Labelled with Identities
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Labelled with Identities
  • Jang Hee-jun
  • 승인 2019.04.15 17:29
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Division of International Studies

When I had first arrived in Korea, it was certainly a surprise. The fast-paced culture and ever-changing trends. For someone who is considered ethnically Korean, yet has the mindset of an Islander, adjusting to this new culture was one of many challenges.

For someone who had left Korea at a young age of three, it would be surprising to even remember what kind of neighborhood you lived in. Coming from a remote island in the Pacific Ocean called “Fiji” for roughly sixteen years, one would think it would be difficult to adjust to an advanced nation. No questions there as this was indeed a fact. As someone who acted rather differently compared to a “typical” Korean, I had rather mixed feelings regarding this comment. What exactly was there to compare, I am a Korean but before any of that, I am my own person. There’s nothing typical about it but rather it is just a generalization of a whole civilization.

What was interesting was that when I came to Korea, I could see that this sense of “labeling” occurs in many ways. Be it due to ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or even regarding body shape. 

Especially when it came to the feminist movement. At times when I thought of the movement, I still question some of the concepts at hand. The movement started as equal gender rights but now when you hear the definition from the younger generation, it is just a movement that make males look like pests that need to be erased from society. 

The concept of the corset movement further confused me on many levels. The pressure of society on women has set peculiar standards, especially in Korea. The fact that it feels as if a woman is obliged to wear makeup when they step out of the house is preposterous. Yes, there are people who indulge in the activity as they enjoy it but the ones who then suddenly say “I feel trapped because of this restriction” make the movement even more confusing. In all honesty are we not the ones who place this restriction on ourselves as we succumbed to the societal pressure? Even now people ask me “why don’t you put on makeup, you’re a girl aren’t you?” yet these people are the exact people who start to furiously protest against being forced to put makeup on as they want to have their right of being freed from this type of “corset”.

This “labeling” system continued to go out of control. It had to lead me to always question “what is this aging system”, “why am I the different one”, or “why must I act like something I’m not”, always being confused about what I really am. Till this day, I do not comprehend nor can I understand why statements such as “because you’re a Korean”, “because you’re a woman”, or “because you’re a “something” even exists in the first place. 

I am who I am. Labeling as a type of stereotypical group may make it easier to understand the person but doing so simply means you are missing so much to what makes them who they are. What I want to express through this is not to feel pity, sympathy or even empathy. I want this to be an eye-opener to anyone who reads this. There will be no end to this kind of system if it does not start from somewhere. Be that person amongst your friends to stop this further division. 

In the end, we are all the same, human.


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