Just a few years ago, most Koreans were against the idea of dating or marrying foreigners.
But times have changed, and they’ve changed fast. Now, the international couples interviewed in this latest Borderless News video (click above to view) say most people around them generally have no problems with their relationship, and their families support their decision to date internationally.
Attitudes toward marrying foreigners have changed fast. Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, in a 2016 study cited by the Korea Times, found that nearly 8 in 10 Koreans aged 13 to 24 say they are “fine with international marriage.” That’s up sharply from 2008, when 66 percent of young people said they supported international marriages.
Korea has over the decades been criticized for treating foreigners as second class citizens, and discriminating against women who dated or married foreign men. Such thinking was once deeply ingrained in Korean society. That’s because in the decades after the Korean War, an estimated 1 million Korean women worked in the sex trade, with many of them servicing U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea.
Decades ago, it was thought that a woman seen in public with a foreign man must be a sex worker, and that led to widespread — and very unfair — stereotypes. The stereotypes held that any Korean woman seen with a foreign man must either be a sex worker or a so-called “bar girl” — freelance sex workers who get clients by frequenting bars.
Over the years, Koreans also started to believe that Korean women dating foreigners were promiscuous, and older generation males — often feeling threatened by foreign men’s sexuality — referred to these women with such terms as Yankee Yoja, which loosely translated means yankee whore, or a whore for foreign men.
Of course these stereotypes were unfair, but they stuck, and contributed to a negative view toward both foreign men and the Korean women in relationships with them.
Korea has also seen high points of anti-American sentiment. A decade ago saw a sharp rise in anti-American sentiment over the accidental death of two Korean junior high school girls, who were run over by a U.S. military vehicle, as well as over the Iraq war. All of this was also part of an ongoing trend of anti-American sentiment in what was then a very nationalist, xenophobic country that resenting the U.S. military presence.
This also translated to a general anti-Western sentiment. Protests in the early 2000s saw foreigners attacked on the street a few times, as well as spat upon or cursed out. Well-known Korean pop stars such as Yoon Do Hyun performed hits such as “Fucking USA” and Psy, who is wildly popular in the U.S. now for his hit Gangnam Style, in 2004 sung “kill those fucking Yankees..Kill their daughters, mothers…,” referring to U.S. soldiers fighting in the Iraq war.
The line of thinking was so widespread that, in decades past, it wasn’t uncommon for Korean women in a relationship with a foreign man to hide the relationship from their parents, denying they had a boyfriend at all — even for years. Some would even allow their parents to fix them up on dates with young Korean men, in order to keep up the ruse. Korean women married to foreign men were often the subject of gossip of neighbors.
But with the younger generation, much has changed. Korea’s new generation is much more well-traveled than previous generations, many of them having studied, worked, or done internships abroad. Korea is also promoting its country as a tourist destination that welcomes other nationalities — a sharp difference from a decade ago. Moreover, like many other countries, social media connects Korea to the world.
In Borderless News’ latest video, interviewees say they have no problem with the idea of dating or marrying foreigners — and some say their parents would even prefer that they marry a foreigner. Some say international relationships are a way for Korea to go global.
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