[LETTERS to the editor]No place for xenophobia

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[LETTERS to the editor]No place for xenophobia

It is not surprising that people in different countries hold different views of other nations, since geographic boundaries have an effect on the way people think. However, some recent incidents have revealed a lot of hostile attitudes in people. It is as if people’s minds have turned to nationalism once again. This attitude can be described as xenophobia, a word that means an unreasonable fear or dislike of people from other countries.

People cheered for their national teams during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing last month, wishing their fellow countrymen success. However, there were irritating displays of disrespect. Chinese spectators tended to boo Korean teams whenever they showed up and cheered for Korea’s opponents even when Korean teams weren’t playing opposite Chinese teams.

During the final archery match between Park Sung-Hyun and Zhang Juanjuan, Chinese spectators deliberately whistled whenever Park took aim. Throughout the entire match, Park showed signs of distraction. Even if the behavior of the Chinese crowds didn’t contribute much to the outcome of the match, they certainly showed that anti-Korean feeling among the Chinese was extreme. This kind of behavior is xenophobic.

We saw another kind of xenophobia displayed in the recent attempt of the Ladies Professional Golf Association. The LPGA said they were losing fans and sponsors due to a lack of English speaking ability of foreign players. They asserted that from 2009, foreign players who don’t pass an English speaking test will have their qualification in the games suspended for two years.

This reflects another xenophobic view of some Americans. It would have been better for the LPGA to offer help for the foreign players to learn English, and not use English speaking ability to become a basis for qualification to participate in tournaments.

Fortunately, this proposed rule had to be withdrawn due to protests from many people. Nonetheless, it is a shame just for the fact that it was even brought up.

In fact, these behaviors have also been present among Koreans from long ago. Historically, Korea was an ethnically homogeneous nation, but after the Korean War, children of mixed heritage started appearing in Korean society. Since they were the first generation of mixed blood children, they were rejected by Koreans, who valued homogeneity. Some were oppressed so severely here that they had to leave the country.

This tells us that even in the past, Koreans had disdained non-Korean people.

Hostility against foreign people continues to this day. Foreign workers in Korean factories are treated very poorly and paid poorly.

In addition, advertisements for arranging international marriages demonstrate this attitude. The advertisements portray Vietnamese women as goods rather than human beings; there are many reports about Korean men who, when dissatisfied with their “goods,” ask to exchange them. Shame.

The modern world is a global village, so it is of utmost importance to understand the differences among nations and peoples.

No one can deny that people have to coexist, like a mosaic, to survive. The word “homogeneity” is gradually losing its meaning in many countries as nations within them get more diverse. As this is the megatrend of human civilization, people should respect the differences among them.

Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “I don’t want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.”

I thoroughly agree with him. If people stick to nationalism and have no understanding of foreign people, society is left way far behind. Respect for diversity is the most valuable aspect of today’s world that people must have.

Hong Seung-Hwan, a junior, Anyang Foreign Language High School

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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