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Anti-Korean sentiment is present in China, Taiwan and Japan, 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 Olympic Torch Relay; which have accumulated over other issues over the years.
Korea and China have historically maintained strong ties. As Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910, Korea became under Japanese influence. Chinese believe that some ethnic Koreans were in the Imperial Japanese Army which invaded China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Additionally, adding to this sentiment is that some Koreans were reported to be involved into the operation of the Burma-Siam Death Railway. The Chinese referred to Koreans as Er guizi (Chinese: 二鬼子; pinyin: èr guǐzi).
From a psychological perspective, Chinese are seen as assuming Koreans to be part of a sinocentric East Asian regional order. As a part of this group, Koreans are assumed to be inherently friendly to China. Chinese also emphasize hierarchy within their sinocentric order, where China is at the top of the hierarchy. In contrast, Koreans reject the sinocentric East Asian regional order and emphasize equality in diplomatic relations in East Asia. This rejection leads to conflict of existential identities, threatening the very meaning of being Korean and Chinese.
At the end of World War II, North Korea, aligned with the Soviet bloc, became friendly with 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, efforts through propaganda were placed to intimidate hatred against South Korea, named a "puppet state" of the United States at the time by the PRC government.
From 1992 on, after South Korea's normalization of relations with China, relations with the People's Republic of China gradually improved. Within the Chinese population, Korean art and culture became popular from 2000 onwards. Amid improvements in relations however, there were also looming anti-South Korean sentiments involved 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, while Japanese media reported the conduct of Korean spectators in a negative fashion. 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, 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 be 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 resentment 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.
Some South Korean men take sex tourism trips to Mongolia, often as clients of South Korean-run businesses in Mongolia, 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.
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.
In the recent years, there has been an increasing number of Koreans migrating to the Philippines. Although Koreans are generally welcomed to the country there has been some concerns. One concern is that many Korean migrants refuse to fully assimilate. Koreans continue to prefer to consume Korean products even if a local counterpart is available. It was reported that tour operators in Cebu do not benefit from Korean tourists because they are barred by Korean companies, thus, only Korean travel agencies solely benefit from the tourist market. There have been complaints of rowdy behavior by Koreans in the country and Koreans are the number one violator of immigration laws according to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.
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 heavy re-militarization and a series of missile tests, Americans were made 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 nuclear program of North Korea and subsequent 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 to the six-party talk agreements.
Since 1988 until 2008, and again from November 2017, North Korea has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism for supporting Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel, their role in the murder of Kim Jong-nam, supporting 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 based on 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 mass ransacking and destruction of Korean-American owned stores in Los Angeles by groups of young African-Americans.
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 Anti-Japanese War of China. 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.
- Chon (チョン); (Hangul: 춍; RR: Chyong) – 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.
- Hell Joseon (ヘル朝鮮 Heru Chōsen) – literally "Hell Korea"; (Hangul: 헬조선, Hanja:헬朝鮮; RR: Hell Chosun). a satirical South Korean term that criticizes the current socioeconomic state of South Korea. But this word was sometimes wrongly used by Japanese right-wing and Netto-uyoku (Internet right-wing activists) to insult Koreans, specifically South Koreans.
- Kimchi yarō (キムチ野郎 Kimuchi yarō) – literally "kimchi bastard". In 2003, the Mongolian sumo wrestler Asashoryu was taking interviews from journalists when he called a Korean journalist a "kimchi bastard", 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 right-wing 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 Tokuajin) – meaning "Tokutei Asian". A derogatory term used against Koreans and Chinese.
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