By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
In the background of our criticism about Jasmine Lee is sitting our convoluted pride out of the mentality that "we are a homogeneous nation brilliant with the half-ten thousand history." The history textbook for the senior high schools approved by the national education authorities describes that "our nation has a long history of more than half a ten-thousand years, and we have kept our tradition as a homogeneous people which is rarely seen in the world history."
This sense of the homogeneous nation has been further strengthened as we experienced the anguish of our national sovereignty lost in the early 20th Century and the 36-year-long colonial rule under the Japanese Empire. This served as a single nation ideology which was necessary for the unity of our nation as a common destiny identity.
According to a public opinion poll conducted on 2,500 citizens aged between 19 and 74 years old for the acceptance of a multi-culture, nearly 87 percent of the respondents gave an importance to the bloodline. This is markedly higher than Sweden's 30 percent and 55 percent of the United States. Besides, the 36 percent rate of the Korean people's perception for a multicultural coexistence is far less than the 74 percent recorded for the citizens of 18 European countries.
The perception in favor of a homogeneousness or a pure blood racism comes out from the convoluted concept. According to Jeong Su-il, the cultural exchange scholar, about 150 of our nation's 250 family names came from abroad, and by the early days of Goryeo about 17 percent of its population was people from abroad. Heo Hwang-ok, a queen of King Kim Su-ro of the state of Garak in ancient Silla, came from India, and some 6 million people of Kim of Kimhae origin, Heo of Yang Cheon, Heo of Hayang, Heo of Kimhae and Yi of Inchon are all their descendants.
Our society is rapidly transforming into a multi-cultural one. At the present time, an estimated total of 1.4 million foreigners is living in Korea, and we would not be able to carry on our lives without foreigners. At the same time, almost 10 million Korean people are living in the four corners of the globe. It is quite natural that Korean people are living tall in the world as the denizens of the world, we are supposed to accept with warmth people from abroad who are living together with us among ourselves.
Jasmine Lee was naturalized as a Korean citizen after she came from the Philippines with her Korean husband. Even after her husband's death, she is living in Korea as a proud Korean daughter-in-law and mother of her child. She was featured in a movie titled "Wandeuk" playing an excellent role as a Filipina mother. She says she wants to speak for all the foreigners living in our country. Even faced with some criticism, she said: "I was hurt at a time, but now I have realized how this country is receptive of foreigners," making us feel sorry.