History influences the ethnic nationalism in Korea as well as the nature of the dynamic self-perception of the Korean people. Ethnic nationalism is defined as the combination of ethnicity and race due to historical circumstances. The self-perception of Koreans, a form of orientalism, derives from a form of ethnic nationalism and takes shape in the form of competitiveness amongst other nations. Although many critics argue that the stigma of ethnic nationalism may bring about a generalization of a nation’s people, the certain dynamism of Koreans cannot be masked by ethnic nationalism. Both forms of identity bring about different effects in the social and political world of Korea.
Gi-Wook Shin, author of Ethnic Nationalism in Korea, claims that the effect of ethnic nationalism penetrates every aspect of Korean society: “Indeed, a sense of ethnic unity has served Koreans in a variety of ways from being an ideology of anti-colonialism to that of national unification”(3). He demonstrates that this notion of ethnic nationalism is strong enough to influence political and national policies in a country, but he also explains that ethnic nationalism originated from distinct historical events that had occurred in the country. This unique phenomenon formed due to the specific historical circumstances and influences of Korea’s past have not allowed Koreans to able to fully differentiate between race and ethnicity:
Although race is understood as a collectivity defined by innate and
phenotypic and genotypic characteristics and ethnicity is generally
regarded as a cultural phenomenon based on a common language and
history, Koreans have not historically differentiated between the two.
Instead, race has served as a marker that strengthened ethnic identity,
which in turn was instrumental in defining the nation. Race, ethnicity, and
nation were conflated, and this is reflected in the multiple uses of the term
minjok, the most widely used term for...
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