Korea: all that is bad… and good

I shouldn’t be idly looking at Friends videos on Youtube and writing blog posts, but I have good reasons to.

1. I just had to deal with a full week of a mid term, a horrible math homework and a 400-page book, so I think I deserve to take a break for this evening.

2. I’m on my second beer and I don’t feel like studying. And I might go on to my third. It’s only 8:00 pm. Maybe I’m a leetle drunk. I don’t know. That’s the beauty of being drunk. You don’t know. I probably am, seeing how I’ve been rambling for 5 sentences on this.

3. It’s been a while I haven’t written anything.

4. I have good reasons to write.

So… I recently saw this on Facebook.


This was posted at an establishment called ‘HO Bar’ in Gangnam (Yes, the area that has become famous thanks to Psy). Gangnam has always been busy, filled with young people, and it is also an area highly frequented by foreigners. So to see this in such an area (although, yes, it does make sense, that you would put this in an area highly frequented by foreigners, you wouldn’t post such things somewhere where foreigners rarely go. But! Not the point!) was, to say the least, quite a shock.

Let me see… I don’t know where to begin as to where the shock began.

Was it the use of the word “natives”? The crying face? The need to capitalize “KOREAN”? The hypocritical “Sorry” at the end? (I don’t know, if you’re going to be an asshole and a racist, at least, own up to it so that the rest of us can criticize you properly) Or even the tiny I-don’t-belong-here heart at the end of “Sorry”? Or even the simple fact, pointed out by a friend, that for once, they got all the spelling right? (At least we know there’s improvement in some ways)

Or maybe, simply, the fact that some people felt it was OK to bluntly put this sign in front of their establishment.

As one of my friends pointed out, yes, it is true, Korean bars and likewise establishments have had to deal with drunk “foreigners” in a nastier way than they would have liked to. Many GIs because of the US military presence in Korea, but also other exchange students and such to whom Seoul might appear to be a paradise for drinking. I’m not saying that Koreans are polite drinkers, absolutely not, they can provide a very obnoxious sight just as well, but I guess Koreans notice “white drunks” more easily than the average Korean drunk right next to them. And so, simple beings that we are, we often over-simplify and over-generalize things and think “White drunk man = red alert!” Maybe, if you’re the owner of or employee at such establishment, your idea of the ‘white man’ might not be very positive. But I don’t think it’s the ‘white’ factor that’s at fault here. It’s the ‘drunk’ factor. It doesn’t make much sense to expect a respectable behavior from anyone in their 20s or 30s (or does age really matter?) who’s pissed ass drunk, be they Korean or other. (And I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all the establishments that have had to deal with my own less than ideal behavior – sorry, *crying face* *little pathetic heart*)

No matter what the excuse is, it is just, plainly, simply, WRONG to put such a sign. You may have your own personal prejudices, I don’t think there’s a single person living who doesn’t have some sort of prejudice. But when you decide to display such negative and discriminatory sentiment officially and publicly, it becomes a different matter. You build a ground for racism. You class people of a certain race, ethnicity, different from yours, into one single homogeneous group. You forget and discard the other portion of the population (probably the majority) who don’t relate to the characteristics you have arbitrarily assigned to them. You set a precedent that allows for discrimination to be ok in some ‘special cases’ (in this case, for private business and interests – I would guess). You perpetuate the eternal dichotomy of “us versus them” where “us” are always the good guys and “them” the bad ones. And, frankly, on a more personal level, you just hurt people. You hurt people who just wanted somewhere to spend a good time, and you hurt their friends who somehow feel the need to apologize for your behavior.

I could go on. But I think I made my point.

Korea has for a long time, been proud of its “one ethnicity” “one race” “one big happy family” history. Not only is that historically false, but it has also made the arrival and daily lives of foreigners extremely difficult, regardless of their nationalities. It is high time Korea accepts the fact that non-Koreans also have a place in this country, and a proper one. It is about time they realize you can’t group them all into “Americans” or “Chinese” or “Whites” or “South-East Asians” or “Blacks” and think they are all the same. I think enough Koreans face the same discrimination abroad for them not to make the same mistake.

Yes, this is a social and political issue, some might even say this sets a bad image for Korea as a country. But more than anything, you hurt individuals, people. Your behavior can turn an ok-day to a really gloomy one for the guy who was just trying to have a drink after a long day of work. Your words can draw tears out of the woman who has left her country and family to work. Your thoughts can make the exchange student more homesick than usual. So please think once, not even twice, just once, before you blurt out your misconceptions and bigotry.

Having said that, since I’m usually an optimistic person, and would hate to end this in just a negative and hopeless note, and most of all, because I still care about Korea, I’m sharing this other link: http://www.humansofseoul.org/

Hopefully this will restore a little bit of faith in Koreans. Policies, discussions, measures on a national level are necessary, but I do believe each of our own personal and individual actions matter just as much. In fact, we are the ones who can make such changes on a larger level come true. And for one racist HO Bar owner, there are 10 other people who criticize him/her… I hope. Although Korea as a country has its terrible and horrible faults, what makes it still a livable place are the people in it.

PS: Obviously the starting day and ending day of this post are not the same.  


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