Sunday, September 13, 2009
Discrimination in Korea
The number of foreigners in Korea is growing continually. We have many coming to Korea for work, many visitors and those who marry and come to Korea to reside. It was reported recently that by the year 2050 10% of the population will be foreign. Korea has developed greatly in just a few years so many foreigners find it an attractive place to call home for a few years.
With the numbers there has been an effort on the part of the government and those in public service to make living in Korea a pleasant experience but obviously the message does not reach everyone. Korea like any other country will have many sad stories of discrimination. They have their own internal discrimination and having been a very homogeneous country for so long and underdeveloped the change to a first world country and seeing so many foreigners does take time to register on the Korean psyche.
There have been many blogs that find living in Korea rather stressful and many have experienced discrimination. That is a fact that has to be acknowledged. Whether we have more or less than other countries is a question that would be hard to determine. However I believe the government is trying to make it easier for the foreigner to be at home in this culture. The country does not like being singled out as a country inhospitable to foreigners.It will also take time and effort on the part of those who are attempting to adapt to a new culture to feel at home in strange surroundings. In the study of Korean it was made clear that for most who go to a foreign country there will be a cultural shock that could be very serious for some. Everything is annoying: the food, the dress, the streets the people. It is not uncommon and one should be prepared for this phenomenon.
We have had the case recently of a man from India a professor at the Anglican University, who pursued a criminal case for slander against a Korea man who called him a number of racially demeaning names while traveling on the bus. The diatribe lasted for over 10 minutes. With the help of his friend he went to the police station to report the incident and was treated unkindly by the police officer. "He used 'banmal' (informal speech not necessarily rude -but can be rude- but familiar) to me and addressed the Korean kindly. "
The professor filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission after the police made it clear that they had no desire to punish. The man has been indicted. This being the first case of its kind in Korea. Korea does not recognize discrimination as a crime but the case is one of personal insult. The offender was drunk which would excuse him in the eyes of many.
This case is a sign that Korea has come a long way in its approach to "Hate Crimes". We will without doubt also see discrimination as a crime with severe penalties in the years ahead. Discrimination is a part of life and we will never really see it disappear in our life time but it is well to try to see it as a part of out lack of awareness of others and personal weakness.