UPDATE 2: Thanks to the comment by Sonagi, here’s the video of his remarks. He does indeed stumble on what sounds like the first syllable of the word “깜둥이” which, indeed, is the infamous N-word.
(Note added: Actually, as Sonagi notes in the comments, it’s 껌둥이, but this is just a variant pronunciation of (as far as either of us know) equivalent meaning.) Also, the video seems not to be loading on my Firefox, but in case it works in IE I;’ve leave it embedded here. Here’s a link for those who cannot view it.)
And as per Sonagi’s comment, it is (once again) disheartening that this hasn’t gotten more press sooner in any major newspaper in Korea. I still think it’s good that it got any negative press at all, though. And it seems to have hit the big media now.
UPDATE: There’s good news and bad news. Which do you want first?
The good news? okay: I improved the translation after I got some feedback. Sorry! I tried!
The bad news? The comment was much more racist than I thought.
ORIGINAL POST: So says Kim Tae Young, Korea’s Secretary of Defense.
It’s a paraphrased translation, of course, of what he actually said, in Korean. The line from the article is:
“…하지만 아프리카에는 밀림과 자연만 있다. 그게 관광명소냐. 무식한 흑인만 뛰어다니는 곳”이라고 문제의 발언을 했다.**
This is in the context of — well, trhe gist is that it’s something that was said during a meeting to discuss of the development of a naval base on Jeju Island, and locals who are opposed to the project on ecological grounds. Kim was going on about how building a naval base needn’t destroy the natural beauty of a region. His example and cautionary counterexample? It’s been so wonderful for Capri, Italy, to have a developed harbor because of its base, leading to the establishment of wonderful sights for tourism and so on. But in Africa…
Well, said Kim, Africa — and he didn’t specify which country, if indeed he’s aware that Africa is more than one country — “Africa is all jungle and [undeveloped] nature. That’s the [only?] tourist attraction [offered by Africa]. Ignorant negroes run everything [there].”
UPDATE: Here’s a better translation: “Africa is all jungle and [undeveloped] nature. Is that a tourist attraction? Ignorant negroes just running around [wild]!” (Which implies, you know, savages half-naked running around that undeveloped jungle wild land.)
It’s not clear why he decided to slam the black race in general. Perhaps it’s just a kneejerk reaction, or maybe he was giving even more frightening cautionary advice to those pesky eco-concerned locals. Perhaps the implication boils down to, don’t oppose this, or not only will Jeju miss out an opportunity in development, but worse, you’ll be just like those Idiotic Negroes in Africa!
Even setting the blitheringly obvious racism aside, is he seriously saying that tourism will increase because of a naval base? Is increased tourism the only reason anyone in the Lee Administration can come up with for any project? (We’ve heard it before, about the Grand Canal plan, and about the Cheonggyecheon stream. It seems the main justification for anything that locals oppose these days.)
But it’s hard to set aside the blitheringly obvious racism, really, for more than a moment. Either way, for the irony-impaired, consider that this manifestly ignorant comment was made by Korea’s Minister of National Defense. Obviously, it’s not just in “Africa” that an ignorant or idiotic jackass can take a part in running a country.
The Korean media reaction is interesting, mind you. For those pessimists who see this as another excuse to mutter, “Ah, Korean Sparkling! Things will never change here…”: well, it’s worth noting that the article presents Kim’s comments as “problematic.” But optimists will be sobered by this sign that there’s a long way to go, especially when it comes the generation of men currently running the show here.
In any case, I somewhat doubt this will end up in the English-language press, which is why I am posting this here now… but I don’t want to misrepresent the situation, either. If I’ve gotten anything wrong or mixed-up, please let me know. I welcome any corrections or further information, and will update the article if I get any.
(* Yes, my choice of the word “negroes” is likely debatable. “흑인” literally is “black people” but when you stick “무식한” (“ignorant” or “idiotic”) in front of it, it doesn’t at all feel like a neutral descriptor of race — it feels like a racist epithet. I wanted to convey the inherent racism evident in the original, without using that other “N” word. “Ignorant blacks” doesn’t quite convey it, but the ick factor of the word “negro” as used by a non-black retired military general in 2010 hopefully does, at least for native English speakers.)
(**Question on quotation conventions in Korean, but I’ll put that below the cut, for those interested in a little language translation puzzle…
The quote ends:
“무식한 흑인만 뛰어다니는 곳”이라고 문제의 발언을 했다.
-이라고… 했다. If I want to chop off that ending, and just quote his words directly, as in,
His exact words were: “무식한 흑인만 뛰어다니는 곳…”
… then how do I conjugate the verb? Is there a default for that sort of quotation? Or do I need access to an original transcript? Can I simply choose, or would I assume he’s used 존대말? Would I just choose a form?
“무식한 흑인만 뛰어다니는 곳이다.”
“무식한 흑인만 뛰어다니는 곳입니다.”
I realize normally someone would use the attribution tag “-이라고… 했다” but I wonder if there is a specific rule, or rule of thumb, for the case when someone wants to report the exact wording, but doesn’t know whether the speaker used반말 or존대말 or some other conjugative suffix like-이고든요 or -이군 or whatever. Should I guess, or make up the conjugation, or just assume 존대말? Or go searching for transcripts that may not even exist? What would you do?)