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In the last article, we looked at what pure Korean language meant and why it is not spoken as much as it used to be.  While that topic makes for an interesting debate, this part can be very controversial.  For some, the notion of being a pure Korean is a sense of pride.  But for others, it is a lie that most people make up and use to discriminate against other people.  So what is a pure Korean?  And why does being a pure Korean mean so much to so many people?  Let’s take a look and see.

What is a Pure Korean Person?

A pure Korean person is someone who is 100% ethnically Korean.  While one would think that a country that is considered to be 97% homogenize that this would mean that most of the people are pure Korean, this is not the case.  To be considered a pure Korean person, it means more than just the fact that both parents are classified as being Korean.  To be considered “pure” in this case, the family record of one must consist of only people who were 100% Korean and who married only other people who were 100% Korean. 

Why This is Not Realistic For Everyone

The truth is many Koreans do have some sort of Chinese origin in their background.  Many Koreans actually have a name that will translate directly into Chinese, and some Korean actually take pride in knowing how to write their name in Chinese.  There is also the case of women who may have gotten pregnant by Japanese men at anytime during Japan’s time of domination over Korea.  (Since the time period that there have been a North and a South Korea, Japan has not had power or influence over either Korea.  The time period of Japanese domination happened when there was only 1 recognized Korea.)  So while some may never admit it, there are a number of Koreans who have someone who was Japanese in their family history.  

 Why Do Some Lie?

If so many Korean people are not 100% ethnically Korean, why do some lie about being a “pure Korean”? For many, it is a sense of pride to have others think that they have a “pure bloodline.” Others may fear being looked down on if they are not considered to be “pure”.  It is not uncommon for some families to not want their children to marry a non Korean so that the family bloodline can remain “pure”.  This is partly due to fears of discrimination and hatred towards their grandchildren when people see that they are not 100% Korean.  Indeed, life for a Korean person can be easier when they are considered to be “pure” and to have a “pure” family by society. 

How Many Koreans are Actually “Pure”?

This conversation came up a few months ago when I was out to eat with a couple of older Korean women.  One mentioned that only 20%, if that many, could actually claim to be a “pure” Korean. The truth is, we may never know the actually answer to this question.  And truthfully, it shouldn’t matter if a person is considered “pure” or not.  The story of Korea is one of love.  Love of family and of neighbor, as long as one’s family member(s) and neighbor(s) are good people.  As the women who told me this said, “This is all stupid anyway.”  What makes a person a “good” Korean is how they act, not what their family tree looks like. 

If you visit Korea, or if you deal with Korean Americans, you will meet some who make a big deal out of this issue.  It is very important to them and is a sense of pride for them. But for the majority of Koreans and Korean Americans that you’ll meet, they are not this way.  Many are laid back and will accept a person, as long as they prove they are a good person.  Hopefully this helps you to better understand what the actual definition of a pure Korean is, why most Koreans are not actually pure and why at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much anyway.