Over the past few months I’ve come across a few people who have commented that when I (and others) refer to South Korea, Republic of Korea, the country I’m from (or am I… dun dun dun)… I always say Korea, as do most others. And this has been ruminating in my mind for a while… Is it imperialistic of me to say Korea, and presume that everyone knows and understands that when I say Korea it means South Korea? Or do I even specifically mean South Korea? After all, North and South Korea are one people ruled by two drastically different governments. When we are unified, will we be ‘Unified Korea’? Or will we still just be Korea. Does that imply something about North Koreans losing their identity? Gosh this is a whole mess of I don’t know-ness.
I think something I could compare it to is what comes to mind when I say Arlington? For me for some reason it’s always been Arlington, VA. But I have come across many people who talk about Arlington and it’s the Arlington they’re most close to. Arlington, MA. Arlington, TX. Arlington, MI. But for whatever reason Arlington is not always followed by the state one is referring to. I suppose it is the same with other many other towns and cities.
But on the other hand when you say you are from London, people automatically presume you mean London, England and not from London, Ontario in Canada. When you say you are from Paris, people automatically presume you mean Paris, France and not Paris, TX. When you say you are from the Twin Cities, people tend to think of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota, even though my little towns of Texarkana Arkansas and Texarkana Texas are also twin cities, as are Kansas City MO and KS. What does this imply?
I know I’m reading too much into this, but as I start to parse this out as to what it means for society, for the people who live there and for those who are outside, as well as what this means for me… I cannot help but think that there are some inherent things that shape the way we think, the way we talk, the way we… are.
Just like how there is a Korean word for ‘different’ but most of the time people use the word ‘wrong’ in place of ‘different’ and that is how Koreans tend to think. If you think ‘differently’ to me, then you are ‘wrong’ you are ‘incorrect.’
What does it mean when we presume that identity on them (whoever those who live there, are from there, are from the other larger/more widely known/referred to place, and others)? That Korea is South Korea, that Arlington is in Virginia, and that London is in England.
And then I wonder, would this matter to me if I wasn’t a TCK and all messed up inside my head about my cultural identity?