Xenophobia Begins at Home 5: Koreans

Background:

metaphorically kicking your face daily

metaphorically kicking your face daily

Unlike our other Asian neighbors, the Koreans do not have a long history of trading with our ancestors. This is probably because they spent their time being part of China and fending off Japanese invaders for so long. It’s sort of hard to think about trade when you’re facing armadas of samurai and such. The Japanese finally got them eventually and did to them what they did to us in World War II for 35 years or so.

In the ’50s, our Batallion Combat Teams marginally helped them fight off North Korean and Chinese attacks in the aptly-named Korean War. For which they thanked the Philippines by setting up trade and tourism deals with us in the late ’90s.

Since then, millions (billions?) of Koreans have set foot on our shores to evangelize, put up shops and learn English from our college students at P50 pesos an hour. They actually pay much more than that, around P300, but most of it goes to the Korean owners of the language tutorial centers.

What we call them:

Interestingly, because our ancestors lived in a time before there were Koreans (in the country, obviously. They’re not some magical race that suddenly popped into existence,) we’re stuck with just calling them Koreans. Sometimes we call them anyong (from the Korean salutation annyeong), kimchi or jamppong (from the cup noodle ad,) which just proves older generations right: the kids today don’t even try anymore.

What we say about them:

Officially, the Koreans are honored guests, and one of our largest trading partners. With industrial giants like Hanjin Heavy Industries providing jobs and each Korean coughing up money to the Bureau of Immigrations, the government couldn’t be happier.

The informal economy centered around tutorial centers is a steady (if niggardly) source of easy money for our college students. Coupled with the fact that most Korean tutees are the same age as their tutors, a smooth cultural exchange is guaranteed. Also, a smooth exchange of sex for promises of marriage and a wonderful life in Korea, resulting in the yet-unwritten but canonical social realist short story Impeng Koreano.

Unofficialy, though, it’ll be hard to find a Filipino who doesn’t resent Koreans. Noisy, brusque and given to disregarding essential things like respect for a host country’s culture, Koreans either walk around like they are our lords and masters, or ignore us altogether.

They are generally loud, and will think nothing of walking down the middle of the street in packs in the middle of the night chattering away like we don’t need to sleep before showing up to teach them English the next day.

A source in the hotel industry even said that their housekeeping staff would rather clean up after a bumbay than a Korean because they tend to spit everywhere. For a relatively new arrival to our country to overturn a centuries-old stereotype in just ten years is a pretty telling thing, don’t you think?

Why we’re douchebags for saying it:

We’re not, really. Cultural differences, we can chalk up to simple misunderstanding, but ten years into the Filipino-Korean experience and they’re getting ruder by the day. And the worst part is that Koreans, in Korea, are very much like the Japanese: slanty-eyed and very big on courtesy. They’re how Filipinos were if  Zaide’s historical accounts were somehow actually historical: they venerate their elders, they take care not disturb the harmony of others, and put a huge premium on education and cleanliness.

Somehow, when they get to our country, they throw all of that out the window, mixed with some spit, more likely than not. Maybe it’s our fault. Maybe it’s because we’re also impolite and dirty as a culture, and that encourages them to act like goddamned grade school boys on a field trip. Maybe Rizal was right when he wrote “to this country come the dregs of the Peninsula (Korean Peninsula, in this case) and if one arrives a good man, soon he is corrupted in the country.”

Maybe it’s because for the last ten years we’ve let them have their way because of the money they bring. It’s sort of a buy the ticket, take the ride deal, I guess.

On the other hand, maybe they’re just assholes.

19 Comments

  1. I’ve had people actually ask me if I’m Korean (especially when they hear my surname). Some have gone as far as “hindi nga? Koreano ka eh” when I say I’m not.

    And they ARE douchebags.

    Plus love that bit about Zaide. Academic references kick ass y’all.

  2. @miss choi:

    It’s really okay to be Korean, you know.

    I’ve actually been reluctant to write about them because as this UP German prof (that is, he teaches German) said, the whole Korean hate thing sounds like how the Germans were eventually taught to hate the Jews, sort of thing. But sometimes cultural relativity (relativism) can be taken to absurd levels.

  3. If you think they are assholes in Pinas? How much more do you think they percieve of Pinoys in Korea?

    Koreans have been taught since elementary school that they are \’ethnically homogeneous\’…that they are of supreme race. I would like to redefine Xenophopia for Korea\’s context… xenophobia is an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners.

    It so funny that our country, which had been colonized for about 400 years, do not have much of xenophobia instead, the majority, if not all, still embraces the supremacy of other races.

    I dont want to give prejudice to Koreans and Korea, or be a bigot myself, but I am really disappointed that no matter how good you try to become in harmony with their culture, you will still be a nobody and still a poor, old, 3rd-world country person going to Korea to become a slave.

  4. Well, let that be a lesson to you. Philippine ssaram are not, and will never be Hanggeok ssaram. But that’s probably a universal theme for expatriates. What’s sad is Filipinos usually tend to assimilate into the culture, while our Korean friends do not seem to be making much effort to do so.

  5. I guess they get all loose in phils just like the Israelis do when they come to India. a lot of Israelis visit India after they complete their compulsory military training. They are suddenly let loose from their strict military life which most of them probably would have avoided if they could. when they come to India they live on shoe-string budgets, dirty our mountains and beaches, do dope, live in own groups (call it gangs), make noise and party in otherwise calm places like the Himalayas, argue with locals on prices for a cup of tea and in general are nuisance as compared to other foreigner tourists.

  6. It seems that people experiencing liberation from a strict culture have a tendency to take it too far. But that’s people for you, I guess. Thanks for dropping by!

  7. Most Koreans that come to our country are really disrespectful towards us Filipinos, which is really difficult to understand because they’re so polite to other fellow Koreans. Another weird thing is that I know many Filipinos who are fans/lovers of Korean pop culture while all Koreans do here to make an effort to connect to us is to learn the Filipino curse words. sigh.

  8. I am an Indian working here for few years now. My GF is Korean and is a student here. I can personally attest to the Korean mentality.

    Koreans have little respect, if any, for the Filipinos. My GF was schooled in London and is well-traveled and yet she considers Filipinos as inferior beings – kinda like how they think of Bangladeshi workers in Busan/Seoul. I may also say that Koreans think of themselves as White and this partly is the cause why they mistreat Filipinos – they also dislike Chinese but don’t think of them as insects. She also says that the Filipinos don’t have integrity and their behavior defined by your money and/or status.

    She is equally full of contempt and disgust for your typical dark-skinned Indian/South Asian. She refuses to see the irony in our relationship on the ground that I am relatively fair-skinned and educated, therefore not subject to the stereotype. She also talks about how a lot of Koreans think of their blood as pure and her relationship with me is a brave and difficult choice she has made. She also points to the lack/rarity of korean female-filipino male couples as a proof.

    I am in an amusing position because when I am out with her, both of us get weird stares from all – Filipinos, Koreans and Indians. Her brother doesn’t approve of me tapping her sister and I have to stay at the reception every time I go to her place to pick her up. Also, as she acknowledges, Korean men are worse then the women – in the sense that while most Korean women steer clear of the local men, Korean men prefer to go to the KTVs and abuse/humiliate the girls they hire there. This is apparently okay with her, because Koreans are extremely sensitive and well-mannered with each other.

    Where I live, the building is full of Korean families and they are very decent and civilized – in fact, more than some Filipino-Indians I know. But my relationship with one makes me privy to a barely-disguised racism.

    I hope not all Koreans think of Filipinos this way but the huge number of ‘entertainers’ that go to Korea and the perceived work-profile of OFWs doesn’t impress my GF and other Koreans like her.

    Filipinos are not perfect. Neither are Indians or Koreans. But Filipinos are amazingly warm, cheerful and well-meaning people – with as much potential as any other Asian nation, if not more, given the advantages of American occupation and subsequent influence. I hope Filipinos don’t let themselves be defined by their reaction to myopic, immature antics of expats (irrespective of where they come from).

    p.s. Thank you for this excellent blog. This is just the kind of social commentary I thought was completely missing on the Pinoy blogosphere.

  9. @Mike:

    That’s a shocking insight into how the Koreans in the Philippines think. Luckily, Filipinos are generally docile and easy going, so we won’t be seeing hate crimes any time soon. Not that that sort of behavior doesn’t deserve hate crimes. Well, they don’t, but treating us like insects isn’t cool either.

    Thanks for dropping by, and thank you for your kind words. We also have an entry on Indians if you’re interested.

  10. I hope the government will do something about this so-called Korean Wave in our country… I admit that I like SOME of their Korean Dramas especially of channel 2 but dang, I’m getting annoyed of how the Filipinos (mostly unfortunate/uneducated ones) admire and get crazy about them so much!!! T_T Ha! We tend to look UP on them because of their K-dramas! Yet what do we get in return? Them, those Koreans looking DOWN on us like, what some of them said during the Typhoon Ondoy calamity? That we are MONKEYS? Dang!!! Hahaha… This is certainly crazy! T_T And well, one of my classmates told me like, she really do think that FILIPINOS LOOK ALL THE SAME, that we’re like some clones, well brown clones populating the Philippines???! You know what I told her? We are a multiracial country, hello? We don’t look all the same, perhaps you’re talking about your own race with the plastics on dweeb! Hahaha. TT Last thing, how can they really really learn English? If they’re always all together, speaking in Korean… HAAAAAAAAA, them, coming here to study English will be nonsense then. >.<

  11. I hope the government will do something about this so-called Korean Wave in our country… I admit that I like SOME of their Korean Dramas especially of channel 2 but dang, I\’m getting annoyed of how the Filipinos (mostly unfortunate/uneducated ones) admire and get crazy about them so much!!! T_T Ha! We tend to look UP on them because of their K-dramas! Yet what do we get in return? Them, those Koreans looking DOWN on us like, what some of them said during the Typhoon Ondoy calamity? That we are MONKEYS? Dang!!! Hahaha… This is certainly crazy! T_T And well, one of my classmates told me like, she really do think that FILIPINOS LOOK ALL THE SAME, that we\’re like some clones, well brown clones populating the Philippines???! You know what I told her? We are a multiracial country, hello? We don\’t look all the same, perhaps you\’re talking about your own race with the plastics on dweeb! Hahaha. TT Last thing, how can they really really learn English? If they\’re always all together, speaking in Korean… HAAAAAAAAA, them, coming here to study English will be nonsense then. >.<

  12. J.Sim, mind if you stop perpetuating the stereotype that Koreans get plastic surgery because it’s not them, but Japanese, Chinese, Americans, Brazilian etc. There’s statistics that show this. Japan ranks higher but for some reason they don’t have that kind of stereotype. Sadly even Koreans themselves spread their own stereotypes. Attracting that kind of ignorant comments from others may reflect you as well, sorry to say. Like attracts like. Ignorance attracts ignorance. No offense, your comments sound a bit immature and sorry that you had to come across those ignorant people, Korean or not.

  13. @onetamad: I know that German prof. Such a surprise seeing him being referred to in the comments. Pfft, wow talk about Godwin’s law! I never thought he’d stoop so low. To think thesis adviser ko yan. Thing is, I hardly consider him qualified to give comments kasi wala naman syang deep insight into Filipino psyche; everything is colored by his first-world superiority (having grown up in Europe and the US) and German uptightness (although in fairness nagmellow na sya). Tedesco!

    Pero like you said, highly unlikely ang sinasabi nya because we’re docile and easygoing. Other than that, wala tayong sense of history and we don’t have long memories (unlike the Chinese and the Koreans). Government also hasn’t taken it upon itself to indoctrinize Filipinos a sense of patriotism based upon (1) a huge resentment and (2) a gross sense of victimhood by repetitively teaching all injustices and atrocities done to us by foreign invaders, unlike the way China and Korea has done to their students (and really, a lot of us are so desperate for jobs na keber na if they have to work for/serve the same people who did them atrocities–beggars can’t be choosers). Naging institution na ang resentment at pagiging victim nila kaya ganun na lang sila ka belligerent minsan (esp. Koreans).

    As for that superiority thing, yeah inherent yan sa kanila. I’m actually reading (required eh) a comic book giving a mindmap for Koreans titled Korean Unmasked, which explains why they are the way they are. In short, apologist ang nagsulat pero may ere pa rin ang superiority. Tumatayo ang balahibo ko tuwing nirarationalize nya bakit pinapapatay nila ang mga Korean women who were impregnated by “foreign savages”, kasi daw once the blood of “foreign savages” mixes with the Korean race, their identity will be diluted (may diagram pa ng 1 bottle of “foreign savage blood” being poured into a bottle of Korean blood and diluting it). To an extent it’s true, pero still why can’t these people learn to live in harmony kahit halo-halo sila? A lot of cultures have had foreign influences or foreign cultures mixed in, but they learned how to assimilate it into their identity and make it their own brand of culture.

    I could hardly care less about these guys when I see them around, but they’re useful when I fancy meself some Korean barbecue. LOL. In any case, hindi naman ako typical Filipina and am not afraid about taking them one notch down when necessary. Hit it right where it hurts — their flat eyelids are a sore point with a lot of them, that’s why they’re notorious for the plastic surgeries. Yes, it’s not unique to them, but for mothers to give their daughters plastic surgery appointments as presents?! Call me “ignorant” if you will, but that’s just sick. Might as well disown your kid for being butt ugly.

    Koreans should learn how to assimilate even just a little bit (and by this, I don’t mean copy the most corrupt and dirty ways of some of our unsavory countrymen). Bwiset kasi inaallow ng mga Filipinos mashado ng freedom ang mga foreign guests dito. For some reason, we have a stupid need to be liked by foreigners. Buti na lang, we’re not all like that. I remember one time, my lolo (God rest his soul) didn’t stop the car when some idiot Korean guy jaywalked in front of him at binusinahan na nga sya, di pa rin tumitigil. Had to wait until the car almost ran over the guy before the guy took my lolo seriously and stopped walking.

  14. ^I agree with you on our need to be liked by foreigners. Maybe it’s because we’re a hospitable people? Is that even true anymore?

    I can’t say I can really blame the Koreans fro being arrogant, though. They went from shambles in the 1950s to a top economy with the largest steel industry in the world in little more than half a century.

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