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Anti-Korean sentiment is present in China, Taiwan, Japan, and even within both Koreas, and stems from such issues as nationalism, politics, economic competition, cultural influences, and historical disputes. Anti-North Korean sentiment may be the strongest in Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
In China, it has only come to prominence recently, due to issues such as the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay; which have accumulated along with other issues over the years.
In Japan, modern dislike of North and South Korea can be seen as a form of political and historical issues; these issues are heightened by the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens and the Liancourt Rocks dispute, respectively.
Korea and China have historically maintained strong ties. When Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910, it fell under Japanese influence. In China it is believed that some ethnic Koreans served in the Imperial Japanese Army whose invasion of China launched the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937. Adding to this sentiment is the allegation that some Koreans reportedly operated the Burma-Siam Death Railway. The Chinese referred to Koreans as Er guizi (Chinese: 二鬼子; pinyin: èr guǐzi).
At the end of World War II, North Korea, which was aligned with the Soviet bloc, became an ally of the People's Republic of China, while the PRC and the Republic of Korea did not recognize each other. During the Korean War, when China was engaged in war with South Korea and its United Nations allies, propaganda was used to indoctrinate people into hating South Korea, which was called a "puppet state" of the United States by the PRC government of the time.
From 1992 onward, after South Korea's normalization of relations with China, the relationship between the two nations gradually improved. From 2000 onward, Korean art and culture became popular within the Chinese population. Despite the improved relationship between the PRC and South Korea, looming anti-South Korean sentiments still factored in various disputes between the two countries.
Within Taiwan, some existing animosity towards Koreans amongst Taiwanese may be present as a result of the rivalry between the two states in relation to baseball. Disputes between Taiwan and Korea in the international sport competition arose numerous times. In November 2010, Taiwanese citizens protested against the disqualification of a Taekwondo athlete at the 2010 Asian Games after a Filipino referee disqualified a Taiwanese fighter, calling for a boycott on South Korean goods.
On 23 August 1992, South Korea's "Nordpolitik" (Northern diplomacy) have made it to establish a diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China after Soviet Union. This resulted in the change in the diplomatic relationship of South Korea with the Republic of China, since it replaced anti-communist foreign policy with an effort to improve relations with other surrounding countries in the sense of geopolitics, including the People's Republic of China, in order to pressure and appease North Korea that eases the political anxiety and softens military tension in the Korean Peninsula and enables the possibility of a peaceful reunification of Korea. As normalization begun, Roh transferred diplomatic recognition from the ROC and PRC, and confiscated the property of the ROC embassy, transferring it to the PRC.
According to an official from the Korean trade office in Taipei, sales of Korean products are not very successful in Taiwan because "the Taiwanese felt very betrayed after Korea severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan and reestablished ties with China in 1992, because the people of Taiwan had seen Korea as an ally in the fight against Communism... Now because the two countries have similar export-oriented economies and focus on the same business sectors, the Taiwanese see Korea as a great rival, and think that losing to Korea would be the end of Taiwan."
In June 2012, CEO of Foxconn Terry Gou stated that he had "great esteem for Japanese (businessmen), especially those who are able to disagree with you in person and not stab you in the back, unlike the Gaoli bangzi (a racial slur for Koreans)", sparking controversy.
During the Joseon Dynasty, Wokou pirate raids on Korean soil were frequent, which would eventually form the basis of hatred between the two sides. Such tensions built up further after the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910.
During the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, widespread damage occurred in a region with a significant Korean population, and much of the local Japanese overreacted to rumors which spread after the earthquake. Within the aftermath of the event, there was a common perception amongst groups of far-right Japanese that ethnic Koreans were poisoning wells, eventually setting off a killing rampage against Koreans, where Japanese would use the shibboleth of ba bi bu be bo (ばびぶべぼ) to distinguish ethnic Koreans from Japanese, as it was assumed that Koreans would be unable to pronounce the line correctly, instead as [pa, pi, pu, pe, po]. All people who failed the test were killed, which caused many ethnic Chinese , also unable to correctly pronounce the shibboleth, to be indiscriminately killed in large numbers. Other shibboleths used were "jū-go-en, go-ji-ssen" (15円 50銭, 15 yen, 50 sen) and "gagigugego" (がぎぐげご), where Japanese people pronounce initial g as [ɡ] and medial g as [ŋ] (such a distinction is dying out in recent years), whereas Koreans pronounce the two sounds as [k] and [ɡ] respectively.
Much of the anti-Korean sentiment present today however deal with contemporary attitudes. During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Japanese and Korean supporters clashed with one another. Both sides were also known to post racist messages against each other on online bulletins. There were also disputes regarding how the event was to be hosted, as a result of the rivalry between the two nations. The territorial dispute over Liancourt Rocks also fuels outrage within far-right groups. Manga Kenkanryu (often referred to as Hating the Korean Wave) by Sharin Yamano discusses these issues while making many other arguments and claims against Korea.
Zainichi Koreans in Japan are also publicly perceived to be a nuisance and are seen as likely to cause trouble and start riots, a view shared by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. A Zainichi organisation which has strong ties to the DPRK, Chongryon, is commonly accused of providing funding and material to North Korea and indoctrinating the Zainichi Korean population to actively hate Japan.
Right-wing groups in Japan today still commonly target ethnic Koreans living within Japan. One such group, known as Zaitokukai, is organized by members on the Internet, and is known to be responsible for leading street demonstrations against Korean schools.
There is also much concern in Japan regarding North Korea and its nuclear and long-range missile capabilities, as a result of missile tests in 1993, 1998 and 2006 and an underground nuclear test in 2006. There are also controversies regarding North Korean abductions of Japanese, where Japanese citizens were abducted by North Korean agents between 1977 and 1983.
The Korean Wave, or the exportation of South Korean pop culture, has created some negative feelings among pockets of Japanese society. Many Japanese citizens with conservative views and some right-wing nationalist groups have organized anti-Korean Wave demonstrations via 2channel. On 9 August 2011, more than 2,000 protesters demonstrated in front of Fuji TV's headquarters in Odaiba, Tokyo against the broadcasting of Korean dramas. Earlier, in July 2011, well-known actor Sousuke Takaoka was fired from his agency, Stardust Promotion, for tweeting against the influx of Korean soaps. The general perception of Koreans on 2channel is negative, and board members often reference stereotypes of Koreans, such as the use of dogs in Korean cuisine.
According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, Japanese people alike hold the largest anti-North Korean sentiment in the world, with 91% negative views of North Korea's influence, and with only 1% positive view making Japan the third country with the most negative feelings of North Korea in the world, after South Korea and the United States.
Since the end of World War II, the relationship between both North Korea and South Korea have been hostile. The two nations fought against each other in the Korean War, which ended with an armistice agreement in 1953 without a peace treaty. Due to differing political systems and views, both nations claim the entire Korean Peninsula and have competed for sovereignty.
The late 1960s is when tensions between the two states were at its highest point. In 1968, North Korean forces attempted to assassinate the South Korean president, Park Chung-hee. Although the assassination attempt failed, the South Korean government responded by sending in a black operations unit to assassinate the North Korean president, Kim Il-Sung. Further issues have followed during the Uljin–Samcheok Landings, when North Korea established guerrilla camps in the Taebaek Mountains to subdue Park Chung-hee's regime and bring about the reunification of Korea. Although the plan failed, Anti-North Korean attitudes have risen in South Korea, when North Korean commandos executed Lee Seung-bok, a 9- or 10-year-old South Korean boy, when Lee responded "I hate communists".
Constant naval skirmishes occur between the two states, with North Korea targeting South Korean naval bases. The Bombardment of Yeonpyeong was cited by former UN ambassador Bill Richardson to be "the most serious crisis on the Korean peninsula since the 1953 armistice".
Within North Korea, negative views of South Korea have persisted ever since President Lee Myung-bak have abandoned the Sunshine Policy. North Korea has also been known to violently oppose South Korea's support for the United States military presence in the peninsula.
Within South Korea, negative views result from North Korea's nuclear tests and occasional defectors entering the country. According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, 3% of South Koreans viewed North Korea's influence positively, with 91% expressing a negative view, making South Korea, after Japan, the country with the most negative feelings of North Korea in the world.
Some South Korean men take sex tourism trips to Mongolia, often as clients of South Korean-run businesses in Mongolia, which has also sparked anti-Korean sentiment among Mongolians, and is said to be responsible for the increasing number of assaults on South Korean nationals in the country.
In the recent years, there has been an increasing number of Koreans migrating to the Philippines. Although Koreans are generally welcomed by Filipinos into their country, concerns have arisen among the locals. One such concern is that many Korean migrants are perceived as refusing to even attempt to integrate into Philippine society. Bothersome to Filipinos is the habit that South Koreans have, commonly observed among migrants from and to other countries, of strongly preferring products from Korean commercial brands even if local substitutes are much widely available. Another concern is how South Korean tour operators prohibit South Korean tourists from doing business with local tourist firms, which means that the latter barely if at all benefit from the increase in tourists coming from the country. South Koreans have also been perceived by locals as being rowdy in their behaviour, similar to the Chinese. Finally, South Koreans have been identified as the top violator of immigration laws according to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.
In September 2020, Filipino TikTok star Bella Poarch posted a video of herself dancing, in which Japan's rising sun flag could be seen tattooed on her arm. Koreans swarmed the comments section saying the tattoo was offensive and that she should apologize and get it removed.
The rising sun ensign is thought by Korean and Chinese people to be associated with Japanese imperialism, as it was used during Japan's annexations of Korea and its occupation of parts of China. It was adopted as the official flag of the official Japanese imperial army on May 15, 1870 and for the imperial Japanese navy on October 7, 1889. Because of this, some associate it with Japan's war crimes. The emblem is in use currently by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, given that it is a national symbol no different from the star of David, the Nordic cross or the Croatian checkerboard.
Shortly after backlash and criticism from her video, Bella posted a comment of apology on TikTok or Douyin (Chinese: 斗音) : "I’m very sorry if my tattoo offends you," she wrote. "I love Korea, please forgive me." Additionally, her caption read, "I would never do anything to hurt anyone." Bella also explained that she got the tattoo back in March 2020 but had it scheduled for removal. She also promised to learn more about the symbol's history and help educate people further on the symbol, but has been unable to remove the tattoo as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the apology, Korean users continued with hostile comments, attacking Filipinos referring to them as poor, slaves, ugly, and uneducated, as well as making racist remarks. The issue soon spilled over Twitter, sparking an argument on racism and the long history between South Korea and the Philippines. Along with #CancelKorea, the hashtags #ApologizeToFilipinos including #CancelRacism and #한국취소 (meaning Cancel Korea, or in Hanja: #韓國取消) also trended with Twitter, with Filipino users airing out their anger at the mockery and insults.
The participation of conscripted Korean soldiers serving under the Japanese Empire's flag in the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the World War II has caused some Filipinos, especially those from the older generations, to associate the Koreans with atrocities committed during the war.
Former Soviet Union
During the era of the Soviet Union, ethnic Koreans in the Russian Far East were subject to deportations under the national delimitation policy, with the majority of Koreans relocating to Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The deportation was preceded by a typical Soviet scenario of political repression: falsified trials of local party leaders accused of insurrection, accusations of plans of the secession of the Far Eastern Krai, local party purges, and articles in Pravda about the Japanese espionage in the Far East.
The resettlement plans were revived with new vigor in August 1937, ostensibly with the purpose of suppressing "the penetration of the Japanese espionage into the Far Eastern Krai". This time, however, the direction of resettlement was westward, to Soviet Central Asia. From September to October 1937, more than 172,000 Soviet Koreans were deported from the border regions of the Russian Far East to Kazakh SSR and Uzbek SSR (the latter including Karakalpak ASSR).
Following North Korea's heavy re-militarization and a series of missile tests, Americans were conditioned to fear a possible attack by a "rogue state" such as North Korea. In United States President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002, he described North Korea as a part of the "Axis of evil". Following the development of the nuclear program of North Korea and the 2006 North Korean nuclear test, the United States imposed UN sanctions on North Korea. These economic sanctions are very unlikely to be lifted by the United States due to North Korea's noncompliance with the six-party talk agreements.
From 1988 until 2008, and since November 2017, North Korea has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, their role in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, supporting dictator Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, close relationships with Iran, and the suspicious death of Otto Warmbier.
The Los Angeles riots of 1992 were partially motivated by Anti-Korean sentiment among African-Americans. Ice Cube's song "Black Korea" which would later be accused of inciting racism was written in response to the death of 15-year-old African-American Latasha Harlins, who was shot and killed by Korean-American store owner Soon Ja Du on March 16, 1991, as well as the preponderance of Korean grocery stores in primarily black neighborhoods. The event resulted in the mass ransacking and destruction of Korean-American owned stores in Los Angeles by groups of young African-Americans.
In Indonesia, Anti-Korean sentiment emerged in the 2000s. The emergence of anti-Korean sentiment is caused by several factors, such as plastic surgery and atheism in South Korea. Some Indonesians call Koreans "plastic". This stereotype arises because of the popularity of plastic surgery in South Korea. This stereotype has strengthened since the death of the former member of Shinee, Jonghyun. In addition, there are assumptions that Korean drama lovers are infidels and people of Korea always committing adultery.
In early 2020, a leading Italian music school banned all East Asian students from attending classes due to coronavirus fear, with South Koreans the largest nationality being affected. South Korean students also describe being barred from the building and being mocked by other students because of their origin. In addition, some South Korean residents have reported fear of leaving their homes amid rising incidents of discrimination and mockery, and others considered leaving Italy because they could not "stay in a place that hates us".
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korean tourists were instructed to avoid public places and remain in isolation in their hotels. The Israeli military announced its intention to quarantine South Korean nationals to a military base. Many of the remaining South Koreans were rejected by hotels and were forced to spend nights at Ben Gurion Airport. An Israeli newspaper subsequently published a Korean complaint that "Israel is Treating [Korean and other Asian] Tourists Like Coronavirus". South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has described Israel's response as "excessive".
Many Koreans residents in Germany have reported an increase in anti-Korean incidents following the outbreak of COVID-19, and the South Korean embassy has warned its citizens of the increasing hateful climate facing them. As suspicion toward Koreans is growing, locals are also opting to avoid Korean restaurants, some of which have reported a sales decline of 80%.
In general, there has recently been a spate of anti-Korean incidents in the Netherlands, which have targeted both Korean nationals and Dutch people of Korean descent. These incidents range from vandalism of homes to violent assault to harassment. More than 150 Korean expat respondents in an online survey indicated they had experienced an xenophobic incident.
There are a variety of derogatory terms referring to Korea. Many of these terms are viewed as racist. However, these terms do not necessarily refer to the Korean people as a whole; they can also refer to specific policies, or specific time periods in history.
- Gook – a derogatory term for Asians first used by the U.S. military against South-East Asians. The etymology of this racial slur is shrouded in mystery, disagreement, and controversy. The Oxford English Dictionary admits that its origin is "unknown". The word may have also come from verb endings in the Korean language that, upon hearing Korean speech, sounds frequent to a non-Korean speaker. A widespread urban legend holds that it derives from the Korean term 미국/美國, miguk, meaning "America", which American soldiers interpreted as "me gook", or from other variants involving the word for country, guk.
- Kimchi – derogatory term for Koreans derived from the Korean dish of the same name.
- Gaoli bangzi (Simplified Chinese: 高丽棒子; pinyin: gāolì bàngzǐ) – derogatory term used against all ethnic Koreans. Gaoli refers to ancient Korea (Goryeo), while bangzi means "club" or "corncob", referring to how traditional Korean clothing supposedly had trousers that resembled a corn fitting into its cob. There are other various etymologies; some suggest that the term originates from Taiwan as a result of its baseball rivalry with South Korea, where 棒子 refers to a baseball bat; another explanation refers to the Second Sino-Japanese War, where ethnic Koreans in the Imperial Japanese Army were unarmed, and hence beat civilians with sticks and clubs in occupied areas. Sometimes 韓棒子 (hán bàng zǐ, "韓" referring to South Korea) and 死棒子 (sǐ bàng zǐ, literally "dead corncob") are also used.
- Gaoli paocai (Simplified Chinese: 高麗泡菜; pinyin: gāolì pàocài) – literally "Goryeo kimchi" or "Korean kimchi", which makes a reference to kimchi, a Korean staple food. Used by Taiwanese baseball fans, as a result of their rivalry against South Korea, where Taiwan is commonly defeated by the South Korean national team. Variants include 死泡菜 ("dead kimchi").
- Er guizi (Simplified Chinese: 二鬼子; pinyin: èr guǐzi) – a disparaging designation of puppet armies and traitors during the Chinese War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. As with the term hanjian, the definition of 二鬼子 has varied throughout history. Japanese were known as "鬼子" (devils), and 二鬼子 literally translates into "second devils". During World War II, some Koreans served in the Imperial Japanese Army, so 二鬼子 refers to hanjian (i.e. Chinese who collaborated with the Japanese) and ethnic Koreans. During the Chinese Civil War, both the Chinese Communist Party and Kuomintang accused each other of being hanjian, and the term 二鬼子 was then applied to the Kuomintang by the communists. More recently, 二鬼子 mainly refers to South Koreans. In addition to the historical background of World War II era, Koreans are perceived as resembling Japanese in their appearance and popular culture.
- Putanghabnida (Baybayin: ᜉᜓᜆᜅ᜔ᜑᜊ᜔ᜈᜒᜇ) - literally "thank you, motherfucker" - a Tagalog or Philippine phrase used against Koreans if they insult, mock or offend a Filipino. The word is combined with the Filipino word "putangina mo" which means "you motherfucker" and the Korean word "Gamsahabnida" (Korean: 감사합니다) for "thank you".
- Chon (チョン) – vernacular nickname for Koreans, with strongly offensive overtones. Various suggested etymologies exist; one such etymology is that it is an abbreviation of Chōsen (朝鮮), a Japanese term for Korea.
- Kimchi yarō (キムチ野郎 / キムチ埜郞, Kimuchi yarō) – literally "kimchi bastard". In 2003, Mongolian sumo wrestler Asashōryū was taking interviews from journalists when he called a Korean journalist a "kimchi yarō", sparking controversy. The phrase became a sensation on the 2channel messageboard overnight following the incident.
- Chōsenjin (朝鮮人, Chōsenjin) – derived from the non-derogatory term Chōsenjin (朝鮮人) used to describe Koreans in a neutral manner. The term, however, has eventually been used in a derogatory manner against Korean people.
- Gokiburi (ゴキブリ, Gokiburi) – literally "cockroach". Often used by the far right groups such as the Zaitokukai to refer to Zainichi Koreans. The most recent incident took place in August 2011 when a number of anti-Hallyu protestors referred to certain music groups and celebrities as "cockroaches".
- Tokuajin (特亜人 / 特亞人, Tokuajin) – meaning "Tokutei (East) Asian". A derogatory term used against Koreans and Chinese.
- Korean: 헬조선, Hanja:헬朝鮮; RR: Hell Joseon – literally "Hell Korea" – a satirical South Korean term that criticizes the current socioeconomic state of South Korea. This term used by South Korean people to criticize themselves. It can be seen quite often in online comments for South Korean articles about issues of their society.
- Korean: 빨갱이; RR: Ppalgaengi – literally "Commies", "Reds" or "Communist sympathizer" – a South Korean term used to insult North Korea or anyone who shows appreciation to North Korea. This term has become more commonplace, especially towards the current South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, who is known for his pro North Korean policies.
- Anti-Chinese sentiment in Korea
- Anti-American sentiment in Korea
- Media coverage of North Korea
- Anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea
- Korean conflict
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- Japanese Anti-Hallyu Protests Continue