Is Korean behavior to foreigners reasonable?Today, Korea is facing low birth rates so it’s inevitable to need an influx of immigrants. Indeed, the number of foreign residents in Korea is getting larger and larger. According to an OECD data, by the end of 2010, the foreign population in Korea stood at around 1,261,000, an increase of 8 percent (92,200) compared to the previous year.
However, Korean people have a lot of problems in dealing with foreigners. In July 2009, Bonojit Hussain, an Indian professor who had worked in Korea, charged that a Korean man defamed him by saying offensive and racist words such as “pitch-black foreigner” on a bus. Fortunately, he was a person who is smart enough to deal with it. But most foreigners don’t know how to deal with it. They might think that foreigners can’t understand what they say. While they use offensive words against foreigners, the number of foreigners who can understand Korean is increasing.
Some foreigners feel less racism and others feel it strongly. People from English speaking countries are better treated than those from non-English speaking countries. Koreans often treat them very well because Koreans want to learn English from them. “Korean people obviously prefer white-skinned people who speak English over those with darker skin. There needs to be a change of public awareness and attitudes toward them,” said Lee Jae-san, an executive at the Seoul Migrant Workers’ Center.
Even though I’m Japanese-Korean, I was insulted several times. I worked a part-time job at Japanese restaurant in Seoul. And my Korean pronunciation sounds almost native for short conversations. So most customers couldn’t notice that I’m a non-native of Korean. However, an old guy who can speak Japanese a little bit noticed it somehow and asked me whether I was Japanese-Korean. And after he noticed the fact that I’m from Japan, he used difficult Korean words for me.
The problem can, of course, be solved through spreading awareness and education. Teachers or parents should teach their children and students the importance of living in harmony with other countries’ people. What if Koreans are treated poorly in other countries? Again, the question is respect for other people from other parts of the world.
Kim Jin-yong, Student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies