Site icon

Thoughts on the MBC Clip and the Facebook Reaction

An article ran in the Joongang Ilbo yesterday about the recent anti-foreigner propaganda clip that aired on MBC, and which I mentioned here.

Tonight, I posted a long post to Facebook, about the anti-MBC organization that has formed there. Mostly about how the organization needs to move beyond being anti-MBC if it is to achieve anything useful in the long run. What I wrote on Facebook (here) is as follows:

A thought.

MBC is not the source of these ideas, nor will it be the only place such crap is aired, published, or propagated in Korean society. MBC’s video isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem, and the problem at hand affects many more demographics than seem to be represented here in this discussion.

I think being too MBC-centric might hobble whatever you’re trying to do here in the long run. Not that our position is anything like that of African-Americans in the US — seriously, folks — but they don’t call it the “Action Against Jim Crow and the Racist, Blatantly etc etc.”, they call it the NAACP. (Same goes for the ADL [“Anti-Defamation League”] and NOW [“National Organization for Women”].)

If you really, seriously want to make things better, a more generalized blanket organization will need to be formed. It will need to involve people who live here long term, to keep it going. It will take energy. It will take time. The members would need to be fluent in Korean. If you want actual social change. And it will take a lifetime or two of many people working for it for even a moderate change, because that’s how it works with xenophobia as entrenched as it is in Korean society.

I suspect things are not quite so bad for foreigners in Korea that this will actually happen. I also suspect there won’t be a demand for foreign language teachers here long enough for it to matter much. People living somewhere temporarily on residency visas tend not to invest themselves in such organizations.

But realistically, if you do plan on making your home here for a long time, that’s what you’d want to do: form an umbrella organization. You’ll want to get people of the caliber of those who founded the NAACP, if you can find them — with such a small population of expats, and so much turnover, you may not end up with a W.E.B. Du Bois, sadly; and you’ll want to take a page from the NAACP’s book in forming an organization as diverse as possible, bringing in sympathetic Koreans and very aggressively bringing in membership from the non-white/non-Western community.

In fact, my sense is that the white foreigners in any such organization would probably play a role more like the Jewish-Americans in the early NAACP did; that is, as working from a position of relative (not absolute) racial and social privilege, for the betterment of all minorities in Korean society. This would also give all of us some perspective on the realities of race here, because, let’s be honest: while seeing videos like the MBC clip is insulting, and truly sucks (and regardless of how crappy are the worst of our personal experiences), we face only a fraction of the incredible crap that foreign emigrants to Korea of other races — as well as mixed-race Koreans of all ages, and Korean women and men who choose “others” as mates — find themselves having to endure here on a daily basis.

And if we all really, seriously believe in racial equality, the only non-hypocritical step is to move beyond being the predominantly white liberals that most of us are now, fretting over the abuse of their own collective image, and band together with everyone else who believes in and starves for racial equality… and then turn those collective energies to push Korean society in that direction.

I’ll be honest: I’m unlikely to remain here long enough myself to take part in such an organization very meaningfully (after eleven years, I’ve kind of had enough of it, and my [Korean] partner is sick and tired of being treated like a criminal for her choice of mate); but I would willingly contribute time and energy to it while I am here, in order to help make sure such a group would get a good start. A group that would have intelligent, coherent, and Korean-culture-appropriate talking points to respond to silliness like the recent comment that it’s a “guilty conscience” that is provoking the negative reaction to the MBC clip.

But such a group couldn’t exist primarily online; I think an in-person meeting of people seriously interested in being part of such a group in the long term would be a necessary first step. Intelligent discussion of strategy and organizational mandate and such would be a good thing to do, with some time for reflection and rethinking of things; but the most important thing would be to form a community of people and figure out how to get on the same page with regard to a bunch of things.


Exit mobile version