Thursday, May 6, 2010

Treating Others as Scapegoats

"Parents," we often hear, "are made to worry about their children." And it matters little how old the children are, or if they have left home to start their own families. And now, in addition to the usual parental worries, those studying overseas are increasingly facing harassment and even worse difficulties.

Writing in the Catholic Times, a mother recently wrote very enthusiastically about her daughter who had just graduated from college here in Korea. In her next column, she mentioned having second thoughts on how she had expressed herself in her previous column, after reading with great sadness of another parent whose article was in the following week's newspaper. They had lost a son in Russia, who was there as an exchange student. He was killed by a gang of young Russian nationalists simply for being a foreigner.

This was not the first time. Since 2005, six Koreans have been attacked. It may not be against the Koreans as Koreans but against non-whites. With robbery not a motive, the killings have been described as hate crimes. Very likely it may be hostility against the Chinese, who in great numbers are in Russia for work that is more lucrative than in China but also the kind of work most Russians are not interested in--dirty, dangerous and difficult work.

The writer mentions traveling to Russia and staying in a private home where a friend of the family showed the guests a loaded gun that was given to his brother by a famous Russian gang member. He was told to leave by the mother of the house who explained to the guests that resorting to violence is a typical reaction of many Russian youths who are looking for jobs.

The writer goes on to say that the hostility toward non-white visitors to Russia is the scapegoating of foreigners to relieve the frustrations of the Russian youth who feel marginalized in the workplace by the influx of foreigners.

She ends the column by lamenting that our own foreign guests who are here to work also suffer at the hands of Koreans. The Korean culture does not allow for the kind of violent treatment of foreigners seen in Russia, but foreign workers here are sometimes treated cruelly and with discrimination and often without any qualms of conscience. Are we not, she says, treating them as we are being treated in Russia--as scapegoats?

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