Thursday, July 08, 2004

postal scrotum: kyopo redux

HK writes in with the smackdown:

BigHo: 'The term kyopo technically means "a Korean national abroad" or "an overseas Korean," but the term most generally refers to those who are, racially, full-blooded Koreans but citizens of other countries, like the US.'

this is the definition. although im not going to do the dictionary work this morning, here are the characters for gyopo (this is more for my reference later): 僑胞

BigHo: "Some might say that I'm a kyopo, though I think my bi-racial status makes that vague."

hrm. i dont know how your bi-racial status affects this. *shrug* if it were up to me, youre a gyopo. im gonna ask me hubby about this later when he wakes up. (he has been known to deny that he is a gyopo, but when pressed, he will admit that maybe he is one after all. when you marry an american girl for a green card like he has, youre a gyopo.)

BigHo: "I also tend to think the term doesn't gain full redolence unless you're referring to a kyopo who's currently living in Korea."

you become a gyopo if you live abroad (except as yuhaksaeng). and thats that.

my parents, who were both born in korea and went to live in the states in 1971, are gyopos. no question. and when mummy squeezed me out, she passed on her artificially obtained gyoponess to me. im a natural gyopo (*squeal of delight*). and my aunt and uncle, who moved to fairfax, va when they were both in their 50s (and now both get social security, even though they did not pay into the system -- i still dont get how they heck they do that) are gyopodeul. we are gyopo (you will be assimilated. resistance is futile). none of us need live in korea to complete the process of gyopofication.

yuhaksaengship does not qualify one for gyopo status. if you do time studying in the states or elsewhere, be that 5 years or 10 years, and you come back to work and live in korea eventually, youre not a gyopo. you just did a yuhak.

BigHo: "I don't know whether L.A. kyopos call each other kyopo or simply hanguk-saram-deul."

if youve got that korean blood in you, youre hanguksaram in my book. and i refer to my l.a. brothas n sistas (fist in the air) as hanguksaramdeul. i wont call anyone a gyopo (its not a good or bad thing; its neutral; its just a description) unless i want to call attention to that fact. its too specific a term, i feel. like i would never call my boss the brunette guy. he is brunette, but i usually refer to him as that japanese guy. brunettes too specific.

BigHo: "More likely, they're using terms like im-ma (dude) and saekki-ya (son of a bitch)."

imma can be translated as dude, but dude doesnt really ever sound as nasty as fucker, which is now bad imma can be sometimes (its short for 'i-nom-ah').

saekki-ya. heh. it would be funny if i called all my fellow la-koreanites my fellow saekkideul. yo yo yo.

BigHo: "Write in if you have a better way of defining kyopo; I'm all ears"

i think you gave a good definition right at the beginning, but then the extra bit with the "i also tend to think the term doesn't..." was incorrect.

So there we go. In my defense, I'll say I hear the term kyopo almost always used by Koreans in Korea to speak of full-blooded Koreans coming from the States. It's true that anecdotal evidence does not a rigorous definition make, so I accept HK's corrections; I'm still learning the ins and outs with this.

My buddy Jang-woong, when he talks about kyopo, usually means the rich, over-privileged kind, mostly from L.A., who strut around Korea, flashing cash, acting like they blend in (but don't), and generally making asses of themselves to the Korean Koreans. There may be a resentment factor here: while I've heard some kyopo who speak fluently but with a distinctly American accent, it's hard to deny that those kyopo, even if they don't "blend in," per se, have an easier time than Whitey (or Off-Whitey, in my case) at getting around between two cultures, whereas Koreans here who haven't mastered English have more trouble getting around in the States. If my buddy's negative feelings toward such kyopo are sourced in that kind of resentment, then I can't quite figure it out because his English, while not perfect, is pretty damn good. If I could speak Korean the way he speaks English, I'd be happy. I do agree, though, that a lot of the kyopo who come here deserve a kick upside their snotty little Richie Rich heads.

[NB: Fuck the rich. I see the snobbery and superiority complexes playing themselves out in my mother's Korean-American women's society all the damn time. I may be in a foul mood about rich folks because we now have four extremely rich white guys running for office in the States. Not just rich, but extremely, filthy, money-shooting-out-of-asshole rich. So much for being in touch with the country.

"Oooooh, is that a check-out scanner?" FUCK 'EM!!]

While I may technically be kyopo according to HK's reckoning, it was the strangest thing in the world to hear it (the one and only time I did hear it). I think that, for quite a few Koreans, racial purity matters. The label doesn't readily come to mind for most Koreans with reference to us freaks. This obviously isn't true all around, otherwise I'd never have heard the term applied to me.


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