Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 3, 2022

Chinese Students Association wants inclusion, not assimilation

By BO TAO | November 11, 2010

I believe that KSA’s reactions to the “Colorful China” show performed at Hopkins recently, as mentioned in last week’s “Colorful China show incites KSA controversy”, is nothing but a nationalistic overreaction.

The first question to ask is if the Chosun/Korean minority within China is considered Korean or Chinese.

The majority of us would answer Korean. KSA contends that the “Colorful China” performers “used Korean culture from Korea, but they are presenting that as [Chinese] people's culture.” These ‘people’ are your people, KSA!

Koreans in China are the same as Koreans in North & South Korea. Do they speak Korean? For the most part, yes. Do they dress in traditional Korean attire? Yes.

Do they have a culture distinct from the ethnic Chinese Han? Yes. Overall, sounds like they are Koreans to me (Sure, the Chosun might not have a Starcraft team, but that is not important here).

Since there are very few venues of Korean tradition left within China, it is not out of question that Korean minorities would identify themselves with whatever Korean traditions are seeping past the grasp of the Chinese central government.

This is a clear case of cultural self-preservation.

So now the question is: can the Chosun minority in China be allowed to use their traditions as an accurate portrayal of Korean culture? KSA believes they cannot.

If KSA is denying their brothers and sisters in China of their own culture, does this mean that KSA wants ethnic Koreans in China to turn into Han Chinese?

KSA’s Vice-President also said that “there has been a movement of the Chinese government to try to include Korean heritage as their own culture.”

The implications from these words are staggering i.e. historical revisionism! Let us take a brief history lesson. Korea borrowed heavily from Chinese culture for a very long time.

China gave Korea their political institutions, Confucian classics, Chinese-styled Buddhism, arts, music, etc. Korea began Sinification (adopting Chinese culture and traditions) on itself voluntarily during the Han and Tang dynasties.

Overall, Korean culture was not very different from the Chinese until the Manchus overthrew the Ming Dynasty in the 1600’s.

You just cannot deny facts — if KSA thinks that Korea should form its own revisionist history from a nationalistic perspective, why don’t they just erase most of Korean history since it is tainted with Chinese corruption?

In regards to the use of Korean drama music in the performance, I admit that it might have been controversial at first. However, Korean dramas are quiet popular in China as it accounts for more than any other foreign drama series combined on Chinese TV.

In fact, areas with large minority populations have many bilingual shows on TV along with countless shows about them and their culture. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Chosun minorities would be watching these series also.

The choice to send the clip to a MBC station outraged me the most. This act seems to suggest that whoever did this did not even care for any political or social consequences. It was as if this person was simply asking for a confrontation.

Does that person really want Chinese-Korean relations to deteriorate to the point where one country may even refuse to have high-level diplomatic talks?

Nationalism is not inherently bad, but extremist views have been known to have side effects including ignorance.

What would have happened if the Chinese embassy did not portray the Chosun minority at all? Would KSA have appreciated this more or still have demanded apologies?

If KSA reacts with this much nationalism when something like this happens, I cannot imagine what might happen in South Korea . . . or maybe Koreans in South Korea can be smarter about this incident.

China has attempted to depict their minority population in a fair manner to end whatever notion that the Han is trying to assimilate everyone into itself.

China is preserving what it does not want to lose; a multi-ethnic state. I say to the Chinese embassy now seeking to remedy the situation: stand up for the truth and do not issue an apology.


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