From Korea Times: Ignorance Breeds Racism

Nami Island’s “The Mermaid”

A longish but well-researched article on Korea Times appeared on Wednesday about how ignorance is “breeding” racism in Korea. There are more than a million non-Koreans living in South Korea, which is about 2 percent of the current population.

Ignorance breeds racism
Seemingly ignorant of what constitutes racism or discrimination, some Koreans utter racist remarks or engage in racist behavior. Apparently, they don’t realize what they are ignorant about and this ignorance becomes the seed of their racism.
Not only ignorance but a lack of anti-racism laws is emerging as a major stumbling block to preventing the nation from becoming a truly multicultural society.

I’ve been living here for more than nine years and I wouldn’t say I have not experienced some form of racism, but being a person who probably have mastered “deadmatology 101″ (my college friends used to teased me that I should teach the course) some things don’t really bother me.
For one, the “stare” is not something new to me. In the Philippines where I came from, people would stare and sometimes from head to toe. Seriously, people get killed there for staring. It isn’t that I enjoy being gawked at but it is also not totally offensive for me. When someone stares at me, I stare back with a raised eyebrow except if the “starer” is an old person. There are some cases when the “starer” is just curious about me and would start asking questions. I don’t take the “curiosity” negatively, instead I take it as an opportunity to talk about my country. A lot of times, the “starer” would want to know if I were from the Philippines because he or she had been to my country.
I don’t remember getting a different treatment from shop owners just because I’m a foreigner. At the kimbap store I frequent, the male owner isn’t so nice. He isn’t nice to the Korean customers as well, but I still go to his store because his wife is friendly and makes yummy tuna kimbap! I don’t think the grumpy old man is being racist towards me. He’s just plain grumpy!
Racism does exist here in Korea as proven by the foreigners in the article and my friends who have experienced it. However, I have experienced more positive things here and random acts of kindness than the stares I remember receiving in my nine years. That’s just me, though.


  1. I don’t think ignorance is a proper word for Korean racism. Koreans don’t have experience of having lived with foreigners, so I think inexperience is the more proper word for it. Some European countries have multi-cultural communities as a legacy of their colonialism and, in some way, they are paying price for their guilt of colonialism. Americas and Australia are new continents of immigrants. Korea was not an imperial power over colonies or part of a new continent of immigrants. Therefore, many Koreans feel multi-culturalism, in which Koreans should live with foreigners, is an unfair social burden on them. Koreans naturally believe we ourselves have built our country, not by colonialism, nor by immigrants. Why do we have to pay the price? It would take a hundred years for Koreans to accept multiculturalism or maybe impossible even after a few hundred years.

    1. Hi JQ! It isn’t easy, especially for a country like Korea that has a 5,000 year history, to just accept multiculturalism. It shouldn’t be a burden to treat people who are not Koreans as human beings. Why should other people who don’t look Korean be treated unkindly? Like I said, in my experience I haven’t felt being treated unkindly for not being Korean.

  2. Co-existing with non-Koreans is a social burden? I wonder where South Korea will be today if foreign countries did not come to their aid to turn the tide against communism? Probably, one unified Korea under Kim Jong Un. Forget about democracy and South Korea being a high-tech, developed country. Sure, Koreans built their country by themselves all this time without any help from immigrants. Not even in the last few decades. Nope, surely not from Filipinos and other people from South East Asia who work in factories in South Korea as well as in Korean companies based outside of Korea. Nah, Koreans did it all by themselves.

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