“Don’t dare to bring a black man as your husband unless he graduate from Harvard.”
“If I would have immigrated to America at an early age, my life would have been better.”
“You succeeded by making it out of Hell Korea.”
When I grew up, there is always a better country on the horizon. A country that speaks a language I was supposed to speak like my mother tongue, although I could not even pronounce it well. A country that will give you a better position in the future. A country that has better social security, wealth, eloquence and freedom. A country you have to overcome one day so you can be the first.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the whitest of them all?”
In the countries we thought of as the First, people carelessly die during the COVID pandemic while Korea has seen one of the world’s best measures taken against the virus. Korean media contrasted the failure of the West to our success. Korean citizens realized that the American dream was a mirage that appears only in films. Europe is a fossil from early Modernism. Our inferiority complex towards the West merges with a feeling of superiority expressed through pervasive ethnocentric pride.
I wonder whether people who have governed their identity through Westernized sentiment can be autonomous all of sudden. Consciousness still looks at oneself through the eyes of white mask and finds disgust in the traces of the mask. It might be comfortable to put the mask back on, and disguise oneself as it used to be.
“White cops are bad but Black people’s assaults are worse.”
“They should learn from our candle light protests. Enlighten them.”
“Let’s Koreanize the world with K-pop, K-drama and K-beauty.”
“Buy Vietnamese brides.”
“Whitening gives you pride.”
Can a country where civil monitoring is highly promoted feel entitled, although suicide rates and the gender pay gap are ranked high among OECD nations? By who and for whom? Korea as nation identifies as a minor but acts as a major. But the major is a minor in the context of the West, it flows one way from North to South.
Wearing the illusion mask,
Waiting for its merit,
Subordinating to its expediency,
Inheriting its revulsion
From the mask.
* Hyeisoo Kim is an artist based in Seoul and Amsterdam currently working with the intersectionality of de/post-colonialism and normative liberal subject.