Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Borat eats kimchee?

I finally saw my first movie in months: Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazahkstan. Here's a scene from the first four minutes of Borat. I felt such a guilty pleasure. On the one hand, I could see Kazaks cringing in shame at their portrayal of their country, much like the scene in Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story. You know, the scene when a young Bruce Lee felt shame while the audience was roaring with laughter at Mickey Rooney's portrayal of an Asian in Breakfast at Tiffany's. On the other hand, I also laughed so hard that I felt like, to paraphrase Borat, stomach was going to drop out of anus. Sasha Baron Cohen, who plays Borat is either offensive, a genius, or an offensive genius.

But I did come in touch with Kazaks during my trip to China when I ate Kazak food in a yurt in Xinjiang province, and especially noticed the sheep head prepared for the guest of honor. So I felt it somewhat a responsibility to find more positive images of the Kazak people.

Did you know that Kazakstan also has Superstar KZ, its version of American Idol (which in turn is a version of Britain's Pop Idol)? Indeed, in this video, the Kazak singing sensation, Contestant NO.320106 Алтынай Сапарғалиева (Altynay Sapargalieva), belts out a Kazakstan rendition of Christina Aguilera's _The Voice Within_. She is also "21st century leader" (A Kazak version of Jeopardy) contestant, and 9th grader.

And when I browsed Wikipedia about Superstar KZ, I noticed that the second place winner was a chap by the name of Роман Ким (Roman Kim). Yes, this is a reminder that there are 100,000 Koreans living in Kazakstan (which has a population of 15,300,000). The existence of these Koryo Saram (Корё сарам - Koreans in the former USSR) is a reminder of a sad chapter in history. While much attention has been made of the internment of Japanese in America, the Koreans in Russia also had it bad. During the late 19th century, the Tsars encouraged Koreans to settle in Siberia to help solve a labor shortage, and a few even ended up in Kazakhstan. But in 1937, Stalin, being a paranoid ruler (what's up with these paranoid Communist rulers such as Mao, Stalin, or Pol Pot?) distrusted the Koreans in the Soviet Union and thought they were Japanese spies. Never mind that the Japanese had forcibly colonized the Koreans and that many Koreans had fled to Manchuria to wage up a guerilla war. But since Stalin distrusted them, all Koreans in Russia were sent to Kazakhstan (a fate suffered by other minorities such as Poles, Chechens, and Jews). But many of these Koreans managed to overcome the hardships of forced relocation, and have now carved out a presence in Kazakhstan.

The thing that struck me was how Asian the people of Kazakhstan looked, as in this video by the Allstars titled, "Qazaqstanym". But no duh..like, isn't Kazakhstan in central Asia?

So I have a strange feeling that Borat may be more familiar with Korean food that we might think. On this note, I'll leave you with a "Suiyu degen osy ma," a R&B/Hip-Hop music video by Bangor, a now-defunct Kazak group.

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