Terms of Art: A Korean Woman with a Jewish Guy

Any tight group and community have some prejudice against the “outsiders” or those who are different from them. It happens at work, it happens in politics, it happens for Jews and Koreans.

Shiksa refers to a non-Jewish woman who has attracted, is in a relationship with, and married to a Jewish man. It also refers to a non-Jewish woman that entices a Jewish man. Many use the term thinking it merely means a gentile woman, but it’s never recommended for someone to refer herself as Shiksa. This is because if one understands that the term originates from Hebrew word for shayketz, meaning abomination, impure, or object of loathing, one would not use it lightly.

Korean society is definitely protective of its men and women, and given South Korea sits on a peninsula only bordering North Korea, historically there hasn’t been a huge number of foreigners living in South Korea. There is an increasing number of North Americans moving to South Korea to teach English or to work, more Koreans in Korea are exposed to real life “white person” and “black person” beyond what they see in NCIS on TV. And more Korean girls are dating foreign guys in Korea. In the US, there are 1.7 million people of Korean descents, and many Koreans live in pockets of Korea towns, where you can potentially get by your entire life without speaking a word of English. There is definitely more exposure and openness, but it is still the most common to see Korean-Korean couples that give their kids Korean names and teach them Korean in the US. This also has to do with a relatively short history of US immigration from Korea, the first immigration being in 1902. Even still, terms like twinkie and banana exists to refer to Koreans (and Asians) with yellow skin who are “white” inside, which is used in a derogatory way, and there goes every group’s primal instinct for preservation.

Korean society (in Korea) imposes prejudice against Korean girls dating foreign guys, as much as it does on the foreign guys. According to information gathered through Korean websites and keywords ‘Korean girls and foreign guys’, there is an incredible amount of skepticism on ulterior motives of the Korean girl- that it is for green card in the US, for money, doesn’t think she is pretty enough to get Korean guys, harbors undue resentment towards Korean men, or had too many sex partners in the past and no Korean man will love her. This sounds like abomination.

However, just like how there are many in the Jewish community that refrains from using Shiksa in a way that is truly meant to be used, much of the real negativity towards “foreign blood mixing with Korean blood” is slowly dissipating, or at least disguised in public. It definitely does not mean that the prejudice has disappeared, however, just like how the marriage between Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan was met with questions despite many Jews and non-Jews having married in the past with much blessing.

I do think that it is interesting that there is so much emphasis on the intent of the woman involved in interracial relationship and the harm that she is doing, in both Korean and Jewish culture. It is not to say that there is no implication for men “breaking” the community code. Jewish man marrying a non-Jewish woman often ask their spouse to consider conversion or to raise the family Jewish, which I think is an effort for a mend. Shegetz refers to a non-Jewish male who is in a relationship with a Jewish woman, although it does not seem the term is used very often. In Korea, foreign guys who date Korean girls are considered to have “stolen” or “snatched” her away. But the criticism or hatred towards females seem far greater in both cultures.

I am a non-Jewish woman marrying a Jewish guy, and most of the time I feel welcome by his family, and the fact that I am on my way to converting probably helps. As a Korean woman marrying a foreign guy, I will say that I kept my relationship away from my parents (who live in Korea) for as long as I could.





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