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Jon Huer Is Strange

Professor Hur Mi-young of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies rips Jon “Understanding Korea, Koreans” Huer a new one… and made me chuckle.

About the author: Just the administrator of this humble blog.

  • Alex

    ouch, he got served.

  • tinyflowers

    Jon Huer is a perfect example of someone who externalizes his own incomprehension of a society as an attribute of that society. Many commentators on this blog are stricken with the same affliction.

  • Alex

    Well, that’s only slightly fair. Korea is a weird place and there’s certainly a market to explain to visitors exactly what in the blue hell they’re seeing. Jon Huer’s “work” promises this sort of reading… but it falls woefully short of being even slightly educational, and he comes off kind of douchey as well.

  • Alex

    i meant to type “slightly weird”… don’t know where that extra word disappeared to.

  • http://www.koreaittimes.com mateomiguel

    i really liked this line:

    Opinions belong to one man.

  • gbnhj

    Now, that was a fun read.

  • Joseph Dart

    is she the same person as Angela Mi-Young Hur who wrote “The Queens of K-Town”?
    http://www.macadamcage.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=pubs_product_book_info&products_id=438

    the pictures look kinda similar, aside from the hair:
    http://www.macadamcage.com/catalog/images/authors/AngelaHurLR.jpg

  • JohnT

    Huer is a little wacky.

    Foreigners can never understand Koreans despite the fact that they say we have to understand them.

    I’ve been told many times over the last ten years by Koreans that I’m not Korean so I can’t understand them.

    It’s frustrating, but why fight it? Even the tiny drops of ink in the Han can never understand Koreans.

  • mbk

    very sensible rebuttal.. well done…

  • brooklyn718

    C’mon – her response was off as well, and some of her language and arguments bordered on childish. I’ve been around the world, including Korea, live in New York and there is plenty of strange to go around where ever you go. People would do better not to use vague language like strange anyway; be specific. I’d be more interested in understanding why Koreans have the highest suicide rate in the region, for instance.

  • brooklyn718

    Huer did come off as pompous and ill informed, by the way.
    I don’t know that Ms. Hur, on the other hand, is in a position, being a Korean living in Korea, to evaluate how strange Koreans might seem to foreigners. Also arguments like “There are many more “strange” and “impenetrable” ― dare I say even “inscrutable” ― people to categorize and generalize.” Don’t help – either strange is in the eye of the beholder (relative) or it is not. Don’t come back with “you want to see weird? look at them…”

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    I read some of Jon Huer’s stuff but couldn’t plow through most of his meandering thoughts.

    It’s almost like he takes explanations that Koreans give him (maybe straight from the KT itself?), translates and adds a few of his thoughts. Thus a Western audience that reads his piece can’t connect with it. So, what’s the point in writing it in English in the first place if the intended audience doesn’t understand what the heck you are trying to say?

    Jon is the anti-Michael Breen.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Ms. Hur’s English is rather sophisticated. Is she a gyopo?

    She’s cute too. I’m glad her email address is provided on the bottom of the article… ;)

  • JW
  • CactusMcHarris

    Assuming the responder in question is Korean, why is her surname ‘Hur’? That sounds Chinese, so how is it written in Korean? ‘Hur’ doesn’t sound Korean….I guess she’s glad her parents didn’t name her Ben.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Well… ALL Korean surnames are Chinese derived. The whole idea of surnames in Korea came from China.

    The hangul for her name is 허 or Heo. Chinese character is 許 and is pronounced Hsu. Hur is probably an archaic pronunciation, certainly not a correct one, but it’s on her birth certificate and her passport so she probably lives with it. There are over 300k Heos in South Korea. So not common, but not rare either.

  • seouldout

    허 is a common enough surname, though it ought to be written Huh – I’m not a fan of adding non-existent consonant sounds to surnames such as 허, 서 and 박. Of course one can see why it may not be written Huh.

    Cute?! The eyes of differing sizes kinda give me the willies. And is the left eye about 1/4 inch lower than the right? Whatever gets you off.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936
  • dogbertt

    Not by much.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Man… you guys are harsh. Okay, I guess for me her overall intelligence and the fact she’s a PhD BEFORE the age of 30 adds to her OVERALL attractiveness. I guess different strokes for different folks.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Plus… I’ve been drinking a couple of beers;)

  • dokdoforever

    If Huer is a little wacky, he wouldn’t be the first Westerner of the sort to come to Korea. WangKon, what’s with you and Angela Huh… where did you get that super close up picture of her? Someone other than Huer is also acting kind of strange here.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    What are you talking about DFF? That image of Angela is posted on my wall, just over my bed. It’s not big or strange at all…

    j/k! It’s not my fault that her publicist made a super close up of her the only available decent picture of her on the web.

  • Sonagi

    Plus… I’ve been drinking a couple of beers…

    Either you’ve had more than two beers or you really do need an eye exam.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Hey, I think I need Linkd to back me up here… you know… the guy who thought Michelle Rhee was “focking hot!”

  • tinyflowers

    She’s definitely cute… for a PhD. Usually with that crowd you can’t tell the men from the women.

  • JK

    Jon Huer’s wife, Terry, a Caucasian woman, is actually quite open-minded and eager to learn about other cultures and is also proficient in Korean. Jon Huer, a man of Korean descent, but I believe adopted by Caucasian parents, is the opposite of his wife, unfortunately.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Wow… you are right… Jon Huer IS of Korean descent. Despite the genes he just doesn’t get it. I feel sorry for the guy.

    Reminds me of the Blacks Without Soul skit in the movie Amazon Women On The Moon.

    Hey Jon! If you are reading this, there are white people who get it better than you! Michael Breen, Bruce Cummings, Gary Ledyard, Cullen Thomas, Andrei Lankov among others.

  • Sonagi

    Despite the genes he just doesn’t get it.

    Apparently you share the minjok doctrine that Korean culture is coded into one’s DNA.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Actually I don’t. What I believe is that corporeal likeness should at least provide an avenue (or advantage) to help understand a culture.

  • Sonagi

    How would sharing physical characteristics with a particular ethnic group give one insights into the culture? Culture is learned behavior. Physical traits are inborn. There is no relationship between them. You as a native-born American of Korean descent should understand that.

  • redneck hickboy

    I think we’re all being to hard on Huer. Becauese for those of us from the west who’ve traveled all over the world, it’s hard to find a place where the people are more different from us than Koreans are. That’s not rocket science.

    Australia? What the fuck is SHE talking about?

  • seouldout

    Man… you guys are harsh. Okay, I guess for me her overall intelligence and the fact she’s a PhD BEFORE the age of 30 adds to her OVERALL attractiveness. I guess different strokes for different folks.

    Lemme quote you from #11:

    She’s cute too.

    Perhaps this will work for you?

    I find considerable charm in her intellect, and this mitigates her cockeyedness. I’ll email her, we’ll meet, and I’ll avoid looking her in the eye when we converse. If things work out hopefully our kids won’t look as crazy as a nine-eyed jackass.

  • globalvillageidiot

    #31 – “How would sharing physical characteristics with a particular ethnic group give one insights into the culture? Culture is learned behavior. Physical traits are inborn. There is no relationship between them.”

    It is quite sad that some people still don’t grasp this concept in 2009.

  • tinyflowers

    Too bad that concept is incredibly naive and quite obviously untrue.

  • globalvillageidiot

    #35 – “Too bad that concept is incredibly naive and quite obviously untrue.”

    Correct me if I’ve misinterpreted your post, but are you trying to tell us that culture is inborn/innate? Apologies in advance if I’ve misunderstood you.

  • tinyflowers

    No, culture is not inborn, but there is certainly a clear relationship between appearance and learned behavior. Your appearance can and does effect how people treat you, sometimes in ways that are not so obvious (reminds me of Bush’s “soft bigotry of lowered expectations”). It shouldn’t be so, here in the year 2009, but the reality is racism still exists.

    To answer the original question: “How would sharing physical characteristics with a particular ethnic group give one insights into the culture?”
    The answer is actually quite obvious. Increased acceptance into a group due to your appearance (that is to say, racism) can help you better understand a culture from within. This is especially true in a relatively closed, monocultural society like Korea.

    Even disregarding racism entirely, it’s pretty clear that appearance influences culture (learned behavior). Better looking people tend to get better jobs, have more friends, have better personalities etc. There are numerous studies proving this. So to say that “there is no relationship” between culture and appearance would be demonstrably false.

  • globalvillageidiot

    #38 – tinyflowers, fair enough. While culture is learned behavior, one’s appearance, at least in places like Korea and Japan, is perhaps a determining factor for an outsider, so to speak, being able to be in the position to experience/gain insights into culture as a local might.

    No doubt that appearance counts for a lot in the real world. Tall and good looking people, for example, tend to do better in life – school, work, choice of partners, etc. – than those who aren’t. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it often goes.

    And Jon Huer did get worked pretty good by Hur Mi-young. Angela, well done!

  • Sonagi

    The answer is actually quite obvious. Increased acceptance into a group due to your appearance (that is to say, racism) can help you better understand a culture from within. This is especially true in a relatively closed, monocultural society like Korea.

    Apparently you’ve never met any Korean adoptees who’ve returned to the motherland. Korea has become more tolerant and accepting, but many of the adoptees I knew in the 1990s felt the opposite, that they were less understood than white foreigners. An adoptee who couldn’t speak a word of Korean came for a visit, and it fried the brains of some Koreans to speak Korean to me, rather than her. Likewise, a few Chinese friends have had unpleasant experiences because they looked Korean but didn’t act or speak Korean. Some shopkeepers thought they were stuck-up gyopos trying to show off their English. And I just remembered how a gyopo family got thrown out of a taxi for speaking English together. Oh, and I could talk on about South Korean discrimination against Joseonjok both in Korea and in China, where the Joseonjok are the locals and the South Koreans the foreigners. Before going to China, I had read a few stories in South Korean newspapers about Han Chinese discrimination against ethnic Koreans. After I got there and made acquaintances with local Joseonjok, I found it that it’s the South Koreans, not the Han Chinese, who sometimes mistreat the Joseonjok. So much for your theory of racial acceptance.

    Even disregarding racism entirely, it’s pretty clear that appearance influences culture (learned behavior). Better looking people tend to get better jobs, have more friends, have better personalities etc. There are numerous studies proving this. So to say that “there is no relationship” between culture and appearance would be demonstrably false.

    Individual behavior learned through experience is not culture. Culture is a collection of behaviors shared among members of a group.

  • tinyflowers

    Your anecdotal evidence are just exceptions that prove the rule. Koreans have a cultural affinity for other Koreans. I thought this was common knowledge. It’s certainly a common complaint for expats living in Korea.

    “Individual behavior learned through experience is not culture. Culture is a collection of behaviors shared among members of a group.”

    “Culture is learned behavior”

    I was simply referencing YOUR definition of culture. Even if we define culture as a property of a collective, as opposed to an individual, my point still stands. Appearance can influence which subculture you fall into. Look no further than your local high school for evidence (where everyone forms ethnic cliques), or your local nightclub (where you can’t even get in if you don’t look a certain way), or a prison, or an “expat bar”. Culture and physical traits are not only related, they’re inseparable.

    I know that the liberal education system in America conditions people to think otherwise, but this is the reality.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    I thought that I should note something that I noted once before. I know Jon Huer, though I haven’t spoken to him for several years. He is — as someone else also noted — of Korean descent. Although he has American citizenship and was adopted by Americans, what he once told me was that he was a Korean War orphan who lived on the streets of Seoul until he was in his early teens (about 13, I think), when he was adopted. That would have been back in the early 60s. I always found Jon to be a kind and interesting man, which doesn’t substantiate his opinions, of course. But knowing his personal story has always led me to read his newspaper articles with a bit of indulgence.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • Sonagi

    @tinyflowers:

    동문서답

    東問西答

    Look no further than your local high school for evidence (where everyone forms ethnic cliques),

    I guess the emerging post-racial America hasn’t reached your neck of the woods yet. The children in my school district do NOT form ethnic cliques. If you were to walk into any lunchroom in any school, you would see multiracial clusters in every direction. The only apparent ethnic cliques are the clusters of middle and high school Hispanics, who are actually a language clique as many speak limited English. Hispanic cliques themselves are multiracial, comprising white, brown, and black faces from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico.

    Culture and physical traits are not only related, they’re inseparable.

    The nations of the Americas disprove that statement.

  • Sonagi

    I was simply referencing YOUR definition of culture. Even if we define culture as a property of a collective, as opposed to an individual, my point still stands.

    Culture is both collective and individual. Each of us has our own unique culture, comprised of memberships to various groups. In a graduate class we did a great exercise to demonstrate that foreigners don’t have a different culture from Americans but rather that we all have a different culture from each other. We all gave a brief oral presentation about our backgrounds and found similarities and differences amongst ourselves. For example, I made a cultural connection when I heard an African-American classmate describe her childhood in a segregated Richmond neighborhood where everyone knew everyone and the adults looked out for each other’s children. I had the same experience growing up in my small, white midwestern town. Different races, similar community values. It is shared experiences that truly connect people in families, communities, and across the world.

  • wjk, 검은 머리 외국인

    do you prefer my educational series on white people and racism in North America,

    or

    the classroom propaganda driven, politically correct nonsense that Sonagi spews out from time to time about race, language, culture, etc.

    Mine is never meant to be politically correct. This lady teaches children, and is commenting about highschoolers.

  • wjk, 검은 머리 외국인

    the city of Detroit’s public school system is calling for a

    single, white female, who can teach children English and

    embrace the multicultural beauty of that city.

    Michigan natives are extra welcome.

  • wjk, 검은 머리 외국인

    I’m sorry, that one was kind of overboard. Delete if you wish.

  • abcdefg

    I agree with Wangkon and Tinyflowers about this.

    “Culture is a collection of behaviors shared among members of a group.”

    – But we are talking about personhood or identity, which has much to do with experience, a lot of which can be shared by people simply by the way that they look.

  • abcdefg

    … Extending, I guess, I’d give this train of thought.. Experience –> personhoood –> identity –> perceptions, perspectives –> beliefs –> worldviews –> culture. Which is to say Sonagi’s definition of culture (construed only in terms of “behavior” and not else, eg “beliefs”) is definitely faulty in a way.

  • Sonagi

    – But we are talking about personhood or identity, which has much to do with experience, a lot of which can be shared by people simply by the way that they look.

    Yes, but an ethnic Korean is perceived differently in Korea and the US, and ethnic Koreans who do not speak Korean fluently or behave according to Korean norms are treated differently in Korea than those who do.

    Culture does include beliefs, which are determined by one’s experiences and personal disposition.

  • tinyflowers

    Sonagi,
    You’re just throwing out examples of multicultralism and not dealing with the core issue here. And you’re completely ignoring the nurture side of the equation. If you acknowledge that people can be treated differently due to appearance (I don’t see how anyone can dispute this), then you have to acknowledge that appearance can influence culture/identity.

    And you’re crazy if you think there are no ethnic cliques in American high schools.

  • abcdefg

    “Yes, but an ethnic Korean is perceived differently in Korea and the US, and ethnic Koreans who do not speak Korean fluently or behave according to Korean norms are treated differently in Korea than those who do.”

    Perceived differently but not due to appearance. Whereas this case above of being treated differently due to certain behavior in certain contexts doesn’t obviate the fact that people can be treated in a certain way precisely due to some partciular appearance, physical characteristics, or else.

    I do believe that being Korean exposes one to a causal net of experiences and concerns that are unique and accessible to Koreans simply by virtue that one understands that one is genetically Korean. Indeed, as some of you hate to hear, I don’t expect non-Koreans to understand, but especially the white, Western sort.

  • tinyflowers

    “ethnic Koreans who do not speak Korean fluently or behave according to Korean norms are treated differently in Korea than those who do.”

    This doesn’t address the point. That people are also treated differently based on behavior does not negate the fact that they are treated differently based on appearance. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  • tinyflowers

    abcdefg beat me to it

  • JW

    If you acknowledge that people can be treated differently due to appearance (I don’t see how anyone can dispute this), then you have to acknowledge that appearance can influence culture/identity.

    If you about this in terms of how a majority person thinks about it versus a minority, isn’t it obvious why a majority person would find it harder to believe that race will almost surely influence identity? Go ask a Korean who grew up in Korea if his yellow skin has anything to do with his personhood. There’s a chance that he’ll get confused and think you’re talking gibberish.

    BTW, I agree with Sonagi in the sense that it’s definitely not a good thing to believe too strongly that race is inseparable from culture. It may very well be, but there’s a degree that can be overcome and a degree that can’t be, and if it’s in any way dependent on your *will* (which I think it is), you want to at least *try* to come down on the former ground.

  • hamel

    I already posted the below at the open threat, because I could not remember where this comment thread was. I now paste the same here:

    I don’t know if it has to be an either/or situation. Maybe it is both/and? Here is an interesting clip I found today:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..annel_page
    Well perhaps not the clip itself, buy the description of the clip by its poster, and the part 2 of that clip.

    Have a look. For me it raises the question: if culture is all about environment/upbringing, once a transracially adopted child has been fully assimilated/culturalized, why does that person still long for a culture that is not part of it (anymore)?

    In other words, why does this adoptee care that she cannot speak Korean, and why does she use such emotive words like “stole”? If she has forgotten all her Koreanness, why does it matter to her?

  • Melissa

    # 13, 17, 19, 24, 26 … (!)

    I CAN’T believe that you guys are talking about how cute she is/is not – and picking apart her features like that. And publicaly!

    Jesus.

  • Sonagi

    And you’re completely ignoring the nurture side of the equation.

    To the contrary I am emphasizing the nuture side of the equation. Experience is nuture.

    If you acknowledge that people can be treated differently due to appearance (I don’t see how anyone can dispute this), then you have to acknowledge that appearance can influence culture/identity.

    Yes, appearance can influence identity. It can distinguish one as a member of group who will have insider understanding of other members of the group. However, Jon Huer is not Korean. He is Korean-American. His physical features and genes themselves are not going to help him understand Korean culture.

    And you’re crazy if you think there are no ethnic cliques in American high schools.

    Please go back and reread my comment. I stated clearly that there were no ethnic cliques in schools IN MY DISTRICT.

    I do believe that being Korean exposes one to a causal net of experiences and concerns that are unique and accessible to Koreans simply by virtue that one understands that one is genetically Korean.

    If an ethnic Korean is interested in his roots, then it is the knowledge itself, not the straight black hair, that makes him interested. Americans of other ethnicities are sometimes interested in their roots while others are not.

    That people are also treated differently based on behavior does not negate the fact that they are treated differently based on appearance.

    True, but differently does not equate to one having a deeper understanding of Korea than the other. In other words, a non-ethnic Korean in Korea will be treated differently and thus see Korea differently but will not necessarily understand Korea less than an ethnic Korean. Applying your thinking to the US, Canada, or Australia, citizens of Korean ethnicity in those countries must not understand the mainstream cultures as well as whites since members of the two groups are treated differently.

    @Hamel:

    Of course it is more difficult to be raised in a family whose members look very different from you. The woman’s longing comes not from her genes but from her difficulty in forming an identity. If we were genetically inclined to our ancestral roots, then white Americans would be flocking to learn German, Polish, and Italian.

  • Sonagi

    Indeed, as some of you hate to hear, I don’t expect non-Koreans to understand, but especially the white, Western sort.

    Clearly you don’t understand us white people very well since you’re not one of us, and therefore, not able to access experiences and concerns that are unique to white Westerners.

  • abcdefg

    Clearly you don’t understand us white people very well since you’re not one of us, and therefore, not able to access experiences and concerns that are unique to white Westerners.

    …Which doesn’t matter since the topic of white people has no relevance to the present discussion.

    Anyway, I’ll remind you what’s being debated here since you’re getting confused. Wangkon wrote:

    “…What I believe is that corporeal likeness should at least provide an avenue (or advantage) to help understand a culture.”

    You wrote:

    “How would sharing physical characteristics with a particular ethnic group give one insights into the culture? Culture is learned behavior. Physical traits are inborn. There is no relationship between them….”

    Clearly there is a bridge between the two, culture and physical traits. And, also, there is more fundamental sense and mode of “culture” that you are missing. One doesn’t neccesarily need to be a Korean living in a district in modern-day Seoul to understand some of the issues that affect Koreans anywhere. It’s complex. In that complexity some issues are “cultural” in your discrete, abbreviated sense, and other issues may be wound up in moors of ethnic derivations and what not. I’d say a great deal of what affects Koreans today can be categorized in the latter group.

  • Sonagi

    I will admit I got confused and off-track by your unnecessary race-baiting.

    Clearly there is a bridge between the two, culture and physical traits.

    The whole problem with this discussion is that culture means so many different things to different people. If we are talking about culture with a big C, that is the collection of norms, behaviors, and beliefs, then I still disagree that one will intuitively understand a culture better if one looks like the majority. You haven’t convinced me and I haven’t convinced you.

  • dokdoforever

    Like all other people, Koreans judge on the basis of appearance. I remember Japanese friends in Seoul who felt Koreans gave them a hard time in stores because they looked Korean. They were looked down on because they couldn’t speak fluently. On the other hand, I found I could make more progress calling on the phone, because the Korean most often assumed that I was Korean-American. If they saw me in person they’d be more likely to be overwhelmed by my non-Korean appearance and not listen to a word I said. I suppose that as a foreigner or Korean American if you became so good in Korean that you lost your accent, it would probably help to look Korean, too.

  • Zonath

    Okay, I guess for me her overall intelligence and the fact she’s a PhD BEFORE the age of 30 adds to her OVERALL attractiveness.

    The wiki article only seems to indicate that she has a MFA in creative writing, which is not quite the equivalent of a Ph.D, and much easier to get before the age of 30. Even so, she’s got a pretty impressive resume.

  • hamel

    I as as much a wiki fan/holic as any man – a day on the net is not normal without reading at least 2 articles.

    But I must say Angela Hur’s Wiki bio smacks to me of a friendly bio written by a friend/lover/family member/admirer/alter ego.

    Given that she has only published fiction, is under 35, doesn’t appear to hold a PhD, etc. I mean come on, whatever we think of Jon Huer, his credentials and his writings, on this basis he ought to have a Wiki bio at least as long as hers, but does not.

    Doesn’t it seema little fishy to you?

  • abcdefg

    “I will admit I got confused and off-track by your unnecessary race-baiting.”

    No one here was race-baiting so you are confused about that point too.

  • tinyflowers

    #57,
    “To the contrary I am emphasizing the nuture side of the equation. Experience is nuture.”

    Yet you’re ignoring the obvious fact that experience is shaped by how others regard you, based solely on your appearance. If you are perceptive you’ll see that there’s even evidence of it in this thread.

    “His physical features and genes themselves are not going to help him understand Korean culture.”

    It’s been pointed out to you three times already that no one is arguing this. The problem here is that you continue to argue against this red herring “minjok doctrine” when no one is actually saying this.

    “Applying your thinking to the US, Canada, or Australia, citizens of Korean ethnicity in those countries must not understand the mainstream cultures as well as whites”

    Only if you assume that white culture (whatever that is) = mainstream culture in those countries. Whereas in Korea, Korean culture is most defninitely the mainstream culture. There’s a reason I said “this is especially true in a relatively closed, monocultural society like Korea.”

  • Sonagi

    @abcdef, tinyflowers, and anyone else still reading this thread:

    This SNL classic is my last comment on the subject.

  • abcdefg

    Applying your thinking to the US, Canada, or Australia, citizens of Korean ethnicity in those countries must not understand the mainstream cultures as well as whites.

    Actually this is something I’d say is true, although it’s problematic for reasons tinyflowers hints at above. America is such a big country and it’s promoted in so many diverse ways – in terms of values and pursuits — and immigrants — that it’s difficult to say who has the better view of America’s mainstream. Although, so much of this “mainstream culture” nowadays has a lot to do with media, and the vast majority of that media is coming from New York and California, states that are not foreign to foreigners, places in which foreigners and diverse cultures and races are a normal thing.

    Sarah Palin was once criticized for describing those in a small town as being “true Americans”, and I can sympathize with her. I’ll never — without a whole fucking lot of effort and soul searching — understand America the way Bubba of Middletown, USA, born and bred American, would. These small-town (non big city) white Americans grow up in places and among families that are full of folk like themselves, not only in terms of space but also in time… their ancestors and their neighbors’ ancestors were neighbors and they too grew up in areas full of people like themselves, exposed to the productions, work, thoughts and emotions, of people like themselves. They grew up, naturally, without having to deal with tensions that come from feeling like a foreigner, tensions from ethnic difference, and such; they grew up without the immigrant’s perspective that Koreans and other non-white groups in America would have. Interestingly, this lack of tension would be true of white Americans within the borders of their communities, but it’s also true of Americans even at the larger scope of the world and the world’s history. For the average American, the whole world may seem like one in which you are rich and part of the USA , or are poor and don’t matter, the world revolves around you and your people and so your differences from others in the world would never matter in the central way that it would for some such as a Korean.

    So I must agree. It is profoundly true that Korean-Americans won’t understand America as well as its white Americans. Although, again, America culturally is so broad that it sort of, kind of, includes within itself the immigrant perspective which jaemi kyopo would know very well. All of which proves the point. Some invariables about a person (his appearance for instance) is going to determine what set of experiences a person has, and in turn these experieces should determine the perspectives and behaviors that that person is probably going to develop in response to those experiences.

    Such personal invariables don’t matter in all cases of “culture”. An example of such “culture” in Korea is the Chinese system of age that Koreans still use. It’s an arbitrary thing in Korean culture in that it doesn’t proceed from any such “invariable”: It’s just a system that happens to be. But, likewise, I don’t understand it. I’d rather have Koreans go the way of Chinese and Japanese and scrap the system. But this notion of “culture” is too small, I’m sure, to comprise the stuff that makes up the peninsular zeitgeist that Huer rails against.

    Anyway, I’m still learning about America. I’m still learning about life and community as it must be, in particular, for non-immigrant white Americans. I think more and more about this place where I now live, which is mostly homogenous, and where my white acquaintances have lived and whose families have resided in for generations. It’s an enriching process, but it has taken a lot of effort on my part. After all, I’m Korean. The fact that I’ve been Korean American for decades has given me no vantage whatsoever. And I must say that I could not understand the heart and soul of these American folks, of those living in towns full of non-immigrants, the “true America” of America, without taking account of ethnic identity and difference. This angle has been absolutely neccesary for me in understanding their viewpoints, manners, and behaviors. I’d misunderstand them through any other method.

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    And in case nobody reads my rant above, yeah, I love Eddie Murphy too.

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