Book WTF: Something’s missing

My husband, the son of Korean immigrants, was very excited to find this Korean language children’s picture dictionary on display at the library. We immediately decided we should check it out so the girls could learn some more Korean words– us too. None of us speak Korean, not even my husband who grew up hearing the language non-stop.

My husband was a little surprised when he opened the book to discover this as the first picture.

What a multi-cultural family… without a single person who looks remotely Asian… in a Korean picture dictionary. Huh.

He showed it to me, and I just sort of shrugged saying it was probably a multicultural book and there would be pictures of Asians in there somewhere. Surely the majority of the people pictured in this book would have to be Korean, or at least some sort of Asian.

We turned the page.

We are pretty sure this girl isn’t Korean.

Oh good, an education page. Koreans are big into education. Surely there should be an Asian in the classroom somewhere…

Nope, she’s not Korean either.

Oh look, an American-looking farm. Is the farmer Korean?

No, he’s white.

Well, maybe there’s just a bunch of multi-ethnic people living in Korea. I mean, not all the pictures have to have Asians in them. We don’t want Korea to get a reputation of being all Asian. However, surely a Korean language book would have a picture of some Korean things or at least a Korean city. EDIT: I’m told this is Detroit.

Nope! This is clearly America. See the American flags and English signs? This isn’t even Koreatown!

There is absolutely nothing Korean in this entire book, aside from the words.

My husband and I couldn’t stop giggling over this book. We couldn’t figure out why the hell anyone would completely avoid Asians in an Korean language book. Finally, we figured out that they must have used the same pictures in a series of language dictionary books.

I went to investigate, but couldn’t find another book in the series. I spoke to the librarian (who was younger than me, which is just plain wrong! Librarians should be old! Or at least older than me!) and she said they were already aware of the issue. Apparently the head librarian had seen a sample book in something like Spanish and ordered the whole series. Little did she know that the same pictures appeared in every single book! These pictures might have worked well in the French and Spanish books, but to not have a single Asian in an Korean language book? Weird.

So, I guess this should be a lesson for publishers out there: maybe you can save money by reusing pictures for most language picture dictionaries, but if you are making a picture dictionary for language that is almost exclusively spoken by a certain race, you should probably include at least one member of that race in the pictures.

I mean really, not a single Asian person in the entire Korean picture dictionary? WTF?



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4 Responses to Book WTF: Something’s missing

  1. Brit

    Maybe they were assuming that the Koreans would already speak the language and not be reading the book, so that they who would be reading it would look more like the people in the pictures.

    • Even if the book is meant for non-Koreans (which seems unlikely), it doesn’t make any sense to have the book completely free of people who look like they speak the language. Besides which, it wasn’t intentional to leave the Asians out. They were left out of all the books, which is fine in some cases, but weird for the Asian languages.

  2. rebecca

    That last picture is Detroit. That is the Rennassiace Center. In the background. All it is missing is the GM sign.

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