Category Archives: Korea

On Hunting Seals and Wearing Their Warm Fur


I just saw the 2016 documentary ‘Angry Inuk.’ It’s upsetting, but one of the sins the world always seems to commit (among other things) is ignore the plight of First Nations. Basically, because of “conservation” efforts to save non-threatened seal populations, the seal skin market was destroyed, effectively plunging Inuit communities who relied on the seal skin trade into poverty. The infuriating part is that the people who push for the ban on the seal skin trade are often people who can afford to indulge on such causes and not be affected by the consequences.

It reminds me of people who are into organic foods. People who are into organic foods are those who can afford organic food; and the richer and more into organic food you are, the preachier you tend to be regarding your diet. And often, lectures and the message of change are geared towards those who can’t really afford a different way of eating and living. In the case of Inuit seal hunters, it is people living comfortably and more affluently down in warmer climates that are telling Inuit that what they are doing is wrong. It is simply wrong to kill cute seal pups and sell their skin.

I’ve never had much issue with eating all sorts of animals and people hunting them, unless they’re endangered. I’ve had whale meat before and I really don’t care for it. I really wish commercial whale fishing in Japan would stop already, especially since whales are becoming more and more endangered. Now, you might say this is hypocritical and it is no different from the situation with Inuit hunting seals, but as far as I know, there are no communities in Japan dependent on whale hunting. In fact, the Japanese seem to be pushing whale hunting not for the same cultural and life-altering reasons and with the same small-scale methods used by Aboriginals, but by a highly sophisticated commercial process in order to have whale meat continue to be available in Japanese restaurants and grocery stores simply because some people like to occasionally eat whale. The Japanese can survive without commercial whaling.

I’ve had seal before and I think it’s fine. I’ve had bear as well. I’ve even eaten dogs. Now, some might call that monstrous, but pigs have been proven to be much smarter than dogs, equivalent to the intelligence of two-year-olds on average. Now, I mostly eat strange things out of curiosity (and then for pleasure should I develop a taste for it), but I do feel for people whose livelihoods depend on the sale of what most of society would deem unusual or even unsavory. There’s an old dog meat restaurant near where I work. It’s a family-run place, and I could only imagine the toll on them should there be a huge backlash on eating dogs in the country.

The problem is, outfits like Greenpeace, PETA, the Humane Society, and Sea Shepherd are all business at the end of it all. They will create marketing campaigns and manufacture villains in order to keep their operations afloat. As the documentary showed, seals are no longer endangered, but the campaign against killing cute seal pups is such an effective money generator that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever stop using baby seal imagery. And as businesses cater to their demographics, animal lovers can be the biggest suckers.

Just recently, I saw a popular animal show in Korea do a showcase on dogs raised for their meat. They partnered with an American company and rescued dogs destined for the butcher’s shop. They then flew the dogs to America and had families adopt them.  What an awful, awful, story of animal lovers not knowing where to throw their money! Why can’t they just use the money to rescue dogs in their own respective countries and have them adopted by locals? Wouldn’t that have resulted in more dogs rescued in the long run? It’s a great story to tell, “I rescued this dog from a Korean dog meat farm.” But you could’ve rescued two more dogs from a puppy mill in Idaho. And also, to the Korean producers of the show: great way of perpetuating the stereotype that Koreans eat dog! Some do, but the majority who don’t are I’m sure are quite tired of hearing about it.

I’m an animal lover myself, and I’ve cared for pets for most of my life. I just tend to be really suspicious of animal rights organizations and those pushing for people to eat a certain way. It just reeks of ethnocentrism sometimes.

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About Innocently Prodding Someone’s Bum


When it comes to childhood or child-rearing, some things just don’t translate to North America or just 2017 in general. I remember when I first came to South Korea, I was teaching English to young children. Some of the boys would play around shoving their fingers into each other’s bottoms, occasionally including mine. It was playful and not sexual at all, but in order to avoid any confusion, I discouraged it in class. I have my suspicion that it probably originated in some sort of sexual submission/domination dynamics, but I really don’t think the kids were thinking of that. It was horseplay. It was horseplay that was odd, and is probably less common now than it was even ten years ago.

The thing is this isn’t really a Korean thing, shoving things up bottoms as a form of horseplay. It is an Asian thing as far as I can tell. If I grew up in Japan, I probably would’ve had to deal with kancho. In Taiwan or China, I would probably deal with it under a different name. I remember having to deal with it as a young child. It wasn’t amusing back then. If anything, I always thought it was a throwback to when kids and people in general truly didn’t know any better. I didn’t put much malice in it. I just thought that the other person better wash their hands afterwards.

But it really doesn’t translate to North American countries. Not in Canada. Not at all. Kim’s Convenience tried to explain it to mixed results, and as much as I understand the practice and don’t want to be the straight person in the skit, it really does seem like a throwback. Even when the Korean character equated the practice to a wedgie, it didn’t really help the situation. When was the last time you got a wedgie? Even I am too old to experience the hilarity of giving and/or receiving wedgies when I was young. It was outdated back then, and it would be seen as cruel now. In fact, the only person who was interested in shoving things up my bum as a prank was my father, who I imagine used to play around with his peers that way when he was a child back in the 60s. Different environment, uncomfortable to put up with now, but I move on. It’s the same way I saw my young Korean students when they were keen on putting fingers up bums… different environment. I don’t want to be ethnocentric and tell them that it’s wrong or put malice into it; I just discouraged it like every other horseplay.

But in the same spirit of ethnocentrism, in Canada, we don’t shove fingers up children’s bottoms as a form of horseplay. It’s not that there’s malice in it, but it’s best to avoid doing it to prevent confusion. It’s not really wise trying to shoehorn questionable horseplay or pranks from other countries into North America when it could be interpreted differently, especially in this day and age. If an immigrant parent or grandparent does that to a child, and by some miracle, the child is okay with it, the neighbors, friends, or other relatives might not be. It’s best to avoid that confusion. There other aspects to one’s culture that are much better to pass on to the next generation, things that won’t get one suspected or arrested for abuse.


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Where I Understand Suspicion Against Foreigners


The reason you don’t provoke North Korea is because you don’t want to give them any more incentives to build bombs. Everyone knows that the United States has the biggest military power in the history of mankind with a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the whole world multiple times. It is annoying to hear all of this tough talk against North Korea and appeasement, when the US’ mighty sword has not resolved clean victories and lasting peace in most of the conflicts it got involved in since the Vietnam War. Since Donald Trump got elected, he did nothing but casually hurl inflammatory rhetoric at North Korea and annoy US allies in the region. It is difficult not to argue that it has increased the North Korean zeal with its weapons program as well as encourage inflammatory rhetoric from the North as well.

It doesn’t matter if the US has the bigger bombs, or that it could mete out “fire and fury” at North Korea. Fire and fury has not resulted in the defeat of ISIS, despite Trump’s promise to rid of the group within days of his presidency. This is a ragtag guerilla group which the most advanced military might cannot seem to squash. Military victory is not gained purely on might alone. And the reason why South Korea is wise in being cautious with its approach with its neighbor is that not only would a war cause massive casualties and upend the rest of the eastern Asian region, it would also harm innocent North Koreans in the process. It’s not just because some North Koreans might be related to people in the South, but North Koreans are also human beings, people who have the right to live in peace.

And what is victory in a war with North Korea? A destroyed regime which will result in a power vacuum, perhaps resulting in an Asian version of ISIS? A humanitarian crisis with refugees fleeing the country? A ravaged South Korea and perhaps other major cities in Asia as well? A crippled China, one of the few countries with a growing economy that is fueling a significant portion of the world’s industries? It doesn’t sound like victory at all.

Talks of war against North Korea are gross and shortsighted. It would feel good to punch a fat bully in the teeth, but you don’t starve your neighbors and punch everyone else as well in the process. Most South Koreans don’t worry about nuclear war with the North. They’ve learned to live in the standoff. It is only the US’ rhetoric that is making things a whole lot worse and war with the North that much closer. The Koreas have already suffered countless of times due to foreign powers. This was way before the two Koreas were divided because of the US and the Soviet Union, the reason why South Koreans have traditionally looked at foreign influences with trepidation. Again, North and South Korea is being threatened due to the meddling of foreign influences.

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Not Talking About Suicide


I used to occasionally go to suicide forums and talk to people… because why not? Like many people who suffer from depression, the thought of suicide has come to my head, but I’m much of a coward to really give it too much serious thought. It was more like, “if I’m going to kill myself, I’d do it this way” or “if this happens, that would be the thing that would make me go ahead and kill myself.” It was a thought experiment more than anything else. But as for the forums, occasionally I would read people’s posts. They were mostly young people, complaining about their lives, or people frustrated by their significant others. It’s rare, but sometimes, I would respond back. Instead of being a community of people seeking help before they do what they shouldn’t, I think it’s really more a community of people just trying to get their voices heard. It’s a place where a person can say their troubles instead of being deconstructed or given solutions to their problems. There was no judgment. It was a place that tells people that they are not insane, nor are they alone. That there’s nothing new under the sun and that they’ll get through whatever it is that’s giving them trouble. I suppose I might be accused of being a tourist for being there, but for a time, it really helped me with my depression. It felt good telling a complete stranger that things we’re going to be alright.

I live in a place where suicide is quite common place. People often regard Japan as one of the suicide capitals of the world, but really, South Korea has it beat. Even the former president committed suicide and in some ways normalized the whole thing. But as horrible as South Korea is when it comes to its suicide statistics and the reasons for why so many people are committing suicide (societal pressures, money troubles, elderly depression, stigma against seeing psychiatric help…) it surprised me to learn that Canada isn’t doing too well when it comes to suicide either.

Canada’s in the thirties when ranked with other countries. But when you look at that ranking, it disguises the fact that some communities are more susceptible to suicide than others. Aboriginal males are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-Aboriginal males. In 2000, out of 100,000 Aboriginal males, 126 committed suicide. For non-Aboriginals, it was 24. If you consider the size disparity between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, the suicide rates affecting small areas in the country is staggering. It’s gigantic compared to the suicide rate in South Korea (27 out of 100,000).

What’s shameful is that with countries like South Korea and Japan are actively doing things to help stop their suicide epidemics in the face of the horrible statistics. The police are patrolling suicide-prone areas, and there are groups which monitor vulnerable people. People are talking about the problem and how to deal with it. And while Canada has been helping some communities deal with depression, addiction, and mental health issues, I’m not sure if we’re doing enough to help prevent the high rates of suicide. I think it’s such a non-issue with the average Canadian that I wouldn’t even be aware of the problem if I didn’t have an interest in it myself. Clearly, present-day efforts are not enough for Aboriginal communities. There are initiatives that help them deal with problems once they are already dealing with them, but I’m not sure if Canada is doing enough to help prevent depression and mental health issues from developing in the first place. Now I’m not saying that South Korea and Japan are doing a lot more than Canada to help their citizens have more fulfilling lives to help prevent suicidal thoughts (I don’t think they are, they’re just doing more to keep people from committing the act), but I think Aboriginal communities are much more susceptible to this problem that it’s something the country should address. After all, much of the First Nations’ woes have been the result of its history with the Canadian government.


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Korean Elections, Ugh.


I’m trying really hard not to write about depression, so instead about my own personal depression, let’s talk about how depressing the election is in South Korea right now. How depressing is it, let me list the ways!

The election, instead of being divided by regional ties is a divided between generations, the older conservative generation versus the younger conservative generation. Now, this wouldn’t be very depressing. It’s actually quite promising since it’s the younger generation breaking free from old-fashioned thinking, but I really think this push for progressivism would only be short-lived. I predict it’ll die once the political players are safely in their place. One of the candidates (Ahn) used to be popular among young people, that is, until he got wise and learned how to be a politician. In the end, these are all politicians, and the people still high with their victory over getting the president impeached might be disappointed with the un-sexy reality of politics once seats are no longer at stake.

The leading conservative party candidate demonized gay people as harbinger of AIDS. He also had an anecdote on his book about not stopping his friend drug a woman and rape her. Why include it in the book, who knows? He also recently talked bragged about not talking to his father in-law for years until his death. Sounds like an awesome guy. This guy might be president tomorrow.

Despite who wins or who loses, the THAAD missiles pointing at North Korea with a radar system looking into China will probably still be in place. It’s going to be a while before those useless missiles are removed from the peninsula, if they’re ever to be removed. Meanwhile, South Korea will still continue to suffer strained relations with China as long as those missiles exist.

Older Korean conservatives are looking into the US and Donald Trump as if he’s a role model. These are the same people who made the daughter of a former dictator president (she later got impeached). These people are waving the American flag around.

One of the candidate’s (Yoo) daughter got attacked/molested during a campaign stop. The man was arrested and is being charged, but apparently his defense is that he suffers from some sort of mental handicap. Mental handicap. He is a member of a homophobic and misogynistic rightwing group who posted pictures of the incident online.

Speaking of homophobic, the leading progressive candidate doesn’t seem to care much about gay people either. Although he said he wouldn’t do anything legislatively to oppress them or give them additional rights, he said he personally doesn’t have any stance regarding gay issues. Yay, progressives!

In any case, the leading progressive candidate (Moon) will probably be the next president of Korea. He promises to overhaul the country and undo many of the evils that happened during the last two conservative presidential terms. This is all good. He’s quite the experienced politician himself, serving under the late President Roh, who, compared to recent Korean presidents, was reasonably good if not for the allegations of influence peddling later in his term. Oh…


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On Child-like Leaders

Goat 2

The thing with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un’s unpredictability is that he’s been given, GIVEN, the job of running the country as his first job. Not only was he just some rich kid living in Switzerland given the job of running a throwback country, but as the role of supreme dictator, he’s under the constant threat of usurpation from his handlers, his people, and even his family. He constantly needs to flex his muscles (figuratively, of course) and threaten his neighbors as well as his inner circle, lest he becomes another Muamar Gaddafi. This explains the occasional super villainesque murders of his associates and family members. It also explains the rather extreme reactions to slights against the regime.

There’s been a political rift lately between South Korea and China, with South Korea building a missile defense system (THAAD) against North Korea which is equipped with radar technology capable of penetrating deep into Chinese territory. South Korea defends the missile system as a defense against the North. I imagine in normal circumstances this would’ve been fine with China, since they appear to be losing their patience with North Korea. They recently cut off coal exports from North Korea because of their recent missile tests. But the South Korean government is partnered with the United States, and there is deep distrust between the two rivaling military powers. Also, the South Korean government seems oddly determined to install the missile defense system despite its unpopularity among the locals. After all, the North doesn’t need missiles to attack the South. Traditional artillery fire could reach Seoul just fine (But whether it could take the South is another matter). I suspect the installation of the missile system is either the US military slyly using South Korea to contain China, or perhaps some people are getting enriched with military contracts and the sale Lockheed Martin’s systems. In any case, without the North Korean threat, the whole missile defense system argument would be moot, and China wouldn’t be imposing travel bans to South Korea and threatening a ban on South Korean products.

So yes, because Kim Jung Un is an unpredictable player, it leads people and government outside of North Korea to act out in ways which ultimately hurt them. South Korea and China doesn’t need to be feuding at the moment. They are important partners in various industries. Korea doesn’t need to a build ridiculous missile system when North Korea would be committing economic suicide should they ever decide to full-on attack one of its neighbors. But Kim Jung Un’s child-like capriciousness gives people the excuse to do so.

Kim Jung Un was snatched up from his comfortable life in Switzerland to fill his father’s shoes. I doubt if he ever dreamed of living the rest of his life dressing up and pretending to be his grandfather. He had a carefree life, but now he’s living under a lethal microscope with powers that could affect millions of people in his country and beyond. What does he know about governing? Governments need leaders who have experience in leading and are actually interested in the role.

That brings to mind: I wonder how Donald Trump spent his weekend.

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Christmas was an asshole this year.


This year is the worst. I’m not just saying that because of politics and celebrities dying, but personally, the years have been getting worse and worse. Outside of my mother dying in 2008, this year has me most beat.

I feel like Paul Robeson on Showboat, “tired of living and scared of dying.” 



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On Park Geun-Hye and BFFs


So there have been a lot of revelations regarding the current Korean president, Park Geun-Hye and her crony who people suspect has been involved in many of her actions as president of the country. To quickly summarize, it has been proven that a close confidante who has never been elected into any public position has been advising the president on several issues. This person has also been linked to allegations of influence peddling and corruption. This cause quite the concern, since it’s very unclear how much of the president’s actions and inaction have been due to this person, and what’s even more concerning is the president’s attempted proposal to change the country’s constitution and abolish presidential term limits.

Several Korean news sites and blogs have more detailed explanations of the scandal, but depending on how conspiratorial one is, it can range from people dismissing the whole thing to a politician confiding to a friend to a puppet leader sharing national secrets to a charismatic cult leader-like master manipulator. I’ve talked to several people who lean more towards the manipulative angle because the president has isolated herself from her siblings at a young age since her father’s assassination, and that her confidante’s father is a bit of an odd character himself, a pastor of sorts who’s been married several times. I tend to think that Koreans seem to be particularly vulnerable to falling for charismatic manipulation like religious leaders, etc. It’s anecdotal, but I’ve seen it happen too often.

Protests are scheduled to happen this weekend, and there has been a bipartisan effort to look into the scandal. There have been calls for impeachment, but I personally think it would be hard to prove that the president abused her power to the extent that allows for impeachment. I’m hoping that the scandal would finally remove her party from power. The Saenuri Party, always promising economic gains, has done nothing but enriched Korean conglomerates and has failed to improve the lives of most of the Korean people. The middle class has not expanded, salaries have stagnated, and life in the country, especially in Seoul, is still as expensive as ever.

However, I believe people loyal to the party due to regional ties will continue to keep the party in power next elections. Right now, members of the party are cunningly turning against their leader in hopes of isolating the damage to her, justifiably or unjustifiably so. What worries me is that the forces in all of these are not new. Just like what I believe drew the current president to her friend is something common to many Koreans, vulnerability to charismatic manipulation. What got her into power is something all too common as well: regionalism and a longing for a leader like her father, the late dictator and strong man Park Chung-hee. People are quick to forgive and forget strong men for their authoritarian abuses in favor of economic and military gain. I see it happen in the Philippines with Duterte and Filipinos looking for a leader like the late president Ferdinand Marcos. I see it in the United States as well, with Americans trying to make a Putin-like leader out of Donald Trump. For states that are so modern, much to what I fear is our detriment, we are all still vulnerable to these primitive political trends.

It’s moments like these that I’m glad that our Prime Minister is such a pleasant, level-headed guy in comparison. Of course he might come across as goofy, chasing after Internet traffic like a child sometimes, but in a room full of world leaders, there’s no one else I’d rather be led by. I don’t normally write about Canadian politics because Canadian politics tend to be boring. But boring is good. Normal government functions should be scandal-free. Thank goodness Canadian politics is oh so boring!

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Dick Fisted


I met a Canadian teacher a couple of weeks ago. He’s only been on the country for three months. It was showing because I had to teach him a couple of things regarding Korean table manners, which really made me wonder about his handlers. They really should’ve taught him better or he could’ve been more observant.

My friends and I were talking with him when the subject of the HIV test came up. In South Korea, in order to be issued a visa to teach English, a foreigner must have a criminal background check as well as an AIDS test. Now, I don’t mind the criminal background check. In fact, I believe it should be par for the course for any instructor in any country to have a criminal background check. The HIV test however is a tad insidious.

The requirement was put into law a few years ago at a time when Korea had a rash of high profile criminal cases involving Korean teachers taking advantage of their students and either getting light sentences or being reshuffled back into the system. It was also a time when suspicion against foreign men specifically was being encouraged by a hate group who pushed stories to online outlets and TV networks which were more than happy to propagate them. The media would show stories villainizing male English teachers. Curiously, they tend to ignore female English teachers.

Lawmakers responded by making the HIV test a requirement, ignoring the fact that there were no credible stories about foreign English instructors spreading HIV, and that the law does not address the actual problem of leniency towards actual Korean criminals. Failing the HIV test would prevent foreigners from working in the country. It’s a xenophobic law which suggests that foreigners harbor HIV and doesn’t consider the possibility of foreigners catching HIV from a Korean partner. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who happens to be Korean himself, urged the government to end the tests, calling it a violation of human rights. But the government ignored him, and the tests remain as a requirement for foreign English teachers to this day.

What’s funny is that it being a requirement for English teachers, that in itself reflects on its origins: the suspicion against male English teachers. It is not required for any other work visas, even for entertainment visas, which in many countries have been the avenue to which prostitutes enter. Korean men have also been frequenting South East Asian countries and have relations with prostitutes themselves. There are establishments in these countries that are geared solely towards Korean clientele, and yet no one is checking Korean men for HIV after coming back from their business trips.

Given this background for the law and the test, it was a mixture of amusement and sadness when the English teacher I met said that he too had to take the test, but instead of being annoyed or outraged at the requirement as well as the presumption that foreigners bring HIV to the country, he was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. He said that his handlers explained to him that it was a requirement for health insurance purposes.

Now, I don’t know how much time he spent considering this explanation. But there are so many holes in that excuse that it doesn’t take much to disprove. Are they testing for HIV so they could pay for the instructor’s expenses? If they fail and they are not allowed into the country (only about 20+ countries do this), doesn’t that show discrimination? And if they are testing for insurance purposes, how about testing other medical conditions, something without a stigma, perhaps diabetes or asthma?

Attitudes towards foreign men have slightly improved in recent months. Travel shows dominate network television, and foreign men speaking in Korean now appear in Korean talk television. This new trend has people forgetting that just a couple years ago, the fear of the foreigner scourge has been put into law, and that it continues to be a requirement to this day. And while things are currently better, it will only take one or two high-profile stories before the media sparks another moral panic. The Korean National Police Agency just recently announced a cracking down on crimes committed by foreigners by “forming voluntary crime-prevention groups” in response to an increase in foreigner-committed crimes by 5000 a year. In my opinion, this is small when considering the increase of the foreign population in the country. But I read that action as empowering local hate groups and vigilantism, and I suspect that like before, it is a misguided response to an altogether different problem.

Now, someone please explain to that naïve teacher why the HIV test is a bad thing.

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Racist Korean Rashomon Morning


Yesterday, the bus driver ruined my morning. I just wanted to be left alone and go to work, but no, he had to get into my life, embarrass me in front of strangers, and ruin my morning.

The bus was packed as I got in. There are two ways to get in the bus: the front closest to the driver, and the back which is really an exit, but people in Korea use to get into the bus anyway. The bus that morning was so packed that I remember whispering “fuck” as I got in and swiped my card. I was standing at the front, making sure not to block the driver’s view of the right side mirror.

After a long tunnel, we stopped. The door opened and a couple of people behind me were trying to get out. I wanted to make life easier for them since the bus was so packed, so I got out of the bus only to go back in once they got out. The bus had less people now, so I went further back. I was enjoying listening to This American Life and updating my Twitter feed when I noticed the bus wasn’t moving. The bus driver got out of his seat, went straight to me, and yelled, “CARD! CARD!” while pointing to the bus’s card reader. He must’ve assumed I just got in and assumed that I didn’t bother paying.

He didn’t speak in Korean nor was he being very polite, so I shot back, “I already did!” And I heard a Korean lady, probably the one next to me when I first got in say, “He paid already.” Content, he went back and resumed driving. No apologies. I had to call my friend in Canada during the ride just to calm down about, all the while shooting dirty looks at the driver. And as I was about to get off, continuing to imagine his death, he gave a goofy wave goodbye. Idiot.

A co-worker heard this story and said that perhaps I was reading it all wrong. The bus driver actually took the time to get off his seat, come to me, and remind me to pay in English. Most Koreans would’ve just been yelled at from the driver’s seat. I say bullshit. How would she like it if she was travelling in the US and the bus driver stopping the bus only to yell at her, “PAY! PAY!” when she already did?

My View: That bus driver was a racist. Why would he assume that I didn’t pay? Do I look like someone who doesn’t know how buses work, or for that matter, how the world economy works? I just wanted to go to my job. I didn’t wake up in the morning thinking I’m gonna screw the bus driver. And really, if it was a Korean person, I’m sure he would’ve given him or her the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for him, I already paid. I’m sure if I didn’t and he had to drag me to the card reader, that would’ve made his day. I’m sure he can’t wait to tell a foreigner off.

Co-worker’s View: Joe is being overly sensitive. He’s been binge-watching Black-ish and the new OJ Simpson show. He really should know that he’s not black, and he’s not being oppressed in Korea. I’m sure that was just an honest mistake. He’s lucky the bus driver even used English.

Bus Driver’s View: Did that guy just get in without paying? I’d better tell him. Luckily, “card” is the same word for card in Korean. Maybe he’ll get it when I tell him.

Lady in the Bus’s View: Didn’t that guy already get in before the tunnel? I remember him whispering “fuck” as he swiped his card. I’d better tell the bus driver. That foreigner mustn’t speak a lick of Korean. I’ll bet this’ll ruin his morning.

Now I’ve calmed down since yesterday. And yes, I know there was a misunderstanding, but I can’t help but sense glee in the bus driver tone as he told me off in a crowded bus. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but even if it was, the perception of the whole thing is bad: a Korean man yelling at a foreigner in front of people early in the morning. It’s very hard for a person to be understanding and open-minded if he or she was on the receiving end of that abuse, especially if they went out of their way just a few moments ago, to make life more convenient for other commuters. Sometimes you don’t have to outwardly racist in order to be racist, just the appearance of racism is enough.

And that really, is one of Korea’s problems. Sure, there is racism. There are people out there who truly hate or don’t want anything to do with foreigners, but there’s also mild or “innocent” racism. An example of it would be places like Koreans-only establishments. Their excuse is not so much that they don’t like foreigners; it’s just that dealing with English is a problem. It’s all just a misunderstanding on the foreigner’s part. This is often excused by saying, “no, no, it’s not racist, but…”

But what?

But your foreign ass just has to deal with it.

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