There are three Korean men that I would love to have a chat with some day; the guy masturbating in his car outside homeplus while staring at Rachel; The guy whose hand I had to physically remove from Rachel’s arm as he was attempting to pull her, against her will, to the corner of a bar he and his friends were dwelling in; and the fella who snatched her phone off her, called his phone, saved her number, and then proceeded to call and text her regularly after that.
When I noted to my Korean friends that Korean men literally couldn’t take their eyes off Rachel, they brushed it off and said it was because she’s a Westerner. I’m a Westerner, and I didn’t get stared at half as much as she did.
What’s interesting about this is that, despite the many similar stories we’ve heard from other girls, I do not think Korean men are potential rapists/sex maniacs. Even after a group of young boys in my school sexually abused a female student, I reserved judgement.
Why? It’s quite simple really, I have the ability to be reasonable. In the UK, a country far from perfect, we try not to stereotype, and when we do, we either keep it to ourselves or we are very aware of how ridiculous our stereotypes may be.
For those who act on their prejudices or try to broadcast them too loudly, there is legislation in place to shut them up. Put quite simply, racism in the UK exists, but usually it’s a whisper between friends – something, of course, that I don’t condone. But if people shout their racist folly loudly enough, they could face serious legal problems.
We can then reason that it would be impossible in this age of equality, that a national TV broadcasting platform, like the BBC, could come out and produce a short documentary on how disgusting, sex-obsessed, and HIV-infested one specific minority is.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this type of program would be completely illegal in most developed countries.
The fact that MBC have created, and aired, such a documentary is testament to how far Korea is from becoming an accepting member of a globalised, equality driven world.
Some could easily claim that it was simply the media looking to spark lively debate to attract viewing figures, but in reality, the media is both the representation of our values, and a tool with which to perpetuate those values.
And more importantly, why was the biggest noise being made about this coming from Westerners- the smallest population?
I’m a member of various facebook groups. A few months back, the admin of a football group posted an horrendously racist joke about a black footballer in the UK. Within minutes, the wall was filled with complaints and protests, the vast majority of them from white people.
Why is the behaviour so acceptable in Korea? In most developed countries this would constitute hate crime.
Just yesterday Rachel and I were talking about how much we missed Korea. Then we came across this and I was reminded of the monkey jokes my students used to make whenever I showed a picture of a black person in the classroom, and the sad truth that none of them were ever pulled up on it.
Some people have even gone to the trouble of dedicating a whole Wikipedia page to racism in Korea, highlighting a UN report as saying that it was “concerned that the emphasis placed on the ethnic homogeneity of Korea might represent an obstacle to the promotion of understanding, tolerance and friendship among the different ethnic and national groups living on its territory.”
As someone who spent two years in Korea, has Korean friends, and generally enjoyed life over there, it’s very difficult to write this. On the one hand, I’m simply insulting my Korean friends, whose friendship I value and who I know are not racist; but on the other hand, I have a public platform, small or large, on which I can help in some way to create awareness of how deeply prejudice is buried within Korean culture.
Some may claim that the video isn’t offensive, that it highlights, to a certain degree, what it’s like to date a foreigner in Korea. But I’m offended. The 8,000+ members of Action against MBC Korea and their racist, biased “reporting” are offended. I’m willing to bet there are even a lot of Koreans who are offended.
For what it’s worth, if you’re also angered by this, I encourage you to sign this petition.