Thursday, April 27, 2006

More on Half-Koreans

Being the father of two beautiful half-Korean children, I have a natural interest in the Korean views on purity and impurity of blood.

Jodi, over at Asia Pages, has an interesting anecdote in her post "Tainting the Bloodline," which I'll quote in part here:

As one of my co-workers currently is courting a Japanese woman with serious intentions for marriage, his doing so has sparked a lot of gossip in the office, particularly in regards to what his children will be like.

One woman has told me how she cannot understand his decision to marry a foreigner and how she is especially appalled that he is ruining the Korean bloodline .... [W]hen I questioned her on what she meant, she told me how his children would be half-Japanese and not pure Korean.

"But what does it mean to be pure Korean?" I asked. "For don't Koreans have a mixture of Chinese and Mongolian blood within them?"

Interestingly, the woman was speechless, but if she had attempted a rebuttal, Jody had the scientific evidence to rebut the rebuttal:

I might have engaged her in a talk about the mysterious Y chromosomal DNA variation and its possible role in the "tainting" of the Korean bloodline.
That's a pdf-file that Jody links to, so don't go there if you don't like those sorts of things. Also, the article is very technical. Go here to see the html-page summary (and note the quarterblood Japanese tainting of this otherwise pureblood Korean article):
"Y chromosomal DNA variation in east Asian populations and its potential for inferring the peopling of Korea"

Wook Kim, Dong Jik Shin, Shinji Harihara, and Yung Jin Kim

Based on the result of the dual patterns of the haplotype distribution, it is more likely that the population structure of Koreans may not have evolved from a single ancient population derived from Northeast Asians, but through dual infusions of Y chromosomes entering Korea from two different waves of East Asians.
The language here is tentative about the "infusions," but the genetic evidence strongly argues that Koreans are mixed.

Interestingly, a cultural memory of the halfblood (Hon Hyeol) origins of Koreans comes down to us in the guise of the Dangun myth that I referred to in my post of April 24:
There is, after all, that very first Korean, the "Hon Hyeol" Dangun Wanggeom (단군왕검), mixed offspring of a bear-woman (Ungnyeo) and a god-man (Hwanung).
According to the Wikipedia article on Dangun:
Scholars today regard the legend as reflecting the sun-worship and totemism common in the origin myths of Northeast Asia. The bear is often found in origin myths of Manchuria and Russian Far East. The legend therefore may hint at the relationships among various tribes that worshipped the sun, bear, and tiger.
Indeed, my first quasi-anthropological thought upon hearing this Dangun myth was that it preserved an old memory of the union of two tribes, an invading tribe that worshipped the sun and came from outside of the Korean peninsula and a sedentary tribe that worshipped the bear-totem and already inhabited the Korean peninsula.

Whether my wild speculation is right or wrong, the myth assumes that Koreans are mixed from their very origins, and the genetic evidence from the article that Jodi cited would tend to support the view that Koreans are an ethnically mixed people and not the 'purebloods' that they often claim to be.

12 Comments:

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Jeni said...

My name is Jenn and I just randomly stumbled upon your site, I think I typed "Korean" on the blog search. After which, I saw your interesting title. I am currently dating a "whiteboy," and Korean society (yes, even the ones that have immigrated to the US) is so unforgiving of mixing blood. My boyfriend and I are quite serious and want to eventually marry... Anyway, the information you provide is quite interesting and a fun read! I used to teach a multimedia English listening course at Pagoda Language Institute in Kangnam. I'm glad to have informally met you!

 
At 11:38 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

Good thoughts on a culturally and genetically interesting topic. Unsurprisingly racism seems to have very little to do with science. Where do you even start when you get into something like "whiteness"? (David Roediger is the best scholar I know on that subject.)

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hi Jeni. Thanks for stopping by. I hope that you and your boyfriend can overcome the obstacles that Korean society erects.

On the issue of blood purity, you might want to visit Jodi's site. Just click on the link in my post.

I think that I've heard of Pagoda Language Institute. What are you working at these days?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jessica, it's generally correct that racists ignore science.

Anyway, most people are mixed, whether they know it or not. For instance, I look 'white,' but I'm part Cherokee.

Who's David Roediger?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Nathan B. said...

Jeffery, I think your speculation on the reality behind the myth is likely on the money. That's the usual way these sorts of things are interpreted, isn't it?

As for my own geneology, my father was a Mennonite and my mother was an Amourite.

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

An Amourite? Then your mother was either a well-loved "jeune fille bien" from Montreal or a brown type of asbestos (which is useful in fiery relationships).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:55 AM, Anonymous Nathan B. said...

I always get a kick out of saying that joke! Usually, I don't insert the extra "u," but I decided to try it out this time.

 
At 1:03 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

I read (Newsweek, I want to say) about an international project spun off of the human genome (maybe the Human Genome Diversity Project?) that aimed to find out just how mixed we all are. Among many findings, I recall the reaction of a man who'd grown up identifying himself as African-American and learning that he had no African ancestry at all. He questioned himself to the core, including his past acceptance of a scholarship at a historically black college, etc. It was a fascinating article--wish I could reference it better.

As for David Roediger, he's a former professor at the Univ. of Minnesota who opened up my eyes to the social construction of "whiteness."

 
At 12:05 AM, Blogger wooj said...

Remind people that Korea has been invaded way too many times by other countries in the past to possibly retain such a thing as a "pure bloodline." It's good to see that more scientific studies also exist.

 
At 4:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Wooj, this fact will probably receive repeated emphasis in the future as mixed marriages become more common here in Korea. And they really are becoming more common, aren't they?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi My name is Jennifer and i just stopped by your page. i typed 'half korean' on the google search. yes im half korean, living in Korea. i didn't know that i am half korean before i found out my real father, which completely changed my whole identity. i had lived as a "full Korean" even though most people didn't think so. yeah it is hard to live here as a halfkorean but i got some hope here,...thanks

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer. You must have an interesting story, even if it has some painful episodes. I'm glad that my blog was of some help. There are, in any case, a lot of mixed people, even in Korea.

Jeffery Hodges

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