From Ask a Korean:
Based on implicit association test, Korean college students were found to be significantly more racist than non-Korean college students.
In other news, water is wet.
Unsurprising news, but my favourite part is his one-line commentary. It’s nice to see a Korean who isn’t rabidly nationalistic. Not that all Koreans are, but the wrath of Korean netizens is legendary. There have honestly been foreigners hospitalized in Seoul over stuff said online. Periodically the embassy here sends out a notice saying to avoid certain areas of Seoul due to recent violence and threats that moved from online to offline, and The Metropolitician has a very popular post about how to avoid being assaulted in Korea, and what to do/not to do if you are. Crazy, eh?
I’ve faced two kinds of harassment here in korea: harassment for being foreign/American, and harassment for being a foreign female. I’ll give a few examples.
My experience with being a foreign female:
1. There’s a guy in town who basically made it so that a Canadian foreigner in town and I could no longer sit outside the Family Mart and drink quietly or eat ice cream while the weather was warm enough to do so. He would come over, varying degrees of drunk, and touch us, despite us telling him not to in Korean. A few times when we had a guy friend with us, said friend would stand up and get in his face about it, but he still wouldn’t leave, and the Canadian and I would have to get up and go into the store to avoid him.
2. Especially considering that I have a somewhat Russian appearance due to my Russian background, I have to deal with being asked if I’m “a Russian girl” on a regular basis, and all the freaking time in cities. Many (I’d argue most, actually) Russian girls in Korea are prostitutes, and if you are blonde and Slavic-looking, many men will just assume you’re a prostitute. I’ve been asked “Russian? How much?” by many, many men, and I really need to come up with a comparatively offensive response.
My experience with being a foreigner/American in general:
1. This one is my personal favourite. When Marc came to visit me in July, we went to Seoul for a couple days. One day, we were waiting in line for an elevator at a train station, as we had heavy bags with us that would not have made it up the stairs easily. There were three middle-aged to older women ahead of us in line, and a Korean family behind us. The extremely slow elevator finally arrived, and the women ahead of us got on. We got on after them, but there was no room for the Korean family. Almost immediately they began shouting at us loudly, and tried to shove us off the elevator. I started shouting back, and the women started to hit Marc and I with both their hands and bags/purses. As far as we could tell, they wanted us to get off the elevator and let the Korean family on instead. One of the women was holding the elevator open, and so when it became clear that these women were not going to stop beating us, we got off, and the elevator closed and they went on their merry way. Ironically, the Korean family they were trying to exchange us for became frightened by the whole incident and left.
2. Back during the whole Mad Cow protests, many, many Americans started saying the classic “I’m a Canadian” line when asked by Koreans if they were American. There was an upsurge in violence toward Americans at the time, and I will admit that I used that line once or twice when I suspected that the person asking was probably not fond of Americans. Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud of being an American. But, I also take my own personal safety into consideration. On one of the trips I took to Seoul in August, I got spit on by a Korean while on the subway, after I answered “yes” to a question of “American?” – I have since begun to simply ignore people who try to talk to me on the subway. Headphones are great for this.
3. For those unaware, I drive a scooter/motorcycle here in Korea. The schools I teach at are not in town, and the buses are inconvenient, so I opted to purchase my own transportation. As is common here in Korea, I have latched a plastic crate to the back of the bike, to carry stuff in. It is very, very useful. However, it has one bad aspect: the local kids have begun to use it as a sort of game. The elementary (and even middle school) kids in town have decided to play a sort of game of chicken with me and my bike. You see, if there is a group of them at the corner, and I am at the stoplight, they will sometimes dare eachother to run up and throw a piece of trash into my bike’s crate; bonus points, I assume, if they can do it without me noticing. I have gotten to school sometimes and found half-eaten ice cream bars, empty bottles and cans, even used tissues in the crate. It is really disgusting, and is a great example of how foreigners are sometimes regarded as almost sub-humans here. I could draw some parallels, but it would likely offend various groups of people, so I won’t.
That’s enough for now. If I write more, I think it will make me more riled up than I like to be. But, if you’re a foreigner here in Korea and have your own stories of harassment, I would love to hear them.
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