By Oh Young-jin
After the "Whining, racism or in-between" article Tuesday, some of our readers sent their responses. We try to accommodate these as much as possible within space constraints. Some were edited but to the level that allows the sender's opinion to be clearly stated. Again, we want to stress that we believe the issue of racism, which spilt over inadvertently after the "Ugly foreigners" editorial, can't be over-emphasized. The purpose of this continued coverage is to encourage members of this society ― foreigners as well as Koreans ― to think and speak about it rather than pigeonholing their doubts, misunderstandings and suspicions in their emotional compartment to the point that they turn into a wall of separation that is too tall to scale. Historically, there have been many cases of racism gone wild and we need to learn from them. Perhaps, what is going on in the Middle East is also attributable to the failure of the parties concerned to understand each other. Scaling things back, we are not naïve enough to believe that our society is a perfect utopia but one thing we need to remind ourselves of is that by engaging in honest and civilized dialogue now, perhaps we can keep our differences from turning into racial hatreds and walking away before things get ugly.
You own a coffee shop or a bar in New York City, Paris, Rome or Los Angeles. A group of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Middle Eastern or Eastern European tourists come to your shop, and you have never dealt with tourists before. Wouldn't you adapt your English, use gestures when speaking, try to use a smattering of the other languages you learned in school or have to make use of any stereotype you hold of those people, for example that Asian's can't eat anything without rice?
Either way your heartbeat rate would increase and your hands would shake. You're not sure they understand the price, you get impatient and so do they. Once they leave, your image of their country will never be the same, perhaps one of rude, ruthless, impatient tourists who can't keep any etiquette whatsoever.
Korean tourists in the Philippines are not all bullies who break things and can't live without kimchi. A lot of them are young, many of them believe in highly ethical standards and many of them are very pleasant to be around. A drunk Irish or British tourist doesn't mean Europeans are all drunks. Some of them even belong to Churches that don't allow them to drink.
What can be perhaps frustrating in the racism debate is the persistent use of anecdotal evidence to prove it. Its root cause may lie in Machiavelli who advised against people foreign to a kingdom from meddling with domestic political affairs, which explains why so many enlightened foreigners who live in Korea (and Koreans who live abroad) are put in the closet and can't contradict racist stereotypes.
I don't think The Korea Times intended to harm anyone by using "ugly Koreans" or "ugly foreigners" in the title or its articles. There used to be a very popular column that bore the same title in a rival English newspaper, and what was meant was the obvious: it was meant with a pinch of humor and a dose of mutual understanding.
What can be frustrating for some long-term Korean immigrants in Korea and foreign immigrants abroad is the obvious Machiavellian law: don't let people thrive in a kingdom when not sure what their allegiance is. Many of us have suffered from that law in Korea and have felt that our careers, be it in business, academia or other jobs had no room for growth and that we were stuck in dead-end jobs despite sometimes feeling that we deserved better. This is not just a Korean problem, but a global problem. So the real question is whether brilliant foreigners will be allowed to durably thrive in any country, or whether Machiavelli's law will still apply.
I want to chat with the Korean accuser
I read your article last week and I also thought that you could have worded the headline a little bit better. Actually, the whole thing could have been written better. The article was about a new law that was implemented and that people are transgressing these new laws. I don't think it's totally racist, just incredibly biased. I also want to respond to the first email, by E.S Kim, you published in the "Whining, racism and in-between article (2016/04/05).
The student mentions drug abuse, alcohol misuse and fighting. He/she seems to think that it is foreigners that use illegal drugs, foreigners that misuse alcohol and it is foreigners that start fights. I think that articles like your original "Ugly foreigners" promote that kind of thinking. You have to remember, that there are some really shallow thinkers (dare I say, like this student) in society (any society) and they will just gobble everything up as if it's the gospel.
Foreigners are "sensational" in Korea. If we do anything wrong, we make the newspaper.
Just last night, I was walking home and there were two Koreans fighting in the street. I couldn't believe it. They didn't look drunk. Eventually the one man ran away and the other gave chase, but gave up quickly. Last weekend there was an altercation between two Korean guys in a club here in Daegu (where I live). I have been woken up countless times by Korean men hitting women. Either in my building, or the building next to mine. The woman would be screaming and crying for hours. The man not letting up. Nobody helps her. That's part of the Korean way.
I have seen grown Korean men, in their work suits, throwing up in the street from drinking too much alcohol. Most times the sun is still shining. Some mornings, its like a minefield of puke on my way to work. I know it's also part of the Korean culture to go drinking with work colleagues on a regular basis. Every time I go out, I see some Korean who is being carried by his/her friends because the person in question is passed-out drunk and cannot even walk. It's a known fact that Korea is the biggest consumer of spirits in the world, almost doubling that of Russia's consumption. I can go on but I think you get the point.
E.S Kim says that foreign countries are far more racist than Korea. I don't think that is true. Racism is a form of discrimination. In Korea it is acceptable to openly exclude black people in job recruitment. Men are preferred to young married women in Korean companies, because men can't get pregnant. Women sometimes lose their jobs here because they fall pregnant. In Korea it is acceptable to post signs big and proud in front of establishments, barring entrance to foreigners, men, women, gays, etc for merely fitting into these categories. In Korea, there are no anti-discrimination or anti-racism laws. In Korea, you are asked about your family's background and your father's occupation in job interviews and university applications. Korea has one of the highest gender inequality ratings in the world. In Korea there is a human rights commission that is allowed to make recommendations, but nobody has any obligation to carry out these recommendations.
De Wet *********
Who are more prone to road rage
I missed all the editorials and comments from last week as I made a brief and rare return to California after living most of the past six or seven years in Korea. I have traveled within Asia for business and to Europe too but have not lived outside Korea since 2009 and have been driving here daily since then as well.
Clearly road rage is unacceptable under any circumstances, the same as any other aggressive or violent public behavior. That said, mild road rage, like heavy horn blowing, happens relatively often in Korea from what I have seen and mainly its Koreans doing it. Let's face it there are relatively few foreign drivers anyway. [Can you, as the Times, get a number on this? I am curious as to how many foreigners do have Korean driver's licenses. That would leave out those who drive illegally or semi-legally on their own national licenses but it's still a starting point.]
One thing which I believe may contribute in particular to foreigners having road rage issues in Korea is a bit of surprise at Korean driving practices. I think most foreigners come to Korea with expectations of a high level of order and precision such as they see in subways and reinforced in their Korean work places. What they see on roads is something else. I suspect this incongruity in Korean road behavior catches many people off guard including many Koreans themselves!
As a long time driver with experience in Europe, Asia (Hong Kong, China and Thailand) as well in many U.S. States I can say there are a few quick solutions that I believe could alleviate a lot of heartburn and headaches for all drivers in Korea. Bad traffic congestion (don't I know it!) is the mother of road rage (in most cases: some people are just angry nuts!) so let's look at a few typical Korean road practices and related solutions that could help improve traffic flow and decrease the potential of rage;
—Enforce no-stop areas for taxis
— Ditto for private cars
— Right turn lanes for turning
—On highways left lanes for passing and right lanes are for driving
—Enforce no-go hash-mark areas at all major intersections