Another illustration of the same problem [of referring to natives of another country as foreigners in that country] occurred in a Korean restaurant in San Francisco, where I was eating dinner with a young Korean man doing graduate studies at Berkeley. Pointing to a group of non-Asian diners at a nearby table, he remarked, "A lot of foreigners come to this restaurant." It was all I could do to continue chewing my 냉면 without blurting out, "You're absolutely right, Mr. Kim, and you're one of them!" Apparently there is a dissonance between the English word, foreigner, and the Korean conceptual model.
In English, the word refers to an abstract relationsihp, not an intrinstic attribute. Nobody is inherently a foreigner; anyone can become on simply by crossing a national border. Foreignness is a question of context, not essence. Ms. Kwon in Canada and Mr. Kim in San Francisco, for example, fit the English meaning of foreigner, as would a Canadian missionary in Taejon or an American pursuing graduate studies in Seoul National University.
But the Korean-English sense of foreigner is clearly different. It is a category in which neither Ms. Kwon not Mr. Kim could ever be included. It is a category in which a Canadian naturally belongs, as he sits reading a newspaper in his own house in his native town in Alberta. Membership in this category is defined at birth, is completely context-free and is absolutely permanent. One group of people, including Ms. Kwon and Mr. Kim, can never, under any circumstances, belong to the Korean-English category, foreigner, whereas the members of another group are born as foreigners, will die as foreigners and will always be foreigners, no matter where they are. More remarkable still, this second group includes something like ninety-eight percent of the human race.
The article continues with the common practicing of attributing uniform likes and dislikes to all foreigners. For example, I've heard that foreigners can't eat spicy food, that foreigners don't like coffee, and that foreigners don't like to travel. In the context of Korea, of course, but it's always bizarre to hear that six billion people do or do not do a certain thing, or that all Koreans tend to the exact opposite. Because I can't select and copy the text of the article, it's quite tedious to type all the good parts out, so just read the rest on your own. I'll include another interesting passage:
This notion of foreigners as a distinct group sharing a common set of qualities, attitudes, and so forth was very much in evidence just before and during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. The long build-up for the great event involved a great deal of pull-your-socks-up hectoring about what foreigners like, what foreigners expect, and how foreigners behave. And in local coverage of the event itself, the media focused on the issue of in what ways and to what extent the foreigners were impressed by what they saw in Our Country. Implicit in all this were all manner of assumptions about the uniform characteristics of foreigners.