My KBOP Monday: What Was Korea Really Like As A Black Man?

There are many people who wonder what Korea is like.  Korea is country where about 97% of people who live there are Korean.  It is not unusual for people in some parts of Korea to have not seen many, if any, non Koreans in person. Because many do not go to Korea, they are only left with other people’s view of Korea and Korean people.  For a long time, this has included the view that Koreans hate Black people and do not want them in their country.  Often times I am asked questions about what Korea was like for me in the brief time I was there, and how Korea can be for a Black person.  So here is my take on what it was like for me in the time I was in Seoul, Korea, from My KBOP.

What I Was Told Korea Would Be Like

When people found out I was going to Korea, a number of Korean Americans tried to “warn me” about the realities of Korea.  Things such as “people will hate you because you have dark skin”, “no one will find out attractive because you are Black” “people will point at you, stare at you and make fun of you”, “don’t expect to make any friends while you are there” and so on and so forth.  Not everyone was so negative about things.  Some that I knew thought I should have gone to Korea a long time before I actually went.  But most expressed things that they felt I should have looked out for. Their view of how I would be treated, and how I was actually treated turned out to be totally different.

What Korea Was Really Like

As a lot of people do, I spent most of my time in Seoul. Seoul is divided by the Han River and divided in to different Gu’s or distracts.  So I spent my time in Gangnam-Gu and Dobong-Gu.  Gangnam-Gu is not only famous for a song by Psy, but is also called by some the Beverly Hills of Korea.  A number of famous KPop stars live in Gangnam, as well as many offices for different businesses in Korea such as KPop entertainment companies and Google. Gangnam is also known for plastic surgery centers.

Being a tall, dark, heavy set Black man would cause people to stair at me in many parts of the US wondering what I was doing in an area.  But that didn’t happen any where in Seoul, or Korea for that matter.  No one crossed the street when they saw me, women didn’t switch their purses to the other side of their body, I wasn’t followed around by anyone, no one made fun of me or treated me with prejudice while I was there.  Not on the bus, not in the subway, not walking down the street, not in restaurants, not at street vendors, not anywhere.  I was treated like a human being.  Little kids weren’t afraid of me, well one was when he realized his dad wasn’t holding him, but some thought it was cool to see a Black person speaking Korean to them.  (I walked by a school in Dobong-Gu and a kid called his friends over to look at me when he found out I could speak Korean.  On a subway ride, a couple of kids thought it was cool that I waved at them.  But no strange stories involving kids.)

What about the notion that Koreans don’t want Black people in their country?  Given the history of Korea, one could argue that some Koreans don’t want any non Koreans in their country, including other Asians who are not Korean.  But the people I came across didn’t feel that way.  Some still ask me when I’m moving to Korea and to what part of Korea I’m moving to.  Some Koreans have adopted me as part of their family.  In short, everything that I was “warned” about didn’t happen.

Why Did People “Warn” Me About Korea?

The people who warned me about Korea were Korean Americans who were basically letting me know what their feelings are about me and anyone who looks like me.  To sum up what some of these people feel about Korean culture, one Korean American, who had been drinking at the time he said this, tried to explain that only non Koreans who will allow Koreans to treat them however they feel like and will do whatever they are told should be welcomed into the culture.  He also advocated treating non Koreans horribly in the beginning in hopes that they will go away.  Needless to say, I don’t associate with people like this and am proud of the fact that they don’t consider me to be their friend.

But what about the people who wanted me to go to Korea long before I did?  I remember one such person who asked me not to judge Korean culture and Korean people by what I was seeing in my area.  Once I got to Korea, I realized what he was talking about.  Korean culture is a complicated one to say the least.  My experience in Korea and around Korean people is not the same as everyone else.  And there are different factors that go into what a person goes through.

My advice to anyone, regardless of their color, that wants to experience Korean culture?  Go to Korea and see if for yourself.  Don’t allow other people’s view to cloud your judgement.  As a Black man, I love Korea and the life of the average person there.  And I’ve met a number of Black men and women who feel the same way.  But just because we love it there, it doesn’t mean you will love it there also.  In life, you have to take chances to gain knowledge.  My recommendation is to take a chance and experience Korea for yourself.  You may be surprised at how good of a time you have, how much love you gain and how well you are treated.  Seoul, Korea is truly a special place to be, at least from My KBOP.

 

 

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My KBOP Monday: Why Black Men and Asian Women Click

The topic of Blasian couples has become more and more popular over the last few years.  As more and more people have access to a steady internet flow, it becomes clearer and clearer that Black and Asian couples are very common.  It’s plain to see that Hollywood doesn’t always portray the truth, but platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter allow you to interact with these couples directly.  The truth is there have been a lot of Blasian couples who have had successful marriages over the years.  In fact, many have said that Blasian couples tend to stay together longer.  But why do Black men and Asian women seem to click and stay connected for such a long time?  Here are a few reasons why, as always, from My KBOP.

No Pressure Over Skin Color

In some Asian cultures, lighter skin is considered to be more desirable than darker skin.  Part of this is due to the feeling that richer people would stay indoors and therefore had lighter skin than poorer people who had to be outside and have darker skin.  As a result, some Asian I’ve talked to have said that they don’t find Asian women with medium and darker skin to be attractive.  One Korean man once told me that he would only consider marrying an Asian woman with really light skin.  This has caused some women to take beauty products and go through procedures to make their skin color as light as possible to make them more “beautiful”. However, many Asian women who are open to dating and marrying Black men have found that they don’t pressure them over skin color.  No matter if they have light, medium or a darker skin color, the Black men that they are friends with, date and or marry love them and think they are beautiful.  No skin bleaching required.

No Pressure Over Weight 

Health is a major concern in many countries, but Asian countries can take things to an extreme.  I’ve seen some Korean American women who have lamented the fact that they are not a size 0 like their friends are.  Some have admitted that as teens, they were called fat and overweight by older Asians, or even told that they would never get a good looking man unless they lose some weight.  These kind of words can have a devastating effect on the self esteem of a young woman, or anyone for that matter.  However, many Asian women that I’ve talked to in Blasian relationships have said they don’t feel pressure to be a certain size or to have a certain shape.  This causes them to have more peace of mind and contentment.  Instead of feeling like they must work hard to change their body type, they know that their man will love and accept them as they are.  That’s how love and a marriage is supposed to be.

No Pressure To Give Up Their Culture

This can be a MAJOR sticking point in a relationship.  And this can be a reason why so many Asian women in Blasian relationships are very happy.  In areas of Asia where it is common to tell women to avoid Black men like the plague, a number of reports of women being told to give up their culture and language are staggering.  It’s as if Asian women are expected to morph into “Model Minorities” at the time of marriage.  From My KBOP, I’ve seen a lot of unhappy Korean women who have been told by their husbands that they must quit speaking Korean,  not to have Korean friends, not to go to Korean religious services, not eat Korean food, not to teach their kid(s) anything Korean, not to watch Korean news and to not listen to Korean music.  Of these women, none of them were married to a Black man.  The Korean women, and other Asian women, that have married Black men that I have ran across have been able to hold onto their cultural identity in all aspects, thus making them happy women.  Black men that marry Asian women tend to adapt to their wife’s culture and accept it easily.  This usually results in a happy and long lasting marriage.

Does this mean that this is true in every situation?  No.  Some Blasian couples do get divorced, and some Black men do not treat their Asian wife very well.  But many of the BMAW relationships that I have encountered, whether they involve the wife being Korean or not, tend to only end when one of the spouses died.  While it may seem like Black men and Asian women won’t prefer each other and don’t have a lot in common,  this is not true.  Once you get to know someone better, you begin to realize that you do have a lot in common and that love is possible.  Sometimes you can explain it, sometimes  you can’t.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg as to why Black men and Asian women sometimes just naturally click.   At least from My KBOP.

My KBOP Monday: Why Do Koreans Love Black People?

If you read last Monday’s post and saw this title, you might be confused.  This is the exact opposite of what last week was all about.  But the truth is that not all Koreans hate Black people.  (If they did, I’d be in a lot of trouble.)  The truth is there are many Koreans who love Black people and love to be around Black people.  Some even go as far as to say they will only marry a Black person.  So what is the cause of this?  Why do Koreans love Black people so much?  Here are a few reasons from MY KBOP.

Korean War Memories

The Korean War, which is still legally going on, made changes for Koreans up to this day.  For some Koreans in South Korea, they are very thankful for the help that was provided by US and British forces to prevent what is now known as the North Korean Kim Dynasty from taking over the whole Korean peninsula.  Among the troops that came to Korean were a number of young, single Black men.  Stories that many Korean women have told me suggest that these men were viewed as being very attractive.  Also, many Black men were known to hang out in the streets with the people, learning more about Korean language and culture.  For women who felt that other foreign men were mocking Korean people, this made a big difference.

Physical Attraction

To many, it’s kinda of a hidden secret that a lot of Koreans are physically attracted to Black people.  For Korean women that I’ve talked to, they feel that Black men are manly men and their idea of what a real man should look like.  These women are sometimes very open about being attracted to men with darker skin.  Some even will take the initiative to break the ice in hopes of starting a romantic relationship with a Black man.  For Korean men that I’ve talked to, a lot will just openly tell me they don’t want a Korean woman and they don’t understand why some Black men do want them. Their idea woman is a Black woman.  Some openly feel that the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.  Some of these men will be openly aggressive in letting Black women know they want them.  (But a number of these men go way overboard, which I will talk about in another post.)

Similar Cultures

You’d have to study both cultures to get this reference, but both Korean and Black people act in a similar way.  (At least from MY KBOP.)  I’ve had a number of times when I’m describing Korean people and the people I’m with think I’m describing Black people.  For a lot of Korean people who open up to Black people, and vise versa, they find that we all are just human at the end of the day and can find a lot of common ground.  It could be anything from certain foods that we all love, the respect for older ones in our culture, the way we feel about Jesus, even to how our moms treat us.  Korean and Black people have so much in common that loving each other is natural to many of us.

Similar Views on People

To me, the most beautiful thing about Black people is that if you are truly a good person, or in some cases even if you’re not a good person, you can find love and acceptance with Black people.  Believe it or not, Koreans are the same way.   Everyone in Korean culture is family to each other.  You look out for each other and love each other, just as we do it the Black community.  The more love and respect you show towards Korean culture, the more Korean people will love and respect you. (Well, most Koreans anyway.)  Every Black person I’ve ever talked to that has been to Korea loves it and would love to move back.  The love and respect between Black and Korean people is very mutual once we get to know each other.

Black People Are Cool

The style of dress and entertainment of Black people can be seen in many facets of Korean culture.  This isn’t to say that Koreans don’t have their own style. But if you watch enough KPOP, you’ll see enough booty poppin, sports clothes, cars, rapping and other things to know who influenced the artist you’re listening to.  For younger Koreans that have not left Korea, exposure to Black people is very minimal.  (About 97% of the population of South Korea is Korean.  North Korea is almost at 100%.)  So to many young people, Black people are cool.  Black people are known by some to be respectful of Korean culture, so it can be easier to accept and follow along with Black people.  But with so much of entertainment showcasing Black people, it’s not a surprise that a number of Koreans have a favorite singer or athlete who is Black.  With all that they’ve seen, Black style and Black people are very cool to imitate.

The Kind of Black People Koreans Meet

Even with the small number of Black people in Korea, a lot of the Black people that are there teach English in schools.  This means that for many Koreans, the first Black person they meet is not a thug or hoodlum like they see on shows, in movies or music videos.  They are meeting educated and kindhearted Black people.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it helps to break down barriers and end stereotypes.  Also, education is very serious in Korea.  Respect for one’s teacher is instilled in many children from a young age.  So to have a respected view of Black people from childhood helps these children to reject prejudice teachings later on in life.

The truth is I can go on and on about this subject.  The point of it is to show you that not all Koreans are hateful or prejudice against Black people like some may have you believe.  There are many Koreans who do love and respect Black people, and who will welcome Black people into their culture.  The best thing to do is to live life and get to know each other.  When you do, you’ll make new family and friends that will last a lifetime. At least that’s the view from MY KBOP.

My KBOP Monday: Why Do Koreans Hate Black People?

This is something that I’ve been asked a lot over the years.  And I do mean, a lot over the years.  People want to know how I can be around a group of people who are so hateful towards my people.  When many African Americans think about Korean people, they think of images of such as the Latasha Harlins killing or being followed around my Korean workers who won’t shake their hand and feel that all Black people steal.  Or some come across videos online of Koreans, and other Asians, wearing Blackface or promoting products that mock Black people.  To many who are African American, or even African, there is a negative feeling that they see Korean people having towards them.  And sadly, sometimes it is outright bigotry and hatred that is on display.  But what is the reason for this?  How did this start?  And is this true of all Koreans?  This is My KBOP regarding the hatred that exist between Korean people and Black people.

Negative Stories

If you’ve read my other blog, waygookinway.com, you probably heard me talk about hearing from a number of people regarding Black men who went to Korean during the war and married Korean women that were super attractive.  This was seen by some as a “problem” that needed to be fixed.  Since Korea is a society where the opinion of others, especially one’s family and closest friends, can mean a lot in life, negative stories were planted about how Black people were and how Black men treat women.  The result?  Many families felt it would be horrible to allow someone like what they heard about to marry into their family.  There also became a stigma that only undesirable Korean women or prostitutes would consider marrying a Black men.  Black men were also sometimes blamed for fathering children and then leaving behind both mother and child when they left back for America.  This created many negative feelings with a number of Koreans.

The Mainstream Media Hasn’t Helped

Have you noticed that people in Africa are often shown as being poor and starving?  Or that African Americans are depicted as living in poverty, having a messed up family situation, being addicted to drugs and alcohol, not supporting their children, not being responsible, disrespecting women, being uneducated and not having any respect for life or authority?  Well, if you haven’t the rest of the world has.  And this includes people in Korea as well.  While these images are viewed as entertainment by many, it is sometimes seen as reality by others globally.  Whether one wants to admit it or not, we are all influenced by what we see and hear.  When people see negative images of Black people, it confirms what they have heard about Black people all along.  The mainstream media doesn’t seem to be looking to change this portrayal of Black people anytime soon.  The negative narratives about Black people, as well as the feeling that it is okay to mock and make fun of Black people seem to be recycled more now than ever.  But there is one thing from My KBOP that you may want to keep in mind before writing off all Koreans as being this way.

Some Korean People Hate Everyone Who’s Not Korean

Sometimes this feeling of venom is not because a person is Black.  Some Koreans simply don’t like any non Koreans.  Korea has a history of non Koreans going there and screwing things up.  Hence, why laws are strict and it can be difficult for a non Korean person to get a job.  If you think about it, South Korea is more like an island than a peninsula.  Water on 3 sides and family to the north that they haven’t reconciled with yet.  Some say that certain laws are in place because of a distrust of China, and road signs, along with major announcements, are not in Japanese in part due to the strained relationship with Japan.  Some Koreans feel that no one should be in Korea unless they are Korean; and even then only certain Koreans belong there because people like that don’t get along with hardly anyone.

While this describes why some Koreans have feelings of hatred and prejudice, the question is do all Koreans feel this way?  Are there Koreans who love Black people and are accepting of Black culture despite all of the negative things they have seen and heard?  And are there any examples of this in the media?  I’ll give you the answers from My KBOP later.

My KBOP Monday: Why Can’t I Get An Asian?

For a long time now, Asian cultures has been something people have been fascinated with.  While some are into Asian cultures for the beauty and tradition, others are in it for other reasons.  One of the  most annoying things I think I would see online would be people, mainly men, complaining about how they “can’t get an Asian” to be with them.  There’s nothing wrong with having a preference and being honest enough to not waste other people’s time in a relationship you’d rather not be in.  But often times, this notion comes across as very rude and offensive.  So after talking to a lot of Asian women on this subject, here is why this comes across as backwards and offensive.

Do You Know What You Are Saying?

For those who don’t know, Asia is a very large area with a very large population.  Almost 60% of the people living on earth live in Asia.  The land mass of Asia goes from the Middle East all the way to Russia.  There are also numerous island nations as well. Bottom line is most of us with a passport don’t have a clue what you mean when you say that you want an Asian.  And honestly, we wonder if you know what you mean as well.

Why Do You Feel This Way?

The reasons why some people say they want an Asian can border on perverted to ridiculous.  I’ve heard things ranging from how submissive Asian women are to how rich Asian men are to Asian people have good genes and can fight.  Love seems to have very little to do with anything.  If you were a man or woman who had people want to be with you for all the wrong reasons, you will become very sensitive to things like this.  So the question is, if you have sincere motives, how do you set yourself apart from the people who don’t?

Learn a Language and About a Culture

Since Asia is such a broad continent, narrowing things down to a specific country, language or culture may be best.  Asian people are not the “model minorities” that some claim they are.  Showing respect for someone’s culture and how they were raised is very important.  Also, showing that you will try to communicate with their family in the language that they feel comfortable with can be a big plus.  Usually a person who has a superficial or perverted reasoning for wanting someone will not take the time to study all of this.  Knowing more about a culture will prepare you for some of the trials you may face in a relationship.

Be a Friend Before Anything Else

Being someone’s true friend and caring for them goes a long way when looking for love.  The best love stories are made up of two people who are best friends.  Learn to care for a person for the right reasons and love will follow.

Remember That Asian People Are People

From My KBOP, there are a lot of similarities between different Asian cultures and the culture I grew up around.  The reason?  Because we are all just people at the end of the day.  Treat people with respect, and you will be shown respect.  Don’t lie about who you are and what you are.  Treat an Asian woman like you would any other woman, and an Asian man like you would any other man.  You’ll likely get a better response if you do things this way.

The people in the Asian community are truly wonderful and beautiful inside and out.  There’s nothing wrong, strange or abnormal about being an non Asian that wants to date/marry an Asian person.  But just remember to keep things respectful.  If you do, you may just find the love of a lifetime.

Are Koreans Color Struck?

So here is a post that you will not see on any of my other sites, but is kinda a hot topic for many out there.  The notion of being color struck when looking for love has been around for a long time.  Many get upset with Black men who are in the public eye that they feel are color struck, and many hear stories of Koreans being the same way.  So let’s examine what it means to be “color struck” and what my experience has been in dealing with Koreans in this regard.

Meaning of Color Struck

What I mean when I say color stuck is that there is a certain skin color that someone feels is more desirable or attractive than other skin colors.  For instance, there are some Black men who date Black women, but only ones with lighter skin.  Or some will look at Terrance Howard’s choices when it has come to dating and marriage and would say that “he has a type”.  Some Spanish speaking countries have been accused of being color struck by only showing models with a light brown skin color as being beautiful and not showing of women with darker skin tones as being beautiful.   So with that definition in mind, is Korea a color struck culture?

Korean Can Be Color Struck

The truth is Koreans are not all one skin tone.  There are Koreans that have a darker complexion that what you are used to seeing.  And maybe that’s the problem right there. Korean is known to have almost a cookie cutter standard of beauty.  Be as thin and as light as possible.   Just think of Korean K-Pop girl groups for a minute.  How many of these girls do you remember having a darker skin tone?  How many of them have appeared in photos that looked Photoshopped to make their skin look lighter?  Or how many Korean beauty treatments have you seen that are said to be designed to balance out the skin tone, which seems to lighten the skin tone in most cases?

To say that life in Korean culture as someone with darker skin can be a challenge can be an understatement.  For instance, it’s well known that there are a number of Black people who make up the foreign population in Korea.  However, Black women often have a hard time finding makeup that will work for them since the makeup there is typically only for women with lighter skin.  Korean American culture has been known for having “interesting” views on skin color and keeping the skin color one has as balanced as possible.  Some Korean American women I’ve met have even gone to wearing a glove on their left hand while driving, in part to make sure that their left hand doesn’t get darker than their right hand.  Perhaps the saddest thing I’ve seen in dealing with this issue is talking to a young Korean man who told me that “Asian women with darker skin simply aren’t attractive”.

Where Being Color Struck Comes From

For some, this is a deep rooted issue that goes back to the days of Korean dynasties.  It’s been said that during that time, the wealthy and royalty were indoors most of the time.  As a result, there was little exposure to sunlight and many had paler skin.  However, poorer people worked in the fields, thus having darker skin.  The association of lighter skin to wealth and beauty seemed to be formed then.  In the time after the Korean war when Black men marrying Korean women was seen as a “problem” to some, Korean parents were sometimes told to only allow their daughters to marry White men, in part because “their grandchildren would have lighter skin and be treated better by people”.  This helped to create a stigma towards Koreans who did date Black people or people with darker skin of other ethnic groups.  However, it is important to keep one key thought in mind.

Not All Koreans Are Color Struck

While some judge all Koreans as looking down on people with darker skin, that simply isn’t true. Many Koreans don’t think twice about the skin color of a potential partner.  They’re focused on how they will be treated in the relationship.  And as far as makeup goes, some report that makeup is finally being sold in Korea that is designed for women of darker skin tones.  What about my experience in dealing with Koreans as a Black man with dark skin?  While some people are idiots, most are cool and treat me as a human being.  Once they hear me speaking Korean, or respecting their culture, I’m treated just fine.   No one had a problem trying to set me up with a date, with some telling me that there were plenty of areas where women preferred Black men with darker skin.  And as for Korean men, I’ve met a lot of them who actually like Black and Hispanic women.  When looking at their history of who they dated and who they have been openly attracted to, they are anything but color stuck.

Korean culture can do some racist things and some things that are very insensitive.  But the entire culture or population isn’t that way at all.  Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find the root cause of why something happens or why you’re being lied to.  Take it from me, you can find friends and love in Korean culture as a person with dark skin.  While it may not be the optics that  you see, Korean culture probably isn’t as color struck as you’ve been lead to believe.

Welcome to KBOP

 

Welcome to my new site.  You may have seen some of my post before at waygookinway.com and be wondering, “why start a new site?”  The reason for this site is that waygookinway.com answers a lot of the questions that people have asked me over the years about Korean life and culture.  However, it doesn’t always answer how I personally feel or some of the things that I’ve been through.  Over the past 15 years, my points of view on life have been molded by by being a Black man in Korean/Korean American culture. Because of this, I can better understand multiple sides of issues that I otherwise would not be able to understand or see without my time spent studying Korean language and culture.

My experiences and viewpoints are therefore different than what you may see from other people in the media.  That is the point of My KBOP and what you can expect to see on this site.  So what does KBOP mean anyway?  It stands for my Korean and Black Oriented Perspective.  This site is where you will gain more insights about how Ahn Daewoong (안대웅) came to by, why I am a waygookin at all times and what others and I have experienced.  I’ll give you the good, the bad and the ugly about Korean/Korean American culture from my point of view.  Be sure to follow along as I explain things and take you on my journey as a Black man in a Korean world.