Korean Biases Erode as Biracial Entertainers Succeed: LAT

      August 08, 2004 21:28

      "Amerasians" such as Sonya and Lee Yu-jin are succeeding in the entertainment field and Korea's biases against biracial individuals are abating, reported the LA Times on Friday.

      In an article entitled, "In S.Korea, a Silver Lining to Being Biracial," the paper mentioned several biracial Koreans who are making a good progress in the entertainment field like 24-year-old singer Sonya, who was born to a Korean mother and African-American soldier, who is starring in the musical "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"; 27-year-old entertainer Lee Yu-jin, born to Hispanic American father; and 20-year-old Yonsei University student Jennifer Young Wisner, who grew up in North Carolina and appears on the English-language Arirang Channel and plans to release an album this year.


      It added that biracial Koreans are doing well in sports as well, pointing to SBS basketball coach Kim Dong-kwang.

      The LA Times reported that in a nation that prides itself on ethnic homogeneity, their success stories have helped rid Korea of a long history of prejudice against biracial people and Koreans' changing attitudes toward race reflects bigger changes in Korean society.

      Lee Yu-jin

      Korea was once known as the "Hermit Kingdom" and not many Westerners came to Korea up until the end of the Second World War. The biracial children born to U.S. soldiers early on were usually sent abroad for adoption.

      Janet Mintzer, the head of Pennsylvania-based Pearl S. Buck International, said, "My impression is that there is more discrimination against Amerasians in South Korea than anywhere else in Asia and that it has not improved significantly."

      The shocking story of Lee Yu-jin's case was introduced as well. Although prejudices against biracial people are diminishing, the Confucian-inspired family registration system defines Lee's grandfather as her legal father, which makes the legal relationship between Lee and her mother that of "elder sister and younger sister."

      The newspaper noted the children of African-Americans received more discrimination than other biracial children.

      The singer Sonya was brought up in the conservative city of Deagu. Her mother died from cancer when she was only 7-year-old, after which she lived with her grandparents.

      Crying, she said, "My grandfather hit me and called me names. He was embarrassed by me. He used to say, 'What kind of ugly seed did you come from?' "

      Although she thinks her life might have been easier socially had she lived in the United States, she said she has not given up on her homeland.

      Sonya and Lee Yu-jin think they are completely Korean "in mentality"; Sonya still lives with her grandparents, and Lee lives with her mother, added the LA Times.

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