In recent days it seems a fighting among the Korean Chinese is heating up day by day, which some outsiders might tease as “fight against themselves”. It was not some childish conflicts over certain trivial obsolete debts. In fact, all the disputes were brought about by an everlasting question, which has been perplexing all the Koreans who were born in China, no matter where they live at present. That is, who am I?
This is not an issue to be solved by a few debates, either through our mouths or our words. It is apparent that any individual person might have his own opinion on it, and whether they say “I am a Chinese”, or “I am a Korean”, there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” evaluation. However, a consensus of opinion among all Korean-Chinese as a whole will be more than a matter of time. What is clear enough right now is that it is a question that everyone will encounter here or there and the discussion over it will be everlasting.
There has ever been a definition for us Korean Chinese, saying, “we are Chinese in nationality, but Korean in kinship.” It is certainly the most objective and reasonable definition. Our ancestor bestowed us the kinship of Korean, as well as Korean culture and language which came along with our flesh and blood. However, we, as well as our family, have been living on the Chinese lands for generations, which cultivated our people. We are people who were bred by both countries and peoples. Therefore, it will not be as easy a decision we can make as we do the multiple choices in a test under certain circumstances.
It makes me think of a child who is brought up by adopted parents but one day finds that he has his own biological parents. What should he do? Is he supposed to choose the parents who natured him or the parents who nurtured him? His hesitation or indecisiveness is more than understandable, and no one could give him any reasonable or rational advice. Once the child has made his decision, whatever it is, he will encounter the same result, the notorious name of “No heart, no lungs” (Chinese idiom which means ‘heartless’, or ‘cold-hearted’.) or “Forgot all the kindness and blessings”. Consequently, he might choose to accept both, or to reject both, out of his instinct of survival or self-protection. If a mother really loves the child, she can accept any choice made by the child, since the mother’s love is the greatest, which can harbor everything of the child, good or bad.
A country, as a political body, is different from a mother with flesh, blood and love which more often restrains her from making objective decision. A country expects its people to demonstrate a clear-cut attitude toward her. Therefore, facing with this mother with disciplines and rationality, the child feels at a loss. Emotionally, nurturing certainly overweighs nature; but as for kinship, nature always proceeds nurturing since no nurturing occurs before a natural birth. As a result, Korean-Chinese who fail to find the right line to stand on, have to set up their own principle, that is, to make a choice on each specific issue. They support China on the occasions like proposing “Anti-separation Law”, because they, with two origin countries (North and South Korea) have deeply suffered the painful and wretched results of the longstanding separation. As for the national culture, they would respect and cling to the history of Korea and the culture of their ancestor.
What is to be clarified is that it is possible for us to put forward different opinions on some of the improper policies or practices of the authoritative governments of P. R. China, Republic of Korea as well as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, whatever position we take. It doesn’t mean that we are against any country, or any people. Government and country or people are totally different concepts. It is possible for me to take against my father’s opinions, which doesn’t mean I go astray from my family, because my father might be a representative of the family, but he is surely not the family itself. I may answer back my parents, and my parents may slap me out of the home, but it can never cut down all kinds of connections between us.
An old Chinese saying goes, beating and scolding are the manifestation of parents’ affections toward children, no beating and no scolding can only result in the children’s deterioration. (Or ‘sparing a rod will spoil a child.’) Country is always considered as the parents of people, but to give it a second thought, actually, people are the parents of the country. Only the people who love their country keep criticizing and correcting the country, with the hope that the country becomes stronger. They are more than clear that only a strong country can back up them to stand firm in the world.
The honest words are always harsh to ears, and the effective medicine is always bitter to the mouth. I wonder how many people in the world are willing to choose the harsh words and the bitter medicine. I respect them from the bottom of my heart as the real men. However, I will respect more those who present the harsh but honest words and bitter but effective medicine to them, since they are producing the real men.
Who am I? This is a question that Korean-Chinese who live in every corner of the world commonly encounter and will keep debating over. But debates are a welcome, since nothing will be clarified without debates.