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[CARD NEWS: Opinion]Korea, where racism is condoned

Under what Korean officials call “reasonable discrimination,” many foreigners living in Korea are still racism. The story of the Thonas, a Congolese family living in Korea, is just one example.

Apr 14,2017
Korea, where racism is condoned

1) “The smells stinks, but it tastes real good.”

Today’s story begins from the home of Rabbi Thona, “prince of Congo.” Living in Korea, Rabbi has been Koreanized as much as native Koreans. He even enjoys eating braised skate, which many Koreans even avoid to eat for its stench. What’s the story behind this man living in Korea?

2) The Thonas’ lives in Korea began in 2002 when Yiombi Thona, Rabbi’s father, fled from his homeland Congo after disclosing governmental corruption. Even though the Thona’s are of royal blood in Congo, Yiombi had no choice but to escape with his family for fear of arrest. So the nickname of Rabbi, “Prince of Congo,” is not a joke.

3) In 2008, nearly seven years after he settled, Yiombi received refugee status from the Korean government. Yiombi has been advocating acceptance of multiculturalism on behalf of refugees in Korea. His path as a human rights activist led to his current job at Gwangju University, where he works as a professor.

4) It has been 16 years since Thona has put down roots in Korea. The family’s life is not different from typical Koreans. They speak, eat, and act just like Koreans. But the discrimination they have been fighting against is pushing them away from Korean society.
The discrimination is worse than what you could ever imagine.

5) In the latest example of discrimination; Yiombi was not permitted to buy his daughter a cell phone because he is a foreigner. Foreigners residing in Korea can get only up to two cell phones at most.

6) “There is reasonable discrimination.”
Yiombi lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Their response, however, was quite preposterous.

7) According to what Yiombi heard from the Commission, it is because “foreigners usually don’t have enough money.”

8) So Yiombi submitted his income record to the commission. Upon the submission, the commission reversed their attitude and apologized, asking him not to make the story public.

9) Not only are foreigners fighting against such institutional discrimination, they also need to endure the Koreans’ jaundiced views toward them.

10) ‘“Wow, he’s so black.’”
‘“What a black bro!’ ”
‘“The black speaks Korean!’ ”
“People don’t seatsit next to me so I take up three seats!”

When Thona is on the streets, he feels like he’s in a zoo. Now adapted to the overwhelming attention, he now feels awkward when people don’t look at him.

11) “People as black as you guys….”

They pay taxes just as Koreans do.
They speak Korean.
They eat Korean food.
They live in Korea.
But they are treated as strangers.

12) Koreans are usually outraged when their countrymen abroad are said to be discriminated against.

13) But many Koreans rationalize their discriminatory behavior, saying it’s “reasonable.” Is there any “reasonable” logic in their behavior?


Directed by Lee Jeong-bong
Constructed by Kim Min-pyo
Designed by Bae Seok-yeoung
Translated by Son Min-young
Edited by James Constant



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