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History Repeats Itself
Yu Dong Kyun  |  donky180@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2013.06.16  03:44:21
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Kim “Tina” Huynh is an immigrant from Vietnam. Her Korean father used to be an industry employee in Vietnam, but it appears that he left Tina’s mom and her alone. After years and years of desperate effort in finding her father, Tina found that her dad had a family in Korea, before coming to Vietnam. Tina, who is a Lai Dai Han, feels like she is betrayed by her own father. This is not an abnormal family pattern of Lai Dai Hans in Vietnam.

   
▲ Provided by mulbyung.blog.naver.com

Vietnam and Korea are not only connected by the influx of the Korean wave, but through “Lai Dai Han”, a generation born between a Korean soldier who came to Vietnam during the 1964 Vietnam War and a Vietnamese woman. The quote, “What goes around comes around,” explicitly tells how much Koreans are double-faced. The hatred Koreans felt 50 years ago when the United States (U.S.) soldiers begot children with Korean women, is coming right back at them when they abandon mixed generation children and wives in other countries.
 
While “Dai Han” refers to what Vietnam calls Korea, “Lai” implies contempt towards mixed blood. These Lai Dai Hans are treated as the “Enemy’s seed” in Vietnam as South Vietnam collapsed soon after Korean soldiers retreated after the Paris Agreement. Nowhere to go, Lai Dai Hans were left in Vietnam after 1964 Vietnam War. Perhaps it is a story yet to be told, and for some it may be a tale that happened long ago. Still, the sorrows and longing of Lai Dai Hans are just getting deeper, thus their constant effort in seeking reunion of family is moving onward.
 
Imagine times during the Korean War when the U.S. soldiers came and rested in Korea. Some Korean women made a living by prostitution, and were accused of being public dishonor. Commonly called Yang gong ju, the condescending term referring to prostitutes or Korean women who delivered the U.S. soldiers’ kids, those women were actually no more than an instant tool to emancipate the sexual desire of soldiers, since many of them had been already married to another woman in their own country. Without anyone protecting those prostitutes, sometimes they were murdered for instant joy. As there are still massive reproaching voice against the U.S. soldiers, it appears that the same situation is recurring between Vietnam and Korea. If there was any difference, now Korea is blamed for Lai Dai Hans, while Vietnamese women and children are left alone without any proper care.
   
▲ This photo tells how much Koreans have to be responsible for creating Lai Dai Hans. Photo provided by kjclub.com
 
Although Korea and Vietnam have maintained friendly connections with each other, there still exist complaints of Vietnam’s, which stems from the war. In grief, Lai Dai Hans complain that they were abandoned by their fathers who include both members of the South Korean military and Korean industry workers who were stationed in Vietnam. Even history proves that South Koreans kidnapped young Vietnamese girls to sell them as a “Comfort Women”, or in other words, “sex slaves”.
 
According to Global Education Mission (GEM), a non prof i t organization which provides education and support for Vietnamese and Korean children, the number of Lai Dai Hans is estimated to be 5,000 at least and 30,000 at most. On the other hand, Busan Ilbo states that the exact number of Lai Dai Han is unknown. Kim Min Chul (34, Gwangju), an employee at the Migrant Network Television, says, “There are more than 10,000 Lai Dai Hans in Korea. This is because for the past 10 years, the government has been harshly searching for illegal Lai Dai Han immigrants. Also, there are increasing numbers of Lai Dai Hans who are fathered not by Korean soldiers but by Korean workers stationed in Vietnam during the War.”
   
▲ Young Vietnamese woman walking into the rice paddy field. Provided by Flickmaz.com
Needing Self-Reflection
What is important is the attitude of Koreans facing the issue of the welfare of Lai Dai Hans. Some conservative citizens blame the Lai Dai Han and Vietnamese government for attributing theirown burden to Korea. Even though Lai Dai Han has a Korean father, his or her nationality is Vietnamese. This suggests that the conservative citizens brand them as “Vietnamese”, rather than half-Koreans. Yet, still there are a rising number of voices demanding the welfare of these neglected minorities.
Imagine decades ago when Korean women were in the shoes of Vietnamese women. Some women chose to serve the U.S. soldiers, by having instant sexual relationship. However, some women had to offer sex because of other socio-economic reasons. Now, the progressive party blames the U.S. for what deployed soldiers had done in remote countries. However, the situation is guite contradictory, because Koreans tend to hesitate, or disregard taking the mixed generation as true “Koreans”. Similarly, examples of “Kosian”, a word coined by combining “Korean” and “Asian” also nakedly shows how these people receive less aid from the government.
 
Kim gives an interesting fact about this noun. He remarks, “There are words such as Kopino, Lai Dai Han, which we still use up until now. The mistaken fact is that people do not realize these words contain disgraceful connotations. The term marks people who were born between Korean and Asian countries. Still, people believe developing countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Cambodia are inferior to Korea, which is not true.” Kim continues, “The widely spread misconception of mixed even generation pervades through the entire society, eventually branding these people so that they become outsiders.”
 
Straightforward responsibility lies on the Korean government. Going back to the 1964 Vietnam War, Korean soldiers rushed back to their homeland after the defeat. Koreans were not the only ones who had mixed children with Vietnamese women. American, French, and even Australian soldiers all had mixed children between Vietnamese women. Most of the mixed children went to the land of their fathers, except Lai Dai Hans. The Korean government during that moment did not accept mixed children who were seeking economic and emotional support from their fathers.
 
Over 35 years has past now, and already there are television documentaries portraying the lives of the mixed and the neo-mixed generation. Children of Korean soldiers have created another generation actively engaging in activities searching for their ancestors. Other developed countries welcome the mixed generation, as they largely praise the value of a multi-cultural bloodline. Nevertheless, most of the Koreans still degrade the value of multi-cultural bloodlines.
 
Even Hwang Min Woo, a child who appeared on Korean top celebrity, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video, suffered from irreversible emotional damage caused by the malicious Internet comments. Hwang’s mom, a Vietnamese woman had not done anything that deserved such disgraceful public views, but just because the fact that she is a foreigner has made her family receive such negative views.
   
▲ Provided by asianhistory.about.com
Abuse of Irresponsible Freedom
If there are certain rights, there are the responsibilities that follow. As previously mentioned, Kopino, a non-preferred term now, used to describe children who were born between a Korean father and a Philippine mother. Nowadays, the term Kopino is not suggested because its meaning refers to the deserted half-Koreans. Also viewed as the second version of Lai Dai Hans, they reached over ten thousand in 2007.
 
Few Korean males’ abusive sexual relationship is already a disgraceful fact, but the truth is that most of their age lies between teens and early adulthood. Such adolescence is hard to be considered as a recommended father. Then exactly how do they become an irresponsible father? Most of the young men who visit the Philippines came to study English. The Philippines has drawn many foreigners, including Korea, due to its surprisingly cheap standards of living with English-speaking environment.
 
In contrast, some Koreans forget the true goal of their visit, and misvehave. For their wrongdoings, more than ten thousand mixed children have difficulties in blending in among their friends because of the skin color, and suffer from the loneliness the absence of a father brings.
 
This problem stems from the lack of indiscrete sexual consciousness of Korean males. Most of them seem unaware that they are in a foreign country. Thus, they are likely to be encouraged not to be responsible for the wrongdoings they have done. The premise of freedom includes the moral of exercising it under the circumstance of not harming others. Even though they might be conscious of this fact, the offline anonymitycauses them to scar innocent Philippine women.
 
Also, the lack of contraception of local Philippine women contributes to the increase in abandoned mixed generations. Moreover, the Philippines religion, Catholicism does not allow women to abort their child. The Philippines, a matriarchal society, thus considers abortion as one of the most sinful behaviors. Even if they choose abortion, financial issues prevent them from buying contraceptive tools and Pils.
 
All of these concerns organically combining together, the mixed generation is left in undeserving conditions where they have to be raised in desperate households. Conclusively, the collective fury towards irresponsible fathers has now created an anti-Korean feeling within the Philippines.
“Ugly Koreans”
It is time to withdraw the dishonor of Ugly Koreans. Lai Dai Hans in Vietnam, Kopinos in Philippines, and more mixed generations are spending their supposed-to-be bright, caring, and joyful childhood under endless awaiting for a father, hopelessness, and in insecure financial circumstances. The healing process needs more than just a financial aid, since the essence of the problem relies on the humanity of Korean men.
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