Thursday, July 08, 2004

more on kyoponess

Another letter from HK, clarifying a few things:

hey, i wonder if this will do the trick...

BigHo said:
The problem is that I most often hear the term being applied by Korean-born Koreans to Americans of Korean descent currently living in--not visiting-- Korea. Maybe I misunderstood something fundamental about the term (entirely possible; I'm constantly wrong about things)-- if the term "kyopo" IS applicable to Komericans (another fuzzy term) living in Korea, is this because they're "overseas" or "abroad" in the sense that their home is America?

yes. it is because their 'home is america', even though they may now be 'home' in korea. (i understand that they are living in -- and not visiting -- korea.) some may marry korean nationals, speak with little or no american accent, have korean children and end up dying on korean soil. but you will hear other korean nationals referring to them as gyopo because these people have spent a significant amount of time being brought up some place other than korea. this brings us to something beyond the technical definition of gyopo = korean living abroad: the common usage of "gyopo".

common usage definition of gyopo (two basic types):

1) hard core koreans who went abroad and stayed there. simple case: a 34 year old korean national takes his wife and 3 children to New Jersey to open up a small electronics store in the burbs. they go there, get green cards (the green card is _essential_ to obtaining gyopo status, citizenship is not), obtain us citizenship and live in the states until they die.

2) people of korean descent who have been brought up abroad and have absorbed the non-korean culture. they receive their primary education abroad. they are gyopo even if they go back to live in korea. they are gyopo even if they go back to live in korea and give up their non-korean citizenship and swear their allegiance forever to kimchi and ddeokbokki. this reflects what you have observed. the weird Theyre Living Abroad, Now Theyre Home! So How Come Theyre Still Gyopo Paradox.

to this, now lets bring in my parents. they are citizens (it took them 30 years). definitely gyopo, right? perfect example of 1). but lets say that two weeks ago they said 'fuck america' and moved back to jeonju to run a cham gireum and gochu mill (bang-aht-gan) with no intention of ever setting foot on american soil again. what are they going to be called by all the jeonju ajumas and ajeossis?

they will NOT be called gyopos. compare this to the people in 2). so how come my parents wont be called gyopos?

BigHo: I guess I'm looking for some clarification about what the term, deep down, is saying about Koreanness.

there is agreement about what it is to be ethnically korean. what it comes down to is: what are you culturally? how do you compare culturally with the typical korean national? where did you grow up (this is NOT the same as "where were you born")?

i agree that after 30 years in america, my parents are different creatures than their brothers and sisters living in korea. but if they go back they wont be called gyopo. i will be, however. ill always be called a gyopo. this can be a negative, but as i explained before, its not really insulting. being called a gyopo more a description than anything.

if you dont like gyopos, then calling someone a gyopo might be insulting. but i think your buddy jang-woong needs to meet cash strapped, hunched over l.a. gyopos like me. (no strutting and no flash of any cash. i _do_ make an ass out of myself in front of korean koreans, though.) well whatever. as evil as they are, labels can be useful and when i hear people talk about obnoxious gyopos, i know exactly who they are talking about. i see plenty of them around me. :D

hows that? still clear as mud? if it isnt, i dont think i can clarify it. but im curious to know if the common usage definition helps. please do tell.

also, i think you hit a lot of grey areas when you start talking about those kids who move here when they are 13, 14, go to high school and college here, etc, and then move back to korea. what are they? i sure as heck dont know.

I'm still puzzling my way through this, but thanks for the Erklärung.


No comments: