Korea Times: ‘Xenophobic groups grow more vocal’


SEOUL, South Korea — Interesting and alarming article in the Korea Times by way of The Marmot’s Hole, about the growing voice of xenophobia in Korea.

The KT wrote:

“Our citizens are being forced to compete with migrant workers for low-income jobs. What’s the government doing to protect our interests from the aliens?”

“Let’s keep our jobs from foreign workers and tell them to just go back to their own countries.”


Such messages are posted on the website of a Seoul-based anti-foreign civic group, which has more than 5,000 members. The group claims the government should rewrite laws to ban local firms from hiring migrant workers until the country achieves a $25,000 per capita income and disallow marriages between Korean women and those from poor nations.

While this represents a very small portion of the Korean population it does solely represent those who speak out publicly. Incidents of racism are on the rise and appearing in the international press, which does not bode well for foreign investment.

The KT went on to say:

Government officials say Korea is relatively safe for foreigners to live in, but some analysts caution that xenophobic groups are becoming more vocal and organized as the number of immigrants increases significantly.

The Seoul-based group is just one of the Internet-based organizations campaigning against immigrants. Some groups jointly launched a center to receive reports on foreign workers overstaying their visas and called for crackdowns on them.

“We are receiving more threatening calls from such groups than ever before,” said Kim Ki-don from the Korea Migrant Human Rights Center. “They regularly post anti-foreign messages on websites and spread news about crimes committed by foreigners. They are becoming organized.”

The number of petitions filed with the nation’s human rights agency against racial and religious discrimination has steadily increased in recent years, according to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Tuesday.

It said 64 cases of complaints were lodged in 2010 regarding discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, ethnicity and skin color, compared with 32 cases in 2005.

Kim Ho-ki, a sociology professor of Yonsei University, said the government must focus on educating the younger generation about multicultural values.


“It’s important to raise public awareness of the human rights of immigrants and develop people-to-people exchange programs to help Koreans better understand different cultures,” Kim said.

Robert Koehler, founder of Korea’s most popular expat blog, The Marmot’s Hole, wrote that there is little to be worried about if you are an expat in Korea:

I would hasten to add there’s another reason I wouldn’t worry too much — put bluntly, Korea and Japan have done fairly well keeping their immigrant population to low and socially tolerable levels. Sure, you hear a lot about multiracialism and multiculturalism in Korea, but as a friend of mine once put it, the more you hear about Korea talk about being a multicultural society, the more you realize it ain’t.

Last year, there were a grand total of 1.26 million foreigners in Korea, accounting for just over 2% of the population. Not exactly a paragon of diversity (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense). Sure, sentiment might change if Korea really does get with the whole multi-culti thing, and 2% is still a big number for Korea, but — and I know I’m stating the obvious here — the situation is quite different from that of the West.




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