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5 Asian stereotypes in the 1990s/2000s

South Korea (along with its neighbor in the north) gained fame throughout the world for its K-pop, food, and internet. However, Korea only recently made its appearance on the international stage. For those that lived in the 1990s and early 2000s, not many people knew or even heard of Korea. I grew up in America and I, as well as other Koreans, faced a lot of stereotypes during my childhood. Among them, the most frustrating was…

  1. Chinese or Japanese?
    Where is Korea?

    Where is Korea?

    Whenever I met new kids at school, they would always ask me whether I was Chinese or Japanese. For those that knew a tad bit more about Asia would even ask me if I was Mongolian. My response, “I’m Korean” would baffle them. They had never heard of Korea (south or north) and so they would simply assume I was from a remote country somewhere in the Far East. This continued throughout the ‘90s until people began recognizing Korea as a developed country. But the one thing they truly found interesting/weird about Korea was…

  2. Eating dogs
    Cucumbers - the best seasoning to go with a bowl of dog.

    Cucumbers – the best seasoning to go with a bowl of dog.

    Middle school proves a difficult time for young adolescents. Social cliques begin to form, kids start becoming moodier, and norms, to which all kids must adhere (lest they become social pariahs), are established. On top of that, Korean kids would have to suffer accusations of dining on man’s best friend. I highly doubt any Koreans would eat dog in the U.S. For one, it’s probably illegal to eat your dog there. Second, Koreans don’t eat their pets. However, the only thing kids saw was the consumption of dogs. If I went over to any of my American friends’ house, they would play “keep the dog away from the dog-eating Korean kid.” They were semi-joking of course, but still, they didn’t leave me and their dogs alone in the room. If I confronted them about this, they would try to avoid a fight with me because apparently, I knew…

  3. Martial arts
    Don't mess with Asians - they'll jump kick you in the face

    Don’t mess with Asians – they’ll jump kick you in the face

    Thanks to Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and many other Asian martial artists/actors, people thought Asians could do kung-fu or karate. I had never taken any self-defense classes, but people always thought I could pull out a can of karate-whoop-ass on anyone if I so chose to do so. I had once gotten into a fist fight with one of the other kids during recess. One of the onlookers encouraged me to “karate-chop his ass.” To please the crowd, I attempted what I thought was a legitimate martial art move. It proved, but after the fight, everyone thought I had awakened my latent Asian martial abilities. If the kids weren’t asking about my martial arts abilities, they were asking me about homework because…

  4. Asians are really smart
    Now it’s true that I may have achieved above average grades in school, but that’s because I applied myself to my studies. However, that doesn’t mean all Asians are smart. Everyone in school automatically assumed I would do well in courses like math or science. I actually knew more than a handful of Koreans that were terrible at math or academics in general. When it came to assigning lab partners, everyone wanted to pair up with the Asian kids. Of course they would. Our intellectual oriental brain would help them get better grades. Another stereotype I truly despised was…
  5. Chinky eyes
    Just look at those small chinky eyes. It's a wonder how Asians walk around without stumbling.

    Just look at those small chinky eyes. It’s a wonder how Asians walk around without stumbling.

    It may be true a majority of Asians have smaller eyes, but it still stung when the other kids pulled back their eyes to make fun of Asian people. When it came to portraying Asians, the only thing that other people could come up with was squinting their eyes. Sometimes, people would ask me if I could see well, what with my small squinty eyes. I would pay dearly if I made any mistakes concerning visual observation. The rant would pour down about how my small eyes limited my vision. When the staring game was still popular, all the kids played against each other, trying not to blink. Whenever it was my turn, the kids would say I would cheat. They said because my eyes were so small, they couldn’t tell if I was blinking or not. Ouch.

The world has culturally developed so that these stereotypes aren’t as present as they were 10 – 20 years ago. That doesn’t mean they have completely disappeared. Asians, along with other cultures, face many stereotypes, and it’s our job to look past them and embrace the different backgrounds and cultures of people. The world and its citizens have become more international, and that’s great. But without understanding the truth and more importantly, the non-truths that have spread, becoming international has no real meaning. Thus, the next time you encounter a Korean or Asian, please don’t judge them based on what you have heard from someone else. I’d love to write more about this topic, but I have to go solve some math problems and eat a bowl of dog stew.

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Written by Isaac Kim

Hey there, I’m an aspiring journalist who is in the prime of his life. I’ve lived in America most of my life, but because I can adapt to anything, I’ve integrated quite well in Korean society. I hope to see the world and write about and share what I see. I like places with large bodies of water (especially the ocean), and one day, I will have a kickass beach house where I’ll spend my time writing and sipping mojitos.

There are 2 comments

  • Everyone in Korea asks me : “Brian, you are American. Why are you so short?”

  • Matthew Leach says:

    Great article. What is your take on the stereotype of Asians and driving? To quote comedian Bill Burr, “There’s no happy medium. It’s either Tokyo drift, 90 miles an hour, driving sideways, parallel parking and break dancing into the club… or they’re just stopping at an intersection.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iqq7O2HqTUk

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