Korean dh resents the term "Chinese New Year"...... - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-03-2009, 02:33 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, multicultural families.

My dh is Korean American (first generation), and is dismayed that in the U.S. (or at least here in Upstate New York area) the Lunar New Year is referred to as the "Chinese New Year".

It is, of course, the Chinese New Year.......in addition to being the Korean New Year, the Japanese New Year, the "Lunar New Year", and the new year that most Asian countries celebrate.

Anyway, my daughter's school was celebrating it as the Chinese New Year, and her teacher wanted my dh to come in for the celebration (because he's Asian), and he was insulted (privately) and told me he wasn't coming in. So, I went in to help out in the classroom, and she did a beautiful Chinese New Year celebration. But she did present it as sort of JUST Chinese, you know?

Just wondered if any of you ladies who are married to Asian guys, or any of you Asian mommies, have ever thought about this or had this come up in your families.

Thank you, and I love this section of the forum. I'm so glad it's here!!!!
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Old 02-03-2009, 02:35 AM
 
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I've noticed a shift in the local news media referring to it as Lunar New Year now! Hopefully it sinks in to everyday use soon.

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Old 02-03-2009, 02:42 PM
 
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No one in my family has ever called it Chinese New Year (unless they are speaking to a non-asian), my family in China refers to it as the Spring Festival. I have Korean, Japanese and Filipino all represented in my family and we just refer to amongst ourselves (and to other asians) as the New Year.
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:50 PM
 
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Glad you posted this. I knew, in theory, that this New Year crosses national boundaries, I never considered attributing it just to China as an offense, but if I were Korean, I would be offended. It is something to keep in mind.

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Old 02-03-2009, 09:38 PM
 
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It is, of course, the Chinese New Year.......in addition to being the Korean New Year, the Japanese New Year, the "Lunar New Year", and the new year that most Asian countries celebrate.
...unless you are in an Asian country that celebrates the new year based on a solar calendar. Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos are three examples that celebrate the new year in mid-April.
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Old 02-03-2009, 10:24 PM
 
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I have lived in Korea for few years now and (as you probably know, being married to a Korean and having a Korean family-in-law) Koreans are very defensive about their culture and national pride. They have a very recent history of being subjugated first by the Chinese and then by the Japanese. And though, if you read about Korean and Chinese history and culture, their culture and history are inextricably linked and related with many aspects and traditions of Korean culture, actually stemming from and directly descended from Chinese culture and traditions. Koreans don't like to admit these associations and are very protective of their history. On the other hand, Korea has battled as the little guy between two giants, China and Japan, to maintain it's own sense of culture and history and until recently has often lost that battle. I've lived in lots of countries and amongst many different peoples, and Koreans are definitely the most nationalist (even more so than Americans ), patriotic and proud of their country and people. It's an emotional topic for them.

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Old 02-03-2009, 10:29 PM
 
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Our daughter is Vietnamese and so our family celebrates Tet with her. However my son's school only celebrated "Chinese New Year" and called it such. They made paper lanterns to decorate the classroom and did all sorts of stuff, but it was only China based. My son, at 5 years old (and I'm so proud of him for this) stood up to his teacher and asked to take his lantern home (they were supposed to stay in the class)--he told his teacher that it was also New Year in Vietnam and that he wanted to take his stuff home to celebrate Vietnamese New Year and not just Chinese New Year.

It makes me a little upset that our entire country seems to call it Chinese New Year, forgetting that a lot of other countries celebrate on the same day, and not all of them want it referred to as "Chinese New Year".

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Old 02-03-2009, 11:59 PM
 
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I'm Korean and I'm 1.5 generation. I personally would LOVE to attend my child's Chinese New Year celebreation. I consider Chinese new year celebration as all Asian new year celebration. I would be so happy that my child's school is celebrating the Chinese new year... 'cuase they don't have to! I grew up here in US, and I am more American than Korean. So, maybe that's why.

When I first immigrated here as a young child, kids in the neighborhood used to make fun of me by saying I'm ching chong Chinese (or something like that). So, as a Korean and a young child, it was so painful to be made fun of and teased... and the teasing referred me as a Chinese (when they knew that I was Korean). So, there was a sense of negative feeling when I am automatically cateogrized as Chinese.
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Old 02-05-2009, 01:32 AM
 
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I have lived in Korea for few years now and (as you probably know, being married to a Korean and having a Korean family-in-law) Koreans are very defensive about their culture and national pride. They have a very recent history of being subjugated first by the Chinese and then by the Japanese. And though, if you read about Korean and Chinese history and culture, their culture and history are inextricably linked and related with many aspects and traditions of Korean culture, actually stemming from and directly descended from Chinese culture and traditions. Koreans don't like to admit these associations and are very protective of their history. On the other hand, Korea has battled as the little guy between two giants, China and Japan, to maintain it's own sense of culture and history and until recently has often lost that battle. I've lived in lots of countries and amongst many different peoples, and Koreans are definitely the most nationalist (even more so than Americans ), patriotic and proud of their country and people. It's an emotional topic for them.
I agree with this. My DH is 1.5 gen Korean American. My Korean in laws, esp my mil is fiercely pro-Korean and anti-any other Asian ethnicities. She says the nastiest things about other Asian cultures. DH and I jokingly refer to it as her, "Korean superiority complex." She thinks that all things Korean are superior to anything else. She even thinks that while gay ppl exist, there are NO gay Koreans, haha! She says nasty things about Chinese ppl all of the time especially (FYI, I'm Taiwanese American, so yes I am lumped into that category) and for almost 10 yrs mistakenly thought that I was Thai!

Nursingmom, my DH gets annoyed too when ppl assume he is Chinese. However with the ching-chong crap, it's not like those who are Chinese are more accepting of it. It's just a way for bigots to lump tease ppl who look Asian. I'm Taiwanese and when I correct ppl that I am Taiwanese, they don't understand it, they think I mean Thai and then tell me how much they like Thai food and I'm like, "Uh, Thailand and Taiwan are two totally different countries" and I am met with a totally blank look, b/c they still don't get that they made a major error. Ppl always think I am either Chinese, Korean or Japanese and if you don't fall under one of those categories, then they seem disappointed.

Anyway, I am always having to explain to ppl that CNY is celebrated by other cultures too. They always get confused as to why it is called CNY. I just tell them that it's basically a lunar new year, but most Americans call it CNY.
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Old 02-05-2009, 08:13 AM
 
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She even thinks that while gay ppl exist, there are NO gay Koreans, haha!
Haha! I came across this a *lot* when I lived in Korea, it's so funny you mention that.

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Old 02-05-2009, 12:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My Korean MIL also says nasty things about other Asian cultures. Mainly Chinese and Japanese. We don't see her much, but if we did, it would become a problem and I would have to say something -- only because she does it in front of my children. I don't want them to have a bad attitude about ANY other culture or ethnicity.

I'm really surprised that more Asian families and parents don't speak up and correct teachers and educators and even the American media for calling the holiday exclusively The Chinese New Year. I mean, it's the Lunar New Year.

You could have a BEAUTIFUL Lunar New Year celebration in a classroom, and teach how different Asian countries celebrate that holiday!!! Maybe eventually people will start writing about it and talking about it in the media so that we can learn that the term excludes/ignores a lot of people.
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Old 02-05-2009, 01:01 PM
 
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Thanks for this thread.

Saw it in new posts.

I celebrate various holidays with my children and the children in my care, and I had no idea that there was tension around this issue. All the curriculum materials I see/use refer to Chinese New Year only....I will definitely be using them differently next year and talking about the Lunar New Year instead (with some reference to the other names for it)
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Old 02-05-2009, 02:43 PM
 
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Most teachers love kids and are trying to appreciate their students. Maybe tell the teacher how great it was to bring culture to the class room, but your family refers to it as Lunar New Year. You can explain it's not just a Chinese thing. The teacher might be grateful.

I'm black. My mom was proactive about stuff like Black History Month or other things she thought were important. She'd ask my teachers "What do you have planned? I have some ideas and I'd really like to help." Most of my teachers were relieved to have some help.

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Old 02-05-2009, 08:27 PM
 
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Haha! I came across this a *lot* when I lived in Korea, it's so funny you mention that.
No kidding? I did not realize that this was such a popular belief among Koreans. I had a friend in college who was a Korean adoptee and he was gay, he was her best friend and I was half tempted to drag him over to mil's house to prove to her that gay Koreans exist. However, I know she would deny it and say that it was b/c the guy was not, Korean Korean, but was an adopted child and brought up by, "Americans." I have found that Koreans can be quite mean to those who are Korean by blood, but not Korean enough for their stds.
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Old 02-06-2009, 12:52 AM
 
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My Korean in laws, esp my mil is fiercely pro-Korean and anti-any other Asian ethnicities. She says the nastiest things about other Asian cultures. DH and I jokingly refer to it as her, "Korean superiority complex." She thinks that all things Korean are superior to anything else. She even thinks that while gay ppl exist, there are NO gay Koreans, haha! She says nasty things about Chinese ppl all of the time especially (FYI, I'm Taiwanese American, so yes I am lumped into that category) and for almost 10 yrs mistakenly thought that I was Thai!
...

Anyway, I am always having to explain to ppl that CNY is celebrated by other cultures too. They always get confused as to why it is called CNY. I just tell them that it's basically a lunar new year, but most Americans call it CNY.
I never knew that it was an Asian thing. I also thought it was just a Chinese thing.

As far as your MIL thinking you were Thai, I had a friend who was Thai who married a Korean man years ago and she did not tell her mother that she had married a Korean man until she was pregnant with their second child because her mother was so prejudiced against Koreans and she thought her mother would disown her.

I am not sure what happened at first, but her mother came and visited several times for a few months at a time and loved her grandbabies and was civil to her son in law as far as I know and his parents were civil to her as well. I did not realize before that how much animosity there is between those countries.
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Old 02-06-2009, 01:18 AM
 
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As a non-Asian, I have always called it Chinese New Year, even though I knew it was celebrated by other countries besides China. I do think that this is a pervasive thing. I'll definitely be more mindful in the future.

I think it's awesome that schools are teaching an appreciation of other cultures' and celebrations. What would be terrific is if Korean-American and Japanese-American and others also came in to talk to the class to say, "Even though you may know it as Chinese New Year, it's really the Lunar New Year and is celebrated by other countries as well. In Korean families, it is a very important time for us! What we do is...." to give a broader and more accurate perspective. That sounds wonderful to me!

I think that being proactive would probably be the best approach- next year, approach the teacher before the Lunar New Year so that he/she can plan from the beginning to be more inclusive. They often just go by what they already know and what the curriculum says - and the curric probably talks about Chinese New Year and has craft projects that are based on Chinese traditions. I can see how that would be upsetting! i bet that each teacher that you speak to will leave with a better understanding and then pass that on to their students each year.

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Old 02-06-2009, 02:01 AM
 
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Haha! I came across this a *lot* when I lived in Korea, it's so funny you mention that.
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No kidding? I did not realize that this was such a popular belief among Koreans. I had a friend in college who was a Korean adoptee and he was gay, he was her best friend and I was half tempted to drag him over to mil's house to prove to her that gay Koreans exist. However, I know she would deny it and say that it was b/c the guy was not, Korean Korean, but was an adopted child and brought up by, "Americans." I have found that Koreans can be quite mean to those who are Korean by blood, but not Korean enough for their stds.
Yup...I've heard many Koreans say this. One of my coworkers is a lesbian, but doesn't calls herself a lesbian- because Koreans "aren't gay"- even though she is not attracted to men and prefers women. I think there is generally misunderstanding about homosexuality and of course too many negative associations with being gay. Being a gay person certainly does not fit within the strict hierarchical and rigid social structure of Korean society even in this modern day and age.

Also, Korean Americans (called "Gyopos" here in Korea) are often treated badly by Koreans and met with a lot of rejection. I am friends with a lot of Korean Americans and it breaks my heart to hear some of the things they've experienced, especially since a lot of them come here to explore their culture and history (two of them after having been adopted by American families as babies). Korean Americans are often expected to know the subtleties of the culture and the language and traditions (the concept of "having Korean blood" mentioned by a PP is literally understood here to mean that you share knowledge and culture, history etc. in your blood)- and when they don't, they are greatly misunderstood. It's a really homogeneous country, and in my experience Korea is far behind a lot of the world with respect to embracing other races, cultures and ideas, most Koreans don't get the idea of "multi-culturalism".

hmm...I could go on and on about this topic, as it has been a daily part of my experience living here for going on 5 years and I find it fascinating, but I won't. My husband is kind of an expert on the topic- he's been researching different aspects of the social-political climate here in Asia.

Suffice it to say that Koreans, a wonderful people with a rich cultural tradition and heritage, have a loooooong (can I add a million more O's?) way to go to acceptance of other cultures, identities, and changes in their traditional social organization. But I think they're on their way and they'll get there eventually.

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Old 02-06-2009, 03:27 AM
 
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Old 02-06-2009, 04:43 AM
 
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DH's family are quite happy to call it Chinese New Years, since they are mostly Chinese.

To me, I've always veiwed it this way: There is Chinese NY with all it's traditions and customs which are celebrated on the lunar new year. Then there is Tet, with all it's traditions and celebrations, it is also celebrated on the lunar new year. Of course there is also Korean New Year, with all it's traditions and celebrations, which is celebrated on the lunar new year. Etc, etc, etc.

I think most of the time when one talks about Chinese New Year, they really are talking about the traditions celebrated in Chinese culture. So, I think what needs to be changed more than what it is called, is the understanding that there are several celebrations on this day.

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Old 02-06-2009, 06:32 AM
 
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I took a Korean immersion course a few years ago. The teachers were all a little offended too. They always made a point to say LUNAR new year in English. I try to present it that way to my kids too.
In the US though, we are more familiar with Chinese culture. Other East Asian cultures are still incredibly foreign to most Americans, and I consider it a forward step that "Chinese" new year is mentioned at all in some parts of the country!!

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Old 02-06-2009, 07:08 AM
 
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No kidding? I did not realize that this was such a popular belief among Koreans. I had a friend in college who was a Korean adoptee and he was gay, he was her best friend and I was half tempted to drag him over to mil's house to prove to her that gay Koreans exist. However, I know she would deny it and say that it was b/c the guy was not, Korean Korean, but was an adopted child and brought up by, "Americans." I have found that Koreans can be quite mean to those who are Korean by blood, but not Korean enough for their stds.
I knew this British couple that used to live in the North (the husband worked for the UN), and it's even worse there. I was told this anecdote several times - a colleague of his, who was very obviously gay, asked the young female interpreter if there were any gay people in North Korea. She replied something like "Of course, in the DPRK everyone is gay because of Dear Leader's kindness" I still don't know whether that actually happened but they also told me that the North Koreans believe homosexuality, as well as people being biracial, to be a "disease of capitalism" that the Americans brought to the South! :

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Old 02-06-2009, 04:10 PM
 
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Well, I guess it has to do with certain stereotypes they have of one another. My kmil is EXTREMELY prejudiced against anyone that is southeast asian. I am not sure why, she just acts like she thinks they are dirty and beneath her, you can tell she has no respect for SE asians. My parents (Taiwanese) were horrified when they heard I was dating a Korean guy. They said, "Koreans BEAT their wives!" What is so funny is that yes, I'm sure that in all societies some men beat their wives, but when my DH and his brother found out, they were rolling on the floor with tears in their eyes. They said that if anyone was going to be beating anyone in their family it would be their mom beating their dad. Seriously, my kmil, although a very small women is a very SCARY women. She is MEAN and just not a very nice person in general, even by Korean stds! My fil is a pussy cat and would could never even hurt a fly. Of course, my parents based that steretype on the fact that they knew one Korean couple IRL, and yes the husband WAS beating his wife.

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I never knew that it was an Asian thing. I also thought it was just a Chinese thing.

As far as your MIL thinking you were Thai, I had a friend who was Thai who married a Korean man years ago and she did not tell her mother that she had married a Korean man until she was pregnant with their second child because her mother was so prejudiced against Koreans and she thought her mother would disown her.

I am not sure what happened at first, but her mother came and visited several times for a few months at a time and loved her grandbabies and was civil to her son in law as far as I know and his parents were civil to her as well. I did not realize before that how much animosity there is between those countries.
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Old 02-06-2009, 04:58 PM
 
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Being half-Korean, I grew up always calling it "Korean New Year".
While I do think your DH might have overreacted I do understand his frustration. Koreans sometimes feel a little invisible. People almost always wonder if they are Chinese or Japanese, but rarely Korean.

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Old 02-11-2009, 02:11 PM
 
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As someone else mentioned, in China itself "Chinese New Year" is actually called "Spring Festival," or "chun jie" in Mandarin. Most Chinese people over here refer to it as Spring Festival when speaking English, as that's the term they've been taught. I think calling it "Chinese New Year" is mostly a Western thing. Is the Korean name similar? Maybe Spring Festival would be more inclusive.

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Old 02-12-2009, 01:09 AM
 
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In Hong Kong, when speaking English, people call it "Chinese New Year" or "Lunar New Year" or just "New Year".

I think calling it "chun jie" (Spring Festival) is a Putonghua/northern thing - I've never heard it called that in Cantonese, usually it will be "Sun Neen" (Xin Nian).

The New Year celebrated on January 1st is usually called "New Year" or "Western New Year".
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Old 02-12-2009, 12:14 PM
 
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In French it's called Nouvel An Chinois, too. I am glad I read this thread because I will be sure to call it Lunar New Year now. I can understand why the term Chinese New Year would grate on Koreans and other non-Chinese who celebrate it. So is the Chinese zodiac also not Chinese only? As in the year of the Ox, etc? If not, what would that be called? Thanks!
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Old 02-13-2009, 05:51 AM
 
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This is an interesting thread. I live in Japan where nobody celebrates the lunar new year or spring festival....

Will ask DH about it when he comes home.
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Old 02-13-2009, 09:14 AM
 
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In French it's called Nouvel An Chinois, too. I am glad I read this thread because I will be sure to call it Lunar New Year now. I can understand why the term Chinese New Year would grate on Koreans and other non-Chinese who celebrate it. So is the Chinese zodiac also not Chinese only? As in the year of the Ox, etc? If not, what would that be called? Thanks!
Yes, those are used in Korea as well. I have heard it being referred to as the Asian zodiac before. It is a Buddhist thing, though.

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Old 02-13-2009, 05:22 PM
 
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Hee hee...we tried for the longest time to learn the Korean word for "homo-sexual". The teachers always told us they don't have a word for it because there are NO gays in Korea.
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I knew this British couple that used to live in the North (the husband worked for the UN), and it's even worse there. I was told this anecdote several times - a colleague of his, who was very obviously gay, asked the young female interpreter if there were any gay people in North Korea. She replied something like "Of course, in the DPRK everyone is gay because of Dear Leader's kindness" I still don't know whether that actually happened but they also told me that the North Koreans believe homosexuality, as well as people being biracial, to be a "disease of capitalism" that the Americans brought to the South! :

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Old 02-14-2009, 08:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mntnmom View Post
hee hee...we tried for the longest time to learn the korean word for "homo-sexual". The teachers always told us they don't have a word for it because there are no gays in korea.
:d

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