‘Romper Stomper’ revisitedA fourth South Korean was reported to have been physically assaulted in Australia this year at the hands of youths who may have been motivated by racism. Cho, 28, who had been on a working holiday in Brisbane since July, was attacked by two white teenagers on his way home in Runcorn, a suburb in southern Brisbane, from work in a meat-processing factory at around midnight.
All four assaults were violent, including one case where part of the victim’s finger was chopped off without any reasonable cause, and all four were committed by local white youths. Other Asians from Japan and China have also been targeted, raising concerns about a re-emergence of racist hate crimes in the country.
Despite the ongoing concerns, local police were slack in their investigation and reportedly made racist comments - like “Asians are so stupid and silly” - in front of the Korean victim who was reporting the crime. It does not look well for the country if Australian authorities appear to be unconcerned about racist attacks against Asian students and workers.
Last month, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard outlined the country’s goals for the next 13 years that were primarily focused on closer ties with Asia. They included actions like introducing more scholarships for Asian students and making it compulsory to learn at least one Asian language at school. However, her plans will be of little use if the Australian government cannot protect Asians from criminal attacks on its own soil.
Australia suffered a diplomatic spat with India in 2009 amid a drastic rise in racially motivated assaults against Indians, including murders that sparked massive protests by Indians against abusive overtones and discriminations. The incidents were highly publicized in India to the extent that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh officially lodged a protest with his Australian counterpart.
The incidents led to a massive exodus of Indian students, who previously accounted for the second-largest share of international students in Australia, causing the number of Indian students to drop by about 30 percent. If Australia does not want to make the same mistake again, its government should pay more heed and act more diligently to rein in racist hate crimes.
There are about 140,000 Koreans working, studying or living in Australia. The government should strongly address this safety issue, as ensuring the safety of its citizens is without a doubt one of the government’s most important and pressing tasks.