Racism in South Korea

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Racism in South Korea has been recognized by scholars and the United Nations as a widespread social problem.[1][2]


An increase in immigration to South Korea since the 2000s catalyzed more overt expressions of racism, as well as criticism of those expressions.[1][3] Newspapers have frequently reported on and criticized discrimination against immigrants, in forms such as being paid lower than the minimum wage, having their wages withheld, unsafe work conditions, physical abuse, or general denigration.[1]

In a 2010–2014 World Values Survey, 44.2% of South Koreans reported they would not want a foreigner as a neighbor.[3][4] Racist attitudes are more commonly expressed towards immigrants from other Asian countries and Africa, and less so towards European and white North American immigrants who can occasionally receive what has been described as "overly kind treatment".[1][5] Related discrimination has also been reported with regards to mixed-race children, Chinese Korean, and North Korean immigrants.[5]

Recent legislation—in particular, the Foreign Workers' Employment Act (2004) and Support for Multicultural Families (2008)—have improved the situation of immigrants, more efficiently protecting their human and labor rights.[1] In 2011, the South Korean military abandoned a regulation barring mixed-race men from enlisting, and changed the oath of enlistment to not reference racial purity (minjok) to citizenship.[5] Similarly, related concepts have been withdrawn from school curricula.[5] This has been accredited in part to international pressure—in particular, concern from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which stated persistent ethnic-centric thinking in South Korea "might be an obstacle to the realization of equal treatment and respect for foreigners and people belonging to different races and cultures".[5]

As of January 2018, South Korea was still lacking an anti-discrimination law, which was recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee in 2015. The law has been reported stalled due to "lack of public consensus".[3] As a result, it is common for people to be denied service at business establishments or in taxis because of their ethnicity.[6][7][8][9]

In July 2018, a mass protest against Yemen refugees who had arrived at Jeju Island caused outrage in South Korea.[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Park, Keumjae (2014), "Foreigners or multicultural citizens? Press media's construction of immigrants in South Korea", Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37 (9): 1565–1586, doi:10.1080/01419870.2012.758860
  2. ^ "The strange, contradictory privilege of living in South Korea as a Chinese-Canadian woman". Archived from the original on 2018-01-05.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  3. ^ a b c Kim, Yugyun; Son, Inseo; Wie, Dainn; et al. (19 Jul 2016), "Don't ask for fair treatment? A gender analysis of ethnic discrimination, response to discrimination, and self-rated health among marriage migrants in South Korea", International Journal for Equity in Health, 15 (1): 112, doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0396-7, PMC 4949882, PMID 27430432, The recent increased influx of immigrants in Korea has ignited racism among Korean natives, which is heightened by economic and cultural nationalism [6]. For example, more than 40 % of Koreans answered that they would not want a foreigner as their neighborhood, based on the recent World Values Survey (2010–2014) [9]. Explicit use of et al. in: |last3= (help)
  4. ^ "World Values Survey (2010-2014)". World Values Survey Association. 2015-04-18. p. 72. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  5. ^ a b c d e Campbell, Emma (2015), "The end of ethnic nationalism? Changing conceptions of national identity and belonging among young South Koreans", Nations & Nationalism, 21 (3): 483–502, doi:10.1111/nana.12120
  6. ^ Herald, The Korea (21 February 2016). "[From the scene] Korean-only bars trigger controversy".
  7. ^ John Power (1 March 2016). "The South Korean Businesses That Ban Foreigners". The Diplomat. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Discrimination flows freely at bars across Seoul". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  9. ^ "Taxi drivers to lose license for refusing passengers". 28 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Korea to shorten asylum process". Korea JoongAng Daily.
  11. ^ Koo, Se-Woong (July 2018). "Opinion - South Korea's Enduring Racism". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Jeju Uprising anniversary can shape response to Yemeni refugees". 2 July 2018.

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