Wrong and right – right or wrong? (1) by Anna Kim

On 5 July the following article appeared in all German-speaking newspapers:

“Turkish nationalists attack ‘wrong’ Chinese

In Istanbul, Turkish nationalists attacked a group of Korean tourists during a protest against the treatment of the Uyghurs in China – they mistook the group for Chinese. The police intervened with tear gas…”
I hardly find this report absurd, even though it is quite absurd. In fact, I’m familiar with the situation – not in this extreme form, yet in a milder way: I am constantly mistaken for a Chinese woman. “Constantly” is perhaps a slight exaggeration: in six out of ten cases, I’m considered Chinese; in 3.8 out of ten cases as a Japanese woman, and very occasionally the person who addressed me is delighted that he guessed my “nationality” correctly.

Although … is that “right”? No, I rebuke the poor person. Actually, I was only born in South Korea; I grew up in Austria and so I’m Austrian. Oh no. I already notice how he starts to squint. Now, he’s trying to see something that’s invisible. He is trying to detect the European element in my genealogy; he looks me up and down from head to toe. Oh well, she is tall, much taller than your average Asian woman. He beams. He is pleased to have found something. Her body language is also different. She moves… differently. But Austrian is too obvious; he cannot articulate this definition. Austro-Korean, that’s more like it…

And we’re already haggling. I insist on being Austrian; he insists on seeing what I am. We’re haggling about the composition of my personal identity. What is genuinely Korean about me and what is maybe more Austrian. He finally gives his judgement: it’s right – she’s a genuine Korean, but a “wrong” Austrian.

By Anna Kim

Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright

This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe on 24 August 2015.

You can read the second part of Anna Kim’s blog here.

Category: ELit Literature House Europe Observatory


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