Culture Discrimination Editor's Picks

Expats speak out: What Seoul needs

Photo by: Republic Of Korea www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/, Creative Commons Licence 2.0. Photo cropped.
James Hyams
Written by James Hyams
Seoul needs to improve traffic, reduce street litter, promote bilingualism, introduce anti-discrimination laws across South Korea, and reduce xenophobia to become a global city according to a plethora of expats.

While many expats love Seoul and Korea, they also note there are many improvements that need to be made if Seoul wants to be a global city.

Traffic and road etiquette is one of the improvements expats said is required.

Karim Khouider said people speed, drivers do not give way to pedestrians, the traffic is awful, and the police do not enforce the road rules.

“Police are useless and don’t fine people enough. In France, people are afraid when they see a police car and drive well. Here they seem to be laughing at police and just drive as usual.”

Annabelle Ambrose said that imposing a fee each time a car enters the main areas of Seoul would help reduce congestion.

“London’s congestion charge has worked well and schemes like the Boris bike make getting around London cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly,” Ambrose said.

“There isn’t currently the infrastructure in place to support cyclists. Fewer cars mean they might actually be able to make and enforce dedicated cycle lanes.”

Expats state the prevalence of quality English communication among Koreans is also a major obstacle to transforming Seoul into a global city.

Kate Howell said communication issues could be overcome with creating a bilingual culture.

“Just as Lee Myung-bak once wanted to do, make Seoul bilingual. Fine businesses who are not accessible because of language.”

“40.1 percent of the 700 expat respondents indicate there have been a victim of discrimination in Seoul”
Kate also said catching a taxi in Seoul was difficult for foreigners.
“Fine taxi drivers who refuse to pick up non-Koreans,” she said.

Others agree with Kate but also would like free Korean lessons for foreigners which some believe would assist bridge xenophobia, the language divide, and cultural exclusiveness.

Many foreigners also said that Seoul needs to provide a solution for its growing trash problem.

Bryan Betz said it is embarrassing for Seoulites that there are few bins and the average person lacks concern for maintaining a pleasing aesthetic on the street.

“It’s a necessary and proper public good. Litter prevention, proper sanitation, and pollution alleviation are all easy sells, especially to a citizenry with such a large eco-footprint. It fosters a careless attitude, which permeates to other areas of civic life,” Betz said.

However, the most prevalent concern raised by expats in South Korea is the lack of discrimination laws.

“The problem is that there is no law to protect people against discrimination. Not just racism but sexism and discrimination against older people,” Sean Jones said.

Jones was refused a teaching job late last year because he was black.

“They actually want a white teacher,” the recruiter said in a text message to Jones.

The results of a Seoul Metropolitan Government survey, released Monday, show that 40.1 percent of the 700 migrant workers indicate they have been a victim of discrimination in Seoul.

“Based on the survey results, we will push for more realistic support measures for expats in an effort to help them better adjust and not be discriminated against,” the municipality said.

Almost half of these respondents also encountered language and communication issues in Seoul.

David Kilburn said that being a global city may sound great but he questions whether Seoul is truly ready.

“There are significant downsides which, for example, London is finding it hard to come to terms with. I wonder how Seoul would welcome the legal influx of residents – rich and poor – from all over the world, and a judicial system where non-Koreans are not disadvantaged?”

The Mayor of Seoul will attend an open floor town hall meeting from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on March 6 on the 9th floor of the Seoul Global Center Building near Jonggak Station.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government welcomes expats interested in discussing “policies to make Seoul a global city.”

For more information, call (02) 2075-4180.

To register click here.

 

About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”

  • John McCrarey

    I’m sure all the survey responses were made with the best of intentions, but really I couldn’t help but be reminded of the tendency of some folks to leave their country of birth looking for something new and different, and then they set about trying to make it more like home.

    What I love about Seoul is its quirkiness and organized chaos. Sure, things could be better I suppose but heaven forbid it becomes homogenized and vanilla like the country I fled (USA).

    • Anonymous_Joe

      John McCrarey: “What I love about Seoul is its quirkiness and organized chaos. Sure, things could be better I suppose but heaven forbid it becomes homogenized and vanilla like the country I fled (USA).

      ???

  • Pipitote

    “Others agree with Kate but also would like free Korean lessons for foreigners which some believe would assist bridge xenophobia, the language divide, and cultural exclusiveness”. Guess what, there are Free Korean Lessons offered by the Korean governement to every foreigner, and they are good lessons, but simply foreigners do not go. Also they provide free language classes to foreign brides.

    • James

      Great. Can you please provide a link to those classes so others can follow it should they want to attend?

      • Ros

        Global centres provide free Korean language classes.
        Visit the nearest to you. Global Centres are an extremely useful resource for foreigners.
        The list of Global Centres in Seoul is here:
        http://global.seoul.go.kr/

      • smithington

        Aren’t you the super academic investigative journalist? How long have you been here that you don’t know about the Korean social integration program? http://socinet.go.kr/soci/main/main.jsp?MENU_TYPE=S_TOP_SY Honest to god man. Can you even walk down the street with your pants falling down around your ankles and you struggling bare assed on the sidewalk?

        Another hot tip for “kate”, I can only assume this abomination of an article is a result of that shit show I saw on facebook, taxi drivers can already be reported and fined for refusing service.

      • berbaderba

        Wait. You didn’t research whether or not there were free English lessons in Seoul while writing this article? I’d expect that a journalist would understand the basics of Google at the very least. You might have also done a quick look into why there are so few garbage cans around. I learned that my second week in Korea. It also would’ve been useful to explain a few of the, “significant downsides which, for example, London is finding it hard to come to terms with,” were. How much time do you devote to these articles? Did you actually speak with Annabelle or did you just copy-paste a comment of hers from another forum?

  • Summer

    Anti-defamation and anti-discrimination laws are *very* different. Those words can’t be used interchangeably. The latter is what Korea sorely needs.

  • Paul

    “Just as Lee Myung-bak once wanted to do, make Seoul bilingual. Fine businesses who are not accessible because of language.”

    How many businesses in the US are not accessible because of language to people who don’t speak English? Just a rhetorical question! And as Pipitote has said already – just go and learn Korean if you live here. It’s not that hard.

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