Culture History Lost in translation

Is Korea really made up of pure-blooded Koreans? Can we debunk the myth?

The notion of “pure-blooded Koreans”

The phrase, “Korea is a single-race/homogeneous nation,” is something that Koreans have learned through the curriculum, and it’s an idea that’s so deeply embedded that no one would feel the need to give it a second thought. Since the country’s first nation, Gojoseon 고조선, Koreans have lived as the main members of the nation, calling themselves Baedal Minjok 배달민족 (“The Baedal People”), where Baedal refers to “ancient Korea,” speaking same language, sharing the same history and cultural background, unlike other countries made up of many different ethnic groups.

Dangunwanggeom 단군왕검 the founder of Gojoseon 고조선
Dangunwanggeom 단군왕검 the founder of Gojoseon 고조선

So this idea of “single-race/homogeneous nation” has also been interpreted as “pure-blooded.” So are Koreans really “pure-blooded,” and made up of only Koreans? The latest DNA findings by Professor Kim Wook of Dankook University’s Department of Bioscience say something different about this commonly held myth. According to research, Koreans have the genotypes common in Mongolians and Eastern and Southern Siberians, as well as the genotypes common in Southeast Asians and Southern and Northern Chinese people. And Koreans were most genetically similar to the Manchurian people in Northeastern China, and partially similar to the Chinese Miao people and Southeast Asians such as Vietnam. This shows that the Korean people are largely a mixed race between the Northern and Southern regions (which is actually not surprising, considering that Korea was invaded near 1,000 times throughout history). 

RELATED : Odd questions and compliments from Koreans – What’s your blood type?

Why do Koreans say they are a nation of "Pure Blooded Koreans"? Can we debunk the myth?

Then why did this myth emerge? These concepts, sometimes seen as insular and nationalistic, was a national philosophy that held the Korean people together like a coagulant during the foreign invasions and the Japanese Occupation. Historians say that it should be thought of as a “cultural lineage” which people on the Korean Peninsula share, rather than a concept of “bloodline.” 

Recently, the immigrant population in Korea has been rapidly increasing, giving birth to multicultural families. And many argue that race shouldn’t be about the looks but the culture which one identifies with, therefore they should also be considered as part of the “single Korean race” if they are absorbed into Korean culture and embrace the Korean lifestyle.

Want to know YOUR family history? – AncestryDNA: Genetic Ethnicity Test, Ethnicity Estimate, AncestryDNA Test Kit [Amazon]

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