‘Chinatown’ petition shows rising sensitiveness of Koreans on issues related to Chinese culture: expert

21-Apr-2021 Intellasia | GlobalTimes | 5:02 AM Print This Post

A tourist attraction in South Korea, which the local media claimed to be a “Chinatown,” has sparked so much controversy and anti-China sentiment that a South Korean politician had to clarify that the cultural complex is in fact not Chinese-themed but intended to showcase Korean architecture. Nonetheless, 600,000 South Koreans have already signed a petition demanding a halt to the construction.

The event has prompted Chinese experts to call for an easing of the growing overreaction and sensitivity of some South Koreans over issues related to Chinese culture. The anti-Chinese sentiment shown in the controversy might be driven by conservative forces in South Korea amid a simmering cultural feud between the netisens of the two countries, observers said.

The controversy came from an online petition filed on March 29 on the website of the presidential Blue House, asking for a withdrawal of a project to build a “Chinese Culture Town” and opposing the “Sinicisation” of Gangwon-do.

Governor of Gangwon-do Choi Moon-soon on Friday said that the project is a cultural tourism facility, not a “Chinatown,” and all claims related to a Korea-China culture town were “fake news,” according to Korean media.

Governor Choi said that the place where the facility is being built is where the Hanok complex is located, so it can be an opportunity to promote Hanok, a traditional Korean house.

However, the clarification did not stop the petition signature campaign. As of press time, more than 606,000 people had signed the petition. Under Blue House rules, the government has to make a response when a petition is signed by more than 200,000 people within a month.

The person who submitted the petition said in the complaint that the construction of the so-called “Chinatown” is to build a “small China” in Korea and he refused to “give China Korean land.”

The petitioner also stirred up emotions by accusing China of “spoiling” Korean cultural items, such as kimchi and hanbok, and noting that it is time to “confront China.”

Zheng Jiyong, director of the centre for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Monday that the “striking” number of people opposing the construction of an assumed “Chinatown,” which can be seen around the world, reflected the escalating “sensitiveness” of some South Korean people on issues related to Chinese culture. This situation has been taken advantage of by the conservative forces in South Korea to benefit from increasing anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.

He called for Korean people to stay rational and be more inclusive as the construction of Chinatown or any kind of Chinese cultural facility aims to promote cultural exchanges and enhance Korean people’s understanding of Chinese culture.

“This kind of cultural project is exactly what the two countries need, when there is rising misunderstanding and spats between them. People should embrace it, not oppose it, otherwise the gap will grow wider,” he said.

He also took the examples of Koreatowns in cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and many places in Northeast China, which have been popular among Chinese locals.

Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic who has been following the cultural spats between China and Korea, said the petition against the “Chinatown” revealed a psychological state of cultural inferiority among some people.

“If building a Chinatown will take over the territory of Koreans, then you really don’t have much confidence in your own culture,” he said.



Category: Korea

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