Bus abuse highlights problemBus abuse highlights problem
Late in the evening after you board a bus, an inebriated person sitting in the back hurls a stream of verbal abuse at you, calling you “dirty” and “stinky.” You are Asian, but the majority of the people around you have much lighter or darker skin.
What would you do if something like this happened to you during a stay in a foreign country for business or other purposes? You’d almost certainly be deeply disappointed by the ignorance and relatively low level of acceptance shown by the local resident. You might control your anger and heave a sigh of despair, thinking to yourself that this country has a long way to go.
This is exactly the situation a young Indian scholar who resides in Korea as a research professor at a university found himself in. But instead of quietly accepting the abuse, he took the Korean who hurled insults at him to court.
The Korean was recently summarily indicted by the Bucheon Branch of the Incheon District Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of insulting the foreigner, pursuant to criminal law. The Korean’s actions on the bus present a prime example of racial discrimination, but we as a country haven’t introduced specific legislation that prohibits it. This case, in fact, is the first one involving racial discrimination.
The total number of foreigners residing in Korea now exceeds more than 1.1 million. The number of immigrant women in interracial marriages amounted to 128,000 as of last year. A report shows that nearly 10 percent of the Korean population will be foreigners after 40 years.
Despite all of this, many Koreans still harbor prejudices against foreigners. Banajit Hussein, the foreigner humiliated on a public bus, said, “Similar things like this had already happened to me, and foreign laborers still suffer from the most severe cases of discrimination.”
Racial discrimination does not fall under the scope of private insults, as it can have a huge effect on everything from employment and education to commercial transactions. This is why we must urgently take legal and institutional measures to ban racism and racial discrimination. The Ministry of Justice put the act on prohibiting discrimination in more than 20 fields on the table of the lawmaking body in 2007. However, it was automatically repealed amid heated controversy when the term of the 17th National Assembly ended. The National Assembly should be at the forefront of devising legal norms to address the problem. If a social consensus is delayed due to controversies on which areas to include in any bill, lawmakers should consider devising a separate draft law focused on racial discrimination.