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Posted November 1, 2001
Distorted, stereotyped misrepresentation of Korea
Doubleday released a press statement back in November 2000 that admits they did not have sufficient evidence to have stated that there is a tradition of honor killings in Korea, a practice that became a 'hot topic' after the media reported it in some countries like Pakistan and Turkey. The most Doubleday will do is promise to change the text in the next printing so that the term 'honor killing' is not used. Well, then, they never should have published it. I am a Korean American with an M.A. in East Asian Languages & Cultures, and I can attest that this book is grossly distorted with some of the worst stereotypes about Asia. While some readers may cite the author's right to her own memories, particularly in America as an adoptee, the entire basis of this book's sensationalism revolves around the 'honor killing' incident in Korea, and in that vein, Kim crosses the line of one's own personal memory into outrageous statements of 'fact' about Korea. Despite people's protestations that this is JUST a memoir, let me remind you that the book purports to tell the 'truth' about Korean culture. Ms. Kim is not giving her subjective opinion here; she is making a ludicrous accusation about an entire culture. There is a HUGE difference between saying that 'Women experience discrimination in Korean society,' versus killing women in Korea is 'not murder, they are honor killings, sanctified by tradition.' Ms. Kim is quite literally stating that Korea permits and endorses the killing of women for the sake of family honor, a gross error even if it were a work of fiction. This is NOT memory, but a statement to be read erroneously as FACT. But Americans prefer to blur the difference as a 'fine point.' But is it fair for Ms. Kim to attribute a barbaric and backwards cultural practice to Korea that doesn't exist to her 'memory' as a child when she cannot even remember her name, her age, her town, her mother's name, etc.? Strange how she can unequivocally 'remember' a detailed Korean cultural tradition when she can't seem to remember the basic facts that allow anyone to verify her story. Plus, her mistransliterations and her numerous mistakes about the Korean language and culture make it doubtful that she is culling anything from actual memory, but from cultural guidebooks she has read in her adulthood. Domestic abuse and violence against women have occurred in every country, including this one. But if I were to write a memoir about the death of my mother in the U.S. and attribute it to America's 'honor killing' tradition, I would be publicly ridiculed and have zero chances at finding a publisher who would buy it. I could not hide behind the weak excuse that 'this is my life' or 'this is my memory,' because the facts are simply wrong! But I guess it's OK to say it about Korea since we are so ignorant about it and form our opinions about other countries from racist propaganda, TV stereotypes and bad books like these. The Associated Press already printed an article about the controversy surrounding this issue, and numerous Korean scholars, experts and several national magazines have pointed out egregious errors in the story and the distorted misrepresentations, particularly in the first 1/3 of this book. One scholar has collected more than 15 pages of errors! Korea, like any country, has its problems and its cultural sticking points. But ignorance of this magnitude is inexcusable. The majority of you who are defending it, quite frankly, do not speak, read or write Korean and know very little about Korea. There are a few who DO know about Korea and think that it's OK to criticize Korea for it's male-dominated society with this simple, minor 'gaffe.' That is a mistake. To allow this misrepresentation to continue is to perpetuate gross misunderstanding and ignorance that insults and slanders the people and descendants of Korea, including myself. But rather than discern the truth, we would all rather have a 'good read' at the expense ofWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.