To the Koreaboos: The Romanticization of East Asia and Its Negative Impact

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Alessandra Chang, Staff Writer

What do you envision when you think of East Asia? Cascading rivers, falling cherry blossoms, and a serene atmosphere? Or maybe bustling crowds, tall skyscrapers, and extravagant foods. Either way, it is undeniable that East Asia is a breathtaking place, so much so that there are people who can only dream of living there in the future. But when does this love for a country become obsessive, and almost dangerous?

Of course, appreciating another culture is more than okay, but there’s a difference between appreciating and over-romanticizing. The over-romanticization of East Asia (Japan and South Korea specifically) is heavily influenced by the entertainment industry– anime and kdramas for example. Viewers fall in love with the characters and the unrealistic portrayal of society in these fictional stories (Hunter x Hunter, Crash Landing On You), associating them with East Asia simply because they were produced there. Also outside of Asian-produced entertainment, the Western world has a tendency to romanticize East Asian culture – for instance, the sci-fi Ghost In the Shell, where Japan is seen as a technological utopia with cyborgs and extremely life-like robots.

Obviously, not everything seen in these East Asian entertainments is false– there are some aspects that accurately represent the culture, such as the mannerisms and scenery. But what many people fail to recognize is that these entertainment outlets don’t discuss the problems and issues of the society in real life like the political turmoil, stressful school and work life, and pollution. This obliviousness just affirms and further pushes the stereotypes of East Asia into the minds of Westerners.

“But doesn’t romanticizing lead to good stereotypes?” you may ask. Well, stereotypes can’t really be “good.” Let me put it like this: Asians are often stereotyped to be good at math. Although this may seem like a “good” stereotype, it is still generalizing and false. The same applies to stereotypes about East Asian society. East Asian society can commonly be seen as exotic and oriental. Though this seems like a compliment, it sets the bar unrealistically high, and may be alienating and depressing to those who live in places that don’t possess this specific trait. This glorification of sorts creates a facade of reality, and likely undermines the severity of important social issues, such as mental health.

I’m not saying East Asia is a horrible place that you should never visit–in fact I enjoy experiencing other cultures, and find it heartwarming when strangers show love for mine. But (coming from an ex over-romanticizer) it’s best to keep in mind that East Asia probably isn’t as perfect as the entertainment industry makes you think.