All Look Same?

ALL LOOK SAME is a game where you try and see whether you can tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people by photographs. Some Koreans claim this is easy as ddeok, but it’s not. It’s a worthwhile game, though.

Lime showed me this, and I’m crediting her even if she disagrees with a rule that won me 9 points out of 18, which is 2 points above the average scored by 1.3 million people. There’s also an essay about the concept of the game, here. I must say that I could pick out the Koreans while traveling in India by their clothing and hairstyle more than anything; that and they almost always spoke Korean among themselves. I doubt this would work so well on second- or later-generation Americanized Asians.

Oh, by the way, for the purposes of this game, I have only one rule: Bad Lipstick = Korean. Wait, Bad ManHair = Japanese. Okay.

UPDATE 13 October 2004: I asked the creator of this game via email how the photos were selected (as per one of the questions in the comments section) and he replied as follows:

I hosted a party where you had to bring an Asian to get in. (If you were Asian yourself, you get right in.) I had a photo shoot set up at this party. So those are some of the people who showed up to the party. As far as I know, they are 100% C, J, or K.

So there you have it: random selection of Asian-Americans. Depending on how long they’ve been in America and their experience there, one expects a certain degree of homogenization when it comes to fashion. So this test would effectively be only a test of how well ethnicity can be judged by face.

By the way, this reminds me that the myth Asians can tell where another Asian is from has been blown away a few times. I can’t tell you how many times Koreans have told me that Thai, the American-of-Southeast-Asian origins in Dabang Band, “looks Korean”. I always think that’s absolutely crazy, as he has always looked more kind of Southeast Asian than East Asian to me. (Though he also vaguely looks British to me, for some reason.) Anyway, the Asians I’ve met are no more expert than anyone else when it comes to judging ethnicity by facial structure. Sometimes they can tell by fashion—and Koreans are very good at picking out other Koreans by fashion and mannerisms—but by face, it’s think it’s just very very difficult. But why should one expect anything else? I certainly can’t tell Germans from French or Brits just by face alone, no matter how many stereotypes I rely upon.

In reality, there are so many variations on an ethnic theme that it’s often just impossible to guess someone’s ethnic origins by looking at their face… and that’s assuming one’s home country equals ethnic origins, which is wrong not just in Europe but also, judging by the histories I’ve been reading about Korea, even here. The numbers of Chinese, Mongols, Japanese, even Arabs, and others who came and lived here over the centuries, intermarrying with locals, convinces me that the Korean educational system’s myth that Koreans are “One People of One Blood” is absolutely not just a mistake but an outright conservative lie. One Family, I’ll buy, but One Blood is a fantasy than even Tolkien could have come up with.

4 thoughts on “All Look Same?

  1. A question on the “All the same” game; how did they select the pictures for people to identify? Did they really select them randomly? Or did they purposefully look for Asians who would be a challenge to peg?

  2. You’ve got a better eye than me! I got eight right.

    I posted the link, with comments following your line of thinking, on my blog.

    Anyway, thanks for a link to an entertainning five minutes.

  3. Pingback: Simon World

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