Sunday, February 24, 2008

"I hate the Jews"

It began in my intensive class with a pronunciation lesson: how to say "I went to the zoo" and not "I went to the Jew."

"I hate the Jews," one of my best students said, completely out of the blue. Shocked, I asked her why she felt that way. "Because they cheat people out of their money," she replied. "Some Jews in Europe have taken over some of the old grave sites, and are charging high admission prices for people to come in and see them, but there's nothing to see!"

I spent some time sketching the long and painful history of the Jews in various parts of the world, though I suspect the effort was in vain. Whatever propaganda machine is churning out such Jew-hatred in Korea is doing a very good job. I seriously doubt that any of my students has even met a Jew before, but at least one of my students already hates them.

The student in question is a devout Christian. Nice. Yet another Christian who has forgotten that Jesus himself was Jewish.



melancholy donut said...

my parents, i am ashamed to say, are anti semitic. sometimes they are quite vocal about it too, which embarrasses me. i dont think that it is based on anything personal and my parents are not extremely devout christians. i dont know where they got it from (it feels like some kind of disease or something). perhaps they picked it up from some of the right wing media that they subscribe too (my dad in particular leans towards the far right) or maybe their friends. i havent been home since i left for college. so i dont know who they actually hang out with these days. and their antisemitism seems to have gotten stronger since ive left. or maybe its just that ive been able to pick up on it better as i got older.

i used to wonder if i could attribute it to the usual korean xenophobia, but theyve been here in america since 71. can i blame it? or are they just too stubborn? or what?

theyre also racist in some of the usual ways. i dont think ive heard ggamdungi in decades, although "ilbon-nom" still persists.

John B said...

In my experience, it is Koreans who have done a bit of traveling in Europe who pick up these ideas. They meet an anti-Semite who fills their heads with crap, and they have absolutely contrary experience to give contrast. Partly because Jewish people are so invisible unless you know what to look for, and Koreans don't know what to look for. A Korean exchange student will have many fond memories of their teacher "Mr. Cohen" or so forth, but never connect that with the "evil Jews".

The obvious answer is to encourage Jewish people to come to Korea, so Koreans can actually meet Jewish people and be able to put a face behind the crap they hear.