Recently, I’ve become pretty impressed with the Korea Herald. They now have an ‘expat life’ section, and they get normal people – usually expat bloggers – to write pieces pertinent to issues surrounding being a foreigner, and perhaps more importantly, living as a foreigner in Korea. Here are a couple of my recent favourites for those of you who don’t read the KH.
First, there have been several articles about Bonojit Hussain, Indian-national professor who was harassed and assaulted by a drunk Korean man for being Indian and (shocking!) traveling with a Korean woman. Unfortunately for the Korean man, Hussain is actually doing his PhD on unions and activism and has taken the issue to court instead of accepting a settlement. Fortunately for the expat community, the issue of racism is finally making its way to Korean courts. As it stands, there are currently no hate laws or laws pertaining to making racist remarks or threats in Korea. Of course Hussain has also had enormous problems with the police taking his complaint seriously and also was discriminated against by the police themselves.
The situation reminds me of the time when I got my wallet stolen and my credit card was used. When I went to file a report, they sat me at a table with an African American girl..and when we said ‘hi’ to each other, they decided that we must be friends who had our credit cards stolen at the same place since we spoke the same language. Then, although the American girl had video of the thieves using her card at a hotel in the area (she had done some sleuthing work!), they said she knew the people because they were also black. In fact, the police officer said ‘that guy…he looks like your brother…he’s black…like you! So he’s your brother. Why don’t you just call him and tell him to bring your card back?” Of course, the police officer also asked her what his phone number was…because you always ask the person who stole your credit card what their phone number is while they are stealing from you…..Yes, the police are extremely effective and culturally sensitive here.
Also, Brian from briandeutsch.blogspot.com has had a couple of good articles recently, including this one on ubiquitous ‘thoughtless’ English words strangely incorporated into daily Korean life. He makes a good case for not only why Koreans themselves should reevaluate the way English has been imported and used in advertising/signage etc. but also how a possible return to using Korean words in place of Korean-English hybrids should not turn into blaming ‘English’ or ‘foreigners’ for a situations created by Koreans in Korea.
A few months ago, FI’s family members were remarking that because there is a trend to name apartment buildings/restaurants/offices/businesses by using English-Korean hybrids and then writing them in English, there are now many older people who can’t read or understand the name of the apartment complex in which they live. Seriously?!
And lastly, also in today’s paper is a good article about the need for expats to come together and stick up for each other. My favourite part?
First of all, expats of any stripe need to recognize that, for all our differences, we have a lot in common. When a story like Bonojit Hussain, who was victim of a racist attack on a bus, appears, we owe it to ourselves to give him support, however we can. The same goes for racial discrimination or scapegoating in business, in government, or in the media, because even if it’s not our sub-group this time, next time it could be. Racism doesn’t stop to check visa status, years in country, skill with children, diligence on the job, or ability to eat spicy food: We’re in this together.
It harkens back to my feelings about a ‘foreigner’s rights and responsibilities. We have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in Korea, but we also have the responsibility to advocate and work for this respect for ourselves and others. God helps those who help themselves.
So good job KH! There are so many more articles in this section that I’ve enjoyed reading and passing on. Hopefully other media outlets will also start to publish thoughtful pieces by and about foreigners so Koreans and foreigners can have a more nuanced view about ways to make this country a better place for all to live.