외국인 or What is a Waeguk-in?

Imagine you are a minority like let’s say like me blue-eyed blond in a mass of Asians lol …in a monolingual homogeneous country.  You walk on the street a bunch a young guys say out loud: AH A FOREIGNER!  In a very surprised manner like he have seen a flower blooming in winter. At times you are ignored, others you become the main attraction. Locals usually avoid the empty seat next to you if there is others available.

What would be your reaction? your feelings? Imagine it happens almost everyday…

How would you feel after a month?after 6? after 10 years?

Imagine being ask very often why you came , why you are learning their language, culture? sometimes it’s out of curiosity but mostly out of incomprehension and bewilderment.

Feeling welcomed right? Especially coming from a “politically correct” country where immigrants demand tolerance, equality and sometimes a little more…

You probably guessed right because today I’m ranting…^^

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time in South Korea and learned even the most rudimentary Korean, you’ve most likely heard the word waeguk-in/ waeguk-saram more times than you could possibly count.

That’s because if you are not Korean than you are it, meaning ; foreigner, outsider, alien or at time simply non-Korean.

Even in French or English, I never like the word “Foreigner”. It always had a negative connotation to me. Pejorative,a sense that you are strange, unfamiliar, unwelcome. Whenever you go, you are identified as waeguk-in, there is really nothing better to make you feel isolated, alienated. This word is also used in formal setting by the government, institutions.  It not like back home you could be referred as migrant, international student or visitor or as plainly as a normal person since Canada is made pretty much people coming from everywhere. Rarely you would use “Foreigner” to address a person, let alone say it out loud as they pass on the street thinking they don’t understand. That would be out right a lack of respect and offensive. However Koreans do it without realizing and without intention to be rude or derogatory that just how they express the separation between Koreans and non-Koreans. They even lack of terms that I often have to refer to myself as being a waeguk-in.

Koreans have a clear and strong homogeneous ethnicity, they are proud of it and it could only reflects in their language HOWEVER this is an everyday pain for us, the others. No matter how much we put energy to adapt, learn the culture, language, we are always reminded you are not Koreans and your will never be.

I hope that if you are a “Foreigner”, migrant or a visitor in Canada you can appreciate what is given to you: tolerance, acceptance, services, community, free language courses, solidarity,etc…We go to GREAT extend making you feel “at home” sometimes we even forget who we are ourselves. Of course there is some discrimination cases but it’s not a day to day thing like here. I wish there will a little more of that here.

I’m really tired of feeling like I cannot understand anything because I’m not Korean, like I’m unfit or have a disease of something. I’M NOT A 외국인 (waeguk-in), an outsider, alien, foreigner, non-Koreans either I’M A PERSON. Sometimes I really feel like I’m back in time where “white” and “colored” segregation days…

**Note: Not all Koreans act this way and I can say that being on campus where there is more exchange students is a relief. Students here are more used to see “us” and don’t stare as much at the blond me. Some even come to talk to you but my experience are mostly weirdos lol anyway don’t get the idea I’m being segregated it’s not but you are never feel as part of the larger group.

Advertisements

About Kosmik

Isabelle aka kosmik is a McGill University East Asian Studies undergraduate who decided learning about Asia should be from the source. She is now studying as an exchange student at Korea University. Follow her as she discovers the subtleties of the Kimchi Rebuplic.
This entry was posted in Daily Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s