“… he is a Korean but he doesn’t speak Korean.”
The first thought that popped into my mind when I read that was that the man is mute. When I scanned the rest of the comment which that sentence was a part of, my hasty conclusion didn’t seem to fit the context. So I came to the only other reasonable explanation: the commenter was trying to say that the man is actually an American.
You see, from my (European) point of view, a Korean is someone who was born and raised in Korea. That is the first and only thought I have when someone says he or she is Korean. It is probably because of that way of European thinking why, while
you heard of such groups as Korean Americans or Italian Americans, you probably never heard of Swiss Swedes or French Poles.
I asked Kimchi Man for his opinion and this is what he said: “They look Korean; but when I try to talk to them and they don’t understand, I feel some distance that wasn’t there before.”
Of course, we both know things are not that simple. Humans have always moved and mixed and without a doubt in the last hundred years we have done so more than ever before in history. And to make things even more interesting, different people in the same situation might feel they belong to different nations.
Are there any Europeans who have different view of what it means to be Korean that I do? What about others? What is the first thought you have when someone says he or she is Korean?
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