Understanding Racism in Korea – Seoulistic

Black face on national television. Shows Korea's lack of exposure/sensitivity to black people.

We recently posted a video that discussed anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. In the video we said that in general, older Koreans are anti-Japanese and that younger people are not as racist. And then we got a flood of comments from Korean netizens saying things like “You’re wrong! I hate Japanese people!” … Idiots. I don’t think they realize how ridiculous they seem to the rest of the world. But they have their reasons, and I understand where they’re coming from.

Author’s Note: Racism is a very sensitive subject, and an ultimately complicated issue. A blog post is way too short to fully analyze and explain racist sentiments in any country. But I’m going to try anyway. I’m sure I’ll get some backlash in some form. But remember, these are only my opinions and conclusions, and I take full responsibility for any hate comments or racist internet trolls to come. Let’s get it on!

 

General Racism in Korea

Korea is one of most homogenous countries in the world. And although pluralism has recently started to penetrate the peninsula, the vast majority of Korea is still without diversity. And that means there’s still much xenophobia, in particular with the older generation who spent their entire lives living with Koreans, eating Korean foods, doing Korean things. When their way of life is changed with an influx of non-Korean people, foods and things as is the case in recent years, fear and even anger are not irrational reactions. Of course it’s the same with any country that has experienced an influx of immigrants or foreigners (i.e. America, England, France, etc.). But for Korea, it’s magnified because even as recently as the late 90’s, it was extremely uncommon to see a foreign tourist, let alone an immigrant.

Nationalism in Korea

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If you haven’t noticed, most Koreans are super proud of Korea. Of course Thais are proud of Thailand, French of France, Brazilians of Brazil, etc. But in Korea, it’s not just nationalism. As a people, it was a means of cultural survival. Historically, Korea has been overlooked for its more globally recognized neighbors to its east and west. Everyone knew of China and Japan, but Korea was often the forgotten country in the middle. Nationalism in Korea was a way of ensuring relevancy on the global scale. That’s why even to this day when people of Korean decent are in the international spotlight (i.e. Hines Ward, Super Bowl MVP; Daniel Dae Kim, American actor; Yoshihiro Akiyama, MMA fighter; etc.), Koreans rush to claim them as their own, no matter how far or distant their connection to the motherland is. It’s Korea’s chance to be noticed by the world.

Also, nationalism in Korea was a means of cultural survival quite literally during the Japanese colonization era.

 

Olympic Soccer 2012 - Political statement after the Korea-Japan match

Olympic Soccer 2012 – Political statement after the Korea-Japan match

Korean Racism towards Japanese

During World War II Japan did a lot of things to piss off many Asian countries, not just Korea. In Korea’s case, however, Japan attempted to assimilate Koreans into Japanese society. The Korean language was essentially banned at schools, and classes were conducted 100% in Japanese. Even to this day, my 81 year old grandmother is still more comfortable reading and writing in Japanese than she is in Korean because of her education. She is completely fluent, and she often mixes her Japanese with her Korean without even knowing it. The Japanese policy of assimilation was essentially working.

But language is minor compared to the sex slave issue. During World War II, Japan used Korean women as sex slaves to ‘boost the morale’ of their military. Women were enslaved to service thousands of Japanese soldiers. It’s a huge diplomatic issue even to this day. Sex slave survivors continue to demand the Japanese government for formal apologies, which has yet to happen.

So Japan tried to eliminate the Korean language and culture, and they enslaved Korean women for sex. For those that lived through the era, racism and hatred is a completely natural and understandable reaction. For younger racist Koreans that hate Japanese, however, it’s a combination of their extreme national pride and their desire for history to be accurately reflected (the Japanese government denies/deflects many of these accusations). Anti-Japanese sentiment was also encouraged by the government to a certain degree, as the Korean government banned Japanese cultural imports (i.e. music, movies, comics, tv shows, etc.) until as recently as the late 90’s. And of course, there are families that teach this form of racism to their children.

Today, Korea-Japan relations are better than in the past (especially because of economic trade), but these historical issues continue to cause some Koreans to have anti-Japanese sentiments.

 

Korean Racism towards Chinese

In Korea, Chinese citizens are Korea’s number one immigrants. And ironically enough, it’s Joseonjok (ethnic Koreans from China) that make up the majority of the Chinese population in Korea. But that doesn’t stop Korea from seeing them differently. Although they are of the same blood, Joseonjok are in the end still immigrants.

For the most part, immigrants in general are coming from poorer countries looking for better opportunities. Since they’re coming from poorer countries, immigrants in any country usually get blamed for stealing jobs and benefits from citizens, causing danger and harm to the population, and they generally have a bad reputation (think Mexicans in America, Vietnamese in France, or even Koreans in Japan). Also, when an immigrant and a native citizen commit the same crime, it’s usually the immigrant that gets highlighted in the news and not the native citizen. This happens in most countries, not just in Korea. And in Korea, it just so happens that Korea’s immigrant population is dominated by Joseonjok.

And although they are of Korean decent, their association with China probably gives ethnic Chinese citizens a bad reputation as well. It’s obviously not the only source for anti-Chinese sentiment. Far from it. But the sheer number of Chinese immigrants definitely is one of the main reasons for anti-Chinese racism in Korea.

 

Mini Psy has been subjected to racism for being half Vietnamese

Mini Psy has been subjected to racism for being half Vietnamese

South East Asians / Other Asians

All that immigrant based racism towards Chinese? Apply that to Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai and Filipino nationals, the newest immigrant demographic coming to Korea. Most of them are coming as foreign brides for Korean men, and many are also birthing interracial children. This rapid increase in international marriages and families started in the 2000’s and continues today. It’s a new phenomenon that’s happening very quickly. And for many Koreans, it’s scary to see their country change so drastically and so quickly.

 

Korean Racism towards Americans

Koreans have a love/hate relationship with the United States of America. The US was South Korea’s most influential ally during the Korean War. Without the US, there wouldn’t be a South Korea today. And many Koreans have a deep appreciation and even fondness of Americans because of this. But after the war, the United States installed military bases in South Korea to protect from the North. Some support it, some don’t (this in itself is a controversial topic that I don’t want to get into). And those military bases are very active with thousands of US soldiers roaming about. With thousands of Americans, there’s bound to be a few idiots that make all Americans look bad.

Any time an American soldier runs over people with a tank or Korean girls are raped, it becomes huge news stories that overemphasize their Americanness and deemphasize their individual stupidity. Also, the weekend fights and arrests with drunk American soldiers near US Military installments help perpetuate the bad reputation as well. Couple that with general cultural differences between the East and the West, and you got yourself a few reasons for why anti-American sentiment exists in Korea.

 

Korean Racism towards Black People

Black face on national television. Shows Korea's lack of exposure/sensitivity to black people.

Black face on national television. Shows Korea’s lack of exposure/sensitivity to black people.

Racism against black people (Africans, Americans, Caribbean, etc.) comes from a fear of the unknown. Again, Korea has historically been one of the most ethnically pure nations in the world. And although caucasians and other asians are seen often enough in Korea, the reality is that some Koreans will go their entire lives and never see a black person. So to see someone that looks completely and utterly different can be awe inspiring. For some it’s a curiosity. And for others its fear inducing. Just like most forms of racism, this one is purely out of ignorance.

 

Again. I don’t want you to get it wrong. There are tons of Koreans that have very positive sentiments for people all around the world. In fact, most of the Koreans around me are quite international, and have many international friends from all over. That’s because I tend to avoid the ignorant people I encounter in Korea. I don’t like dealing with idiocy. But as crazy as they are, and as much as I don’t agree with them, I do understand where some of them are coming from. Obviously this blog post doesn’t do any justice to the extremely expansive and complicated issue of racism in Korea. And yes, there are more reasons. Of course there are. But many of those reasons are ridiculous (i.e. they’re dirty, they’re poor, they’re stealing our women, we’re pure blood). Essentially it’s a racism that is based on ignorance, and I’m not going to waste my time with that. But I do hope this blog post brings some awareness and understanding to the reasons for some of the racism found in Korea.

It’s a complicated issue that deserves plenty of discussion. Leave a comment and don’t be an idiot please.

P.S. To the racist Korean netizens that hate on SeoulisticVideos, you’re welcome.

Keith
Keith
Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

176 Comments

  1. kyrie says:

    Unfortunately, racism do exist everywhere, every country some degree.
    I’m Korean lives in US – actually LA/OC area- and I do have quite experience from white axxholes.
    Thing is, generally, Koreans are not that bad at all. Many of them just don’t have experience how to deal with others esp. when there is difference. i.e. color of your skin or sexual orientation..etc. But I heard there was dramatic change since I left Korea some 10+ yrs ago.
    I’m sure many of you’ll have no problem to be in Korea unless you are looking for some trouble. 🙂

    Lesson I learned while I traveled many places in the world, be polite and nice to others then others treat you the same.
    That’s my 2 cents.

  2. Hay-Z says:

    As someone who is South Asian (Pakistan/India) albeit born in NZ I think racism in Korea is multifaceted but there’s a significant point about it. That is there is a ranking of foreigners. So Whites are often idolized whereas Blacks and South Asians and South East Asians are at the bottom. I think if there was wide spread collectivism and racism to all groups I could understand it more and I think in this case such as is the experience of many people in Japan (although this is a general sentiment I can’t tell for sure how accurate). However, having many people in my social group, there were more problems and negative experiences with coloured people than with the Whites (US, Canada, Australia and Europeans) and Other East-Asians. I was spat on once and not allowed into two places for example (I was in Seoul for only 2 months) and I had hell with my Goshiwon and the manager definitely looked after other foreigners. The final insult was when after painstakingly cleaning my room (which was filthy when I arrived) he made me clean it again. Young people were hit and miss but there was no major issues bar some calling me poor or making dumb comments. The real problem was from middle aged people. I had my shirt grabbed and was told “I know why you are here! Stop it” by an irate woman and just did not get much politeness at all. I never got angry or too annoyed but it wears thin after a while, specially when you try so hard to be the prefect visitor. Being white in Korea can occasional have issues but in Seoul it’s much better and lets face it many Koreans would date a white over any other race.

    I guess this race ranking stems from a colonial mindset and so on but it is tiring and I feel like it is something not going to go away because I think the mindset is entrenched with many young people. For me constanly being told I was a liar about my nationality also showed that Koreans overall can’t comprehend that countries like the US, Canada, Australia and NZ are multicultural. It’s somewhat ironic because when here the Koreans are very qick to scream racism. A good example is over in Australia when a Korean man was murdered it was a sign of predation on Koreans but actually he was killed by a fellow Korean.

    And if you want some more facts Korean men are the highest group of sex tourists in Asia now. They also commuted more brutal massacres in the Vietnam war than the US (although US killed more innocent overall).

    I received a scholarship to go study at a high ranking Uni in Seoul but I am having second thoughts.

    Disclaimer – this is my opinion and everyone has different experiences, as well this is in by no way to hate on Koreans (or any other group). I’d also like to point out the nicest group – old people. I was told they’d be rude and racist they weren’t… I was so touched. I guess older people have wisdom to see good character!

    • Az says:

      Well said Hay-Z. Its disheartening to hear that you were treated in such an appalling way. I’m sorry this happened to you.

      This prolonged issue of national identity does have its roots in colonialism and the events leading up to the annexation of Korea. Koreans have neither forgiven or forgotten.

      Rampant racism is thriving amongst the younger generations as well. Despite my painful experiences from my own race. I still opt for positive change through education and media. There are many possible strategies. I do agree that the rate of change is debatable. I’m an optimist at heart hopeful that both North and South Korea acts on this before they are coerced to do so.

  3. I was just writing an article based on my experience as a foreigner here in South Korea and doing some research about it to compare with other foreigners. Your article is excellent and easy to read, kept short and straightforward and eye-opening.

    Plus, you have my respect, that attitude shows you are a great human being.

  4. SporeG says:

    Where did you get the info that Japan never apologizes? It did dozens of times! It’s just that racist and xenophobic Koreans are not willing to accept them! Korean sex slaves? Japanese prime minister in 1993 sent signed certificate of apology to each of them and offered 20,000US dollars each!! But those crazy Korean bigots (they say they are ciitizens group etc.) forced poor old women not to accept!!! You talk as if you know history but your explanation is so cheap. Makes me throw up.

  5. Arthur says:

    Thanks for providing some insight on the subject. As a Korean who has grown up abroad, I didn’t necessarily understand why there was so much clash between me and other Koreans, primarily because of stereotyping and racism. But yea Korea is quite racist… I live in south east Asia and I remember having some of my friends talked badly about by my relatives. It was a real culture shock for me…

  6. Seppen says:

    Ignorance is no longer an excuse. For example, it is the same thing as me seeing stereotypes about Asians and racist crap about them all the time. Do I listen to them? No! I know better because of this crazy thing called the INTERNET. If I can learn about their people, language, and culture here in America and develop a love for it, then they can do the same! They can look up our fashion, music, movies, etc but you can’t educate yourself on how blacks and Mexicans aren’t all illiterate thugs? BULL SH*T. I’m sorry, but I cry foul on that one.

    I know an old Korean lady. She owns a restaurant that my family and I go to all the time! Her place was even broken into by blacks but when she saw us show interest in her culture and thank her in Korean, she was good to us ever since.

    Whether it be about Japanese, Blacks, Latinos, Indians, etc. The only way to improve on the racism issue (YES. Racism is racism. If they wouldn’t like people doing the same to them, then they shouldn’t do it to other people. A lot of them go to other countries and get mad that they are treated the same way they treat other races! When is enough ENOUGH? ) is through education. If you truly educate yourself on the truth, then you probably won’t think the same. No one is better than someone else based off of race. Somewhere, there is a Korean girl who is smart and pretty and racist. But somewhere else there could be an equally/more attractive and intelligent Japanese or Black girl! Why? BECAUSE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE!!!

  7. Juan says:

    So just wanted to ask, what is the general view/treatment of Mexicans/Mexican Americans in Korea? I ask because I’m planning on studying abroad there this year and wanted to know what kind of reception I’m likely to receive. Kinda worried that aside from the general reaction to foreigners the crap going on in mexico the last few years has colored perceptions even though I haven’t been there for near a decade.

    • Carlos says:

      I’m mexican aswell living here. All I can say is they sometimes stare the s*** out of me, but if you know the ettiquete generally they treat you right. And i’m european descent so they get surprised to know I’m mexican, but always in the nice way. Not once have they mistreated me after finding out. In my experience it all boils down to your body language and knowledge of ettiquete. If they see you scared you’ll just make them stare harder at you. Hope this helps.

      • Juan says:

        Thanks, that’s nice to know. Hopefully it’ll be a nice change from here in the states where recently its been the usual arguments and cartel this or that.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Anyone know how someone from South America would be seen and treated? My boyfriend and I have been considering going to teach in Korea, and he is Peruvian (born/raised in America and fluent in English and Spanish). As far as appearance, he’s on the darker side of the range of skin tones of Peruvians. Just curious, I looked on youtube but couldn’t find any videos mentioning anyone hispanic in Korea (I assume because there must be very few!)

    • Jay says:

      I’m a Korean-born American. I spent the first 11 years of my life there, and I’ve been back there multiple times a year since. I do think some of the people will see it as being from a poorer and dirtier place; however, I don’t think anybody should feel it strongly enough to have it effect you negatively overall. You’ll get far more curious inquiries about your life and your culture opposed to shifty looks and an occasional pointing. I personally haven’t been around a lot of anti-American people either. I mean I have met people who feel very strongly that America should stay out of Korean politics, but that does not usually translate into hatred of all American citizens. 15 years ago, I’d have said the racism in Korea was prominent enough to be a considerable problem, but I think nowadays you won’t have to worry about a thing (unless you’re a Southeast Asian person. I feel that there’s still a strong prejudice against those people because many of them in Korea are minimum-wage immigrant workers or wives)

  9. Nelly says:

    I have a friend online who is Korean and she is soo nice and respectful. she also wants to meet me one day. The thing is…she doesn’t know i’m African American. I hope she accepts me for who I am and not my color. oh well just have to wait and see ^^.

  10. corey says:

    Hi, I am thinking about teaching in south korea, but my concern is the level of racism towards Chinese. I am a British/USA citizen, would it be better just to say I am british and what problems might i experience as i guess I look Chinese but also at times mistaken for Thai / Korean. Any advice would be appreciated. thanks.

  11. timothy says:

    Hey, interesting article. I am a hybrid mix between Chinese and Korean born and living in the U.S. so i am in the mix up here. How? Simple. Mom and Dad who were immigrants from two different countries met here in the U.S. So, how would i be viewed in Korea (especially by the elders) if they knew i were a hybrid between both by first impression? Would i be considered a “Joseonjok?”

    • Kevin J. says:

      Timothy, I suspect that the older generation might call you derogatorily as a ‘honyeol'(mixed blood) or worse, since technically, there is little in the Korean(south Korean or north Korean) culture to actually accept the possibility of mixed heritage unlike in countries such as the USA, Australia or Canada. Then again, I might be wrong here. I can speak Korean myself, and have many Korean friends, whom I think would just see you as a foreigner probably on account of your nationality. But the older generation of Koreans are probably a harder group to tap in terms of sentiments. If you are half-white and half-Korean, like say, Dennis Oh and Daniel Henney, there is this rather unrealistic pedestal which Korean women of all ages, young and old, place you on, but if you have any bit of any other heritage such as Chinese(a country which used to colonize Korea in ancient times and then competed with Korea for various cases of sovereignty historically) or Latino or African/African-American, there is sadly a rather disturbing compartmentalization performed by the older generation which I have noticed by actually regarding you either with lukewarm eyes or with antagonism as ‘unclean’. That was my perception of Korea a few years back, but things are probably changing slowly bit by bit, if not totally. And well, no, the term ‘choseonjok’ would not apply to you whatsoever, since you are not Chinese by nationality but ‘half-‘Korean by heritage.

    • Kevin J. says:

      Hey Timothy, I checked out the exact term for you. It seems to be 혼혈인(hon-hyeol-in), which is roughly translatable as ‘mixed-blood-person’. In South Korea, this term is probably a stigma and connotes impurity of bloodline, which goes back to the very ‘racist’ idea of a pure Korean bloodline spread through generations, the same way that ‘zainichi’ (Korean residing in Japan) is a stigma in Japan. When you do introduce yourself to South Koreans, you should take care to state that you are American (mi-guk sa-ram 미국사람), and in any case, if you do encounter some really nice and non-racist Koreans(which I am sure you will, apart from those other nasty and ignorant ones), you might be likely to experience the state of being called ‘gyopo'(pronounced often as ‘kyopo’ due to the Korean displacements of ‘k’ and ‘g’ in their ㄱ character), 교포, which is translatable to that of an overseas brethren. Keith, the manager of this website, is a gyopo himself as far as I am aware from reading his posts.

  12. Well. I’ll put it like this. I’m a black student at a historically black college and I’ve been to Asia a few times. Koreans were the nicest people I’ve ever met. Even recently doing another semester in China, all my friends were Korean. Maybe it was curiosity but I never felt any unwelcome feelings. I met their families lol and etc. on my blog voyagetoasia.com
    I talk about my experiences in Asia as a black person and my attempt at bridging the cultures.

    • Jamal Williams says:

      Koreans where nice because they were also minorities in a very intolerant country.
      Go study with those same people in Korea and see the total change and hate they give you.
      Koreans are racist and pretend and act like they’re the biggest sufferers of racism.
      Korea was better under Japan. America should ahve allowed japan to keep annexed Korea.

  13. Dave says:

    Hi,

    I deal with recruitment within my school. I have put forward many very qualified black and Muslim people to my director only to be told that the parent’s won’t like if they are hired.

    I feel powerless to do anything about it, frustrated, angry, and upset. I don’t know what to do. I would really appreciate any advice.

  14. justcurious says:

    I was always curious about how Koreans thought about South Asians. (India, Bangladesh etc). We’re all ‘Asians’ in general. I found that alot of our culture is also very similar. Would South Asians be too foreign to them?
    I’ve seen ALOT of south asians with features that are very similar to East Asians (People say i’m one of them hehe xD ) except for the skin colour. (We’re not as pale as them).
    I’m from Bangladesh and I think people here have diverse characteristics. There are people with really really pale skin, yellow and brown. Even the facial features are a mixture.
    I want to visit South Korea someday so i was really curious about it. I always find blogs talking about foreigners as in Americans or Western people.
    Would i be too standing out? or would they just not care?

    • Hay-Z says:

      South Asians?
      Probably lowest of the low along with blacks.

      Never ever say you are Nepali or Bangladeshi, even if you are always say “Indo Saram Ibnida” they won’t like you but there will be less problems.

      I\South Asians are stereotyped as poor anddirty and all the men are rapists. Koreans are retards though. India supported South Korea in the war but ws smart and wanted to take a less combative role (Medical teams) and also being kind with North Korea.

      If you are South Asian go to Japan. More Japanese anime and even movies have Indians in positive roles and there is a longer shared culture and history.

      Japan > S.Korea by far

      • Az says:

        I’m sorry to hear that Hay-Z.

        Ethnicity ranking is a distorted perception prevalent in every culture and region. I do agree the severity is relatively high in Korea. If I may provide some insight, Korean culture and society exhibits high levels of social coercion to the notion of homogeneity. A notion that is outdated.

        Though I wouldn’t go as far to say that Japan > S. Korea. Nor should one say S. Korea > Japan.

        Japan = Korea
        I look forward to the day when all are equal.

        PS – I love Indian & Pakistani culture. The food is rich and Bollywood is amazing.

  15. Kenny says:

    My girlfriend is a Korean. When we met, she was friendly and nice even though she havent talk to a black guy before. We started dating and she came over to see me. We spent 2weeks together but before she came, her mom knew she was talking to a black guy and she always argue with her about that. someday, i was talking to her then suddenly her mom came in and asked if she was talking to me, she said yes and suddenly she asked her what would she say to me. She said “Hello”, i was so surprise and happy because that is the last thing i expected from her mom. Now we are planning to get marry. 70% of her friends knows me and even her brother and dad and also cousins and aunties. So i dont really think racist is such a big deal maybe i have to go there to witness it myself. What i know is that most of the girls prefer to marry a very rich guy. Also they all want to look skinny. I am From Nigeria by the way.

  16. Kenny says:

    My girlfriend is a Korean. When we met, she was friendly and nice even though she havent talk to a black guy before. We started dating and she came over to see me. We spent 2weeks together but before she came, her mom knew she was talking to a black guy and she always argue with her about that. one day, i was talking to her then suddenly her mom came in and asked if she was talking to me, she said yes and suddenly she asked her what would she say to me. She said “Hello”, i was so surprise and happy because that is the last thing i expected from her mom. Now we are planning to get marry. 70% of her friends knows me and even her brother and dad and also cousins and aunties. So i dont really think racism is such a big deal maybe i have to go there to witness it myself. What i know is that most of the girls prefer to marry a very rich guy. Also they all want to look skinny. I am From Nigeria by the way. I am planning to study Korean Language in Korea University.

  17. Glo says:

    Greetings in the Name of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I.

    “That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained;…”- HIM Jah Rastafar I….Conquering Lion….

  18. Yuki Cross says:

    Do korean people like Greece…??? I’m from Greece (Cyprus) and im wondering…if they will like mee….

  19. im korean/mexican ( grand dad immigrated from korea to u.s then to mexico) and my girlfriend for over a year is full blood chinese (canto) however born in Belize then came to u.s as a baby. so im not saying im racist or anything also my best friend is japanese/mexican that lives here in u.s . im just saying, JAPAN, SHOULD, admitt and aplogize for their wrong doings. if they want relations to get better, until then i will continue to see them as disgraceful, since they cant admitt to things that happend, and atleast apologize, not asking for compensation, but atleast a god damn apology or even less, for them to accept what they did.

    • by the way park jong woo ( to football player ( or soccer whatever you wanna call it ) ) is not racist lol, hes just stating, the islands are ours, they are unresidented islands, i mean come on. weve own them, now japan trying to take chinas islands too smh

  20. Deborah says:

    My personal opinion – I think Koreans generally think that South-East Asians are poorer (although Singapore is part of SEA, there’s higher standards of living, higher GDP per cap etc. than other SEA countries.) Maybe it’s because a lot of foreign “bought” brides are from SEA.

    As a Singaporean, I don’t feel that Koreans actually dislike us or anything. But I do get a lot of stares (like literally insensitive staring right at my face, whispering indiscreetly to their friends..) when I speak English in Korea, especially in cities outside of Seoul. I don’t think they are rude & I don’t think it’s because of my Asian english accent too – I just think they are genuinely very curious about non-Koreans.

    I did however, notice a difference in the way they serve Koreans and non-Koreans in the airplanes, in restaurants. They seem much friendlier & helpful towards their own people. Then again, it might just be the language barrier.

  21. Jjokbari says:

    S.Korea is no longer the same country US and Japan thought in 1990’s.
    US used to take up 30% of S.Korea’s trading and so did Japan 25% in 1990. At that time China’s share was no more than 3%, almost negligible. But in 2010, the trading share dramatically changed. The share of US and Japan dropped to 10% respectively, but China’s percentage jumped up to 20%.
    China is as important as US plus Japan altogether for S.Korea in terms of economics. This is matching to ongoing political development (US will give back military command to S.Korea, Japanese company continue leaving from S.Korea). Reunification under China’s arrangement is becoming more realistic, but I wonder if this is something S.Korean people really want.

  22. Louise Bae says:

    1) There is no such thing as ethnic purity, anywhere in the world. And the Koreans are most definitely not ethnically pure.A quick internet search of their DNA make-up will show you that. I doubt that they are one of the most pure either…this label would probably be best applied to remote tribes. I am disappointed that you used this term in your article.

    2) Even on Wikipedia a 2009 study in which nearly 50% of Korean kids are not sure or are negative about whether they can make friends with a biracial child is cited. So it does not apply to just the older generation. Racism is very much alive and well in the younger generation as well.

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  24. Rose says:

    I think this is a gre at article because it sheds some understanding. I am black, from South America, living in the United States. I enjoy watching KDramas and KShows. I was recently watching an episode of “Hello Counselor” and an African Man was discussing how he is treated by some people while in Korea. He mentioned, someone even touched him once and then looked at her hands to see if they were dirty. He was dancing with a woman and when she found out he was from Africa and not the U.S, she walked away from him. Even on the show, when he appeared, the caption was “First Black Person on Hello Counselor”. There are some things I love about Korean Culture, but many things I also hate. I want to visit Korea, but was told by my friends in the military that I would be more accepted in Japan. I do think the fight on racism should start with the media in Korea and different races should be shown more often. Eventhough I want to visit South Korea, I have a deep fear and I’m from NYC, so that’s saying a lot. Thank you for this article..I will follow you because I think your insight is very honest.

  25. Msknoitall says:

    This is good information. I am a corporate exec with a global corporation and recently became facinated in the Korean culture. I was aware of some of the Asian-racial and classism issues there, but had not read about racism against blacks until now. I love that Koreans preserve their history and culture, but in their bid to reserve what was, they have failed to embrace what is. I was thinking of traveling there to see some of the beautful countryside, but have decided to wait until South Korea joins the rest of us in the 21st century. Many Koreans live in America, some do quite well in business, making fortunes off minority communities. Perhaps they should share their experience with those in Korea to change their misconceptions. Korea being very shutoff from the world is part of its charm, but being ignorant to what is going on in the world makes it undesirable… no one wants to visit a place where they aren’t welcomed.

  26. Jonathan Jun says:

    Your writing is reasonably thought out and fair enough as Korean myself I can very well understood what you are saying. I have a beautiful Korean “Korean” wife with whom I have no problem in communication and because of whom I have become a huge fan of Korean pop culture as well as Korean cars, electronics and spicy foods.
    I see lots of discrepancy in Korean people in general as I encounter them in Canada. I have lamented often on the verbal racism amongst the older Korean adults as well as younger ones who come with their young family as recent immigrants to Canada. The younger immigrants in their 20s and 30’s or even 40’s look smart, handsome, well dressed and drive luxury Japanese cars, but their behavior is often crude, rough, uncivilized, and snub their nose on other races. Their voice is so loud in public places (even in libraries) and their grown up kids in high school age as well as university age pollute public library desks and walls and university indoor walls in Korean alphabets (가나다라- GaNaDaRa) scribbling. The bad parking habit is also brought from Korea to Canada. Despite all these “uncivilized” acts transpired by the Korean themselves, they still think that they are superior over all other races.

    I wish that if Koreans are so proud and claim to be patriotic then they must SUPPORT South Korean economy (for the sake of their families, relatives, disadvantaged low social class population) by buying unprecedentedly well made high quality Korean cars (e.g. Kia, Hyundai etc.) and Korean electronic consumer products rather than cursing all they can against Japanese but drive around on Canadian streets in luxury Japanese brand vehicles such as Lexus, Toyota, Acura,Ininity etc. Japan is about 5 times richer than South Korea and so many and many and many and many Koreans inadvertently LOVE to support Japan by pouring so much money into the Japanese pockets by being their ardently loyal consumer product buyers. So I suggest to Koreans who love Japanese products, they better be courteous to Japanese (for there are many highly admirable qualities in Japanese that Koreans could learn from) but if they claim to be patriotic and defender of their own islet of Dokdo and what not then simply buy Korean products just so to support Korean economy whose GDP per capita is only about meager half of the Japanese counterparts’ GDP per capita. Koreans love to proclaim “대~한민국” (and accompanying 짝짝짝 ~ 짝짝), but in reality they help Japan to become bigger sports players on various international stages by loyally buying Japanese cars and electronic equipments; Japanese rake in so much money internationally and the Korean consumer money helps build various high end sports facilities in Japan including the wintersports training facilities as South Korea merely has only one internationally recognized figure skater, Yuna Kim, but Japan not only has a handful of internationally competitive female skaters, but also internationally well recognized few male skaters too.

  27. Olivia says:

    I’m an American and I’m half black/half white. I’m scared of getting harassed by Ajummas and Ajeossis for how I look.

  28. Minyoung says:

    What about English? Because the thing is I’ve lived in London my whole life but now I’m moving to Korea soon and I’m worried about not fitting in, even though I speak Korean and understand the culture, I mean I spoke it at home to my dad, my mum doesn’t speak it. but yeah

  29. Chris says:

    Ironically, Koreans racism stems in large part from the pure race mentality they inherited from their #1 enemy, Japan, which in turn inherited it from the eugenics theorists of the west pre-WWII.

    The nationalist movement to counter Japanese colonialism basically turned everyone into a racist asshole, unable to face the reality of history.

    From Japanese and Mongol and Manchurian invasions to Chinese Commanderies and status as the favorite vassal state, Korea is far from being racially pure. But as a typical example, Koreans constantly claim this to be true. Doesn’t matter the reality.

    Korea was a small powerless nation, but that doesn’t stop Koreans from reinventing history and portraying themselves as a regional power (including some claims such as ruling Japan, ruling China, and a host of inventions).

  30. Joseph says:

    You know, I feel sad reading this, even knowing it is true. I live in Guatemala, and here there is a lot of heterogeneity, so racism is not so common, or that’s what I think. Here there are a lot of Koreans in the area in which I live, and that’s fine for me, and the truth is, I would like to meet them and talk with them to know about their country. Is awful to see that most of them are crabby toward us, just because some of us have tanned skin doesn’t mean we are bad people! The young ones are friendly, but that’s short lived, because as soon as the parents see their children talking to us, they won’t let them talk to us again… I really wish I could do something, destroy those nasty borders of racism and arrogance, bring friendship and respect instead of hate and discrimination. Keith, I would like to you come to Guatemala and see with your eyes the problem…

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