[Letter to the editor]Treat foreigners among us with respectThroughout human history, there have always been certain groups of people at the receiving end of discrimination.Today, equality and justice are protected by the law as basic rights.
However, inequality still prevails in society, and astonishing numbers of people continue to experience social injustice. Some of these can take the form of prejudicial treatment based on gender and skin color.
Although racism is not as severe in Korean society as elsewhere, many foreign workers here suffer from such attitudes in our society.
Foreigners from less developed countries who come to South Korea to work often experience inappropriate treatment in our society.
In Western countries, racial discrimination is still a social problem despite a long history of efforts to stop it. But since it is an issue that these societies are continuing to deal with vigorously, people generally tread cautiously where race is concerned.
However in Korea, since there has been no history of dealing with race issues in its homogenous society, increasing numbers of foreign workers are reporting problems related to discrimination based on race.
Many foreign workers, for example, are unable to receive proper medical care and social welfare.
Korean society is still far behind in embracing foreigners in its midst, although there is an emphasis to adapt to globalization.
Koreans have low regard for people who are from developing countries. Also, many company owners exploit foreign laborers, as has been revealed on occasion.
Foreign workers in Korea are providing low-cost labor in factories. Although foreign workers are paid lower salaries than Korean citizens, their earnings here are still comparatively higher than in their own countries. Both workers and employers benefit.
Private organizations have been taking efforts to help the suffering foreign workers. However, stronger action should be taken to help these people.
Foreign workers should be protected through governmental support and regulations. The law should protect workers from exploitation.
Human rights violations are seen not only on television, but also in reality. Stricter regulations are needed to help these people who are suffering silently.
Foreign workers come to Korea with hopes that they can make a living for their families back in their homeland. Their dreams must be respected.
Koreans must look back into our history, when our ancestors emigrated to Western countries in search of jobs.
They also experienced unfair treatment. The sorrows that our people felt in the past must not be repeated.
Korean citizens, especially employers, must treat foreign workers with respect.
You might have seen a foreign worker with dark skin who avoids taking a seat on crowded public transportation.
The attitudes of people toward foreign workers have contributed to such discomfort, although no antagonistic words may actually be said. Is this a reappearance of discrimination against blacks on transportation systems in the United States earlier in the 20th century?
Koreans’ attitudes must change. Although we used to live in a homogeneous society, we should adapt to a globalized society. Let’s not stare at foreigners thinking that they are different from us.
In addition, we should eliminate our attitudes that favor Westerners over other foreigners.
We must treat them all with respect.
Yunji Kim, a senior student at Seohyun High School in Seongnam, Gyeonggi