A matter of concern
I’m writing in response to a Dec. 7 opinion column, “Multiculturalism in Korea,” written by Robert J. Fouser.
I am a long-time resident of Seoul and subscriber to The Korea Times since 1967. My family has lived here for more than 40 years. We pay taxes to the Korean government and have many friends as well as work to do.
However, I am saddened by a recent disturbing event that vividly showed how discrimination against non-Koreans still exists here today, with a consequent lack of welcome to “outsiders.” This reality is disappointing, especially at a time when Korea says it wants to promote tourism and attract foreign visitors, residents and businesses.
I like to visit Deoksu Palace with my grandchildren and guests from other countries. It is a beautiful place which can teach a great deal about Korean history. In the past I was always warmly welcomed there as a “senior” and did not have to pay the admission fee, being treated just like the Korean grandmas. My granddaughters and I were touched by the kindness shown us by the staff.
On Monday when I went to the same palace with a visitor from another country, I was told that I had to buy a ticket. The reason given was that I was a non-Korean, a foreigner. I was informed brusquely that the Korean government had changed the rules as of May 1 so that now non-Korean seniors were charged but Korean seniors could go in free.
No reason was given except that foreigners had to pay, regardless of age. I was both stunned and embarrassed, especially in front of my guest from another country.
I do not understand such discrimination, particularly now as Korea is trying to become a welcoming, globalized country. How sad it is that this globalization is only in words, but not in actions. I wish someone would explain to me why I suddenly am treated as an outsider at the palace (and also on the subway.)
Would the national or city budget really suffer if the few foreigners over 65 who come to Korea or live here were given the same courtesies that Koreans enjoy? Would not the good-will thus generated and remembered be more valuable than any money involved? For Korea’s sake, my answer is a firm “yes.”
Sonia Reid Strawn