Defining racism in S. Korea

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Social Science on 2014-09-29 00:49Z by Steven

Defining racism in S. Korea


The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

“We apologise, but due to Ebola virus we are not accepting Africans at the moment.”

This is what a bar in Itaewon, a popular area for expats and tourists in Seoul, publicly posted in front of its property last month.

The statement triggered thousands of angry comments online, both from expats and locals ― especially after the public learned of reports that the bar admitted a white person from South Africa, while banning almost all dark-skinned individuals, regardless of their nationalities.

The incident is likely to get attention from Mutuma Ruteere, the UN special rapporteur on racism. Ruteere is scheduled to visit Seoul later this month to monitor the situation of racial discrimination and xenophobia in Korea and will file a report to the UN Human Rights Council next year.

The incident is one of the growing number of racism cases in the country ― Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, a key manufacturing powerhouse in the region, as well as the producer of hallyu.

While the nation’s immigrant population continues to rise, Korean racism ― both structural and internalized ― is becoming a growing concern to the international community.

Complex nature of racism in Korea

Korean racism, however, must be understood differently from its Western cousin, experts say.

It is a complex product of the country’s colonial history, postwar American influence and military presence, rapid economic development as well as patriotism that takes a special pride in its “ethnic homogeneity,” according to professor Kim Hyun-mee from Yonsei University…

Korean racism also contains internalized white supremacy, Kim added. “After the Korean War, Korea became a country with US military presence. At the same time, it was exposed to American popular culture, including Hollywood films, and was influenced by their representation of visible minorities,” Kim said.

“We need to note that interracial marriage was legally banned in (parts of) the US until 1967. The very first children who were sent overseas for foreign adoption in 1954 from Korea were mixed-race children born to African-American soldiers and Korean women.”

Internalized white supremacy can be seen even in today’s TV shows in Korea, according to a local NGO Women Migrants Human Rights Center of Korea.

When a Korean person is married to a (white) citizen of Western country, his or her family is referred as a “global family” with a positive connotation by hosts on TV programs, while families consisting of a Korean man married to a woman from a Southeast Asian country is called a “multicultural family,” a term that is rather stigmatizing and discriminatory among Koreans, the NGO wrote in a report to be submitted to UN Rapporteur Ruteere.

Racially insensitive programming on Korea’s national broadcasting networks have also emerged as a problem. In February, national broadcaster KBS aired three Korean comedians, dressed as “Africans” by wearing a curly wig and painting their faces black, in a segment in its comedy show “Gag Concert.” The programme received a criticism from expats here, saying that it was racist and extremely inappropriate…

Read the entire article here.

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Stepping toward multiculturalism

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-04-11 20:26Z by Steven

Stepping toward multiculturalism

The Korea Herald

Cho Chung-un

Experts call for a long-term vision of Korea as a multiethnic society, social agreement on overall immigration policy

Globalization, demographic change and economic growth have led Korea to embrace cultural diversity and tolerance toward others. But biases and discrimination against foreigners remain and Koreans’ pride for ethnic purity is deeply entrenched. This 10-part series will offer a glimpse into the nation’s efforts to promote multiculturalism and challenges in immigration law, education, welfare, public perception, mass culture and more. ― Ed.

Korea is one of a few countries that have long remained racially homogenous. But a growing number of immigrants since the late 1990s have prompted the nation to embrace multiculturalism as a key national policy and cultural movement.

It is no longer rare to see mixed-raced children mingling with Korean peers at schools and streets. More Koreans marry foreigners and immigrants are playing an increasingly big role in society. The nation now has its first foreign-born lawmaker representing ethnic minorities.

Despite diminishing prejudices and discrimination against the newcomers, Korea still has a long way to go with its immigration laws, education and welfare policies and people’s tolerance toward different cultures, experts say…

…It is somewhat surprising that the Korean government started to take the immigration issue seriously only in 2006. At that time, then-President Roh Moo-hyun was under pressure from the international community to address concerns about Korea neglecting human rights issues involving immigrants and foreign workers and brides. The fear of losing the productive population in the future due to a record-low birthrate was another reason. But it was the visit by American football star Hines Ward that dramatically turned Koreans toward a multicultural society.

Ward, born to a Korean mother, became a proud son of Korea and inspired many that people from a multicultural background could also become an important asset to the country.

But it took four years for the government to launch the first phase of the comprehensive multicultural project. The 2010 plan focused on supporting them financially and institutionally. Critics said that the initial plans led many Koreans to build a new type of prejudice against multicultural families…

Read the entire article here.

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It can be difficult to get people to stop speaking English with me. Even if I have been speaking in Korean with them for 20 minutes.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-02-18 01:37Z by Steven

“Sometimes when I am on the bus people will look at me and if they think that I am not Korean they will not sit next to me or they will move when I sit down. This kind of thing is still existent. Also, it can be difficult to get people to stop speaking English with me. Even if I have been speaking in Korean with them for 20 minutes they will still try to speak in English as if they thought I could not understand…”

—African-American Korean Yang Chan-wook (Gregory Diggs)

Kirsty Taylor, “Mixed-race Koreans urge identity rethink,” The Korea Herald, (December 7, 2011).

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[Daniel Fiedler] Segregating children is wrong

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, New Media, Politics/Public Policy on 2012-03-13 17:39Z by Steven

[Daniel Fiedler] Segregating children is wrong

The Korea Herald

Daniel Fiedler, Professor of Law
Wonkwang University

This year under the guidance of the Seoul Office of Education a new elementary school and a new high school were opened in the Seoul area. While generally the opening of new schools would not be cause for comment, in this case the new schools are specifically for children who come from “multicultural” backgrounds. The high school is designed to educate “multicultural” teenagers who have dropped out of regular public high schools, while the elementary school will operate as a regular school but with special emphasis on teaching Korean culture and language. The Seoul Office of Education argues that this is a necessary and progressive approach to assist in the education of these children; however, segregating these students from their Korean peers is neither appropriate nor desirable for the future of South Korea. And the use of the term “multicultural” to describe these children is a thinly disguised euphemism for mixed-race or mixed-descent, a concept that has no place in 21st century discourse.

For a comparison one only has to look to the failed experience of the United States in segregating the races during the first half of the 20th century. In the United States the euphemism used was “separate but equal” and the idea was to have schools only for black children and schools only for white children. The United States then extended it to separate cars on trains, to separate public bathrooms and even to separate drinking fountains and soda shops. However, after almost 60 years it became apparent that the “separate but equal” approach was an abject failure and, in 1954 the United States Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Since that time integration and equality have been driving forces behind affirmative action programs in education, employment and everyday life in the United States. Nonetheless, the United States still struggles with the impact of that half century of segregation as reflected in the racist attitudes that still exist among the less educated and provincial members of American society…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed-race Koreans urge identity rethink

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2011-12-08 03:52Z by Steven

Mixed-race Koreans urge identity rethink

The Korea Herald

Kirsty Taylor

Things have come a long way since the 1970s when mixed-race Koreans here were spat upon and beaten up for being different.

The kids of that time, whose fathers were often foreign soldiers who first came here during the Korean War, used to find it hard to walk down the street for fear of discrimination.

These days, the Korean government and charities are investing heavily in programs to support multicultural families and overt discrimination against Amerasians is rare.

But African-American Korean Yang Chan-wook, who goes by his Korean name here rather than his western name of Gregory Diggs, said that small daily occurrences remind him that this society does not yet fully accept him.

“In the 1970s these kids could not go to school, but even now, mixed-race Koreans going into public schools have a pretty high dropout rate,” he said.

“Sometimes when I am on the bus people will look at me and if they think that I am not Korean they will not sit next to me or they will move when I sit down. This kind of thing is still existent. Also, it can be difficult to get people to stop speaking English with me. Even if I have been speaking in Korean with them for 20 minutes they will still try to speak in English as if they thought I could not understand…

…After living with this prejudice, Yang started the M.A.C.K. Foundation (Movement for the Advancement of the Cultural diversity of Koreans) upon returning in 2003, basing it on a similar mission started in Chicago in 1995…

Read the entire article here.

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