September 13, 2011

Korean Parents Have Wisdom When it Comes to Mixed Marriage

"Korean parents are racist!"

That is a claim that one frequently hears in the blogosphere often in conjunction with a non-Korean poster sharing his/her story of how he/she has been rejected by a Korean guy/girl or his/her parents for marriage. And to that claim, I say, "Don't be ridiculous." Now, I'm sure there are cases where Korean parents have hatred for a specific ethnic/racial group. But in most cases, the answer is simple, the partner is not Korean. "But that is racist," some say. No, it's not. If you truly understand why they feel that way and where they are coming from, you would not be so quick to judge.

Why do most Korean parents want their children to marry another Korean? Because they are fiercely committed to carrying on the cultural legacy of their forebears. They want to keep the traditions that have been practiced for many generations alive within their families. Yes, cultures do evolve and change, including the Korean culture. But it's not just about roboticly following certain rituals/customs. There is a meaning to the way Korean families operate and to dismiss that is to downplay the significance of the family order, the dynamic that functions to create the meaning of family. Korean parents want their children to marry fellow Koreans because they are part of the same culture and are most likely able to understand and honor the values that are cherished within their family.

Bringing another culture into the mix presents a challenge to this very dynamic. Everyone has a culture that they value and identify with. What guarantees that they will be comfortable with abandoning at least parts of it and adopting Korean family values as a way of life? It's one thing to respect and appreciate aspects of another culture. It's another thing to live it, so it is easy to understand why Korean parents are apprehensive about inviting non-Korean sons and daughters-in-law into their family.

Now, I believe that people should marry the right person whatever their ethnicity. But to diminish culture as an important factor in connecting and understanding one's partner is a bit cavalier and senseless. It is important to marry someone that understands you on a deep level, your identity and experience and likewise, you for your partner.

Ethnicity is not just another "flavor" of human being. It really shapes and defines a person's identity in a profound way. Korean parents understand that. There is a wisdom to their apprehension. To dismiss this concern as "racist" when one does not understand the reason is really shallow. It's not about understanding, but imposing one's concept of racism onto the situation. Just leave your baggage behind and look at the situation with open eyes. Couples really need to do their homework whoever they marry to make sure that their partner is right for them.

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