The ideology of purest race began in the early 20th century when the Japanese annexed Korea in and launched a Nazism-influenced campaign to persuade them that they were of the same pure racial stock as the Japanese themselves. After independence in the late 1940s, neither North or South Korea disputed the ethnic homogeneity of the Korean nation based on a single bloodline of the Great Han as a divine race.
Despite historical and genetic evidences proving otherwise, this ideology has given Koreans an impetus to national pride, racial supremacy, strong sense of ethnic homogeneity, nationalism and continues to function as an influence in Korean politics and foreign relations.
Contrary to popular belief in Korea, the Korean ideology of purest race began only in the early 20th century when the Japanese annexed Korea and launched a campaign to persuade them that they were of the same pure racial stock as the Japanese themselves. The ideology of pure race is ascribed to the Western hypothesis of Aryan race in the late 19th century and later adopted as Nazi ideology that motivated racism, occultism and supremacism in Nazi doctrine.
In the colonial period, the Japanese assimilation policy claimed that Koreans and Japanese were of common origin but the former always subordinate. The pure blood theory was used to justify colonialist policies to replace Korean cultural traditions with Japanese ones in order to supposedly get rid of all distinctions and achieve equality between Koreans and inlanders. The policy included changing Korean names into Japanese, exclusive use of Japanese language, school instruction in the Japanese ethical system, and Shinto worship.
In resistance to the Japanese assimilation policy, Koreans came forward to assert their unique and great national heritage. Shin Chaeho (1880–1936), the founder of the nationalistic historiography of modern Korea, published his influential book of reconstructed history Joseon Sanggosa (The Early History of Joseon) in 1924 to 25, proclaiming that Koreans are descendants of Dangun, who merged with Buyo of Manchuria to form the Goguryeo people.
Borrowing from the Japanese theory of nation and race, Shin Chaeho located the martial roots of the Korean in Goguryeo, which he depicted as militarist, expansionist which turned out to inspire pride and confidence in the resistance against the Japanese. In order to establish Korean uniqueness, he also replaced the story of Gija whose founder was the paternal uncle or brother of the Chinese Shang emperor Zhou with the Dangun legend and asserted that it is the important ways to establish Korea’s uniqueness.
After the independence in the late 1940s, despite the split between North and South Korea, neither side disputed the ethnic homogeneity of the Korean nation based on a firm conviction that they are purest descendant of a legendary genitor and half-god figure called Dangun who founded Gojoseon in 2333 BCE based on the description of the Dongguk Tonggam (1485).
In Korea, pure blood theory is a common belief justified as "defensive nationalism". The debates on this topic can be found sporadic in the South, whereas the public opinion in the North is hard to access. In a nationalistic view, to impugn the theory would have been tantamount to betraying Koreanness in the face of the challenge of an alien ethnic nation.
Some Korean scholars observed that the pure blood theory served as a useful tool for the South Korean government to make its people obedient and easy to govern when the country was embroiled in ideological turmoil. It was especially true in the dictatorial leaderships by former presidents Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee when nationalism was incorporated into anti-Communism.
The ideology also maintains a conviction amongst Koreans that both South and North Koreans are all brothers and sisters of the same blood-family and reunification is the ultimate goal. A poll in April 2008 found that 34% of South Korean army cadets believed the U.S. was South Korea’s main enemy, as opposed to 33% who considered North Korea their enemy.Template:Syn The South Korea government reportedly forced the researchers not to notify the public of the result. Similar sentiment can also be observed in North Korea that labels the U.S. as "mortal enemy" and Japan "longstanding enemy", but there has been no document or official commentaries describing South Korea as the main enemy.
Contrary to the pure blood myth, all genetic studies suggested otherwise. In the analysis on the FST distances of mtDNA markers, Koreans have a close relationship with Manchurians, Japanese, Mongolians and northern Han Chinese but not with southern Asians. However, recent surveys of Y-chromosomal DNA variation further revealed that Koreans appeared to have affinities with Vietnamese, Manchurian, and southern Chinese.
In 2006, Hines Ward who was born to a Korean mother and an African American father became the first Korean American to win the Super Bowl MVP award. This achievement threw him into the media spotlight in South Korea. When he travelled to Korea for the first time, he raised unprecedented attention to the acceptance of "mixed blood" children. He also donated USD$1 million to establish the "Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation", which the media called "a foundation to help mixed-race children like himself in South Korea, where they have suffered discrimination."
However, while Koreans are fascinated by the bi-racial sport hero, the majority of ordinary mixed-race people and migrant workers face various forms of discrimination and prejudice. In 2007, the Korean pure blood theory became an international issue when the U.N. Committee on the International Convention Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination urged better education on the pure blood theory is needed especially for judicial workers such as police officers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges. The suggestion got mixed reception in South Korea in which some raised a xenophobic concern that foreigners will invade the Korean culture and challenged the sovereignty of Korea. Others also claimed that the embrace of multi-ethnicism is at the cost of reunification.
The Korea nationality law is based on jus sanguinis instead of the territorial principle which takes into account the place of birth. In this context, most Koreans have stronger attachment to "ethnic Koreans living in foreign countries" than to "ethnic non-Koreans living in Korea."
In 2005, the opposition Grand National Party suggested a revision of the current nationality law to allow Korean nationality to people who are born in South Korea regardless of the nationalities of their parents but it was discarded due to unfavorable public opinion.
Racism is an ongoing problem and there has been a great deal of awareness in South Korea. Hines Ward was granted "honorary" Korean citizenship. Tasha Reid (also known as Natasha Shanta Reid, Korean name is Yoon Mi-rae (윤미래)) is a famous mixed race singer in Korea. Middle school access has been expanded to children of illegal immigrants.
- B.R.Myers. The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters. Melville House, January 2010, ISBN 1933633913
- North Korea's official propaganda promotes idea of racial purity and moral superiority, UC Berkeley News, 19 February 2010
- Ethnic pride source of prejudice, discrimination, Gi-Wook Shin, Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University, 2 August 2006
- South Korea Guidebook, 7th Edition, Lonely Planet, April 2007, page 46
- Race Life of the Aryan Peoples New York: Funk & Wagnalls. 1907 In Two Volumes: Volume One--The Old World Volume Two--The New World ISBN B000859S6O See Chapter II—"Original Homeland of the Aryan Peoples" Pages 9-25—the term “Proto-Aryan” is used to describe the people today called Proto-Indo-Europeans
- The Koguryo Controversy, National Identity, and Sino-Korean Relations Today , Peter Hays Gries, Institute for US-China Issues, The University of Oklahoma
- Andre Schmid, "Rediscovering Manchuria: Som Cj’aeho and the Politics of Territorial History in Korea," in The Journal of Asian Studies, 56, no. 1 February 1997
- Old Choson and the Culture of the Mandolin-shaped Bronze Dagger, Kim Jung-bae
- Myth of Pure-Blood Nationalism Blocks Multi-Ethnic Society, quoted from Kim Sok-soo, a professor at Kyungpook National University, The Korea Times, August 14, 2006
- '34 Percent of Army Cadets Regard US as Main Enemy', Korea Times, 4 June 2008
- Jin H-J, Tyler-Smith C, Kim W (2009). "The Peopling of Korea Revealed by Analyses of Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosomal Markers". PLoS ONE 4 (1): e4210. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004210. PMID 19148289. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004210., studies by the Department of Biological Sciences, Dankook University, Cheonan, Korea and The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Hinxton and Cambridge, United Kingdom.
- Myth of Pure-Blood Nationalism Blocks Multi-Ethnic Society, The Korea Times, 14 August 2006
- Chuck Finder (2006-04-09). "Hines Ward scores big for social change". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06099/680735-195.stm.
- Associated Press (2006-05-30). "Ward kicks off his new charity". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06150/694237-66.stm.
- U.N. Committee Hits Korea's Discrimination, KBS, August 19, 2007
- "Koreans Reassess Concept of Blood Purity". The Korea Times. 2007-09-02. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2007/09/117_9419.html.
- Korea: How Much Should One Ethnicity be Emphasized? Global Voices, 2007