Anti-Korean Sentiment in China Overshadows Lee-Hu Summit Today
By Sunny Lee
Korea Times Correspondent
BEIJING ― Although the main agenda for the Korea-China summit Monday is to follow through and define the nature of the two nations' upgraded ``strategic cooperative partnership'' signed in May, observers invariably point out that the two heads of state should use the occasion to build confidence and cultivate trust.
``The most important thing at the summit is confidence-building,'' said Hwang Yu-bok, a professor of Korean Studies at the Central University of Nationalities in Beijing.
There is some misunderstanding between Korea and China, according to Hwang. ``When Lee became President, he promoted `pragmatism' as his political philosophy. In Chinese, the term means an attitude of pursuing one's own interest without principle. So, it created some confusion in China," he noted.
The fact that the conservative Lee visited the United States and Japan before visiting China also helped to set the tone of looking at the situation that way.
``So, having good communication between the two leaders is very important,'' Hwang said.
Observers point out that the two countries should move to improve the relationship between their people as well, pointing out rising anti-Korean sentiment in China.
Han Suk-hee of Yonsei University said the anti-Korean sentiment was, in principle, not something that would normally be discussed by the leaders of the two countries. ``But given its serious nature, it's important for the two to be clear on this matter,'' he said, adding, ``it is a bit too much for society to resolve the issue on its own.''
Chung Shin-chul, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently completed research on the Chinese perspective of Koreans. He points out that the matter has become particularly ``pronounced'' in the 16-year mosern relationship of the two countries.
``I have so many things to say,'' Chung said. ``Although many Koreans live in China, they seldom interact with Chinese people. Some of them behave very arrogantly and look down on Chinese. The Korean youths ride high-speed motorcycles late at night, circling around the town. Some Koreans often engage in binge drinking and make a lot of noise in the neighborhood. Chinese people are talking about it.
``It has gradually helped the Chinese people have a certain stereotypical idea about Koreans. And that is increasingly negative,'' he added.
Chinese people's sentiment on Korea went very sour when some Koreans said the Sichuan earthquake was ``God's punishment of China.'' The ``news'' was quickly picked up by Chinese students studying in Korea and spread rapidly via the Internet, igniting anger. It had a very negative impact with Chinese society, especially among young people, according to Chung.
While the Sichuan earthquake became the occasion that furthered anti-Korean sentiment in China, on the other hand, it became an opportunity for Japan, China 's arch-rival, to mend its traditional sour ties with China. Japanese media reports at that time focused on the humanitarian side of the disaster.
``Chinese people now say that during the earthquake, Japan cried, but Korea smiled,'' Hwang said.
Korean media is also a problem, according to Chinese scholars. ``Even when the two countries' governments maintain a good relationship, the media coverage is negative. This is bound to have negative repercussions at the grass-roots level,'' Hwang said. For example, he said, when Koreans want to emphasize the good quality of a certain product, they often say the product is ``not made in China,'' hinting that Chinese products are inferior.
According to Chinese scholars, some Korean opinion makers favor America and look down on China. ``The Western media, especially American and British media, portray China in a negative light because these countries want to contain the rise of China. The Korean media just copy's the Western media's view on China. I think Korea's situation is different from that of the West,'' Hwang said.
Kang Mi-ok, a Chinese journalist with an ethnic Korean background, said the anti-Korea sentiment is also quite pervasive in the business sector as well. She said there is a joke in China, comparing Koreans, Japanese and Americans. ``Koreans have a big head, but they don't have a tail. Korean business people talk big at first, but don't keep their word. Japanese have a head, a big torso, and a tail, all of them. They pay close attention to the work in progress. Hence the big torso. Americans have both the head and the tail. When they say they will do something, they do it.''
``Some Koreans business people fail in China and they complain that it's because Chinese policy is bad. Or they say they were cheated by their Chinese business partner. But they don't realize their own responsibility,'' Kang said, adding Koreans tend to judge things from their perspective only.
Last year, Korea generated a $38 billion trade surplus with China. That translates into $100 million a day for Korea. ``The relationship between the two countries is very close. But they also have some problems and misunderstandings. These should be resolved now,'' Hwang said.
``The Korean media should reflect its usual attitude of reporting China. Any news about China in Korea carries a negative connotation. When the media goes that way, society is influenced,'' Hwang again noted.