Racism in Korea

I thought this was such an interesting article regarding racism in Korea.

omonatheydidnt: Korea Sees First-Ever Prosecution for Racist Remarks

Korea Sees First-Ever Prosecution for Racist Remarks

You may have heard of the case of a Mr. Hussein, who during the summer pursued a criminal case for slander against a Korean man who called him various racial slurs on a bus. This week that man became the first Korean to be indicted for using racist language…

[Anchor]

For the first time, a man has been indicted for saying racially discriminatory things to a foreigner.

The case has became a marker for the continued existence of racial discrimination against those on the margins of our already multi-racial society.

Kim Seon-jung reports.

[Reporter]

This is Bonojit Hussein, an Indian who has been a research professor for two years a domestic university.

In July he was on a bus when a Korean began insulting him for no reason.

[Interview:Bonojit Hussein, Sungkonghoe University research professor]
“He called me dirty, smelly, an Arab, and even insulted my friend by calling her a whore.”

The insults and verbal continued for over 10 minutes, and in the end he went to the police with the help of his Korean friend.

But the attitude of the police was shocking as they refused to believe he was a professor.

[Interview:Bonojit Hussein, Sungkonghoe University research professor]
“The police officer spoke very kindly to the Koreans but spoke to me in banmal.”

Finally, Mr. Hussein filed a petition with the Human Rights Commission (국가인권위원회) after the police made clear they had no desire to punish.

Prosecutors have indicted the man, who is in his 30s, with criminal insult (모욕죄) on the theory that racist language can constitute such.

[Interview:Hwang Pil-gyu, lawyer]
“I believe that there must be investigations of both the laws which said this was not discrimination and other laws which are themselves discriminatory and foment prejudice.”

This was not Mr. Hussein’s first experience of racial discrimination.

He expressed his sincere hope that this incident be a way for Koreans to change their perspective.

Here’s a more detailed report.

India-born professor Hussein, who with the arrest by Bucheon prosecutors of 31-year old Mr. Park on charges of making racially discriminatory remarks became responsible for the country’s first-ever such arrest, has expressed frustration with the handling of the incident.

After the arrest became public, Prof. Hussein said, “during the police investigation we were encouraged to reach a settlement, and Mr. Park then started to verbally assault me again while the police simply watched. If I had been a white person this would have never happened.” He added, “this is not about punishing Mr. Park. Koreans should use this case as a way to think about the racial double standard that exists between whites and non-whites.”

On the afternoon of July 10th Prof. Hussein was speaking with a Korean friend named Han while on bus number 52 to Guro Station. Suddenly from behind him he heard someone say “hey you, you filthy dog-XX” and when Prof. Hussein turned around he was faced with a man wearing a suit who said, “where are you from? you stinking XX.” Thinking he was drunk Prof. Hussein ignored him, but the man continued by saying in English, “where are you from?” and repeating, “you Arab, you Arab.”

Ms. Han, the Korean friend next to him, asked, “why are you doing this?” to which the man responded, “what are you? You’re like a Chosun X, aren’t you?” Prof. Hussein asked him in English, “what’s the matter?” and the man reacted with “you Arab”, held up his hands and began insults in English. Ms. Han stood up from her seat, turned up her collar and suggested going to the police, after which the man continued insulting her and they got off near the Bucheon Jungbu Police Station and a woman in her 40s offered to be a witness at the police station.

Prof. Hussein, “similar things have happened to me in the past but I was always able to stand it. One time I was asleep and wound up at the bus terminal, where the bus driver kicked me awake.” A member of Konggam, the public interest lawyer’s association, said, “this incident shows that racism continues to be given tacit acceptance.”

Prof. Hussein graduated from Delhi University in India with a degree in modern history and enrolled in a master’s degree program at Sungkonghoe University in 2007, where he was hired as a research professor the next year at the same time he graduated. Because Korean law does not recognize racial discrimination as a crime, he pursued this case as one of personal insult, and filed a petition for reforms with the National Human Rights Commission.

This piece basically goes over the same ground but has somewhat more legal explanation.

Korea Beat

It’s about time! Hopefully this case will help to bring about some change in human rights and racial discrimination (as well as other forms of discrimination, as we all know Korea is rampant with it) will no longer be acceptable.

The behavior of the police kind of disgusts me, but unfortunately I can’t say I’m surprised.


When I went to Korea last year, I only stayed for less than a week. With lots of picture taking and touristy sight-seeing, I didn’t have time to observe the real Korean daily life culture more than a few interactions and snippets I hear. I am not the type of person who can just approach someone and talk to them with ease. Thus, my experience in Korea was just sorely lacking. Fortunately, I have a friend there, a Korean with a truckload of international experience, and through conversations with her that I was able to ask a lot of questions (regarding plastic surgeries, cosmetics, korean’s near obsession with makeup/beauty, and even Eric!).

One of the remarks that I told her was that people seemed to be very accepting towards foreigner. With a smile she told me that yes, Korean wanted to please tourists. I pressed further, well, what about the non tourists? And we got to talking about foreigners in Korea. The conclusion I got was that while the modern society was getting more and more diverse, racial discrimination, subtle or harsh, is still happening. If your skin is white, you are regarded more highly. If you want to become an ESL teacher in Korea, you better be white, otherwise you will be the 2nd priority to someone who is.

I then asked her if Koreans have any opinion about my countrymen. And bless her for her honesty, she told me that many of my countrymen are in Korea as maids/housekeepers and with the many negative things happening around my country as well as the people living in Korea, it’s safe to say that we are definitely not regarded all that highly.

Racism is a fascinating issue. Despite what we say outwardly, without a doubt, each and everyone have had that moment of prejudice toward other culture or race. It is up to us whether we want to dwell on it or if we want to accept that  not only different culture does things differently but also to exercise a little bit of that positivity we all know we have in us.

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5 responses to “Racism in Korea

  1. lee seunggi said kim c is like osama bin laden when kim c abandoned him in jeju island episode of 1n2d..hahaha…
    does that consider racism or not????

    • Puahaha..
      First off, thanks for visiting. Second off, no comment. LOL. Not because I have a fangirl love upon Lee Seunggi or Kim C but because I dare not to comment on Osama bin Laden in the open world wide web!

  2. Whoa!

    That was harsh. I never like to be in Korea, the society itself is not that pleasent. I have read once in one foriegner blog who live in Korea how she find that most Korean kind of impolite somehow. For instance how they push around and didn’t apologize etc unlike in Western country, so she said.

    Poor Prof Hussien. If we watched Kdramas we can see the level of professionalism among police officers. Sure it is a drama, yet somehow it reflect the reality. I don’t know, I’m not biased since I have been obsessed with Korea once, but I just feel unlike other country in Asia ie Japan, Philiphine, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and malaysia, it has develop a significance and strong racism sentiment. It just it didn’t improve yet become worst by day. It just it stand out at its own in every sense of development. It fashion sense, its entertainment industry and it’s music. They are great but it seems like something is missing. Sure racism are like everywhere BUT people take that seriously, their government take that seriously, their society take that seriously. But in Korea when modernity is increased the sentiments of every human being is the same and all different races, culture and religion has its own significance is still not truly understand and practiced. My uncle and his family has went to Korea once. It is a beautiful country but I don’t think I want to be there no matter how much I once have been crazy about Korea.

    btw: I’m from Malaysia.

    • Wow, a passionate response. I was taking a course on International Org. Behaviour and it talks about the fact that Korea doesn’t adapt to changes very easily. And while this is good in retaining its sense of nationalism and culture, this is also the crux of problem with stuff like racism. People tend to like their own kind, and doesn’t accept difference very fast or easily. But to be honest, it is the same everywhere (the difference is perhaps the degree of intensity/sensitivity). I live in a place where you can hear 6 different languages being spoken on your way to work. It’s so multicultural here. But my mom was harassed a couple of time for wearing a head dress. So, go figure.

      • I agree on you with that. Regarding the differences is intensity/sensitivity. Great knowledge to be share too btw:) Yes, every country has their own personal issues when it comes to racism even in America despite their own free country etc. But it decreasing. So it goes with another country. But sadly to say when it comes to Korea, it didn’t seem to change. Too add the fact that Korean culture, entertainment and language has loved by many and driven great interest by a lot of people in thw whole world. Korean cultures, music, and cultures was loved by many. But they didn’t seem to adapt with us, that what make it seem a big let down. But well, I hope it will improve little by little. I just hope everyone should be treated fairly no matter who they are and may this issues will improve gradually either in Korea or in any other place.

        Btw: I know the feelings dear, its happen everywhere but maybe in my country its a very rare case.1:100000. Take care and keep writing and updating of the dramas. I love to read ur blogs!^^

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