Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dae Han Min Guk!?

So, went to Korea to see some World Cup action in 2002 and did a lot of 'Dae Han Min Guk!' chanting, and it was really fun and exciting. But a new Foreign Policy article has me thinking again. Primarily related to the Virginia Tech massacre, committed by a South Korean citizen, the article touches on Korean nationalism:

South Koreans like to boast that theirs is the world’s most ethnically homogenous country. Fending off invaders for thousands of years—first the Chinese, then the Japanese, and most recently, one another—Koreans have fought hard to defend their distinct identity. The result is a scrappy, sometimes chauvinistic national character that is often shorthanded as han minjok, meaning “one race, one bloodline.”

'Han minjok' seems to be the same thing as 'Han Min Guk' - it's just a variation on the transliteration from the Korean alphabet. The whole 'one race, one bloodline' thing is a bit, uh, what's the word I'm looking for...racist, no? Seems that way to me. And the "world’s most ethnically homogenous country" boast (if true) would fit in well in America, on any of America's right-wing/racist hate speech radio programs/stations.

And it doesn't seem to be the same thing as chanting 'USA! USA!' - as fascist and horrible as that is, too - but at least it's not racist, or not outwardly racist. There's kind of a built-in bigotry that nationalism brings - say, where white American folks chanting 'USA! USA!' think they're inherently better/smarter/stronger/faster/etc than white French folks - but bigotry, while horrible, is not racism. Racism is saying that your race - your bloodline/color/etc - is inherently better than another. This is my dispute with the 'Dae Han Min Guk!' chant.

I don't like thinking I could be in the same company as the Rush Limbaughs of the world.

Am I wrong on this?


Anonymous said...

'Dae Han Min Guk' simply means Democratic (Min) Republic (Guk) of the Great (Dae) Han (Meaning Han people dating back to early AD from China).

It does infer a racial claim to the land. But I don't see it as prejudiced as you make out. England for instance means "Land of the Angles". But, there is more than just Angles living there now!

I'm in Korea and they're all very friendly.

Homeless Drummer said...

Minjok 민족、民族 is not the same as minguk 민국、民國, which simply means “republic.” Han minjok means something like “Korean people/nation/ethnic group.” If you do a search you can find more history on the term.