Well, it looks like the initial Hines Ward love-fest has complexified somewhat into an introspection-fest as well, which is all good, the way I see it. Korean media, while still driving the wave of Ward-as-National-Treasure, is also inevitably taking a harder look back at the situation of Korean society. If anyone still doubts that the bright, shining light of truth can still effect positive social change, witness the Korean government's change in stance about mixed-race children not being allowed to serve in the military.
Now, for me personally, that's an exemption I'd define as a pretty coveted option in Korean society, but then again, this can also be a liability later. I do hope that this change in policy will also be matched with a similar change within the institution as to what treatment mixed-race men will receive, considering the still-significant animosity toward them and the more direct possibility of hazing and physical abuse that exists, especially as we know, in the Korean military. I don't know if mixed-race boys and men are now jumping for joy at the "opportunity" to be included in compulsory military service, but at least we can see that international exposure does effect changes in both institutions and behavior. We'll see how this plays out as the sage continues.
"It Couldn't Happen Here"
Lifted from the February 8th edition of the English Chosun Ilbo:
"The banner reads, "Hines Ward turns the American Dream into reality." The half-Korean athlete, who grew up with a struggling single mother in Atlanta, Georgia has become a major story in the Korean press after he was named Most Valuable Player in the U.S. Super Bowl. One of the construction workers asks himself, "I wonder what would have become of Hines if he had stayed in Korea."
At the bottom of the picture, two mixed-race Koreans, who are often treated as outsiders here, are struggling under their load of bricks."
I also checked out Naver.com's video search function (which makes Google's look like...well, you don't need anyone to compare to – Google video sucks more than be expressed in words), which kicks major ass. Here are a few key vids that I'd like to watch later, when I get to a Windoze-variety computer at work. I haven't been able to play them, since I'm part of the 3M group – Marginalized Macintosh Minority™ – that I have come to simply accept with a sigh, and as even a badge I am proud to wear. But to Naver's credit, all of the links to the shows contain the transcripts, so you don't even have to really watch. Here's a few of them, with my liberal translations:
Mixed-Blood Kid, Have You No Place to Stand Up? Still 'Outsiders'
[Focus] Mixed-Blood Hero, However In Our Society..."
[Closeup] Mixed Race People as Alien as Ever
One news story is on the piece KBS did 8 years ago, when both Hines Ward and mom came to Korea. Here's a piece talking about that. So Korean media's initial attempt to make the present trip a "first time" triumphant homecoming falls pretty short of the facts. More problematic at the present moment, now that Hines Ward has explicitly stated how he defines his identity (as both Korean and African-American), is how the Korean media still tends to deal with Mr. Ward as a "Korean" or only considers his identity insofar as he defines his Korean "side."
More than any conspiracy to deprive Mr. Ward of his right to self-definition, I would rather suggest that commentators, writers, and general citizens are inexplicably going against the grain of the normal "taint" view of Asianness (or whiteness, for that matter) – that if you're part anything else, you're not Asian. The "one-drop rule" for African-Americans is the opposite, however, in which any black ancestry – or the slightest hint of "impurity" – means you're black.
It's interesting to see Korea, then, claiming him as "full" Korean while ignoring the black side altogether – when it comes to talking about his identity. What would be really interesting to see is a discourse in which Koreanness is talked about outside of the "zero-sum" game of identity, in which Hines Ward can be Korean in Korea and when he wants to be defined that way, and Black when he wants and need to be. It's not being "fake" or choosing, but thinking outside of that restrictive box.
That's why I talk about Asian American identity in my classes and play with notions of "authenticity" when I am teaching a Korean American history class, or am in a group of non-Asians talking about Asian folks. It's also why I check off "black" only on the census, because we needed more black folks in my district in Oakland.
Anyway, looks like a new discourse is starting. I'm curious to see how this develops.