Something smells kimchi…

In ten years of working in the field of education, I devoted three to four of them in Korean companies. If there is one thing I learned about them aside from how they make kimchi, it’s their intense pride in their nation, their culture, their language, their skin.

A high sense of superiority for one’s culture can only dictate this statement:

“I was teased because I looked like a Filipino because of my skin color.”

Koreans are aware of the influence of their media to their people and so do we. This statement therefore is alarming. How far has discrimination against Filipinos gone in that country for ‘looking like a Filipino’ to be considered ‘troublesome’ in a show?

I am quite grateful that @royaltykai from Twitter has raised this issue and voiced her opinion to what many Filipinos prefer to shrug off. I understand her frustration: how come a culture can be loved and another culture, or even skin-color be discriminated against?

Before anybody tears his or her head off out of contempt and anger, let me start this discussion by saying Koreans’ general impressions are affected by how often they interact with Filipinos:

  1. Koreans stay in the Philippines to study English.
  2. Koreans pay for online English courses with Filipino teachers.
  3. Koreans put up businesses in the Philippines and interact with Filipino clients or even Filipino helpers.
  4. South Korea’s economic status is far better than the Philippines (2017, CountryEconomy)

Why do these matter? If perhaps, Koreans interact with Indonesians/ Thai more often, would they use the same comparison? Most likely. The use of the word ‘Filipino’ in the statement, or even in the TV show, was the game changer. Let’s be honest, Filipinos, we don’t own the skin-color ‘kayumanggi.’ We have a word for it, that’s true, but it’s just like having multiple words for rice—it’s a part of our distinction but we don’t have sole ownership to rice as to a skin-color. If you travel to other places in Asia, you will find that not only Filipinos have the enviable golden brown complexion. However, the Koreans, influenced by any of the aforementioned reasons or not, in the show still associated ‘Filipino’ to the color and even successfully managed to claim it was a ‘problem.’ Should we be grateful that at least ‘Filipinos’ were given limelight no matter how in poor taste it was? Don’t make me laugh.

In 2015, the number of Koreans in the Philippines has reached about a hundred thousand, undeniably attracted by the lower cost of living in our country as opposed to the first world standards of South Korea. I have already said more than once in my life, Filipinos are too welcoming. It’s the downside of our hospitality that our visitors, after exhausting our goods and safely coming back to their own land, would even ridicule our skin-color. It has been deeply ingrained in our system that what we do to others will also be done to us that is why as much as possible we try our best to show the best of ourselves, hoping that we in turn might receive the same respect elsewhere. Have we in any case insulted Koreans in our mainstream TV or perhaps associate ‘Korean’ negatively? Please let me know because I am ignorant.

I do understand that we must not blame the victims– in this case, yes Filipinos seem to be the victims—but I say, we must stop playing the victims. Something must be done about it but it doesn’t mean we have to douse ourselves with papaya or extracts and other whitening ingredients. We have our own prejudices—that’s a fact. Aren’t the Chinese often misrepresented in our TV shows and sitcoms? @royaltykai was right when she said we are also prejudiced against our own people (Negra and Ita were the common terms used when I was in elementary).

Should we fight fire with fire and catapult insults in our airwaves like, “Your face is as flat as a Korean!” or “You have Korean legs” or “You smell like Kimchi”–I do looooooooooove kimchi by the way but it doesn’t make me go gaga over a person whose armpits smell like fermented cabbage. Should we ban famous Korean artists we have learned to love from coming to the Philippines? Do we have the power to ban some Koreans who have insulted Filipinos from coming to our country? These ‘answers’ may look atrocious, even childish and do not even solve the core of the problem in any way.

The solution then, aside from calling the producers of the show out and demanding an apology, is to fiercely love our nation, culture, and language, our skin-color, the way Koreans love theirs or even more. A member of a different nationality no matter how good his or her intentions are won’t be able to educate one entire nation, no matter how small, into believing that something is beautiful. In South Korea where the standard of beauty is so rigid that it even often discriminates its own people, how can a Filipino proclaim, “This skin-color is beautiful, we are beautiful.” Take Pia Wurtzbach for example. She was a confirmed SUJU fan but did she ever see the need to comply with the standards of beauty Koreans have? No. She is very proud of her skin-color. Before you start telling me, “yeah, she’s a queen,” darling, you have reached the end of my long work and completely missed]nbvcdcdc1 my point. Before she was Queen Pia, she was Miss Philippines and before that, she’s Pia, a Filipina proud of her skin-color and giving it the respect it deserves.

I can almost hear others say, That’s only skin-color! There are more pressing issues around the world! There is nothing more important than world peace.

But of course! Some people would choose to believe that we better take the high road and think, “at least we’re not the first one to cast the stone.” After all, not all Koreans think poorly of Filipinos. Yes, that’s true as well but it doesn’t change the fact that some still do. The issue of colors has long pervaded history of wars around the world—it’s hardly new anymore but it’s still prevalent. Welcome to the group of people who are not appreciated because of their skin-color. Stand tall and be proud! It’s much easier than putting up a business that could rival Samsung, employing thousands of Koreans, and finally solving our country’s economic problems.

 

Postscript:

Permission to post tweets has been granted by the owner of the thread. Also, I would like to emphasize that I am not against Koreans. I am against any idea, philosophy, people, or group that irrationally degrades the nation I represent.

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