This is in response to an ignorant-ass comment thread going on over at ROK Drop, an otherwise respectable blog:
Wow. "Curry munchers." The overt racism of this entire comment stream isn't surprising, nor is the instant dismissal of this man's concerns. Did you people even READ the article? It was highlighting this as a common occurrence, not one man's crusade. And the observation that these incidents usually occur in direct proportion to the victim's unfamiliarity with the culture? Whatever.
People get on me for the same shit -- even when I am standing in a suit facing the subway door engrossed in my iPod, I have some drunken, crazed ajussi I hadn't even noticed screaming and cursing at me at the top of his lungs. Or this past weekend, with two Korean American friends discussing in a normal tone of voice which exit to use when we got off at Coex station.
This shit happens all the time, and it's getting worse. I never take the subway, and each time I violate that rule, I get nearly physically assaulted. Verbal harrassment is par for the course. And to those who continue to dismiss my or others' experiences as invalid simply because you never have anything happen to you (and chances are, you're white or fit into Koreans' sense of acceptability), good for you. That still doesn't change reality for others.
And for those who argue that Korea's situation is in danger of becoming like that of France -- that's beyond idiotic. The particular brand of French racial and religious intolerance, mixed with similarly rigid reactionism on the part of the Islamic minority there -- that isn't at all what's happening here. We're not talking about drawing lines in the sand over social norms and religious edicts -- this is a matter of simple, common courtesy, on a kindergarten level:
-- You should be drunk off your ass in public.
-- You shouldn't yell at or curse people out.
-- You shouldn't hit people.
-- People who violate the law (especially those who assault others) should be punished.
-- And the standard of treatment? Korea OWN laws. No one is asking for special treatment here.
What's this guy, others like him, or people like me really asking for? To stop being harrassed, harangued, or even hit for daring to do things such as be with a Korean woman, use one's own native language, or be a different skin color.
And right now, I've about had it with this bullshit. The stupid commenters' solution? "Go home."
Sorry. I AM home. And I believe Korea to be too full of decent people, to be too good of a culture, to be a far better place than one that deserves to have a few assholes ruin everything.
Because it IS that bad these days. And the problem is that, like always, most decent Koreans don't want to do anything about it, while a few bad apples make life nearly miserable for minorities here.
Publicity like this will hopefully wake up enough decent people to the point where they will stop taking this kind of shit from the usual suspects, the people who cause 99% of these incidents:
DRUNK, MIDDLE-AGED AJUSSIS WITH AN INFLATED SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT.
No one likes these assholes, not even most Koreans in the subway car, office space, or classroom there with you. They are just too used to taking it or looking the other way.
But engaging in conversations about how much certain groups of people do or don't ACTUALLY smell, or making "Clash of Civilizations"-level, hyperbolic predictions of cultural doomsday in Korea is just as stupid as it is non-productive. The problem is actually very simple: stop accepting this bullshit and stigmatize it away.
The one thing that I do believe happens quickly in Korea is change, especially when you deal in the cultural currency Koreans really operate with: chemyeon, or social "face." And you know what? When things get embarrassing enough, Koreans either sweep it under the rug or fix it.
And the ability to sweep this under the rug in Korea is quickly waning. This is the kind of practical positivity I have about Korea. And it's not based in ignorance of the culture, way of life here, language, or any of that. In fact, anyone who knows this place should understand the logic of chemyeon, group shame, and the power that gives the outsider here.
The ones who REALLY display their ignorance are those who engage in the same racism as the dumbass ajussis on the subway, or Chicken Little-esque prognostications about a cultural jihad or snickering about the need for an American-style civil rights movement in Korea, complete with Martin Luther "Kim" and all.
All I'm asking for is the basic civility that is afforded to the average Korean here. Which means not being cursed, spit upon, or hit. It ain't that fucking much to ask for.