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

By Nicholas D. Kristof

    Feb. 2, 1998

She had been a 21-year-old university that is korean, and then he ended up being an English teacher from Canada, in addition they had been “just buddies“ whom sometimes had a dinner together. The friendship was mentioned by her to her moms and dads.

That ended up being a large blunder. The moms and dads, horrified that their child might forever destroy the household’s reputation by dating a foreigner, hurriedly forced her to transfer in the center of the institution 12 months up to a university during the other end associated with country.

While that will happen a little extreme, the effect underscores the profound anxieties right here about romances between Korean ladies and men that are foreign. Such romances are getting to be more noticeable considering that the quantity of young Us citizens residing in Southern Korea keeps growing, together with problem produces enormous sensitivities about the 37,000 American troops stationed right right right here.

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

Interracial relationships certainly are a issue that is sensitive numerous nations, but especially so in Southern Korea. Such romances provide a screen in to the culture, for they touch several of the most delicate nerves into the psyche that is korean concerning nationwide identification, to attitudes toward foreigners also to ideals in regards to the purity of females.

“I would want to relax with my gf, and I also wonder if her family would ever accept me personally,“ mused Frank A. local hookup app Fort Collins Dressler, a 36-year-old United states that has been venturing out by having a woman that is korean Seoul for 2 years. “Her household nevertheless does not understand we occur.“

To be certain, the household did when obtain an inkling, together with response wasn’t promising. The parents locked the gf into the true house for 10 days, telling her to get in touch with ill at her work. They alternated interrogations with lectures.

“They stated, ‘There would be no mixing blood in our house,’ “ recalled the girl, whom insisted that she never be identified. They warned her that any love having a foreigner wouldn’t normally just destroy her very own wedding leads but would also ensure it is more burdensome for her bro and sis to marry.

“If We have a international boyfriend, then it really is types of a poor point on our entire family,“ the lady noted — speaking in Mr. Dressler’s home. Although she lied to her moms and dads, insisting that she had no international boyfriend, she’s got proceeded the relationship, in great privacy.

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

A Korean girl who holds fingers with a Western guy dangers being occasionally harangued, known as a “whore,“ and even slapped or spat upon. This can be becoming less frequent, but however, the main explanation Mr. Dressler’s gf purchased a motor vehicle ended up being to enable them to bypass Seoul without risking general public ire.

The sensitivities are becoming more noticeable in component because Southern Korea gets the troops that are american in component because lots and lots of other young Westerners came right right here, frequently being employed as English teachers. A lot of them are young, solitary and male, not really acquainted with South Korean customs and thrilled to be enclosed by what they perceive as throngs of gorgeous and qualified ladies.

As a homogeneous nation having a deep and prickly feeling of nationalism, developed during centuries of invasions by next-door next-door neighbors, Korea is generally dubious of international motives — a suspicion that historically has usually been justified. Hence 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 specially deep as soon as the United states is black colored, as numerous associated with soldiers are.

“A Korean woman must never date or marry a foreign man,“ stated 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 always be virgins during the time of wedding, showing the old Confucian saying: “For a lady to starve to death is a tiny matter, but also for her to reduce her chastity is a superb calamity.“

Some ideas are changing, but the majority of Korean guys are nevertheless reluctant to marry any girl that has had a boyfriend that is foreign due to an atmosphere that she could be “second-hand ware.“

Partly because Korean culture will not impose exactly the same limitations on guys, there is certainly less of a taboo about Korean guys dating women that are western. South Korea’s founding President, Syngman Rhee, had A us spouse, and she never ever became a significant problem.

Whatever the case, South Korean society is changing incredibly rapidly and it is undergoing the start of an intimate revolution of its very very very own, and all sorts of this might be producing a far more available environment. Numerous young women can be prepared to consider a love by having A western guy, even though their moms and dads tend to be nevertheless horrified during the idea. And also by all records, threshold keeps growing.

“It was previously pretty bad — we’d get things tossed I were dancing with a Korean girl,“ said Peter Keusgen, a 29-year-old Australian stock analyst who has spent most of the last six years in South Korea at me if. “Coming from that low base, Korea’s come a way that is long. Folks are even more accepting now.“

Nevertheless, numerous foreign guys complain that it is difficult to cultivate romance in such an environment while they admire the strength of Korean families, and the children’s sense of obligation to their parents.

“It ended up being simple to get a night out together, however the woman’s idea had been completely different, totally platonic,“ mused Michael Minor, a Canadian whom runs a language institute in Seoul. “ Then the brief minute it risked getting significantly more than platonic, as soon as she may be dropping in love, it could be: ‘Oh, no! i cannot! We’m Korean. Exactly What would my dad state?’ “