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Global Talk Show not quite as global as it thinks

Interesting. Another Misuda panelist in the harsh glare of the media spotlight.

I don’t really follow Misuda (Chatting with Beautiful Women, aka Global Talk Show), for various reasons which I’ve mentioned before. But it’s a pretty popular talk show, and has managed to springboard its foreigners-in-Korea panelists to visibility, some even to acting roles or singing (with varying degrees of success). It’s a non-threatening way for Korea to indulge its fascination with things Western and foreign from within the safe confines of talking about something comfortable — itself.

Some former Misuda participants who’ve moved on to bigger entertainment careers include Haiyen (Vietnam, acting), Eva (Britain, acting), and Jamilya (Uzbekistan, singing — although I use the term “singing” lightly).

All week long, Chinese participant Cai Lina has been in the news and generally lambasted because of the discovery that she actually does have Korean parentage. What’s the big fuss?, you might ask. Given that she’s built up her image through Misuda, and that Misuda is explicitly a show for non-Korean residents of Korea, people are finding her so-called “hidden” Korean background to be disingenuous. Particularly since she’s passed herself off as a Chinese student with an interest in Korean culture.

The netizen response (are we surprised?) has been typically severe. Cai Lina has defended herself saying she’d never concealed her Korean parentage (just not gone out of her way to make it known, perhaps). But people are saying some pretty harsh things, particularly on her own mini-homepage. The backlash almost reminds me of the recent spate of “memoirs” that have been outed as fake (Peggy Seltzer, James Frey), although to a lesser degree; the public feels as though they’ve been cheated, having been sold one thing and receiving another.

The head PD of the program is defending its panelist, saying it will take legal measures to counter some of the more serious and malicious statements being leveled against her, and possibly even request the cyber investigation department’s involvement. A source says, “If you take a look, a few people are continually changing their IDs to post negative comments,” and suggested taking a hard line in dealing with the matter. (And I say: Dude, this is the internet. Like that’s new?)

As of now, there are no plans to remove Cai Lina from the Misuda lineup. She explained that she doesn’t see the big deal, especially since she’s been raised in a Chinese environment and schooled in the Chinese education system, and therefore feels more affinity with her identity as Chinese. She does have a point, but come on, would a (full-blooded) Korean born in America be accepted on Misuda and praised for her interest in Korean culture despite her American identity? (I can tell you, that’s an emphatic no.)

Personally, I think there’s a grey area where Misuda is concerned, because of the nature of the program. If she were an actress or singer, the internet blowup would be an overreaction, because her background shouldn’t affect the quality of her work. But Misuda trades on the novelty of its kitschy-cute-foreigners angle, and when its raison d’etre is undermined, it’s got a very weak leg to stand on, methinks. But then again, I think it’s a silly show to begin with.

Via Hankyung

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Hmmm I am disappointed. I watch the show sometimes and was always impressed with her Korean and marveled at how she knows more words and phrases than I do... I'm Korea born, but American since 1986... so yeah... I was ashamed of my Korean in reference to hers but now I know the truth. It's in her blood!

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It’s a non-threatening way for Korea to indulge its fascination with things Western and foreign from within the safe confines of talking about something comfortable — itself.

Lol. I like this article. Thanks for the lols.

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Ash has hit the nail on the head for the reactions of Korean netizens.

Unfortunately Koreans have adhered to a "bloodlines" based nationalism since the early 19th Century, something it shares with Japan and to a a lesser extent Germany, and so Koreans tend to regard ethnic Koreans anywhere in the world as still "Korean", even though they may never have been there. Hence many Koreans feeling responsible for the Virginia Tech Massacre for instance, even though the shooter emigrated to the United States when he was 8.

Sorry it that was a bit heavy! In a nutshell, I can understand the reaction of Korean netizens, seeing as she's not foreign at all to them now, but still the backlash and personal attacks sound a bit excessive.

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Message 1: Hi, I am from Russian, and only a Korean man can satisfy me. Giggle giggle. Wanna watch me do the Tell Me dance? Again?

Message 2: If I have 1/32 Korean blood, I'm Really Korean. If I am a Really Korean female (Cai Lina), I'm not interesting to your men. If I am a Really Korean male (Daniel Henney), I'm not threatening to your men.

Message 3: If you like the new Epik High, please buy the album, mm kay? ;)

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Once again, netizens blow up over nothing. Maybe they should take up some hobbies. Don't they have anything better to do?

I'm Korean, and grew up in Canada, and I personally find it amazing that I'm interested in Korean culture at all (well...the entertainment culture..). Many of my Korean-Canadian friends can barely even say "Annyounghaseyo". And yet we're still supposed to be "Korean", and to identify as being "Korean"? Give me a break. This is just Korean nationalism rearing its ugly head again. Blood means nothing compared to experience.

One word of advice for Cai Lina (whom I always liked, whenever I got bored enough to watch an episode of Misuda): Stay far, far away from the internet. At least for the time being.

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To be fair, I don't think the argument is JUST about bloodline. Yes, a Korean raised in a different country, whether that's the US or Canada or China, shouldn't be expected to have an immediate understanding of their parents' home country. It's unfair to demean someone's accomplishment in learning a language they weren't raised with because they happen to have Korean blood. But if her parents are Korean, you do learn and absorb things from your parents that you wouldn't get otherwise. (Does a Chinese girl with Chinese parents have a different cultural identity than a Chinese girl with Korean parents? Hm.) And as with many things of this nature, people are upset that it *appears* that she hid the information to capitalize on her Misuda profile. Whether that's true we won't know, but that's the impression that comes across.

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Javabeans, you're quite right, people being upset about the deceit probably does have more to do with it.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that I agree with bloodlines-based nationalism, quite the opposite. But that IS how the majority of Koreans view the world. Hence all the hand-wringing in the Korean media after Virginia Tech for instance, and Korean-American organizations apologising to a rather bemused America for the shooter's actions, even though very very few Americans cared at all that he was originally from Korea.

Sorry if I'm getting off topic. It's just my first reaction to hearing the news was that with that background that I mention, to most Koreans if Cai Lina is Korean or not is a black and white issue...hence the backlash...whereas I think to most non-Koreans her nationality would be more of a grey area.

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I think the issue is whether her parents speak Korean and are culturally Korean. If they are not, then they are more or less just like any other Chinese and it would not have been unfair for Cai Lina to claim to be Chinese. There is a sizable ethnic Korean population in China and nowadays, many of the younger generation tend to identify themselves more as Chinese than as Korean.

In fact, China is culturally and ethnically very diverse. Hankyung of the boy group Super Junior is not ethnically Chinese. He belongs to the Nanai minority group which comes from northeastern China (i.e. Manchuria). Ethnically he is probably closer to Koreans than he is to Chinese. But he is always referred to as the Chinese member of the group. So is Hankyung also an imposter? I don't think so since culturally Hankyung identifies himself as Chinese not to mention he is a Chinese citizen.

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I agree with James on this. Also it touches upon the complex attitudes Korean and Koreans living outside the peninsula have toward each other. Or here, ROK attitudes toward ethnic Koreans in a semi-plural China, as Cathy mentioned. (Korean-Chinese are not as self-conscious over a hyphenate identity as Korean-Westerners, which is why Cai's puzzlement makes sense.)

But I mostly keen on the sexist unilateralism of the show. And the show is kinda fun to watch, because the irony is so deliciously, blissfully unintentional.

Eva's adorable in Likable or Not, though!

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@ James Turnbull ~ RE: V-Tech

Perhaps they were also influenced by the U.S. media which kept calling the shooter Korean and always using his surname first to sound more foreign. They also kept emphasizing he was an immigrant.

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A question to anyone who knows:

If a Chinese family moves to Korea and stays there for several generations would their grandchildren be considered Korean? Or is it like how 3rd-gen Koreans in Japan are not considered Japanese?

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I understand that the whole lying issue is a big part of it...But, I have to wonder, would they have cared as much if it hadn't been an ethnic issue? I sense an undertone of "We thought you were a foreigner, and we felt so puffed up, inviting you into our fold, but then you turned out to be one of US! How COULD you??".

Plus, a Korean denying being Korean is like, the ultimate sin. Or something. (Ha!)

But maybe that's just me and my cynicism running away with me again.

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I agree with Cathy (#8) that it would depend on her parents. My Korean adopted kids are full-blooded Korean and were born in Korea, yet (sadly) lost their Korean culture being raised by 100% American parents. If my daughter would someday get her Korean to a fluent level, I think she would qualify!

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Oh, I definitely agree, James. It's a huge part of my frustration being a Korean who sees herself as 100% American. Koreans see gyopos (even that term is proprietary, referring to Koreans living abroad) as one of their own who happens to be residing overseas, not considering that the subject in question feels, many times, much more a part of the cultural fabric they were raised in. A korean abroad will always be a Korean, regardless of how the person identifies him/herself. It's like you're accepted as a Korean in "blood" but rejected for not being a part of its society -- constant limbo. In this respect I hope globalization has a positive effect in shedding light on such issues. Baby steps...

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And the opposite is true, as well. Both of my parents were born and raised in Korea, but they're ethnically Chinese (well . . . my mother is half Korean). And because of that, they were not allowed to attend Korean schools, buy land, and were heavily discriminated against.

I also find that Korean are very racist, especially towards blacks and Latinos. I know that despite the university-level education of my grandparents, they had to do menial work like cleaning houses because they couldn't find proper jobs after emigrating to Korea. And because of the hard work, both of my grandfathers died when my parents were four.

My parents have never ever been accepted as Korean, although they speak and write the language better than they do Chinese. My family eats kimchee, we watch Korean dramas, we go to Korea to see our family - but we are not Korean, and we never will be. I don't really mind, because I can still be proud of my Chinese culture which will still accept me (although they look at me with wary eyes because of my American upbringing). I also find that although I am proud of my family background, and I enjoy many aspects of Korean culture, I am still angry with the way my family has been treated. But of course, the Chinese have treated the Koreans very badly as well.

But Korean is Korean, and if it isn't . . . it never will be.

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the show is pathetic. Who is it for anyway?
All it's doing is breeding fetish about foreigners and perhaps feeding to the illusion that Korea is a diverse and accepting country when it clearly is not.
If the show is so proud of Korean identity, shouldn't it be the one welcoming this girl with open arms because she is one of their own?

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the show is pathetic. Who is it for anyway?
All it's doing is breeding fetish about foreigners and perhaps feeding to the illusion that Korea is a diverse and accepting country when it clearly is not.
If the show is so proud of Korean identity, shouldn't it be the one welcoming this girl with open arms because she is one of their own?

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I agreed 100% .
just think it this way

" I'm taking a basic 101 France lesson, I struggle to pronounce every single words, and there's a girl who can speak almost perfect France, and praise by the teacher, and even get into school newspaper, and she's so popular for the france departement...at the end the whole class found out that she's 1/4 France, she communicate with her grandma in France"

feel cheated? heck yes. I feel like wanting to smack her. So I think, this show should not let anyone with Korean bloodline to take part. it's a show about FOREINGNER who learn to talk/understand the Korean Language.

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a natural response to deception, but i think korean netizens always take it overboard so i'm really not surprised.

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She lied. I think that's the primary people are upset. There are other subtexts like being ethnically Korean and being claimed no matter where you were raised. The same thing happened with Hines Ward. He's half but when he was MVP Koreans acted like it was no problem that he was half black. I'm glad that his mother set the record straight on that.

She didn't reveal this because it's pretty clear that had she revealed it, she wouldn't have gotten on the show or, at least, wouldn't have stayed very long.

I think the show is crap and it's only promoting this false sense of acceptance of foreigners in Korean society. Koreans can ask foreign women stupid questions and, because they're paid, they have to sit there and answer them. Wooooooooo!

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"If a Chinese family moves to Korea and stays there for several generations would their grandchildren be considered Korean? Or is it like how 3rd-gen Koreans in Japan are not considered Japanese?"

China is a multiethnic society similar in geographic size, population and ethnic diversity as Europe. Like an above poster said, northern Chinese are closer to Manchurian and Korean genetically than Southern Chinese. Japan is a different case its obsession with racial purity is a direct consequence of fascist pre-WWII society and history. Even mixed-race children of ethnic Japanese from Peru and South America are subject to deportation. And for the most part you cannot be Japanese unless your family was considered Japanese during the Meiji period going back to the late 1800s

As for Koreans in China, there's a province in NE China that's traditionally been Korean going back thousands of years and is an Independently administered area like Tibet. Like Tibet, the Korean areas have Korean as an official language but like Tibet it's slowly being sinicized, with the population going from 2/3 Korean to 2/3 Chinese in the past 40 years. Eventually it'll be almost entirely Chinese and as nondescript from the rest of China. Koreans in other areas of China basically live like Koreans in the US. How you view yourself has much to do with your personal views, how you were raised, personality and economic status

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ExpatJane, why do you think this show is crap. The entire point of the show is marveling at the fact that foreigners now speak Korean. That fact might seem unremarkable to those born after 1987, but 40 years ago Korea was a third world nation with people literally starving in the streets and women prostituting themselves to Americans to support their families. 50 years ago it was a blasted land with entire skyline of Seoul and most of the countryside in ruins. Even to a non Korean the fact that people come from all over the world to live and work in Korea is amazing and something that didn't just happen. It's the culmination of 60 years of blood sweat and tears by an entire nation unlike anything comparable in the developed world and an achievement worth celebrating and being proud of.

As for Hines. You seem to ignore the fact that he's accepted for 2 reasons: 1)he has Korean heritage 2) he came to Korea to self-identify as Korean. I cant see any sort of issue with that whatsoever. Should he be treated in Korea like Imus treated the Rutgers womens' basketball team? Basically told "No matter what you do or what you achieve you'll be a nappy headed ho to me?" If Koreans treated Hines as "just another hapa" then there'd be cries of racism that Koreans cannot see past race even when someone is MVP. Instead Koreans took the high road and embraced Hines as one of their own and shared with him in the glory of his achievements. I suppose you think it's equally "cheap" for blacks to "claim him" as African American? The whole thing is an entirely adolescent and small-minded way to look at race.

It's ironic you mention his mother because the major part of the Hines Ward story in Korea is actually the story of how his Korean mother sacrificed to make him the man he is. To Americans this tale doesn't have specific significance but to Koreans this folk tale of a mother sacrificing for a son is one of the central morality stories in society and has special resonance. It's also one of the reasons why Hines was immediately accepted despite his differences. "Yes he looks different but seeing what he went through is like what we collectively as a society went through... he is Korean." That is the unwritten story that played in millions of Koreans' hearts when he came over. It's particularly ugly when someone takes a beautiful story of acceptance and breaking down barriers to inject their own prejudices and hangups.

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Wow, I happened upon this after Googling myself trying to find something else, so months later let me answer your question Ed.

I think the show is crap because it's lightweight. I lived in Korea for quite a long time and even before I arrived I knew its history. After two years at Ewha, I came away knowing much more and, hopefully, have a nuanced view of South Korean history (at least from the Korean War onward.) Thank you very much for the history lesson, but it's not necessary.

Funny how you've injected your own biases into my opinion without even knowing why I thought the show is not worth my time. It's a lightweight show which is superficial at best. That's not uncommon for TV and it's the exact reason why I don't like most TV shows.

As for Hines Ward. Great, but again the fact remains that his mother had to read Koreans the riot act regarding race. Only then did they respond and to make some forms of racism illegal. Again, you're so quick to lecture me that the sin you've accused me of, injecting my prejudice and hangups into an issue, that you end up making the same error.

BTW, I think it's great his mom sacrificed. However, you know what? Most good moms do sacrifice for their children. Mine did too.

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I've been watching the show regularly from the local Korean DVD store and I love this show!!! These beautiful women from all over the world speak impeccable Korean and they're hilarious. Sometimes they have handsome men from around the globe as well. As far as Cai Lina is concerned, she is Korean. People identify themselves by their heritage and not by their nationality. Hence, Korean-American, African-American, European-American, etc. I am very proud of my Korean heritage and even though I am an American citizen, I always state I'm Korean. (My white friends think I'm going overboard with this pride thing lol) I always explain to them that when it comes to whites, they have deep roots in America and have been mixed with other European nations to a degree where it's hard for them to identify themselves with certain European countries. Ex: 1/32 British, 1/16 French, so on and so on). However, I do know many Americans that can still claim they're full-blooded German, Italians, etc., if they're not of mixed blood as much. As far as Koreans go, Koreans didn't emigrate to America until recently (mid 70's to mid 80's) was where a large wave of Korean professionals with children "flooded" America. And Koreans like to marry one another so it's easy for Koreans to identify themselves as Koreans even though in actuality, are "Americans".

Talk about being a minority in the U.S. Large number of Koreans go back to Korea since the economy in Korea (Korea, Japan, China) is doing much better than the U.S. and Western countries. I saw large number of white Americans are emigrating to Korea to find jobs. (not to teach English but to work at major Korean companies). I hope this relationship between East and West would have a profound impact on working together to make this world a better, peaceful place to live. :)

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@chris Koreans started emigrating to the US after the immigration reforms of the 1960s. prior to that because the US was so racist as a consequence of the Yellow Peril and Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1800s there was effectively no immigration from East Asia to the US for over 100 years. in fact the US is one of the only countries in the world (including Nazi Germany) that had specific prohibitions for race in its immigration bans in the 20th century. it's fine to be "Korean." it's Western paternalism on the part of posters like Turnbull and javabeans to sneer at Korean identity while promoting the sanctity of European Jewish Identity. talk about bloodline... any Jew who can pass muster with an orthodox rabbi in Israel can claim citizenship and aid from the government of Israel even if neither they nor anyone for 1000 years actually resided in Palestine. with Koreans you're talking about the children or grandchildren of people who made it through the hardships of the 20th century as a unit. just ignore it. they're biased and will never understand.

@expatjane you seem to be defending yourself for things which you don't need to be defensive. sounds like Ed asked you why you think the show was crap. personally I didn't see anything in that where he judged your opinion. also this is just me but it seems like if you know the history it should come out in the substance of your posts, not just you talking about the education you had. I found the perspective he had on Ward and why Koreans enjoy the show interesting. only a sad person would begrudge people their simple pleasures.

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isn't that girl bianca mobley half-korean too?

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Yeah, Bianca is half Korean

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