Friday, November 6, 2009

South Koreans Struggle With Race from the NYTimes

This is a really good article and I don't want to comment on it now.

Read it. Comment. I'll chime in later. Here is a bit of the article and click over for the full article.

South Koreans Struggle With Race

SEOUL — On the evening of July 10, Bonogit Hussain, a 29-year-old Indian man, and Hahn Ji-seon, a female Korean friend, were riding a bus near Seoul when a man in the back began hurling racial and sexist slurs at them.

The situation would be a familiar one to many Korean women who have dated or even — as in Ms. Hahn’s case — simply traveled in the company of a foreign man.

What was different this time, however, was that, once it was reported in the South Korean media, prosecutors sprang into action, charging the man they have identified only as a 31-year-old Mr. Park with contempt, the first time such charges had been applied to an alleged racist offense. Spurred by the case, which is pending in court, rival political parties in Parliament have begun drafting legislation that for the first time would provide a detailed definition of discrimination by race and ethnicity and impose criminal penalties.

For Mr. Hussain, subtle discrimination has been part of daily life for the two and half years he has lived here as a student and then research professor at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul. He says that, even in crowded subways, people tend not sit next to him. In June, he said, he fell asleep on a bus and when it reached the terminal, the driver woke him up by poking him in the thigh with his foot, an extremely offensive gesture in South Korea.

“Things got worse for me this time, because I was with a Korean woman,” Mr. Hussain said in an interview. “Whenever I’ve walked with Ms. Hahn or other Korean women, most of the time I felt hostilities, especially from middle-aged men.”

South Korea, a country where until recently people were taught to take pride in their nation’s “ethnic homogeneity” and where the words “skin color” and “peach” are synonymous, is struggling to embrace a new reality. In just the past seven years, the number of foreign residents has doubled, to 1.2 million, even as the country’s population of 48.7 million is expected to drop sharply in coming decades because of its low birth rate.

Many of the foreigners come here to toil at sea or on farms or in factories, providing cheap labor in jobs shunned by South Koreans. Southeast Asian women marry rural farmers who cannot find South Korean brides. People from English-speaking countries find jobs teaching English in a society obsessed with learning the language from native speakers.

For most South Koreans, globalization has largely meant increasing exports or going abroad to study. But now that it is also bringing an influx of foreigners into a society where 42 percent of respondents in a 2008 survey said they had never once spoken with a foreigner, South Koreans are learning to adjust — often uncomfortably.
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No, there is nothing after the "read more". (accept the code will never be fixed).

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  1. Hey, it's so bad to hear that there are people in the world that can't accept we all live together in Earth. That's so ... I don't know how I could say it. You probably know how stupid this kind of action (hostilities, discrimination) is. I hope that at least one day in the future people will be different. This makes me remember of Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous speach "I have a dream". So, I think I also have a dream.

  2. Yeah, well, it's worldwide. It's not exclusive to Korea.

    It's just a bit sad to sense it won't take as a majority sentiment while I'm alive.

  3. Well Regina don't be too sad, hopefully things will get better. Nevertheless, I use to let that racism stuff get to me and wonder why people hate so but I can't dwell on that anymore as God has a blessing for us all and for us to live our lives to the fullest.

    I guess I felt that from watching THIS IS IT. I am like you can hate me all you want to that won't stop me from doing all that the lord has in store for me.

  4. I've not seen it yet. But I'm sad because it's my generation and I did have hopes that we were a tad bit sharp :(

  5. Hi Regina,

    I am fascinated by Korea and its culture, history, language and so forth. I hope to teach there in September after I graduate from university; however, I am nervous about the racism I will face. I am ethnically West Indian of Indian descent from Trinidad and Tobago, and I grew up entirely in suburban Ontario, Canada. I was reading the NY Times article and got nervous, and began googling ethnic minorities in South Korean and found your blog. I am aware of nationalistic ethnic homogeneity that Koreans pride themselves on, and as much as I want to go teach there to experience the culture and such, I am scared being a young brown woman there. How true is this article, and how does one prepare themselves for this, because much of the literature on teaching in Korea is from a Caucasian perspective.

  6. I'm not sure where my blog has been linked or if it's just Google searches leading people here. However, in the last two days I've gotten a surge in the number of comments on the topic of "I'm black and I want to work in Korea."

    Most of this blog is about my life as a black expatriate in South Korea. I mean I started it in 2006 and I just moved back to the USA earlier this year. So before sending me a comment with questions I've answered IN THE BLOG, read it.

    The best place to start is the podcast called "Being Black in Korea".

    From there you can do a search in the blog using the Google search box on the right. It's under the header "Search My Blog".

    If you do that, most of your questions will be answered. If you ask me questions after that, I'll answer them, but I don't have time for basic questions when I've already addressed them.

    Good luck!


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.