Discrimination against foreigners based on nationality, appearance and education level has reached epic proportions according to the results of a Seoul Institute survey released May 24.
The institute surveyed 2,500 foreign nationals and found that 94.5 percent had experienced discrimination, leaving only 5.5 percent who had not.
Participants indicated the two of the most common types of discrimination they received.
The report states that 62.2 percent indicated they were discriminated against because of nationality, 28.8 percent based on physical appearance, 18.7 percent based on education level, 14.4 percent based on income level, 12.9 percent based on occupation, 12.4 percent based on place of origin.
Fifty five percent of Anglo-Americans indicated they faced discrimination based on appearance.
Participants indicated that the cost of living in Seoul is on average 32.3 percent more expensive than their country of origin. However, Europeans (0.95 percent higher) and Anglo-Americans (4.78 percent higher) indicated prices are nearly on par in their home country.
Quality of life in Seoul was rated an average score of 69.7 points out of a maximum of 100.
Deputy editor’s note:
South Korea has been a culturally homogenous society for thousands of years. Only recently has Korea opened its boarders and its culture to foreigners.
Discrimination is blatant and rife and most will have a story of how they have been a victim.
The attempts to remove education discrimination from recruitment were disingenuine.
“You can say it is more of a symbolic gesture,” said an official of Employment and Labor to The Korea Observer last year. “We hope punitive measures will soon be introduced given that a number of bills that stipulate penalties for offenders are pending in the National Assembly.”
Nearly 12 months later there are still no recorded cases of punitive measures being enforced on offenders.
HIV tests are also mandatory for non-Korean English education teachers, which has attracted the attention of the United Nations.
Appearance and being “overweight”
There have been numerous cases where foreigners living and teaching in Korea have reported that students, parents, and co-workers have told them they are fat and need to lose weight.
Korea is one of the least obese countries in the world with only 4.6 percent of the population categorized as obese according to the OECD.
A quick google search using the term “fat in Korea” reveals a host of blog posts about being told you are overweight in Korea.
One male American teacher said he is 6’4″ (193cm) and about 210lbs (95kgs) gets called fat most days.
On a thread of Roosh V Forum, a teacher discusses their experience as an average sized American:
“Teacher,” one student called out, “is everyone in America fat?”
“No,” I corrected him, “not everyone. Most people are about my size.”
“But Teacher,” he shouted, “you are fat!”
The blog “American [no longer] in Korea” wrote that they were shopping in Nampo and a young Korean pointed to the bottom of friend Kari’s jeans and said, “You, nooooo” while crossing her arms in X shape.
“In the Korean clothing stores, the dialogue would go something like this: [English] Do you have my size?”[The reply in Korean] “Yeah, you just missed them. Turn around and walk ten steps right back the way you came.”
Another common example is that a Western lady is told that she looks tired when she is not wearing make-up.
While this can be considered discrimination in the West, Koreans usually say these comments out of concern for the victim rather than to humiliate or discriminate.
One source notes that his Korean wife tells people they look fat or need to eat healthier when she is concerned for their health.
Perceived nationality and skin tone
There are also examples where Asian-Americans have been told they cannot teach English because parents want white Americans who they think speak better English.
This institutionalized racism is common in Korea among recruiters, hagwons, and parents.
There is no anti-discrimination law in Korea and this discrimination is practically legal. Victims sometimes report blatant discrimination to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea who are virtually powerless to enforce anti-discrimination measures.
More than 90 percent of complaints filed to the NHRC concerning discrimination, based on race or nationality, over the past 14 years were dismissed.
Between November 25 in 2001 through February 28 in 2015, the commission received only 100 complaints concerning race or skin color.
Of them, it dismissed 93 and referred only three of the cases to the relevant ministries.