OK, so what was your first - your very FIRST reaction? If your first reaction had anything to do with the Korean drinking culture, the nightlife of Korean men, or the effects of too much soju, than congratulations - you may be a racist.
Look up the definition of 'racism' in the dictionary - click on this Google search if you like - or just look at one definition from the aforementioned search: "[Racism] is a manifestation of stereotypical attitudes towards members of a certain race or ethnic group. Inappropriate treatment based on race constitutes racism." Think about it before moving on.
It's really easy for a foreigner in Korea to call Koreans racist - they are, after all, the majority in this country, and in control of many aspects of our lives. They have that right - we are the guests in their country. That doesn't give a person the right to discriminate or treat people differently based on race, color of skin, language ability, or the like. Almost any foreigner living in Korea has or will experience racism in one form or another. The short list of possibilities:
- If after coughing, sneezing, or getting the sniffles, someone asks you if you have the swine flu.
- If a taxi driver refuses to drive you somewhere because you're a foreigner (one exception might be is if there's no money in it beyond the minimum amount)
- If you get stared at by an ajosshi or ajumma while holding hands with your Korean girlfriend / boyfriend / spouse.
The whole point I'm trying to make is that fighting racism received from others also means looking in the mirror from time to time. What long-held beliefs about Koreans do we bring to the conversation? What assumptions do we make about someone in a given situation based on their gender or race? What makes us think that belief / assumption is correct in every case amongst every Korean individual?
And what made you think that guy pictured in the first picture didn't lose a fight while completely sober, trip and hit his head, get mugged, or have narcolepsy?
© Chris Backe - 2009