Racism in South Korea

Racism in South Korea comprises negative attitudes and views on race or ethnicity which are related to each other, are held by various people and groups in South Korea, and have been reflected in discriminatory laws, practices and actions (including violence) at various times in the history of South Korea against racial or ethnic groups. It has been recognized as a widespread social problem in the country.[1] South Korea lacks an anti-discrimination law, which was recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2015. The law has been reported stalled due to "lack of public consensus".[2]

An increase in immigration to South Korea since the 2000s catalyzed more overt expressions of racism, as well as criticism of those expressions.[1][2] Newspapers have frequently reported on and criticized discrimination against immigrants, in forms such as being paid lower than the minimum wage, having their wages withheld, unsafe work conditions, physical abuse, or general denigration.[1]

In the 2017–2020 World Values Survey, of the 1245 South Koreans surveyed, 15.2% reported that they would not want someone of a different race as a neighbor.[3] This represents a sharp decrease from the 2010-2014 World Values Survey, where of 1200 South Koreans surveyed, 34.1% mentioned that they would not want someone of a different race as a neighbor.[4] In the 2010–2014 survey, 44.2% reported they would not want "immigrants/foreign workers" as neighbors.[2][5] By the 2017–2020 report, this figure was at 22.0%.[6]

According to a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, undocumented migrant children are left without many of the rights enjoyed by their South Korean counterparts. The process used to determine refugees status is designed "not to protect refugees but to keep them out. Migrant workers are only allowed to change their job with their old employer's permission. Migrant workers who work in agricultural sector, small businesses and domestic services are the most vulnerable to discrimination because of the temporary nature of their work.

HistoryEdit

Scholars believe Korean's strong national identity comes from a long tradition of "thousand years of ‘pure’ ancestral bloodlines, common language, customs, and history"[7] and was strengthened during and after the Japanese colonialism in the 20th century. The Japanese's attempts to erase Korean language, culture and history had constructed ethnocentrism and ethno-nationalism as a method for Koreans to reclaim and maintain their sovereignty.

According to Katharine Moon, the Asian financial crisis in 1997 is one of the events that shaped Korean's dominant attitude towards immigrants and foreigners. In the 1997 crisis, the IMF forced South Korea to take a bailout and the adverse effect it had on Korean's economy caused the closings of financial institutions, losing jobs for 5% of workers and decreased earnings for the majority of the population.[8]

Attitudes against different racesEdit

Overt racist attitudes are more commonly expressed towards immigrants from poorer Asian countries, Latin America and Africa, while racist attitudes toward immigrants of European and Northern American descent are more commonly expressed via subtle racism and microaggressions.[1][9] However, while Japan is a wealthy Asian country, there exists a significant amount of Anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea, largely due to historical grievances and the history of Japanese colonialism in Korea. Attitudes of racism could also correlate to classism — a Singaporean in South Korea would not generally face as much discrimination or negative attitudes as compared to a Filipino or a Cambodian.

Related discrimination has also been reported with regard to mixed-race children, Chinese Korean, and North Korean immigrants.[9] Racism and discrimination against Muslims (who tend to be immigrants or foreign workers) is also common with many Koreans perceiving Muslims as a potential "terrorist group". These negative views stem from the rising prevalence of Islamophobia in Korea and the representation of Muslims and Islam in Korean media.[10]

Denied public servicesEdit

Due to the lack of an anti-discrimination law, it is common for people not of Korean ethnicity to be denied service at business establishments or in taxis without consequences.[11][12][13][14]

According to a survey conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea among foreign residents in South Korea in 2019, 68.4% of respondents declared they had experienced racial discrimination, and many of them said they experienced it due of their Korean language skills (62.3%), because they were not Korean (59.7%), or due to their race (44.7%).[15]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

During the COVID-19 crisis, 1.4 million foreigners living in South Korea were initially excluded from the government's subsidy plan, which includes relief funds of up to 1 million won to Korean households. Although all people are susceptible to the virus, only foreigners who are married to Korean citizens were eligible for the money because of their "strong ties to the country".[16][17] Following backlash, financial aid was extended to most foreigners in August that year.[18][19]

The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has made schools in South Korea go fully online but the immigrant and refugee children have not received proper education opportunities due to the lack of appropriate online curriculum for them.[20]

In March 2021, several regions in Korea ordered all foreigners to undergo testing for COVID or risk a fine. This legislation has been criticized by activists for being discriminatory and racist.[21]

Vaccine PassportEdit

South Korea implemented a vaccine passport system during the COVID-19 pandemic, restricting access to high-risk venues such as bars, restaurants, and clubs.[22] Korea's vaccine passport system was criticized as being discriminatory because did not recognize the vaccinations of foreigners who had been vaccinated overseas unless one has obtained a quarantine exemption while allowing recognizing overseas vaccinations of Korean nationals with or without a quarantine exemption.

The then British Ambassador to South Korea, Simon Smith, criticized the vaccine passport on the official Twitter account for the British Embassy in Seoul, saying "If evidence produced by a Korean national of an overseas vaccination is good enough for that vaccination to be registered for the vaccine pass, the same evidence should be good enough to register the overseas vaccinations of foreign nationals too."[23] The United States embassy made a public statement saying, "The U.S. Embassy in Seoul is aware of the Korean Government’s discriminatory policy which prevents U.S. citizens from registering vaccinations received in the United States with local health centers" and that they were raising their concerns to the highest levels of government to resolve this issue. [24]

On December 6, 2021, the ambassadors from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and the EU Delegation to Korea jointly urged the South Korean government to recognize overseas vaccinations of foreigners.[25] South Korea reversed their policy on December 9, 2021, allowing non-Korean nationals to register their vaccines, which allowed access to the vaccine passport and the third booster shot.[26]

LegislationEdit

Recent legislation—in particular, the Foreign Workers' Employment Act (2004) and Support for Multicultural Families (2008)—have improved the situation of immigrants, more efficiently protecting their human and labor rights.[1] In 2011, the South Korean military abandoned a regulation barring mixed-race men from enlisting, and changed the oath of enlistment to not reference racial purity (minjok) to citizenship.[9] Similarly, related concepts have been withdrawn from school curricula.[9] This has been accredited in part to international pressure—in particular, concern from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which stated persistent ethnic-centric thinking in South Korea "might be an obstacle to the realization of equal treatment and respect for foreigners and people belonging to different races and cultures".[9]

As of September 2021, South Korea was lacking an anti-discrimination law, which has been globally recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2015. It is frequently discussed in South Korean media and by politicians.[27][2] As a result, incidents have been reported where people were denied service at business establishments because of their ethnicity.[28][29][30][31] Legislations to protect against discrimination has been brought up in 2007, 2010 and 2012.[8] but the bills faced objections chiefly by conservative Protestants. Another attempt has been made in 2020 by a minor liberal Justice Party to “ban all kinds of discrimination based on gender, disability, age, language, country of origin, sexual orientation, physical condition, academic background and any other reason.”[32]

According to a survey conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea among foreign residents in South Korea in 2019, 68.4% of respondents declared they had experienced racial discrimination, and many of them said they experienced it due of their Korean language skills (62.3%), because they were not Korean (59.7%), or due to their race (44.7%).[33]

In educationEdit

Only 40% of mixed-race elementary and middle school students, or students born out of international marriages are considered Koreans by their classmates. Almost 50% of students said they have difficulties maintaining relationships with students who do not share the same nationality background. The reason given by Korean students is because of their classmates' different skin colors (24.2%), fear of being outcast by other Korean students (16.8%), and feeling of embarrassment if being friends with mixed-race children (15.5%)[34]

Korean children also show a tendency to discriminate against Africans and people of African descent. In a 2015 research by Education Research International, Korean children show negative responses to darker-skin characters in picture book illustrations. This attitude of children is seen as a reflection of their parent's anti-blackness prejudice towards black people and white-dominant surroundings.[35]

In 2009, Paul Jambor (Assistant professor at Korea University) claimed that Korean college students exhibit discrimination towards foreign professors by calling them by their first names and not showing the same amount of respect towards them[36] as students traditionally show towards their Korean professors.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Park, Keumjae (2014), "Foreigners or multicultural citizens? Press media's construction of immigrants in South Korea", Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37 (9): 1565–1586, doi:10.1080/01419870.2012.758860, S2CID 144943847
  2. ^ a b c d Kim, Yugyun; Son, Inseo; Wie, Dainn; et al. (19 Jul 2016), "Don't ask for fair treatment? A gender analysis of ethnic discrimination, response to discrimination, and self-rated health among marriage migrants in South Korea", International Journal for Equity in Health, 15 (1): 112, doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0396-7, PMC 4949882, PMID 27430432
  3. ^ "World Values Survey Wave 7 (2017-2020)". Worldvaluessurvey.org. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  4. ^ "World Values Survey Wave 6 (2010-2014)". Worldvaluessurvey.org. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  5. ^ "World Values Survey (2010-2014)". World Values Survey Association. 2015-04-18. p. 72. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  6. ^ "World Values Survey Wave 7 (2017-2020)". Worldvaluessurvey.org. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  7. ^ H.S. Moon, Katharine (October 2015). "South Korea's Demographic Changes and their Political Impact" (PDF).
  8. ^ a b "Why South Korean Businesses Can Legally Refuse to Serve Foreigners". Bloomberg.com. 2016-03-11. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  9. ^ a b c d e Campbell, Emma (2015), "The end of ethnic nationalism? Changing conceptions of national identity and belonging among young South Koreans", Nations & Nationalism, 21 (3): 483–502, doi:10.1111/nana.12120
  10. ^ Koo, Gi Yeon (2018). "Islamophobia and the Politics of Representation of Islam in Korea". Journal of Korean Religions. 9 (1): 159–192. doi:10.1353/jkr.2018.0006. ISSN 2167-2040. S2CID 158772593 – via JSTOR.
  11. ^ Herald, The Korea (21 February 2016). "[From the scene] Korean-only bars trigger controversy".
  12. ^ John Power (1 March 2016). "The South Korean Businesses That Ban Foreigners". The Diplomat. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Discrimination flows freely at bars across Seoul". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  14. ^ "Taxi drivers to lose license for refusing passengers". 28 January 2015.
  15. ^ Herald, The Korea (20 March 2020). "7 in 10 foreign residents say 'racism exists' in S. Korea". www.koreaherald.com.
  16. ^ Herald, The Korea (2020-04-05). "Foreign residents shut out of virus relief funds". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  17. ^ Herald, The Korea (2020-05-07). "[Herald Interview] 'Coronavirus does not exclude foreigners'". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  18. ^ Service (KOCIS), Korean Culture and Information. "Foreign residents of Seoul to get COVID-19 relief funds : Korea.net : The official website of the Republic of Korea". www.korea.net. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  19. ^ Herald, The Korea (2021-01-20). "Gyeonggi residents, including foreigners, to receive COVID-19 relief". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  20. ^ Kang, Tae-jun. "What a Blackface Photo Says About South Korea's Racism Problem". thediplomat.com. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  21. ^ Herald, The Korea (2021-03-18). "[Newsmaker] Expat community displeased with mandatory COVID-19 testing for foreign workers". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  22. ^ Smith, Josh; An, Sunghyuk (2021-11-01). "S.Korea eases curbs, imposes vaccine passports in 'living with COVID-19' campaign". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  23. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/ukinkorea/status/1459078899686465536. Retrieved 2022-08-25. {{cite web}}: |first= missing |last= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ "COVID-19 Information - U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea". web.archive.org. 2021-12-01. Archived from the original on 2021-12-01. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  25. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/ukinkorea/status/1468052789477937156. Retrieved 2022-08-25. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ disease 19(COVID-19), Ministry of Health and Welfare, Coronavirus. "Coronavirus disease 19(COVID-19)". Coronavirus disease 19(COVID-19) (in Korean). Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  27. ^ "Debate on anti-discrimination law gains momentum". 2021-06-20.
  28. ^ Herald, The Korea (21 February 2016). "[From the scene] Korean-only bars trigger controversy".
  29. ^ John Power (1 March 2016). "The South Korean Businesses That Ban Foreigners". The Diplomat. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  30. ^ "Discrimination flows freely at bars across Seoul". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  31. ^ "Taxi drivers to lose license for refusing passengers". 28 January 2015.
  32. ^ "Anti-discrimination law back on table at National Assembly". koreatimes. 2020-07-03. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  33. ^ Herald, The Korea (20 March 2020). "7 in 10 foreign residents say 'racism exists' in S. Korea". www.koreaherald.com.
  34. ^ Herald, The Korea (2010-03-30). "Biracial children shunned by classmates". www.koreaherald.com. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  35. ^ Kim, So Jung (2015-04-06). "Korean-Origin Kindergarten Children's Response to African-American Characters in Race-Themed Picture Books". Education Research International. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  36. ^ Jambor, Paul (2009-07-01). "Why South Korean Universities Have Low International Rankings – Part II: The Student Side of the Equation". Academic Leadership. 7 (3). ISSN 1533-7812.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit