, in which he ended up being an English teacher from Canada, and so they had been ''just friends'' whom often had a dinner together. She talked about the relationship to her moms and dads.

That ended up being a huge error. The moms and dads, horrified that their child might forever destroy your family's reputation by dating a foreigner, hurriedly forced her to transfer in the center of the college 12 months up to a college in the other end for the nation.

While that could have now been a bit extreme, the response underscores the profound anxieties right right here about romances between Korean females and international males. Such romances are getting to be more noticeable since the range young Us americans surviving in South Korea keeps growing, in addition to problem produces sensitivities that are enormous the 37,000 American troops stationed right right here.

Just a couple years back, a soldier that is american touched the behind of a Korean girl -- their spouse -- tripped a brawl that resulted in their arrest and also to denunciations into the press in regards to the United states army threat to Korean ladies. Many years before that, A us sergeant-major ended up being beaten to death by way of a Korean guy whom objected towards the United states escorting A korean gf.

Interracial relationships really are a issue that is sensitive numerous nations, but specially therefore in Southern Korea. Such romances provide a screen in to the culture, for they touch several of the most painful and sensitive nerves within the psyche that is korean associated with nationwide identification, to attitudes toward foreigners also to ideals in regards to the purity of females.

''I would prefer to subside with my gf, and I also wonder if her family members would ever accept me personally,'' mused Frank A. Dressler, a 36-year-old United states that has been venturing out having a woman that is korean Seoul for just two years. ''Her family members nevertheless does not understand we occur.''

To be certain, your family did when obtain an inkling, while the response wasn't promising. The parents locked the gf when you look at the home for 10 times, telling her to get in touch with unwell at her task. They alternated interrogations with lectures.

''They stated, 'There should be no blood that is mixing our house,' '' recalled the lady, whom insisted that she never be identified. They warned her that any love by having a foreigner will never just destroy her very own wedding leads but would additionally ensure it is more burdensome for her bro and sibling to marry.

''If We have a boyfriend that is foreign then it really is form of a poor point on our entire family,'' the girl noted -- talking in Mr. Dressler's home. That she had no foreign boyfriend, she has continued the romance, in great secrecy although she lied to her parents, insisting.

''Sometimes I just desire that Frank had been Korean,'' she sighed.

A woman that is korean holds fingers having a Western guy dangers being occasionally harangued, called a ''whore,'' and even slapped or spat upon. This really is becoming less frequent, but nevertheless, an element of the explanation Mr. Dressler's gf purchased a vehicle had been in order to bypass Seoul without risking ire that is public.

The sensitivities have grown to be more noticeable to some extent because Southern Korea gets the troops that are american to some extent because several thousand other young Westerners came right here, frequently working as English teachers. A lot of them are young, solitary and male, not really acquainted with South Korean customs and thrilled to be in the middle of whatever they perceive as throngs of gorgeous and qualified women.

As a homogeneous nation having a deep and prickly feeling of nationalism, developed during centuries of invasions by next-door neighbors, Korea can be dubious of international intentions -- a suspicion that historically has usually been justified. Thus while you will find exceptions, for numerous Koreans the concept of interracial relationship appears an affront to Korean patriotism also to ''pure'' bloodstream lines. The antagonisms are especially deep once the United states is black colored, as numerous of this soldiers are.

''A Korean girl must never date or marry an international man,'' said Kim Hee Sup, a 34-year-old office worker that is male. ''All Koreans should attempt to keep racial purity.''

Another underlying problem is a solid belief that ladies should really be virgins during the time of wedding, reflecting the old Confucian saying: ''For a lady to starve to death is a little matter, however for her to get rid of her chastity is a good calamity.''

Tips are changing, however, many Korean guys are nevertheless reluctant to marry any girl that has possessed a boyfriend that is foreign as a result of a feeling that she are ''second-hand ware.''

Partly because Korean culture will not impose equivalent restrictions on guys, there is certainly less of the taboo about Korean males dating Western females. Southern Korea's founding President, Syngman Rhee, had A us wife, and she never ever became an important problem.

Whatever the case, South Korean culture is evolving acutely quickly and it is undergoing the start of an intimate revolution of its very very own, and all sorts of this really is producing an even more available environment. Numerous young women can be prepared to contemplate a relationship by having A western guy, just because their moms and dads tend to be nevertheless horrified in the idea. And also by all reports, threshold keeps growing.

''It was previously pretty bad -- I would get things tossed at me personally if I had been dancing by having a Korean woman,'' stated Peter Keusgen, a 29-year-old Australian stock analyst that has invested almost all of the final six years in Southern Korea. ''Coming from that low base, Korea's come a good way. Individuals are even more accepting now.''

Nevertheless, numerous international males complain that as they admire the effectiveness of Korean families, plus the kids' sense of responsibility for their moms and dads, it is difficult to create love in such an environment.

''It had been very easy to get a romantic date, nevertheless the woman's concept had been completely different, totally platonic,'' mused Michael Minor, a Canadian whom runs a language institute in Seoul. '' Then the brief minute it risked becoming a lot more than platonic, the minute she may be falling in love, it could be: 'Oh, no! i cannot! I'm Korean. Exactly just just What would my dad state?' ''

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