Xenophobia Begins at Home 5: Koreans


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.


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