Racism in South Korea

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Racism in South Korea has been recognized—particularly by the South Korean media—as a widespread social problem.[1] According to Freedom House, "South Korea lacks a comprehensive antidiscrimination law. The country’s few ethnic minorities encounter legal and societal discrimination. Residents who are not ethnic Koreans face extreme difficulties obtaining citizenship, which is based on parentage. Children of foreign-born residents in South Korea suffer from systemic exclusion from the education and medical systems."[2]

An increase in immigration to South Korea since the 2000s catalyzed more overt expressions of racism, as well as criticism of those expressions.[1][3] Newspapers have frequently reported on and criticized discrimination against immigrants, in forms such as being paid lower than the minimum wage, having their wages withheld, unsafe work conditions, physical abuse, or general denigration.[1]

In a 2010–2014 World Values Survey, 44.2% of South Koreans reported they would not want a foreigner as a neighbor.[3][4] Racist attitudes are more commonly expressed towards immigrants from other Asian countries and Africa, and less so towards European, white North American, & white Latin American immigrants who can occasionally receive what has been described as "overly kind treatment".[1][5] Related discrimination has also been reported with regards to mixed-race children, Chinese Korean, and North Korean immigrants.[5]

Recent legislation—in particular, the Foreign Workers' Employment Act (2004) and Support for Multicultural Families Act (2008)—have improved the situation of immigrants, more efficiently protecting their human and labor rights.[1] In 2011, the South Korean military abandoned a regulation barring mixed-race men from enlisting, and changed the oath of enlistment to reference Korean citizenship instead of ethnicity.[5] Similarly, related concepts have been withdrawn from school curricula.[5] This has been accredited in part to international pressure—in particular, concern from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which stated persistent ethnic-centric thinking in South Korea "might be an obstacle to the realization of equal treatment and respect for foreigners and people belonging to different races and cultures".[5]

As of January 2018, South Korea was still lacking an anti-discrimination law, which was recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2015. The law has been reported stalled due to "lack of public consensus".[3]

Suggested resolutions to South Korea discrimination challenges are laws in place penalizing those who do discriminate on race, and showcase foreigners in the media as respectful of the South Korean culture and implement racial acceptance in early childhood education. Currently, no new laws have been put in place since South Korea's president’s campaign resulting in discrimination crimes going unpunished with little media discouraging it as researched by Dr. Katharine H.S. Moon, Chair of Korea Studies at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.[6] Having biracial individuals on television shows, modeling, and representing the South Korean country with pride would further educate South Koreans to different ethnicities and their value in the South Korean society. An example of successful assimilation between diverse students is in Wongok Village, South Korea. This village is more inclusive of accepting some of the cultures arriving at the country resulting in children learning from each other which if instilled nationally could have a positive effect on the next generation. It benefits South Korea’s economy, population rate, and global acceptance as well proving it to be mutually beneficial if these solutions are explored by both this countries citizens and government.

In July 2018, a mass protest against Yemen refugees who had arrived at Jeju Island caused outrage in South Korea [7][8][9]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Park, Keumjae (2014), "Foreigners or multicultural citizens? Press media's construction of immigrants in South Korea", Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37 (9): 1565–1586, doi:10.1080/01419870.2012.758860
  2. ^ "South Korea". freedomhouse.org. 2018-01-05.
  3. ^ a b c Kim, Yugyun; Son, Inseo; Wie, Dainn; et al. (19 July 2016), "Don't ask for fair treatment? A gender analysis of ethnic discrimination, response to discrimination, and self-rated health among marriage migrants in South Korea", International Journal for Equity in Health, 15 (1): 112, doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0396-7, PMC 4949882, PMID 27430432, The recent increased influx of immigrants in Korea has ignited racism among Korean natives, which is heightened by economic and cultural nationalism [6]. For example, more than 40 % of Koreans answered that they would not want a foreigner as their neighborhood, based on the recent World Values Survey (2010–2014) [9].
  4. ^ "World Values Survey (2010-2014)". World Values Survey Association. 2015-04-18. p. 72. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  5. ^ a b c d e Campbell, Emma (2015), "The end of ethnic nationalism? Changing conceptions of national identity and belonging among young South Koreans", Nations & Nationalism, 21 (3): 483–502, doi:10.1111/nana.12120
  6. ^ (Meinecke, 2016)
  7. ^ "Korea to shorten asylum process". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  8. ^ Koo, Se-Woong (July 2018). "Opinion - South Korea's Enduring Racism". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Jeju Uprising anniversary can shape response to Yemeni refugees". 2 July 2018.

Further reading[edit]